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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 .."

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61ST CoKGREss, ( SENATE. J Document 

2d Session. \ (No. 286. 



RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846 




Mr. Carter jji-esented the following 



liETTER 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. 



.Ianuarv 17. 1910. — Referred to the Committee on the Di(*trict of ('oluml)ia and with 
accompanying illustrations ordered to be printed. 



THE OPI.MDX OF H.INNIS TAYLOR .\S TO THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE 

ACT OF RETROCESSION OF m, 



My Dear Se.nar)!}: You luivo requosted 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 coiuity of Alexandria, in the District of 
Columbia to the State of Mrginia." I will |)reface 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 tlie fact beyond all 
question that the iinal definition of a district 10 miles square as the 
seat of oui- Federal Government was in a special sense the personal work 
of President Washington, whose task involved the accjuisition of the 
title to the tract from three scnnres — the State of Virginia, the State 
of Maryland, and the 19 local ])ropriet()rs who owned that part of 
the heart of the ])iesent city which imilerlies the Capitol, the White 
House, and the Treasury. Washington's task was to induce the three 
parties who held the title to cede to the F'ederal Government, without 
any direct pecimiaiy consideiation, the entire area under a cpiadri- 
laterai contract in which that Government was the grantee and l)ene- 
ficiary, and \'ii-ginia. Maryland, and the 19 local |)roprietors tin' 
grantors. The real consideration moving to such grantors was the 
incidental benefits to accrue to them from their joint cession which, 
in tiie language of the act of July 16, 1790, "is hereby accepted for 
fhe juvnKiiieiif s<iif of the Goveiiimenl of \\\o Cnited States.'' '^Phat 
covenant i-e|)resente(l the only consideration moving direct ly fi'om the 
Federal Government, while the thiee grantors were bound to each 
other by the nnitual consideiations moving from the one to the other 
under interdepcndenf giants. Mai-yland, the last to grant , expressed 
t he idea (»f t he mut ual bcnchts to be derived from a common enter|)rise 
when her legislat IMC declared that "it appears to this general assembly 
highly just and expedient that all the lands williin the said city 
should confrihufe, in due projiortioii, in the inanis irhicli lidrr (i/readi/ 
(jrexithj cnlKtnced the value of the irhoJe.^' Ihider that quadrilateral 

44877(3 



2 EETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

contrju't. supported b}' tlie foiegoin<i; considerations, the Federal 
Government entered into possession with a ])erfect 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 «!;rantors into the corporate person of the nation neither the 
State of Virpnia nor the State of ^Maryland could have, either in law^ 
or in equity, any claim to the common heritao;e 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 tne 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, wdiich still 
abide unimpaired. By the act of retrocession of July 9, 1846, the 
district was dismembered by a conveyance to Vii'ginia of nearly one- 
half of the entire area for no i)ecuniary or property consideration 
whatever. AVliat 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 had originally been contributed by her 
is of no significance whatever. Tiierefore, 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 particular 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 impairing 
the ohligation of contracts.''^ During the memorable Senate debate led 
by Senator Hayw^ood, 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, w^as 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. What I can not understand is ihi- 
fact that in any debate, however hastily 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 an J 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, wdiich was followed by like offers 
from Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. On wSeptember 3 
Mr. Goodhue said, in debate, that ''the eastern and northern Mem- 
bers had made up their minds on the subject, and were of opinion 
that on the eastern banks of the Susquehanna Congress should fix 
its permanent residence," introfhicing at the same time a resolutior^ 



yu 



RETEOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 3 

to that effect. On September 7 Mr. Lee moved to amend Mr. Good- 
Inie's resolution by substituting the "north bank of the River Poto- 
mac, in the State of Maryhmd/' for ''the east bank of the river Sus- 
quehanna, in the State of Pennsylvania." After prolonged discussion 
the act of July 16, 1790, was passed, and the site of the District finally 
located, partly in Prince George and Montgomery counties, in the 
State of Mar3-land, and parti}' in Fairfax County, in the State of 
Virginia, by proclamation of President George Washington, March 30, 
1791, 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 
10 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 fu'st and second lines 
running two other direct lines of 10 miles each, the one crossing the Eastern Branch 
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. \ 








LOP^ '^■(rP I ^:^ ^ 



' » * * i # 



4 RETROC'KSSION ACT OF 184G. 

Fi'Din tho foroi^oiiii:; (liai2;ram it a|)|)oars that tho "jjortion derived 
from ami receded to Viriiiuia " eonstitutes nearly one-half of the 
territory of the District as originally defined in the proclamation of 
March W, 1791. If the act of July 9, 1S46 (9 Stats., 35), entitled 
"^4/* act to retrocede the county of Alexandria, in the District of Columbia , 
to the State of Virginia,'' is unconstitutional and yoid, the laws of the 
United States should now he executetl by the President throughout 
the "portion derived from and receded to Virginia." 

1. ACT OK lS-;(i UNCONSTITUTIONAL BECAUSK IN CONFLICT \VTTI1 SKCTION S. ARTI- 
CLE 1, OF THE CONSTITI-TION". 

That section j)roy ides that "The Congress shall have power * * * 
tt) exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such 
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 })urpose by "particular States," 
after the area so ceded had been accepted by Congress under the act 
of July 16, 1790, declaring "the same is hereb}^ 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 district 
10 miles square had once been established and accepted as a per- 
manent seat of government, Congress possessed no power to acquire 
another territory for another seat of government without vio- 
lating the constitutional limitation which confined it to the 10 
miles sciuare. 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 inipliedly, to give unj 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 question was up for debate in the House of Repre- 
sentatives, May 8, 1846. (See Cong. Globe, vol. 15, No. 2, Ap- 
pendix, pp. 894-898.) 

When the bill passed to the Senate tiie chairman of the Committee 
on the District of Colum])ia, Senator Haywood, of North Carolina 
earnestly opposed it. In the proceedings of June 17, 1846, the fol- 
lowing appears: 

"retrocession of ALEXANDRIA. 

"Mr. Haywood, from the Committee on. the District of Columbia, 
reported the bill for the retrocession of the city and county of Alex- 
andria with a recommendation that it be rejected." (Cong. Glo})e. 
vol. 15, No. 3, pj). 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 
the extent of the 10 miles square, the committee had not been 
apprised of it: if any |)articular good to be attained, they were not 
apprised. When the retrocession was first suggested to the considera- 

.. .in • . •* .♦ •'«. ' m . * 

......*..•• • ; •' I : ••::.**!: 



BETROCESSIOX ACT OF 1846. 5 

tion of the Senate, doubts were entertained by many how far it was 
competent for Conjjress to recede what the Constitution liad for a 
[)articuhir purpose authorized them to accept. The States of Mary- 
land and Mro:inia had ceded this territory to Congress, to be taken 
under its exchisive 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 
jiroperty and become residents of the county under this i)ledge, 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 i)le(lger' Mr. Miller, who fol- 
lowed, said m part that ''he was inclined to think that the subject 
was of more importance than he had at first view sui)})osed. His 
first imju-essions 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 j)ower to pass 
such an act; and even if the}" had the power he was perfectly convinced 
that it would not be good policy to do it." He then contended "that 
if Congress had the power to cede away any part of tlie District, they 
had power to cede the whole, and tliereby 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 opposed the bill, and in an elo([uent manner contended for the 
sacred immunity of the Constitution and the wise arrangements of 
the sages of the Revolution. He also argued the constitutional (|ues- 
tion at considerable length and with cliaracteristic ability." Thir- 
teen Senators jcnned Mr. Havwood in opposition to tlie bill, which 
l)assed by a vote of 32 to 14.' (Cong. Globe, vol. 15, No. 8, p. 1046.) 
Section K of Article I of the Constitution, when taken as a whole, 
|)rovides thjit "The Congress shall have ]K)wer * * * to exercise 
exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such District (not 
excee(hng 10 miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, 
and the acceptance f)f 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 the State in which the 
same shall l)e, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dnck 
vards, and other needful buildings." The delegation (if |)o\\cr thus 
made to Congress to acquire a seat of government for the Iniled 
States, through a formal acce|)tance of cessions to he made by par- 
ticular States, is a distinct subject-matter, entirely separate and apart 
from the succeeding delegation of power to govern '"all places |)nr- 
cha.seil bv the con.sent of the legislature of the State in which the 
same shall l)e." Did the grant of an crpnss /wz/vr formally to accept 
cessions from particular States, which were to constitute and "become 
the seat of goverrunent of the I'nited States." carry with it, as a 
neeessarv imjilication. tlie right to use th(> means necessary for the 
execution of the powers In other words, did the implied power to 
u.se such neeessarv means Mow from the exjtress power ((» a«<omplish 
the end^ In coiistruing that < hnise which provides that Congress 
shall have power "to make all laws which shall he necessary an<l 
proper for carrying into execution I he foregoing powers, and all other 



6 RETROCESSION 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 
earl>' ihiy tliat the ehiuse in question ''confers on Con<2;ress the choice 
of means and does not confine it to what is intHspensably necessarv." 
(United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch, 358.) Tn McCulloch v. Maryland 
(4 Wheat., 316) it was said that "The ii;overnment which has a right 
to tio 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; * * * j^^^. the end be legitimate, let it be within the 
sco})e of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, wliich 
are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but con- 
sistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitu- 
tional." In commenting on that conclusion in the Legal Tender Case 
(12 Wall., 457) the Su})reme Court said: "Suffice it to say in that 
case it was finally settled that in the gift by the Constitution to Con- 
gress of authority to enact laws 'necessary and proper' 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 wdiich the powers it confers are to be carried into execution 
which will enable that body to perform the high duties assignetl to 
it in the manner most beneficial to the people." The express man- 
date was given b}^ the Constitution to Congress to acquire a seat of 
government by cessions froin 'particular States, and in no other 
manner. Congress was powerless to force any State to make a 
cession; it could not go beyond 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 employ to accom- 
plish a vitally important end was the promise, 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 l)y this act for the j^ermanent seat of governTnent 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 interpretation, practically con- 
temporaneous, to the effect that the Constitution intended to confer 
upon Congress the powder to make the seat of government permanent. 
Contemporary interpretation of the Constitution, practiced and acqui- 
esced in for vears, conclusively fixes its construction. (Stuart v. 
Laird, 1 (Vanch, 299; Martin v. Hunter, 1 Wheat., 304; Cohens v. 
Virginia, 6 Wheat., 264; Cooley v. Pliila. Post Wowdens, 12 How., 
299; Burrow Giles Lithographic 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 exjiress 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 authorized 
to promise, as an inducement to the cechng States, that the seat of 
government to be fixed on the territory granted by them should be 
"permanent." Without the employment of such "necessary and 
proper" means, how could the express power have been executed at 
all? If that be true, then the power in question was exhausted by 



EETEOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 7 

its exercise under the act of July 16, 1790. and the entire territory ceded 
and accepted by Congress under tJiat act was forever dedicated as "the 
seat of the Government of the United States. " Such was the view of the 
14 Senators who opposed the passa2;e of the act of retrocession on 
July 2, 1846. 

Some years ago when a movement was on foot to remove the 
capital to the valley of the ^lississippi, the effect of the action of Con- 
gress under section 8, Article T, was fully discussed. I am informed 
that it was then universally admitted that by the selection of the 
present seat of government the power of Congress, under the section 
in cjuestion, had been exhaiisted, and that any future removal can 
only be accomplished through an amendment of the Constitution. 

II.— ACT OF IS-Iti UNCONSTITUTIONAL BECAUSE IN CONFLICT WITH SECTION 10, 

ARTICLE I, OF THE CONSTITUTION. 

Conclusive as were the objections made in Congress to the consti- 
tutionality 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 tiie failure of 
busv statesmen to examine the terms of the original cessions through 
which the territory in ctuestion was derived. The record shows that 
no examination irhatever teas made in that direction. When the three 
cessions through which the territorv of the District was derived are 
examined, it ap])ears that there were three grantors, the State of 
Virginia, the State of Maryland, and a group composetl of 19 local 
proprietors. The grantee was "the Congress and Government of the 
United States." Thus it was that four parties entered into a ciuad- 
rilateral contract which passed, upon its execution, under the pro- 
tection of section 10 of Article 1 of the Constitution, which provides 
that no State shall "'pass any bill of attainder, ex yost facto law, or 
law impairing the obligation of contracts." That phase of the mat- 
ter was in nowise considered during the debates of 1846. 



'r^ 



TIIE VIRGINIA GRANT OF DECEMBER, 1789. 

Section 2 of that act reads as follows: "Be it therefore enacted l)y 
the general assembly, That a tract of country, not exceeding ten miles 
square, or any lesser (|uantity to be located within the limits of this 
State and in ;inv j)art thereof as Congress may by law ilirect, sliall be 
and the same \s forever ceded and relinquished to the Congress and Gov- 
ernment of the I nited States, in full and ahsohde right and junsdiction, 
as well of soil as of persons rt siding or to reside thereon, pursuant to the 
tenor and ejfect oj the eighth section of the first article of the Constdution 
of the Government of the Jhiited States." 

(;|{A.\TS IKO.M MNK'IKHN LOCAL rUOI'UI KTOUS. 

On .\lur<li 'Kl, 1791, 1!» loc-d proprietors executed an agreement in 
wiiich 

Wo, the subHtribers, in ronsideralion of the grfat benefits w(^ expect to dfriNc from 
having the federal city laid oi'f ii|)oii our land.'^, do hereby aRree and bind oiirselveH, 
heirH, executorn, and adniinifslralors, to convey, in trnwt, to the I're.sicb nl of (ho 
United State.s, or cornmi.'SHioner.'s, r)r .such perwon or perwohH as he Hhall appoint, by 
good and sufJicienl der-ds, in fee .^inipie, the whole of our rcHpcclive lands which he 
may think proix-r to include within tin- lines of the federal city, for the purposes and 
on the coMilit.i<in> following: 

The i'residcnl .«liall have the sole power of direeting the federal iit\ to he laid off 
in what manner he pleaseH. 



8 RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

Ih' may n'tain any number of s((uai't's lie may think proper for public improve- 
ments, or other public Uf^es; and the lots only which shall be laid off shall be a joint 
proi)i>rty between the trustees on behalf of the public and each present proprietor, 
and the same shall be fairly and equally divided between the public and the indi- 
\iduals, as soon as may be, the city shall be laid off. 

For the streets the jjroprietors shall receive no comj)ensation; but for the squares 
or lands in any form, which shall be taken for public buildinsis, or any kind of pub- 
lic impro\enu>nts or uses, the proprietors whose lands shall be taken shall receive at 
the rale of X25 i)er acre, to be paid by the public. 

On or about June 29, 1791, these 19 ()rio;inal proprietors of the 
•greater part of the hinds which now constitute the city of Washington, 
in execution of the agreement of March 80, 1791, conveyed them in 
trust, by deeds in a form appended later on. In each one of these 
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 or 
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 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 sur\dvor 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 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 bountls define and limit a district of territory, untler the limita- 
tions above mentioned; and the district so defined, limited, and located 
shall he deemed the district accepted hy this act for the permanent seat 
of the Government of the Vnited 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 j)urpose 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; a7id the territory so to be located, defined, and limited 
shall be the vhole territory accepted by the said act of Congress as the district for the per- 
manent seat of the Government of the United States. 

It thus appears that three months before tJie 19 proj)rietors made 
their grants to the fWdted States for a permanent seat of government, 
\in(h'r the act of Congress of Julv 16, 1790, the I'resident had 



RETROCESSION ACT OF 18-t(i. 9 

definitely defined and accepted the territt)rv of 10 miles square, 
including therein the grant from Virginia. It thus aj)pears that 
a vital condition precedent to the grant from the 11) proprietors was 
embodied in the fact that Virginia had ceded and the United States 
had accepted already from her a section of territory, constituting 
nearly one-half of the total area embraced in '"said territory of 10 
miles square." The border lines of the lands of the several original 
owners of the site of the city of Washington, exclusive of Georgetown, 
were laid down on the land, as a preliminary engineering ground- 
work, by Major L'Enfant in designing the maj) of the fetleral city, 
and the plan of the city was subsequently mapped out over these 
lines. In consequence of disputes as to the meaning of portions of 
the 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 
fee simple was vested in the United States. See Van Ness and wife 
V. The Mayor, etc.. of Washington, and the United States, 4 Pet., 232. 

THE FINAL GRANT FROM MARYLAND. 

Maryland, the last to convey, took no definitive or effective action 
prior to the passage of her act of December 19, 1701, entitled "An 
act concerning the Teiritory of Columbia and the city of Washington." 
As early as December 23, 1788, Maryland exi)ressed her good inten- 
tions in the following act under which no action w as ever taken: 

AN ACT To cede to Congress a district of 10 miles square in this State (Maryland) for the seat of tlie 
Government of the United States. Approved December 2:{,"l788. 

Be it enacted by the general asstmbly oj Maif/land. That the ReI)^e!^entatives of this 
State in the House of Representatives of the ('onfj:ress of the United States, appointed 
to a.ssemhle at New York on the first Wednesday of March n(>xt, be, and they are 
hereby, authorized and reciuired, on behalf of this State, to cede to the ('on_2;ress of 
the United Slates any district in this State not oxceedins 10 miles sciiiare, which the 
Congres.s may fix upon and accept for the seat of government of the United States. 

As no conveyance could be made under this act except to "the 
Congress," as distinguished from the Ciovernment of the United 
States, anil as no selection of a site had then been made there was no 
attempt to execute the power vested in the Representatives of Mary- 
land in the National House of Repiesentatives. \'irginia made her 
grant, which was the first grant, December 3, 178',); the H) local 
proj)rietois peifected their grants on or about the 29th of Jmie, 1791 ; 
Maryland did not make her grant until Decembci- 19, 1791. In ihal 
grant, embodied iu a very elaborate act of 13 sections, Maryland put 
the fact beyond all (|uestion that the prior grants made by \'iiginia 
and the 19 |)i()piietors vjere conditions precedent to her grant. In the 
preamble the act recites the description of the houndaries of the 
District in these terms: 

Begin nil)",' a I .lone- Point, being the upper point of liunlin^i < ri'ck, in \ ir^nii:i, and 
at an angle at the out-ct forty-live degrees west of north, and running a (lire<l line 
ten mile- for the (ir.t line; then beginning' aua in at the .-ainr .lone- I'oinI and running 
another direct line at a right angle with the first across the I'olomac ten miles for the 
Hecond line; then from the terminations of the said first and second lines running two 
other direct lines ten miles each, the one across the Kastern Branch and the other 
I'otomuc, and meeting each other in a point, which h.'S since been called the Territory 
of < oluinbia. 



10 RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

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

AMiercas 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 Congress 
for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of the United 
States, under and upon the terms and conditions contained in each of the said deeds; 
and many of the proprietors of lots in Carrollsburg and Hamburg have also come into 
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 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 
proprietors in Carrollsburg and Hamburg, as well as some of the proprietors of other 
lands, have not, from imbecility and other causes, come into any agreement concerning 
their lands within 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 laid out comprehending all the lands 

within a particular area defined by metes and bounds. With the 
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 and 
relinquished to the Congress and Government of the United States, and full and 
absolute right and exclusive jurisdiction, 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. 

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

Whereas it appears to this general assembly highly just and expedient that all the 
lands ivithin the said city should contribute, in due proportion, in the means which have 
cdready greatly enhanced the value of the v'hole; 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 population 
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 niade, of territory for the Government 
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 
tJiat the two States and the local lyroprietors were cocontributors in a 
common enterprise vjhose leading motive was the emhanceTnent of the 
value of the total territory contributed hy each to a comTnon fund . The 
declaration that ''it appears to this general assembly highly just and 
expedient that all tlie 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 wdiole — depended 
upon the grant of each. In no other way could the title to the whole 
be perfected. 



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 30, 1791, rests upon a cjiiadri- 
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 defined, limited, and located, shall be deemed the Dis- 
trict accepted by this act, for the pei^manent 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 coukl be made perfect, entered into the quadri- 
lateral contract in c^uestion. Tt is elementaiy in the law of contracts 
that when two or more instruments are executed at the same time, 
or at different times, whicii relate to the same subject-matter, and 
one I'efers to the other, either tacitly or 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, wlietlier at the same time or 
different times, they will be taken and construed together." (T^aw- 
son on Contracts, p. 457, citing Stephens r. Baird, 9 Cow., 274; Make- 
peace V. Harvard College, 10 Pick., .302: Sibley r. llolden, 10 Pick., 
250; Wallis r. Beauchamp, 15 Tex., 303; Strong r. 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 l^eck, the defendant in eiror, conveying to 
Robert Fletcher, the plaintiff in error, certain lands which were 
part of a large puichase made by James Gunn and others, in the 
year 1795, from the State of Georgia, the contract for irliich }ras made 
in the form of a hill pas.snl h;/the h(/isl(iture of the State." In this case 
the quadrilateral contract 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 lf5, 1790; (3) of the 19 ti'ust deeds executed by the local ])ro- 
prietors 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 |)iii't of an indivisible whole com])letetl by the Maryland act of 
December 19, 1791, vhich nfers to each and descrlbis th( trans(tction 
as a whole. Every instrument refers to every other, either directly 
or by necessary implication. The Maryland act, which (■om-|)leted 
the quadrilateral contract, e.\|)i-essly declares that the grant was 
made from that State because "it a])pears to this general assembly 
highly just and expedient that all the lands within thesaitl city should 
conti'ibute, in dve ]>roj)ortioji, in the means which hare alnadij iiraithj 
enhaiictd the rahir of the irJioh." The fact was thus ])Ut beyond all 
question that the chief eonsideiat ion lor this subscrinl ion contract. 
in aid of the Government of the rnitccj States, which ])aid nothing 
to the giant ors, was the perjietnal tijiplicalinn h;/ il of lh( joint jirod- 
uct of such snhscr')])tioiiS to the comvuui (il)ji'ci,\\\ the mode piescrilxd 
by the subsciibers and guarantied by the recipient. There was 
perfect nnitnality. "Mutuality of contra<t means that an obliga- 
tion nuist rest on •■;ich parly to (\<> <>\- jjcrnn't !<• Ix- (jdiie snmrthing 



12 EETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

in c-Diisiclonitioii ol' llie at't or |)r()inis(' of tlu> other; thai is, neither 
party is bound unless both are bound." Am. and Eng. Enc. of Law, 
vohinie 7, i)aiio 114, and authorities. In Dartmouth College v. 
Woodward (4 Wheat., 656), this specially pertinent dehnition occurs: 
"1. What is a contracts It may be dedned to be a transaction 
between two or more persons, an(l eacli leciprocally acquires a right 
to whatever is promised by the other. Under this defmition, says 
Mr. Powell, it is obvious that every i'eod'ment, 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, lie adds, that tlie ingredients requisite to 
form a contract are parties, consent, and an obligation to be created 
or tlissolved; these must all concur, because the regular effect of all 
contracts is on one side to ac(piire, and on the other to ])art with, 
some •j)r()perty or rights; or to abridge, or to restrain natural liberty, 
by binding the parties to do, or restrain them from doing something 
wliich before they might have done, or omitted. If a (h)ubt could 
exist that a (/rant is a contract, the point was decided in the case of 
Fletcher v. Peck, in which it was laid tlown that a contract is either 
executory or executed; by the former, a party binds himself to do 
or not to do a ])articular thing; the latter is one in which the object 
of the contract is performed, and this dilfers in nothing from a grant; 
but whether executed or executory they hoth contain obligations binding 
on the parties, and both are equally within the provisions of the Consti- 
tution of the United States, which forbids the state governments to pass 
Uiws 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 ?',s the perpetual apjdication of the find aris- 
ing on such subscrij)tioits to its object, in the mode prescribed by the 
subscribers.'' (Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheat., 518.) 
To the same effect, see Goesele v. Birmeler, 14 How., 589; Schw^artz 
v. Duss. 187 U. S., 26. In the case last cited the principle was empha- 
sized that after such a dedication to a connnon purpose by individual 
owners the consideration is sufficient, and no right to a partition 
or r<^ti'ocession can be asserted by any subscriber or his heirs. It 
thus appears 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 Govern- 
ment to be held perpetually as such. 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 the State of Virginia under which the receded section 
is now held, taxed, and governed, is mdl and void, because by the 
force and efi'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 the existence or nonexistence of the 
contract set up, and whether its obligation has been impaired by 
the state enactment, f Douglass v. Kentucky, 168 IT. S., 502, and 
cases cited.) In this case there can be no question that the quadri- 
lateral contract was executed between the States of ^'irginia, Mary- 
land, the 19 proprietors, and the United States, and that such 



RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 13 

(luadrilateijil conticUt i):isso<l under the protection ol' tlie contract 
Clause of the Constitution, before the District of Colurnhia came into 
existence, for the simple and conchisive reason that the very exist- 
ence of such District was the result of the complete execution of such 
contract. Therefore as the quadrilateral contract was executed 
between the United States and the States in question, jirior to tlie 
existence of the District, section 10 of Article T, providing; that ■"No 
State shall * * * pt^^s any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, 
or law- impairini^ the oblij^jation 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. 108 
U. S., 367, it was held expressly that "The piohibition of the Consti- 
tution against the passaw;e of laws impairin<!; 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 j)ai'ties could be obliged 
to perfoiin it, are rendered less eflicacious by legislation operating 
directly upon those means." In speaking of its duty in that regard 
in Murray v. Charleston (90 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 evailed nor frittered away. ( omplete 
effect must 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 
undtr which her sovereignty is now asserted is null and raid because in 
conflict vnth section 10 of Article I of the Constitiition. The practical 
dilemma is this: 

In iS46 two parties to a (juadrilateral contract, jirotected by the 
contract clause of the Constitution — to wit, the United States and 
Virginia — attempted to annul it without the assent of the other two 
parties, bg iHthdraivitig a larg< section (f the consideration ujion which 
the contract was made. If that attemj)ted recession upon the part of 
the United States and \'irginia is valid, then the contract as a whole 
fails. Neither jjarty is hound unless all are bound. If the United 
States and \'iiginia, as a matter of law. actually annulcd the ([uadii- 
lateral conti'act, then Maryland and the ivprcsentat ivcs of the 1!) 
proprietors can justly and legally claim every foot of land cni- 
Draced in the limits of the District as now defined. If tlie ictroces- 
sion to \'irgiiu'a is to stand, then the land underlying (lie Capitol, 
the White House, and the Ticasury belongs cither to MaiylaJid or 
the local pio])i-ietors by whom il was g|-ante(|. The nation can only 
be |)rotectc<l against that icsull l)V a judgnienl of the Supreme ('(nut 
of tlie United States declining the act of relioeession ol I SKI lo he 
null and void. 

in. jiiusDH rn;.\ of ruii .sli'1{i;\ii im irr on'kk thk conthcjvkusv. 

I'orlunately there is no ical dniigei- in the fnregt»ing reductio ad 
horribile. '1 lie title of the I'niled Slates lo all the territory within 
the District as originally delined is perfect by reason of the fact that 
the act of recession of 1X46 is clearly unconstitutional and void; 
(1) because of ihr- icasons set forth in the debates in Congress at (he 



14 RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

tinio of its pilssafro ; (2) because of the reasons herein set fortli for 
the lirst lime. What, tJien, is the remedy^ A complete answer is 
to be found in th(> opinion of the Suj)reme Court in the case of the 
United States v. Texas (143 IT. S., 621-649), in wliich it was held: 
(1) That the Supreme Court can, under the Constitution, take 
cofjnizance of an original suit brought by the United States against 
a State to determine the boundary between one of the Territories 
and such State; (2) Tliat the Su))reme Court has jurisdiction to 
determine a disputed ([uestion of boundary between the United 
States and a State; (3) That a suit in equity begun in the Supreme 
Court is appro])riate for determining a boundary between the United 
States and one of the States. In the course of its opinion the court 
sai<l : 

''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 
tliis court can, under the Constitution, take cognizance of an original 
suit brought by the United States against a State to determine the 
boundary between 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. Thej could 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^n 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 ^^'ill surely arise, sooner or later, between the United States and 
Maryland if the recession of 1S46 to Virginia is not annulled. In that 
event Marjdand 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 Umits 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 has 
also refuted 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. No.'^lOTS), 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 by 
the political authorities alone competent to decide it." Such a theory, 
always untenable, was completely wdped out by the judgment in the 
case in question, in which it was expressly decided that ''it can not, 
^\■ith propriety, be said that a question of boundary between a Terri- 
torv of the United States and one of the States of the Union is of a 



KETROCESSIOX 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 fi-amers of the Constitution, while extending the 
juchcial 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.'" 

The right to proceed under that case can not be affected, of course, 
by the decision in Pliilli})s v. Bayne (92 U. S., 130), in which it was 
held that the validity of the retrocession to Mrginia of Alexandria 
County can not be raised by a taxpayer in an action to recover for 
taxes aUeged to have been assessed illegalh^ 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 ollice; it is. in legal contemplation, as inopera- 
tive as though it had never been passed." Resting upon the case of 
Hildredth v. Mclntire (1 J. J. Marsh, 206, Ky.), the Supreme Court 
held that, under our system of written constitutions, de facto condi- 
tions can not impart constitutional validity tt) acts or institutions. 
The case of U. S. v. Texas settled the fact tliat all controversies as to 
boundaries between the United States and States present questions 
purely judicial; they are justiciable by the Supreme Court alone. 
The itlea, as restated by Senator Hoar, that such questions are po- 
litical was extinguished by that jutlgment. 

IV. DUTY OF THE PRESIDENT IX 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 Unitetl 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. XeiLson, 2 Pet., 306; Cherokee Nation r. Southern Kansas 
R. Co., 135 U. S., 656.) Upon a kindred princi|)le of international 
law all conflicts as to boundaries with foreign states pertain, in the 
United States, to the executive depart luentof the Goveriunent whose 
solutions of them will be acccpliul as liuai by the judiciary. (Garcia 
V. Lee, 12 Pet., 415; Williams r. Suffolk Ins. Co., 13 Pet., 415; U. S.v. 
Reynes, 9 How., 127; In re Cooi)er, 143 U. S., 472.) In determining 
all fjuestions of boundary, whethei- foreign or douK'stic, the initiative 
in this coiMitjy is vested in the IC.xecutive acting alone. While he 
may advise; with Congress as to the steps he nniy take in ascertaining 
boundaries, while executing the laws within the same, the President 
can ncjt sui render his exclusive power t(» ascertain what thev are. As 
a practical illustration, if in this matter the Piesidcnt believes that 
\'irginia is in uidawful possession of thai poll ion oF (he District 
dciscribed in the aet of is JO, it is his consl il utioiial duly lo " take care 
that the laws Ix' faithfully executed" in that area, regardless of any 
contrary opinion the legislntive departmeiit of the Government might 
enfertani on (he subject, lie could hohl no dtiirr \ icw willioul al»di- 



10 RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

catiiiii' .the in(lo|itMulonce ol' the executive power in the execution of 
the laws. It is, however, in my hunil)le judgment a case in which 
there slioulil be friendly consultation between the executive and legis- 
lative departments, because in the event of a recovery in the wSiipreme 
Court Con^iress would no doubt be called upon to pass such a bill of 
in(U'mnity as would relieve Mrginia of any accountability for revenues 
derived from the area in question (huing her de facto occupation. In 
the ai)|)endix hereto is (Mn])raced all the acts of government upon 
which the (juadrilateral contract in question depends, and also the 
agreement and form of the deed from the local proprietors. 

Yours, with great respect, Hannis Taylor. 

Washingtox, 1). (\, Januanj 12, 1910. 

Hon. Thomas H. Carter, 

]Vfh'<Jri)H/fo)i , b. ('. 



Afpexdi.n:. 



[Embraciiif; all the acts of f;overnment 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 Consrress assembled, for the permanent seat of the General Government. Ap- 
proved, Deceml)er 3, 1781t. 

1. \Miereas the equal and common benefits re.sulting 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 a.s 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 riv'er 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 convenienres of life, where, in a location of 10 miles square, if the wisdom 
of Congress shall so direet, 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 provided by the article of the Constitution before recited. 



No. 2.— THE FIRST .VCT OF CONGRESS OF JCLY Ki, 17!H). 
AN.\CT For establishing the temporary and permanent .seat of the Government of the United States. 

Sectio.v 1. Be it enacted hi/ the Senate and House of Representatives of the United 
States of America in Congress assembled, That a district of territory, not exceeding ten 
miles square, to he 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 



RETKOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 17 

Suites; Pruiided neii'it/iiiesfi, That the operation of the law.- of the .State within tiuch 
district shall not be affected 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 he it further nuicled, That the.Pre.sident of the United States be author- 
ized to appoint, and by supplying vacancies happening fi-om refusals to act or other 
causes, to keep in appointmenl 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 liietes 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 act for the permanent seat of the Government 
of the United States. 

Sec. 3. And be it {further) enacted. That the said commissioners, or any two of them, 
shall have power to pin-chase or accept such (luantity 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 Monday in December, 
in the year one thou.sand eight hundred, pro\-ide suitable buildings for the accom- 
modation of Congress and of the President and for the puldic offices of the Govern- 
ment of the United States. 

Sec. 4. .ind he it {further) enurtcd. That for defraying the exjx'nse of such purchases 
and buildings, the President of the United States be authorizeil and recj nested to 
accept 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 Decemlier, in the year one thousand eight hun- 
dred, shall remain at the city of Philadeli)hia, in the Slate 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 htmdred, the seat of the Ciovernment of the United 
States shall, by \irtue of this act, be transferred to the district and place aforesaid. 
And all offices attached to the said seat of government, shall accordingly l)e 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 defray ei I 
out of the duties on imposts and tonnage, of which a sufficient sum is hereby appro- 
priated. 

A|)prove(l, .July Hi, 1790. (1 Stats., 130.) 



No. ;<.— I'KESIDKNT'S I'ROCLAMATlUA OF JANUARY 24,1791. 

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 ok the United States op America. 
A PROCLAMATION. 

Whereas the general assembly of the Stale 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 ('ongrees 
of the United States, app')iiited to assemble at New York on the first Wednesday of 
March then next ensuing, should be, and they were thereby, authorized and recpiired, 
on the behalf of the said State, to cede to the "Congress of the United Stales any district 
in the saifl State not exceeding ten miles square, whi(rh the Congress might fix tipon 
and accept for the seat of Government of the United States. 

And the general assembly of the Coininfinwealth of Virginia, by an a<-t passed on 
the 3d dav of De<-ember, 1789, and entitled •'An act forthe cession of teti miles scpianv 
or any lesser quantity of territory within this State, to the United Slates in Congress 
assembled, for the ])ermanent seat of the General (Joverment, "did enact that a 
tract of countrv not exf;eeding 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, slioidd be and the same was thereby forevc'r ceded and reliniiiiinhed to the 
Congress and (Jovernroenl of the United States, in full and absohile riglil, and excln 
Hive jurisdiction, as well of soil as of persons residing or lo reside then-on, pursuant to 

S. Doc. 286, 01-2 2 



18 RETKOCESSTOX ACT OF 184G. 

the tonor ami offoct ol the eighth section ol th(> liint article of the (oiirttitution of Gov- 
ermnent of the I iiited States. 

And the Congress of the L'nited Stales, by their act passed the 16th day of July, 
1790, and entitled '"An act for establishing the tPin))orary and permanent seat of the 
Government of the I'nited States," authorized the President of the United States to 
appoint three commissioners to sm-vcy 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 between the mouth of the Eastern Branch and Conococheague, 
which district, so to be located and limited, was accepted by the said act of Congress 
as the district for the permanent seat of the (Government of the United States. 

Now. t.hereft)re, in pursuance of the powers to me conlide<l, 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 square shall be found by running foiu lines of experiment 
in the following manner, that is to say: Running from the court-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 C/reek where the said southeast course shall have struck the same, and running 
the said first line (hie northwest ten miles; thence the second into Maryland, due 
northeast ten miles; thence the third line due southea.st ten miles; and thence the 
fourth line due southwest ten miles, to the beginning on Hunting Creek 

And the said four lines of experiment being so run, 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 latid forming the Upper Cape of the mouth 
of the Eastern Branch due southwest , and no more, is now fixed upon, and directed 
to be surveyed, defined, limited, and located for a part of the said district accepted 
by the said act of Congress for the permanent seat of the Government of the United 
States; hereby exjjressly reserving the direction of the survey and location of the 
remaining part of the said district, to be made hereafter contiguons to such part or 
parts of the present location as is or shall be agreeably to law. 

And T do accordingly direct the said commissioners, appointed agreeably to the 
tenor of the said act, "to proceed forthwith to run the said lines of experiment, and, 
the same being run, to survey and, by proper metes and bounds, to define and limit 
the part within 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 I have caused the seal of the United States to be affixed to 
these presents", and signed the same with my hand . Done at the city of Philadelphia 
the 24th day of January, in the year of our Lord 17i)l , and of the Independence of the 
United States the fifteenth . 

Georcp: Washington. 

By the President: 

Thomas Jefferson. 



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

AN ACT To amend "An act for establishing the temporary 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 })ermanent seat of the G-overnment 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 and to all intents and purposes 
aa if the same had been within the purview of the above-recited act: Provided, That 
nothing herein contained 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.; 



BETKOCESSION ACT OF 1846. 19 

N'o. .").— PKKSIUEXT'S rUOCLA.MATION Ol" MAlUll MK 17'.M. 

\\ hercus. by proclaniation beariu^ (Jate the 24th day of January, of this presont year» 
and in j)ursuance of certain acts of the States of Maryland and X'iri^inia and the ('on" 
i^ess of the United States, therein mentioned, certain lines of experiment were 
directed to l>e run in the neighhurhood of (Georgetown, in Maryland, for the jkirpose 
of locatinir a part of the territory of ten miles square, for the permanent seat of Gov- 
ernment of the United States, and a certain pai't was directed to be located within 
the said lines of experiment on both sides of the Potomac, and above the limits of the 
Eastern Branch. prescril>c d l)y the said acts of Congress; 

And Congress, by an amendatory act. passed on the 3d day of this present mouth 
of March, have given further auth(tVity to the President of the T'nited States "to make 
any part of the said tenitori/ beloir lite said limit and above the mouth of lluntimj Creek a 
part of said district, so as to include a convenient part of the Eastern Branch, and oj the 
lands lying on the lower side thereof, and also the tovn of Alerandria:" 

Now, therefore, for the ])urpose of amending and completing the location of the 
whole of said territory of ten miles scpiare, in conformity with the said aTnendator\- 
act of Congress, I do hereby declare and make known that the whole of the said tem- 
tory shall be located and includcHl within the four lines following, that is to s;iy: 

Beginning at Jones's Point, l)eing the upper cape of liunling Crciek, in Vuginia. 
and at an angle in the otitset of forty-fi^ e degi-ees 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 miming another direct line, at a right angle with the linst, 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 erne cros.sing the Eastern 
Branch aforesaid and the other the Potomac, and meeting each other in a point. 

And 1 do accordingly direct the c-ommi.ssioners named under the authority of the 
said first-mentioned act of Congress to ]n-oceed forthwith to have the said four lines 
run, and by proper metes and bounds <lehned and limited, and thereof to make due 
report, uncier their hands and seals; and the territory so to be located, defined, and 
limited shall be the whole territory acceptc^d by the said act of Congre.ss as the district 
for the permanent seat of the Government of the T'nited States. 

In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States to l)e affixed to 
these presetits. and siu:ned the same with my own hand. Done at Gec»rgetown afore- 
said the 30th day of Shuch, in the year of !)ur Lord 1791. and oi the Indi-p.-ndence 
of the United States the fifteenth. 

[seal. I (iKOHCh: \\ ASIIINC ION . 

By the President: 

ThO.MAS JeKI'KUsm.N . 



X„. „.— A<;l{l-;ii.Ml-;.\T ok TIIK OIUcUXAL l^ltOl'UIETOUS OK MAK(;JI .ill. IT'.ll. 

(»n March 28, 1791, President Wa.shington reached (ieorgetown, and on the 29tli 
he rode over the propo.'^ed site of the j-'ederal city, in company with the three commis- 
sioners and the two surveyors, .Vndrew Ellicott and Maj. Peter Charles I, 'Enfant. 

On the evening of the kime day a meeting was held iov the purpose of effecting a 
friendly agre<>ment between the proj)rietors of the lands constituting the sit(> of the 
Federal oitv and the United States commi.s.sioners, and AVashington's good counsel 
on that (K^-casion had so favoralile an effect tliat the general features were settled that 
very evening for the a<,'reement. wlii'li was signed and executed liy nineteen property 
holcl'M-s the next day. and thereby the rights of atid titles to ]>roperly within thisl>is- 
trict and city may be .-^aid to have been decided on thai evening. 

This Jigrec-ment", whieh was accejjted l)y the commissioners and reconle<l in their 
books on .\|)ril 12. 1791. was as follows: 

"We. the sul).-<-riln'rs. in eonsiclenilion of llie great l)«ri<lii- we expect (o derive 
from having fh" l-'ederal eitv laid otf upon our lands, do hereby agree and Idiid our- 
selves, heirs, ex<-(Utors, and admiuislralors. to convey, in trust, to the I'resident ot the 
United Staters, or cvminiissioners. or such persr)ii or pei-sons as In- shall appoint, by 
goofi anri siiflicient deeds, in fee simple, the whole of our resjx'ctive laii.ls which lie 
may think proji'-r to includ.- within the lines of the Eedenil city, for the purposes and 
on the r-on<lif ioiir- fiilluwiii'.' 

"The F'n-si'lent shall lia\c- ilu' <ol<' power <>\ direcliiiL' the I'.'.lei-al iily to be laid oil 
in what manner he |)leases. 

"He may n-lain anv number of scpiares In- nia\ lliiiik proper lor public improye- 
uients. or other public uses: and the lots only which shall be liii<l off shall be a joint 
property br-twoeii the trust<-es on behalf of ih<' public and ea<h pr<'s<-nt j)ropnel..r. 
and flu- sani'- ^hall b.- luirly and e(piallv divi<le<l br-lween tin- public and the indi- 
viduals, as soon as mav be. the <i1y shall be laid oft. 



20 JJETROCESSION ACT OF DSiG. 

'•For the stTeet^' th<' piopiiclorf* shall receive no cuinpensution; hut lor the squares 
or landis iii any form, which shall be takiMi lor public buihliutio. or any kind of pub- 
lic iniprovi>:uenty or uses, the proprietors whose lands shall be taken shall receive at 
the rate of 2") ])ounds per acre, to be paid by the public. 

•'The whole woo.l on the lands shall be the property of the proprii'lors, and should 
any bo desired by the President to be reserved or left standing, the same shall be 
iwid for by the public at a just and reasonable valuation, exclusive of the £25 per 
acre to be i)aid for the land on which the same shall ren^ain. 

"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 possess his l)uildings and otlier improvements and gnueyards, pay- 
ing to the public only one-half tlie 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 admit of this, and it shall become necessary to 
remove such buildings, etc., the proprietors of the same shall be paid the reasonable 
value thereof bv the public. 

•■Nothing herein contained shall affect the lots any m' the parties to this agreement 
may hold in the toM-ns of Hamburgh or Carrolsburg. 

"In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals this 30th day of 
March, in the year of our I^oi-d 1791. 

"Robert Peter. [seal. 

■'David Hitrnes. [seal. 

•'Jas. M. Lingan. [seal. 

"Uriah Forrest. [seal. 

• Benjamin Stoddert. [seal. 

■■Notley Young. [seal. 

■■Daniel Carroll of Dl niiiiVGTt)\. [seal. 

■■Qverton Carr. [seal. 

■■Thomas Beale of Geor(;e. [seal. 

•'Chas. Beatty. [seal. 

•'Anthony Holmeao. [seal. 

'■Wm. Young. [seal. 

■Edward Pierce. [seal. 

■Abraham Young. [seal. 

"Jas. Pierce. [seal. 

"Wm. Prout. [seal." 

"Robert Peter, [seal. 

"^l.S' Attorney in Fact Jor Kliphas Douglass. 

••Benjamin Stoddert, [seal.] 

''For Jas. Worren, by uritten authoritii from W. Warren. 

■•Wm. King. [seal.] 

'•Signed and sealed in presence of Mr. Thomas Beale, making an exception of the 
laud he sold A. C. Young not yet conveyed. 

••Witness to all subscribers, includino: Wm. Vuung. 
"Wm. Bailey. 
•'Wm. Robertson, 
•johx luter. 

•Sam. Davidson (witness to Abraliam Young signing). 
""Benjamin Stoddert (witne.ss to Pierce's signingi. 
"'Joseph E. Rowles (for Jno. Warring). 
"Wm. Deakivg. Jr. ^for Win. Prout and ^^'In. King)." 



Xo. 7.— FORM OF TRUST DEED USED BY THE NINETEEN ORIGINAL PROPRIETORS 

On or about the 29th of June, 1791, nineteen original proprietors of the greater parta 
of the lands which now constitute the city of ^^■ashington conveyed them in trust, 
by deeds in the following form, viz: 

[Copy of the deed in trust from au original proprietor of the ground on which the city of Wasliington is 
located to the trustees appointed by authority of the United States to receive the same.] 

This indenture, made this 29th day of June, in the year of our f.ord 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 George, and John M. Gantt. before the sealing and de- 



RETROCESSIO.N^ ACT OF 1846. 2X 

livery ot these presents, the receipt where^if he doth herebj- ackuowledf^e, and thereof 
doth ac<iuit the said Thomas Beall, of Georj^e, aud Johu M. Gantt, their executors 
and iidniinistraturs; and also, for and in conpidcration 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, aud confirm unto the said 
Thomas Beall, of George, and Johu M. Gantt, and the survivor of them, and the heirs 
of such survivor, all the lands of him, the said (grantor) l>ang and being within the 
following limits, boundaries, and lines, to wit: Beginning on the east side of Rock 
Creek, 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, ])arallel to the said east-and-west line, to the Eastern 
Branch; thence by and with the waters of the Eastern Branch, Potomac River, and 
Rock Creek to the beginning, with theii" appurtenances, except all and every lot and 

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

in CarroUsburg or Hamburg; to have and to hold the hereby bargained aud sold lands 
with their a))])urtenances 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 bo 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 States for the time being shall 
approve; and that the said Thomas Beall, of George, and John I\I. 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 permanent seat of the Government of the United States,'" and 
their successfirs. for the use of the United States forever, all the said streets and such 
of the said squares, parcels, and lots as the President shall deem ])roper, 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 agreed on 

bj' consent of the said (the grantorj 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 grantori shall, thereuf)on. together with any part of the bar- 
gained and .«old lands, if any. wliich shall not have been laid out in the said city, be 
conveyed l>y the said Thomas Beall of (ieorge and John M. Gantt, or the survivor of 

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

heirs and assigns. And tliat the said other lots shall and may be sold at such lime or 
times, in such manner, and on sueh lernisand conditions as (lie President of the United 
States for the time being shall direct; and that the said Thomas Beall of (ieorge and 
John M. Gantt, <>r 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 res|)ective purchasers in fee simple, according to the terms and con- 
ditions of such purchases; and the jiroduee of the .sale of the said lots when sold as 

aforesaid shall in the first place Ix; api)iie(l to the payment in nmney to t.lie.«aid 

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



land hereby bargained and s(jld which shall have been laid off into lots, .squares, or 
parcels, and api)ro|)riated as aforesaid to the use of the United States, at the rate of 
twenty-live ])oiinds jter acre, n(»l accounting the said streets as part thereof. 

And f h(;.«aid t went y -five ])ounds per acre, Ix'iiigso paid, or in any other manner .satis- 
fied, that then the |)roiluceof I he same sale, or what thereof may remain asaloresaid, in 
money or .securities of any kind, shall be paid, assigned, transferred, and delivered over 
to the President of the Unil*^! SUttes, for the time being, as a grant of money, and to 
be appliefl for the i)urpose>j and according to the act of Congress aforesaid. But the 

said conveyance lo ilie .siid (the grantor;, his heirs or as.signs, as well 

as the conveyance to tin- purchasers, shall be on, and subject to such terms and con- 
ditions a.-* shall be thought reasonable, by the Pre-ident, f<pr the time being, for regu- 
lating the materials and manner of the buildings and improvements on the lots, 
generally, in the saifl citv, or in particular streets, or parts thereof, for (!ommon con- 
vPiiience. safet\ . and rir<ler: I'roi i'lid. Such t«Tnis and eon«lilionH be declared before 



22 RETROfESSlOK ACT OF ISW. 

thi' sale--* of any of the said lot?;, under the direction of the President. And in trust 

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

assigns, sliall and may continue his possession and nccupatioii of the said lands hereby 
bargained and sold, at his and their will and pleasure, until they shall he occupied 
under the said appropriations for th(^ use of the United States as aforesaid, or by pur- 
chasers; and when any h)ts or parcels shall be occupied under ])urchase 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 i, his heirs or assigns, 

may freely cut down, take, and carry away, and use the same as h'is^uid their j)roperty. 
except such of the trees and wood growing as the President or connni-sioners aforesaid 
may judge proper, anti give notice, shall be left for ornaments, for which the just and 

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

administrators, or assigns, exclusive of the twenty-five pounds per acre for the laud. 

Ami in case the arrangements of the streets, lots, and the like will convenienth" 

admit of it, he the said ■ (the grantor), his heirs or assigns, if he so desire it. 

shall i)0sse.ss and retain his buildings and graveyard, if any, on the hereby bargained 
and sold land, paying to the President at the rate of twelve pounds ten shillings per 
acre for the lands ,so retained, because of such buildings atid graveyards, to be applied 

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 api)ropriated for the use of the United 
States are to be paid for. And because it may so happen that by deaths or removals 
of the said Thomas Beall, of George, and John M. Gantt, 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 parties, that the said Thomas Beall, of George, and John M. Gantt, 
or either of them, or the heirs of any of 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 herebj- bargained and sold, which shall not then 
have been conveyed in execution of the trusts aforesaid, to such person or persons as 
he shall appoint, in fee simple, subject to the trusts then remaining to bo executed, 
and to the end that some may be perfected. 

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

Signed by the grantor. 

. [.SBAL.] 

Signed, sealed, and delivered in the jiresence of — 



All the residue of the lands lying within the bounds of the (;ity were, b> an act of 
the legislature of ^Maryland, passed on or about the l!)th of December, 1791. vested in 
the same trustees, and subjected to the same trusts. 



.No. S.— MARYL.VXD CESSION OP' DECKMBER 19, 17'Jl. 

AX \C'\' Concerning the Territory of Coliiniliia au<l the city of Washington. 

[Passed Deeemljer 19, 1791.] 

Whereas the President of the United States, by virtue of several acts of ( ougress, 
and acts of the assemblies of Maryland and X'irginia, by his proclamation, dated at 
Georgetown on the thirtieth day of March, seventeen hundred and ninety-one, did 
declare and make known that the whole of the territory of ten miles s<(uare. for the 
permanent seat of government of the I nited 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 acro.ss 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, 



RETKOCESSIOX ACT OF 1846. 23 

the <-'Ue acr(i:<s the Ka.stern Braiith ami tho other Fotuuiac, and meolin^ each other 
in a point, which has since been caUed the Territory of Columbia; and. 

Whereas Notley Younu, Daniel Carroll, of Duddington, and many others, proprie- 
tors of the greater part of the land hereinafter mentioned to have l)een laid out in a 
city, came int<i 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 mcmey as a donation to be employed according to the act of 
Congress for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the Government of 
the United States, under and upon the terms and conditions contained in each of the 
.said deeds; and many of the pro])rietors of lots in Carrollsburg and Hamburg have also 
come into an agreement, 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 be applied as a 
donation as aforesaid, and they to be reinstated in one-half (jf the quantity of their 
lots in the new location, or otherwi.se com])ensated in land in a different .situation 
within the city, by agreement between the ( (mimissioners and them, aiul in ca.'^e of 
disagreement, that then a just and full compen.sation shall be made in money; yet 
some of the proprietors in Carrollsburg and llambiug, as well as some of th(^ j>roprietors 
of other lands, have not. from imbecility and other causes, come into any agreement 
concerning their lands within the limits hereinafter mentioned, hut a very great 
number of the landlnilders having agreed on the same terms, the President of the 
United States directed a city to be laid out comj)rehending all the lands beginning 
on the east side of Rock Creek, at a stone standing in the middle of the road leading 
from Georgetown to Hladensbiagh; thence along the middle of the said road to a 
stone staniling on the east side of the Reedy Uranch of Goose Creek; thence south- 
ea,sterly, making an angle of sixty-one degrees and twenty minutes with the meridian, 
to a stone standing in the road leading from IJladensburgh 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 Goo,se Creek to the Eastern Uranch: 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 Piock Creek to the beginning, which has since been called the 
City of Washingto?i: and 

Whereas it apjiears to this general assembly highly just and expedient that all the lands 
within the said city shoidd contril)Ute, in due projjortion, in the means which have 
already greatly enhanced the value of the whole; that an incontrovertible title ought 
to be made to'the purchasers, under i)id)lic -sanction; that allowing foreigners to hold 
land within the said territory will greatly contribute to tlie iinpr<_)\ement and popula- 
tion thereof; and tliat many lem])orary jjrovisions 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 tJovernment 
of the United States, the lines of such cession could not be particularly designated; 
and it being expedient and projjer that the .same should be recognized in the acts of 
this State — 

2. Be it emicted b>/ the General A-s-fcmbl!/ of Manijand, That all that {)art 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 juris- 
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 fir.st article of the Constitution of Government 
of the United States: Provi/led, 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 
indiWduals to the United States: Anet provided also. That the jmisdiction of the laws 
of this State over the persons and property of individuals residing within the limits of 
the cession afores;xid shall not cease or determine until Congress shall, by law. provide 
for the government thereof, under their jurisdiction, in manner provided by the 
article of the Constitution before recited. 

3. And be it enacted, That all the lands belonging to minors, jjcrsons absent out of 
the State, married women, or persons non com])os mentis, or the lands the property of 
ihis State, within tlie limits of Carrollsl^nrg and Hamburg, shall l)e and are hereby sub- 
jected to till- term.- and conditions hereinbefore recited, as to llie lots where tlie propri- 
et<^irs thereof iiave agreed concerning I lie same; and all the oi iier lands, Ix'longing as 
.ifore.>^aid, withitiihe limits <if the said city of Washington, shall be, and are hereby, sub- 
jected to the .same terms and condition.-i as the said Nolley Vining. Daniel ( arrollol Dud- 
"lington, and others, have, by their said agreements and deeds, subjected their lands 
to, and where no conveyances have Ikmmi made, the legal estate and trust are iiereby 
invested in the said Thomas Beall. son of (ieorge. and .folm .Mackall <!antt, in the same 



44H7?ti 



24 BETBOCESSrOis ACT OF 184(). 

manner as if each proprietor had l>een comijeteut to make, and had iiuuU' a Uigal cou- 
veyauce of his or her h^nd, aceording to tlie form of those ah'eady mentioned, with 
proper acknowledgments of tlie execution thereof, and where necessary, of release of 
dower, and in every case where tlie proj)rietor is an infant, a married woman, insane, 
absent out of the State, or shall not attend on three months' advertisement of notice 
in the Maryland Journal and iialtimore A(lvertis(>r, the Maryland Herald, and in the 
Georgetown and Alexandria ])apers, 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 sucli proprietor as near the old situation as may be, in ( 'arrollsburg and Ham- 
biu-g, and to the full value of what the party might claim under the terms before 
recited; and as to the other lands within the said city, the commissioners aforesaid, 
or any two of them, shall make such allotment and assiginnent, within the lands 
belonging to the same person, in alternate lots, determined by lot or ballot, whether 
the i>arty shall begin with the lowest number: Provi'lt'f/, 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 be made by consent; 
and in case of contrary claims, if the claimants will not jointly agree, the commissioners 
may proceed as if the proprietor was absent; and all persons to whom allotments and 
assignments of lands shall be 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 then- former quantity, and subject in 
every respect to all such limitations, conditions, an<l incumbrances as their former 
estate and interest, and in lieu of their former rpiantity, and subject in everjr respect 
to all such limitations, conditions, incumbrances as their 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 be it enacted, That where the proprietor or proi)rie(ors, possessor or posses- 
sors, of any lands within the limits of the city of Washington, or wilhin the limits of 
Carrollsburg or Hamburg, who have not already, or who shall not, within three months 
of this act, execute deeds in trust to the aforesaid Thomas Beall and John M.. Gantt, 
of all their land within the limits of the said city of Washington, and on the terms and 
conditions mentioned in the deeds already executed by Notley Young an<l others. 
and execute deeds in trust to the said Thomas Beall and John M. Gantt oi all their lots 
in the towns of Carrollsburg and Hamburg on the same terms and conditions contained 
in the deeds already executed by the greater part of the proprietors 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 th'e 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, possessor 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. B., do solemnly 
swear (or affirm) that I will, to the best of my judgment, value the lands of C. D. now 
to be valued so as to do equal right and justice to the said C. 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 by 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 possessor 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 paying such gross 
value or sec:uring to the possessor the payment of the annual valuation, 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 and purposes aforesaid. 

5. And be it enacted, That all the squares, lots, and parcels of land 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 be sold to raise money as a dorlatiou a.s 
aforesaid shall remain and be to the purchasers, 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 
posseasion of the lauds purchased or leased, in their own right, five whole yeara next 
before the paesing of this act, shall be good and effectual for the estate, and on the 



RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 25 

terms and conditionf; , of such purchases and lea.ses, respectively, without impeach- 
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 lauds 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 haA-ing title as aforesaid, with interest from the time of receipt; and, on such 
recoverj- 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 ofiice, 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 enacted. That acknowledgments of deeds made before a person in the 
manner and certified as the laws of this State direct, or made before and certified 
by either of the commissioners shall be effectual; and that no deed hereafter to be 
made, of or for lands \vithin that part of the said territory which lies within this State, 
shall operate as a legal conveyance, nor shall any lease for mf)re 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 alldtnicnt and assignment 
to the respective proj)rietors in j)ursuaiice of this act. 

10. And for the encouragement of master builders to undertake the building and 
tini.-*hing 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 tm 
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 ])erson 
for whose use the house shall be built shall have a lien on the house and the ground on 
which the .-^anie is erected, as well as for the materials found by him: J'rovided, The 
said written contract shall have been acknowledged before one of the commissioners, 
a justice of the jx-aec, or an alderman of the corporation of (ieorgetown and recorded 
in the office of tiie clerk for recording deeds, herein created, within six calendar months 
from the time of acknowledgment ^is aforesaid, and if within two years after the last 
of the work is done Iw jtroceeds in ('(iiiity he shall have as upon a mortgage, or if he 

f)roceeds at law within the .■<anie lime he may liave execution against the house and 
and, in who.-;e hands soever the same may be; l)ut this remedy sliall l>e considered as 
additional only, nor shall, as to the land", take place of any legal incumbrance made 
)>rior to the commencement of such claim. 

11. And bi' it ciiurlrd, That the treasurer of tlu- we.-tern shore l)e empowered and 
required to pay tlic seventy-two thousand dollars agreed to be a<l\ance.(l to the PrCH- 
ident by re.-olutions of the last sessions of assemldy, in sums as the .siin(i may come 
to his hands on the ap|)ointed funds, without waiting for the day appointed for the 
payment thereof. 

\2. And ht it enacted, That llic cominis.Mioners aforessiid for llii' time being, or any 
two of them, sliiill from time lo time, until Congress ,-hall exeni.-je llie jurisdiction and 
government within the liiid territory, liiive jiower to license tiu' Imilding of wharvew 

S. Doc. 286,61-2 3 



26 RETROCESSION ACT OF 1846. 

in the \vat(»i> of the Potomac and the Eastern Branch, adjoining the said city, of the 
materials, in the manner and of tlie 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 Ix' built in the waters without license 
as aforesaid; and if any wharf shall be built without 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 Ki\-er above the lower line of th(^ said territory and Georgetown, 
and from ships and vessels lying in the Eastern Pranch. 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 bj- ajjpointing penalties for the breach of any one of them 
not exceeding ten j)ounds current money, which may be recovered in the name of the 
said commissioners, by warrant, before a justice of the ])eace, as in case of small debts, 
and disposed oi 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 ac-tually 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 
necessan'. for the public liuildings of the United States be, and is hereby, repealed. 



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