This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
With very great esteem,
I am, Gentlemen,
The Commissioners Your Obed't Servant, of the Federal District. G°- Washington.
Commissioners to Washington.
Georgetown ii March, 1793.
Dr. Thornton's plan for a Capitol has been laid before us; the rooms for the different Branches of Congress and Conference room, are much to our satisfaction and its outward appearance we expect will be striking and pleasing. . . .
Commissioners to Hallet.
Commissioners' Office 26 June 1794.
. . . In general nothing has ever gone from us by which we intended or we believe you could infer that you had the chief direction of executing the work of the Capitol or that you or anybody else were to introduce into that building any departures from Doc1 Thorntons's plan without the President's or Commissioners' approbation. Mr. Hoban was employed here before our acquaintance began with you more especially as chief over the President's house, of which he was fortunate enough to produce a plan which meet with general we may almost say universal approbation and to extend his superintendence to any other public buildings we might require—we claimed his services as superior at the Capitol and this was explained so fully last fall on the spot. . . .
Phila. 9th Novembr 1795
Your letter of the 31st. Ulto by Mr. Hatfield has been received. I have since seen Mr. Hoban. I have had a good deal of conversation with both of them, in the presence of each other, with the plans before us.
From the explanation of the former, it would seem as if he had not been perfectly understood : or in other words—that now he means no change in the interior of the building, of the least importance ; nor any elsewhere, that will occasion delay, or add to the expense —but the contrary: while the exterior will, in his opinion, assume a better appearance, and the portico be found more convenient than on the present plan. As far as I understand the matter, the difference lies simply in discarding the basement, & adding an attic story, if the latter shall be found necessary ; but this (the attic) he thinks may be dispersed, in the manner he has explained it, without—and to add a dome over the open or circular area or lobby, which in my judgement is a most desirable thing, & what I always expected was part of the original design, until otherwise informed in my late visit to the city, if strength can be given to it & sufficient light obtained.
However proper it may have been to you, to refer the decision of the objection, of Mr. Hatfield to the Executive-: I shall give no final opinion thereon.
I. Because I have not sufficient knowledge of the subject, to judge with precision. 2. because the means of acquiring it, are not within my reach.—3. if they were pressed as I am with other matters, particularly at the eve of an approaching perhaps an interesting session of Congress, I could not avail myself of them :—but above all, because I have not the precise knowledge of the characters you have to deal with—the knowledge of all the facts you have before you—nor perhaps the same view you can take of the consequences of a decision for or against Mr. Hatfield's proposed alterations, or of his abilities to carry them into execution if adopted.
I have told him in decise terms, however, that if the plan on which you have been proceeding, is not capitally defective, I cannot (after such changes, delays, and expenses as have been encountered already) consent to a departure from it, if either of these consequences is to be involved : but that if he can satisfy you of the contrary, in these points,—I should have no objection, as he conceives his character as an architect is in some measure at stake ... to the proposed change ; provided these things, as I have just observed, can be ascertained to your entire satisfaction. I added further as a matter of material moment, the short term for which he was engaged, & what might be the consequence of his quitting the building at the end thereof,—or compelling fresh perhsps exorbitant terms, if a new agreement was to be made. To this he replied, that he would not only promise, but bind himself to stick by the building until it was finished.—
On the spot—at the seat of information—with a view of the materials on hand—the facility of obtaining others—with a better knowledge of the only characters on whom you can rely for carrying on the buildings, than I possess ;—with other details unknown to me, you can decide with more safety than I am enabled to do, on the measure proposed to be pursued under the embarassment which has arisen from this diversity of opinion.—That decision be it what it may will be agreeable to:
The Commissioners Your Ob1 Serv' of the City of Washington. G°- Washington.
Jefferson to Latrobe.
Washington April 25. 1808.
. . . South wing—you best know what is to be done here—but I would advise the different branches of the work to be done successively, paying off each before another is begun.
North wing—to be begun immediately and so pressed as to be finished this season. 1. vault with brick the cellar story. 2. leave the present Senate chamber exactly in its present state. 3. lay a floor where the Gallery now is to be the floor of the future Senate Chamber, open it above to the roof to give it elevation enough, leaving the present columns uninjured, until we see that every thing else being done & paid for there remains enough to make these columns of stone.
You see, my Dear Sir, that the object of this cautius proceeding is to prevent the possibility of a deficit of a single dollar this year. The lesson of the last year has been a serious one, it has done you great injury, and has been much felt by myself—it was so contrary to the principles of our Government, which make the representatives of the people the sole arbiters of the public expense, and do not permit any work to be forced on them on a larger scale than their judgement deems adapted to the circumstances of the Nation— . . .