WASHINGTON, George. Autograph letter signed ("G:o Washington"), AS PRESIDENT, to David Stuart (1753-1814), 30 November 1792. 4 pages, 4to, edges discreetly mended.
"HAVE YOU YET DECIDED ON A PLAN FOR THE CAPITOL? IS ANYTHING DONE TOWARDS THE FOUNDATION OF THE PRESIDENT'S HOUSE?"
WASHINGTON SEARCHES FOR A CHIEF ARCHITECT OF THE NEW FEDERAL CITY as he considers re-hiring the temperamental Pierre L'Enfant and discusses a candidate backed by Jefferson, in this lengthy, animated letter to one of the three D.C. Commissioners (David Carroll and Thomas Johnson were the others). Washington wants "a man of fertile genius, & comprehensive ideas...one who shall always reside there...a man of skill & judgment, of industry & integrity" who would have "the business constantly before his eyes," unlike the part-time Commissioners. "But where, you may ask, is the character to be found who possesses these qualifications? I frankly answer I know not! Major L'Enfant...if he could have been restrained within proper bounds and his temper was less untoward, is the only person with whose turn to matters of this sort I am acquainted, that I think fit for it. There may, notwithstanding, be many others although they are unknown to me, equally so."
Washington had already fired the high-handed L'Enfant at the end of February when he refused to follow the directions of the Commissioners, and even treated Washington as a subordinate, issuing him peremptory instructions to obtain--and to personally guarantee!--a $1 million loan from the Dutch to fund his grandiose design. Not surprisingly, Washington is eager to consider alternative candidates, including one recommended by Thomas Jefferson. "Mr. [Samuel] Blodget seems to be the person on whom many eyes are turned, & among others who look that way, are some of the Proprietors. He has travelled, I am told, a good deal in Europe...Mr Jefferson has a high opinion of Mr Hallet"--Ètienne Sulpice (Stephen) Hallet--"but whether Mr Hallet has qualities, & is sufficiently known to fit him for a general Superintendency I cannot pretend even to give an opinion upon." Washington hopes the appointment will act as "an antidote...to the poison which Mr. F____s C___t [Francis Cabot] is spreading, by insinuations, that the accomplishment of the Plan is no more to be expected than the fabric of a vision, & will vanish in like manner."
The letter demonstrates Washington's passionate determination to realize his vision of a capital city on the Potomac, as he peppers Stuart with questions: "Have you yet decided on a Plan for the Capitol? Mr. Carroll talked of their being sent hither. Is anything done towards the foundation of the president's house? What number of lots are bona fide sold?" In the end, the commissioners appointed Samuel Blodget district superintendent, with Hallet given charge of constructing the Capitol while Hoban took over plans for the president's mansion. Washington laid the cornerstone of the Capitol in 1793 and six years later the United States government took up residence in Washington D.C.