James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Alexander J. Dallas, 31 July 1815

From Alexander J. Dallas

31 July 1815.

Dear Sir.

The business of Fort Washington is a bad one. The inclosed papers will shew, that there is no plan, no responsibility, no honesty. I do not mean to inculpate Major L’Enfant, on the score of honesty; but his strange course of conduct is embarrassing in the extreme, and will render it impossible to give any explanation to Congress.1 If you approve of my report on the subject, be so good as to return it, with an expression of your approbation.2 I am, Dr Sir, most respectfully & faithfully Yrs.

A. J. Dallas

RC (CSmH).

1In September 1814 James Monroe had assigned to Pierre Charles L’Enfant the task of supervising the reconstruction of Fort Washington on the Potomac (for the fort’s destruction, see PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 8:152 n. 2). L’Enfant accepted the job eagerly but reacted angrily when Monroe offered advice on the project a few weeks later. He also delayed answering Monroe’s May 1815 request for a construction update until 23 June 1815, when he submitted to Dallas a rambling screed of excuses for his lack of progress, including corrupt and undependable contractors, bad weather, labor shortages, and the difficulty of devising a viable defense plan for the fort owing to its location (Kenneth R. Bowling, Peter Charles L’Enfant: Vision, Honor and Male Friendship in the Early American Republic [Washington, D.C., 2002], 55, 60; Caemmerer, Life of Pierre Charles L’Enfant [repr. 1970], 451–62).

2Dallas to JM, 31 July 1815 (second letter).

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