George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Tobias Lear, 2 October 1791

To Tobias Lear

Mount Vernon Octr 2d 1791

Dear Sir,

Since my last to you, which I think was written on this day week, I have received your letters of the 25th and 27th Ulto.1

I am not yet enabled to speak decisively with respect to the Blankets. Many have arrived, but are not yet opened, in Alexandria. Mr Wilson, who has imported of them largely, at from 56/. to 75/. Sterg pr piece of 15 blankets; has offered them to me at 70 prCt but as he cannot before they are opened give the size, or quality, it is impossible to say whether they will come cheap or dear. I shall ascertain this matter before Friday next & will then write to you on the subject again.2

Letters & Papers from you by the Posts on Wednesdays & Fridays will come to me as soon as those which may be forwarded on Monday, as I do not send to the Office on Wednesday’s; which is the day the Mail arrives there that leaves Philadelphia on Monday. Those which leave that place on Wednesday comes in on Friday—and the Friday’s mail arrives on Monday & these are the days I shall send up for letters &ca.

I send two French letters to be translated & forwarded to me.3

It is a little singular, when considered on the score of candor, that Mr P—— should suffer Mr S—— to assert what he did in the S—— without contradicting him; but the views, and conduct of the City Influence stands in need of no development in my mind, nor have I a much higher opinion of the candor of Mr F——. He is very welcome however to the copy of the letter you wrote to Mr P. & with which you furnished him, as I wish the sentiments therein expressed to be generally known; since the matter has been introduced into the Legislature of the State, & so unfairly stated, as it appears to have been done, by both parties. The details you have given me of this matter was very proper, & I am glad you furnished me with them. It is quite right that I should be made acquainted with these things.4

I am very well satisfied with the determinations of the Comee respecting the Rent, and the time of its commencing; and am glad of your expression to that effect.

How does the engraving of the Federal City advance?5 Send me some of the first that are struck off & let the others be disposed of as was agreed on. If you should learn with certainty that the Minister of France is coming to this place advise me of it and when he sets out.

All the family here are well except the Major who seems to be in a poor way and join me in best wishes for you and yours—and for Major Jackson6—I am, sincerely and Affectly Yours

Go: Washington


3For the two French letters GW enclosed for Lear to translate, see Triol, Roux, & Company to GW, 15 June, n.1.

4For previous references to Samuel Powel, John Smilie, Miers Fisher, and the maneuvers of Pennsylvania politicians in regard to reports of GW’s dissatisfaction with his residence in Philadelphia, see Lear to GW, 21 Sept. (first letter), notes 2, 3, 5, and 7, 25, 30 Sept., and GW to Lear, 26 September.

5GW was concerned that an engraving of Pierre L’Enfant’s plan for the Federal City be available to the public before the first sale of lots, scheduled for 17–19 October. L’Enfant traveled to Philadelphia at the end of August in part to place a copy of his plan in the hands of an engraver (see L’Enfant to GW, 19 August). On 9 Sept., in what seems to have been their first written instructions to L’Enfant, the commissioners directed the engineer to have 10,000 copies of his plan printed on the best terms that could be negotiated. In accordance with their decision naming the city and the district, they directed that the plan should bear the title “A Map of the City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia.” The commissioners also instructed L’Enfant to provide GW with as many copies as he wanted, leave half of the remaining maps in Philadelphia subject to their orders, and send the rest to Georgetown (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802). Before receiving these instructions, L’Enfant may have assigned the engraving of his plan to M. Pigalle, a native of France about whom little is known. William Dunlap described Pigalle’s later engravings as “crudely executed copper-plates” (Dunlap, History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States, description begins William Dunlap. History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States. 3 vols. 1834. Reprint. New York, 1965. description ends 3:327). Pigalle proved unable to execute his commission before the first sale of lots in the Federal City, and the work was taken out of his hands. L’Enfant asked Lear on 19 Oct. to obtain every drawing Pigalle had made of the plan, as well as the copper engraving plate (Kite, L’Enfant and Washington, description begins Elizabeth S. Kite, comp. L’Enfant and Washington, 1791–1792: Published and Unpublished Documents Now Brought Together for the First Time. Baltimore, 1929. description ends 75–78). For the engraving, see Lear to GW, 6, 9, 11 Oct.; for the first sale of lots in the Federal City, see Proclamation, 17 Oct. (first), source note.

6For the ill health of Maj. George Augustine Washington, see G. A. Washington to GW, 1 Aug., n.8, and GW to Lafayette, 10 Sept., n.3.

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