George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 24 March 1795

To the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

Philadelphia 24th March 1795


As I may have appear’d somewhat indecisive respecting square No. 21 in the federal city, I should not be surprised if you are at a loss to understand my meaning, in that particular.

The Commissioners on my application, agreed to let me have—first a quarter—then half—and finally the whole of that square. My mind settled on the last; but not being able (from the accident I met with) when I was at that place in June, to view the whole of it myself—nor to obtain such accurate information of the several parts, as respected the shape & declivity of the hill—to ascertain which was essential for my plan of improvement; I paid for no more than a moiety thereof.1

I have since recollected, and indeed have been informed, that neither moiety will answer without the other for the purpose I contemplate—that is—buildings & a garden (when my means will enable me to encounter the expence).

This being the case, I repeat my wish to possess the other moiety of the said square. But if in your judgment, my delay has involved any inconvenience, or by paying for the half only, it argued a dereliction of the whole, and fresh terms must be made; you have only to name them; for as I mean to do nothing wrong in this business myself, it is not my wish, or desire, that you should do otherwise than right.

I should be glad to hear from you on this subject as soon as it is convenient; because I shall have the needful to provide for the first payment; and I wd take it with me about the middle of next month; when, if nothing unforeseen happens, I expect to be on my way to Mount Vernon, for a short stay.2 I am—Gentlemen Your Most obedt Servant

Go: Washington

ALS, DLC: Records of the U.S. Commissioners of the City of Washington, 1790–1869; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1For GW’s prior purchase of two lots in square 21 and his interest in purchasing the whole square, see GW to the Commissioners, 11 April and 1 June 1794; and the Commissioners to GW, 23 April 1794, and n.2 to that document, and 7 June 1794, and n.1. For descriptions of GW’s accident, see his letters to Henry Knox and Edmund Randolph of 25 June.

2No reply to this letter has been found. The commissioners recorded the receipt of the letter at their meeting of 9 April, and on 18 April they recorded the sale of lots 2 and 3 in square 21 to GW “with Interest from the 7th of June 1794 and upon the usual terms of payment” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802). GW met with the commissioners later in April, and in May, GW directed Tobias Lear to settle his account with the commissioners. On 30 May, Lear paid the commissioners $751.54 in full for lots 2, 3, and 4 in square 21 (GW to Lear, 17 May, owned [1985] by Lidie Flammia, Clearwater, Fla.; account with the commissioners, 30 May, DLC:GW).

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