George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Daniel Carroll, 10 May 1795

From Daniel Carroll

Rock Creek [Md.] May 10th 1795


The thursday after your departure,1 I met Messrs Scott & Thornton at the Office—I observed to them, that, it appeard by some things which had fallen from you, when we were all together, you expected the proceedings agreably to our letter to the Secretary of State,2 woud have been laid before you; I was surpriz’d to hear, that they had made some communications to you during your Stay at Mount-Vernon,3 without my privity at the time, or any information thereof during your Stay in the City on your return. I requested to know, among other matters, whether they sent you a Copy of the interrogatories which they thought proper to put to the Clerk, & of his answers to them, respecting the entry of the 9th of January.4 I find by what they say, it is incertain, whether they were sent to you, or not—Believing your mind to be considerably taken up, with many and I fear perplexing matters, it is with reluctance I prevail on myself, to request your attention to any thing on my acct, when I take the liberty of desiring you to inform me, whether the interrogatories to the Clerk, & his answers were among the papers Communicated to you. I have the honor to remain with sentiments of the greatest respect, Sir, Yr Most Obt Hble Servt

Danl Carroll


1Carroll probably referred to 30 April. GW’s diaries and letters show that he visited Georgetown and the Federal City on 26–28 April (see Diaries, description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends 6:200).

2Carroll may have been referring to the D.C. commissioners’ letter to Edmund Randolph of 20 March, in which they related having “had a letter from Dr Thornton of the 13th Inst. by which we are informed that there is some prospect of obtaining a small loan at Philadelphia” and possibly “a larger one in England.” The commissioners enclosed “the necessary powers” to put those plans in operation, and they also sent Randolph their reply to Thornton, dated 20 March (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent).

The letter from the commissioners to Randolph also states: “We presume from the Doctors letter to us, that it is intended to pledge the whole remaining property of the City to secure the repayment of the principal and interest of these Loans. Before this negotiation is finally closed we wish the President to be informed that we much fear that a mortgage of the whole remaining property of the City may lead to difficulties of a serious nature.”

The commissioners warned that if the public lots existed “under incumbrances; and those of Individuals clear, it might give the ascendancy to Individuals. Few people would choose to build valuable houses on mortgaged property. A fund of 800 or 1000 Lots at the selection of the Commissioners, who now know well where to chuse them, would form a sufficient supply to prevent the evils apprehended.” Moreover, “Some Sales are necessary to meet the demands of original proprietors for their property appropriated to public purposes; and out of which fund alone proprietors are to be paid agreeably to the provision made by the original deed of Trust. Our Treasury at present rather respectable, has drawn its chief supplies from the Sales during the winter. The demand for Lots increases daily; and it would seem as if there was some difficulty in raising the prices higher than the ardor of demand. Some of our latest sales, by no means in the best situations have been as high as 16 and even 18 cents per foot square, which is upwards of 200 Guineas the Standard Lot. Could the Loan contemplated be so managed as to leave 1000, 800 or even 600 Lots free for sale in the selection of the Commissioners we are confident, it will be attended with all the good consequences we have predicted.”

Thornton had earlier communicated his ideas for raising the Capitol’s foundation to the board, but the commissioners urged caution. “We then were and still are of opinion that every measure which has a tendency to delay the finishing of the Capitol ought to be received with great caution. The foundation of that building, already 10 feet deep and as many think on an average of the whole, has cost upwards of sixty thousand Dollars. A work of this vast magnitude will require great exertions to carry it through by the time expected; especially in a Country where money will not always command Labor.” They desired to know GW’s “final decision” and whether the Capitol should have a basement, since the type of materials obtained depended on that decision.

“Whilst Mr Law was with us,” the commissioners added, “we had an application from Mr Greenleafs Agent to convey to Mr Law 500 Lots in fee to be accounted for by Morris and Greenleaf and to be secured by a Mortgage of an equal number of their Lots. We refused This request thinking it highly reasonable that when those Gentlemen are receiving in ready money more than four times the price given by them to the public for the same property, that they would at least let the public participate in the benefits resulting from a ready money payment. It is our fixed determination to convey on no other Terms but on the payment of the purchase money or the securing in unquestionable negotiable paper the payment at 60 or 90 Days Pittance as it is, it ought to be paid, and we have no doubt but that as far as Mr Law’s purchase extends, the ready money for them will be paid. We have yet had no further Communications from Mr Greenleaf respecting the Bond forwarded, to secure the improvements stipulated to be made on all Lots sold by him.”

The commissioners had examined the number of remaining lots and calculated that 4,710 remained. “If the mortgage could be made of only 4000, the residue would constitute a sufficient fund for all necessary uses” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent).

3Carroll most likely was referring to the letter of the commissioners to GW dated 20 April.

4The questions put to Thomas Johnson, Jr., concerning the entry of 9 Jan. (see commissioners to GW, 20 April, and n.3 to that document) are found in the commissioners’ minutes of 18 February. The secretary’s answers are recorded in the minutes of 21 Feb. (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings).

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