George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Thornton, 6 October 1797

From William Thornton

City of Washington Octr 6th 1797

Respected Friend

I have sent the Section of Square No. 21, with an Alteration made by the red Line, which is allowing as much as the Surveyor, on attentively considering the Ground, thinks can be made with propriety. I have directed the general plan of the Levels to be made correspondent.1

I request you will be pleased to accept a Dozen Bottles of what may be truly called The heart of Oak. It is old Spirit that was distill’d upon my own Estate in the Island of Tortola, 28 Years ago, and has obtained the deep colour by standing in Oak Casks ever since. It is as good as a Tincture of Bark, and would be of no disservice to a Virginia Planter in a Dram Fog. My Family join me in most respectful Complts to your Lady & self. I am sir with sincere regard your respectful Friend

William Thornton


William Thornton (1759–1828), a native of Tortola in the Virgin Islands who grew up in England, was a U.S. citizen when his design for the capitol to be built in the Federal City was chosen in 1793. He at this time was a commissioner of the District of Columbia, to which position GW appointed him in 1794.

1GW bought from the commissioners of the Federal City in 1795 for £200 each the four lots in square 21 bounded by E and D and by 25th and 26th streets in the southwestern sector of the city. See the editor’s note for this letter in Harris, Thornton Papers, description begins C. M. Harris, ed. Papers of William Thornton: Volume One, 1781-1802. Charlottesville, Va., 1995. description ends 1:421. For GW’s purchase of other lots in the Federal City, see GW to Thomas Law, 7 May 1798, n.2.

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