George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Timothy Pickering, 7 April 1795

To Timothy Pickering

Philadelphia 7th April 1795

Sir,

I have perused the Bill which you sent me for laying out a town &ca at Presqu-Isle.1

The portion of land allotted for a fortification at that place by the 4th section, is much too small for the object; for if ever the work is assailed, the houses and other obstructions within range of its shot must be removed, or the artillery therein would be ⟨ren⟩dered useless & of course the defence insufficient; whilst under cover of these obstructions, approaches would be made undiscovered & without loss. Fortifications ought always to be placed upon the most c⟨omman⟩ding ground, as well for annoyan⟨ce⟩ as defence; why therefore confine the one intended to be erected at Presqu-Isle to the south side of the harbour, when a more eligable site for the purpose might be found on the other? Why not give the U’d States while their troops occupy the Post the same interest and privileges therein, as is required by them elsewhere? It appears to me expedient, that through the same medium, which presented ⟨the⟩ Bill to you, or some other indirect cha⟨n⟩nel, the defects here mentioned, should be made known in time for amendmen⟨t⟩ if it shall so please the Legislature.2

By the 12th Section of the aforesaid Bill, it would seem that as soon a⟨s the⟩ troops of the United States are sent t⟨o⟩ Presquisle the Governor is required t⟨o⟩ discharge those belonging to the Stat⟨e;⟩ except such as shall be found necessar⟨y⟩ to cover the Commissioners &ca. Ho⟨w then⟩ in the present moment is this work to be executed? that is, by whom and under whose auspices and direction? All these things are essentia⟨l⟩ & ought to be clearly understood3—and without delay; as I want, before I leave the city, to know precisely on what foo⟨t⟩ing the matter can be placed.

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. Where the letterpress copy is illegible or cut off at the right margin, the text in angle brackets is taken from the letter-book copy.

1On the previous day, Pickering had sent GW “a Bill for laying out a town at Presqu’Isle, &c. now pending in the Legislature of Pennsylvania. The act being long, the Secretary respectfully refers the President to the fourth & twelfth sections, which alone have any relation to the military establishments which may be contemplated by the General Government.

“Should any alterations or amendments appear to be necessary, they will doubtless be attended to: with this view, the Secretary supposes the bill was handed to him by a member of the Legislature. It has passed the House of Representatives; and is the order of the day for to-morrow, in the Senate.

“The only objection that occurs to the Secretary of War is that the cessions of land are too much circumscribed to keep at a due distance the erecting of houses which might shelter an enemy in their attempts on the forts—as was a few days since suggested by the President.

“As about one hundred state troops are already engaged, and the Governor is to have power to continue them for eight months after the expiration of their present term of service, the difficulty which before presented, about detaching the federal troops, is in a great measure superseded” (ALS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW). For the background of this bill, see Pickering to GW, 6 March, and n.1; GW to Pickering, 18 March; and Pickering to GW, 27 March, and notes 1–3 to that document.

2On 14 April the Pennsylvania Senate amended the part of section 4 in the bill that pertained to surveys of land “for the accommodation and use of the United States, in erecting and maintaining forts, magazines, arsenals and dock-yards” to include: “sixty acres on the southern side of the harbour of Presqu’ Isle one moiety therof upon the bank and the other moiety below the bank comprehending the point at the entrance of the harbour and one lot of thirty acres on the peninsula at or near the entrance of the harbour and one other lot on the peninsula to contain one hundred acres.”

Near the end of section 4 the Senate added, “no buildings mills excepted shall be erected within six hundred yards of the centre of any fort which shall be erected by the United States on either of the lots ceded to them as aforesaid provided also that it shall be lawful to lay out and open convenient roads through such parts of the said three lots as the reasonable accommodation of the state or its citizens may require without injury to the United States in respect to the true object of the cession” (Pa. Senate Journal, 1794 description begins Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Commencing on Tuesday, the second Day of December, in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the nineteenth. Philadelphia [1795]. description ends ).

3During the Pennsylvania Senate’s amendment process, section 12 became section 13 (Pa. Senate Journal, 1794 description begins Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Commencing on Tuesday, the second Day of December, in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the nineteenth. Philadelphia [1795]. description ends ). The new section in the approved act reads: “That it shall be lawful for the Governor, with the consent of the individuals respectively, to protract the enlistments of such part of the detachment of state troops, or such part thereof as are or may be in garrison at fort Le Boeuf, or to enlist as many men as he shall deem necessary, not exceeding one hundred and thirty, for the term of eight months (unless sooner discharged) from and after the expiration of the present term of enlistment, for the same pay and allowances as are now paid and allowed to the said detachment, and to draft and employ a competent number from the said garrison, to protect and assist the Commissioners, Surveyors, and other Attendants, intrusted with the execution of the several objects of this act: Provided always nevertheless, That as soon as a fort shall be established at Presqu’Isle, and the United States shall have furnished adequate garrisons for the same, and for fort Le Boeuf, the Governor shall discharge the said detachment of state troops, except the party therof employed in protecting and assisting the Commissioners, Surveyors, and other Attendants as aforesaid, which shall be continued until the objects of this act are accomplished, and no longer” (Pa. Acts, 1794–95 description begins Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Passed at a Session, Which Was Begun and Held at the City of Philadelphia on Tuesday, the Second Day of December, in the Year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Four, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the Nineteenth. Philadelphia, 1795. description ends , 763).

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