Front Page Titles (by Subject) OPINION ON CAPITAL - The Works, vol. 6 (Correspondence 1789-1792)
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OPINION ON CAPITAL - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 6 (Correspondence 1789-1792) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 6.
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OPINION ON CAPITAL
[November 29, 1790.]
Opinion on proceedings to be had under the Residence act.
A territory not exceeding ten miles square (or, I presume, one hundred square miles in any form) to be located by metes and bounds.
Three commissioners to be appointed. I suppose them not entitled to any salary.
[If they live near the place they may, in some instances, be influenced by self interest, and partialities; but they will push the work with zeal. If they are from a distance, and northwardly, they will be more impartial, but may affect delays.]
The commissioners to purchase or accept “such quantity of land on the east side of the river as the President shall deem proper for the United States,” viz., for the federal Capitol, the offices, the President’s house and gardens, the town house, market house, public walks and hospital. For the President’s house, offices and gardens, I should think two squares should be consolidated. For the Capitol and offices, one square. For the market, one square. For the public walks, nine squares consolidated.
The expression “such quantity of land as the President shall deem proper for the United States,” is vague. It may therefore be extended to the acceptance or purchase of land enough for the town; and I have no doubt it is the wish, and perhaps expectation. In that case, it will be to be laid out in lots and streets. I should propose these to be at right angles, as in Philadelphia, and that no street be narrower than one hundred feet, with foot ways of fifteen feet. Where a street is long and level, it might be one hundred and twenty feet wide. I should prefer squares of at least two hundred yards every way, which will be about eight acres each.
The commissioners should have some taste in architecture, because they may have to decide between different plans.
They will, however, be subject to the President’s direction in every point.
When the President shall have made up his mind as to the spot for the town, would there be any impropriety in his saying to the neighboring land holders, “I will fix the town here if you will join and purchase and give the lands.” They may well afford it by the increase of value it will give to their own circumjacent lands.
The lots to be sold out in breadths of fifty feet; their depths to extend to the diagonal of the square.
I doubt much whether the obligation to build the houses at a given distance from the street, contributes to its beauty. It produces a disgusting monotony; all persons make this complaint against Philadelphia. The contrary practice varies the appearance, and is much more convenient to the inhabitants.
In Paris it is forbidden to build a house beyond a given height; and it is admitted to be a good restriction. It keeps down the price of ground, keeps the houses low and convenient, and the streets light and airy. Fires are much more manageable where houses are low.