Thomas Jefferson Papers

XI. The Secretary of State to Andrew Ellicott, 2 February 1791

XI. The Secretary of State to Andrew Ellicott

Philadelphia, February 2, 1791.


You are desired to proceed by the first stage to the Federal territory on the Potomac, for the purpose of making a survey of it. The first object will be to run the two first lines mentioned in the enclosed proclamation to wit:—the S.W. line 160 poles and the S.E. line to Hunting creek or should it not strike Hunting creek as has been suggested then to the river. These two lines must be1 run with all the accuracy of which your art is susceptible as they are to fix the begining either on Hunting creek or the river. If the second line should strike the river instead of the creek take and lay down the bearing and distance of the nearest part of the creek and also of any of its waters if any of them should be nearer than the creek itself; so also should either of these two lines cross any water of Hunting creek let it be noted. The termination of the Second line being accurately fixed, either on the creek or river, proceed to run from that as a beginning the four lines of experiment directed in the proclamation. This is intended as the first rough essay to furnish data for the last accurate survey. It is desirable that it be made with all the dispatch possible and with only common exactness, paying regard however to the magnetic variations. In running these lines note the position of the mouth of the Eastern branch, the point of your first course there will receive2 the S.W. line from the Cape of the Eastern branch, the canal and particular distance of your crossing it from either end, the position of Georgetown, and mouth of Goose Creek, and send by Post, a plat of the whole on which ultimate directions for the rest of the work shall be sent you, as soon as they can be prepared. Till these shall be received by you, you can be employed in ascertaining a true Meridian, and the latitude of the place, and running the meanderings of the Eastern branch, and of the river itself, and other waters which will merit an exact place in the map of the Territory. You will herewith receive a draft on the Mayor of Georgetown to cover your expenses.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. The President writes by Post to Mr. Beall Mayor of Georgetown to furnish you with money for your expenses for which therefore you may apply to him without further order.

MS not found; text taken from Records of the Columbia Hist. Soc., ii (1899), 170–1. Not recorded in SJL or SJPL. The text is obviously defective. Punctuation, spelling, and capitalization have been altered to conform to TJ’s normal usage and one word has been supplied (see note 1 below). Enclosure: Proclamation of 24 Jan. 1791. Instead of enclosing the draft as stated, TJ was doubtless informed by Washington that he preferred to send the following letter to Thomas Beall, Mayor of Georgetown: “Sir: In consequence of your letter of the 26th of January to Daniel Carroll Esquire informing him that the order of the President of the United States upon you, as Mayor of George Town, would be paid on sight, I have to request that you will answer the demands of Andrew Ellicot Esquire, within the sum of fifty guineas, as he may have occasion to make them without further advice” (Washington to Beall, 3 Feb. 1791, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xxxi, 209). It was Beall’s communication of 26 Jan. 1791 that evidently caused Washington to ask TJ to prepare instructions and to direct Ellicott to proceed (see Washington to TJ, 1 Feb. 1791).

Although Washington’s note of the preceding day had requested TJ to prepare Ellicott’s instructions to be signed by himself, the above draft was allowed to stand. This, together with the fact that TJ did not record the letter in SJL, is perhaps another evidence of the desire for “all the dispatch possible” that the President so clearly manifested in all of the proceedings at this time concerning the Federal District.

On 4 Feb. 1791 David Stuart wrote to TJ from Alexandria, no doubt concerning the proceedings there, but the text has not been found (recorded in SJL as received on the 14th).

1This word supplied.

2Thus in printed text, evidently garbled. What TJ meant, of course, was that Ellicott was to mark the point at which a southwest course from the northern cape of the mouth of the Eastern Branch would intersect the first of the four lines of experiment (i.e., a line running northwest ten miles from the beginning point on Hunting Creek).

Index Entries