Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Charles L’Enfant1
[Philadelphia, February 27, 1792]
From your letter in answer to mine of the 2 and your declarations in conversation with Mr. Lear it is understood that you absoultely decline acting under the authority of the present Commissioners.
If this understanding of your meaning be right I am instructed by the President to inform you that notwithstanding the desire he has entertained to preserve your agency in the business the condition upon which it is to be done is inadmissible and your services must be at an end.
Df, in the writing of H, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
1. On July 16, 1790, Congress had passed “An Act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States” on the Potomac River (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 130). Under that law the President was instructed to appoint three commissioners to survey the district where the new capital was to be located. Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Carroll of Maryland, and David Stuart, a Virginian and an old friend of the President. Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant was appointed to make “a survey of the grounds … as may aid in fixing the site of the federal town and buildings” (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXI, 226–27). L’Enfant’s refusal to cooperate with the commissioners soon created difficulties. Washington decided with some reluctance that L’Enfant must be dismissed. On February 26, 1792, Washington wrote to Jefferson as follows:
“I have perused the enclosed answer to your letter to Majr L’Enfant. Both are returned. A final decision thereupon must be had. I wish it to be taken upon the best ground, and with the best advice. Send it, I pray you, to Mr Madison who is better acquainted with the whole of this matter than any other. I wish also that the attorney General may see, and become acquainted with the circumstances (I can think of no other, at this moment to call in), and wish that all three of you would be with me at half-after Eight o’clock tomorrow—if convenient—at a later hour, to be named, that I may be at home and disengaged.” (ALS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.)
After the meeting of Madison, Jefferson, and Randolph on February 27, 1792, Jefferson sent the letter printed above, with minor changes, to L’Enfant (ALS, Digges-Morgan-L’Enfant Papers, Library of Congress; ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).
2. Space left blank in MS. In the letter which Jefferson sent to L’Enfant the first line reads: “From your letter received yesterday in answer to my last.…”