It was my expectation at the last meeting of the Commissioners that Mr. Johnson would have seen you long ago and laid before you many particulars which could not be done so satisfactorily by letter. As he was well prepared to have given you a comprehensive knowledge of the many untoward circumstances which have befallen us, I considered it unnecessary in me to occupy your time. I was just informed by Mr. Carroll that he has been disappointed by an indisposition caught by his great exposure in riding down twice to G.town in the midst of severe weather. Could I have forseen this a month ago, I believe, as inconvenient as it would have been to me, I would have set forward myself. I must hope however that he has written fully to you.
Major L'Enfant's conduct and his deputy's has (as you have been informed) embarrassed us much. On a review of ours toward him, I cannot concieve, he could have found any three men more disposed to cooperate harmoniously with him. We were induced to this not only by our zeal for the work in which we were engaged, but our high respect to your good opinion of him. But, it appears to me at present that our efforts in this way have only tended to heighten his ideas of his own importance, and to increase his natural perversity. Indeed, he has the nack of impressing all concerned with him with great awe of him. I have sometimes thought, he flattered himself he should succeed equally with us. It is certain that our conduct has received this construction from many while others have regarded it as a full proof that the Major was not subject to the orders of the Commrs. We were not only pained by insinuations of this sort, but even impudent suggestions that you must have written differently to him from what you have done to us as it was not concieved he would have persisted in his obstinacy, if it had not met with your disposition. As we considered the Major not only as a man of talents but of character too, we hoped his conduct would have evinced the contrary. But this continued to be the belief of his Partisans to the last, and was the foundation of the trouble given us by his Deputy Mr. Roberdeau in what we are well assured, he was countenanced by Peters, Walker and Davidson for without it he certainly, on his own credit, would not have been able to have kept fifty men at work a single day, much less a week. I was indeed at one time so provoked by their deafness to everything one could urge against the folly to the supposition that you could be capable of misconduct, that I was almost tempted to produce the copies of your letters to L'Enfant - I believe now, it would have been happy if I had, and that it would have saved us much of the trouble which has since happened. As Mr. Roberdeau has been some time in Philadelphia it is probable, he has given you an account of his impertinent conduct toward us, when we were? ourselves compelled by his refusal to attend to our directions, to discharge him. As he made us many apologies for it and was sincerely forgiven, and at my intercession is again employed, I shall trust to his candour, in having given you a true statement - I really believe the young man would have acted properly after his first misconduct but for his crowd? of bad counsellors - During the short continuance of our again employing him, he favored us with the sight of his instructions from L'Enfant. This Gentleman directs him after employing 25 hands at the quarries, and 50 in the city, to apply to the Commissioners for the means of employing them, but if they should be out of the way, or anything else happened no impediment was to obstruct him. It is probable he had given him a verbal explanation of this mysterious sentence. It certainly appears that he had some conjecture that the Commissioners might disapprove of them, and the clear inference is that he was to proceed in opposition to their sentiments. This is further confirmed by some certificates which Mr. Carroll informs me, he and Mr. Johnson have from some respectable characters, setting forth that they heard L'Enfant and Roberdeau long ago declare, they would not attend to directions from men so ignorant and unfit as the Commissioners. This language has been held too by some others, who wish to worry us out of our appointments, no doubt from the very laudable motives of becoming our successors - We treated this pitiful stuff with the contempt it deserved. But we were lately attacked by reports of a more serious and infamous cast. Our conduct in discharging the hands was said to be connected with Mr. Benson's intended attack, and the appointment of Mr. Cabot greatly censured the true object of which, it was asserted, was to negotiated a bribe of 5000L a piece to each Commissioner, for his services in throwing every obstacle in the way of the buildings. After tracing this infamous story from two or three, it rested on Mr. Walker, who if not the fabricator himself, declined giving us his authority. As I had allways before entertained a good opinion of this Gentleman, I was much astonished on the present ocassion. The fact is, he and Davidson had espoused the side of L'Enfant, in not giving us up the plan, during the sales, and began to ? from thence, that we were ignorant and unfit.
You have no doubt heard of the malicious calumny raised against Mr. Carroll by the Major about giving Mr. Brent previous notice of the sum which the Commissioners had authorized him to give for the quarry. It has given Mr. Carroll greater uneasiness than I think it ought, particularly as he has had the satisfaction of proving everything relative to the base charge false;and I must do him the justice to declare, that his conduct in that business was delicate in the extreme. The inclosed extract of a letter from the Major to Mr. Brent on the subject of the ? calumny, will shew you what a fine opinion he entertains of us. I confess, I cannot conceive what foundation he has for saying we attempted to raise a mob at the house door or representing him to have ? ?. These things may have been represented to him in this light, but they certainly proved to be untrue. The spirit of party has been so prevalent, that it is not to be wondered at that a man of L'Enfant's turn should give implicit credit ot every idle suggestion. Mr. Peter's, who I informed you had been of L'Enfant's party, in a fit of penitence, lately confessed to us, he had been led astray by many idle reports respecting us, for which he was sorry as he found these were all lies; and that Forrest was at the bottom of most of the confusion. This Gentleman had tried much to induce us to discharge the Major, by many representations of the mans? expenses? ? and such like observations. Finding our? men? not to be made his dupes, he suddenly and to the astonishment of all his friends, became an intimate with the Major, with whom he had not been a short time before on speaking terms. He now has on foot the memorial of which you have a copy bestowing high commendations on L'Enfant's conduct. Some of his friends were so incredulous with respect to his conduct in this affair, that they could not be persuaded of it till they had called on us for a sight of his signature. I really believe if we had been greater fools than I hope we are, and suffered ourselves to have been influenced by this Gentleman and a few more, we should have had the pleasure of hearing ourselves celebrated as Solomons.
We are indebted to this person too for the dispute we shall be involved in with the Executive of Maryland.... Tho' this incident is not much connected with my object in writing, I have thought it not amiss to notice it, as it will give you a full view of the many causes of vexations we have to encounter, even from those whose interests should dictate to them a different line of conduct. It may also serve, as a small elucidation of Mr. Forrests talents for intrigue, and great fitness for any of our much envied places.
I should now give you some account of the loose and extravagant manner in which the work has been carried on. But, as I cannot with that accuracy I would ? wish to observe, I must hope Mr. Johnson has, or will do it, as he was provided with many copies and extracts of the accounts. If he has, I fear you will think we have interfered too little in every thing. 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 ? ? ? ? complaints against us.
I must observe with respect to all the gentlemen who have been in our employ, that it has been sometimes mentioned to us by them all, and frequently insinuated by others, that they have had great offers to quit our business, and go to the Northward. The effect of this tampering must certainly be that they will be more ready to complain and to seek a pretext for quitting us. It has always appeared to me, since I have known L'Enfant's temper, that he can? of reason for not coming to terms ? ? ?, that if he could not have his own way in everything, he might part our services without giving us any part of the work. This was my reason, when Mr. Ellicott left us, for desiring him to leave with us a plan. He promised us, but did not comply; which I attribute entirely to L'Enfant's influence over him as I really believe him to be a man with whom we could have pleasure doing business if left to himself. I mention this as a hint to you even now to guard against, if Mr. L'Enfant cannot scceed in his proposed demarkation of powers. It is what I apprehend the more as I can hear nothing of the progress of the engraved plan.
I beg to suggest that the intended appropriation of ground about the President's house, appears to me to be much too extensive. I think it is what the proprietors may complain of with some propriety. It may suit the genius of a Despotic government to create an immense and gloomy wilderness in the midst of a thriving city, and I fear the Major has borrowed it from thence, but I cannot think it suitable in our situation. But besides this objection it appears to me that on the score of expence alone in our present situation as to funds, it ought be be curtailed. The Major's ideas are perhaps on too large a scal even with respect to many others. At least I have heard complaints on this head from several.
You will see from many parts of the above narrative that out
situation has been in many instances very unpleasing so much so, as to induce
us at our last meeting to come to unanimous resolution, to resign our very
enviable offices rather than be any longer subject to the
caprices and malicious suggestions of Major L'Enfant. We felt much in
doing this, as it might furnish the enemies of the permanent residence with
some cause of triumph, whilst it would give sensible pain to those who are
friends to it, and who consider it as connected with our national prosperity.
In this light our zeal too even prompted us to view it. But it appears to be a
measure dictated by that regard to our characters, which we hope, was the
chief motive of our being honored with the appointment. As Mr. Johnson has no
doubt made you acquainted with this determination, I shall willingly rest it
on the communication which may pass between you on the subject and, whatever
may be the event, I beg you to be assured that I shall ever preserve the
highest sense of the obligation I have been under to you the honor of the
appointment, as it was unsolicited, and perhaps unmerited on my part, I can
truly say, I felt the greater anxiety to acquit myself of it with credit. My
anxiety for the success of the City is such [I am missing the end of this
letter, much obliged to anyone who can supply it as it will be some time
before I can get near a microfilm edition of GW's papers.]
laid before you many particulars which could not be done so satisfactorily by letter. Certainly, in part, Stuart refers in this phrase to extracts from the accounts that highlight L'Enfant's extravagence. Yet, just as certain, such extracts could be sent or sufficiently characterized in a letter. What is communicated in person, that cannot be communicated in a letter, is body language and facial expressions. If the commissioners had formed an opinion that L'Enfant's behavior stemmed in part because he was at least not a normal man, if not a sodomite, intimating such information to the President, L'Enfant's patron, might best be handled in person.
Could I have forseen this a month ago, I believe, as inconvenient as it would have been to me, I would have set forward myself. I must hope however that he has written fully to you. This emphasizes how important the commissioners though a personal communication with the President was, and I find it difficult to think that wishing to carry a packet of accounts can account for Stuart's passion. If L'Enfant had done something immoral, we must suppose the commissioners would have freely communicated that. I suggest that what they objected to was L'Enfant's essential make-up, not, in the respect to sexuality, anything he had done. That's what made communicating their concerns about it difficult.
embarrassed This word is often used in 18th century letters. In this context it sets up a dynamic of the commissioners dutifully adhering to a program supposedly understood by all being distracted by someone having an entirely different program. In just such a sense, homosexuality is embarrassing to the heterosexual. The word is not one to be used in discussing administrative problems, but in political or emotional situations.
to heighten his ideas of his own importance, and to increase his natural perversity. The first phrase sufficiently makes Stuart's point. Why did he mention L'Enfant's "natural perversity?" The commissioners are trying to make the case that they, and presumably other reasonable men, cannot work with L'Enfant because of some inherent flaw in L'Enfant make-up. This was not something that could be negotiated and compromised. Even if "perversity" means "obstinacy" or "cranky," which in this case I think it does, by adding the word "natural," Stuart quite damns L'Enfant. I am not certain if the word pervert was applied to homosexuality at this time.
he has the nack of impressing all concerned with him with great awe of him. George Washington, himself, possessed this "nack," but, of course, no one would call it a "nack" when speaking of Washington. A "nack" is a not entirely deserved or earned skill. We see here the difference between the hero and the fop. Both have the ability to turn heads but there always stands some reasonable men to make clear that in the case of the fop, it is unwarranted.
As we considered the Major not only as a man of talents but of character too, Washington hired L'Enfant because of his talent as an artist and engineer. The commissioners endorse this view of him, then raise the issue of his character. This is not a risk free tactic, since Washington might be offended at the suggestion that he had been collaborating with a man of bad character. Of course, Washington knew what powers he had given to L'Enfant.
a man of L'Enfant's turn Here again, Stuart harps on L'Enfant's perversity and deviousness with a phrase that may be applied to a homosexual. Where as most gentlemen would react in one way to a situation, a few, of a certain "turn", would react in quite the opposite way.
since I have known L'Enfant's temper This could be construed to be a reference to L'Enfant's anger and obstinacy, but the word "temper" may as well refer to his make-up, his fiber. "Temper" becomes a key phrase in discussions of L'Enfant, and I'll do my best to find how it is used in other situations with other men. The President's essential job in the early Republic was to appoint men of good character to fill the places of the new government. How often did he engage in discussions of "temper?"
L'Enfant's influence over him Ellicott had scant respect for the commissioners and primarily for the same reasons as L'Enfant. They were small minded and couldn't seem to conceive of the task at hand. No one better knew the distances and terrain in the new city and the need for immediate action if progress was to be made. Yet Stuart saw Ellicott as someone to easily work with (it didn't turn out that way,) justifying the notion with this suggestion that L'Enfant had seemingly cast a spell over him. All knew that Ellicott was appointed to his task by the President and was in no way beholding to L'Enfant. Yet Ellicott fell under the Frenchman's spell! So another danger of L'Enfant is his power over other men.
the caprices and malicious suggestions of
Major L'Enfant. No has made the case that something that might be
called the homosexual stereotype had been established in the 1790s. Yet the
threat of someone who is actively different or perverse is just that --
caprice and malice. As opinions of L'Enfant settled at the time and in the
eyes of historians, much was made of his being essentially an artist, and that
it was that which made his character and actions suspect. Certainly artists
have been stereotyped as capricious, but malicious? Stuart's letter is the
best evidence of the disgust the commissioners had for L'Enfant. He did not
explain or excuse any behavior as caused by an artist's temperament. He put a
more terrible, and thus unspeakable, stigma on L'Enfant.
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