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To George Washington from the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, September 1795

From the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

City of Washington 27th September 1795


We had the pleasure of your favor by Mr Lear Covering Mr Morriss Letter of the 21t instant1—finding that Mr Morris is of Opinion that we have no power to sell his property we think it highly necessary to assure him that we are impress’d with very Different sentiments and shall if Compelled by him take the advice of able Counsel on the point—We enclose a Copy of our letter to Mr Morris with his to you.2 We see with equal indignation and greif the hour approaching fast when all our Operations must cease for want of a few thousand Dollars this too when every material is collected and the season is most favorable for the rapid progression of the works. we are Daily in Session exerting our best endeavors tho’ hitherto in vain to form some probable Scheme to raise thirty or forty thousand Dollars to continue the Operations on the public buildings till the middle of December—The various expedients Have been Discussed, nothing bearing even the Appearance of effeciency has Occurr’d—Should our future Deliberations be more successful One of the Board will undoubtedly wait on you to recieve your Assent before the final Adoption of any measure, Our letter to Mr Morris will go by Tomorrows mail and we sincerely Hope it may be productive. with sentiments of Perfect respect, we are sir, Your most Obed. Servts

Gusts Scott
William Thornton
Alex. White

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

2In their letter to Robert Morris, dated 28 Sept., the commissioners stated their disbelief that he had remained “un-informed of the Distress’d State of the funds of the City Having yourself so large an Interest in it, and our Letters to Mr Greanleaf having so often mentioned the State of our funds.” The commissioners sought “to forward the great Object of our trust with as little injury to the purchasers of public property as possible—very frequent instances have Occurr’d where some of the most valuable Lots in the City bought at low rates have been liable to forfeitures for non payment of installments, but none have been forfeited, wishing as we Have ever done to act in perfect Harmony with the great proprietors of City property.”

The commissioners had not relinquished the thought of advertising Morris’s property for sale “from any apprehension of the want of power, but because that measure ought not to be adopted whilst any Other mode of releif remained.” Work in the Federal City continued during the two previous months “solely by a Loan from the Bank on our private credit.” The commissioners warned that if they could not obtain a bank loan or receive a payment from Morris, “all the workmen engaged in the public buildings must be Discharged for the Season,” and perhaps permanently. The bank could provide no additional aid and would most likely require payment for the $20,000 lent, with one half due in a matter of days. They might persuade the bank to provide one additional renewal of the loan, but such action would not provide for the “necessities.” Without a payment of at least $15,000 in ten days, “our Operations must totally cease.”

The commissioners reminded Morris of the fatality of such a situation to the city and to the proprietors. “The moment all the workmen from the buildings are discharged, all sales or mortgages of City property will cease but on terms which no prudent proprietor will wish to encounter.” Morris remained five months behind on the full payment of the money he owed the commissioners. If he could pay $15,000 by 5 Oct. and the rest of the money he owed them in thirty days, the commissioners might not have to advertise the property they had sold to Morris and James Greenleaf (LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent).

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