[George Washington, first President of the United States, and the L'Enfant Plan of Washington, D.C.] Autograph Note to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, regarding a submission to 'the President of the U. States', by 'Mr. Jacob Welsh'.

Author: 
George Washington (1732-1799), first President of the United States of America; Jacob Welsh (1755-1822) of Harvard; Pierre Charles L'Enfant (1754-1825); L'Enfant Plan, 1791; Washington, D.C.
Washington
Publication details: 
With note in another hand stating that the item was 'recd. by the Comm. [i.e. the Commission of the District of Columbia] 14th March 1792
£5,000.00
SKU: 21418

An unsigned note in the handwriting of the first President of the United States, regarding the L'Enfant Plan for the layout of the future Washington, D.C. 1p, 16mo, on one side of an 11 x 7 cm piece of watermarked laid paper. In good condition, lightly aged and spotted, tipped-in onto a sheet of yellow paper. Nine lines of text, in Washington's autograph, reading: 'Submitted to the | President of the | U. States for considn. | by Mr. Jacob Welsh | [dash] | Supposed to be the | Sentiments of Majr | L'Enfant | and to have origina | ted with him.' Beneath this, in another (contemporary) hand: 'recd. by the Comm. 14th March 1792'. At foot of the page, in a third (nineteenth-century) hand: 'Handwriting of Geo Washington'. Pierre Charles L'Enfant arrived in America from France in 1777, and served as a military engineer with Lafayette in the Continental Army, later serving on Washington's staff at Valley Forge. In 1791 Washington appointed L'Enfant as planner of the new 'Federal City' (the future City of Washington) under the supervision of three commissioners, with whom L'Enfant found himself in constant conflict, leading to his dismissal by Washington at the beginning of 1792. He died penniless, and it was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that his achievements were recognised, with President Taft making the address at the dedication of his grave at Arlington National Cemetery in 1911. Jacob Welsh was a Harvard man, and he features in Conrad Edick Wright's 'Revolutionary Generation: Harvard Men and the Consequences of Independence' (2005), which describes how his 'service in the infantry and the artillery ended with his resignation in November 1778. Not long thereafter Welsh, the son of a jeweler, was in England, where he tried and failed to smuggle textile machinery out of the country. By the early 1780s he was living in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, speculating in real estate. Land speculation – probably in combination with farming – kept Jacob occupied but not satisfied. By the early 1790s, plans to build the nation's capital on the Potomac led him to propose himself unsuccessfully to supervise the work under the direction of Pierre L'Enfant.' In 1820 he founded the town of Welshfield, Geauga County, Ohio. There is a surviving letter from Welsh to Washington, dated 17 November 1791, and on 14 February 1792 Welsh apparently presented Washington with a memorial (now lost) said to have included proposals relating to L'Enfant's plan. On 29 February 1792 Thomas Johnson reported to Thomas Jefferson that he had received a letter from Welsh on the same subject, with Welsh stating that the scheme would require a loan of one million dollars. In the first sale of lots in the Federal City in October 1781 Welsh purchased five lots on behalf of Samuel Blodget, Jr., and he may have developed the proposal with L’Enfant in Philadelphia in the first weeks of 1792, and certainly before L’Enfant's dismissal at the end of February 1792. The subsequent date of receipt by the commissioners of the present item may suggest that it relates to a communication between Welsh and Washington after L'Enfant's dismissal. Provenance: from the distinguished autograph collection of Richard Hunter, son of Ida Macalpine, whose collection of books relating to psychiatry is in Cambridge University Library. Macalpine and Hunter had a particular interest in the illness of King George III, and their book 'George III and the Mad Business' (1969) suggested the diagnosis of porphyria popularised by Alan Bennett in his play 'The Madness of George III'.