Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

two from Maryland, and one from Virginia, all known to be favorable to the project. They were General Thomas Johnson and Hon. Daniel Carroll of Maryland, and Dr. David Stuart of Virginia.* Of these sponsors of the city, a more detailed account than we have space for would be interesting. General Johnson had in 1774 in Congress nominated Washington to be Commander-in-chief, and had served through the Revolution as the trusted friend and comrade of his chief. He is described as having been of brusque and impetuous manner, given to “strange oaths,” but of a kindly disposition, and of marked executive ability. Daniel Carroll though not thirty years of age was at this time a member of Congress, and had ably supported the bill fixing the capital on the Potomac. He was a member of the distinguished Carroll family of Maryland, owner of a great estate, and was aristocratic in feeling and somewhat dictatorial in tone. Dr. Stuart was a practising physician residing at Alexandria,-an elderly, benevolent gentleman, fond of quoting the classical poets, who had been Washington's family physician for years, and was also attached to him by family ties, having married the widow of Major John Parke Custis, the son of Martha Washington by her first husband. They were appointed on the 22d of January, 1791. Two days later President Washington issued a proclamation giving the bounds of the territory he had selected. A second proclamation was issued March 30th, Congress in the interim having at the President's request so amended the original act as to include a section of country below Alexandria. The bounds of the federal territory as given in the second proclamation were as follows:

* Succeeded in 1795 by Gustavus Scott, William Thornton, and Alexander White.

“Beginning at Jones' Point, being the upper cape of Hunting Creek in Virginia, and at an angle of 45 degrees west of the north, and running in a direct line ten miles -for the first line ; then beginning again at the same Jones' Point, and running another direct line at a right angle with the first; then from the terminations of the said first and second lines running to other direct lines of ten miles each, the one crossing the Eastern Branch and the other the Potomac, and meeting each other in a point.

The territory so to be located, defined, and limited shall be the whole territory accepted under the said act of Congress as the district for the permanent seat of the government of the United States.”

The district or “territory," as it was at first called, was ten miles square--five on either side of the river, -and contained one hundred square miles. Georgetown on the north and Alexandria on the south were both in the original district. Early in the spring of 1791 the commissioners began running the lines of the new territory, the actual surveys being made by Andrew Ellicott, a young Pennsylvanian of marked ability, who later became Geographer-General of the United States. The next important step was to secure from the owners the land required for the federal seat.

The patrician tavern of Georgetown in 1791 was “Suters," a long-roofed, wide-porched structure on the post road to Bladensburg, where the "quality" always put up, and where the planters were fond of congregating to discuss the rare old Madeira and beady Jamaica rum of the Scotch host. In its “great room," before the fire of logs in the huge fireplace, the President, the commissioners, and the planters spent many a day during this winter of 1790-1 conferring on this question. There were but four principal owners-Daniel Carroll, David Burns, Samuel Davidson, and Notley Young. Davidson and Young figure but little in the traditions of the period. Daniel Carroll, the third proprietor, had a large patrimonial estate called Carrollsburg along the Eastern Branch, including the present Capitol Hill, and is said to have been instrumental in locating the Capitol on its present site. His country seat, Duddington Manor, became a feature of the city after population centred there, and was the scene of a profuse hospitality and of much social gayety. Its owner, however, met a sad ending. His lands failed to appreciate in value, the city tending westward toward Georgetown instead of growing up about the capital, as was expected. He became bankrupt and died in 1849, quite poor. David Burns, the second largest proprietor, was an illiterate Scotchman, surly and obstinate, who lived in the rude log cabin one may still see at the foot of Seventeenth Street, half hidden by the once stately Van Ness mansion. Burns owned nearly half of the capital site adjoining Georgetown, including the square on which the Treasury and White House now stand, and he was tremely reluctant to sell-indeed tradition says that

ex

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

SUTER'S TAVERN IN 1791.

the President and commissioners found a greater obstacle in him than in all the other proprietors combined. The negotiations continued throughout the winter, and toward the close of February, 1791, were concluded satisfactorily. On the third of March, 1791, the President was able to write to Jefferson :

“The terms entered into by me on the part of the United States with the landholders of Georgetown and Carrollsburg are, that all the land from Rock Creek along the river to the Eastern Branch, and so upward to or above the ferry, including a breadth of about a mile and a half, the whole containing from three thousand to five thousand acres, is ceded to the public on condition that when the whole is laid off as a city (which Major L' Enfant is now directed to do) the present proprietors shall retain every other lot; and for such parts of the land as may be taken for public use for squares, walks, etc., they shall be allowed at the rate of £25* an acre. Nothing is to be allowed for the ground which may be occupied for streets and alleys."

To which Mr. Jefferson replied :

“ The acquisition of ground at Georgetown is really noble, considering that only £25 an acre is to be paid for any grounds taken for the public, and the streets not to be counted, which will, in fact, reduce it to about £ 19 an acre. I think very liberal reserves should be made for the public.”

The city's site having been secured, the next step was the appointment of a competent engineer for laying it out. Washington, with his intuitive knowledge of men, had no difficulty in selecting the man.

* Maryland money, 66 dollars.

« ZurückWeiter »