George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 20 July 1795]

20. After doing business with the Comrs. of the fedl. City I proceeded on my journey & got home to dinner.

The commissioners of the Federal City at this time were Gustavus Scott, William Thornton, and Alexander White. There had been endless disputes arising from the planning and development of the city. This meeting with the commissioners, however, dealt with an especially serious matter. Robert Morris and John Nicholson, who had bought hundreds of lots in the city for speculation and development, had failed to make their scheduled payments on the land. GW promised to try to get Morris and Nicholson to live up to their contract (FREEMAN description begins Douglas Southall Freeman. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York, 1948–57. description ends , 7:266–67). He wrote Edmund Randolph two days later: “I should be glad if you would call upon Messrs. Morris & Nicholson . . . and in earnest & strong terms represent to them, the serious consequences which must inevitably result to the public buildings in the federal City, if the deficiency, or part thereof, due on their contract, is not paid. Besides arresting the work in the present critical state, & compelling the discharge of some valuable workmen, who may never be recovered; it would throw such a cloud over the public & private concerns of the City, & would be susceptible of such magnified & unfavorable interpretations, as to give it a vital wound. . . . If to pay the whole deficiency is not, at present, within the means of Messrs. Morris & Nicholson, a part thereof, & to keep pace with the current demand, might possibly enable the Commissioners to proceed without much embarrassment in the principal work. Between forty & fifty thousand dollars, I am informed, is now due on the Contract” (22 July 1795, DLC:GW).

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