George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 23 April 1794

From the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

City of Washington April 23d 1794


We take the Liberty to inclose you a Letter for Messrs Richard Harrison and George Taylor Jr, which we beg you to read and send to them: it will apprize you of our very difficult Situation with Mr Blodget, who has come hither without any Thing nearly, but evasions and excuses—we have past by the Secretary, because we imagine his time will not allow this to be a first object to him as it is unfortunately to us.1

You have inclosed, a Duplicate of the certificate for the N.E. Corner of Square 21—the other quarter on the same North line belongs to the public and may be joined to your part if you should desire it.2

We have had Conversations with Mr Fenwick, who has been a good while in the Surveying Department, and a Mr Freeman, who has been lately taken into it—the Conduct of the first, and a Specimen of the Abilities of the last, with their general View, and Idea disclosed of the manner of continuing the work, lead us to expect, they are competent to do it, and they are proceeding; if they should meet with unexpected difficulties, we have no doubt but they will apprize us of such with Candor, and Sincerity, and we leave the Surveying Department with them for the present under this Confidence.3 we are sir most respectfully Your obedt Servants

Th. Johnson

Dd: Stuart.

Danl Carroll

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

1The enclosed letter of 23 April was addressed to Richard Harrison, auditor of the Treasury Department, and George Taylor, Jr., chief clerk of the Department of State. This letter was prompted by problems with a lottery conducted by Samuel Blodget, Jr., the former superintendent of the Federal City. On this lottery and Blodget’s delay in selecting and paying the winners, see D.C. Commissioners to GW, 9 April 1793 (second letter); Thomas Johnson to GW, 23 Dec. 1793, and n.2 to that document; and GW to Johnson 23 Jan. 1794, and n.4.

After explaining the current financial state of the lottery, the commissioners requested Harrison and Taylor “to examine and compare Mr Blodget’s redeemed tickets with the Book of prizes and to retain the Tickets carefully so that they may be recurred to on occasion if under a second ticket of the same number a prize should be demanded.” The commissioners also requested that if Harrison and Taylor found the “state of things” such that legal proceedings were justified, they should file charges against Blodget “in the federal Court—his refusal to give the farther Security on Demand will be a breach of his covenant as well as not paying off the Prizes in Time.” The commissioners further noted that Blodget “has planned a second Lottery, he has not had our Consent for that, or indeed any second Lottery but on Terms he has not complied with—we hear he is selling tickets, he may perhaps give it the Air of Connection with the Commissioners to prevent the public being misled we disavow it, and as soon as you obtain the Tickets and Security if the State of the account should make it proper on the principles stated we wish you to have the inclosed advertisement published in all the Philadelphia papers for we are determined to have nothing to do with this Lotteries—If any Embarrassment should occur we wish you to advise with the President who will be prepared for such event and will we are sure afford any aid he can to get us out of this difficulty” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802).

For the enclosed disavowal, see the minutes for the commissioners’ meeting of 15–24 April (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802). For the acceptance of this request from the D.C. commissioners, see Harrison to D.C. Commissioners, 30 April, and Harrison and Taylor to D.C. Commissioners, 10 May (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802).

2On GW’s desire to purchase the lot on the northeast corner of square 21, see GW to D.C. Commissioners, 11 April. The sale was recorded by the commissioners on 23 April: “George Washington Esquire now President of the United States, purchased of the Commissioners at private sale Lot Number four in square Twenty one for Two Hundred pounds current money, and a Duplicate certificate thereof transmitted to him” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802). He followed their suggestion and purchased as well the lot on the northwest quarter, Lot 1 (GW to D.C. Commissioners, 1 June).

3Thomas Freeman (d. 1821) emigrated from his native Ireland to the United States in 1784. He resigned as a surveyor for the Federal City in 1796 to accept a commission as one of the U.S. surveyors charged with establishing the boundary line between the United States and Spain. Although he did not complete this survey, he was employed to survey other locations in the Southwest by the administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and in 1811, he received a commission as the surveyor of public lands south of Tennessee.

According to the minutes for the commissioners’ meeting of 19–25 March, “The Commissioners retain Mr Thomas Freeman as an Assistant Surveyor on the usual terms of Twenty Shillings per day, he defraying his own Expenses of living.” In the minutes for 15–24 April, the commissioners noted that “Mr George Fenwick is appointed to lay off Lots for improvement East of the Capitol” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802). On Fenwick’s prior employment by the commissioners, see Andrew Ellicott, Benjamin Ellicott, and Isaac Briggs to D.C. Commissioners, 29 June 1793, and n.9.

Index Entries