James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Daniel Carroll, 21 December 1791

From Daniel Carroll

Decr. 21.91

Dear Sr.

You may hear something on the Subject of a memorial from some of the proprietors respecting D. Carroll of Duddington’s House, & otherwise in favor of Majr L’Enfant;1 I feel for the Chagrin this must give the president, particularly at this time. Astonishing that persons under their circumstances wou’d not avoid wounding his feelings.

I must mention a Circumstance to you & leave it to yr. discretion according to circumstances. In the draft of the Bill we sent to the Assembly, the Clerk was to be appointed during the pleasure of the Commissioners, with a Clause makeing the records in the least manner possible expensive on the transfers of property. It was alterd on its passage to be during good behaviour to make it independent & with respect to the mode of transfers more profitable—a very great Struggle was made in both Houses to vest in the Govr. & Council the appointment. Report says with appearance of probability that Col Forrest2 was to have been a Candidate before the Govr & Council.

I hope I do not trespass on yr. friendship or propriety. Yrs &ca

D Carroll

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1A copy of this petition, bearing the names of nine proprietors, is in the minutes of the commissioners’ 21 Dec. 1791 meeting. Dated that same day, the memorial asked that Daniel Carroll of Duddington’s claim “for the full value of his house lately taken down by order of Majr L’Enfant” not be paid from “any of the money granted for the improvement of the City of Washington” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the District of Columbia Commissioners, Proceedings, 1791–95). The petition, which the commissioners sent to the president, also commended L’Enfant for “his zeal, activity and good Judgment.”

2Uriah Forrest owned, in partnership with Benjamin Stoddert, almost a thousand acres of land in the federal district. He became mayor of Georgetown in 1792 and on 9 Mar. sent to L’Enfant a testimonial, signed by thirteen of the then fifteen proprietors, siding with the designer of the city in his dispute with the commissioners. The Maryland act to which Carroll referred authorized the commissioners to appoint a clerk for recording land deeds in the district, and they appointed their own clerk, John Mackall Gantt, to the new office (Jackson and Twohig, Diaries of George Washington, VI, 105; Bryan, History of the National Capital, I, 179, 275 n. 2, 146, 170).

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