George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 29 March 1791]

Tuesday 29th. In a thick mist, and under strong appearances of a settled rain (which however did not happen) I set out about 7 Oclock for the purpose abovementioned—but from the unfavorableness of the day, I derived no great satisfaction from the review.

Finding the interests of the Landholders about George town and those about Carrollsburgh much at varience and that their fears & jealousies of each were counteracting the public purposes & might prove injurious to its best interests whilst if properly managed they might be made to subserve it—I requested them to meet me at Six oclock this afternoon at my lodgings, which they accordingly did.

To this meeting I represented, that the contention in which they seemed engaged, did not in my opinion, comport either with the public interest or that of their own; that while each party was aiming to obtain the public buildings, they might, by placing the matter on a contracted scale, defeat the measure altogether; not only by procrastination but for want of the means necessary to effect the work; That neither the offer from George town, or Carrollsburgh, seperately, was adequate to the end of insuring the object—That both together did not comprehend more ground nor would afford greater means than was required for the federal City; and that, instead of contending which of the two should have it they had better, by combining there offers make a common cause of it and thereby secure it to the district. Other arguments were used to shew the danger which might result from delay and the good effects that might proceed from a Union.

Dined at Colo. Forrests to day with the Commissioners & others.

Although the Residence Bill did not specify the size of the capital, the Georgetown and Carrollsburg landholders assumed that the land to be set aside in the federal district for government buildings would consist of at most a few hundred acres. According to an early plan of Thomas Jefferson, the new town would require only about 100 acres (JEFFERSON [1] description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 17:460–61, 463). The landholders of Georgetown believed that 400 acres located somewhere between Rock and Goose creeks could accommodate the new capital (SCISCO description begins Louis Dow Scisco. “A Site for the ‘Federal City’: The Original Proprietors and their Negotiations with Washington” Records of the Columbia Historical Society 57-59 (1961): 123–47. description ends , 128–29). In Jan. 1790 Daniel Carroll, one of the commissioners of the federal district and owner of land in the Carrollsburg area, proposed his 160–acre paper town as an alternative (SCISCO description begins Louis Dow Scisco. “A Site for the ‘Federal City’: The Original Proprietors and their Negotiations with Washington” Records of the Columbia Historical Society 57-59 (1961): 123–47. description ends , 132; Reps, Tidewater Towns description begins John W. Reps. Tidewater Towns: City Planning in Colonial Virginia and Maryland. Williamsburg, Va., 1972. description ends , 254). At today’s meeting, GW makes the first official public pronouncement on the size of the new capital; it would encompass the sites promoted by both the Georgetown and Carrollsburg interests, making the city a project far more ambitious than either group of landholders originally conceived.

Uriah Forrest (1756–1805), of Georgetown, Md., served as an officer in the Revolution and received wounds at Germantown and Brandywine. During the time he was a Federalist member of the United States House of Representatives (1793–94) he had a house built on Ordway Street near Wisconsin Avenue. In partnership with Benjamin Stoddert, Forrest owned nearly 1,000 acres of land north of Georgetown that fell within the newly surveyed federal district boundaries (BRYAN description begins Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan. A History of the National Capital: From Its Foundation through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act. 2 vols. New York, 1914–16. description ends , 413).

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