(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Children's Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Retrocession act of 1846 ... Letter from Hannis Taylor to Thomas H. Carter ... rendering an opinion as to the constitutionality of the act .."

61sT Congress, | SENATE. j Document 

M Session. f [ No. 286. 





F 195 




^1 

■1. 




.T24 


RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 






Copy 1 







Mr. Carter presented the following 

LETTER FROM HANNIS TAYLOR TO HON. THOMAS H. CARTER, 
UNITED STATES SENATOR, RENDERING AN OPINION AS TO THE 
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE ACT OF RETROCESSION OF 1846. 



January 17, 1910. — Referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia and with 
accompanying illustrations ordered to be printed. 



THE OPINION OF HANNIS TAYLOR AS TO THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE 

ACT OF RETROCESSION OF 184(1 



My Dear Senator: You have requested me to make a careful 
examination of every question of fact and law necessarily involved in 
the constitutionality of the act of July 9, 1846 (9 Stat., 35), entitled 
"An act to retrocede the county of Alexandria, in the District of 
Columbia to the State of Virginia." I will preface my conclusions, 
which are arranged under four heads, with a few observations as to 
the history of the original cession that will hardly be controverted by 
any one. " The contemporaneous evidence puts the fact beyond all 
question that the final definition of a district 10 miles square as the 
seat of our Federal Government was in a special sense the personal work 
of President Washington, whose task involved the acquisition of the 
title to the tract from three sources — the State of Virginia, the State 
of Maryland, and the 19 local proprietors who owned that part of 
the heart of the present city which underlies the Capitol, the Wliite 
House, and the Treasury. Washington's task was to induce the three 
parties who held the. title to cede to the Federal Government, without 
any direct pecuniary consideration, the entire area under a quadri- 
lateral contract in which that Government was the grantee and bene- 
ficiary, and Virginia, Maryland, and the 19 local proprietors the 
grantors. The real consideration moving to such grantors was the 
incidental benefits to accrue to them from their joint cession which, 
in the language of the act of July 16, 1790, "is hereby accepted for 
the permanent seat of the Government of the United States." That 
covenant represented the only consideration moving directly from the 
Federal Government, while the three grantors were bound to each 
other by the mutual considerations moving from the one to the other 
under interdependent grants. Maryland, the last to grant, expressed 
the idea of the mutual benefits to be derived from a common enterprise 
when her legislature declared that "it appears to this general assembly 
highly just and expedient that all the lands within the said city 
should contribute, in due 'proportion, in the means which have already 
greatly enJianced the value of the whole." Under that quadrilateral 



2 \ EETEOCESSIOX ACT OF 1846. 

contract, supported by the foregoing- considerations, the Federal 
Government entered into possession with a perfect title, after the final 
cession made by Maryland, December 19, 1791. No one perhaps will 
deny that after the title to the entire area had thus passed from the 
three grantors into the corporate person of the nation neither the 
State of Virginia nor the State of ^Maryland could have, either in law 
or in equity, any claim to the common heritage superior to that of any 
other State. Under such conditions the Federal Government re- 
mained in peaceful possession of the entire area 10 miles square and 
governed the same under the Constitution for a period of fifty-five 
years. During that time the original boundaries as designed by 
Washington were marked by massive stone monuments, which still 
abide unimpaired. By the act of retrocession of July 9, 1846, the 
district was dismembered by a conveyance to Virginia of nearly one- 
half of the entire area for no pecuniary or property consideration 
whatever. Wliat was the real motive of the retrocession it is at this 
time difficult to ascertain. From a legal standpoint the fact that the 
portion reconveyed to Virginia liad originally been contributed by her 
IS of no significance whatever. Therefore, before argument begins, 
the mind wonders upon what constitutional principle such retro- 
cession could have been made. Two distinct parts of the Constitu- 
tion are involved: First, that part of section 8, Article I, which pro- 
vides that Congress shall have power "To exercise exclusive legisla- 
tion in all cases whatever, over such District (not exceeding 10 miles 
square) as may, by cession of ])articular States, and the acceptance of 
Congress, become the seat of government of the United States;" 
second, that part of section 10, Article I, which provides that "No 
State shall pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impainng 
the obligation of contracts.'' During the memorable Senate debate led 
by Senator Haywood, of North Carolina, who, as chairman of the 
District Committee, bitterly assailed the constitutionality of the act 
of retrocession, the meaning and effect of section 8, Article I, was full}" 
explored. I can not doubt the soundness of the conclusion then 
reached by many leading statesmen of that day to the effect that, 
considered in reference to that part of the Constitution alone, the act 
of retrocession is null and void. AVhat I can not understand is the 
fact that in any debate, however liastih' conducted, the deeper and 
more obvious argument based on the contract clause of the Constitu- 
tion (Article I, section 10) should have been entirely overlooked. 
And yet the record shows that such was the fact. It never occurred 
to any one in 1846, or since that time, to look to the sources of the 
title in the quadrilateral contract upon which the ownership of the 
area, 10 miles square, really depends. What is said herein as to that 
branch of the subject is my personal contribution to the controversy. 
The Continental Congress, after passing its last act on October 10, 
1788, expired, leaving to the new Congress that assembled at New 
York on March 4, 1789, the task of selecting a permanent seat of 
government under the mandate contained in section 8, Article I, of 
the Constitution. The discussion began on May 15 with Virginia's 
offer of an area 10 miles square, which was followed by like offers 
from Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. On September 3 
Mr. Goodhue said, in debate, that "the eastern and northern ]\lem- 
bers had made up their minds on the sul^ject, and were of opinion 
that on the eastern banks of the Susquehanna Congress should fix 
its permanent residence," introducing at the same time a resolution 

FEB 2 1910 



4 

S, 



EETEOCESSION ACT OF 1846. v 3 

:o that effect. On September 7 Mr. Lee moved to amend Mr. Good- 
liue's resolution by substituting the ''north bank of the River Poto- 
mac, in the State of Maryland/' for "the east bank of the river Sus- 
quehanna, in the State of Pennsylvania." After prolonged discussion 
the act of July 16, 1790, was pas^sed, and the site of the District finally 
located, partly in Prince George and Montgomery counties, in the 
State of Maryland, and partly in Fairfax County, in the State of 
Virginia, by proclamation of President George Washington, March 30, 
'l791, within the following bounds: 

; Beginning at Jones Point, being the upper cape of Hunting Creek, in Virginia, and 
>at an angle in the outset of 45 degrees west of the north, and running in a direct line 
aO miles for the first line; then beginning again at the same Jones Point, and run- 
ning another direct line at a right angle with the first across the Potomac 10 miles 
for the second line; then from the terminations of the said fii-st and second lines 
running two other direct lines of 10 miles each, the one crossing the Eastern Branch 
1 aforesaid and the other the Potomac, and meeting each other in a point. 
Southwestern side, 10 miles 230.6 feet. 
Northeastern side, 10 miles 263.1 feet. 
Southeastern side. 10 miles 70.5 feet. 
* Northwestern side, 10 miles 63 feet. 




4 RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

From the foregoing diagram it appears that the ''portion derivecll 
from and receded to Virginia" constitutes nearly one-half of thtj* 
territory of the District as originally defined in the proclamation of 
March 30, 1791. If the act of July 9, 1846 (9 Stats., 35), entitled 
"An act to retrocede the county of Alexandria , in the District of Columhia\ 
to the State of Virginia," is unconstitutional and yoid, the laws of the 
United States should now be executed by the President throughout 
the ''portion deriyed from and receded to Virginia." 

I. ACT OF 18-;6 UNCONSTITUTIONAL BECAUSE IN CONFLICT WIIH SECTION 8, ARTI- 
CLE 1, OF THE CONSTITUTION. 

That section provides that ' ' The Congress shall have power * * * 
to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over sucli 
District (not exceeding 10 miles square) as may by cession of par- 
ticular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the 
Government of the United States." After the power to select the 
seat of government had been once exercised by Congress, after the 
cessions had been made for that purpose by ''particular States," 
after the area so ceded had been accepted by Congress under the act 
of July 16, 1790, declaring "the same is hereby accepted for the 
permanent seat of the Government of the United States," the power of 
Congress over the subject-matter was exhausted. Or, if it was not 
exhausted, it could not again be exercised, because no power re- 
mained to transfer the District as originally created and accepted 
or any portion of it to any State. In other words, after a districtj 
10 miles square had once been established and accepted as a per-' 
manent seat of government. Congress possessed no power to acquire j 
another territory for another seat of government without vie-' 
lating the constitutional limitation which confined it to the 10 
miles square. The Congress, an agent of limited authority, was 
expressly authorized to receive cessions from States of a limited 
amount of territory to be held as a permanent seat of government, 
but it was not authorized, expressly or impliedly, to give any part 
of such cessions away to anyone. Such was the constitutional 
difficulty which the Hon. R. M. T. Hunter attempted to overcome 
when the bill in cpiestion was up for debate in the House of Repre- 
sentatives, May 8, 1846. (See Cong. Globe, vol. 15, Xo. 2, Ap- 
pendix, pp. 894-898.) 

Wlien the bill passed to the Senate the chairman of the Committee 
on the District of Columbia, Senator Haj^wood, of North Carolina 
earnestly opposed it. In the proceedings of June 17, 1846, the fol- 
lowing appears: 

''retrocession of ALEXANDRIA. 

"Mr. Haj^wood, from the Committee on the District of Columbia, I 
reported the bill for the retrocession of the city and county of Alex- ' 
andria with a recommendation that it be rejected." (Cong. Globe, 
vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 985-986.) 

In the debate which took place on June 30, Mr. Haywood said in 
part: "If there was any particular evil to be remedied by diminishing I 
the extent of the 10 miles square, the committee had not been 
apprised of it; if any i)articular good to be attained, they were not 
apprised. When the retrocession was first suggested to the considera- 



RETEOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 5 

tion of the Senate, doubts were entertained by many how far it was 
competent for Congress to recede what the Constitution had for a 
particular purpose authorized them to accept. The States of Mary- 
lai'id and Virginia had ceded this territory to Congress, to be t-aken 
under its exclusive jurisdiction for the seat of government, and Con- 
gress, in the execution of that intention, solemnly declared by enact- 
ment its acceptance of the grant, and that this District should be per- 
petually the seat of government. Individual citizens of the District, 
a minority, if they chose to assume that they were so, had purchased 
property and become residents of the county under this pledge, and 
unless there were some evil to be remedied or decided advantage to be 
gained by the change, which would compensate those citizens, where 
was the propriety of violating that pledge?" Mr. Miller, who fol- 
lowed, said in part that "he was inclined to think that the subject 
was of more importance than he had at first view supposed. His 
first impressions were in favor of the bill, for he supposed that the 
whole matter depended upon the wishes of the people of Alexandria 
and Virginia. But, upon an examination of the subject, he found 
himself in great doubt as to whether Congress had the power to pass 
such an act ; and even if they had the power he was perfectly convinced 
that it would not be good pohcy to do it." He then conteiided "that 
if Congress had the power to cede away any part of the District, they 
had power to cede the whole, and thereby entirely defeat the inten- 
tion of the constitutional provision in regard to the seat of govern- 
ment." In the final debate, which took place on July 2, "Mr. Hay- 
wood 0]:)posed the bill, and in an elo({uent manner coiitended for the 
sacred immunity of the Constitution and the wise ari-angements of 
the sages of the Revolution. He also argued the constitutional (|ues- 
tion at considerable length and with characteristic ability." Thir- 
teen Senators joined Mr. Haywood in opposition to the bill, which 
passed by a vote of 32 to 14. (Cong. Globe, vol. 15, No. 3, p. 1046.) 
Section 8 of Article I of the Constitution, when taken as a whole, 
provides that ''The Congress shall have power * * * to exercise 
exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such District (not 
exceeding 10 miles square) as may, bv cession of particular States, 
and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the Government of 
the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places pur- 
chased by the consent of the legislature of tlie State in which the 
•jame shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock 
^''ards, and other needful buildings." The delegation of power thus 
hade to Congress to acquire a seat of government for the United 
states, through a formal acceptance of cessions to be made by par- 
|icular States, is a distinct subject-matter, entirely separate and apart 
From the succeeding delegation of power to govern ''all places pur- 
chased by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the 
same shall be." Did the grant of an express power formally to accept 
sessions from particular States, which were to constitute and "become 
the seat of government of the United States," carry with it, as a 
tiecessary implication, the right to use the means necessary for the 
?xecution of the power? In other words, did the implied "power to 
use such necessary means flow from the express power to accom]:)lish 
the end? In construing that clause which provides that Congress 
|hall have power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and 
)roper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other 



6 KETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United 
States, or in any department or officer thereof," it was held at an 
early day that the clause in question ''confers on Conc^ress the clioice 
of means and does not confine it to what is indispensably necessary. " 
(United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch, 358.) In McCulloch v. Maryland 
(4 Wheat., 316) it was said that "The government which has a right 
to do an act, and has imposed on it the duty of ))erforming that act, 
must, according to the dictates of reason, be allowed to select the 
means; * * * Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the 
scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which 
are plainly adapted to that end, which are not proliibited, but con- 
sistent with the letter and s})irit of the Constitution, are constitu- 
tional." In commenting on that conclusion in i\\e Legal Tender Case 
(12 Wall., 457) the Supreme Court said: "Suffice it to say in that 
case it was finally settled that in the gift by the Constitution to Con- 
gress of authorit}^ to enact laws 'necessar\^ and })roper' for the exe- 
cution of all the powers created by it, the necessity spoken of is not 
to be understood as an absolute one. On the contrary, this court 
then held that the sound construction of the Constitution must allow 
to the National Legislature that discretion with respect to the means 
by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution 
which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to 
it in the manner most beneficial to the people." The express man- 
date was given by the Constitution to Congress to acquire a seat of 
government hy cessions from pariicuJar States, and in no other 
manner. Congress was powerless to force any State to nialve a 
cession; it could not go be^'ond the limits of the States. It could 
only persuade; it could not command. Congress did not offer to the 
ceding States any money consideration whatever for their cessions. 
The means, and the only means, Congress saw fit to emj^loy to accom- 
plish a vitally important end was the i)romise, made in the act of 
July 16, 1790, that the seat of government to be located on the ces- 
sions should be "permanent." The act expressly declared that "the 
district so defined, limited, and located shall be deemed the district 
accepted by this act for the iJirmanent seat of government of the United 
States. '^ When Mr. Madison moved, in the House of Representa- 
tives, to strike out the word "permanent" from this act, he was voted 
down; and thus we have a legislative inter])retation, j^ractically con- 
temporaneous, to the effect that the Constitution intended to confe 
upon Congress the power to make the seat of government permanent 
Contemporary interpretation of the Constitution, practiced and accjui 
esced in for vears, conclusively fixes its construction. (Stuart v 
Laird, 1 Cranch, 299: Martin f. Hunter, 1 Wlieat., 304; Cohens /' 
A^irginia, 6 Wheat., 264; Coolev r. Phila. Post Wowdens, 12 How. 
299; Burrow Giles Lithogra])liic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U. S., 53.) Thus 
it was settled at the outset, by a practically contemporaneous con- 
struction of the Constitution, that Congress, as a means of executing 
the express power and duty to secure a seat of government by cessions 
from particular States, which could not be compelled to cede any- 
thing, and to which no direct consideration was paid, was authoiizedj 
to promise, as an inducement to the ceding States, that the seat of 
government to be fixed on the territory granted by them should be 
"permanent." Without the employment of such "necessary anc'' 
proper" means, how could the exi)ress power have been executed atj 
all? If tliat be true, then the power in question was exhausted b^j 



BETEOCESSIOK ACT OF 1846. 7 

its exercise under the act of July 16, 1790, and the entire territory ceded 
and accepted hy Congress under tliat act vas forever dedicated as "the 
seat of tJie Government of the United States. " Such was the view of the 
14 Senators who opposed the j^assage of the act of retrocession on 
July 2, 1846. 

I Some years ago when a movement was on foot to remove the 
qapital to the valley of the ^lississippi, the effect of the action of Con- 
^iress under section 8, Article I, was fully discussed. I am informed 
hat it was then universally admitted that by the selection of the 
W'esent seat of government the power of Congress, under the section 
hi question, had been exhausted, and that any future removal can 
|)nly be accomplished through an amendment of the Constitution. 

l!l.— ACT OF 1846 UNCONSTITUTIONAL BECAUSE IN CONFLICT AVITH SECTION 10, 

ARTICLE I, OF THE CONSTITUTION. 

Conclusive as were the objections made in Congress to the const i- 
ftutionality of the act in cpiestion, under section 8, Article I, of the 
Constitution, an objection more conclusive still, depending upon an 
entirely different section, escaped observation through the failure of 
busv statesmen to examine the terms of the original cessions through 
; which the territory in question was derived. The record shows that 
no examination whatever was made in that direction. When tlie three 
cessions through which the territory of the District was derived are 
examined, it appears that there were three grantors, the State of 
Virginia, the State of Maryland, and a group composed of 19 local 
proprietors. The grantee was "the Congress and Government of the 
United States." Thus it was that four parties entered into a quad- 
rilateral contract which passed, upon its execution, under the pro- 
tection of section 10 of Article I of the Constitution, which provides 
that no State shall "pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or 
law impairing the obhgation of contracts." That phase of the mat- 
ter was in nowise considered during the debates of 1846. 

THE VIRGINIA GRANT OF DECEMBER, 1789. 

Section 2 of that act reads as follows: "Be it therefore enacted by 
the general assembly. That a tract of country, not exceeding ten miles 
square, or any lesser quantity to be located within tlie limits of this 
State and in any part thereof as Congress may by law direct, shall be 
>S and the same is forever ceded and relinquished to the Congress and Gov- 
ernment of the United States, in full and absolute right and jurisdiction, 
as well of soil as of persons residing or to reside thereon, pursuant to the 
tenor arid effect of the eighth section of tJie first article of the Constitution 
of the GovernTnent of the United States.'' 

GRANTS FROM NINETEEN LOCAL PROPRIETORS. 

On March 30, 1791, 19 local proprietors executed an agreement in 
which — 

We, the subscribers, in consideration of the great benefits we expect to derive from 
haAdng the federal city laid off upon our lands, do hereby agree and bind ourselves, 
heirs, executors, and administrators, to convey, in trust, to the President of the 
United States, or commissioners, or such person or persons as he shall appoint, by 
good and sufficient deeds, in fee simple, the whole of our respective lands which he 
may think proper to include Avithin the lines of the federal city, for the purposes and 
on the conditions following: 

The President shall have the sole power of directing the federal city to be laid off 
in what manner he pleases. 



8 ' EETKOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

lie may retain any number of squares he may think proper for public improv. 
ments, or other public uses; and the lots only which shall be laid off shall be a joii 
property between the trustees on behalf of the public and each present proprietoi 
and the same shall be fairly and equally di^'ided between the public and the indj 
\aduals, as soon as may be, the city shall be laid off. 

For the streets the proprietors shall receive no compensation; but for the squan 
or lands in any form, which shall be taken for public buildings, or any kind of pub 
lie improvements or uses, the proprietors whose lands shall be taken shall receive a 
the rate of £25 per acre, to be paid by the public. 

On or about June 29, 1791, these 19 original proprietors of tt 
greater part of the lands which now constitute the city of Washington 
in execution of the agreement of March 30, 1791, convej'ed them ii 
trust, by deeds in a form appended later on. In each one of thesi 
trust deeds it is provided that the lands in question are conveyed^ 

To and for the special trust following, and no other; that is to say: That all the said 
lands hereby bargained and sold, or such part thereof as may be thought necessary ox- 
proper to be laid out, together with other lands within the said limits, for a federal 
city, with such streets, squares, parcels, and lots as the President of the United Stated 
for the time being shall approve; and that the said Thomas Beall of George and John 
M. Gantt, or the sur\avor of them, or the heirs of such sur^dvor shall convey to the 
commissioners for the time being, appointed by \irtue of the act of Congress entitled 
"An act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the 
United States," and their successors, for the use of the United States forever. 

Thus it appears that the 19 local proprietors conveyed their 
lands to the United States forever, under the terms and conditions 
of section 2 of the act approved July 16, 1790, which provided ex- 
pressly as follows: "That the President of the United States be 
authorized to appoint, and by supplying vacancies happening from 
refusals to act or other causes, to keep in appointment as long as may 
be necessary, three commissioners, who, or any two of whom, shall, 
under the direction of the President, survey, and by proper metes 
and bounds define and limit a district of territory, under the limita- 
tions above mentioned; and the district so defined, limited, and located 
shall he deemed the district accepted by this act for the permanent seat 
of the Government of the United States.^' Acting under and by virtue 
of that section the President, by his proclamation of March 30, 1791, 
completed the acceptance and defined the boundaries of the said 
territory of 10 miles square. The terms of the proclamation are as 
follows : 

Now, therefore, for the purpose of amending and completing the location of the 
whole of said territory of 10 miles square, in conformity with the said amendatory 
act of Congress, I do hereby declare and make known that the whole of the said terri- 
tory shall be located and included within the four lines following; that is to say: 

Beginning at Jones Point, being the upper cape of Hunting Creek, in Virginia, 
and at an angle in the outset of forty-five degrees west of the north, and running in a 
direct line 10 miles, for the first line; then beginning again at the same Jones Point, 
and running another direct line, at a right angle with the first, across the Potomac 
10 miles, for the second line; thence from the termination of said first and second 
lines, running two other lines of 10 miles each, the one crossing the Eastern Branch 
aforesaid and the other the Potomac, and meeting each other in a point. 

And I do accordingly direct the commissioners named under the authority of the 
said first-mentioned act of Congress to proceed forthwith to have the said four lines 
run, and by proper metes and bounds defined and limited, and thereof to make due 
report, under their hands and seals; and the territory so to he located, defined, and limited 
shall be the whole territory accepted by the said act of Congress as the district for the per- 
onancnt seat of the Government of the United States. 

It thus appears that three montJis before the 19 projyrietors made 
their grants to the Vnited States for a permanent seat of government, 
under the act of Congress of Julv 16, 1790, the President had 



EETEOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 



\ 



v.] The Mayor, etc., of Washington, and the United States, 4 Pet., 232. 

THE FINAL GRANT FROM MARYLAND. 



j|)finitely defined and accepted the territory of 10 miles square, 
g^cluding therein the grant from. Virginia. It thus appears that 
gpital condition precedent to the grant from the 19 proprietors was 
jTibodied in the fact that Virginia had ceded and tiie United States 
j^d accepted already from her a section of territory, constituting 
>'arly one-half of the total area embraced in "said territory of 10 
(,.iles square.'" The border lines of the lands of the several original 
(jsmers of the site of the city of Washington, exclusive of Georgetown, 
^ere laid down on the land, as a preliminary engineering ground- 
vj)rk, by Major L' Enfant in designing the map of the federal city, 
jid the plan of the city was subsequently mapped out over these> 
flies. In consequence of disputes as to the meaning of portions of 
tnje deeds from the original proprietors, the trustees refused to con- 
vey the streets and reservations to the commissioners to lay out the 
city, but the Supreme Court of the United States decided that the 
fe/e simple was vested in the United States._^ See Van Nessjmd wife 

I 

Maryland, the last to convej^, took no definitive or eft'ective action 

»rior to the passage of her act of December 19, 1791, entitled "An 

ct concerning the Territory of Columbia and the city of Washington." 

\ early as December 23, 1788, Maryland expressed her good inten- 

tijons in the following act under which no action w as ever taken: 

ACT To cede to Congress a district of 10 miles square in this State (Maryland) for the seat of the 
Government of the United States. Approved December 23, 1788. 

\ie it enacted by the general assunbly of Maryland, That the Representatives of this 
Si/ate in the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, appointed 
to] assemble at New York on the first Wednesday of March next, be, and they are 
hJereby, authorized and required, on behalf of this State, to cede to the Congress of 
tljie United States any district in this State not exceedinc; 10 miles square, which the 
CJongress may fix upon and accept for the seat of government of the United Slates. 

I As no conveyance could be made under this act except to "the 

Crongress," as distinguished from the Government of the United 

S^tates, and as no selection of a site had then been made there was no 

tjittempt to execute the power vested in the Representatives of Mary- 

iJand in the National House of Representatives. Virginia made her 

mant, which was the first grant, December 3, 1789; the 19 local 

' proprietors perfected their grants on or about the 29th of June, 1791 ; 

Maryland did not make her grant until December 19, 1791. In that 

grant, embodied in a veiy elaborate act of 13 sections, Maryland put 

the fact beyond all question that the prior grants made by Virginia 

and the 19 proprietors vjere conditions precedent to her grant. In the 

S:'eamble the act recites the description of the boimdaries of the 
istrict in these terms: 

Beginning at Jones Point, being the upper point of Hunting Creek, in \'irginia, and 
at an angle at the out'^et forty-five degrees west of north, and running a direct line 
ten miles for the fiivt line; then beginning again at the same Jones Point and running 
another direct line at a right angle with the first across the Potomac ten miles for the 
second line; then from the terminations of the said first and second lines running two 
other direct lines ten miles each, the one across the Eastern Branch and the other 
Potomac, and meeting each other in a point, which has since been called the Territory 
of Columbia. 



10 EETEOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

After thus describing the prior grant from Virginia the Maryland 
act thus refers to tlie prior grant made by the 19 proprietors: 

Whereas Notley Young, Daniel Carroll, of Duddington, and many others, proprietors 
of the greater part of the land hereinafter mentioned to have been laid out in a city, 
came into an agreement, and have conveyed their lands in trust to Thomas Beall' 
son of George, and John Mackall Gantt, whereby they have subjected their lands to 
be laid out as a city, given up part to the United States, and subjected other parts 
to be sold to raise money as a donation to be employed according to the act of Congnjas 
for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the Unitied 
States, under and upon the terms and conditions contained in each of the said dee(.,s; 
and many of the proprietors of lots in Carrollsburg and Hamburg have also come irito 
an agreement, subjecting their lots to be laid out anew, giving up one-half of the quan- 
tity thereof to be sold, and the money thence arising to be applied as a donation /as 
aforesaid, and they to he reinstated in one-half of the quantity of their lots in the nd^w 
location, or otherwise compensated in land in a different situation within the cii^y, 
by agreement between the commissioners and them, and in case of disagreement, 
that then a just and full compensation shall be made in money; yet some of tsae 
proprietors in Carrollsburg and Hamburg, as well as some of the proprietors of oth'er 
lands, have not, from imbecility and other causes, come into any agreement concernii^io 
their lands within the limits hereinafter mentioned, but a very great number of tl*ie 
landholders having agreed on the same terms, the President of the United State's 
directed a city to be laid out comprehending all the lands 

within a particuhir area defined by metes and bounds. With th«3 
predicate thus laid the general assembly of Maryland enacted — 



That all that part of the said territory called Columbia which lies within the limits 
of this State shall be, and the same is hereby, acknowledged to be forever ceded ant 1 
relinquished to the Congress and Government of the United States, and full aud 
absolute right and exclusive jurisdiction, as well of soil as of persons residing or i;o 
reside thereon, pursuant to the tenor and effect of the eighth section of the first artic le 
of the Constitution of Government of the United States. 

Immediately preceding that enacting clause we find, in the cor,- 
clusion of the preamble, the following declaration: • 

Whereas it appears to this general assembly highly just and expedient that all tthe 
lands ivithin the said city should contribute, in due proportion, in the means which haoe 
already greatly enhanced the value of the whole; that an incontrovertible title ought to b e 
made to the purchasers, under public sanction; that allowing foreigners to hold Ian d 
within the said territory will greatly contril)ute to the improvement and populatioi i 
thereof, and that many temporary provisions will be necessary till Congress exercis<j 
the jurisdiction and government over the said territory; and 

Whereas in the cession of this State, heretofore made, of territory for the Governmen t 
of the United States, the lines of such cession could not be particularly designated ; 
and it being expedient and proper that the same should be recognized in the acts of 
this State, etc. 

Here we have an explicit declaration upon the part of Maryland^^^ 
that the two States and the local proprietors were cocontrihutors in a 
common enterprise whose leading wotiir was the enhancement of the 
value of the total territory contributed hy each to a common fund. The 
declaration that ''it appears to this general assembly highly just and 
expedient that all the lands within the said city should contribute, in 
due proportion, in the means which have already greatly enhanced the 
value of the whole," puts it beyond question that each contribution 
was the consideration for every other. It was a joint enterprise for 
the common good of all in which the end to be finally attained — the 
enhanced value of the territory of the District as a whole — depended 
upon the grant of each. In no other way could the title to the whole 
be perfected. 



I 



EETEOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 11 

A QUADRILATERAL CONTRACT ENTERED INTO. 

From the foregoing it clearly appears that the title to the terri- 
tory of the District of Columbia, as defined in and accepted by the 
President's proclamation of March oO, 1791, rests upon a quadri- 
lateral contract entered into, on the one hand, by the United States, 
and on the other, by Virginia, Maryland, and the 19 local proprie- 
tors. The United States through the act of Congress of July 10, 
1790, passed under the constitutional mandate, agreed that "the 
District so defmed, limited, and located, shall be deemed the Dis- 
trict accepted by this act, for tlie i^ermanent seat of the Government 
of the United States." Each of the three grantors, in consideration 
of that stipulation made for the benefit of each, through which alone 
the title to the whole could be made perfect, entered into the quadri- 
lateral contract in question. It is elementary in the law of contracts 
that when two or more instruments are executed at the same time, 
or at different times, which relate to the same subject-matter, aiicl 
one refers to the other, either tacitly oi* expressly, they will be taken 
together and construed as one instrument. As a well-known writer 
has expressed it,' "So where two instruments are executed as parts 
of the same transaction and agreement, wJtether at the same time or 
different times, they will be taken and construed together." (Law- 
son on Contracts, p. 457, citing Stephens v. Baird, 9 Cow., 274; Make- 
peace V. Harvard College, 10 Pick., 302; Sibley v. Holden, 10 Pick., 
250; Wallis v. Beauchamp, 15 Tex., 303; Strong v. Barnes, 11 Vt., 
221; Norton v. Kearney, 10 Wis., 443.) In Fletcher v. Peck, 6 
Cranch, 97, the precursor of the Dartmouth College case, it was 
said that "The suit was instituted on several covenants contained 
in a deed made by John Peck, the defendant in error, conveying to 
Robert Fletcher, the plaintiff in error, certain lands which were 
part of a large purchase made by James Gunn and others, in the 
year 1795, from the State of Georgia, the contract for which was made 
in the form of a hill passed hij the legislature of the State." In this case 
the quadrilateral contmct is made up (1) of the grant from Virginia, 
contained in her act of December 3, 17S9; (2) of the act of Congress 
of July 16, 1790; (3) of the 19 trust deeds executed by the local pro- 
pi-ietors on or about June 29, 1791; (4) of the grant from Maryland 
of December 19, 1791. These instruments are but links in a chain, 
each a part of an indivisible whole completed by the Maryland act of 
December 19, 1791, which refers to each and describes the transaction 
as a whole. Every instrument refers to every other, either directly 
or by necessary implication. The Maryland' act, which completed 
the quadrilateral contract, expressly declares that the grant was 
made from that State because "it apjjears to this generaT assembly 
highly just jind expedient that all the lands within the said city should 
contribute, in due proportion, in the means which have already e/reatly 
enhanced the value of the whole." The fact was thus put beyond all 
question that the chief consideration for this sulxscription contiact, 
in aid of the Government of the United States, which paid nothing 
to the grantors, ^yas the perpetual application by it of the joint prod- 
uct of sucli suhscriptiems to the common object, m t\\€t mode prescribed 
by the subscribers and guarantied by the recipient. There was 
perfect mutuality. "Mutuality of contract means that an obliga- 
tion must rest on each party to do or permit to be done something 



12 RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

in consideration of the act or promise of the other; that is, neither 
party is bound unless both are bound." Am. and Eng. Erie, of Law, 
volume 7, page 114, and authorities. In Dartmouth College v. 
Woodward (4 Wheat., 656), this specially pertinent defuiition occurs: 
''1. What is a contract? It may be defined to be a transaction 
between two or more persons, ancl each reciprocally acquires a right 
to whatever is promised by the other. Under this definition, says 
Mr. Powell, it is obvious that every feoffment, gift, grant, agree- 
ment, promise, etc., may be included, because in all there is a mutual 
consent of the minds of the parties concerned in, them, upon an agree- 
ment between them respecting some property or right that is the 
object of the stipulation. He adds, that the ingredients requisite to 
form a contract are parties, consent, and an obligation to be created 
or dissolved; these must all concur, because the regular effect of all 
contracts is on one side to acquire, and on the other to part with, 
some property or rights; or to abridge, or to restrain natural liberty, 
by binding the parties to do, or restrain them from doing something 
which before they might have done, or omitted. If a doubt could 
exist that a (/rant is a contract, the point was decided in the case of 
Fletcher v. Peck, in which it was laid down that a contract is either 
executory or executed; by the former, a party binds himself to do 
or not to do a particular thing; the latter is one in which the object 
of the contract is performed, and this differs in nothing from a grant ; 
hut ^dt ether executed or executory tliey hoth contain ohligations binding 
on the 'parties, and both are equalhj witliin the provisions of the Consti- 
tution of the United States, which forbids the .^tate governments to pass 
laws impairing the obligation of contracts." One of the best digests 
(Coop., 1908, vol. 2, p. 1845), in commenting on the case in question, 
says: "The consideration for a subscription contract in aid of an 
eleemosynary institution is tlie perpetual apjiUcation of the fund aris- 
ing on such suhscrii)tio)ts to its object, in the mode prescribed bij the 
subscribers." (Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheat., 518.) 
To the same effect, see Goesele v. Birmeler, 14 How., 589; Schwartz 
v. Duss, 187 U. S., 26. In the case last cited tlie principle was em])ha- 
sized that after such a dedication to a common purpose by individual 
owners the consideration is sufficient, iind no right to a pgirtition 
or retrocession can be asserted by any subscriber or his heirs. It 
thus appeal's that in this case the three grantors — by a joint contribu- 
tion in which each subscribed in consideration of -the grant of every 
other — dedicated a definite area of territory particularly described 
and accepted by the United States as its permanent seat of Gov(n-n- 
ment to })e held perpetually as sucli. As the quadrilateral contract 
thus entered into is, under the express terms of the Dartmouth Col- 
lege case, protected by the contract clause of the Constitution, the 
legislation of tlie State of Virginia under which the receded section 
is now held, taxed, and governed, is null and void, because by the 
force and (>ff'ect of such legislation nearly one-half of the subject- 
matter of the contract is withdrawn from its operation. The Supreme 
Court will determine for itself tli(> existence or nonexistence of the 
contract set up, and whether its obligation has been impaired by 
the state enactment. (Douglass v. Kentuck}', 168 U. S., 502, and 
cases cited.) In this case there can be no question that the c(uadri- 
lateral contract was executed between the ^States of Virginia, Mary- 
land, the 19 |)i()])ii(>t()rs, and tlie United States, and that such 



BETROCESSION AGT OF 1846. 13 

V 

quadrilateral contract passed under the protection of the contract 
clause of the Constitution, before the District of Cohnnhia came into 
existence, for the simple and conclusive reason that the very exist- 
ence of such District was the result of the complete execution of such 
contract. Therefore as the c|uadrilateral contract was executed 
between the United States and the States in question, prdor to the 
existence of the District, section 10 of Article I, providing that "No 
State shall * * * pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, 
or law impairing the obligation of contracts," operated upon it from 
the moment of its execution. That is no less true because such con- 
tract was executed between States. In Wolf v. New Orleans, 103 
U. S., 367, it was held expressly that "The prohibition of the Consti- 
tution against the passage of laws impairing the obligation of con- 
tracts, applies to the contracts of the State, and to those of its agents 
acting under its authority, as well as to contracts between individ- 
uals. And that obligation so impaired, in the sense of the Consti- 
tution, when the means by which a contract at the time of its execu- 
tion could be enforced; that is, by which the parties could be obliged 
to perform it, are rendered less efficacious by legislation operating 
directly upon those means." In speaking of its duty in that regarcl 
in Murray v. Charleston (96 U. S., 448) the Supreme Court said that 
"it is one of the highest duties of this court to take care that the 
prohibition shall neither be evaded nor frittered away. Complete 
effect nmst be given to it in all its spirit." The attempted act of 
recession of 1846 is null and void because in conflict with sections 
8 and 10 of Article I of the Constitution; the legislation of Virginia 
under irhich her sovereignty is now asserted is null and void because in 
conflict with section 10 of Article I of the Constitution. The practical 
dilemma is this: 

In 1846 two parties to a quadrilateral contract, protected by the 
contract clause of the Constitution — to wit, the t'nited States and 
Virginia — attempted to annul it without the assent of the other two 
parties, by withdrawing a large section of the consideration upon ivhich 
the contract was made. If that attempted recession upon the part of 
the United vStates and Virginia is valid, then the contract as a whole 
fails. Neither party is bound unless all are bound. If the United 
States and Virginia, as a matter of law, actually annuled the quadri- 
lateral contract, then Maryland and the representatives of the 19 
proprietors can justly and legally claim every foot of land em- 
braced in the limits of the District as now defined. If the retroces- 
sion to Virginia is to stand, then the land underlying the Capitol, 
the White House, and the Treasure" belongs either to Maryland or 
the local propiietors by whom it was granted. The nation can only 
be protected against that result b}^ a judgment of the Supreme Court 
of the United States declaring the act of retrocession of 1846 to bo 
null and void. 

III. JURISDICTION OF THE SUPREME COURT OVER THE CONTROVERSY. 

Fortunately there is no real danger in the foregoing reductio ad 
horribiJe. The title of the United States to all the territory within 
the District as originally defined is perfect by reason of the fact that 
the act of recession of 1846 is clearly unconstitutional and void; 
(1) because of the reasons set forth in the debates in Congress at the 



14 RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

time of its j)iiss<io;e; (2) because of the reasons herein set forth for 
the first time. Wliat, then, is the remedy? A complete answer is 
to be found in the opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of the 
United States v. Texas (143 U. S., 621-649), in which it was hekl: 
(1) That the Supreme Court can, under the Constitution, take 
cognizance of an orio;inal suit brouoht by the United States ao;ainst 
a State to determine the boundary l)etween one of the Territories 
and such State; (2) That the Supreme Court has jurischction to 
determine a disputed question of Ijoundary between the United 
States and a vState; (3) That a suit in equity begun in the Supreme 
Court is appropriate for determining a boundary between the United 
States and one of tlie States. In the course of its opinion the court 
said : 

''In view of these cases, it can not, with propriety, be said that a 
question of boundary between a Territory of the United States and 
one of the States of the Union is of a political nature and not sus- 
ceptible of judicial determination by a court having jurisdiction of 
such a controversy. The important question, therefore, is whether 
this court can, under the Constitution, take cognizance of an original 
suit brought by the United States against a State to determine the 
boundary betw^een one of the Territories and such State. * * * 
We can not assume that the framers of the Constitution, while 
extending the judicial power of the United States to controversies 
between two or more States of the Union, and between a State of 
the Union and foreign states, intended to exempt a State altogether 
from suit by the General Government. They coukl not have over- 
looked the possibilit}" that controversies capable of judicial solution 
might arise between the United States and some of the States, and 
that the permanence of the I^nion might be endangered if to some 
tribunal was not intrusted the power to determine them according 
to the recognized principles of law." 

That case solves every problem that can possibly arise in an original 
suit between the United States and Virginia as to the boundaries of 
the District of Columbia. It also solves in advance another problem 
that will surely arise, sooner or later, between the United States and 
Maryland if the recession of 1846 to Virginia is not annulled. In that 
event ■Maryland has a perfect right to claim of the United States, by 
reason of the recession of the original quadrilateral agreement, the 
return of every foot of land ceded by her and now embraced within 
the present limits of the District. That right Maryland can enforce 
in an original suit against the United States in the Supreme Court, 
under the authority of United States v. Texas. That great case h^s 
also lefuted most emphatically the strange contention made by 
Senator George F. Hoar in the report made bv him to the Senate on 
April 11, 1902 (57th Cong., 1st sess., Rept. Xo.'l078), as to the consti- 
tutionality of the act of retrocession of 1846. In that report he said: 
"As to the suggestion that the retrocession was unconstitutional, it 
seems to us the answer is that from the nature of the case it is a 
political and not a judicial question and that it has been settled b}' 
the political authorities alone competent to decide it." Such a theory, 
always untenable, was completely A\dped out b}'" the judgment in the 
case in question, in which it was expressly decided that ''it can not, 
with propriety, be said that a question of boundary between a Terri- 
tory of the United States and one of the States of the Union is of a 



RETKOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 15 

political nature and not susceptible of judicial determination by a 
court having jurisdiction of such a controversy. * * * \\"e can 
not assume that the framers of the Constitution, while extending the 
judicial power of the United States to controversies between two or 
more States of the Union, and l)etween a State of the Union and 
foreign states, intended to exempt a State altogether from suit by 
the General Government." 

The right to proceed under that case can not be affected, of course, 
by the decision in Phillips v. Bayne (92 U. S., 130), in which it was 
held that the validity of the retrocession to Virginia of Alexandria 
County can not be raised by a taxpayer in an action to recover for 
taxes alleged to have been assessed illegally. It was held therein 
that the validity of the retrocession can only be raised by the sover- 
eignties interested acting on their own account. The doctrine of 
acquiescence can not be set up against the United States by one 
holding under an unconstitutional or void law. In Norton v. Shelby 
County (118 U. S., 425), the court said: "An unconstitutional act is 
not law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no pro- 
tection; it creates no olhce; it is, in legal contemplation, as inopera- 
tive as though it had never been passed." Resting upon the case of 
Hildredtli v. Mclntire (1 J. J. Marsh, 200, Ky.), the Supreme Court 
held that, under our system of written constitutions, de facto condi- 
tions can not impart constitutional validity to acts or institutions. 
The case of U. S. v. Texas settled the fact that all controversies as to 
boundaries between the United States and States present questions 
purely judicial; they are justiciable by the Supreme Court alone. 
The idea, as restated by Senator Hoar, that such questions are po- 
litical was extinguished by that judgment. 

IV. DUTY OF THE PRESIDENT IN THE PREMISES. 

The constitutional mandate that requires the President to ''take 
care that the laws be faithfully executed" compels him to ascertain 
and determine the limits of the territory over which they are to be 
enforced. In his argument in United States v. Texas the Attorney- 
General of the United States stated the matter in this form: ''The 
President in enforcing the laws must determine over what territory 
they are to be enforced." (Carr v. United States, 98 U. S., 436; 
Foster v. Neilson, 2 Pet., 306; Cherokee Nation v. Southern Kansas 
R. Co., 135 U. S., 656.) Upon a kindred principle of international 
law all conflicts as to boundaries with foreign states pertain, in the 
United States, to the executive department of the Government whose 
solutions of them will be accepted as final by the judiciary. (Garcia 
V. Lee, 12 Pet., 415 ; Williams v. Suffolk Ins. Co., 13 Pet., 415 ; U. S. v. 
Reynes, 9 How., 127; In re Cooper, 143 U. S., 472.) In determining 
all questions of boundary, whether foreign or domestic, the initiative 
in this country is vested in the Executive acting alone. While he 
'may advise with Congress as to the steps he may take in ascertaining 
boundaries, while executing the laws within the same, the President 
can not surrender his exclusive power to ascertain what they are. As 
a practical illustration, if in this matter the President believes that 
Virginia is in unlawful possession of that portion of the District 
described in the act of 1846, it is his constitutional duty to "take care 
that the laws be faithfully executed" in that area, regardless of any 
contrary opinion the legislative department of the Government might 
entertain on the subject. He could hold no otlier view without abdi- 



16 EETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

eating the iiidependenee of the executive power in the execution of 
the laws. It is, however, in niv humble judgment a case in which 
there should be friendly consultation between the executive and legis- 
lative departments, because in the event of a recovery in the Supreme 
Court (^ongress would no doubt be called upon to pass such a bill of 
indemnity as would relieve Virginia of any accountability for revenues 
derived from the area in question during her de facto occupation. In 
the appendix hereto is embraced all the acts of government upon 
which the quadrilateral contract in question depends, and also the 
agreement and form of the deed from the local ]iroprietors. 

Yours, with great respect, Hannis Taylor. 

Washington, D. C, January 12, WW. 

Hon. Thomas H. Carter, 

Washington, I). (\ 



Appendix. 

[Embracing all the acts of government upon which the quadrilateral contract in question depends, and 
also the agreement and form of the deed from the local proprietors.] 

No. 1.— VIRGINIA CESSION OF DECEMBER 3, 1789. 

AN ACT For the cession of 10 miles square or any lesser quantity of territory within this State (Virginia) 
to the United States in Congress assembled, for the pennanent seat of the General Government. Ap- 
proved, December 3, 1789. 

1. Whereas the equal and common benefits resulting from the administration of 
the General Government will be best diffused and its operations become more prompt 
and certain by establishing such a situation for the seat of said Government as will be 
most central and convenient to the citizens of the United States at large, having 
regard as well to population, extent of territory, and free navigation to the Atlantic 
Ocean, through the Chesapeake Bay, as to the most direct and ready communication 
with our fellow*-citizens in the western frontiers; and whereas it appears to this assem- 
bly that a situation combining all the considerations and advantages before recited 
may be had on the banks of the river Potomac, above tide water, in a country rich 
and fertile in soil, healthy and salubrious in climate, and abounding in all the neces- 
saries and conveniences of life, where, in a location of 10 miles square, if the wisdom 
of Congress shall so direct, the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia may 
participate in such location: 

2. Be it therefore enacted by the general assembly, That a tract of country, not exceed- 
ing ten miles square, or any lesser quantity, to be located within the limits of this 
State, and in any part thereof as Congress may by law direct, shall be, and the same 
is, forever ceded and relinquished to the Congress and Government of the United 
States, in full and absolute right and exclusive jurisdiction, as well of soil as of per- 
sons residing or to reside thereon, pursuant to the tenor and effect of the eighth section 
of the first article of the Constitution of the Government of the United States. 

III. Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be herein construed to vest in 
the United States any right of property in the soil, or to affect the rights of indi- 
viduals therein, otherwise than the same shall or may be transferred by such indi- 
viduals to the United States. 

IV. And provided also, That the jurisdiction of the laws of this Commonwealth 
over the persons and property of individuals residing within the limits of the cession 
aforesaid shall not cease or determine until Congress, having accepted the said ces- 
sion, shall by law provide for the government thereof, under their jurisdiction, in 
the manner ]1r()^•ided by the article of the Constitution before recited. 



No. 2.— THE FIRST ACT OF CONGRESS OF JULY 16, 1790. 
AN ACT For establishing the temporary and i)ennanent seat of the Government of the United States. 

SECTn)\' 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Represcntatires of the United 
States of America in Congress assembled, That a district of territory, not exceeding ten 
miles square, to be located, as hereafter directed on the river Potomac, at some place 
between the mouths of the Eastern Branch and the Connogochegue, be, and the 
same is hereby, accepted for the permanent seat of the Government of the United 



BETKOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 17 

States: Provided neiertheless, That the operation of the laws of the State within such 
district shall not be al^'ected by this acceptance, until the time fixed for the removal 
of the Government thereto, and until (Congress shall otherwise by law provide. 

Sec. 2. And be it further enaefed. That the President of the United States be author- 
ized to appoint, and liy supplying vacancies happening from refusals to act or other 
causes, to keep in appointment as long as may be necessary, three commissioners, 
who, or any two of whom, shall, under the direction of the President, survey, and 
by proper metes and bounds define and limit a district of territory, under the limita- 
tions above mentioned; and the district so defined, limited, and located shall be 
deemed the district accepted by this a(^t for the permanent seat of the Government 
of the United States. 

Sec. 3. And he it {further) enacted, That the said commissioners, or any two of them, 
shall have power to purchase or accept such ((uantity of land on the eastern side of 
the said river, within the said district, as the President shall deem proper for the use 
of the United States: and according to such plans as the President shall approve, the 
said commissioners, or any two of them, shall, ])rior to the first ^Slonday in December, 
in the year one thousand eight hundred, provide suitable buildings for the accom- 
modation of Congress and of the President and for the public offices of the Govern- 
ment of the United States. 

Sec 4. ^ind he it (further) enacted, That for defraying the expense of such purchases 
and buildings, the President of the United States be authorized and requested to 
accejit grants of money. 

Sec 5. And be it (further) enacted, That prior to the first Monday in December next, 
all offices attached to the seat of the Government of the United States, shall be removed 
to, and until the said first ^Monday in December, in the year one thousand eight' hun- 
dred, shall remain at the city of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania, at which 
place the session of Congress next ensuing the present shall be held. 

Sec 6. And be it {further) enacted, That on the said first Monday in December, in 
the year one thousand eight hundred, the seat of the Government of the United 
States shall, by virtue of this act, be transferred to the district and place aforesaid. 
And all offices attached to the said seat of government, shall accordingly be removed 
thereto by their respective holders, and shall, after the said day, cease to be exer- 
cised elsewhere; and that the necessary expense of such removal shall be defrayed 
out of the duties on imposts and tonnage, of which a sufficient sum is hereby appro- 
priated . 

Approved, July 16, 1790. (1 Stats., 130.) 



No. 3.— PRESIDENT'S PROCLAMATION OF JANUARY 2-1, 1791. 

In pursuance of the act of 16th of July, 1790, three commissioners were appointed, 
who proceeded to locate the district of 10 miles square agreeably to the following 
proclamation of the President: 

By the President of the United States of America. 
A PROCLAMATION. 

Whereas the general assembly of the State of Maryland, by an act passed on the 
23d day of December, 1788, entitled "An act to cede to Congress a district of ten miles 
square in this State for the seat of Government of the United States," did enact that 
the representatives of the said State in the House of Representatives of the Congress 
of the United States, appointed to assemble at New York on the first Wednesday of 
March then next ensuing, should be, and they were thereby, authorized and required, 
on the behalf of the said State, to cede to the Congress of the United States any district 
in the said State not exceeding ten miles square, which the Congress might fix upon 
and accept for the seat of Government of the United States. 

And the general assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, by an act passed on 
the 3d day of December, 1789, and entitled "An act for the cession of ten miles square . 
or any lesser quantity of territory within this State, to the United States in Congress 
assem^bled, for the permanent seat of the General Goverment, "did enact that a 
tract of country not exceeding ten square miles, or any lesser quantity, to be located 
within the limits of the said State, and in any part thereof, as Congress might by law 
direct, should be and the same was thereby forever ceded and relinquished to the 
Congress and Government of the United States, in full and absolute right, and exclu- 
sive jurisdiction, as well of soil as of persons residing or to reside thereon, pursuant to 
S. Doc. 286, 61-2 2 



18 RETKOCESSIO^J ACT OF 1846. 

the tenor and effect (if the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution of Gov- 
ernment of the United States. 

And the Congress of the United States, by theii- act passed the 16th day of July, 
3790, and entitled "An act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the 
Government of the United States," authorized the President of the United States to 
appoint three commissioners t(j survey under his direction, and by proper metes and 
bounds to limit a district of territory not exceeding ten miles square on the river 
Potomac, at some place lietween the mouth of the Eastern Branch and Conococheague, 
which district, so to be located and limited, was acc^epted by the said act of Congress 
as the district for the permanent seat of the Government of the I' nited States. 

Now, therefore, in pursuance of the powers to me confided, and after duly examining 
and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the several situations within the 
limits aforesaid, I do hereby declare and make known that the location of one part of 
the said district of ten miles scjuare shall be found by running four lines of experiment 
in the following manner, that is to say: Running from the coin1-house of Alexandria, 
in Virginia, due southwest half a mile, and thence a due southeast course till it shall 
strike Hunting Creek, to fix the beginning of the said four lines of experiment. 

Then beginning the first of the said four lines of experiment at the point on Hunt- 
ing Creek where the said southeast course shall have struck the same, and running 
the said first line due northwest ten miles; thence the second into Maryland, due 
northeast ten miles; thence the third line due southeast ten miles; and thence the 
fourth line due southwest ten miles, to the beginning on Hunting Creek 

And the said four lines of experimetit being so rim, I do hereby declare and make 
known that all that part within the said four lines of experiment which shall be within 
the State of Maryland and above the Eastern Branch, and all that part within the 
same four lines of experiment which shall be within the Commonwealth of Virginia, 
and above a line to be run from the point of land forming the Upper Cape of the mouth 
of the Eastern Branch due southwest, and no more, is now fixed u])on, and directed 
to be surveyed, defined, limited, and located for a part oi the said district accepted 
by the said act of Congress for the permanent seat of the Government of the United 
States; hereby expressly reserving the direction of the survey and location of the 
remaining part of the said district, to be made hereafter contiguous to such part or 
})arts of the ]>resent location as is or shall be agreeably to law. 

And I do accordingly direct the said commissioners, appointed agreeably to the 
tenor of the said act. to proceed forthwith to run the said lities of experiment, and, 
the same being nm, to survey and, by proper metes and bounds, to define and limit 
the part wnthin the same which is hereinbefore directed for immediate location and 
acceptance, and thereof to make due report to me under their hands and seals. 

In testimony whereof 1 have caused the seal of the United States to be atfixed to 
these presents, and signed the same with my hand. Done at the city of Philadelphia 
the 24th day of Januarv. in the vtsar of our Lord 1791, and of the Independence of the 
United States the fifteenth. 

Georoe Washington. 

By the President: 

Thomas .Jefferso.nt. 



No. 4.— THE AMENDATORY ACT OF MARCH 3, 1791. 

AN ACT To amend " An act for establishing the temporarv and permanent seat of the Government of the 

United States." 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America 
in Congress assembled, That so much of the act entitled "An act for establishing the 
temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United States" as requires 
that the whole of the district of territory, not exceeding ten miles square, to be located 
on the river Potomac, for the permanent seat of the Government of the United States, 
shall be located above the mouth of the Eastern Branch, be, and is hereby, repealed, 
and that it shall be lawful for the President to make any part of the territory below 
the said limit, and above the mouth of Hunting Creek, a part of the said district, so 
as to include a convenient part of the Eastern Branch, and of the lands lying on the 
lower side thereof, and also the town of Alexandria, and the territory so to be included 
shall form a part of the district not exceeding ten miles square, for the permanent seat 
of the Government of the United States, in like manner aud to all intents and purposes 
as if the same had been within the purview of the above-recited act: Provided, That 
nothing herein ctmtained shall authorize the erection of the public buildings other- 
wise than on the Maryland side of the river Potomac, as required by the aforesaid act. 

Approved March 3, 1791. (1 Stats., 214.) 



RETKOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 19 

V 

Xo.o— PKKSIDENT'S PROCLAMATION OF MAIU'll :«). 17!il. 

Whereas, by proclamation bearing date the 24th day of January, of this present year* 
and in pursuance of certain acts of the States of Maryland and Virginia and the Con" 
gress of the United States, therein mentioned, certain lines of experiment were 
directed to be run in the neighborhood of (leorgetown, in Maryland, for the purpose 
of locating a part of the territory of ten miles scjuare, for the permanent seat of Gov- 
ernment of the United States, and a certain part was directed to be located within 
the said lines of experiment on both sid(-s of the Potomac, and above the limits of the 
Eastern Branch, prescribed by the said acts of Congress; 

And Congress, by an amendatory act, passed on the 8d da>' oi this present month 
of March, ha^'e given further authority to the President of the United States "to make 
any part of Ihc said territoiif below the said limit and above the mouth of Hunting Creelc a 
part of said district, so as to include a convenient part of the Eastern Branch, and of the 
■lands lying on the lower side thereof, and also the town of Alexandria:" 

Now, therefore, for the purpose of amending and completing the location of the 
whole of said territory of ten miles square, in conformity with the said amendatory 
act of Congress, I do hereljy declare and make known that the whole of the said terri- 
tory shall be located and included within the four lines following, that is to say: 

Beginning at Jones's Point, being the upper cape of Hunting Creek, in Virginia, 
and at an angle in the outset of forty-five degrees west of the north, and running in 
a direct line ten miles, for the first line; then beginning again at the same Jones's 
Point, and running another direct line, at a right angle with the first, across the 
Potomac ten miles, for the second line; thence from the termination of said first and 
second lines, running two other lines of ten miles each, the one crossing the Eastern 
Branch aforesaid and the other the Potomac, and meeting each other in a point. 

And I do accordingly direct the connnissioners named under the authority of the 
said first-mentioned act of Congress to proceed forthwith to have the said four lines 
run, and by proper metea and bounds defined and limited, and thereof to make due 
report, under their hands and seals; and the territory so to be located, defined, and 
limited shall be the whole territory accepted by the said act of Congress as. the district 
for the permanent seat (jf the Gf)vernment of the United States. 

In testimony whereof 1 hav(^ caused the seal of the United States to be afKxed to 
these presents, and signed the same with my own hand. Done at Georgetown afore- 
said the 30th day of ^larch, in the year of our Lord 1791. and of the Indep<-ndence 
of the United States the fifteenth. 

[seal.] Ge()R(;i-: Wa.'^hinctox. 

By the President: 

Thomas Jekferson. 



No. »).— A(iREEMENT OF THE ORIGINAL PROPKIKTORS OF MARCH m, 17in. 

On March 28, 1791, President Washington reached (Tcorgetown, and on the 29th 
he rode over the proposed site of the Federal city, in company with the three commis- 
sioners and the two surveyors, Andrew EUicott and Maj. Peter Charles L'Enfant. 

On the evening of the same day a meeting was held for the purpose of effecting a 
friendly agreement between the proprietors of the lands constituting the site of the 
Federal city and the United States commissioners, and Washington's good counsel 
on that occasion had so favorable an el'fect that the general features w ere settled that 
very evening for the agreement, whidi was signed and executed by nineteen property 
holders the next day. and thereby the rights of and titles to property within this Dis- 
trict and city may be said to have been decided on that evening. 

This agreement, which was accepted by the commissioners and recorded in their 
hooks on A])ril 12, 1791. was as follows: 

"We, the subscribers, in consideration of the great benefits we expect to derive 
from having the I'Y'deral city laid off upon oui- lands, do hereby agree and bind our- 
selves, heirs, executors, and administrators, to convey, in trust, to the President of the 
United States, or commissioners, or such person or |)ersons as he shall appoint, by 
good and sufticient deeds, in fee simple, the whole of our respective lands which he 
may think proper to include witliin the li?ies of the Federal city, fcr the purposes and 
•on the conditions following: 

"The President shall ha\'e the sole j)ower of directing the l''ederal city to be laid off 
in what manner he pleases. 

"He may retain any number of squares he may think proper for public improve- 
ments, or other public uses; and the lots only which shall be laid off shall be a joint 
property between the trustees <ni behalf of the public and each present proprietor, 
and the same shall be fairly and equallv divided between the public and the indi- 
viduals, as soon as mav be, the city shall be laid off. 



20 RETROCESSION' ACT OF 1846. 

'/For the streets the proprietors shall receive no (■oin|)en^atii)ri: but lor the squares 
or lauds in any form, which shall be taken for public buildin<>s, or any kind of pub- 
lic improvements or uses, the proprietors whose lands shall ))p taken shall receive at 
the rate of 25 pounds per acre, to be paid by the public. 

■"The whole wood on the lands shall be the property of the proprietors, and should 
any be desired by the President to be reserved or left standing, the same shall be 
paid for by the public at a just and reasonable valuation, exclusive of the £25 per 
acre to be paid for the land on which the same shall remain. 

"Each proprietor shall retain the full possession and use of his land until the same 
shall be sold and occu])ied by the purchase of the lots laid out thereon, and in all 
cases where the public arrangements as the streets, lots, etc., will admit of it, each 
proprietor shall jiossess his buildings and other improvements and graveyards, pay- 
ing to the public only one-half the present estimated value of the land, on which 
the same shall be, or £12 lOsh. per acre; but in cases where the arrangements of the 
streets, lots, squares, etc., will not adniit of this, and it shall become necessary to 
remove such buildings, etc., the proprietors of tljc same shall be paid the reasonable 
value thereof b>- the public. 

■'Nothing herein contained shall affect the lots any of the paities to this agreement 
may hold in the towns of Hamburgh or Carrolsburg. 

"In M'itness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals this 30th day of 
-M.irch, in the year of our Lord 1791. 

" ROHEKT PeTEK. [seal.] 

"David Burxes. [seal.] 

■Jas. M. Lingan. [seal.] 

■"I'hiah Forrest. [seal.] 



[Jenjamix Stoduekt 
"notley youxg. 
"Daxiel Carroll of IKdoingtox. 

"OVERTOX CaRR. 

■'Thomas Beale oi- George. 
"Chas. Beatty. 



"Anthony IIolmead. [seal.] 



'Wm. Youxg. 
"Edward Pierce. 
"Abraham Youxg. 



"Jas. Pierce. [seal.] 



seal.] 
seal.] 
seal.] 
seal.] 

SEAL.] 

seal.] 



SEAL.] 
SEAL.] 
SEAL.l 



SEAL.] 
SEAL.] 



""^^'M. PrOUT. 

■ Robert Peter, 

''As Attorney in Fad for EUphas Douglass. 
"Benjamin Stoddert, [seal.] 

"For Jas. Warren, hi/ irritteri aufhoriti/ from IV. Warren. 
"Wm. King. [seal.] 

"Signed and sealed in presence of Mr. Thomas Beale. makiiii: an exception of the 
laud he sold A. C. Young not yet conveyed. 
• "'Witness to all subscribers, including Wni. Yihiiil;. 

"Wm. Bailey. 

"'Wm. Robertson. 

"'John Luter. 

"Sam. Davidso.n (witness to Abraham Young signing. 

"'Benjamin Stoddert (witness to Pierce's signingi. 

"'Joseph E. Rowles (for Jno. Warring). 

■"Wm. 1)k.aki\(;. Jr. (for Wm. Prout and Win. Kiuiii. ' 



No. 7.— FOKM OF TRUST DEED USED BY THE NINETEEN ORIGINAL PROPRIETORS 

On or about the 29th of June, 1791, nineteen original jjroprietors of the greater parts 
of the lands which now constitute the cit\' of Washington conveyed them in trust, 
by deeds in the following form, viz: 

[Copy of the deed iu tnisi from au original proprietor of t lie ground on wliicb the city of Washington is 
located to the trustees appointed hy authority of the united States to receive the same.] 

This indenture, made this 29th day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand 
seven hundred and ninety-one, between (here is inserted the name of the grantor), 
of the State of Maryland, of the one part, and Thomas Beall, of George; and John M. 

Gantt, of the State of Maryland, of the other part, witnesseth: That the said — 

(the grantor), for and in consideration of the sum of five shillings, to him in hand paid 
bv the same Thomas Beall, of (ieorge, and John M. (iantt. before the sealing and de- 



BETROOESSIOX ACT OF 184fi. 21 

• 

livery of these presents, the receipt whereof he cloth hereby acknowledge, and thereof 
doth acquit the said Thomas Beall. of George, and John M. Gantt, their executors 
and administrators; and also, for and in consideration of the uses and trust hereinafter 
mentioned, to be performed by the said Thomas Beall, of George, and John M. Gantt, 
and the survivor of them, and the heirs of such survivor, according to the true intent 
and meaning thereof, hath granted, bargained, sold, aliened, released, and confirmed, 
and by these presents doth grant, bargain, sell, alien, release, and confirm unto the said 
Thomas Beall, of George, and John M. "Gantt, and the survivor of them, and the heirs 
of such survivor, all the lands of him, the said (grantor) lying and being within the 
following limits, boundaries, and lines, to wit: Beginning on the east side of Rock 
Greek, at a stone standing in the middle of the main road leading from Georgetown 
to Bladensburg; thence along the middle of the said road to a stone standing on the 
east side of the Reedy Branch of Goose Creek; thence southeasterly, making an angle 
of 61 degrees and twenty minutes with the meridian, to a stone standing in the road 
leading from Bladensburg to the Eastern Branch ferry; thence south, to a stone eighty 
poles north of the east-and-west line already drawn from the mouth of Goose Creek, 
to the Eastern Branch; then east, parallel to the said east-and-west line, to the Eastern 
Branch; thence by and with the waters of the Eastern ]3ranch, Potomac River, and 
Rock Creek to the beginning, with their appurtenances, except all and every lot and 

lots of which the said (the grantor) is seized or to which he is entitled 

in Carrollsburg or Hamburg; to have and to hold the hereby bargained and sold lands 
with their appurtenances to the said Thomas Beall of George and John M. Gantt, and 
the survivor of them, and the heirs of such survivor forever: To and for the special 
trust following, and no other; that is to say: That all the said lands hereby bargained 
and sold, or such part thereof as may be thought necessary or proper to he laid out, 
together with other lands within the said limits, for a Federal city, with such streets, 
squares, parcels, and k)ts as the President of the United States for the time being shall 
approve; and that the said Thomas Beall. of George, and John M. Gantt, or the survivor 
of them, or the heirs of such survivor shall convey to the commissioners for the time 
being, appointed by virtue of the act of Congress entitled "An act for establishing 
the temporary and jiermanent seat of the Government of the United States," and 
their successors, for the use of the United States fqrever, all the said streets and such 
of the said squares, ])arcels, and lots as the President shall deem proper, for the use of 
the United States: and that as to the residue of the said lots, into which the said lands 
hereby bargained and sold shall have been laid off and divided, that a fair and equal 
division of them shall be made. And if no other mode of division shall be agreecl on 

by consent of the said (the grantor) and the commissioners for the time 

being, then such residue of the said lots shall be divided, every other lot alternate 

to the said (the grantor), and it shall, in that event, be determined by 

lot, whether the said (the grantor ) shall begin with the lot of the lowest 

number laid out on the said lands or the following number. 

And all the said lots which may in any manner be divided or assigned to the 
•said (the grantor i shall, thereupon, together with any part of the bar- 
gained and sold lands, if any, which shall not have been laid out in the said city, be 
conveyed by the said Thomas Beall of George and John M. Gantt, or the survivor of 

them, or the heirs of such survivor, to him, the said (the grantor), his 

heirs and assigns. And that the said other lots .shall and may be sold at such time or 
times, in such manner, and on such terms and conditions as the President of the United 
States for the time being shall direct; and that the said Thomas Beall of George and 
John M. Gantt, or the survivor of them, or the heirs of such survivor, will, on the 
order and direction of the President, convey all the said lots so sold and ordered to be 
conveyed to the respective purchasers in fee simple, according to the terms and con- 
ditions of such ])urchases; and the produce of the sale of the said lots when sold as 

aforesaid shall in the first place be applied to the payment in money to the said 

(the grantor), his executors, administrators, or assigns, for all the part of the 

land hereby bargained and sold which shall have been laid off into lots, squares, or 
parcels, and appropriated as aforesaid to the use of the United States, at the rate of 
twenty-five pounds per acre, not accounting the said streets as part thereof. 

And the said twenty-five pounds per acre, being so paid, or in any other manner satis- 
tied, that then the produce of the same sale, or what thereof may remain as aforesaid, in 
money or securities of anj- kind, shall be paid, assigned, transferred, and delivered over 
to the President of the United States, for the time being, as a grant of money, and to 
be applied for the purposes and according to the act of Congress aforesaid. But the 

said conveyance to the said — (the grant(ir), his heirs or assigns, as well 

as the conveyance to the purchasers, shall be on, and subject to such terms and con- 
ditions as shall be thought reasonalde, by the President, for the time being, for regu- 
lating the materials and manner of the buildings and improvements on the lots, 
generally, in the said city, or in particular streets, or parts thereof, for common con- 
A'enience, safety, and order: Frovided. Such terms and conditions be declared before 



22 RETRO<_;ESSI()^' act of 1«4(). 

the sales of any of the said lots, under the direction of the President. And in trust 

further, and on the agreement that the said . (the graiitor), his heirs or 

assigns, shall aud may continue his possession and occupation of the said lands hereby 
bargained and sold, at his and their will and pleasure, until they shall be occupied 
under the said appropriations for the use of the United State.s as aforesaid, or by pur- 
chasei's; aud when any lots or parcels shall be occtipied under purchase or appropri- 
ations as aforesaid, then, and not until then, shall the said (the grantor) 

relinquish his occupation thereof. And in trust also, as to the trees, timber, and 

wood, on the premises, that he the said (the grantor), his heirs or assigns, 

may freely cut down, take, and carry away, and use the same as his and their property, 
except such of the trees and wood growing as the President (ir c-omnii-<sioners aforesaid 
may judge proper, and give notice, shall be left for ornaments, for which the just and 

reasonable value shall be paid to the said (the grantor), his executors. 

administrators, or assigns, exclusive of the twenty-tive jhhuuIs per acre for the land. 

And in case the arrangements of the streets, lots, and the like will conveniently 

admitof it, he the said — ■ (thegrantor), his heirs or assigns, if he so desire it. 

shall possess and retain his buildings and graveyard, if any, on the hereby liargained 
and sold land, paying lo the President at the rate of twelve pountis ten shillings per 
acre for the lands so retained, because of such buildings and graveyards, to be aj)j)lied 

as aforesaid, and the same shall thereupon be conveyed to the said (the 

grantor), his heirs or assigns, with his lots. But if the arrangements of the streets, 
lots, and the like will not conveniently admit of such retention, and it shall become 

necessary to remove such buildings, then the said (the grantor), his 

executors, administrators, or assigns, shall be ])aid the reasonable value thereof in 
the same manner as squares or other ground appro})riated for the use of the United 
States are to be paid for. And because it may s(j happen that b\" deaths or removals 
of the said Thomas Heall, of George, and John M. (lantt, and from other causes, difh- 
culties may occur in fully perfecting the said trusts, by executing all the said con- 
veyances, if no eventual provision is made, it is therefore agreed and covenanted 
between all the said parlies, that the .said Thomas Beall, of George, and John M. Gantt, 
or either of them, or the heirs of an\- f)f them, lawfully may, and that they, at any 
time, at the request of the President of the United States for the time being, will 
convey all or any of the said lands hereby bargained and sold, which shall not then 
have been conveyed in execution of the trusts aforesaitl, to such person or persons as 
he shall appoint, in fee simple, subject to the trusts then remaining to be executed, 
and to the end that some may be i)erfected. 

And it is further granted and agreed between all the said |)arties, and each of the 
said parties doth for himself, respectively, aud his heirs, co\enant and grant to aud 
with the others of them, that he and they shall and will, if required ijy the President 
of the United States for the time being, join in aud execute any further deed or deeds 
for carrying into effect the trusts, jnirposes, and true intent of this i)resent deed. In 
witness whereof the i)arties to these presents have hereunto .•^et their hands and affixed 
their seals the day and year first above written.- 

Signed by the grantor. 

■ . [seal.] 

Signed, sealed, aTid delivered in the presence of — 

All the residue of the lands lying within the bounds of the city were, by an act of 
the legislature of Maryland, passed on or about the 19th of December, T79I, vested in 
the same trustees, and subjected to the same trusts. 



Xo. 8.— M.\I{VLAM) CESSION OF DI'XKMH K K l!l, I7'.i!. 

.VN .\UT Coiiceniiiig tlic territory of Colnml>ia and the city of \\asliinj;lon. 

(l^assed Decemtier ISi, 1791.] 

Whereas the President of the I'nited States, by virtue of se\-eral acts of ("ougress. 
and acts of the assemblies of .Maryland and Virginia, l»y his [jroclaination, dated at 
Georgetown on the thirtieth day of March, seventeen hundred and ninety-one, did 
declare and make known that the whole of the territorj- of ten miles square, for the 
permanent seat of government of the United States, shall be located and included 
within the four lines following, that is to say: Beginning at Jones Point, being the 
upper point of Hunting Creek, in \irginia, and at an angle at the outset forty-five 
degrees west of north, and running a direct line ten miles for the first line; then begin- 
ning again at the same Jones Point and running another direct line at a right angle 
with the first across the Potomac ten miles for the second line; then from the termina- 
tions of the said first and second lines running two other direct lines ten miles each. 



KETKOOESSION ACT OF 1846. 23 

V 

the oue acro^^ the Easterji Branch an<l the other Potomac, and nieetintj: each other 
in a point, which has since been called the Territory of Columbia; and. 

Whereas Notley Youno-, Daniel Carroll, of Duddington, and many others, proprie- 
tors of the greater part of the land hereinafter mentioned to have been laid out in a 
t'ity, came into an agreement, and have conveyed their lands in trust U) Thomas 
Beall, sun of George, and J(jhn Mackall Gantt, whereby they have subjected their 
lands to be laid out as a city, given up jjart to the I'nited States, and subjected other 
parts to be sold to raise money as a donation to be employed according to the act of 
Congress for Establishing the temporary and pei'mauent seat of the Government of 
the United States, under and u|)on the terms and conditions contained in each of the 
said deeds; and many of the jjroprietors of lots in Carrollsl)urg and Hamburg have also 
come intt) an agrecMiient, subjecting their lots to be laid out anew, giving up one-half 
of the quantity thereof to be sold, and the money thence arising to l)e applied as a 
donation as aforesaid, and they to be reinstated in one-half of the quantity of their 
lots in the new location, or otherwise compensated in land in a different situation 
within the city, by agreement between the Commissioners and them, and in case of 
disagreement, that then a just and full compensation shall be made in money; yet 
some of the j)roprietors in Carrollslmrg and Hamburg, as well as some of the jjroprietors 
of other lands, have not, from imbecilit}' and other causes, come into any agreement 
concerning their lands Mithin the limits hereinafter mentioned, but a very great 
number of the landholders having agreed on the same terms, the President of the 
United States directed a city to be laitl our comprehending all the lands beginning 
on the east side of l^ock Creek, at a stone standing in the middle of the road leading 
from Georgetown to liladensburgh; thence along the middle of the said road to a 
stone standing on the east side of the Reedy Branch of Goose Creek; thence south- 
easterly, making an angle of sixty-one degrees and twenty minutes with the meridian, 
to a stone standing in the road leading from Bladensburgh to the Eastern Branch 
ferry; then south to a stone ninety poles north of the east and west line already drawn 
from the mouth of Goose Creek to the Eastern Branch; then east, parallel to the said 
east and west line, to the Eastern Branch; then with the waters of the Eastern Branch, 
Potomac River, and Rock Creek to the beginning, which has since be»>n called the 
City of Washington; and 

Whereas it appears to this general asseml)ly highly just and ex])edient that all the lauds 
within the said city should contribute, in due ])roportion, in the means which have 
already greatly enhanced tlie value of the whole; that an incontrovertible title ought 
to be made to the purchasers, under public sanction; that allowing foreigners to hold 
land within the said territory will greatly contribute to the improvement and popula- 
tion thereof; and that many temporary provisions will be necessary till Congress 
exercise the jurisdiction and government over the said territory; and 

Whereas in the cession of this State, heretofore made, of territory for the (Government 
of the United States, the lines of such cession could not be particularly designated; 
and it being expedient and propter that the same should be recognized in the acts of 
this State — 

2. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland, That all that part of the said 
territory called Columbia which lies within the limits of this State shall be, and the 
same is hereby, acknowledged to be forever ceded and relinquished to the Congress 
and Government of the United States, and full and absolute right and exclusive jiu-is- 
diction, as well of soil as of persons residing or to reside thereon, pursuant to the tenor 
and effect of the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution of Government 
of the United States: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be so construed 
to vest in the United States any right of property in the soil as to affect the rights of 
individuals therein, otherwise than the same shall or may be transferred by such 
individuals to the United States: And provided also, That the jm-isdiction of the laws 
of this State over the persons and property of individuals residing within the limits of 
the cession aforesaid shall not cease or determine until Congress shall, by law, provide 
for the government thereof, under their jurisdiction, in manner proAdded by the 
article of the Constitution before recited. 

3. And be it enacted, That all the lauds belonging to minors, persons absent out of 
the State, married women, or persons non compos mentis, or the lands the property of 
this State, within the limits of Carrollsbiu'g and Hamburg, shall be and are hereby sub- 
jected to the terms and conditions hereinbefore recited, as to the lots where the propri- 
etors thereof have agreed concerning the same; and all the other lands, belonging as 
aforesaid, within the limits of the said city of Washington, shall be, and are hereby, sub- 
jected to the same terms and conditions as the said Notley Young, Daniel Carroll of Dud- 
dington, and others, have, by their said agreements and deeds, subjected thek lands 
to, and where no conveyances have been made, the legal estate and trust are hereby 
invested in the said Thomas Beall, son of George, and .John Mackall Gantt, in the same 



24 RETEOCESSTOA' ACT OF 1846. 

manner as if eacli proprietor had been competent to make, and had made a h-gai con- 
veyance of his or her knd, according to the form of those ah-eady mentioned, with 
proper acknowledgments of the execution thereof, and where necessary, of release of 
dower, and in every case where the proprietor is an infant, a married woman, insane, 
absent out of the State, or shall not attend on tlu'ee months" advertisement of notice 
in the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, the Maryland Herald, and in the 
Georgetown and Alexandria papers, so that allotment can not take place by agree- 
ment, the commissioners aforesaid, or any two of them, may allot or assign the portion 
or share of such proprietor as near the old situation as may be, in Carrollsburg and Ham- 
burg, and to the full value of what the party might claim under tlie terms before 
recited; and as to the otlier lands within the said city, the commissioners aforesaid, 
or any two of them, shall make such allotment and assignment, within tlie lands 
belonging to the same person, in alternate lots^ determined by lot or ballot, whether 
the party shal)_ begin with the lowest number: Proiidefl, That in the cases of cover- 
ture and infancy, if the husband, guardian, or next friend will agree with the com- 
missioners, or any two of them, then an effectual division may l)e made by consent; 
and in case of contrary claims, if the claimants will not jointly agree, the commissioners 
may proceeil as if the pro])rietor was absent; and all person;^ to whom allotments and 
assignments of lauds shall he made by the commissioners, or any two of them, on con- 
sent and agreement, or pursuant to this act without consent, shall hold the same in 
their former estate and interest, and in lieu of their former (piantity, and subject in 
every respect to all such limitations, conditions, and incumbrances as their former 
estate and interest, and in lieu of their former quantity, and subject in every respect 
to all such limitations, conditions, incumbrances as then- former estates and interests 
were subject to, and as if the same had been actually reconveyed pursuant to the said 
deed in trust . ' 

4. And he it eitarted, That where I he proprietor or jiropricior.-, possessor or posses- 
sors, of any lands within ihe limits of the city of Washington, or wiihin the limits of 
CarroUsburg or Hamburg, who haAe not alreatly, or who shall not, wiihin three months 
of this act, execute deeds in trust to the aforesaid Thomas l^eall and John M. Gantt, 
of all their land within the limits of the said city of \\'ashington, and on the terms and 
conditions mentioned in the deeds already executed by Xotl(>y Young and others, 
and execute deeds in trust to the said Thomas Beall and ,Iohn M. (lantt of all their lots 
in the towns of Carrollsliurg and Hamburg on the same terms and conditions contained 
in the deeds already executed by the greater part of the i)roprietors of lots in the said 
towns, the said commissioners, or any two of them, shall and may, at any time or 
times thereafter, issue a process, directed to the sheriff of Prince Georges County, com- 
manding him, in the name of the State, to summon five good, substantial freeholders, 
who are not of kin to any proprietor or proprietors of the lands aforesaid, and who are 
not proprietors themselves, to meet on a certain day, and at a certain place within the 
limits of the said city, to inquire of the value of the estate of such i)roprietor or pro- 
prietors, po.ssessor or possessors, on which day and place the said sheriff shall attend, 
with the freeholders by him summoned, which freeholders shall take the following 
oath, or affirmation, on the land to be by them valued, to wit: "I, A. 13., do solemnly 
swear (or affirm) that I will, to the best of my judgment, value the lands of CD. now 
to be valued so as to do equal right and justice to the said 0. D. and to the public, 
taking into consideration all circumstances," and shall then proceed to value the said 
lands; and such valuation, under their hands and seals and under the hand and seal 
of the said sheriff, shall be annexed to the said process and returned 1)\- the sheriff to 
the clerk appointed by virtue of this act, who shall make record of the same, and the 
said lands shall, on the payment of such valuation, be and is hereby vested in the said 
commissioners in trust, to be disposed of by them or otherwise employed to the use of 
the said city of Washington; and the sheriff aforesaid and freeholders aforesaid shall 
be allowed the same fees for their trouble as are allowed to a sheriff and juryman in 
executing a writ of inquiry; and in all cases where the proprietor or ])ossessor is tenant 
in right of dower or by the courtesy the freeholders aforesaid shall ascertain the annual 
value of the lands and the gross value of such estate therein, and upon i>aying such gross 
value or securing to the possessor the i)aymeut of the annual Naluation, at the option 
of the proprietor or possessor, the commissioners shall be and are hereby vested with the 
whole estate of such tenant, in manner and for the uses ai\d ])urposes aforesaid. 

5. And he it enacted, That all the squares, lots, and parcels of laud within the said city 
which have been or shall be appropriated for the use of the United States, and all the 
lots and parcels which have been or .shall l>e sold to raise money as a donation a.s 
aforesaid shall remain and be to the purcha-sers, according to the terms and conditions of 
their respective purchase; and purchases and leases from private persons claiming to 
be proprietors, and having, or those under whom they claim having, been in the 
possession of the lands purchased or leased, in their own right, five whole years next 
before the passing of this act, shall be good and effectual for the estate, and on the 



RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 25 

terms and conditions of such purchases and leases, respectively, without impe'ach- 
ment, and against any contrary title now existing; but if any person hath made a con- 
veyance, or shall make. a conveyance or lease, of any lands within the said city, not 
having right and title to do so, the person who might be entitled to recover the land 
under a contrary title now existing may, either by way of ejectment against the tenant 
or in an action for money had and received for his use against the bargainer or lessor, 
his heirs, executors, administrators, or devisees, as the case may require, recover all 
money received by him for the squares, pieces, or parcels appropriated for the use of 
the United States, as well as for lots or parcels sold and rents received by the person 
not having title as aforesaid, with interest from the time of receipt; and, on such 
recovery in ejectment, where the land is in lease, the tenant shall thereafter hold 
under, and pay the rent reserved to, the person making title to and recovering the 
land; but the possession bona fide acquired in none of the said cases shall be changed. 

6. And be it enacted, That any foreigner may, by deed or will hereafter to be made, 
take and hold lands within that part of the said territory which lies within this State 
in the same manner as if he were a citizen of this State; and the same lands may be 
conveyed by him and transmitted to and inherited by his heirs or relations as if 
he and they were citizens of this State; provided that no foreigner shall, in virtue 
hereof, be entitled to any further or other privilege of a citizen. 

7. And be it enacted, That the said commissioners, or any two of them, may appoint 
a clerk for recording deeds of land within the said territory, who shall provide a proper 
book for the purpose, and therein record, in a strong, legible hand, all deeds duly 
acknowledged, of lands in the said territory delivered to him to be recorded, and in 
the same book make due entries of all divisions and allotments of lands and lots made 
by the commissioners in pursuance of this act, and certificates granted by them of 
sales, and the purchase money having been paid, with a proper alphabet in the same 
book of the deeds and entries aforesaid, and the same book shall carefully preserve 
and deliver over to the commissioners aforesaid, or their successors, or such person or 
persons as Congress shall hereafter appoint, which clerk shall continue such during 
good behavior, and shall be removable only on a conviction of misbehavior in a 
court of law; but before he acts as such he shall take an oath or affirmation well and 
truly to execute his office, and he shall be entitled to the same fees as are or may be 
allowed to the clerks of the county courts for searches, copying, and recording. 

8. And be it eruicted, That acknowledgments of deeds made before a person in the 
manner and certified as the laws of this State direct, or made l^efore and certified 
by either of the commissioners shall be effectual; and that no deed hereafter to be 
made, of or for lands within that part of the said territory which lies within this State, 
shall operate as a legal conveyance, nor shall any lease for more than seven years be 
effectual, unless the deed shall have been acknowledged as aforesaid, and delivered 
to the said clerk to be recorded within six calendar months from the date thereof. 

9. And be it enacted. That the commissioners aforesaid, or some two of them, shall 
direct an entry to be made in the said record book of every allotment and assignment 
to the respective proprietors in jjursuance of this act. 

10. And for the encouragement of master builders to undertake the building and 
finishing houses within the said city by securing to them a just and effectual remedy 
for their advances and earnings, Be it enacted. That for all sums due and owing on 
written contracts for the building any house in the said city, or the brickwork or car- 
penters' or joiners" work thereon, the undertaker or workmen employed by the person 
for whose use the house shall be built shall have a lien on the house and the ground on 
which the same is erected, as well as for the materials found by him: Provided, The 
said written contract shall have been acknowledged before one of the commissioners, 
a justice of the i)eace, or an alderman of the corporation of (Jeorgetown and recorded 
in the office of the clerk for recording deeds, herein created, within six calendar mouths 
from the time of acknowledgment as aforesaid, and if within two years after the last 
of the work is done he proceeds in equity he shall have as upcm a mortgage, or if he 
proceeds at law within the same time he may have executiun against the house and 
land, in whose hands soever the same may be; but this retnedy shall be considered as 
additional only, nor shall, as to the land, take place of any legal incumhrancf made 
prior to the commencement of such claim. 

11. And be it enacted. That the treasiu'er of the western shore be empowered and 
required to pay the seventy-two thousand dollars agreed to be advanced to the Pres- 
ident by resolutions of the last sessions of assembly, in stuns as the same may come 
to his hands on the appointed funds, Avithout waiting for the day appointed for the 
payment thereof. 

12. And he it enacted. That the commissioners aforesaid for the time being, or any 
two of them, shall from time to time, until Congress shall exercise the jurisdiction and 
government within the said territory, have power to license the building of wharves 

S. Doc. 286, 61-2 3 



26 RETROCESSION ACT OE 1846. 

jn the water? of the Potomac and the Eastern Branch, adjoining the .-aid city, of the 
materials, in the manner and of the extent they may judge durable, convenient, and 
agreeing with the general order; but no license shall be granted to one to build a wharf 
before the land of another, nor shall any wharf be built in the waters A\-ithout license 
as aforesaid; and if any wharf shall be built mthout such license, or different there- 
from, the same is hereby declared a common nuisance. They may also, from time to 
time, make regulations for the discharge and laying of ballast from ships or vessels 
lying in the Potomac River above the lower line of the said territory and Georgetown, 
and from ships and vessels lying in the Eastern Branch. They may also, from time 
to time, make regulations for landing and laying materials for building the said city, 
for disposing and laying earth which may be dug out of the wells, cellars, and founda- 
tions and for ascertaining the thickness of the walls of houses, and to enforce the observ- 
ance of all such regulations by appointing penalties for the breach of any one of them 
not exceeding ten pounds current money, which may be recovered in the name of the 
said commissioners, by warrant, before a justice of the peace, as in case of small debts, 
and disposed of as a donation for the purpose of the said act of Congress. And the said 
commissioners, or any two of them, may grant licenses for retailing distilled .spirits 
within the limits of the said city, and suspend or declare the same void. And if any 
person shall retail or sell any distilled spirits, mixed or unmixed, in less than ten 
gallons to the same person, or at the .same time actually delivered, he or she shall 
forfeit for every such sale three pounds, to be recovered and applied as aforesaid. 

13. And be it enacted, That an act of assembly of this State to condemn lands, if 
necessary, for the public l)uildings of the United States be. and is hereby, repealed. 



LIBRftRY OF CONGRESS 



009 880 



200 9 



LIBRARY OF CONGRESS 




009 880 200 9 ^