[WASHINGTON. D.C.]. WASHINGTON, George. Partly printed document, SIGNED BY THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE FEDERAL CITY Daniel Carroll (1730-1796), and David Stuart (1750-1814), "Territory of Colombia" [Washington D.C.]. 18 September 1793. 1 page, 4to, elegantly printed within border of printer's flowers, text in italic type, accomplished in manuscript by a clerk, integral blank, verso docketed. In fine condition.
THE CERTIFICATE FOR WASHINGTON'S PURCHASE OF A LOT IN THE NATION'S NEW CAPITAL
The decorativly printed document certifies that "At a Public Sale of Lots in the City of Washington, George Washington, President of the United States of America, became purchaser of Lot No. five in Square  for the consideration of [$306 2/3]." The purchase is subject to certain "Terms and Conditions concerning the manner of improvement," and requires payment of the balance due after a down-payment of $76 2/3 (one quarter of the cost for the lot). When those payments have been made, a formal conveyance will be furnished.
Three unsalaried commissioners--Thomas Johnson of Maryland, David Stuart and Daniel Carroll--had been authorized by the President to survey the site of the new Federal City, and to oversee the sale of lots. Washington himself chose the sites for the Capitol and White House. Of the 6,000 acres in the original plan, some 3600 were required for roadways, while land to be purchased by the government for official use amounted to 541 acres. The remaining 1,964 acres, divided into 22,272 city lots, was to be sold to the public and investors.
The sale of lots was held on 18 September 1793 (the date of this document), the same day as the laying of the cornerstone of the new Capitol building. Washington was the ceremonial guest of honor. At some time before the elaborate festivities ended, the President--eager to insure the success of the scheme and no doubt sensing a smart investment--purchased four lots, all in the same block, including that described in the present certificate: "lot 5" in "Square no. 667." The lot was priced $306. 2/3. (See Freeman, George Washington, vol. 7, p.128n).
The following March, Washington admitted his purchases were "more the result of incidence than premeditation," and considered the purchase of four additional lots in a different quadrant. But he took pains to inform the Commissioners that he "had no desire...to stand on a different footing from every other purchaser" (Writings, ed. J.C. Fitzpatrick, vol.33, p.393). In the end, the new city was slow to be established, and the Commissioners spent the next few years scrambling for adequate funding, through additional lot sales, lotteries and generally fruitless efforts to attract loans from Europe. A syndicate formed by James Greenleaf and financier Robert Morris was authorized to purchase 3000 lots at a reduced price, but the project ended in Morris's bankruptcy in 1797, leaving behind numerous unfinished dwellings and, worse, a reputation that Washington was a bad investment. The government finally moved--with some regrets--from Philadelphia to its new and still unfinished quarters in Washington in May 1801. A very rare document, POSSIBLY UNIQUE: we have not been able to locate another example in either institutional or private collections.