From the Commissioners for the District of Columbia
Washington [4 Feb.]1 1795
The Board have for some time contemplated a statement of the affairs of the City, to be laid before you; which has been hitherto delayed by the difficulty of collecting the several Documents necessary to accompany it; and which even yet are very far from being perfect. Independent of the present circumstances of Affairs, there are strong reasons why our proceedings at certain stated periods should be laid before you. We conceive that the Manner in which the public Money committed to our Charge has been expended, ought to appear upon other Records than our own; by which means we may obviate all false Charges, if any such should be exhibited. We wish also that you, Sir, to whom we are immediately responsible, may have before you the evidence requisite to form a Decision upon our Conduct.
The change made in the Board in September last,2 makes it peculiarly proper to take a short view of the State of the funds at that period; including the Sums actually expended, the Debts due & the funds in hand. The Members then appointed consider their responsibility as then commencing; and would be wanting to their own Characters, if they did not place within the power of public view, the State of the business in which they consented to engage: without which no just Opinion of their exertions could be formed; and the more they were impressed with the hope of deserving well of the public, the more anxiety they would naturally feel to give a just and true state of the Affairs of the City at their Entrance into Office. Under these Impressions, and without the most distant Idea of Suggesting any thing unfavorable to their Predecessors in Office, they submit to Consideration.
|The Paper Marked A|
|Dr. Commisrs for the Federal District in Acct with Mr Deakins||Cr.|
|Junr City Treasurer|
|Octr 1||To Cash paid your orders||Oct. 1||By amount payments|
|for Expenditures to||received into the Treasury|
|this date||94465.15.1¼||from the Commencement|
|Ditto advanced list||10143.5.1¼||to date||98247.2.8½|
|Balance in the hands||Cash received of the|
|of the Treasurer this||Bank of Cola discounted|
|Day||6856.17.6||in the Treasurers notes||13218.15.—|
|N.B. Due the Bank of Cola previous|
|to this date for the Treasurers||By Balance in the hands|
|Notes discounted||35250 Dollars||of the Treasurer||6856.17.6|
|The Commisrs Stock||George Town October 1st 1794|
|in Bank this Day 1053||Errors Excepted|
|Shares3 @ 30$||Will Deakins Jr Treasr|
which shews the actual expenditures up to the 1st Octr 1794.4 The Debts due to and from the Board, except the balances for Lots sold; exclusive of those sold to Messrs Morris Nicholson & Greenleaf.5 Those balances are not taken into the Estimate, as it is conceived they will be absorbed by the balances due to original proprietors; Some of which have run very considerably into Arrears and must be paid, and for one of which a suit has long ago been commenced and is still pending.
The Bank shares which are merely nominal, never having been paid for, except by a Bank Credit; and the Lots on hand together with the debt due from Morris Nicholson & Greenleaf formed the whole of the remaining funds of the City. The precise number or value of these Lots cannot be easily ascertained: but we Suppose them to be less than 5000 standdard lots; and of these more than 4/5 are N.E. of Massachusetts Avenue; and would not probably at present Sell for £25 per Lot. The others are scattered over various parts of the City, and are as different in value as situation. At present £100 per lot would be a high Estimate of those; tho’ we hope the Day is not distant when it will be considered as a very low one.
The objects in view do not require our going into the Minutæ of Detail, We wish only to give a true Out line.
The Paper marked B ([ ]) will give some Idea of the expenditure already made on the Capitol.6 What ultimately it may cost we cannot at present exactly calculate. But we beg leave to Suggest the Idea whether it would not be prudent in the present State of our funds to forego carrying on more of that building than the immediate accommodation of Congress may require. It is conceived that this may be done without at all affecting the completion of the whole at a future day on the plan approved. The Conduct of Mr Hallet whose capricious and obstinate refusal to deliver up such Sections of the Capitol as were Wanting obliged the late Commissioners to discharge him, and occasioned some difficulties in this business.7
The paper marked C ([ ]) exhibits an Account of the expences incurred to the 1st of January 1795 on the Presidents House & also what will be incurred at the present prices of Materials & Labor to carry that building to the roof. Also an Estimate of the Materials for finishing it.8 We wish we could add the Workmanship likewise to shew in one view the whole Expences of this building.
The Paper marked D ([ ]) shews the expences incurred by the Canal, yet in a very unfinished state. The Laborers have been withdrawn for some time from that work, And Serious doubts are entertained, whether it will be proper to pursue the Subject further; at least during the present State of our finances.9
The paper marked E ([ ]) shews the amount of the Sums expended on the Stone bridge & Causeway, & also copies of the Contracts entered into with Lee & others, & with L. Harbaugh of which we beg leave to give a further explanation hereafter.10
The paper marked F ([ ]) shews the progress in the survey of the City, also the probable expence of bringing so desireable an Object to a Conclusion; and with the plat accompanying it will give a pretty clear view of the present state of this subject.11
The paper marked G shews the Memorial and Letters on the balance of the Virginia Donation.12
The paper marked H shews the Correspondence with Mr Greenleaf & the present state of the subjects alluded to.13
The paper marked [I]14 Shews the present funds, or rather Prospects of funds for the ensuing season, and the Objects on which it is contemplated to employ them. Subjoined also is a state of the expected funds to 1800 still more gloomy.
The several papers exhibited give the best out line of the Affairs of the City. There are however other facts not comprehended under any of these several heads which it may be proper to mention.
The Board on taking a review of the Consequences arising from being themselves the undertakers in a great variety of Subjects; came to a Resolution to contract as far as possible at fixed rates, for all Materials & work; always reserving the power of finally deciding between the public & the Contractor on the sufficiency of the Materials found or work done. To create competition, & to prevent all combination or censure, they have also advertised their wants with occasional promises of Advances. Hitherto the measure has been attended with Success.
Contracts have been entered into with Gentlemen of Character & fortune, who have also given Security within the State for the delivery of 5500 Tons of good Scabbled free stone at the yards where wanted, within the present Season, & for 6500 Tons the next Season, the Stone to be such as our Workmen approve.15 This Stone will be delivered at least at 7/6 per ton less than it has hitherto cost us. We are also relieved from the heavy burthen of having our Laborers perpetually called off from their Several employments to assist in unloading & loading crafts & Carts. Good hard well burnt Bricks not less than 500,000 nor more than 1 Million to be delivered in the Capitol yard have been contracted for at 36 S. per thousand, tho’ the selling price all last Season in the city and Geo. Town has been and still is from 8 to 10 Dollars per thousand. We hope and believe that our Contract will have a very happy effect on the price among Individuals on this Article.16
The cutting & laying the free stone at the Capitol has been contracted for on very reasonable terms with a Mr Dobson from England; who has given very good Security for his performance & has commenced his Operations.17
We have before Us offers for laying Bricks and foundation Stone; and we are about contracting for Lime, the only Material of Consequence not contracted for to carry on the operations of the next Season.
About 100 Laborers are engaged for the year at 60 Dollars each, their Masters clothing them; and indeed every measure is taken to prepare for pushing forward the public buildings the next Season, to as great an extent as our finances will admit.
The levelling of the City, or at least such parts of it as may be soonest called for, has been contemplated as a work which could not much longer be deferred; And as this is a private as well as public benefit, it is thought that the State Legislature would if applied, authorise us to demand of those interested a reasonable compensation for giving the necessary Instructions to builders. Many of the considerable Proprietors in the City have been consulted & express the utmost willingness to contribute without being compelled by Law. A complete execution of this plan of the City with a proper book to which immediate recourse could be had would not cost much less than £3000. A partial execution of the plan may be sufficient for the present: & indeed under the direction of the late Board Something has been done by a Monsr Blois.18 Perhaps the day is not very distant when a person perfectly competent may be found to undertake it at his own Cost, if authorised by Law to receive a sufficient compensation from those who must necessarily call for his aid. Such an Office will in no very distant time grow into considerable importance; especially if the Compensation fixed by Law should be liberal.
The State of the Stone bridge over Rock Creek, the main arch of which is in daily danger of falling & thereby injuring the navigation of the Creek; has been too much talked of, to escape the attention of the Board. We thought that the Affairs of the City would be materially injured by a report going a broad that a bridge built by the Commissioners because it was deemed indispensably necessary, had fallen down & was abandoned; It was not in opinion only that the City would be injured; for the want of a Safe conveyance of all Seasons across rock Creek would now be most sensibly felt. Upon investigating the subject of the Causeway it was discovered that some who had engaged to Convey rights had none; that others who had rights discovered no great degree of willingness to convey them. that the Bridge was at all events likely to be abandoned; & the public in the first Instance at least to get little more than a given number of Law Suits, which we by no means thought likely to be productive of either funds or friends to the City. Under these prospects with the advice & assistance of Mr Johnson the late Commissioner then present we opened a negotiation for a private Sale of the Commissioners claims on the Causeway. After various objections & difficulties it has lately been brought to an End: not indeed such as Justice required, but nearer to it than the existing Circumstances seemed once to promise.19 The Lots on Rock Creek above the Bridge will be greatly increased in value by the erection of a Draw bridge; which we calculate will not cost us more than 12 or 1400£ & which at all Events we should have been compelled to build, or to have rebuilt the falling arch. The greater part of the Lots above the Bridge still remain public property & we expect will sell high especially if a water street should be laid out from the Bridge to the City Line—It was deemed impracticable to get the Subscribers to unite with the Commissioners in any System for the Sale of the whole together in consequence of clashing claims among themselves—this Idea had been frequently suggested ineffectually by the former Commissioners.
In addition to the Communications we have made thro’ the Secretary of State, respecting Mr Greenleaf,20 we think it proper to lay before you the papers marked H, containing our Correspondence with him on two important Objects—1st his proposal to negotiate a loan for the public, & himself jointly to the amount of one Million of dollars—2dly the Security required of him for the improvement of every third Lot on his Selling or contracting to sell any of those conveyed to him within the time limitted by Contract—With respect to the first, you will please to observe a proposal which appeared to be of a very extraordinary kind, & to which a refusal was given by Messrs Carroll & Thornton, (Mr Scott being in Baltimore preparing for his removal) and repeated on his return—He continued to urge this matter, with an indelicate degree of importunity, & which we could not but highly disapprove We think it likewise expedient in consequence of what you will read in one of the Letters of his intention of applying to “you & the Secretary of State” eventually for a decision on our requisition for Security for the performance of his engagements to lay before you the Correspondance on that Subject—You will find it blended with the Subject relating to the Loan—We think it likewise expedient, that you should have every Communication which has passed between Us on our requisition of Security for the fulfilment of his engagements respecting buildings on his Contracting to sell in consequence of his intention as he writes, of applying to “you & the Secretary of State” eventually for a decision. This correspondence is to be found in the papers last referred to.21
Our Sales of Lots in most late Instances from the water have been as high as 100 Guineas for a Sta[n]dard Lot; & on the water at Six pounds the foot Front: nothing but dire necessity ought to induce us to sell at these low rates; except in single Lots & for the purposes of immediate improvements. It is our fixed Opinion not to sell for the purposes of Speculation in any instance—We should hold ourselves totally inexcuseable did we not benefit by experience. Tho’ the Board during the late severe weather have not generally set at their Office more than two Days in a week, we are seldom together without one or more applications to purchase.
The present Circumstances of our Affairs evince too plainly how desireable a Loan would be. Spirited exertions in the public buildings, which cannot be made without money whilst it encreased the public confidence would give a great additional value to the public property yet left. Could the Idea once be done away that the public must Sell; it would have a most happy Effect. & it is difficult to conceive the energy it would give to affairs. How far in the present convulsed State of Europe, a Loan could be negotiated there; or what aid may be hoped for at Home, we pretend not to suggest: Removed from the best Sourses of information, it would perhaps be improper for us even to hazzard a conjecture; but to you, Sir, we owe the Confession of this melancholy truth, that the remaining funds of the City at the present prices of property must fall very short of accomplishing the great and necessary Objects in view. Let it however be remarked, that the funds we have to pledge, if the Loan be payable at a distant day, bid fair to be abundantly sufficient to cover the utmost sum wanted. The money if laid out with Judgment & œconomy, may be justly considered as precisely in the State of Money borrowed on Mortgage; to be invested in the advancement of a greatly improveable Estate, the mortgaged Subject. The improvements made whilst they more than double the Security to the Lender, add in an equal degree to the Riches of the Borrower. Such would be the Case could we negotiate a Loan to any useful extent—by pushing forward the, we should strengthen the public Opinion & add perhaps four fold to the value of the property on hand.22
We ought perhaps to appologize for giving you this long Detail, being Sensible how little time you can devote to the Subject, It is however of importance: & we are Confident you will think so, that we should with the utmost truth & candor lay before you the real state of things. Should any unexpected Incidents prevent the public buildings from being prepared in Time for the reception of Congress, how deep would be your, & our regret. Such an Event might ultimately shake the Dignity, Honor & peace of the Union. Thinking as we do, we should be wanting in official Duty if we did not make a just representation of affairs here. With such means as we have eked out by the strictest System of Œconomy, the utmost exertions shall be made; and whenever a Prospect of enlarging them shall offer, we shall with the sincerest pleasure grasp the happy occasion, having most ardently at heart the fullest Success of the City. We have the honor to be with the utmost respect sir Your obedt Servts
P.S. We have this Day the honor of your Letter of the 28th ulto & shall pay the earliest attention to it.
We have thought it best to send the Plat by a private hand, & to make up our letter and the several papers referred to in two Separate packets, the first including all to & with Letter G, & the other H & I.
LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802.
1. The letter-book copy is dated “January 29th 1795,” but it evidently was not sent until 5 Feb., and it seems certain that the letter was dated 4 Feb. when sent. The receipt of GW’s letter to the commissioners of 28 Jan., mentioned as “28th ulto” in the postscript, was recorded in the commissioners’ proceedings of 2 Feb., and the proceedings also state that “The Letter to the President with the several inclosures were considered signed and forwarded” at their meeting of 5 Feb. (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802). Secretary of State Edmund Randolph wrote to the commissioners on 13 Feb. that “The President of the United States has submitted to my consideration your letter of the 4th instant with its enclosures,” and the contents of his reply suggest that he was referring to this letter (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters). When Thomas Johnson, relying on the letter book, referred to the commissioners’ letter of 29 Jan., neither GW nor Randolph recognized his reference, and when the commissioners mentioned “Our Letter of the 4th” in their response to Randolph of 21 Feb., a footnote was added to their letter-book copy that reads “29 Jany” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802).
2. The commissioners were referring to the replacement of former commissioners David Stuart and Johnson by Gustavus Scott and William Thornton.
3. The December 1793 Maryland act establishing the Bank of Columbia allowed the commissioners to subscribe for up to 2,000 shares of bank stock (Md. Laws 1793 description begins Laws of Maryland, Made and Passed at a Session of Assembly, Begun and held at the city of Annapolis on Monday the fourth of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three. Annapolis, . description ends , chap. 30).
4. A different account, marked “A” but giving information to 31 Dec. 1794, is in DLC: D.C. Miscellany. It balances the credits and debits at £26,882.19.2¾ with £2,574.1.11½ in the treasurer’s hands. In addition, the commissioners’ bank stock was reported as 808 shares worth £24,240, increasing the difference between that and the sum due to the bank.
6. The commissioners reported expenses on the Capitol by 1 Jan. 1795 to be £20,000, taking note that £1,375 in “Advances for Some Materials not received” were included (DLC: D.C. Miscellany).
7. Stephen Hallet had submitted several designs for the U.S. Capitol before William Thornton’s design was selected, and his criticisms of Thornton’s winning proposal led to a conference at which Hallet’s and Thornton’s designs were considered and alterations were made in Thornton’s design (Commissioners to GW, 23 June 1793; GW to Thomas Jefferson, 30 June 1793, second letter; Jefferson to GW, 17 July 1793; and GW to Commissioners, 25 July 1793; for a summary of the conference issues and results, see the editorial note in Harris, William Thornton Papers description begins C. M. Harris, ed. Papers of William Thornton: Volume One, 1781-1802. Charlottesville, Va., 1995. description ends , 255–59). Hallet was then hired to supervise the construction. However, on 26 June 1794 the commissioners felt compelled to write Hallet: “nothing has ever gone from us by which we intended or we believe you could infer that you had the chief direction of executing the work of the Capitol or that you or anybody else were to introduce into that building any departures from Doctr Thornton’s Plan without the Presidents or commissioners approbation.” Hallet was to understand that he was under the direction of James Hoban. They added, “we do request that you will signify by letter your understanding of and agreement to this line for we cannot intrust the same piece of business to the direction of two heads capable of pursuing different Wills” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802).
Hallet replied on 28 June that he believed the earlier conference had led to the adoption of his plan: “In the alteration I never thought of introducing in it any thing belonging to Dr Thornton’s exibitions.
“So I Claim the Genuine Invention of the Plan now executing and beg leave to Lay hereafter before you and the President the proofs of my right to it. …
“As to the line in which you Direct me to act I am very sorry to meet with an occasion wherein it does not lie in my power to Comply with your wishes” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802).
In response, on that date the commissioners directed that Hallet turn over the plans in his possession and “verbally acquainted him that their connection with him had ceased and they hereby declare that he is no longer in the public service” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802).
8. The commissioners reported “Expences on the Presidents House to 1st January 1795” of £42,000, adding “Mr Hobans report herewith will afford some information on that Subject, we are sorry that it is not more complete” (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). James Hoban’s calculation, dated 30 Dec. 1794, of “the expence of the Presidents House from its present state, to the top of the Cornice” was £15,299.8.00 (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). An estimate by George Blagdin of the stone necessary to complete the president’s house, 28 Jan. 1795, is in DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802.
9. The proposed canal was intended to link Tiber Creek with Saint James Creek, which flowed southward to the Eastern Branch. The commissioners had contracted with Patrick Whelan for its construction on 1 Sept. 1792 (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802). In a letter to the commissioners of 3 Dec. 1794, George Fenwick and William O’Neale estimated that 27,023 cubic yards of dirt had been excavated at the time of its suspension, and calculated the cost at £1,914.0.8 for that excavation and the removal of stumps (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). In the commissioners’ final settlement with Whelan on 24 April 1795, they calculated that he was due £1,865.10.8 and approved payment of a balance due of $220.42, plus an additional $133.331/3 in consideration of added width to the canal beyond the agreement (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802).
10. Paper E has not been identified. On 29 March 1792 the commissioners contracted with Leonard Harbaugh (1749–1822) for the construction of a stone bridge over Rock Creek, to be completed “in all august next or sooner if possible.” Because of design problems, this was revised by a second contract of 1 Sept. 1792. On 16 Oct. 1794 the commissioners informed Harbaugh “that the Bridge lately erected by him over rock Creek was considered by the Commissioners as insufficient and not such as they could receive, and that unless the said Bridge was completed and made strong sufficient and agreeable to his Contract,” they would sue. On 7 Jan. 1795, Harbaugh, who had received £4,930 for the construction, agreed to pay the commissioners £450 for a release “from all demands for and on account of the said Bridge” or “on account of the unskilful Construction or building thereof” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802). Copies of Harbaugh’s contract of 7 Jan. promising that payment and of the contract of 9 Jan. 1795 with Thomas Sim Lee, William Deakins, Jr., and Peter Casanave are in DLC: D.C. Miscellany. For discussion of the latter contract, see n.19 below.
11. Thomas Freeman’s estimate of the “Expence of the Survey from the first of Jany 1795 to the fourteenth of July” (dated 20 Jan. and marked “F”) totals £872.10.0 (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). On 1 Jan., Freeman sent to the commissioners “a printed plan of the City whereon are distinguished—The part thereof now survey’d—That which remains to be done—Squares resurvey’d—Squares stoned or bounded &c.” (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). Presumably the enclosed plat was that document or a copy of it.
12. The commissioners were referring to the grant of $120,000 approved by the Virginia legislature in December 1790 to assist the construction of buildings in the federal district (Va. Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 13:125). The grant was to be made in three equal yearly payments, and Virginia was in arrears. The commissioners’ memorial to the Virginia legislature of 25 Nov. 1794 reported that “in consequence of the disappointment in receiving this large sum of Money, very considerable inconvenience & even Injury has arisen to the public buildings.” Noting that any further progress must depend on the Virginia funds, they solicited the legislature’s “attention to the fatal Consequences which may flow from any future failure of the punctual payment of the balance still due” (DLC: D.C. Miscellany, marked “G”). A letter of the same date addressed to Charles Lee or John Hopkins asked their “particular attention” to the success of the memorial (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). Other enclosures may have included the commissioners’ letter to the governor of Virginia of 29 Dec. 1794 and Hopkins’s letter to William Deakins, Jr., of 21 Jan. 1795 (DLC: D.C. Miscellany), as well as their letters of 7 Nov. 1794 to the governor of Virginia and to Lee (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802).
13. The enclosed copies probably included at least James Greenleaf’s letters to the commissioners of 19 and 26 Oct., 2 and 14 Nov. (not identified), and 1 and 14 Dec. 1794 (DLC: D.C. Miscellany, the latter marked “H”) and their letters to him of 27 Oct. (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802), 3 and 20 Nov., and 2 and 5 Dec. 1794 (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). For more detail, see n.21 below.
14. The copyist wrote “F.” A “General Estimate of Expenses and Funds” marked “I” is to be found in DLC: DC Miscellany. The funds for 1795, including notes from Greenleaf, Morris, and John Nicholson, the balance of the Virginia donation, Greenleaf’s loan, shares in the Bank of Columbia, and cash on hand, came to $135,175.26 after deducting a payment due to the bank. The commissioners estimated expenses from January 1795 to January 1796 to be £37,862.5.0, equivalent to $100,966, with a number of the costs of labor and materials not calculated.
16. John Mitchell wrote the commissioners on 21 Jan., proposing to deliver bricks on these terms (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802), and the commissioners voted on that same day to accept the proposition “unless some better offer before the rising of the Board tomorrow.” Mitchell attended the commissioners meeting on 22 Jan., and they formally accepted his proposition at that time (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802).
17. John Dobson had arrived from Norwich, England, about a year previously and had been recommended to the commissioners as a builder “particularly eminent in ornamental Stone work” (Robert Walsh to Daniel Carroll, 23 Feb. 1794, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802). For the commissioners’ contract with Dobson of 31 Dec. 1794, see DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802. In late September or early October 1795, Dobson left the city, not having paid his workmen for the previous month and “indebted to the public a considerable sum of money, not less at any event than two thousand Dollars” (Commissioners to Stephen Casenave, 10 and 20 Oct. 1795, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802).
18. Blois was employed some time before July 1794 “towards procuring compleat heights of sections of the City,” but his employment had been suspended for the “inclement season” (minutes of 9 July 1794, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802; Commissioners to Blois, 2 and 22 Jan. 1795, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802).
19. Peter Casanave, William Deakins, Jr., and Thomas Sim Lee wrote the commissioners on 12 Dec. 1794, agreeing to purchase “all their right subscribed to them by the different proprietors on the causeway” for £2,300, provided “the Comrs Shall Build a Draw Bridge in a Complete and workman like manner” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802). The commissioners responded on 17 Dec., rejecting the offer as “much too low” and adding that they would undertake the construction of a drawbridge only “with reluctance” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802). However, after Harbaugh agreed on 5 Jan. to pay $1,200 “towards erecting a Draw bridge in lieu of the large arch now erected over Rock Creek,” the commissioners contracted to “remove the Center Arch of the present Bridge over Rock Creek … and in lieu thereof erect a good and Substantial Draw bridge,” which was to be sold to Casanave, Deakins, and Lee for £3,500 in Maryland money (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802; DLC: D.C. Miscellany).
20. The commissioners had discussed their negotiations with James Greenleaf in letters to Secretary of State Edmund Randolph of 23 March, 19 Sept., 18 Oct., and 2 Dec. 1794 and 16 Jan. 1795 (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802).
21. For Greenleaf’s loan proposal, see Commissioners to GW, 10 July 1794, and n.1 to that document. The commissioners had since learned that Greenleaf intended that he and the commissioners “officially should be jointly & severally bound to the Dutch money lenders for the million of Dollars proposed to be borrowed.” They wrote Greenleaf on 3 Nov. 1794 that “we cannot accede to the proposition because we do not conceive ourselves authorised to make the public answerable for the Contracts of individuals,” and they reiterated that position in their letter to Greenleaf of 5 Dec. (DLC: D.C. Miscellany).
The contract made by Greenleaf and Morris on 24 Dec. 1793 for the purchase of 6,000 lots from the commissioners required them to build 140 houses and specified that on sales made prior to January 1796 every third lot sold should be improved in that manner (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802). Having noticed that some of the deeds issued by Greenleaf were “absolutely without any condition for improvement,” the commissioners wrote him on 27 Oct. 1794 to request that he write them “immediately and explicitly on these matters, that they may be explained, justly understood, and put into a proper state before your departure” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802). In their letter to Greenleaf of 20 Nov. 1794, the commissioners noted that although he had given a bond for the construction of 140 houses, “something should be done for the securing a compliance with the contract respecting every 3d Lot on Sales being made by you,” and they sent a bond for his signature (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). Greenleaf replied in a letter of 1 Dec. “that there is no obligation on our part nor any degree of propriety in our executing the Bond,” and he further argued that it would be in the public interest to remove the building stipulation altogether (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). The commissioners, however, reaffirmed in a letter to him of 5 Dec. that “as our Sale to you was on conditions of Improvements; and our Conveyance to you has been absolute; that you should by collateral Security ensure to the public the making of those Improvements; which the property itself secured to the public whilst it remained in your hands” (DLC: D.C. Miscellany). Greenleaf responded on 14 Dec. that he would consult with his partners and then submit the disagreement “to the examination & decision of the President & Secretary of State” (DLC: D.C. Miscellany).
In Randolph’s letter to the commissioners of 13 Feb., he stated that “Mr Greenleaf’s proposal, as made to me, for the relinquishment of the condition of building on the lots is in every respect inadmissible.”
22. In Randolph’s reply of 13 Feb. he agreed “that the best efforts should immediately be used to raise the monies necessary for preventing a stoppage of the work” and suggested “that Philadelphia or Europe should be resorted to without delay.”