WASHINGTON, George. Autograph letter signed ("Go:Washington") to Tobias Lear (1762-1816), Mount Vernon [Va.], 10 July 1797. 1 page, 4to, verso with thin strip of paper along one edge,, otherwise fine.
THE RETIRED PRESIDENT PLANS A VISIT TO THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED FEDERAL CITY AND THE FALLS OF THE POTOMAC
After seven years in Philadelphia as the nation's first president, Washington longed for his home at Mount Vernon. Relieved from most official duties, he again took up his interest in the development of the Potomac and the completion of the new capital city. Lear had long encouraged and supported Washington's plans for the Federal City and for the Potomac Development Company, and had even turned down the offer of a post as one of the Commissioners of the Federal City. Here, several months after leaving office, Washington attempts to arrange a rendezvous, probably to confer on these matters: "If nothing happens, more than I foresee at present to prevent it, I propose to be in the Federal City on Monday or Tuesday in next week but it will depend upon your being there. I request therefore to be informed by the Post if this will be the case, or whether business at that time will call you from it." Expressing a desire to revisit the upper Potomac, probably to check on the status of the Potomac canal and other projects, he adds: "When that far, I shall extend my ride to the little & Great Falls of the River, at the last of which I have not been there eight or nine years."
The decision to build a national capital along the Potomac River was originally the result of a political compromise proposed by Alexander Hamilton. It was President Washington, however, who chose Charles L'Enfant, architect and former officer in the Continental Army, to design the city. By 1797, when Washington planned his visit, construction was well under way, but the Federal City's appearance was far from imposing, "The city looked raw and unfinished. There were no paved streets and few private houses"(Smith, John Adams: 1784-1826, p. 1036).
Lear served as Washington's private secretary from 1785 to 1792 and again as his military secretary from 1798-1799. He became Washington's close companion and wrote fondly of him; "[I had] occasions to be with him in every situation in which a man is placed in his family - have ate and drank with him constantly, and almost every evening played at cards with him, and I declare that I have never found a single thing that could lessen my respect for him"(Flexner, Washington: The Indispensable Man, p 188). Not in Writings, ed. J.C. Fitzpatrick.