George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Law, 10 August 1799

From Thomas Law

Washington Augt 10 1799.

Dear Sir.

I hope you arrived well & that the Sun & fatigue did not encrease the bile1—Dr Thornton has applied to Mr Carroll who will not take less than 15d. or 15 Cents—which in truth the Lot is worth2—A Gentleman from Baltimore has been with me to day for a Lot to build upon, & the Stenographer (or short hand writer) to Congress is going to build on one of my Lots in the small Square above my stable & he is to pay me a Dollar rent per annum & the principal in 10 Years; which is selling the Lot at the rate of 15 or 16 Cents per Square foot.3

Mr Fenno the Printer is here & Blodget &ca.4 Mr Humphrys has sounded all the Eastern branch & says that there are two or three places fit for the Navy Yard—he is glad to find that the bottom is so muddy & soft.5

Last night I heard Bernard & Darley, and spent a very pleasent Eveng there were Thornton the Architect Cliffin the Poet & Painter, Bernard the Actor & Darley the Singer in short several choice spirits the forerunners of numbers such.6

I have to thank Mrs Washington & to be angry at her sending snuff by Eliza—such an attention tho’ it evinces her kindness yet it encourages a bad habit.

Pray do not take the trouble to acknowledge this, unless you wish to have Mr Carrolls corner Lot.7 I remain

AL[S], DLC:GW. Part of the closing and Law’s signature are missing.

1GW returned to Mount Vernon on 6 Aug., a “Clear & warm” day, from Law’s house in Washington. He had “lodged” at Law’s the night before after attending a meeting of the Potowmack Company in Georgetown (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:359).

2Perhaps GW discussed with Law and William Thornton while he was in Georgetown and Washington, 5–6 Aug., the possibility of his buying a lot on Capitol Hill from Daniel Carroll of Duddington, the man who had sold him in 1798 one of the two lots on which his double house was being built. No correspondence with Thornton about this has been found. In the partially illegible letter that GW wrote in response to Law on 13 Aug., GW expressed doubts about his being able to come to terms with Carroll and explained that it was “the situation alone” of the lot that accounted for his interest in it. On 21 Sept. GW identified the lot in question as “the corner lot . . . on New Jersey Avenue,” which indicates that it adjoined his two lots on Capitol Hill; but by this time he had already “abandoned the idea” of trying to purchase the lot (GW to Law, 21 Sept. 1799).

3Jonathan Williams Condy had replaced the Republican John Beckley as clerk of the House of Representatives; the “Stenographer” may have been one of Condy’s assistants.

4John Ward Fenno published the Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia) for two years after his father John Fenno died in the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1798. Samuel Blodget (1757–1814) became one of the largest speculators in Washington real estate in 1792.

5Joshua Humphreys (1751–1838), noted shipbuilder, was made the first naval contracter for the United States. For further references to seeking to fix upon a site in Washington for the navy yard, see Benjamin Stoddert to GW, 16 Sept. 1798.

6“Cliffin” was a Scottish portrait painter Lewis Clephane. John Bernard was an English comedian who came to America in 1797. John Darley, a popular singer at Covent Garden, was recruited in 1793 by Thomas Wignell for his company of actors at the New Theater in Philadelphia, which opened in 1794. Darley brought with him his son John Darley, Jr., who became a distinguished American actor (Columbia Hist. Soc. Recs., description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society. Washington, D.C., 1895—. description ends 21:263; Seilhamer, American Theater, 1:231, 3:137–39).

7See note 2.

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