Monday, May 08, 2023

"To Tease and Torment"

"To Tease and Torment": Two Presidents Confront Suspicions of Sodomy

by Bob Arnebeck

It took only nine months for Pierre Charles L'Enfant to polarize the men building the nation's future capital, and a few month's later he faced a presidential ultimatum that prompted his resignation. During his tenure as president, George Washington's language rarely reached the emotional pitch of a January 1792 note about L'Enfant: "The conduct of Majr. L'Enfant and those employed under him, astonishes me beyond measure! and something more than even appears, must be meant by them!"(1) Washington's ire arose from L'Enfant's disobeying orders, not explicitly from his transgressing sexual boundaries. Yet when Washington wrote of a young man, one of several described as having "great awe" of L'Enfant, that he "lives with, and more than probably partakes of the sentiments of Majr. L'Enfant," one can suspect presidential discomfort on more than a policy level.(2) Eight years later, in the fall of 1800, passing through New York City on his way to open the new capital and move into the White House, President John Adams refused to visit his dying son, Charles, who he had renounced the year before. Another Adams son wrote of the death, "let silence reign forever over his tomb."(3) While there was no public scandal nor private innuendos about their sexuality, the emotive language used by Washington, Adams and others to distance themselves from these problematical younger men suggests that the elite during the early years of the American Republic were not comfortable with homoeroticism.

Since prosecutions for sodomy were rare in the late 18th century America and since literary models for the fop, beau, rake and men paired by heroic sentiments were readily available, Claire Lyons has suggested that, in Philadelphia at least, a countervailing rhetoric of equal rights in the pursuit of happiness saved those in a same sex relationship from being noticed.(4) Assuming that men surrounded by whore house looking glasses did not throw stones, Richard Godbeer's depiction of heterosexual excesses in late 18th century Philadelphia supports her thesis. Other scholars have shown how the construction of manhood in the late 18th and early 19th century revolved around familiar gender poles of effeminacy and manliness. Though suspect, effeminate males could still be of service in a society where manly patriarchs competed for land, offices and wealth.(5) But the dichotomy between effeminacy and manliness does not completely describe the male sexual sky at that time. A principal hero in that firmament was Frederick the Great of Prussia. This absolute monarch, and thus, in his realm the absolute patriarch, overcame the strictures of his father that "all effeminate, lascivious, feminine pursuits were highly unsuitable for a man." Frederick undermined the ideals of monarchy and patriarchy in the way he united supreme military discipline, audacity in war and statecraft, with not only admiration for but participation in cutting-edge art and culture. His devotion to his people became legendary and, in the context of the royalty of his day, revolutionary, not the least in his disregard for his own line. For the good of the state, he wanted all Prussian women to have many children, but he had none of his own. He surrounded himself with distinguished men who he tried to treat as his equals, and created a court without women. Homoeroticism was never made explicit, but was widely understood, and a homoerotic sub-culture developed in Berlin during his long reign.(6)

Early in their careers both L'Enfant and Charles Adams were influenced by Baron Frederich von Steuben, a disciple of Frederick's. Just before coming to America in 1777, Steuben was accused, while he was chamberlain in the small German principality of Hechingen, of "having taken familiarities with young boys which the laws forbid and punish severely." In 1796, two years after Steuben died, a German scholar writing in a magazine on American affairs, mentioned an "abominable rumor which accused Steuben of a crime the suspicion of which, at another more exalted court of the time (as formerly among the Greeks), would hardly have aroused such attention...." The other court was Frederick the Great's.(7) Although his 46 year reign ended in 1786, Frederick still inspired men in the new Republic. Among the throng greeting president-elect Washington in 1789 on his arrival in New York City was "Captain Harsin's New York Grenadiers, composed, in imitation of the guard of the great Frederick, of only the tallest and finest-looking young men of the city..."(8)

By exaggerating his rank in Frederick's army Steuben rose to become a Major General in the American army during the Revolution. Famed as a disciplinarian and seen as "a perfect personification of Mars", Steuben won admiration among the ranks for his following the Prussian custom of demonstrating military maneuvers himself instead of leaving it to a drill sergeant. He excited many members of the officer corps with his grace, style and generosity.(9) After the war he helped organize the Society of the Cincinnati, a fraternal organization of retired military officers. He moved to an estate he called the Louvre a few miles outside New York City where he entertained his comrades, especially the younger staff officers who made up his military family, and built a room expressly for his favorite aide, Col. William North.(10) While he never wrote of the elite male's place in society, his actions demonstrated his philosophy, which true to Frederick's example sought to serve his fellow man by urging what he thought were enlightened changes in the state and fostered a homosocial family unfettered by convention. His elaborate plans for reforming the American army, including three military colleges, bringing Prussia's Prince Henry to America as a constitutional monarch, and forming a military colony in Spanish America, to be manned by his former aides and selected American settlers, never found traction. Meanwhile his favorite never moved into the Louvre and so, recognizing like Frederick the essential need of the state to increase its population, Steuben encouraged his former aides as they made conventional marriages and raised families. He applauded North for yet another child while reminding him of the day they both carved their initials in a tree. His insistence on living like a baron and his generosity to friends bankrupted him, which forced him to leave his Louvre and live off the charity of friends while he waited for more rewards from Congress for his military service. He soon realized it was loath to reward an "old Bachelor."(11)

L'Enfant seems to have fed off the example of Steuben's ambition. Writing to Steuben in 1779 about his disappointments in forwarding his military career, L'Enfant pledged, "yet I am determined to stay and do not want any other reward than to be put in a position to deserve again, if I were fortunate enough to hope that you will help to realize my desire."(12) Charles Adams then twenty years old probably met Steuben in 1790 when he clerked in Alexander Hamilton's law office. Hamilton was handling Steuben's problematic financial affairs. Despite his personal setbacks, Steuben made it clear to the new group of young men surrounding him that male friendships were all consoling. Writing to his ambitious brother John Quincy, Charles described Steuben's reaction upon returning from lobbying Congress. The Baron "said to me upon sitting down to supper that evening 'I thank God my dear Charles that I am not a Great man and that I am once more permitted to sit down at my little round table with Mulligan [his secretary who North described as "a boy"] and yourself enjoying more satisfaction than the pomp of this world can afford."(13) His "little round table" was a self-deprecating reference to the large round table of his idol at Sans Souci. Shortly before he died he codified his "family" without women in his will by adopting North and another long time associate Benjamin Walker, both twenty years his junior, as his sons, and gave his library to his secretary John Mulligan, Jr. Charles Adams was one of three witnesses to the will.(14)

Steuben was both father and mother in this family, a transubstantiation assisted by what, though anti-clerical, he called the "heavenly fire." Responding to Mulligan's anguish after he left New York City to lobby Congress in Philadelphia, Steuben wrote: "Strength of mind is enfeebled by griefs of this nature; but, my friend, one ought not to suffer it to be entirely extinguished, for it is the duty of a sensible man to cherish the heavenly fire with which we are endowed by Providence. Despite moral philosophy I weep with you, and glory in the human weakness of mingling my tears with those of a friend I so tenderly love."(15) Charles Adams lived with Steuben and Mulligan in New York City for over a year. Just prior to Steuben's death in 1794, Adams wrote to his mother about their relationship: "I have always lamented that you have so little acquaintance with this excellent man. I never have known a more noble character and his affections for me call forth divine sentiments of gratitude which can exist in my breast." Adams hastens to add that despite the Baron's influence, "the affection to my Mother can never suffer any alteration."(16)

There is no proof that the freighted sentiments Steuben inspired in American men were ever unloaded in sexual acts, or, if they were, that anyone noticed. George Washington found both a friend and adviser in Steuben. In a list of former officers he considered for command of an army to fight the Indians in 1791, he noted that Steuben was "sensible, sober and brave."(17) John Adams was only an acquaintance and reacted primarily to Steuben's increasing girth.(18) Neither noticed that his combining warrior virtues, feminine sensitivity and an ambition to remake society became an attractive model to some young men in post revolutionary America. It is through L'Enfant and Charles Adams that two presidents felt the sting of Steuben's challenge to patriarchy. Charles Adams challenged the patriarchal ideal of providing for a family. L'Enfant challenged the checks and balances which in the new Republic were designed to limit the power of patriarchs competing for wealth and prestige in the public realm, precautions necessary to maintain stability essential to the preservation of patriarchy. Discerning any homoerotic component in their challenges is problematic in an age jealous of personal honor and in a young country obsessed with national honor.(19) Given this double imperative for silence, the best that can be done is to demonstrate the comfort that both younger men found in same-sex relationships and gauge the reaction of Washington and Adams to that challenge to their power and assess if sexual issues heightened that reaction.

In October 1799, in New York City on his way from Massachusetts to his presidential office in Philadelphia, John Adams disowned his son Charles after he talked with his daughter-in-law: "A Madman possessed of the Devil can alone express or represent. I renounce him. Davids Absalom had some ambition and some Enterprize. Mine is a mere Rake, Buck, Blood and Beast." Two days later Adams wrote to his wife that "The Reprobate shall be punished."(20) Charles was clearly an alcoholic. A year later, his mother was explicit in describing his condition to her sister: "Food has not been his sustanance, yet he did not look like an intemperate man. He was bloted but not red. He was no mans Enemy but his own - He was beloved, in spight of his Errors, and all spoke with grief and sorrow for his habits." Biographers of John and Abigail Adams attribute Charles's alcoholism to his remorse over losing money that, prior to going to Prussia as the American minister, his bother John Quincy entrusted to him. In December 1798 Charles explained that he used it to cover the debts of his brother-in-law William Stephens Smith, a former aide of Steubens who was Charles's sister's husband and Charles's wife's older brother, and that while he thought John Quincy would have done the same thing, he wrote to his mother, "I have not enjoyed one moments comfort for upwards of two years on this account, my sleep has been disturbed, and my waking hours embittered." His mother's reaction to Charles's confession was to observe that he "did not have the power of resistance."(21)

However, alcoholism alone cannot explain his father's curse. Drunkenness was not one of Absalom's sins. The "Rake, Buck, Blood and Beast" are all sexual predators. Yet, it seems unlikely that a "beloved" young man described by his mother as lacking "the power of resistance" suddenly ran wildly after women in New York City "where self-styled libertines swaggered about the street," and where public "sexual aggressiveness" directed toward women was notorious but a la mode.(22) While the most indelible image of Absalom is his being persuaded to have his way with his father David's concubines in a tent on the roof of David's house "in the sight of all Israel," this handsome hero had homoerotic attractions. As the Bible explains, "when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.... So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel." John Adams's favorite poet, John Dryden, also addressed the story in his poem "Absalom and Ahithophel," using it as a vehicle for a satire on current British politics. In Dryden's suggestive couplets celebrating "Promiscuous use of concubine and bride,"(23) the homoeroticism of the Biblical story is muted, but the key figure in the poem is a man, Ahithophel, who seduces Absalom into overthrowing his father.

Charles was the second and most charming of three sons and thought to be the most attractive to the opposite sex.(24) He alarmed his parents by courting his brother-in-law's sister before he had established himself as a lawyer. His parents severely reprimanded him for this prime sin against patriarchy and Charles promised not to marry until he could support himself and a family.(25) During this period Charles boarded with Steuben and Mulligan and perhaps resisted another temptation. Mulligan, also a young law student, joined Steuben at his rustic country realm north of Utica, New York, surrounded by 16,000 acres given to him by the state of New York (and closer to William North.)(26) Charles only visited shortly before Steuben's death in late 1794. In 1795 Charles opened a law office and, without telling his parents, married Sally Smith, and, as far as the documentary record shows, he was not intimate with other women outside his family. Separating from Steuben did not deny Charles intimate homosocial relationships. Elihu Hubbard Smith noted in 1795 that Charles was still a member of a homosocial literary discussion group called the Friendly Club that was formed in 1794. In his diary Smith also noted that Adams did not invite members of the Friendly club to his wedding, and that marriage only caused a brief lull in his intimacy with his male friends. Seven months after marriage he resumed seeing Smith alone, as well as accompanied by Mulligan and another friend, John Wells, who Smith described as Charles's intimate friend.(27) Smith's diary principally chronicles Smith's inexhaustible effort to realize the ideal of perfectibility and share that with his sisters, and his friends of both sexes. Aimed at such a high purpose, the diary exposes little of the low life of the city. One evening Adams hosted the Friendly Club and led a discussion, which Smith characterized as sober, on David Hume's essay opposing political parties.(28) One cannot be sure of the basis of the friendship of these two young men from New England. Smith's sexuality is uncertain but there are indications that he pushed some of his relationships with men beyond conventional propriety. The intellectual Smith was in some respects not unlike the old soldier Steuben. Both were political conservatives, both projected homocentric colonies in the west though Smith called his "Utopia," both were atheists and both indefatigable in plumbing the sentimental depths of male friendship. Finally, both broadcast high purpose and a style of living that stood in stark contrast to the high purpose and patriarchal certainties constantly reiterated in the Adams's family correspondence.(29)

In his diary, Smith noted the phenomena of men drinking to forget their sorrows, but he did not associate that with Charles. Smith died while treating patients during the yellow fever epidemic of 1798, but in the two years before his death, while he continued to have tea with Charles and his wife, he noted no deterioration in Charles's condition.(30) Sobriety and probity are also the hallmarks of one of the last letters Charles wrote to his father, nine months before he was castigated as a reprobate. Serving as an aide to Alexander Hamilton, then organizing an American army to respond to possible French aggression, Charles was privy to the banter as Hamilton vetted officer appointments with his staff. In letters to his father, Charles usually wrote as a man of the world. In 1793 when a not guilty verdict in a notorious New York City rape case inspired a riot that, despite the mayor rallying a guard, led to the destruction of brothels patronized by the elite, Charles wrote of his alarm at the destruction of private property and caught hell from his father for not also condemning the rape. Charles quickly apologized.(31) In the 1799 Charles did not make the same mistake and took a high minded, condemnatory tone as he reported that Hamilton "even went so far to say at his own table when I was present, that he had, in his own words, 'been that day appointing a Son of the Notorious Bill Livingston's a Midshipman in our Navy.' This modest speech was addressed to Church [Hamilton's nephew] whose reply was you have then I find weaknesses not confined to the female sex: which produced a laugh and perhaps was not thought of by any person but myself afterwards." He added that he and Sally were doing well.(32)

That Charles's proper second thoughts betrayed his own susceptibility to homoeroticism cannot be proven, but the reactions of his parents to whatever he did shortly after writing this letter suggest that he committed a transgression in their eyes that went beyond visits to whore houses, a common sin among elite males including Hamilton.(33) John Adams was careful to castigate his son with common sins and not stain his family's reputation by being more explicit. In May 1800, six months after John Adams's curse, when Abigail visited Sally, Charles was at his office; on his return he was "quite touched" by her visit. Even though he was working and with his family, this did not change their opinion of him. On her last visit in November 1800, she reported on his condition to her sister: "At N York I found my poor unhappy son, for so I must still call him, laid upon a bed of sickness, destitute of a home. The kindness of a friend afforded him an asylum."(34) While she did not ignore him on her way to Washington as his father did three weeks earlier, Abigail begrudged calling Charles her son. Alcoholism and loss of his brother's money could not alone inspire her bitter eulogy: "It becomes me in silence to mourn; mourn over him living, I have for a long time, and now he is gone - the tender remembrance of what he once was rises before me, and I wish to forget. I wish to draw a veil over all those propencities, which have rung my heart, with unutterable pangs." In her mind his sins were plural, and sins they surely were. She wrote to her sister, "I hope my supplications to heaven for him, that he might find mercy from his maker, may not have been in vain," and these sins predated his alcoholism. She asked her sister to "weep with me over the Grave of a poor unhappy child who cannot now add an other pang to those which have pierced my Heart for several years past..... (35) That period of time places their origin with her son's association with Steuben, her rival for his affections.

By 1800 there was perhaps no family more worldly wise than the Adams. Writing on government in 1776 John Adams disdained "vanities, levities, and fopperies," and welcomed "frugality" that encouraged "great, manly, and warlike virtues."(36) When exposed to the courts of Europe, family members burnished the virtues of their provincial, middle class sensibilities, but back in America, they took pride in their dress and savoir faire, careful to place their Puritan and Revolutionary backgrounds in perspective.(37) In the wake of the yellow fever epidemics of the 1790s, religious leaders tried to recall the morality of 1776 and outlaw the theatre, "where those exotic phrases, customs, principles, habits and irregularities, are sheltered, sown, take root, flourish, are disseminated, transplanted, and spread through society...." Adams continued to enjoy the presidential box at the theatre. Abigail Adams dissected the court life of the new Republic with theatrical terms, once noting, in defense of her staid husband's being tongue-tied with the women at presidential receptions, that to do well "the gallant must have a little bit of the fop."(38)

There was another skeleton in the Adams family closet and several biographers compare Charles's pathetic end to that of Abigail's brother William Smith. His sisters were loath to write about him in their letters. However, from the family's correspondence biographers are able to piece together more information about Smith's transgressions than there are about Charles's, including Smith's improvident marriage, his counterfeiting, his abandoning his family and taking up with another woman before his death.(39) Charles's parents never understood, would not tolerate, and renounced, as they regarded in silence, their son's second thoughts about his sexuality and some unforgivable act that went beyond the gallantry and foppery they tolerated. While his parent's never associated Charles with the elan and high purpose of Frederick the Great or with a brotherhood of high minded men, Charles's sexual audacity, probably homoerotic, perhaps with multiple partners, clearly shocked them.

Reactions to L'Enfant demonstrate more clearly how the audacity of men emulating Steuben and energized as a group, even when homoeroticism was not explicit, could alarm elite patriarchs. L'Enfant took great pains to distinguish himself from a fop, or a courtier, or a man dependent on undeserved favors. In one of the long petitions he sent to Congress after 1800 asking for compensation for his work designing the capital, he took pride in having never employed "the flattering courtesy of all the hunters for favors" and distinguished himself from what can "be seen on all stages where the worthless, placid carriage and babbling, over thwart the meritorious."(40) In a dispute over expenses with the man he lived with for several years, L'Enfant detailed his Spartan habits, e.g., he only had three shirts. Like Steuben and Frederick the Great, as he aged, L'Enfant presented himself to the world simply as an old soldier who would gladly die and be buried in his old uniform.(41)

L'Enfant's principal long term relationship was with Richard Soderstrom from 1794 to 1801. Soderstrom was a Swedish aristocrat who came to Boston in 1780 to establish commercial operations for his family's merchant house in Gothenburg, Sweden. He served as Swedish consul until his death in Philadelphia in 1815.(42) While he did have at least one son, there is no record of his wife being with him while he knew L'Enfant.(43) To the public they presented themselves as partners in land speculation who shared the same house on the outskirts of Philadelphia. In 1801 Soderstrom began billing L'Enfant and eventually sued him for not paying his share of their living expenses. In his bitter 1804 accounting of their financial relationship, L'Enfant tried to prove that Soderstrom did not fully credit him for the resources he brought to the partnership. In L'Enfant's account the outlines of their intense personal relationship are apparent. L'Enfant attested to their early mutual attraction in an odd way. "I would ask him," he wrote, "whether he did not borrow money also from me as far back as the year 1786 or 7 on the very first day, that is the very next morning of the day when I was made acquainted with him at Nyork." The same account, even as it tried to paint a picture of a cold relationship, demonstrated how close the two men were:

when I wanted either to go to New York or elsewhere, he rather in anticipation of the time when I intended contrived to keep me distressed for money & prevented the Journey, then officiously proposed to me to give him power to recover for me.

As much as L'Enfant adhered to the fiction that they were at best business partners or landlord-boarder, a sexual component to their relationship is evident in their mutual jealousy over the other partner's sexual relationships with women. "With respect to his charges for the wages & victuals of his servants," L'Enfant mocked, "with as much propriety I think he could have charged me with his horse food & for the expences of the number of Harlots of his Friends who he had in case to provide for." L'Enfant insisted that the team of servants in the house only served Soderstrom and that he employed one woman to do his laundry, until, in December 1796, Soderstrom paid her off, and insisted that his servants do L'Enfant's laundry. There is a family genealogy that lists L'Enfant as the father of a child named Mary, mother unknown, born in 1797.(44) To be sure, this is very circumstantial evidence of sexual tension in the L'Enfant-Soderstrom relationship but it does suggest that they were not asexual. However, there is no evidence that anyone had second thoughts about their partnership. Friends like the artist John Trumbull thought of the two as a pair. L'Enfant offered to submit their dispute over accounts to mutual friends before it was decided in Soderstrom's favor in court.(45) Indeed, it is possible that if a well known and reputable merchant like Soderstrom had been paired with L'Enfant while he worked in Washington, his tenure might have been much longer because what threatened the patriarchal arrangements there was the lack of any check on L'Enfant's influence over other men working on the project.

L'Enfant came to the project with a considerable reputation. In many respects he had led a charmed life. He left art school in Paris at the age of 22 to fight in the American Revolution, and in short order met Lafayette, Washington and Steuben who placed him on his staff and pressed Congress to give him an officer's commission. His heroics at the Siege of Savannah, a virtual suicide mission to light a forest fire to conceal an American and French advance, sealed the lifetime admiration of fellow officers. After the war, he was sent to Paris to organize the European branch of the Society of the Cincinnati which increased his fame in France and won him a pension from Louis XVI. He was decommissioned from the American army when he returned to the United States. Like Steuben he urged Congress to organize the American military on the European model, but their petitions did not move politicians worried about national and state debts. Meanwhile political organizers enlisted L'Enfant's talents as a decorator and designer for fetes and parades. He also worked as an architect in New York City, culminating in his designing and overseeing the transformation of New York's plain city hall, into the new Federal Hall in time for Washington's inauguration. His work was widely admired for its elegance. In 1791 when authorized by Congress to create a new capital on the Potomac, Washington could think of no other man to send to the city in March 1791 to create a worthy symbol of national power.(46)

As L'Enfant developed his plans, Washington conferred with him frequently. But in situations where patriarchs would vie for land and office, it was common practice for the state and national governments to protect the general interest by putting at least three commissioners in charge, and so legally L'Enfant worked under three commissioners appointed by the president, though not confirmed by the Senate.(47) However, it was not until October that Washington told L'Enfant to take his orders from the commissioners. As a series of irritating episodes showing L'Enfant's disdain for commissioners alarmed Washington, he reiterated that demand. In late February 1792, after drawing up elaborate work plans for the project to which the president didn't react, L'Enfant refused to submit to the commissioners and resigned at the same time that Washington dismissed him. Historians have faulted L'Enfant for several misdeeds. He failed to oversee the engraving of his plan in time for an October 1791 auction of lots. At that auction he refused to show his plan of the city. Without consulting the commissioners, he tore down a house being built by one of the original proprietors, Daniel Carroll of Duddington, on one of the planned city streets. Finally he was not at all apologetic about those actions, and when he came to Philadelphia, he made apparent his disdain of the commissioners powers by explicitly telling the workers he left behind to only follow the orders of his assistant Isaac Roberdeau.(48)

In the context of the 20th century any of the above transgressions seems a valid cause for dismissal. In the 18th century terms of employment were not always clear cut. L'Enfant worked for seven months before the issue of compensation was even broached. The government paid his boarding and lodging and fed all the men he hired. When the commissioners fired the men working for L'Enfant, area landowners who supported L'Enfant paid for their work, forcing the commissioners to have Roberdeau arrested to end that practice.(49) At that time, accounts were commonly settled after the work ended. For public projects, legislatures had the final say over the level of compensation so that in a sense L'Enfant worked to gain the respect of public opinion. When called to explain his disobedience, L'Enfant always argued that he did it for the good of the project. While correcting L'Enfant, Washington at the same time challenged the commissioners to appreciate L'Enfant's zeal for the project. What was more at issue in the 18th century was not a man's on the job performance, but his character.(50)

After L'Enfant refused to show his plan at the auction of city lots, Washington tried to explain how L'Enfant's character informed the misunderstanding:

It is much to be regretted, however common the case is, that men who possess talents which fit them for peculiar purposes should almost invariably be under the influence of an untoward disposition, or are sottish idle, or possessed of some other disqualification by which they plague all those with whom they are concerned. But I did not expect to have met with such perverseness in Major L'Enfant as his late conduct exhibited.(51)

Washington did not seem especially alarmed, and advised that "the feelings of such Men are always alive, and, where there assistance is essential; that it is policy to humour them or to put on the appearance of doing it." Washington, in essence, agreed with L'Enfant that the house in the planned street could not stay, and only objected to his tearing it down without more consultation, and warned the commissioners that if "he should take miff and leave the business, I have no scruple in declaring to you (though I do not want him to know it) that I know not where another is to be found, who could supply his place."(52)

By September, L'Enfant had outlined an ambitious building program that he would superintend that hinged on obtaining a large loan to finance operations and postponing major sales of lots until after construction of the city's infrastructure and public buildings would increase their value. L'Enfant confined the commissioners' role to raising money for the project. By mid-January L'Enfant sent a detailed work plan to the president. This approach did not alarm the commissioners nor the administration in Philadelphia. After L'Enfant left the project, Jefferson passed L'Enfant's ambitious work plans on to the commissioners who soon began requesting the assistance of a superintendent. Soon all agreed that a loan was needed.(53) It was not the substance of L'Enfant's approach but the style that alienated the commissioners. Since they served without pay, the commissioners could have viewed their position as honorary. But the melding of public and private interest was one of the privileges of a patriarch in the early Republic and was primarily expressed in the acquisition of offices and land. Two of the commissioners, Thomas Johnson and Daniel Carroll, both of Maryland, were adept at speculating in land and allocating their slaves to work their lands.(54) L'Enfant knew how to flatter the dreams of land owners. In his plan for the city, he scattered civic and governmental focal points throughout the city, which led them to expect a rapid rise in the value of the lots they owned.(55) But he refused to flatter the commissioners. L'Enfant fostered a martial spirit in the men he hired to build the city, and inspired intense personal loyalty that left no honor for the commissioners. The project's commissary, though in debt after L'Enfant left, sent word to him that he looked forward to his returning and "leading the right flank." To the commissioners the enraging symbol of L'Enfant's rapport with the workers was his insistence on giving them "chocolate butter" for breakfast.(56) In a letter to Jefferson, L'Enfant observed that "pride of office" induced the commissioners "to oppose me merely to teize and torment."(57) L'Enfant seemed oblivious to how his rapport with some of the men working with him raised eyebrows.

From May to August 25, when they left for Philadelphia, L'Enfant was joined by a man known only as Baron de Grasse.(58) They boarded in the same Georgetown inn. When L'Enfant returned in October, he soon found another boon companion. Benjamin Ellicott joined his brother Andrew in the fall of 1791 to help him with his survey of the District and the city. Benjamin soon joined L'Enfant's crew, and as Andrew explained in a letter to his wife, Benjamin stopped chasing women and worked tirelessly for L'Enfant. In a footnote to his work plan for the city, L'Enfant said he wanted Benjamin, not Andrew, to head the surveying department.(59) L'Enfant also groomed 27 year old Isaac Roberdeau to be his principal assistant. This son of the French-born, former general and congressman who lived in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, had just returned from studying engineering in Europe and Commissioner David Stuart, of Alexandria, encouraged him to find work on the city project. The young man was probably foremost in Stuart's thoughts when he complained of L'Enfant's "nack of impressing all concerned with him, with great awe of him." When L'Enfant went to Philadelphia for the winter to be near the books he would need to complete his designs for the Capitol and President's house, he left Roberdeau in charge. He bore the brunt of the commissioners efforts to stop all operations that L'Enfant had ordered. In a public meeting with the commissioners, Roberdeau berated them with an ungentlemanly outburst. The next day he apologized to them. Shortly thereafter he went to Philadelphia to stay with L'Enfant. The fatherly regard that the president had for the son of his friend General Roberdeau fueled the president's emotional January outburst ruing L'Enfant's influence over the young man. The commissioners blamed L'Enfant for leading the young man astray, and offered to rehire him, but, for the moment Roberdeau stayed with L'Enfant. When Roberdeau briefly returned to Washington on L'Enfant's behalf, the salutation of the letters he sent back were no longer, "dear sir," but "my dear friend." That in the end of each letter passed on his affectionate regards to Miss Blair did not diminish the attachment L'Enfant felt for the young man. (60)

In disabusing the president of his admiration for L'Enfant the commissioners faced a difficult task, since L'Enfant's disobeying their orders only prompted the president to find a way to accommodate him. As they echoed the president's belief in L'Enfant's talents, they tried to nudge the President's character assessment. In October the president noted the "perverseness" of L'Enfant's conduct. By late February one commissioner referred to L'Enfant's "natural perversity." He was a man with whom no self respecting gentleman could work.(61) With Commissioner Thomas Johnson expected in Philadelphia for the February term of the Supreme Court, Washington hoped that his meeting with L'Enfant would end the crisis. However the commissioners had secretly agreed that if L'Enfant remained on any terms, they would resign, and they hoped that when the president saw the extract of account books showing L'Enfant's "loose and extravagant manner," that Johnson would bring to Philadelphia, then he would finally realize that L'Enfant had to go. When illness prevented Johnson from coming to Philadelphia, Commissioner Stuart wrote that he almost came himself, but left it to Johnson to supply the accounts, adding, "you will find that chocolate molasses and sugar, are the cheapest articles, with which labourers can be furnished for breakfast - As our own characters must compell us to interfere much more in future, you may expect to hear multiplied complaints against us." Johnson did send a letter which is lost.(62)

There is only circumstantial evidence that L'Enfant's sexuality was an issue in the crisis. Baron de Grasse's bill for boarding is one of the items on a January 7, 1792, account in the commissioners' records.(63) If paying for a L'Enfant favorite was one of the accounts flagged and sent to Philadelphia, it was clearly one of many extravagances, but rarely does one find such emotion over the breakfast given to laborers, and something left unsaid may have fueled it. After Johnson's letter, suggestive language entered the letters of the president and his closest adviser on building the new capital, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Washington wrote to the commissioners that he wanted to retain L'Enfant "provided it could be done on a proper footing." Jefferson wrote to them of L'Enfant's refusal to be subordinate to a degree that was "lawful and proper." In a letter to Stuart, the president described L'Enfant's behavior as a "dereliction." And this time when he tried to see the matter through L'Enfant's eyes, he wrote that L'Enfant refused to work under the commissioners because he feared that would mean the project would be carried on in "a pimping scale." His last character sketch of the man he had expected so much from has a curious emphasis: " proportion to the yieldings of the Commissioners his claims would extend. Such upon a nearer view, appears to be the nature of the Man!"(64) The emphasis cast doubts on L'Enfant's sexuality in the only way Washington properly could. L'Enfant's behavior was clearly not that of a fop or beau, and those convenient tales often attached to suspect men, were not serviceable in his case.

A few years later the same cast of supervisors dealt with surveyor Andrew Ellicott's rebellion. He refused to meet with them, nor share his surveys, and argued vehemently that they and their pet surveyor, James Dermott, a "drunken" Irishman," were undermining his work and reputation. In their letters to the president about the crisis, the commissioners were disdainful of the surveyor's talents and "temper" but never emotional, cooly telling the president that "the Major [Ellicott] would be far from gaining by placing his moral Character in one scale and Dermotts in the other." In one phase of the conflict, a newspaper war, Ellicott's sexual probity was impugned. A married man, he was accused of inviting a whore into his tent. But in this dispute, unlike that with L'Enfant, all character flaws could be discussed. There were no hints of sodomy. In his replies the president was laconic and then, despite his often reiterated policy, in one phase of the long crisis, after a personal interview, Washington overruled the commissioners and supported Ellicott.(65)

In The Philadelphiad, a satire published in 1784, not only do whore houses abound, but the author also finds fops on every street corner. Along the docks two tars give one, Jack Tinsel, who seems freshly minted from a London mollie house, a lesson. They strip him of his finery but do not thrash him as they originally intended. This literary production provides the best indication of existence of sodomy in the early Republic, and tolerance of it, though Tinsel gets lectured on the attributes of manliness. In 1793 there was an account in a New York newspaper about a citizens' patrol finding a Frenchman along the wharves who "appeared to have been much abused, being in a state of insensibility, and having a large cut in his forehead, the blood issuing from his nose, mouth and ears. The patrol suspecting the boatmen, sent for some assistance, and took a number of them together with the unfortunate Frenchman, to the watch-house." In this case the tars may not have been kind to Tinsel. Of course there is no proof that this account has anything to do with sexuality and the supposed late 18th century tolerance for sodomy can remain unchallenged by it.(66)

A reinterpretation of L'Enfant's and Charles Adams's lives to reflect their sexuality as threats that elicited sharp reactions from two president's of the United States does not necessarily challenge the supposition of sexual tolerance. During John Adams's campaign for re-election, his sanity was challenged in a pamphlet by Alexander Hamilton, but there was no mention of his son whether he be a mere drunk, rake or sodomite.(67) Family privacy was respected. L'Enfant continued his career both as a city planner, architect and builder, even on other federal projects, though the deepening world financial crisis enforced a "pimping scale" on most building which defeated his ambitions, just as it kept the federal city project in financial crisis until rescued by hired slaves keeping wages low and federally guaranteed loans.(68) The many other men who idolized Steuben lived successful lives with no known aspersions to their sexuality. To protect personal and national honor, contemporaries made no effort to put pieces together, especially not to impugn Steuben, himself a national hero.(69) One can blink and a Tinsel left bleeding on the docks can remain unseen. But only by looking harder to probe the silences can we test the current take on the history of sexuality. His family's sense of proper filial ambitions defeated Charles Adams's pursuit of happiness. The checks and balances serving patriarchal aggrandizement and control defeated L'Enfant who mistook George Washington for Frederick the Great, the other hero of the age.

I began the process that led to this paper in 1999 by chronicling my progress with a "working paper" on L'Enfant's sexuality making it a link on my webpage on the history of Washington, D.C. Several people e-mailed me expressing disappointment in my efforts; others were more encouraging and I also got an e-mail from a woman claiming to be a descendant of L'Enfant. One student doing her junior thesis on Charles Adams shared her thoughts with me. To place L'Enfant's and Charles Adams's sexuality in context, I also wrote about sex in the 1790s and some of those short essays, especially about Baron von Steuben and William Dunlap's quest to reform American theatre, seemed to attract some interest.

In the fall of 2004 a respected scholar e-mailed me and asked if I would contribute a chapter about L'Enfant's sexuality in a book about same sex relationships in early America that he would edit. I jumped at the chance and a short summary of my chapter was included in the proposal that was accepted by New York University Press and I signed a contract promising to send the editor my chapter by September 1, 2005. I made the deadline and shortly thereafter my chapter was rejected by the editor who solicited it because of "the lack of evidence; not just lack of evidence of same-sex sexual relationships, but evidence of same-sex intense emotional relationships. Although the book will have some broad popular appeal, it is fairly conventional and academic. Unless you are holding back significant passages that reveal more instances of same-sex intimacy, attraction, sexual behavior, etc. there isn't enough here to support your claims." He thought my essay might do, if revamped, for Vanity Fair or the Advocate, but not for a scholarly audience. I found that amusing. The scholarly press only prints the hardcore while the popular press is open to the interpretation of texts!

While I don't agree with his hasty judgment, and realize that many readers of my essay will concur in it, I worry that the editor's stance unfairly protects the now popular thesis that there was tolerance for same sex relationships in the Early Republic and ante-bellum period. The evidence for that is largely negative, e.g. the lack of prosecutions and public scandals. And it is ridiculous to defend that thesis by raising the bar for any evidence that might challenge it. Let us hope the book, when it comes out, will not endorse the pernicious idea that the rhetoric of liberty in the early Republic actually influenced the way people treated each other.


1. Chase, Philander D., The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, University Press of Virginia, 2000, vol. 9, p. 469 (Washington to Jefferson, 18 Jan 1792): The conduct of Majr. L’Enfant and those employed under him, astonishes me beyond measure!—and something more than even appears, must be meant by them—When you are at leisure I should be glad to have a further conversation with you on this subject.—Yrs. sincerely & affectionately, Go: Washington

2. Washington to Stuart, 8 March 1792: (the paragraph from which the quote is taken in bold type)

In a short letter which I wrote to you by the last Post, I promised a lengthy one by the Post of tomorrow;1 but such is my present situation that I must pass by some things & be more concise on others than I intended.

That Mr Johnsons health did not permit him to come to this City as he proposed & was expected, is matter of exceeding great regret,2 as many things relative to the Federal district—the City—and the public buildings might have been more Satisfactorily arranged; and delays avoided; but as there is no contending against acts of Providence we must submit, as it becomes us so to do, and endeavor to recover the time lost, in the best manner we can.

That the Commissioners have had more than a little trouble & vexation with Majr L’Enfant, I can readily conceive (if your representation of the fact had been wanting) from the specimens he has given of his untoward temper since his arrival in this City—And I can as easily conceive that in proportion to the yieldings of the Commissioners his claims would extend. Such upon a nearer view, appears to be the nature of the Man!

Every advantage will be taken of the Majors deriliction. A vigorous counter action therefore is essential. If he does not come forward openly to declare it, his friends and the enemies to the measure, will do it for him, that he found matters we likely to be conducted upon so pimping a s that he would not hazard his character, reputation on the event under the controul he was to be placed. It is even said (but nothing has appeared yet) that he means to publish this to the world. The half friends to the New City (if this is not allowing them more than their due) take to predict that, it now stands in equilibrio. [63] that a feather will turn the Scale either way. If say they the matter is pushed with vigor, and upon a plan commensurate to the design, & the public expectation, the permanent Seat of the Government will be fixed on the Potowmack. On the other hand, if inactivity and contractedness should mark the steps of the Commissioners of that district, whilst action, on the part of this state is displayed in providing commodious buildings for Congress &ca the Government will remain where it now is. That exertions will be made by this State to effect the purpose, there can be no doubt. A late message from the Governor to the Assembly proposing a grant of money for the erection of the house designed for the President is one, among other instances which have occurred.

It would have been very agreeable to me, that you should have shewn the copies of the letters I had written to Major L’Enfant, declaratory of the Subordinate part he was destined to act under the Commissioners. It does not appear to have been so understood by the Proprietors, from the sentiments expressed by Mr Walker (while he was in this City) for when he was told in what explicit language Major L’Enfant was given to understand this, he seemed quite surprised. You did me no more than justice when you supposed me incapable of duplicity in this business—I have had but one idea on the subject from the beginning—nor but one design, and that was to convince the Major of the subordinate part he was destined to act in it—I was obliged, as you have seen, to use stronger & stronger language as I found his repugnance encreased ’till he was told, in even harsh terms, that the Commissioners stood between him and the P——of the U. States and that it was from them that he was to receive directions.

The doubts, and opinion of others with respect to the permanent seat has occasioned in my sentiments on the subject. They have always been, that the plan ought to be prosecuted with all the dispatch the nature of the case will admit—and that the public Buildings in size—form—and elegance shou’d look beyond the present day. I would not have it understood from hence that I lean to extravagance. A chaste plan sufficiently capacious & convenient for a period not too remote, but one to which we may reasonably look forward, would meet my idea in the Capitol. For the Presidents House, I would design a [64] building which should also look forward, but execute no more of it at present than might suit the circumstances of this Country when it shall be first wanted. A Plan comprehending more may be executed at a future period when the wealth, population & importance of it shall stand upon much higher ground than they do at present.

How, and when you will be able to obtain plans of such buildings is with yourselves to decide on. No aid I am persuaded is to be expected from Major L’Enfant in the exhibition—rather, I apprehend, opposition & a reprobation of every one designed by any other however perfect.

The part, which Mr Walker by your letter to me, & another from Mr Johnson to Mr Jefferson, appears to have acted, surprises me exceedingly5—his interest in & the discernment with which he seems to have viewed the measure, in the early stages of it, would have led me to have drawn a different conclusion. The calumnies which seem to have been traced to him and the Major are more to be despised than to be regarded or resented. More than once you will remember I have given it to you as my opinion, that it would be by side blows and indirect attack that attempts would be made to defeat the Law. To sow the Seeds of dissension—jealousy and distrust—are among the means that will be practiced—There is a current in this City which sets so strongly against every thing which relates to the Federal district that it is next to impossible to stem it. To this cause is to be ascribed the backwardness of the engraving. Danger from them is to be apprehended; and, in my opinion, from no other. The best antidote against them is perseverance, & vigorous exertion on the part of the Commissioners; and good temper, and mutual forbearance with one another, on the part of the proprietors; for who are so much interested in the success, & progress of the measure as they?

I see no necessity for diminishing the Square allotted for the Presidents House, &ca at this time. It is easier at all times to retrench, than it is to enlarge a square; and a diviation from the plan in this instance would open the door to other applications, which might perplex, embarrass and delay business exceedingly; and end, more than probably, in violent discontents.

Where you will find a character qualified in all respects for a Superintendant, I know not; none present themselves to my [65] view; yet, one must be had. A better than Mr Ellicott for all matters, at present, cannot be had. No one I presume, can lay out the ground with more accuracy, lay out the squares, and divide them into lots better. He must understand levelling also perfectly, and has, I suppose competent skill in the conducting of water. Beyond these, your opportunities to form an opinion of him must exceed mine. Whether he is a man of arrangement—is sober, & Industrious—are matters unknown to me. I believe he is obliging—and he would be perfectly Subordinate. What he asks, five dollars a day (if sundays are included) seems high, but whether a fit character can be had for less I am unable to say.

The Plan of the City having met universal applause (as far as my information goes)—and Major L’Enfant having become a very discontented man, it was thought that less than from 2500 to 3000 dollars would not be proper to offer him for his services: instead of this, suppose five hundred guineas and a lot in a good part of the City was to be substituted? I think it would be more pleasing, and less expensive.

I have never exchanged a word with Mr Roberdeau since he came to this place, consequently, am unable to relate, what his expressions have been, or what his ideas are; he lives with, and more than probably partakes of the sentiments of Majr L’Enfant; unless the dismission of the latter may have worked a change in them, which, not unlikely, is the case with both; as I can hardly conceive that either of them contemplated the result of their conduct.

Although what I am going to add may be a calumny, it is nevertheless necessary you should be apprised of the report that Colo. Deakins applies the public money in his hands to speculative purposes; and is unable, at times, to answer the call of the workmen, an instance has been given. There are doubts also of the sincerity of Mr Frans Cabot. Of both these matters you are to judge from the evidence before you. I have nothing to charge either with, myself: these hints are disclosed in confidence, to place you on your guard.

The idea of importing Germans and Highlanders, as Artizans and labourers, has been touched upon in the letter from Mr Jefferson to the Commissioners7—It is, in my opinion worthy of serious consideration in an Ĺ“conomical point of view, & because it will contribute to the population of the place. The enclosed [66] extract of a letter from General Lincoln to Mr Lear is sent, that you may see the prospect in that Quarter.8 The General is a candid undesigning man, in whose word much confidence may be placed; and having been in this City, & lately returnd from it, has had opportunities of making the remarks which are contained in the extract.

I began with telling you, that I should not write a lengthy letter, but the result has contradicted it. It is to be considered as a private letter, in answr to yours of the 26th Ulto; but it may under that idea be communicated to your associates in Office—They, & you, must receive it, blotted & scratched as you find it, for I have not time to copy it. It is now ten oclock at night (after my usual hour for retiring to rest) and the mail will be closed early tomorrow morning.9 Sincerely & affectionately I am—Yours

3. McCullough, David, John Adams, New York, 2001, p. 548; Thomas B. Adams to John Quincy Adams, 6 Dec 1800, Adams Family Papers (AFP)

4. Lyons, Clare A., "Mapping an Atlantic Sexual Culture: Homoeroticism in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia," William and Mary Quarterly

5. Godbeer, Richard, Sexual Revolution in Early America. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2002, pp. 299-334; Kann, Mark E., A Republic of Men: The American Founders, Gendered Language, and Patriarchal Politics, New York, 1998.

6. Schieder, Theodor, Frederick the Great, New York, 2000, pp. 19, 29, 34 (Schieder thought Frederick was impotent from an operation to treat venereal disease, pp. 40-1); Steakley, James D. "Sodomy in Enlightenment Prussia: From Execution to Suicide," in Pursuit of Sodomy, Gerard and Hekma, eds., pp 165ff.

7. Palmer, John M. General Von Steuben. Port Washington, NY, 1937, pp. 92-3. The German scholar Ebeling corresponded with men in New York City during the 1790s.

8. Griswold, Rufus Wilmot. The Republican Court, or American Society in the Days of Washington. New York, 1971 reprint of 1855 edition, p. 139. Actually the regiment of giants was created by Frederick's father.

9. Palmer, pp 165ff

10. on room for North see Von Zemenszky, Edith, The Papers of General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben 1777-1794, Millwood NY, 1982, Account with -------, reel 6, frame .

11. Palmer.pp. 309, 341, 344-5, 356, 369ff; Steuben to North, 15 Nov. 1786.

12. L'Enfant to Steuben, 24 Dec. 1779 in Caemmerer, H. Paul, The Life of Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Washington 1950, p. 421.

13. Charles Adams to John Quincy Adams, 31 Jan 1793, AFP.

14. Kapp, Friedrich. The Life of Frederick William von Steuben, New York 1859, p. 702.

15. Ibid. pp. 700-1.

16. Charles Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 Sept 1794, AFP.

17. Palmer p. 389

18. John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 Dec 1794, AFP.

19. Freeman, Joanne B., Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic, New Haven, 2001, p. xvi.

20. John Adams to Abigail Adams, Oct. 12. 1799, AFP.

21. Smith, Page, John Adams, New York, 1962, p. 988; Abigail Adams to John Q. Adams, 2 Dec. 1798, AFP.

22. Stansell, Christine, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York 1789-1860, New York, 1986, p. 23.

23. II Samuel 15; On Adams's love of Dryden see, John Adams to Abigail, 27 Feb 1783, AFP.

24. Smith p. 668.

25. McCullough, pp. 263, 411, 457-8; Charles Adams to John Adams, 12 March 1794, AFP.

26. Palmer, pp. 334, 400.

27. Cronin, James E., The Diary of Elihu Hubbard Smith, Philadelphia, 1973, pp. 15, 72, 124, 138, 54.

28. Ibid, pp. 16, 92

29. On his taking intimacy too far see Smith to Mason Cogswell, 9 Nov. 1792, Yale U., Beinecke Library; in his diary Smith describes being assaulted twice on the street, and blamed the elegance of his attire for one assault, and after the novelist Charles Brockden Brown, in lieu of Smith's long time roommate, spent the night with Smith, he was evicted from his flat, see Cronin pp. 296-300; on their atheism see Steuben to North, 15 Nov. 1786, & Cronin p. 9;.Gelles, Edith B., Portia: The World of Abigail Adams, Bloomington, 1992, pp. 136ff.

30. E.g. Cronin p. 405; Abigail Adams, who visited in May 1797, found them living "prettily but frugally." Mitchell, Stewart, New Letters of Abigail Adams, 1788-1801, Boston, 1947, p. 89

31. Charles Adams to John Adams, 6 Dec 1793 & 19 Dec 1793, AFP

32. Charles Adams to John Adams, 31 Jan 1799, AFP

33. Cronin, p. 271.

34. Abigail Adams to John Adams, XX May, 1800, AFP; Mitchell, p. 255.

35. Abigail Adams to J. Q. Adams, 29 Jan. 1801, AFP; Mitchell, pp. 211-13

36. Adams, John "Thoughts on Government," in Adams, Charles F., The Works of John Adams, Boston, 1851, vol. iv, p 199.

37. McCullough, pp. 407-8.

38. Brown, Thaddeus, Address in Christian Love to the Inhabitants of Philadelphia on the Awful Dispensation of the Yellow Fever in 1798, Philadelphia, 1798, p. 32; Abigail Adams to William Shaw, 2 Feb. 1799, Adams Family Papers.

39. On Abigail's brother William Smith see Levin, Phyllis Lee, Abigail Adams, New York 1987, p. 212

40. Caemmemer, p. 409

41. Account dated 1804 in Digges-L'Enfant-Morgan Papers, Library of Congress Manuscript Division; on L'Enfant's military coat see Bowling, Kenneth R., Peter Charles L'Enfant: Vision, Honor, and Male Friendship in the Early American Republic, p. 63; on Frederick and Steuben see Steuben to North, 15 Nov 1786, and Palmer p. 403.

42. Bowling, pp 42-44.

43. Robert Morris to L'Enfant, 3 Oct. 1793, Gratz Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

44. Account; on his daughter I received a personal communication from a supposed L'Enfant descendent who wished to remain anonymous & see Bowling, p. 51, who also discussed the claim with the correspondent.

45. John Trumbull to L'Enfant, 9 Mar 1795, Trumbull Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

46. See Caemmemer pp. 25-117; Bowling, pp. 4-20.

47. Chase, vol. IX, pp 219-20.

48. Green, Constance McLaughlin, Washington: A History of the Capital. Princeton, 1962, p. 19. For a more sympathetic view of L'Enfant's work on the project see Arnebeck, Bob, Through a Fiery Trial: Building Washington 1790-1800, Lanham, 1991, pp. 62-102. I did not address the issue of L'Enfant's sexuality in my book.

49. Chase, p. 103 (Commissioners to Washington 21 Oct. 1793); Arnebeck, p. 88.

50. White, Leonard D., The Federalists: A Study in Administrative History, New York, 1948, pp. 258-9, 284-6.

51. Chase, vol. IX, p. 210 (Washington to Stuart, 20 Nov 1791.)(the paragraph from which the quote is taken in bold type):

I had heard before the receipt of your letter of the 29th of October—and with a degree of surprize & concern not easy to be expressed—that Majr L’Enfant had refused the Map of the [210] Federal City when it was requested by the Commissioners for the satisfaction of the purchasers at Sale. It is much to be regretted—however common the case is—that men who possess talents which fit them for peculiar purposes should almost invariably be under the influence of untoward dispositions—or are sottish idle—or possessed of some other disqualification by which they plague all those with whom they are concerned. But I did not expect to have met with such perverseness in Major L’Enfant as his late conduct exhibited.

Since my first knowledge of this Gentleman’s abilities in the line of his profession, I have viewed him not only as a scientific man but one who added considerable taste to professional knowledge; and that, for such employment as he is now engaged in; for projecting public works; & carrying them into effect he was better qualified than any one who had come within my knowledge in this Country, or indeed in any other the probability of obtaining whom could be counted upon. I had no doubt, at the same time, that this was the light in which he considered himself; and of course that he would be so tenacious of his plans as to conceive they would be marred if they underwent any change or alteration; but I did not suppose that he wd have interfered further in the mode of selling the lots, than by giving an opinion with his reasons in support of it: & this perhaps it might be well always to hear, as the latter would stamp the propriety, or shew the futility of it. To advise this, I am the more inclined, as I am persuaded that all those who have any Agency in the business have the same objects in view, although they may differ in sentiment with respect to the mode of execution; because, from a source even less productive than L’Enfants, may flow ideas that are capable of improvement; and because I have heard that Ellicot, who is also a man of uncommon talents in his way, and of a more placid temper, has intimated that no information had been required either from him, or L’Enfant on some point or points (I do not now particularly recollect what) which they thought themselves competent to give.

I have no other motive for mentioning the latter circumstance than merely to shew that the feelings of such Men are always alive—and, where there assistance is essential; that it is policy to humour them or to put on the appearance of doing it. I have, however, since I have come to the knowledge of Majr L’Enfants [211] refusal of the Map, at the Sale, given him to understd through a direct channel, though not an official one, as yet (further than what casually passed between us, previous to the Sale, at Mount Vernon[)], that he must, in future, look to the Commissioners for directions. That, having laid the foundation of this grand design, the Superstructure depended upon them. That I was perfectly satisfied his plans and opinions would have due weight, if properly offered and explained. That if the choice of Commissioners was again to be made I could not please myself better, or hit upon those who had the measure more at heart, or better disposed to accomodate the various interests—and persons concerned; and that it would give me great concern to see a goodly prospect clouded by impediments which might be thrown in the way, or injured by disagreements which would only serve to keep alive the hopes of those who are enemies to the Plan. But, that you may not infer from hence he has expressed any dissatisfaction at the conduct of the Commissioners, towards him, it is an act of justice I should declare that, I never have heard—directly nor indirectly—that he has expressed any. His pertinacity would, I am persuaded, be the same in all cases, & to all men. He conceives, or would have others believe, that the Sale was promoted by with-holding the general map, & thereby, the means of comparison; but I have caused it to be signified to him, that I am of a different opinion; & that it is much easier to impede, than to force a Sale, as none who knew what they were about would be induced to buy—to borrow an old adage “A Pig in a Poke.”

There has been something very unaccountable in the conduct of the Engraver, yet I cannot be of opinion the delays were occasioned by L’ Enfant. As soon, however, as a correct draught of the City is prepared, the same, or some other person shall be pressed to the execution. I say a correct draught, because I have understood that Mr Ellicot has given it as his opinion it was lucky that Engravings did not come out from the first Plan, inasmuch as they would not have been so perfectly exact as to have justified a Sale by them.

It is of great importance, in my opinion, that the City should be laid out in to squares and lots with all the dispatch that the nature & accuracy of the Work will admit. And it is the opinion of intelligent & well informed men—now in this City—who are friends to the measure, that for this purpose, & to accomodate [212] the two great Interests of George Town & Carrollsburg, it would be advisable, rather than delay another public Sale until the whole can be compleated, to lay all the ground into squares which shall be West of the Avenue leading from George Town to the Presidents House—thence by the Avenue to the House for Congress—& thence by a proper Avenue (I have not the Plan by me to say which) to the Eastern Branch; comprehending the range of Squares next to, & binding on the said Avenues on the East side; And to appoint as early a day for the Sale as a moral certainty of their completion will warrant.

When I speak of the importance of dispatch, it does not proceed from any doubt I harbour, that the enemies to the measure can shake the establishment of it; for it is with pleasure I add as my opinion—that the Roots of the permanent Seat are penetrating deep, & spreading far & wide—The Eastern States are not only getting more & more reconciled to the measure, but are beginning to view it in a more advantageous light as it respects their policy and interests; and some members from that quarter who were its bitterest foes while the question was pending in Congress, have now declared in unequivocal terms to various people, and at various times, that if attempts should be made to repeal the Law they would give it every opposition in their power. These sentiments of the Eastern people being pretty well known, will, I am persuaded, arrest the design, if a repeal had been contemplated; but it will not prevent those who are irreconcilable, from aiming all the side blows in their power at it: and the rumours which were spread at the Sale, that Congress never wd reside there, is one of the expedients that will be exerted in all its force, with a view to discourage the Sales of the Lots, & the buildings thereon, that the accomodations may be unfit for the Government when the period shall arrive that the removal is to take place.

When I see Major L’Enfant (who it is said will shortly be here) I shall endeavr to bring him to some explanation of the terms on which he will serve the public—and will also impress upon him the necessity of dispatch, that as early a Sale as circumstances will admit, may ensue. When I began this letter, and until I had got to the present stage of it, it was intended as an answer to yours of the 29th of October; but on a reperusal of that of the 21st of the said month [213] from the Commissioners, I find it will serve as an answer to both; and, as it is of an enormous length, & my head & hands during the Session of Congress are fully employed, I pray you at the first meeting of the Commissioners to lay these sentiments before them for their private information.

I forward the enclosed, as I did a former communication from the same person, that the Commissioners may be apprised of the circumstances attending the Land which is the subject of the letter. No acknowledgment of this, or the former, has been made by me. With very great esteem & regard I am Dear Sir Your Most Obedt & Affecte Humble Servant

52. Chase, vol. IX, p. 293 (Washington to the Commissioners 18 Dec. 1791.)(the paragraph from which the quote is taken in bold type):

It gave me much pleasure to find by a late letter of yours to Mr Jefferson, that the dispute between Major L’Enfant & [293] Mr Carroll of Duddington is likely to terminate more favorably than might have been expected from the nature of it; and that you are disposed to take no further notice of his late unjustifiable proceedings.

You will perceive by the enclosed copy of a letter which I have just written to him, that I have placed it beyond a doubt (if he had any before, from an opinion that the Commissioners were appointed for one purpose, & himself for another, and that they were to act independent of each other) that his powers, and his Instructions, are to flow from you.

His aim is obvious. It is to have as much scope as possible for the display of his talents, perhaps for his ambition. A copy of his letter of the 7th instant herewith sent, not only evinces this, but shews the extent to which he wishes to carry it. If, however, he will bear the curb which is put upon him by the letter, of which you have the copy (and which will admit of no misinterpretation) I submit to your consideration whether it might not be politic to give him pretty general, and ample powers for defined objects until you shall discover in him a disposition to abuse them. His pride would be gratified, and his ambition excited by such a mark of your confidence. If for want of these, or from any other cause he should take miff and leave the business, I have no scruple in declaring to you (though I do not want him to know it) that I know not where another is to be found, who could supply his place.

His conduct, in the dispute with Mr Carroll of Duddington, I will readily acknowledge is no inducement to entrust him with extensive powers; because, after your interference, his proceeding was unwarrantable and previous to it (in the last act) it was imprudent. Having said this, I must go further and declare, that under the statement I received of this matter when I was at George-town (not only from Majr L’Enfant but from another on whom I could depend) I think Mr Carroll of Duddington is equally to blame. and without entering far into the detail of the dispute between these two Gentlemn, the following will comprise, & in my opinion, be a solution of the motives, which influenced the former.

The work of Major L’Enfant (wch is greatly admired) will shew that he had many objects to attend to and to combine; not on paper merely, but to make them corrispond with the actual circumstances of the ground. This required more time than the [294] patience—perhaps the convenience of Mr Carroll would admit; and therefore, notwithstanding the assurances of the other that he was using all the dispatch in his power to ascertain the principal Streets & objects, and that he Mr Carroll should not suffer by the delay, the latter proceeded, after waiting a while, to the completion of his buildings. This excited resentment in L’Enfant; and, more than probably, gave birth to expressions which begat mutual warmth; and conceiving (without adverting to, or perhaps even knowing the formalities which are required by our laws) that by the Deeds of cession, houses, and every other impediment which might happen to stand in the way, was to be removed (paying the value thereof)—he took the determination to demolish, without further ceremony, the house of Mr Car[rol]l; & having proceeded to the execution, his pride (however false) would not permit him to recede. This, in my opinion, is a true state of the case; to which, a reserve, and an unwillingness to answer enquiries respecting his plan, has given disgust. But how far a compliance on his part in an unfinished stage of the wk would have been consistent with his duty, is a matter worthy of consideration. If this reserve &c. proceeded from self importance & the insolence of Office, the motives were unworthy. If from a conviction of the impropriety of developing his designs to the public before they were matured, and approved, they were good; at any rate not condemnable.

These sentiments being the result of my reflections upon this subject, I communicate them for your private information; and for that reason request that this letter may not be mixed with other papers that respect your public transactions. An imprudent use made of them, might sow the seeds of discord, whilst reconciliation ought to be promoted, and discontents of every sort ought to be buried, by all those who have any concern, or interest in the business. With much esteem & regard I am

53. Ibid. pp. 439-47, (L'Enfant to Washington, 19 Aug 1791; Boyd, Julian, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Princeton, 1990, vol. 23, pp. 194-5, Agenda for Commissioners of the Federal District 5 Mar 1792.

L'Enfant letter: The heigest of my embition Gratified in having met with your approbation in the project of the Plan which I have now the Honor of presenting to you altered agreeable to your direction, Steel leaving me some thing to wish for until I see the execution of that plan effected to the full attainement of your object.

I shall here beg the permission of fixing for a moment your attention on matter which I conceive of most Importance to the advancement of the business. The Inspection of the anexced map of doted lines being sufficiently [440] explanatory of the progress made in the work will I hope leave you satisfied how much more has been done than may have been expected from hands less desirous of meriting your applause and I shall confire on this subject with express the obligation I feel to be under for the frindly assistance given me by Mr Ellicott—& to request if circumstances may admit of a delay in the procecution of business he his charged with on the frontier of Georgia that his going there be differed until the latter end of november next, his assistance till then being most Indispensable to compleat the work begone as is necessary to have a number of lots for Houses measured and marked before the time when the first sale is Intended.

this business has proved more tedious than at first considered owing to the multiplicity of operations Indispensable to determine the accute angles & intersect lines with exactness on points given at great distances in which process much difficulties was encountered on account of the great encumbering of timber cut down in every direction, the which the proprietor are avare to preserve and unwilling to remove and most consequently Increase obstacles in the way to a degree as I am well convinced will in the end cause me the regret of falling much short from what I proposed and what is indeed most essentiel to performe previous a sale take place. brought to the point as matter do now stand enough is done to satisfy every one of an Eanerstedness in the process of execution—and the spots assigned for the Federal House & for the President palace in exibiting the most sumpteous aspect and claiming already the suffrage of a croid of daily visitor both natives & foreigners will serve to give a grand Idea of the whole, but nevertheless it is to be wished more may be done to favour a sale—this being to serve very little towards evidencing the beauties of localfe] reserved for privat setlements all being absolutly lost in the chaos of pulled timber without possibility to juge of the advantages of relative convenincy much less of agreement, to be derived from Improvements Intended in a surrounding local[e] of which but few can form an Idea iven after Inspecting a map. the grand avenu connecting both the palace & the federal House will be most magnificent and most convenient—the streets runing west of the upper squar of the federal House and [441] which terminate in an easy slope on the canal through the tiber which it will over look for the space of above tow mile will be beautifull above what may be Imagined— those other streets parallel to that canal, those crossing over it and which are at many avenus to the grand walk from the water cascade under the federal House to the president park and dependincy extending to the ban of the potomac, and also the severals squar or area such as are Intended for the Judiciary court—the national bank—the grand church—the play House, market & exchange—all through will offer a variety of situations unparalleled in point of beauties—suitable to every purpose and in every point convenient both are devised for the first ofset of the city and combined to command the height price in a sale. but as I observed before these advantages lost in the present encumbering of the local and not being possible to be made perceptible within the short period left—A sale at a moment so premature will not bring the ten part of what it will at some more suitable season after a rough-hewn of the proposed Improvements may help to the better appreciating the merits of situation.

besides a sale made previous the general plan of distribution of the city is made publique and befor the circumstance of that sale taking place has had time to be know through the whole continent, will not call a sufficient concurence and most be confined to few individuals speculating wanting means or inclination to Improve and the consequence of a low sale in this first Instance may prove Injurious to the subsequent ones by serving as precedents to under valu the remaining lots at so much less in proportion to the lessening of advantage of situation—on an other part I apprehend the under saling of lots far from prompting a speedy settlement and as many people argue of gaining frind to the Establishment in Inducing Influencial men in those states as may continue opposed to it to become Interested in the succes—will rather disgrace the whole business.

it will I am convinced favour schems already encouraged in consequence of the mediocrity of the deposit required—it will favour the ploting of a number of designing men whom In Georgetown in particular are more active than ever and use of every means to set themselves in a situation to cross the opperation of the plan adopted—and whom in concert with society [442] forming in baltimor and in other places unfrindly promise to engross the most of the sale and master the whole business. with these apprehension and seeing on an other part nothing to be gained from a sale which at best if taking place this season will only be making the transfer of a most valuable property in to the hand of speculator without a prospect even of deriving from it a mean for to engage with any security in the Intended work to whose first demand a Fund resting on the produce of a deposit most prove inadequate.

I conceive the postponing of that Sale a measure which will be both expedient and advantageous to the business—as it is constant but people realy Inclined to purchase and earnestly disposed to erect Houses will not be on this account dissuaded from their coming on the spot tho’ for the Instant disappoint in the object giving them a better Idea of the local[e] woud I presum rather serve to prompt them to greater Exertion and the Idea which they will carry back most greatly serve to Influence other to come and to Increase a competition for lots at the time when the sale may be put off.

this measure in some respect forced by circumstances may I presum take place consistantly by alleging the fact of an Impossibility of having matter ready for it—owing to the necessity of taking the previous and necessary steps of making an Equal division of property betwixt the Individual owner and the publique.

The Impossibility of doing this will not only result from the difficulties encontered in the mesuration of lots but will most evidently from a circumstance not yet mentioned of the proprieter of territory having not returned the survey of ther possession as was repeatedly required of them and which they declined to do until disputs arrosed amongst them respecting to boundary are setled. this not likely to be so soon done most preclud for some time From making the necessary division of property and will prevent the devising of a mode to effect that of those lots which will be found laid across the lines of tow or three different territory which most be frequent on account of the bifarous way the whole property is Intermingled.

Convinced no time will be found lost for to procure the necessary accomodation for congress my Intimacy with plans already forming relating to Establishment on the Eastern branch—on the proposed canal and in various other parts made me not [443] Esitate in ascerting that settlements will soon be spread through—provided a due attention is given to the carrying on & speedily in every part those Improvements as are combined for the convenance and agreableness of the most distant situation as they are meant to had to the sumptousness of the more centrals, when I observe—provided a due attention is given it is becaus notwithstanding I Indulge the Idea of seeing soon the progress of the Establishment become the wonder of all, I am sensible of the consequences of a its progress may receive and am well persuaded that Individuals exertions will wait the signal and model thier process on the sperit with the which the publick business shall be conducted.

it being therefore essential to be begin well and with an assurance of continuing with a progressive degree of activity to the end—considering that a relaxation of motion would greatly more Injure the business than will a delay in mouving I to this effect—under the Head of publick Exertions conceive it Important not to confine the Idea to the erecting of a congress House & a presidial palace other exertions being necessary to prompt and encourage private undertaking.

them alone can form the establishment enswerable to its objects, and to rise the city a city in fact it is Indispensable to consider Every of the Improvements proposed in the plan as being part most essential to the framing of the principal and how ever differential & unconected as they may appear to effect them at a same time and with a proportional degree of dispatch.

it is most Essential to push with the utmost activity Every Improvement as may serve to marcantile Interest. the canal through the tiber a cross to the eastern branch were an aditional branch of it is marked in the plan, is of absolut necessity to determine and Insure a speedy settlement in that part were it is most desirable to help the conveying of material to the tow grand Edifice.

the making of the publick walk from under the federal House as far as it is carried on the potomac and connected with the palace is an objet which so ever trivial as it may appear to the ayes of many will be productive of as much advantage as the first mentioned objects in giving to the city as its first offset a superiority of agrents over most of the city of the world as it will gaine one over them all in point of convenience of distribution [444] after bringing the various Squar or area to thier Intended Shape and giving aregular and well combined slop to and leveling every grand avenu and principals streets—begining with the most transversal and were settlements are most essential—not however ending them were house end but Indescriminatly Extending those Improvements all over accellerating them on those parts the less attractive to prompt seltements thereon. no need being of hastening to encourage them on more advantageous situation the which it may be well to preserve until the great rise of thier value make it worth the sacrifice.

these Idea already held to your consideration and the which met your approval at the first begining of the business—having directed my attention in devising a plan of distribution of local[e] as I conceived to be the best calculated to this effect, made me consider an appropriation of the several squar as proposed in the plan to be alloted to each of the Individual states as also the making of a free donation to Every particular religious society of a ground for House of worship a mode from which Infinit advantages most result. each of those Establishments tho’ probably small at first being Equally distenced and near situated will by a gradual accroissement soon connect and will from their begining forme a chaine of Improvements round the principal part of the city which will extand by a scatering of settlements all along of those transversal and divergent avenues were none of them will be lost nor will be to distant from the federal House or the president palace.

Betwixt these tow Edifices in the streets from the grand avenu to the palace toward the canal there will be a proper stand for shop—for mechanique and every people in various business, and the stimulate to builth houses in those part being so great it is not to be doubted but they will be erected contigeous to each other and in a short time will increase to a number sufficient to afford a convenience in the Intercourse of business and to procur proper accomodation to congress member and every officers & other people attach to the Executive. a marche so wholy different from the ordinary way of forming a town it is presumable will meet with oposer and be much objected by people who will compute the accroissement of towns existing and draw Inference from them in concluding aginst the plan I propose.

it will also, as far as, it may affect speculation on publick property [445] incite many to disclaime against, but upon the whole every objection as may tend to a contraction of the operation of the sisteme most likly to arrise from people Interested in lowering the value of property or perhaps from motives whose good Intent to the whole business may be questioned, I am in hope people actuated from more Independant principle will consider and that how ever prejudice may blind them on the advantages while they enumerate the Inconveniency in this Idea likly to result from the process—they will own that a succes in the attainement of the end the sisteme is combined to promote would be most prosperous—and confident in that succes I Feel the more encouraged to submit my Idea there on to your jugement.

as to the question of what are the means necessary and how to procure them I will observe that those means most be extensive proportioned to the magnitude of the undertaking, and that so ever large as I conceive they ought to be I consider the property at your disposal fully proportionated to the object if attention is given in managing it. 15.000 lots will fall in the share of the publick as half of the property left for Improvements after deduction made of streets and of ground appropriated to publick purposes—these lots will be of various sise from 66 feet to <57>. in Fronts and from four to seven in an acre— the sum that will arise from the sale most be immense but as I observed it will only be so if cautiously menaged—for notwithstanding the amount of them lots most be Enormous I fear that under this Idea and when undervaluing the magnitude of the work proposed or not being well convinced of the Importance of having the Improvements carried on on the liberal scale I propose it may induce to a prodigality of those means in saling on low termes the most valuable part of lots a circumstance which in my opinion prove as destructive to the attainement of the grand object as would a contraction of measure determined after a timorous survey of the mass of the undertaking the which in offering a labryinth of difficulties would soon magnify them to a deffidence of power to surmount.

therefor it is of Importance the whole matter should be contemplated cooly and that so ever short of the time left to effect it may appear not be hurry’d in to process nor to engage in it but after having secured effectual mean to supply the daily Expendit those means at your disposal I said were proportionated to the [446] object and I considere them so if other means are first exerted to rise the property to tis proper valu.

for to look upon that property at this moment as a mean of supply and to use of this mean to deffray the first expenditure of the begining of the work would indeed be to expunge all resource befor the moment is come for availling of them. be cause admiting the disadvantageous terms of the sale is advertised as may be altered and iven supposing the sale to be productive from the begining the produce most be various and a fund mearly depending on it will never Insure a timely Supply to daily Expenditure a circumstance which would necessitate a frequent change in the mode of conducting matter, would delay the progress of works begon consequently occasion a loss and a misapplication of means and of time which in the course of every grand undertaking but most unavoidably in one of the magnitude of that under consideration would work a dissipation of every means to an absolut disappointment in the object to obtain.

from these consideration a better security of funds being necessary to combine a plan of operation the good of which can only be Insured aided by punctual payements and regular and plentifull supply of Materials it will expedient first to devise the necessary means considering that Economie in a poursuit of this nature lay in being aided with numerous hands with a power of pouring means there were they may accelerat the leveling of difficulties frequent to enconter.

viewing matter in this light and being convinced money is the principal wheel to give and continu the motion to the machine left to organise I shall make it the oject of this adress to call your attention on the advantages which may be expected from borowing a sum on the credit of the property it self.

under the facility of a loan no hurry being to dispose of the lots since a possibility may be for the publick to erect houses for privat accomodation which would be a measure but expedient and beneficial—it will become possible to appropriate a sum to each particular object to performe and to carry on regularly and at a same time Every of those object, forwording them yearly in proportion to the money alloted for them respectivly.

in that way every Improvement may be easily compleated and without being restrained by little saving consideration they may [447] be carried through the whole city Indescriminatly aiding and assisting every privat undertaking were a reciprocity of benefit may ensu—a mode of process which I may venture to assert would in the end bring three to one for the money they liberally expended and which emply repaying for a loan on what ever termes it might be obtained would be rising the reputation of the undertaking to a degree of splendour and greatness unprecedented contribut most effectually to the increase of populat to the accroissement of commerce and would in a short time rise the City one of the first the world will contain.

it is in this manner and in this manner only I conceive the business may be conducted to a certainty of the attainement of that succes I wished to promot in the deliniation of a plan wholy new, and which combined on a grand scale will require Exertions above what is the idea of many but the which not being beyond your power to procur made me the securing of them as I remain assured you will conceive it essential to pursu with dignity the operation of an undertaking of a magnitude so worthy of the of grand Empire in the compleat achevement of the which the Honor of this is become so eminently concern and over whose progress the ayes of every other nation envying the opportunity deny’d them will stand juge. I have the Honor to be with respect & submission your most ob & most Humble obedient servant

54. Johnson profited from his position by selling his own land up river for a good price to a speculator who was allowed to buy city lots at a very low price. Arnebeck, Bob, "Tracking the Speculators," Washington History 3 no. 2, 1991, pp. 112-125.

55. Boyd, vol. 23, p. 244 (Walker to Jefferson, 9 Mar. 1792.)

56. Valentine Boraff to L'Enfant, Jan. 1792, L'Enfant Papers.

57. Boyd, vol. 23, p. 151 (L'Enfant to Jefferson, 26 Feb. 1792): I received your favour of the 22nd Instant. The sentiments as therein expressed I have attentively considered, nor can I discover any Idea calculated to accommodate those dissentions which so unfortunately have invaded the Interests of the Federal City. I am well aware sir that the Season for preparing for the operations of the ensuing Summer, if any are intended has far advanced, indeed the time in which I conceive they ought to have been in readiness, past. You well Know my wished for arrangments tended in a great Measure to that object, consequently the fault cannot be mine, as my every exertion to accomplish it, was impeded by the Commissioners; The Circumstances attending these inconveniences, have afforded me much anxiety, solicitous as I always have been for the interest of that City. At the Same time I acknowledge that I am not a little Surprized to find that a doubt has arisen in the Mind of yourself or the President of the uncertainty of my wishes to continue my Services There. The Motives by which I have been actuated, during the time I have been engaged in it, the continual exertions I have made in its promotion the arrangment for this purpose which I lately handed to the president indeed every Step I have taken, cannot but evince most Strongly how solicitously concerned I am in the Success of it, and with what regret I should relinquish it.

My desires to conform to the Judgment and Wishes of the president, have really been ardent, and I trust my Actions have always manifested those desires most incontrovertably, nor am I conscious in a Single instance to have had any other Motive than an implicit conformity to his Will. Under these impressions at the most early period of the Work, no attention or politeness as a Gentleman has been wanting in me to attain the Confidence and secure the Friendship of the Commissioners,—I courted it—I sincerely wished it, knowing that without a perfect good understanding between them, and myself, whatever exertions I should make would prove fruitless, and embracing in my mind the immensity of the Business to be undertaken, evinced to me the necessity that I should be disengaged from every Concern, and be devoted wholly to forming and carrying into execution a plan in which I promised myself every Support from them, trusting they felt a similar interest in the propriety and Success of the Undertaking, and that they would therefore freely have relied upon me in all Matters relating to my professional Character, and requested from me all the information and assistance in my power to aid them in the performance of their share of the Business, which in Men so little versed in the Minutiae of such operations would have been judicious and might in propriety have been done, without descending from that pride of office which I am mortified to be obliged to say it has been their chief object to gratify, seeing that supercilious Conduct, and haughty Superiority which it is well known they soon assumed toward me forced me no longer to act, but in Defiance of them. This indeed has afforded me in an especial Manner much Concern Knowing that the President had always entertained a different opinion of their dispositions, and delicately situated as I was, put it out of my power to assure him that his expectations of these Gentlemen adhering to their protestations to him as they respected his repeated injunctions to them, to acquisce in an support every measure I might suggest or pursue, consistent to a true sense of what was proper and just, were erroneous, as on the contrary though apparently acknowledging themselves obliged to me for affording necessary information, on receiving it have uniformly acted in opposition thereto in every instance, and appear rather to have endeavored to obtain that Knowledge from me the more effectually to defeat my intentions—being too well convinced, after the repeated trials I have made that the temper of the Commissioners individually, will ever in spite of all arrangment that can be made (under the present circumstance of the Law, induce them to oppose me merely to teize and torment, their vanity becoming daily most evidently incited to this, justifies every apprehension of the Contest being renewed with acrimony, and assures me that the inquietude I feel must continue to the end to impede the Business, which will oblige me to renounce the pursuit of that fame, which the Success of the undertaking must procure, rather than engage to conduct it under a System which would I am fully Satisfied not only crush its growth, but make me appear the principal cause in the destruction of it.

It was not my view in this address to question the Discretion, good sence or Zeal of the Commissioners. Of the Extent of the Former as they respect a competent Knowledge of the duties incumbent upon them, as well as the activity and ardour, with which these duties have been performed; the President as well as yourself upon an impartial review of their proceedings must surely be quite sensible. Of that unbiassed Zeal on which you seem to place confidence, I only observe, that if it is, or ever has been great, the Methods, they have from time to time taken to testify it, are strange ones, and such as few zealous persons in any cause, impressed with a due Sence of their duty have ever pursued: seeing however there is much Stress laid upon the propriety of their Conduct, and the Motives by which this Conduct has been inspired, lays me under the necessity in justification of my own feelings to enumerate some instances that occurred in the Course of the Work in which they have in my opinion been rather deficient, and such as the President himself will recollect.—In the First instance then you must remember what difficulties were encountered to obtain ground proportional to the plan then under Consideration of the President and how greatly these difficulties were augmented by the non-concurrence of the Commissioners in any Step I had taken to that effect—also the unwearied efforts made by them to cause some alteration in the plan since approved by him, all which evinces in them a greater concern to favour individual Interest, than attention to secure the public good. This disposition has been particularly manifested in the Business of the Boundary line of the City which they ordered to be run contrary to all reason, and before the President himself had determined upon the extent of that line, for which he waited the result of operations I was then engaged in. They even endeavoured to conceal from me this Measure, directing Mr. Ellicott to proceed according to their own Ideas: the Consequence of this imprudent act was a general opposition to deed the land granted the public, every individual justly conceiving they had as much right to partiality as Mr. Notley Young, whose interest it seemed to be the sole object of the Commissioners thereby to benefit. The difference with Mr. Stoddert originated from this Source alone, by leaving out of that line his Spring, which it was intended to include, and became a forcible argument to that Gentleman to obtain his Wish, to the evident disfiguration of the plan—when afterward anxiously desirous to afford immediate advantage to the City by giving to the George town people [153] every incitement to extend their improvements across Rock-Creek I after much persuasion actually prevailed upon Mr. Robert Peter to commence with the Public, by wharfing that part of the Harbour belonging to him, and doubtless would have induced him to undertake the whole work, upon terms advantageous to the public: this Idea the Commissioners rejected and that without enquiring into the propriety of the Measure, conceiving that such improvement would be destructive or injurious to the Carrollsburg interest, which in fact it would evidently have promoted, the intent being to have given a Start to Water Street, leading round the point across Funks Town, to the grand Canal—This object of the Canal which seemed at first to have met their Concurrence, they prevented from being began as it ought to have been the last Season, disregardless of the Benefit that would ensue to the City, in an easy transportation to the various parts of it, and inattentive to every weighty argument to forward that object, under the influence, and intimidated now, by the George town opposition to that Measure, as injurious to the rapid improvement of that place. Thus wavering between the discordent Interests of Carrollsburg, and George town it cannot be wondered at that my attempts for the advancement of the general Good failed with them. They had opposed, as I before observed the proposal which Mr. Peter at my desire intimated in a letter to the President, and which consequently fell through. Not discouraged however by this, I was induced to make another attempt to obtain a Bridge across Rock Creek. The Commissioners again not only slighted this design, but actually encouraged an opposition to it; finally I ventured to propose terms by which a Certain quantity of Ground in george town was ceded for this purpose to me in behalf of the public on the 12th of October last, and upon the same terms that the proprietors in the City had deeded their lands. Constantly misled by the allurement of parties, or through jealousy of all Measures not originating with them, with a temperament little adicted to Business they could in no instance do any thing advancive to the real Interest of the Establishment always mistaking the jarring Concern of party to the Interest of the Whole, involving themselves in Contention and disputes, so incompatible to the Interest of the Main object. If conscious of their own inability, they rested upon the judgment and exertions of others, they at the same time appeared determined to check and oppose every Measure, the Success of which could reflect no honour upon themselves—and in their endeavours to this effected so far as to create dissention with the Principals concerned in the execution, and encourage Mutiny among the people.

Admitting however their Confined Ideas of the extensive work on hand to be a Kind of an apology for the injudicious Manner in which the Business as hitherto Stated has been conducted, yet are there some Circumstances to be considered, that I conceive would fall more immediately under their Notice than an interference in my professional Concerns and which will evince most clearly how wonderfully deficient they have been in the prosecution of every part of their duty—such as Contracts, supplies of provisions &ca. and the arrangment of the Finances.—With respect to the former, the agreement with Mr. Fendall for rough Stone, and the Contract for Pitch pine Logs, upon an investigation of these the only ones that I believe have been made, you will find that in one instance they gave no public notice of their intention, and privately closed the Contract, allowing a greater price far, than what was afterward offered by others to furnish it for. In the Contract for logs it is well Known they not only neglected in the advertisement to specify a time to close all proposals, but actually gave considerably more, than they could have been supplied at according to proposal by a letter I handed to them. In another Instance Mr. Notley Young was directed to erect Barracks, without any agreement as to the expence attending them, the amount of course amounted to almost twice the Sum, for which with the hands then in employment we could have built them. Those now about to be erected by their order will cost £7.10 which is still more extravagant, and by what I of late understand are to be placed in a Situation, from which there will be an immediate necessity to remove them. Their inattention to a regular and Ĺ“conomical Method to obtain the necessary Supplies, and the uncertain Mode of procuring Money, which with a little attention they might easily have obviated, are facts so evident as to need no Comment.

The only purchase of any Magnitude was that of the Stone Quarry. For full information of the Manner in which this Business was conducted, I refer you to the enclosed letter, that I wrote to Mr. Brent upon particular application from his Brother here, a Copy of which has been forwarded by me to George Town.

About this time Mr. Cabot was employed to go to the Eastward, and a Sum of Money for this purpose allowed him, without even the Shadow of power to engage either Men Materials, or Provisions. Mr. C. in a letter to me laments that this want of proper authority has been really injurious to the Cause, by impressing the Minds of People with Ideas of that want of System, and confidence, which so vague an Embassy testifies.

As the foregoing includes all the principal pursuits of the Commissioners since the first of the Establishment, it is needless, and would be inconsistent to tire your Patience, in viewing a detail of all the trifling transactions in which they have been engaged at their different Meetings—all which have been managed in a Manner similar to those I mention. It may not however be amiss here to observe, that the Commissioners appear to place much confidence in the Errors, which (they are desirous to believe,) I committed in taking down Mr. Carrolls house, and in the Circumstance of Mr. Youngs happening, and doubtless wish to take advantage of them; as the Incidents attendant upon the former of these transactions particularly, are lengthy, it cannot with propriety be discussed here, nor indeed do I conceive it necessary inasmuch as the Papers relative to my Justification in the Business, are in the possession of the President, and which you doubtless have seen. If it is argued that I proceeded to the destruction of that Building, in opposition to an injunction from the High Court of Chancery, or orders from the Board of Commissioners, I can safely say, that I never saw the Injunction. It never was served upon me, nor did I ever receive an order from the Commissioners upon the Subject6 and with equal Confidence can I assure you that I never told Mr. Carroll, as has been reported, that the destruction of his house was necessary to save that of Mr. Notley Young, only endeavoring (as my letter to him will prove) to convince him (Mr. Carroll) that the removal of that Street was absolutely inadmissible, as it would not only positively destroy the Plan of the City, but might endanger the house of Mr. Young, in changing the position of the various Streets dependent upon that one; and I can further assure you that the Street which now strikes Mr. Young’s house is totally unconnected; with that which occasioned the demolition of Mr. Carroll’s and consequently can afford no just ground of Complaint to either of those Gentlemen.

It is also unnecessary to enter upon the Subject which has lately engaged our attention in the City; my letters, and the Papers I have handed to the President containing so full and accurate a Statement of those Proceedings, for which every dispassionate, impartial observer, must very cordially condemn them. The imprisonment of Mr. Roberdeau for acting under my orders, and without even a suspicion of their design was highly injudicious, and Rash, seeing that I cannot but be involved with him in the Trespass, by which it was occasioned, and upon the Tryal, which will come on in a few days, I shall be obliged publicly to expose these transactions in my own Justification, to their dishonour, and to the evident disadvantage of the General Cause.

This spirit of opposition and thirst for power has been extended from me individually to the Executive Branch of the Government of [156] the State of Maryland, in obtaining a Law, penned by themselves, which will not answer the purposes for which it ought to have been intended, in some parts it is positively unconstitutional, and a direct infringment of the prerogative of the Governour and Council of that State. The Consequence of this design is, that there are now two Offices of Record, open for the City at George town, the one under a Commission from the State of Maryland, the other under an appointment of the Commissioner by virtue of the aforesaid Law; in this and every appointment of those now employed in the City, it surely is most perceptible, that the principal object with them has been merely to provide for Friends.

Although I am unwilling to place Confidence in the artful insidious insinuation of an Intention to render an Arrangment so difficult as to discourage and deter me from pursuing the Business, yet am I inclined to believe that some such intention has been excited, well assured that the Contemptible ambition of some Men, who doubtless are not wanting in assiduity or address to take every advantage, would be gratified to engage under the Commissioner’s direction in the Execution of the plan now finished, and which may appear to them easily accomplished. Little Inclined to contend with those Rivals and too well aware of the fallacy of such an Inference, which must be manifest to every impartial Man, I rest satisfied that the president will consider on the Extent of the work to accomplish, that he sees, that erecting houses for the Accommodation of Government, is not the only object, nay not so important an one, as the encouragment to prepare buildings at those principal points, in the speedy settlement of which depends the rapid increase of the City, and which requires more than the Servile attendance of Men unconcerned in the issue of their labors who would rest their fortune on the long continuance of the Work, while the prosperity of the Undertaking depends upon that Spirit of enterprize by which all improvments must be made, and that prudential Manner by which the Sale of lots, and all establishments both public and private shall be conducted.

Whatever may be thought of the advantages to be derived from the natural and local Situations of that Spot determined for the Federal City, as well as from the various Interests that one day may center there yet in so early a Stage of its growth, and placed as it is remote from the populous part of the union, they are but Ideal, seen as it were at a distance, of course imperfectly, which will be drawn nearer, and substantiated exactly in the Ratio, that exertions in pursuit of the operations necessary to accomplish the plan adopted are made, nor must it be expected, that any thing short of what I proposed will answer that purpose, or warrant Success. To change a Wilderness into a City, to erect and beautify Buildings &ca. to that degree of perfection, necessary to receive the Seat of Government of so extensive an Empire, in the short period of time that remains to effect these objects is an undertaking vast as it is Novel, and reflecting that all this is to be done under the many disadvantages’ of opposing interests which must long continue to foment Contention among the various Branches of the Union—The only expedient is to conciliate, and interest the Minds of all Ranks of People of the propriety of the Pursuit by engaging the national Fame in its Success, evincing in its progress that utility and Splendor, capable of rendering the Establishment unrivalled in greatness by all those now existing, by holding out forcible inducements to all Ranks of People. These Ideas more than once have I suggested to the Consideration of the President, and as I become more conversant with the peculiar circumstances of the Country, daily are they more forcibly impressed upon my Mind, and as my Enquiries on the Subject have not been limited to the narrow Compass of the Territory allotted to the Federal Jurisdiction but extended to the most distant part of the Country with which the Potomak is, or may become connected, so have they evinced to me that the inconveniencies which may be urged in opposition to the Success of the undertaking far counterbalance the advantages alledged in its support. Impressed so strongly as I was in the most early Stage of the Business with these sentiments, induced me to doubt the Eligibility of the intended Establishment and would have dissuaded me from taking any concern in it, had it not been that while I feared a disappointment ultimately in the object in view, I was too fully sensible of the importance of its success to the Interest of the Union, and could not but feel myself deeply concerned in promoting that end, which I knew it was the earnest wish of the President to effect.

The difficulties then contemplated served only to create in me a desire of surmounting them, at the same time pointed out to me the propriety of that Steady impartial Conduct which until this moment I have endeavoured to pursue, fully Satisfied that in the delineation of a plan which the only chance I saw to make it answer, was to confine it to the local Situations of the various parts of the ground, that by taking advantage of the Beauties of Nature, the improvement might become attractive, it would have been impossible for me to have met the concurrence of all concerned in the Partition of those improvments but desirous not to injure any of them, and the better to accomplish the grand object, at the same time foreseeing the Consequences of petit Contention among the parties, I resolved stedfastly to proceed, unimpeded by them and disregardless of Clamour, and Cavils, which I trusted would subside after a progress in the work, would testify that my every Step and operation, were impartially directed to spread through and over all the Spacious surface of their various property, a proportionate equality of Advantage, in the end to enrich them, while it procured resources sufficient to accomplish completely the undertaking. Thus actuated by the purest principles, and apprehending the Mischief that would arise from an interference in Matters which I conceived could not be generally understood induced me to those Exertions I made to obtain a Concession of Territory of greater extent than that which had at first been granted, or considered, and afterwards forced me in executing the plan to bear down all opposition regardless of whatever ill consequences might ensue to myself, in withstanding alone, the assailment of presumptuous Contenders, convinced that I could expect no Support from the Commissioners; altho’ it was their duty and ought to have been their chief care, to help the Business of the Public in lieu of courting the trifling interest of Individuals.

That none of their exertions have been influenced by the advancement of the Business, but that their every Step has been determined through partial Concern, prejudice, or an unfriendly disposition to all the measures I could suggest is I hope too well evidenced to leave you in any doubt but that all my opposition to them, and the determination I have taken no longer to act in Subjection to their Will and Caprice, is influenced by the purest principles and warmest good wishes to the full attainment of the main object, and you will doubtless consider that although from the Confidence which I flatter myself the President has placed in me I would be induced to endeavour to accommodate all Matters with the Commissioners, yet those Gentlemen by their general Conduct toward me, and the length to which they have carried Matters in the late instance places this out of my power, and renders it in the highest Manner inconsistent for me to enter into any arrangment with them.—If therefore the Law absolutely requires without any equivocation that my continuance shall depend upon an appointment from the Commissioners, I cannot, nor would I upon any Consideration submit myself to it.—I have the honour to be &c. &c. Dft (DLC: Digges-L’Enfant-Morgan Papers); in Roberdeau’s hand.

58. Other than a brief mention of him in the Maryland Journal of 5 July 1791 (see Bryan, A History of the National Capital, p. 147)and his name in ledgers of the commissioners, there is no other evidence of Baron de Grasse's (or de Graff's)existence save perhaps in postscript to a letter that L'Enfant wrote to Alexander Hamilton: asking to be remembered to "the baron" and hoping he would not "stand upon Etiquette" and would write. The editors of the Hamilton papers identified the baron as Steuben. (Syrett, Harold, The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1965, vol.. 8, p 256.) However it is clear from Steuben's papers that he was in New York City that spring, and as close friends there was no formal etiquette with L'Enfant. Most likely, this was the Baron de Grasse who soon joined L'Enfant.

59. Andrew Ellicott to his wife, 11 Nov 1791, Ellicott Papers, Library of Congress Manuscript Division; Chase vol. 9 p 468 n. 3; Soon after Benjamin Ellicott assisted his brother in preparing the city plan for the engravers, participating in making changes to the plan that L'Enfant never forgave.

60. Chase, vol. IX, pp. 390-1; see the L'Enfant Papers in the Library of Congress for Roberdeau's many letters to him. In a letter to Alexander Hamilton, L'Enfant wrote of Roberdeau: "I need not mention to you my attachment to him and the consideration which lead me to retain him near me." Syrett,1967, vol. 12, p. 263. L'Enfant was unable to keep him as an assistant in his next project, Hamilton's Society for Useful Manufactures, and by the end of the year Roberdeau married and worked for the State of Pennsylvania.

61. p 597 (Stuart to Washington, 26 Feb 1792.)

62. Ibid p 600

63. 9 Jan 1792 account in Commissioners records, RG 42, National Archives

64. Chase, vol. X, pp. 26, 62, (Washington to Commisioners, 6 Mar. 1792 and Washington to Stuart, 8 Mar. 1792.) His emphasis on the word "Man" is found the in Letters Received by the Commissioners, RG 42, National Archives.

65. Boyd, vol. 25, p. 152, (Commissioners to Jefferson, 7 Feb 1793): Commissioners to president, 23 Mar. 1794, RG 42, National Archives; Boyd, vol. 25, p. 426, (Jefferson to Ellicott, 22 Mar. 1793); Arnebeck, pp 150-152; Georgetown Ledger, 16 Feb. 1793; Washington to Commissioners, 3 Apr 1793, Records of the Columbia Historical Society, vol. 17, Washington, 1914, p. 79. .

66. The Philadelphiad, or, New Pictures of the City, Philadelphia 1784, 2: pp. 37-8; Lyons, p XXX; New York Diary, 4 Oct.1793

67. Syrett, 1977, vol. 25, pp. 218ff.

68. These setback slowly broke L'Enfant who wasted much of the last 25 years of his life vainly petitioning Congress for $95,500 in compensation for his work on the capital. However, an informal network of friends in Congress and passing administrations, including old friends of Steuben like William Stephens Smith, and congressional bachelors like John "Beau" Dawson continued to try to help L'Enfant. He lived the last decade of his life on the Prince Georges County estate of the eccentric bachelor Thomas Digges, see Bowling, pp. 55-64.

69. William North served in the Senate, William Stephens Smith in the House