George Washington Papers

From George Washington to David Stuart, 3 March 1793

To David Stuart

Philadelphia March 3d 1793.

Dear Sir,

The Official letter from the Commissioners to me—dated the 8th of last Month—promising their sentiments on the subject of compensation, so soon as a meeting was had with Mr Johnson, prevented my acknowledging the receipt of your private letter of the same date, and on the same subject until now; nor shall I do more than slightly touch upon it until I receive the further Sentiments of the board, thereupon.1

It may not be amiss, however, in this friendly, & confidential manner; previously to regret that the expectations of the Commissioners, and the opinions of those who were consulted on the compensation proper to be made them, for past, and future services, should accord so little. It is to be observed (as was mentioned in my last) that the Law authorising the appointment contemplates no pay.2 Justice however requires it, and therefore, such as it was conceived would meet the concurrence of the public, was allotted. In similar cases it rarely happens, if ever, that high, if any Salleries are allowed. Instance the Directors of the Potomac Company—Of the Canal Navigations of this State—the Bank, &ca &ca. I do not quote these cases however, to prove that Salleries ought not to be allowed in the case of the Commissioners of the federal district for the past, and compensation for their future Services, but only to shew the necessity of their being as low as could comport with Justice. With respect to your ideas of a future allowance, I am bold in assuring you as my opinion that, no fixed Sallery in the United States (howevr they have been reprobated for their extravagance) from the Chief Magistrate to the Door keeper of the House of Representatives, is equal to one thousand dollars clear of expences.3 The reasons are too obvious, to stand in need of enumeration, and I must candidly declare, that I see little use for a Superintendant if more will be required of the Commissioners than either to form, or to adopt plans; give the great outlines thereof in Instruction; and leave the details and execution to the Superintendant, who ought as I have declared in a letter to you dated the 30th of November last, to be always on the Spot—(unless the duties of the trust should take him away, to facilitate the objects of it)4—Under this idea, could it suit any person better than yourself to visit the federal City once every three or four months—suppose every two months, when you have an Estate opposite to it that has a claim to a share of your attention. As to the suspicion which may arise—if you serve for daily pay—that your Sessions will be prolonged by it, they are not worth regarding—The malevolence of Man is not to be avoided. But instead of touching the Subject only, in the manner I proposed, I find I am enlarging upon it, and therefore will change it.

Mr Jefferson is at a loss to discover what could have proceeded from him to Mr Ellicott that should have occasioned any discontent in the mind of the latter; with the Commissioners; and having shewn me the only letter which (he says) he has written to him for many Months I see nothing therein on which to found the conjecture contained in the latter part of your letter of the 8th of February.5

As I do not take the George Town paper, and have seen no extracts from it in any other, I do not know to what it is you allude in your letters of the 8 & 18th instt which came to hand a few days ago.6 Mr Ellicot has never come near me since his return to the City: no explanation therefore on this—the case of Mr Young, or any other Subject has taken place between us.7

With respect to Mr Young’s renewed application for a change towards the.point, &ca I scarcely know what answer to give, at this time. A change in one instance will, I am certain, open a wide door which could not easily be shut. Therefore, before I could consent even to take the matter into consideration, It would be necessary to have an accurate plan of the parts; delineated on paper, with the alterations he proposes; and to have the Commissioners opinion of the consequences resultg from the adoption of it, in writing, for unless there are some powerful reasons for discrimination, it would be bad policy to comply with the request of one of the Proprietors, and reject the application of another. It is possible, & not improbable that I may be at George Town on my way to Mount Vernon about the first of April; when, if every thing was prepared for it, I might on the spot be better able to give an opinion. But, as Mr Young is in the occupancy of the whole, I see no cause for a hasty decision, which may create (if an alteration should take place) discontents in other quarters. No letter to me, has been received from him as yet.8 With very great esteem & regard I am—Dear Sir Your Obedt & Affecte Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, NjP:De Coppet Collection; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1Stuart’s letter to GW of 8 Feb. 1793 has not been found.

2The 16 July 1790 “Act for establishing the . . . seat of the Government” established the District of Columbia and authorized the president to appoint three commissioners, but it set no salary for them (1 Stat., description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 130).

3The salary of John Jay, the chiefjustice of the Supreme Court, was $1,000 per quarter, and that of Gifford Dally (Dalley), the doorkeeper of the House of Representatives, was $125 per quarter (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 17:498,508).

4For GW’s opinion on the need for a resident superintendent for the federal district, see GW to Stuart, 30 Nov., Stuart to GW, 10 Dec. 1792. On 5 Jan. 1793 the D.C. commissioners appointed Samuel Blodget, Jr., “as Supervisor of the Buildings and in general of the Affairs committed to our care” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent).

5In his letters to GW of 8 and 18 Feb., the first of which has not been found, Stuart implied that Jefferson might be responsible for Andrew Ellicott’s ill disposition toward the commissioners. Jefferson denied the charges and on 4 Mar. sent to GW his two most recent letters to Ellicott, which the president forwarded to Stuart that same day (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 52; Jefferson to GW, 14 Feb. 1793 [second letter], and note 2).

6For an anonymous attack on the commissioners, particularly Stuart, in the Georgetown Weekly Ledger, see Stuart to GW, 18 Feb. 1793, and note 1.

7On 2 April, GW visited Georgetown en route to Mount Vernon, and while there he met with Ellicott (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 107; GW to D.C. Commissioners, 2, 3 April).

8For Notley Young’s letter to the commissioners of 30 Jan., see Stuart to GW, 18 Feb. 1793, and note 2. On 3 April the commissioners passed the following resolution: “In conversations with the President on the subject of Mr Youngs Letter respecting the great quantities of his Land appearing by the plan to be reserved for the public the President ordered Squares to be laid out on that part where it is said a Marine Pillar was to have been erected and that such part only of the land on the point as may answer well the designed purposes of the appropriation there, should continue under the appropriation—The Commissioners to carry into effect the Presidents intention therefore direct that a plot of that appropriation be made separate on a large scale and Squares laid down on the plat in continuation of the General Plan to one half its quantity that the Commissioners may lay it before the President and obtain his more particular directions thereon” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings).

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