Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO DAVID STUART. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794)
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TO DAVID STUART. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XII (1790-1794).
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TO DAVID STUART.
Philadelphia, 8 March, 1792.
In a short letter which I wrote to you by the last Post, I promised a lengthy one by the post of tomorrow; but such is my present situation that I must pass by some things, and be more concise on others than I intended.
That Mr. Johnson’s health did not permit him to come to this City as he proposed and was expected, is matter of exceeding great regret—as many things relative to the Federal district—the City and the public buildings might have been more satisfactorily arranged, and delays avoided; but as there is no contending against acts of Providence, we must submit as it becomes us so to do and endeavor to recover the time lost, in the best manner we can.
That the Commissioners have had more than a little trouble and vexation with Maj. L’Enfant, I can readily conceive (if your representation of the fact had been wanting) from the specimens he has given of his untoward temper since his arrival in this City. And I can as easily conceive that, in proportion to the yieldings of the Commissioners his claims would extend. Such upon a nearer view, appears to be the nature of the Man!
Every advantage will be taken of the Major’s dereliction. A vigorous counteraction, therefore, is essential.—If he does not come forward openly to declare it—his friends and the enemies to the measure will do it for him—that, he found matters were likely to be conducted upon so pimping a scale, that he would not hazard his character or reputation on the event, under the controul he was to be placed. It is even said (but nothing has appeared yet) that he meant to publish this to the world.—The half friends to the new City (if this is not allowing them more than their due) undertake to predict that it now stands in equilibrio: that a feather will turn the scale either way.—If, say they, the matter is pushed with vigor, and upon a plan commensurate to the design, and the public’s expectation, the permanent seat of Government will be fixed on the Potommack.—On the other hand, if inactivity and contractedness should mark the steps of the Commissioners of the District,—whilst in — on the part of this State is displayed in providing commodious buildings for Congress &c—the Government will remain where it now is. That exertions will be made by this State to effect the purpose there can be no doubt.—A late message from the Government to the Assembly proposing a certain grant of money for the erection of the buildings designed for the Presiident, is one among other instances which have occurred.
It would have been very agreeable to me that you should have shewn the copies of the letters I had written to Major L’Enfant declaratory of the subordinate part he was destined to act under the Commissioners. It does not appear to have been so understood by the Proprietors, from the sentiments expressed by Mr. Walker (while he was in this City), for when he was told in what explicit language Major L’Enfant was given to understand this, he seemed quite surprized. You did me no more than justice when you supposed me incapable of duplicity in this business. I have had but one idea on the subject from the beginning, nor but one design and that was to convince the Major of the subordinate part he was destined to act in it. I was obliged, as you have seen, to use stronger and stronger language as I found his repugnance encreasing until he was told, in even harsh terms, that the Commissioners stood between him and the President of the U. States, and that it was from them alone he was to receive directions.
The doubts and opinion of others with respect to the permanent seat have occasioned no change in my sentiments on the subject. They have always been, that the plan ought to be prosecuted with all the despatch the nature of the case will admit, and that the public buildings in size, form and elegance, should look beyond the present day. I would not have it understood from hence that I lean to extravagance.—A chaste plan sufficiently capacious and convenient for a period not too remote, but one to which we may reasonably look forward, would meet my idea in the Capitol. For the President’s House I would design a building which should also look forward but execute no more of it at present than might suit the circumstances of this country, when it shall be first wanted. A Plan comprehending more may be executed at a future period when the wealth, population, and importance of it shall stand upon much higher ground than they do at present.
How and when you will be able to obtain Plans of such buildings is with yourselves to decide on.—No aid, I am persuaded is to be expected from Major L’Enfant in the exhibition—rather I apprehend, opposition and a reprobation of every one designed by any other, however perfect.
The part which Mr. Johnson, by your letter to me, and another from Mr. Johnson to Mr. Jefferson, appears to have acted surprizes me exceedingly. His interest in the City, and the discernment with which he seems to have viewed the measure in the early stages of it, would have lead me to have drawn a different conclusion.—The — which seem to have been — to him and the Major are more to be despised than to be regarded or resented. More than once, you will remember, I have given it to you as my opinion, that it would be by by-blows and indirect — that attempts would be made to defeat the Law. To sow the seeds of dissension, jealousy and distrust are among the means that will be practised.—There is a current in this City which sets so strongly against every thing that relates to the federal district, that it is next to impossible to stem it. To this cause is to be ascrib’d the backwardness of the engraving. Danger from them is to be apprehended; and in my opinion, from no other. The best antidote against them is perseverance, and vigorous exertion on the part of the Commissioners; and good temper and mutual forbearance with one another, on the part of the Proprietors. For who are so much interested in the success and progress of the measure as they?
I see no necessity for diminishing the Square allotted for the President’s House, &c., at this time. It is easier at all times to retrench, than it is to enlarge a Square, and a deviation from the Plan in this instance, would open the door to the other applications, which might perplex, embarrass and delay business exceedingly; and end, more than probably in violent discontents.
Where you will find a character qualified in all respects for a Superintendent I know not,—none present themselves to my view—yet one must be had.—A better than Mr. Ellicott for all matters, at present, can not be had.—No one I presume who can lay out the ground with more accuracy—lay out the squares and divide them into lots, better. He must understand levelling also perfectly—and has, I suppose, competent skill in conducting the Water.—Beyond these your opportunities to form an opinion of him, must exceed mine. Whether he is a man of arrangement—sober and industrious are matters unknown to me. I believe he is obliging—and would be perfectly subordinate.—What he asks, 5 dollars a day (if Sundays are included), seems high; but whether a fit character can be had for less, I am unable to say.
The plan of the City having met universal applause (as far as my information goes) and Major L’Enfant having become a very discontented man,—it was thought that, less than from 2,500 to 3,000 dollars would not be proper to offer him for his services; instead of this, suppose five hundred guineas, and a Lot in a good part of the city were to be substituted? I think it would be more pleasing and less expensive. I have never exchanged a word with Mr. Roberdeau since he came to this place, consequently am unable to relate what his expressions have been, or what his ideas are; he lives with, and more than probably partakes of the sentiments of Major L’Enfant; unless the dismission of the latter may have worked a change in them which, not unlikely, is the case with both; as I can hardly conceive that either of them contemplated the result of their conduct.
Altho’ what I am going to add may be a calumny, it is nevertheless necessary that you should be apprized of the report that Colo. Deakins applies the public money in his hands to speculative purposes; and is unable, at times, to answer the call of the workmen. An instance has been given. There are doubts also of the sincerity of Mr. Francis Cabot. Of both these matters you are to judge from the evidence before you. I have nothing to charge either with myself, these hints are disclosed in confidence, to place you on your guard.
The idea of importing Germans and Highlanders as artizans, and laborers, has been touched upon in the letter from Mr. Jefferson to the Commissioners. It is, in my opinion, worthy of serious consideration, in an economical point of view, and because it will contribute to the population of the place.—The enclosed extract of a letter from Genl. Lincoln to Mr. Lear is sent, that you may see the prospect in that quarter.
The General is a candid undesigning man in whose word much confidence may be placed; and having been in this city, and lately returned from it, has had opportunities of making the remarks which are contained in the extract.
I began with telling you that I should not write a lengthy letter but the result has been to contradict it. It is to be considered as a private letter in answer to yours of the 26th ulto. but it may under that idea be communicated to your associates in office. They and you must receive it blotted and scratched as you find it, for I have not time to copy it. It is now ten o’clock at night, after my usual hour for retiring to rest, and the mail will be closed early tomorrow morning. Sincerely &c.