JEFFERSON, Thomas. Partly printed document signed ("Th:Jefferson") as Secretary of State, Philadelphia, 3 March 1791. 1 page, large folio (15¼ x 9 3/8 in.). Printed in a single column, boldly headed "Congress of the United States," signed in type beneath by Speaker F.A. Muhlenberg, Vice-President John Adams and President George Washington, and in bold ink at extreme bottom by Jefferson. In superb, fresh condition, the sheet entirely untrimmed.
CONGRESS GRANTS WASHINGTON THE AUTHORITY TO DETERMINE THE FINAL BOUNDARIES OF THE NEW CAPITOL CITY, "THE PERMANENT SEAT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES"
The full text of a key amendment to "An Act, for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the government of the United States". The Secretary of State's "association with the beginnings of the new capital on the Potomac, which he and Washington generally called 'the Federal city,' was more intimate than that of any other high government official except the President himself." He acted as "the President's trusted helper at every stage and made distinctive contributions to the final result" (D. Malone, Jefferson and the Rights of Man, p.371).
In the initial Residence Act of 1790, passed as a compromise in exchange for passage of Hamilton's Assumption Act, the exact location of the new capital "on the Potomac" was otherwise unspecified. Its size, though, was specifically limited to 10 square miles. Washington had settled upon the site, just above the Eastern Branch of the Potomac, and Jefferson had concurred that the capital district could also embrace lands on the opposite shore, in Virginia and Maryland.
The present Act official approves the boundaries delineated by Washington, and stipulates that "it shall be lawful for the President" to include in the capital district additional lands, "to include a convenient part of the East Branch," as well as "lands lying on the lower side thereof, and also the town of Alexandria," and states that "the territory so to be included shall form a part of the district not exceeding ten miles square, for the permanent feat of the government of the United States..." Interestingly, though, the act specifically stipulates that the erection of public buildings for the government "is not authorized...otherwise than on the Maryland side of the River Potowmack."
In January, Washington had appointed three Commissioners to oversee the planning and construction of the new capital, the first plans were drawn by the brilliant but highly temperamental Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant, who received his instructions the same month as this Act was disseminated and began to lay out the broad streets of the new city which would soon bear the name of the first President.