George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Eager Howard, 22 January 1791

From John Eager Howard

Annapolis [Md.], January 22d 1791.


I have the honor to enclose two Acts of the General assembly of Maryland; the one “An Act to cede to Congress a district of ten miles square in this State for the seat of the Goverment of the United States;”1 the other “An Act to condemn land, if necessary, for the public buildings of the United States:”2 also sundry resolutions for advancing seventy two thousand dollars for the purpose of erecting said buildings. I have the honor, to be, your Excellencys Most Obedt servt

J. E. Howard


1The November 1790 session of the Maryland legislature adjourned on 22 Dec. 1790, having passed two pieces of legislation relating to the establishment of the federal district within the borders of Maryland. Howard apparently enclosed copies of these documents, along with a copy of the 1788 act providing for the cession of land for the establishment of a federal district within Maryland. Only two of the enclosures have been found, the first a copy of the 1788 act of cession and the second a copy of the act facilitating the condemnation of up to 130 acres of land for the use of the federal government (both enclosures are in DLC:GW; the printed text of the act of cession is in Kilty, Laws of Maryland, description begins William Kilty. The Laws of Maryland . . .. 2 vols. Annapolis, 1799–1800. description ends 2: November 1788 Session, chap. 46). The enclosed resolutions regarding the appropriation of money for federal buildings has not been found.

2The second enclosure, entitled “An Act to condemn Land, if necessary, for the public buildings of the United States,” adopted by the Maryland legislature on 22 Dec. 1790, provided for cases in which “it may happen that within the district defined, limitted and located, between the mouth of the Eastern Branch and Conococheague for the permanent Seat of the Government of the United States, part of the land in the said District proper and necessary to be laid out for the Erection of the public buildings may be owned by persons who may refuse to accept a reasonable price therefor, or by Married Women, or by persons under age, or non residents of this State.” In such cases the law specified that the commissioners for the federal district “are authorized to order the Sheriff of the County in which such land shall lie to summon not less than twelve nor more than twenty three Inhabitants of his County . . . to appear on the Land . . . to enquire of the owners of the said land and the value of the said land.” The act specified that this valuation should be recorded by the county clerk, and that the owner was entitled to receive such valuation, and that “after such Inquest the said Land shall for ever belong to the United States, Provided that not above the quantity of one hundred and thirty acres shall be liable to be condemned in Virtue of this act.” This law had apparently been passed at the suggestion of William Deakins, Jr., and Benjamin Stoddert in order to facilitate the condemnation of town lots in Hamburgh (see Deakins and Stoddert to GW, 9 Dec. 1790). GW later suggested purchasing as many of the Hamburgh lots as possible in order to reserve the 130 acres specified by the act for future condemnations (see GW to Deakins and Stoddert, 17 Feb. 1791).

Index Entries