<br /> Lee Letter: n197

Washington and Lee University

Sender: George Washington
Recipient: Thomas Sim Lee

Dear Sir:

This letter will accompany an official one from the Secretary of
State, written to you by my desire. It is unnesssary therefore for me
to repeat what is contained in his letter; but I shall express with
frankness, a wish that it may comport with your convenience to accept
the proffered appointment, provided your health, inclination and
habits, would enable you to discharge the duties of the office with
activity.

Experience has evinced the propriety, indeed the indispensible necessity,
that the Commissioners of the Federal District should reside within the
City, or so near to it, as by a daily attendance to see that every
thing moves with regularity, Ĺ“conomy and dispatch. The year 1800 is
approaching with hasty strides; equally so ought the public buildings
to advance towards completion. The prospect before them, it must be
confessed, is flattering; the crisis, nevertheless, is as delicate as
it is important. The places of those gentlemen who are retiring from
office must be filled with others, of respectibility and decision.

For these, and other reasons, the enumeration of which would be more fit
for oral than written details, I have contemplated you and Mr. Potts of
Frederic Town (to whom the Secretary of State now writes) as the
successors of Mr. Johnson and Doctr. Stuart; and to hear that the offer
is accepted, would give me pleasure. If this be the case, I shall have
many opportunities of filling up the out lines of the communication; if
it should not, I have said more than is necessary, already.

Candour, however, requires I shd. add, that the inducement to giving
Salaries to the Commissioners, is, that they should live
in the City or the
borders of it; and by doing so, and an
arrangement among themselves, the necessity, and of course the expence
of employing a general Superintendant of the business, may be avoided.

It has been suggested, and I believe with propriety, that one of the
Commissioners ought to be well read in law. This, among other
inducements, has brought Mr. Potts more immediately into my view. The
non-residence of the Commissioners in the City, has, I am persuaded,
been attended with many disadvantages; and has been the source of those
unpleasant disputes between them and the proprietors; the
Superintendants; the workmen; &ca. &ca. Their periodical
meetings, and intermediate calls, although extremely fatieguing, and
oftentimes very inconvenient, have not answered
all the purposes of their appointment. A primary
one being, that of seeing their own
regulations, and orders, executed in the time, manner and spirit, they
were conceived. another, hardly second to the first, is, that by being
always on the Spot, they are at hand to embrace offers, and to avail
themselves of opportunities which frequently present, but will not
wait, not only to purchase materials and to engage artizans, but to
interest foreigners and strangers who may view the City, in the
purchase of lots; but who, otherwise, know not where to apply; and are
unwilling to remain until one of the stated meetings shall revolve; and
equally so to call a Special one.

With very great esteem etc.

Notes:

[N.Y.P.L.]