Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John W. Pratt, 6 March 1801

From John W. Pratt

City of Washington March 6th. 1801


Should the office of Marshall for the District of Columbia become Vacant I beg leave to tender to you my services and to Solicit from you the appointment. Unknown to You my Self I have Sought for the Recommendation of those Whose Characters have been Respected. I have the Honour to inclose you letters from Mr. Duvall one of our Supreme Judges Mr. Duckett one of the Judges of our County Court Mr. Sprigg & Mr. Bowie two Gentlemen of Respectability and Mr. Mason & Mr. Sprigg two Lawyers of emenance at our Bar. Should I be deemed worthy of the appointment no exertions on my part Shall be wanting to discharge the duties of the Office with integrity and fidelity.—

I have the Honour to be Sir With Respect Your Obet. Servt.

John W Pratt

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Mch. and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “to be Marshal of Columbia.” Enclosures: (1) Gabriel Duvall to TJ, Annapolis, 2 Mch. 1801, recommending Pratt, with whom he has had a long acquaintance, noting that “he is a gentleman of good character, of industry and assiduity in any business which he undertakes” and that he has had experience with the office of sheriff, presently carrying out those duties in Prince George’s County. (2) Thomas Duckett to TJ, Prince George’s County, 3 Mch. 1801, stating that although unacquainted with TJ, he wishes to inform him that he has known Pratt all his life and has always considered him as a “Gentleman of character, industry, and assiduity in the departments in which he has been engaged”; he has no doubt Pratt would be “a faithfull good officer.” (3) Osborn Sprigg to TJ, Prince George’s County, 5 Mch. 1801, stating that Pratt was the most qualified person in the District of Columbia to discharge the duties of marshal, that he could testify to his integrity, having lived all his life as his neighbor until Pratt moved to Washington during the last year, and that “we never had the Sheriffs business so well done” as when he was the deputy sheriff. (4) Walter Bowie to TJ, Prince George’s County, 2 Mch. 1801, stating that although unacquainted with TJ, he presumes that “information correctly Obtained” will be useful, and after a long acquaintance with the applicant, he can say that Pratt is a “man of fair Character industry & great attention to Business,” who would be able to execute the duties of a marshal “with credit to himself and advantage to the Publick.” (5) John T. Mason to TJ, Montgomery Court House, 5 Mch. 1801, introducing Pratt as “active diligent and attentive to business,” with a reputation for integrity and as one who understands the routine business of a sheriff or marshal, having “discharged the duties of his office well” as a deputy sheriff. (6) Richard Sprigg, Jr., to TJ, Upper Marlboro, 2 Mch. 1801, stating that he has had a long acquaintance with Pratt, who, as acting deputy sheriff, executed his duties “with Credit to himself & advantage to the Community” (RCs all in DNA: RG 59, LAR).

In spite of the recommendations for Pratt, TJ appointed Daniel Carroll Brent to replace James M. Lingan as U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia (see TJ to Brent, 18 Mch. 1801).

In 1801 Thomas duckett was serving as an associate justice of the First District Court in Prince George’s County. Gentlemen of respectability: as planters in Prince George’s County, Osborn Sprigg resided at Northampton and Walter Bowie at Locust Grove. Bowie also owned the mercantile firm, Walter Bowie and Company of Bladensburg, Maryland, and served in each house of the state legislature. Two lawyers: John T. Mason and Richard Sprigg, Jr. TJ nominated Mason to serve as the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia in place of Thomas Swan, Adams’s nominee for the office. After a hard-fought campaign, Mason had lost his bid for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in October 1800. Sprigg, a Republican congressman from Maryland in 1801, was appointed associate justice of the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1806 (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States… to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:387, 402, 426; Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; Dauer, Adams Federalists description begins Manning J. Dauer, The Adams Federalists, Baltimore, 1953 description ends , 312; Papenfuse, Maryland Legislature description begins Edward C. Papenfuse, Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan, Gregory A. Stiverson, eds., A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635–1789, Baltimore, 1979–85, 2 vols. description ends , 1:152–3, 283–4, 290–1; 2:764–5; Stevens Thomson Mason to TJ, 11 July and 17 Oct. 1800).

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