George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 5 January 1793

From the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

Washington 5th January 1793

Sir

We enclose you a list of the Squares actually devided, of those certified ready for division, and a Copy of Majr Ellicott’s Return of those marked out but not yet certified for Division, as well as a Copy of Majr Ellicott’s Letter to us—From the Two last you will perceive that there is at least an Uncertainty whether we shall much longer have Majr Ellicott’s services, he has however shewn such a Temper in our Verbal intercourse, that we have no Apprehension of his purposely leaving the work, in a State to create Embarrasment1—We enclose you also his return and our Certificate of the Survey of Columbia2 and wished to have forwarded with them distinct Accounts of the Expences incurred for that Service and the Survey of the City, in expectation that Congress will defray at least the first, and indeed it seems to us that the latter is a just Claim the one is occasioned by the execution of the immediate command of the Law, the other as a direct and necessary consequence, and a Return of this Money again to the Loans would considerably assist our Funds, but there will be no way to collect these Charges with Truth, but by going over the Vouchers for last year, our Business was mixed and the same Individuals in some Instances acted generally—We will however endeavour to have these accounts prepared against next meeting3—A Claim is Set up by the proprietors to be paid for the Quantity of Land in the Squares intersected by the two cross Streets and a deverging Street, we have proposed a Reference, for we are much disenclined to make a noise of our differences possibly the Demand may be relinqused4—You have in your memory no Doubt, the general Idea of the Expences at the time of your Addition of the Plan for a President’s House with the Increase then directed and highly Ornamented as Mr Hoben has since collected, though from what grounds we do not know in proportion to the Cost of the Royal Exchange in Dublin this cost near 77900 Sterling on a view of our means, and we enclose a State for next year, we submit whehether it will not be best to take the Plan on its original Scale, adding something to the Elivation, as was agreed to be proper—There will be also the greater probability or rather Certainty of effecting the necessary work in Time5—Mr Blodget has been with us several days, a Recolection of some Business which makes his presence in Philadelphia almost indespensible immediately has occasioned his going off suddenly, however not before we had agreed for his Assistance at 600£ a year payable in Lots at a full price, and having matured Ideas on the most interesting points, we flatter ourselves that he will be able to assist our Funds, and Strengthen the Interest of the City in Philadelphia6—Mr Jefferson has obliged us by a communication of his Ideas on the Introduction of Mechanicks from Europe, as well as gaining some from Connecticut, our letter to him will be particular on these subjects, refering to that and what we shall write to Mr Blodget will, if you should wish to gain more particular Information give that Satisfaction7—In the progress of this letter we received Majr Ellicotts Farther letter to us enclosed, which gives his Idea of the Time still necessary for Surveying8—Mr Harbaugh has executed his work much to our Satisfaction, as well as the very general approbation of the Public, and Williamson for his Time has the Stone cutting in a pleasing way.9 We are Sir &c.

Th Johnson

Dd Stuart

Danl Carroll

P.S. The Plan and certificates ar[e] too bulky for enclosure, they are intrusted with Mr Joseph Wailes of Massachussets who goes in this Stage and promises to deliver them.10

LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent.

1These lists have not been identified, but one of them may have been Andrew Ellicott’s “Squares Ascertained” of 5 Jan. (see DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received). In the enclosed copy of Ellicott’s letter to the commissioners written at the “City of Washington” on 4 Jan. 1793, Ellicott wrote: “In the execution of the Plan of the City of Washington, I have met with innumerable difficulties on account of its extreme complexity; and from its extent, the labour becomes augmented. . . . Those causes, and not want of exertions, may possibly have produced an apparent delay, in the execution of the Plan. . . . If it should be your pleasure, you may rest assured that it will be mine, to quit the further execution of the Plan of the City of Washington by the first day of May next” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received). The commissioners did not wait until 1 May for Ellicott’s resignation but discharged him in mid-March (see D.C. Commissioners to GW, 11–12 Mar. 1793). Ellicott’s dismissal was only temporary, for on 10 April he wrote his wife, Sarah (Sally) Brown Ellicott, from Georgetown: “My victory was complete; and all my men reinstated in the City, after a suspension of one month. . . . The defeat of the commissioners has given great pleasure to the inhabitants of this place” (Mathews, Andrew Ellicott, description begins Catharine Van Cortlandt Mathews. Andrew Ellicott: His Life and Letters. New York, 1908. description ends 99–100). For GW’s intervention in the dispute and his recommendation that the commissioners reach an accommodation with Ellicott, see GW to D.C. Commissioners, 3 April 1793.

2The return from Andrew Ellicott was his letter to the commissioners of 1 Jan., written at the “City of Washington,” in which he wrote: “It is with singular satisfaction that I announce to you the completion of the survey of the four lines, comprehending the Territory of Columbia—These lines are opened, and cleared forty feet wide; that is twenty feet on each side of the lines limiting the Territory: And in order to perpetuate the work, I have set up squared mile stones marked progressively with the number of miles from the beginning on Jones’s Point, to the west corner, thence from the west corner, to the north corner, thence from the north corner, to the east corner, and from thence to the place of beginning on Jones’s Point: exceept in a few cases, where the miles terminated on declivities, or in waters: in such cases the stones are placed on the first firm ground, and their true distances in miles, and poles marked on them. On the sides facing the Territory is inscribed, ‘Jurisdiction of the United States:’ On the opposite sides of those placed in the State of Virginia, is inscribed, ‘Virginia.’ And of those in the State of Maryland, is inscribed, ‘Maryland:’ On the fourth side, or face, is inscribed the Year, and present position of the magnetic-needle at that place. With this you will receive a Map of the four lines, with an half mile on each side; to which is added, a survey of all the waters in the Territory.” This letter was accompanied by “a Map of the Territory of Columbia” with Ellicott’s certificate of 1 Jan. describing his survey of the federal district “annexed.” Ellicott’s letter and certificate are in DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, but his survey has not been identified.

The details of Ellicott’s certificate were incorporated in the commissioners’ certificate of 1 Jan., a copy of which reads: “We Thomas Johnson, David Stuart and Daniel Carroll, Commissioners appointed by the President of the United States, in virtue of the Act of Congress, for establishing the temporary and prermanent seat of the government of the United States; by virtue of the same Act, and of the Act amendatory therto; and agreeably to the directions of the President of the United States, expressed in his two proclamations, the first bearing date at Philadelphia on the twenty-fourth day of January 1791, the other bearing date at George-Town on the thirtieth day of March 1791, have caused the four lines of the district of territory, ten miles square, accepted for the permanet seat of government of the United States by the above mentioned Acts of Congress, to be surveyed, defined and limited, by Andrew Ellicott, in the manner following; that is to say: Beginning at a Stone fixed on Jones’s Point, being the upper cape of Hunting Creek, in the commonwealth of Virginia, and at an angle, in the out-set, of 45 degrees west of the north, and runing in a direct line ten miles, for the first line: then begining again, at the said Stone on Jones’s Point, and running another direct line at a right angle with the first a cross the Potomak, ten miles for the second line: then, from the terminations of the said first and second lines, running two other direct lines of ten miles each, the one crossing the Eastern Branch, and the other the Potomak; and meeting each other in a Point. These lines we have caused to be opened and cleared forty feet wide, that is, twenty feet on each side; and to perpetuate the location of the said district, we have caused squared mile-stones to be set up in each line, and marked with the number of miles, progressively from the begining on Jones’s point, to the west corner thence from the west corner, to the north corner; thence from north corner, to the East corner; and thence to the beginning on Jones’s Point except in a few cases, where the miles terminated on declivities or in Waters; in such cases the stones are placed on the nearest firm ground, and their true distances in miles and Poles, marked on them. On the sides of the Stones facing the territory, are inscribed the words [‘]Jurisdiction of the United States’ on the opposite sides of those placed in the commonwealth of ‘Virginia’ and of those in the State of Maryland, is inscribed ‘Maryland’ and on the third and fourth sides, or faces, are inscribed the year wherein the Stones was set up and the present variation of the Magnetic needle at that place: As, by the certificate of the said Andrew Ellicott and the map of the said four lines of the district of territory, now called ‘The Territory of Columbia,’ hereto annexed, fully appears” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received).

3At their meeting of 12 Feb. in Georgetown, the commissioners wrote Thomas Jefferson “respecting the expences of the Surveyors Department, with an account inclosed of the amount of expences incurred in running the permanent Lines, 2986 Dollars & 25 Cents” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings). For this letter, see Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 25:170–71. The enclosed account, also dated 12 Feb., covers the surveying expenses from 1 Mar. 1791 to 8 Jan. 1793 and is in DLC: Jefferson Papers. On 19 Feb., GW received from Jefferson the commissioners’ 12 Feb. letter to Jefferson and its enclosed list of expenses, and he returned both to Jefferson the following day (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 59–60).

4The commissioners “Wrote a letter to the Proprietors” on 4 Jan., but it has not been identified (see DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings).

5In July 1792 the commissioners and GW selected architect James Hoban’s design for the President’s House and hired him to supervise its construction (see GW to the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 8 June 1792, note 3). The enclosed statement has not been identified.

6On 5 Jan. 1793 the commissioners appointed Samuel Blodget, Jr., “Supervisor of the Buildings and in general of the Affairs committed to our care” and gave him the authority to sell lots in the federal district on their behalf (see D.C. Commissioners to Blodget, 5 Jan. 1793, in DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent). For Blodget’s promotional activities in Philadelphia, see his letters of 26 Jan. and 1 Feb. to the commissioners in DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received.

7For Jefferson’s ideas on this subject, see his letters to the commissioners of 17 and 23 Dec. 1792 in Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 24:749, 776. The commissioners wrote Jefferson on this same date respecting the hiring of foreign mechanics and Blodget’s instructions (ibid., 25:24–25). In their letter the commissioners enclosed the “Terms for Mechanics” that they had adopted at their meeting in Georgetown on 3 Jan. (see DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings). Jefferson presented this letter to GW on 10 Jan. “for his perusal” (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 6). For GW’s thoughts on the hiring of foreign workers and for a description of the terms offered to such workers by the commissioners, see GW to D.C. Commissioners, 18 Dec. 1792, and note 2.

8Ellicott’s letter to the commissioners of 5 Jan., written in the “City of Washington,” reads: “As it may perhaps be satisfactory to you, to have some information respecting the time it will yet require, to compleat the laying out of the City of Washington: I have taken that subject into consideration, and carefully examined the work done, with that which is yet to execute, and am of the opinion, that it may be finished the ensuing summer, provided the work is carried on regularly, without attempting it in detatched pieces—In giving this opinion, I limit the artists to the present set of Instruments, which I have furnished at may own expense; but if another Transit-Instrument could be obtained, the work might be executed [in] less time” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received).

9For the commissioners’ employment of Leonard Harbaugh to erect a bridge over Rock Creek, see Benjamin Stoddert to GW, 24 Oct. 1792, n.3. For the commissioners’ agreement with Collen Williamson to “superintend the stone cutting,” see David Stuart to GW, 10 Dec. 1792, n.4.

10Joseph Wales (1757–1828) of Lancaster, Mass., a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, may have been the person entrusted to deliver these papers. GW received this letter and its enclosures on 10 Jan., and that same day he had his secretary Tobias Lear forward them to Jefferson for his consideration (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 7).

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