George Washington Papers
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From George Washington to Gustavus Scott, 26 December 1796

Philadelphia 26th Decr 1796


Your letters of the 30th & 30th of November, and 5th of the present month, are now before me; the receipt of which have, until now, remained unacknowledged.

I have not been unmindful however, of the contents of that, which relates to public property, &ca in the federal City; but, laying it with the two former Powers, & other Papers before the Attorney General of the United States, you will receive his opinion thereon under cover with this letter. It would have been sent sooner, had I not been desirous of a personal conference with that Gentleman; but which, for ten or twelve days or more, has been prevented by his indisposition; & this still confines him to his chamber.

I shall be ready, while I remain in Office, to execute any Power which you may Suggest—the Attorney General approve—and the nature of the case will warrant—for the purpose of designating, and conveying the different descriptions of property therein—and it will lye with the Commissioners to bring these matters forward, as their attention must be more immediately turned to objects of that sort than mine possibly can be.

With respect to the claims of individual proprietors, to be compensated for the spaces occasioned by the intersection of Streets and Avenues, I should conceive that they might, with equal propriety, ask payment for the Streets themselves; but the terms of the original contract, or cession, if a dispute on this point should arise, must be recurred to, for I presume the opinion of the President, in such a case, would avail nothing. But, if angles are taken off, at these spaces, the case is materially altered; and, without designing it, you make a square where none was contemplated, and thereby not only lay the foundation of claim for those angles but for the space also which is made a square by that act.

I have never yet met with a single instance, where it has been proposed to depart from the published plan of the City that an inconvenience or dispute of some sort, has not, sooner, or later occurred—for which reason I am persuaded there should be no departure from it, but in cases of necessity, or very obvious utility.

The Deed is returned. and with very great esteem and regard I am Gentlemen Your most Obedt Servt

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