Home Home Rule George Washington on Residency Requirement for D.C. Officials
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George Washington on Residency Requirement for D.C. Officials E-mail
Subject: George Washington Said Sleep Here in themail, February 13, 2002 (bolding added)
Date:  Thu, 14 Feb 2002 00:14:39 -0500 
From: themail < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

George Washington Said Sleep Here in themail, February 13, 2002

George Washington Set Early Precedent on DC Residency Rule
Mark David Richards, Dupont East,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

George Washington set a residency requirement for the second set of three commissioners appointed to oversee 
the laying out of the new Federal City and construction of the first government buildings.
They were from the 
surrounding area in Maryland and Virginia. This appears to be the beginning of the DC residency squabble that 
continues in one form or another today. At that time, the availability of adequate housing was the main issue. In 
addition, residents on the Georgetown side of the Territory of Columbia were in competition with and 
distrustful of residents living on the Carrollsburg side -- the Commissioners were not helping matters by living 
toward Georgetown. Washington established a particularly strict residency rule, in part to counter negative 
public opinion. He informed them in no uncertain terms that they should live in the Federal City -- not in other 
parts of DC. On 22d May 1796, from Philadelphia, Washington wrote: "Gentlemen, . . . The year 1800 is 
approaching by hasty strides. The friends of the City are extremely anxious to see the public works keep equal 
pace wherewith. They are anxious too on another account -- namely -- that the Commissioners should reside in 
the City where the theatre of the business lies. -- this was, and is, my opinion. -- it is the principle, and was 
declared to be so at the time; upon which the present establishment of the Commissioners was formed; -- that, 
by being on the spot, and giving close attention to the operations, they might prevent abuses, or overcome them 
in embryo. -- It is said, if this had been the case, those defective walls, which to put up, & pull down, have cost 
the public much time, labour & expense, would never have been a subject of reproach. -- For these, and other 
reasons which might be added, it is my decided opinion & expectation that the Commissioners do reside in the 
City.
-- And the nearer they are to the public Works, the better & more desirable it will be. -- I wish this; as well 
on their own account, as on that of the public; because they would have it so much more in their power to 
scrutinize all the movements of men & measures which are under their controul, than it is possible to do at the 
distance of two or three miles by periodical or occasional visits. -- Being on the spot & seeing everything that 
occurs, they would be better enabled to systematize the business & have it conducted with greater economy; and 
finally would insure to themselves those honors & consolations which flow from the punctual discharge of 
public trust."

Apparently, the Commissioners had the impression they could reside in either Washington City or Georgetown, 
a separate town. Washington took the position that the convenience of the appointed officials was not his 
primary consideration. He clarified his position in a letter to Commissioner Gustavus Scott, a Baltimore lawyer, 
on 25th. May 1896: "I do not precisely know what the late Secretary of State may have written with respect to 
the alternative allowed the Commrs. to reside in the City or George Town But it is a fact known to every one 
who ever heard me express a sentiment on the subject, that it has been decidedly in favor of the former; and that 
nothing but necessity, arising from the want of accommodation, could justify the latter." In fact, Washington 
thought the Commissioners should live between the construction sites of the Capitol Building and the White 
House so they could key a good eye on progress. To William Deakins, who had recommended Scott for 
Commissioner, Washington wrote on 6th. June 1796: "Dear Sir: Your letter of the 27th. Ult. has been duly 
received. -- Before I knew, or had heard of any movement in the Federal City, among the Proprietors thereof, I 
had, in answering some dispatches from the Commissioners, given it to them as my clear and decided opinion, 
that those who were entrusted with the Affairs of the City ought to be residents thereof.
It has always been my 
opinion. -- It was the principle upon which the New establishment, and compensation took place; and what I 
have always expected would happen, as soon as accommodations could be provided. -- To assign all the reasons 
for this opinion, which have weight in my mind, would run me into prolixity, unnecessarily, as few of them can 
have escap'd a reflecting man." Scott eventually moved to a house he was building between Florida Avenue and 
Rock Creek near P Street, just outside the City boundaries, and William Thornton moved from Georgetown to 
1331 F Street, NW, where he lived until his death on March 28, 1828. Alexander White, who succeeded Daniel 
Carroll as Commissioner, was from Rappahannock County and Culpepper, VA -- I'm not certain if he ever 
moved to the City.

 
Home Home Rule George Washington on Residency Requirement for D.C. Officials

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