George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 13 December 1791

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States [Philadelphia] December the 13th 1791.

Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives.

I place before you the plan of a City that has been laid out within the District of ten miles square, which was fixed upon for the permanent seat of the Government of the United States.

Go: Washington

DS, sold by Sotheby’s, Catalog 5759, item 205, 26 Oct. 1988; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 233, Second Congress, 1791–1793, Records of Legislative Proceedings, Journals.

For the background to this letter, see Pierre L’Enfant to GW, 21 Nov. 1791, editorial note.

GW promised in his annual message on 25 Oct. to lay the plan of the Federal City before Congress, but he was unable to do so because L’Enfant failed to come to Philadelphia with the latest version of it. After Francis Cabot arrived from Georgetown in early December and informed GW that L’Enfant would be further delayed, the president felt compelled to lay an unoffical copy of the plan before Congress (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 1st sess., 48, 247). GW later explained that his letter of transmittal was not intended to indicate that the plan had been officially adopted, but only that it was presented “as a matter of information, to shew in what state the business was in” (GW to the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 20 Feb. 1797). The plan that GW presented to Congress with this message was probably that to which L’Enfant referred to as his “small draft” and which Tobias Lear described as offering a good general view of L’Enfant’s ideas (Lear to GW, 11 Oct. 1791; see also the editorial commentary on Thomas Jefferson’s role in revising the plan for publication in Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 20:56–69).

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