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To George Washington from the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 12 August 1796

From the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

Washington, 12th August 1796


Our affairs with Messrs Morris & Nicholson bearing something like an appearance of drawing to a crisis; we beg leave to enclose you our two last letters to those gentlemen, with their Answers1—We hope and believe that things are now in a train to raise some money from that unfortunate Contract, and we think it not prudent to let the breaches of Contract respecting the buildings until after the next Instalment shall become due, which will be on the first of May next. We are &c.

G. Scott
W. Thornton
A. White

LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent.

1The commissioners evidently enclosed their letters to Robert Morris dated 15 July and 3 Aug. and the answers from Morris written on 25 July and 8 August. For their letter of 15 July, see Commissioners for the District of Columbia to GW, 20 July, n.2.

Morris wrote the commissioners from Philadelphia on 25 July that he had expected to be at the Federal City, but “Mr Nicholson & myself have so many things to adjust before we can leave home, that more time is required for the purposes than ever ourselves had any Idea of—I must pray you to extend your patience a little longer, for we shall certainly be with you soon & we have serious expectations of adjusting every thing to mutual satisfaction” (DLC: Robert Morris Papers).

The commissioners wrote Morris on 3 Aug. that “a personal interview might greatly facilitate an adjustment of all our differences—It is quite agreeable to us to give every Indulgence which can be done with justice to the public—Should however, any unforeseen event intervene to prevent your acceptance of any of the Propositions mentioned in our last Letter to you, we think it highly just, that no delay should arise on account of the Indulgence, granted, at your Instance—And we can consent to it, on no other Terms, except that you and Mr Nicholson will enter voluntary appearances and Special Bail to such Suit or Suits as it may be thought proper to institute against you, in the Supreme Court of Pensylvania, at September Term, next, should no Settlement take place—We will Wait for your answer until the 15th Inst., & if not, by that time received, we shall consider the proposition as not accepted” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent)

Morris replied to the commissioners from Philadelphia on 8 Aug. that he and John Nicholson agreed to the “Proposition of entering if it becomes necessary, voluntary appearances in the September Term at our Supreme Court & giving Special Bail in the usual time & manner to the Suits you may think proper or necessary to institute—we expect however to render any Such Proceedings unnecessary” (DLC: Robert Morris Papers).

The commissioners wrote Morris on 11 Aug.: “We received your favor of the 8th Inst. We will forward the Documents of your debt and the statement of your account to Mr Edward Tilghman, & shall be much pleased, should it prove unnecessary to use them in a legal course, of which necessity, Mr Tilghman will judge” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent). Morris and Nicholson never met their obligations to the commissioners, and their failed speculation in Federal City property contributed to their eventual imprisonment in Philadelphia for debt (see Arbuckle, Pennsylvania Speculator and Patriot, description begins Robert D. Arbuckle. Pennsylvania Speculator and Patriot: The Entrepreneurial John Nicholson, 1757–1800. University Park, Pa., 1975. description ends 114–38, and Rappleye, Robert Morris, description begins Charles Rappleye. Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution. New York, 2010. description ends 498–508).

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