|Gentlemen||Philadelphia 17th Feb. 1797.|
In looking over the press copy of the letter I wrote you by the Post of Wednesday last, which was penned in great haste, to be in time for the Mail; I perceive some ambiguity in the expression of my sentiment respecting the building designated for the President of the U. States; and therefore these lines are given in explanation.
It was not, nor is it my intention, that the work on that house should cease for that might prove injurious to the parts that are already executed, and to the materials which are prepared for the completion of the Walls and covering the same. The idea I meant to convey was, that these should go on, but with as moderate means as would accomplish the object, and guard the edifice from damage by weather; employing the remaining force on the Capitol; resting the matter upon a little time, and the prospect of your funds, to determine, unequivocally, whether both buildings can be completed by the year 1800: and until this is ascertained, to proceed on the Capitol in the manner, & for the purposes I have mentioned to you before.
It has been advised, that an Act of Congress should be obtained for incorporating the Commissioners of the City of Washington, and their Successors, for the particular purpose of enabling them to take & hold in fee simple, for the use of the United States, the lands within the City set apart and appropriated by the President to their use.
It is supposed possible that some inconvenience may arise at a future day if the conveyance be made to any persons & their heirs in their individual capacity, by reason of their [absence,] infancy, or other unforeseen causes which will not occur in case the Commissioners are incorporated and the conveyance is made to them. A bill for this purpose is now before Congress and expected to pass. So soon as a decision is had upon it a direction will be sent for a conveyance of those appropriated lands to be made to the Commissioners if incorporated; if not then to the same persons in their individual capacity.
At the sametime, perhaps sooner—I will give you my sentimts on the Memorial of Mr Davidson, & other matters. In the meantime, with esteem & regard I remain Gentlemen Your very Hble Servt
DLC: Papers of George Washington.