Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Alexander White, 13 April 1802

From Alexander White

Commissioners Office 13th April 1802


In consequence of what you were pleased to mention this morning I send a rough sketch of a Resolve respecting a subject which I do not feel myself competent to act on I have examined the Essays of Nicholas King while he was in the employ of the Commissioners, and acting under the auspices of Doctor Thornton, from which it appears that their Idea was to carry a Water Street 80 feet wide through the whole extent of the Potowmac and Eastern Branch, one hundred feet distant from the Channel, leaving all the space between that and the shore which in some instances I am inclined to believe is not less than one thousand feet, under water until it shall be filled up. I do not see the propriety of this, and have drawn the Resolve in such general terms, that without deviating from it, the President may direct the Street to be laid out in any manner he may think most proper—

I shall with great pleasure facilitate your views, but unless I can get away on Saturday next it will subject me to considerable inconvenience—I am with sentiments of the highest respect

Sir Your most Ob Sevt

Alexr White

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “President of the U States”; endorsed by TJ as received 13 Apr. and so recorded in SJL.

RESOLVE RESPECTING A SUBJECT: on 8 Apr., a special committee of the House of Representatives presented a report on the disputes between the commissioners of the District of Columbia and property owners over alterations made to the plan of the city of Washington. The report closed with resolutions calling on the president to finalize the conveyance of public grounds to the United States and to have an updated plan of the city prepared and published, conforming as nearly as possible to the so-called “Appropriation Map” prepared by James Dermott in 1797 (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 12:1304–6; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:184; Ralph E. Ehrenberg, “Mapping the Nation’s Capital: The Surveyor’s Office, 1791–1818,” Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, 36 [1979], 306).

NICHOLAS KING presented a plan to the District of Columbia commissioners in March 1797, which called for the creation of a WATER STREET along the district’s waterfront on the Potomac River and Eastern Branch. Illustrated with a set of 12 maps showing an enlargement and revision of the waterfront sections of Dermott’s 1797 Appropriation Map, the plan was not implemented by the Adams administration (Herman R. Friis and Ralph E. Ehrenberg, “Nicholas King and His Wharfing Plans of the City of Washington, 1797,” RCHS description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1895–1989 description ends , 66–68 [1969], 34–46). See also William Thornton to TJ, 17 Apr.

Index Entries