George Washington Papers

Tobias Lear to William Thornton, 13 July 1793

Tobias Lear to William Thornton

Philadelphia July 13th 1793

Sir,

The President directs me to inform you, that, upon the best consideration the pressure of public business will allow him to give the subject, he thinks the most likely way to accommodate the differences respecting the plan of the Capitol, by satisfactory explainations, will be for you to have a personal interview with Mr Hoben on the subject, in presence of the best and most skilful Architect that can be obtained in this City—in order that a full discussion may be had on those points which go to the impracticability of execution.1

The President wishes you would have the goodness to bring with you such person skilled in practical Architecture as you can find best qualified to pronounce in the subject—and that the discussion may take place in the presence of Mr Jefferson, at his office, if the pressure of his official duties do not prevent his attention.2

Mr Jefferson is expected in town about eleven o’clock⟨,⟩ at which time if you can make it convenient to attend, it will be pleasing to the President as he is extremely anxious to have the matter decided that the work on the Capitol may commence as soon as possible.3 With sentiments of true esteem & great respect, I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most Obedt Servt

Tobias Lear.

ALS, DLC: Thornton Papers.

1On criticisms of Thornton’s plan of the Capitol and for GW’s desire to have Thornton meet in Philadelphia with Thomas Jefferson, his critics, and other experts in construction and design, see GW to Jefferson, 30 June 1793 (second letter), and notes. On this date, Jefferson submitted to GW a list of observations on Thornton’s plan made by architect James Hoban on 10 July (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 195; 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 , 26:462–63). This list was later returned to Jefferson by Tobias Lear on 15 July.

2At a meeting on 15 July with Jefferson, GW, and architects Hoban and Stephen Hallet, Thornton was accompanied by Philadelphia builders Thomas Carstairs and William Williams (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 198–99). For a report on this meeting, see Jefferson to GW, 17 July, and notes 2–3. The meeting was held at GW’s home rather than in Jefferson’s office at 287 High Street (Philadelphia Directory 1793 description begins James Hardie. The Philadelphia Directory and Register . . .. Philadelphia, 1793. description ends ).

3The cornerstone of the Capitol was laid by GW on 18 Sept. 1793. For a description of the event, see the 5 Oct. 1793 issue of the Columbian Centinel (Boston).

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