George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 6 October 1794

From Edmund Randolph

Philadelphia October 6. 1794 9 o’clock a.m.


The Portuguese Minister has announced himself; excusing the past omission by the hourly expectation of departing from New-York for this city, and assigning for the reason of his not coming on, that he is deterred by the reports of the yellow fever, being in full havoc here. He has been answered with the civility, usual on such occasions.1

Mr Rawle and Mr Peters will leave town on Wednesday or thursday next, to execute their duties in the western country.2

I hope, that I have brought to an issue, suitable to the interests of the fœderal city, the propositions, made by Mr Greenleaf, for releasing the legal title in seven or eight hundred lots. The expedient, which I have suggested, must remain immature, until the bank of Columbia is consulted, or the commissioners shall meet on the 15th instant3—I have written to Mr Scott, stimulating him to take up his immediate residence in a convenient position for attending to the affairs of the fœderal city constantly.4 I have the honor, sir, to be, with the highest respect yr mo. ob. serv.

Edm: Randolph

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State.

1Cipriano Ribeiro Freire’s letter to Randolph of 1 Oct. has not been identified. A letter-book copy of Randolph’s reply of 3 Oct. is in DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters.

2The next Wednesday and Thursday were 8 and 9 October. William Rawle, the federal district attorney for Pennsylvania, was sent westward “to bring to justice such of the Offenders as have been influential in exciting the insurrection,” excepting from prosecution “those who have bona fide accepted the terms offered by the Commissioners.” Rawle having suggested “the utility and even indispensableness of the cooperation of some federal Judge,” Randolph requested that Richard Peters, the district judge for Pennsylvania, accompany him (Randolph to Rawle and to Peters, 3 Oct., DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

3Randolph’s letter of 2 Oct. to the commissioners for the District of Columbia first summarized his understanding of James Greenleaf’s proposal: “that on the 1st day of May next Messrs Greenleaf & Co. are bound to pay fifty odd thousand dollars: that the necessities of the City require an anticipated payment of that sum; that Messrs Greenleaf & Co. are willing to give you notes, which may assist in the anticipation by discounts with the Bank of Columbia, provided that the legal title of about 700 Lots be released to them.” To this proposal, Randolph raised two issues: should the commissioners ever “exchange the legal title for security on personal credit” and “how far the object in doing it will be fulfilled by the plan of Messrs Greenleaf & Co.?” While advising general caution, Randolph agreed that if the need were sufficient, it “would seem better to surrender the legal title, if by so doing you can be accommodated.” However, he advised that the “shape” of Greenleaf’s proposal was “very uncommon and not mercantile,” and suggested instead, “Let the notes be drawn by Mr James Greenleaf, payable on the first of May next to Mr Robert Morris; be indorsed by him to Mr J. Nicholson; and by Mr Nicholson to you in the usual and technical bank form. Then go to the bank, and obtain from them such an assurance, as you can rely upon, that they will furnish you with money to the amount of the notes, as you call for it, you paying the discount” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

4When Randolph wrote Gustavus Scott on 18 Aug. to offer him an appointment as one of the commissioners for the District of Columbia, he stated that “residence in the City or Georgetown is considered as necessary for the discharge of the Duties” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Scott accepted and Randolph forwarded a commission on 26 August. On 4 Oct., Randolph again wrote Scott, noting that the other new appointee, William Thornton, intended to move to the district “without delay” and adding, “I learnt, however, at the same time, that you were prevented, by the difficulty of obtaining a house, from doing the like. If this be the case, it is extremely unfortunate; as the President promised much to himself from a quorum at least being on the spot. Let me intreat you therefore to enable me to inform the President, that you will soon be fixed in such a position, as will fulfil his views” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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