George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 29 August 1793

To the Commissioners
for the District of Columbia

Philadelphia 29th Augt 1793.


I enclose you an Estimate of the cost of the Capitol for the Federal City upon Mr Hallet’s plan calculated in the Philada prices by Mr Carstairs, one of the architects brought forward by Dr Thornton on the late occasion of discussing the objections offered to his plan. Altho’ it may not be proper to rely entirely upon this Estimate; yet it will probably be found a very useful document in going on with the work.1

In contemplating characters suitable to inspect your accounts, agreeably to your request,2 I have thought of appointing Captn Conway, of Alexandria, and Major John Ross, of Bladensburg—they having struck me as Gentlemen very competent to the business in every respect, & believing them to be as little interested in the objects for which the expenditures have been made, as any proper characters in that quarter would be likely to be. on the latter point, however, you are better able to judge than I am, & will let me know if any objection could arise on that head: and in case there should be none, I will let those Gentlemen know my wishes for them to under take the business, as soon as I hear from you.3

In the mean time it may be well for you to inform me how long it will probably take to examine the accounts; & whether it would be best to have it done during your meeting, or at any other time, that I may let the Gentlemen know these circumstances, upon which perhaps will depend their accepting or declining the appointment; and also whether, as the business is of a public nature, it would be expected that compensation should be made for the time or trouble of executing it.4

Query—In what manner would it be proper to state the accounts with the States of Virginia & Maryland, they having advanced monies which have not been all expended on the objects for which they were appropriated?5

I propose, if the situation of public business will permit, to leave this place for Mount Vernon about the 14th of next month.6 With very great regard, I am Gentlemen, Your mo: obedt Servt

Go. Washington

LS, in Tobias Lear’s writing, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802; Df, in Tobias Lear’s writing, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1For the meeting of 15 July to discuss flaws in William Thornton’s prize-winning design of the U.S. Capitol, the adoption of architect Stephen Hallet’s modification of Thornton’s plan, and the estimate of Thomas Carstairs, see Thomas Jefferson to GW, 17 July, and notes 2–4.

2For previous mention of the need to audit the commission’s accounts, see D.C. Commissioners to GW, 11–12 Mar. 1793, and GW to D.C. Commissioners, 13 Aug. 1793.

3Although the commissioners expressed positive opinions about Alexandria, Va., merchant Richard Conway and Bladensburg, Md., resident David Ross in their reply to GW of 5 Sept., they also mentioned other suitable candidates. The main criteria was that the auditors be men not “mixed in the business of the City.” GW subsequently appointed Ross and Robert Townsend Hooe of Alexandria to audit the accounts (GW to D.C. Commissioners, to Ross and Hooe, both 9 Sept. 1793).

4In their letter to GW of 5 Sept., the commissioners dismissed the idea of having an audit during their next official meeting and estimated that if done separately it “might be finished in a few days.” They suggested that the auditors receive “as much compensation as the Commissioners for the like time.” The commissioners currently received $6 per day and $6 for every twenty miles traveled (GW to D.C. Commissioners, 31 Jan. 1793 [first letter], and note 2). For the report from the auditors, see Hooe and Ross to GW, 31 Oct. 1793.

5The commissioners replied that the expenditures made from the monies granted by the Maryland and Virginia legislatures to assist in the construction of public buildings in the Federal City had not been treated as separate accounts (D.C. Commissioners to GW, 5 Sept. 1793). On these grants, see D.C. Commissioners to GW, 8 Feb. 1793, n.4.

6Both GW and Martha Washington left Philadelphia on 10 Sept. for an extended stay at Mount Vernon. GW departed Mount Vernon in late October, but Martha remained there until December (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 239; GW to Tobias Lear, 8 Nov. 1793; Household Accounts description begins Presidential Household Accounts, 1793–97. Manuscript, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. description ends , 4, 11 Dec. 1793).

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