George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 9 April 1793

From the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

George Town 9th April 1793


We have had explanations with majr Ellicott, there appears to us no occasion to tire you with particulars in general. He is to continue under a general Arrangement marked out which we flatter ourselves will spur to attention and activity platting and dividing,1 the Squares on Certificates from the head of the surveying department is to be the Work of a different person—As we mentioned before, we believe the Staking out the work on the ground is accurate so that Revision of the whole will not cost so much time as is perhaps generally imagined; but the length of the line of some squares certainly Must be corrected and others probably necessarily must which i[n]volves in such instances, a necessity of replatting and Redividing such squares: however on the whole the publick mind need not be disturbed2—we inclose you majr Ellicotts’ letter on narrowing the mall which we forgot to mention to you3—if it is to be done at all it must be before the sale of any Land near its sides—Mr Blodget seems to think it may at least as well stand—we have had enough to occupy our minds and but little reflection on this particular on which a settled oppinion of ours ought to have very little weight—The spot for the Capitol is with us much more important, it is obvious that there will be a great difference of expence between the pitch of the hill and the high flatt—Hoban in a loose way speaks of more than we had conjectured.4 Doct. Thornton threw out an idea that the Capitol might be thrown back to the desirable spot and the center ornamented with a Figure of Columbus—The idea seems not to be disapproved by Mr Blodget, and Ellicot thinks there’s room enough—it does not seem to us that there’s any Sticking impropriety and with that you could consider it on the spot where you could have the most perfect idea of it5 Mr Blodget thinks we have not missed it in the site of the Judiciary So much as we imagined and as some affirm, he and many others think the street running through that point and cutting the squares so small had better be struck out and two squares thrown into one we mention it just for your notice6—We have requested Mr Blodget to bestow attention to the Site for an exchange and bank so far as to be able to give his matured thoughts in favour of his Choice. We are &c.

T. Johnson

Dd Stuart

Danl Carroll

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

1On 4 April the commissioners met with Andrew Ellicott, and reinstated him, along with his assistants, five days later (GW to D.C. Commissioners, 3 April 1793, and note 6).

3Ellicott’s letter to the commissioners has not been identified.

4The D.C. commissioners had appointed Samuel Blodget, Jr., superintendent of the Federal District on 5 Jan. 1793 (D.C. Commissioners to GW, 5 Jan. 1793, and note 6). James Hoban, who already was superintendent of construction at the President’s House, became superintendent of the Capitol as well on 23 Sept. 1793 (entries for 22–25 Sept., DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings).

5On 2 April, while en route from Philadelphia to Mount Vernon, GW stopped in Georgetown. While here he approved William Thornton’s design for the Capitol, mediated the dispute between Ellicott and the commissioners, and attended to other business involving the Federal City (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, to James Keith, 7 April, and the entries for 2–3 April 1793, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings). On 10 April the commissioners ordered Stephen Hallet “to study the plan of the Capitol & make calculations of the expence and materials &c” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings).

6Although Pierre Charles L’Enfant had not specified a site for a Supreme Court building in his original design of the Federal City, he had marked out an open space on high ground between the Capitol and the President’s House, presumably for this purpose (Reps, Monumental Washington, description begins John W. Reps. Monumental Washington: The Planning and Development of the Capital Center. Princeton, N.J., 1967. description ends 17–20).

Index Entries