George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 1 August 1793

From the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

Washington August 1st 1793


We inclose you a copy of the return of the 29th of July, from the surveyors office, which will give an Idea of the progress and state of the work of that department and a copy of Mr Briggs and B. Ellicotts letter of the 31st.1 You will be pleased to observe that they propose, three small alterations, which will be understood on referring to the printed plan. 1st stopping S. carolina Avenue west of South Capitol at the public appropriation. 2nd A change of place for a small canal or Inlet from the Eastern Branch—in favour of this, besides what is said in Writing, Mr Briggs, tells us verbally, he has no Doub[t] but that the spot proposed, is that origionally designed, but is missed in actual laying down for want of precission on which the general system was formed. 3d striking out two short Avenues leading from the intersection of Massachusetts and north Carolina.

The reasons given for these changes appear to us sufficient to warrant them, but we shall be governed by your directions, which we wish to receive soon on the third point only, as that alone claims immediate alteration.2

The walls of the Presidents House will be carried the highth designed this season in about a fortnight—a considerable force is imployed in digging at the Capitol and the Hands will begin to lay the foundation of it as soon as they quit the Presidents House.3

Mr Hoben and Mr Hallet seem perfectly to comprehend your ideas communicated in your Letter of the 25th—The people in the City and at the Locks are very healthy.4

It is much our wish that there should be an examination of our Accounts and Expenediture of the money while Facts are fresh—we have no Doubt but that we can now justify ourselves by the truth, we are well aware that attacks on those who have to do with publick money are often made more with a view to Stigmatise, than to acquit with Justice, and we cannot therefore, but be anxious for ourselves.5 We are sir very respectfully your most Obt servts

signed Th. Johnson
Dd Stuart
Danl Carroll

LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802.

1Neither the return from the surveyor’s office nor the letter from assistant surveyors Isaac Briggs and Benjamin Ellicott of 31 July has been identified.

2The printed plan is probably the 1792 map of the Federal City that was made from an engraving prepared by James Thackara and John Vallance of Philadelphia (D.C. Commissioners to GW, 5 Oct. 1792, and note 2). For a reproduction of this print, see Reps, Monumental Washington description begins John W. Reps. Monumental Washington: The Planning and Development of the Capital Center. Princeton, N.J., 1967. description ends , 23. On the original plan created by Pierre L’Enfant, see his letter to GW of 19 Aug. 1791 and Tobias Lear to L’Enfant, 1 Sept. 1791, and note 1. For GW’s approval of the first two changes and his reservations about the third, see GW to D.C. Commissioners, 13 Aug. 1793.

3The commissioners had selected architect James Hoban’s plan for the President’s House in July 1792, and they subsequently employed him to supervise its construction (D.C. Commissioners to GW, 19 July 1792). The cornerstone of the President’s House was laid on 13 Oct. 1792 (13 Oct. 1792, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802). On the height of the building’s walls and the progress made on the President’s House, see GW to D.C. Commissioners, 3 Mar. 1793, and notes 4, 7. On the selection of William Thornton’s plan for the U.S. Capitol, and later modifications to that plan, see GW to the D.C. Commissioners, 31 Jan. 1793, and notes 1, 3, 5, and 2 April, and Thomas Jefferson to GW, 17 July, and notes 2–3. The cornerstone of the Capitol was laid by GW on 18 Sept. 1793 (Columbian Centinel [Boston], 5 Oct. 1793).

4GW’s letter to the commissioners of 25 July addressed the implementation of modifications to Thornton’s design for the U.S. Capitol. Architect Stephen Hallet incorporated these changes into a new plan upon which construction was to begin (Jefferson to GW, 17 July, and notes 2–3).

5GW responded to this request for an audit in his reply to the commissioners of 13 Aug. 1793.

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