Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Mitchell, 9 March 1801

From John Mitchell

Geo. Town 9th March 1801


I find the late President has not appointed a Collector to the Port of Geo. Town, I Respectfully Solicite that office; in this Extraordinary applacation I am unfortunatly Situated, in not having the Honour of the least Personal Acquantance with you, And Mr Mason being absent, who I am confident, would Render me every assistance in his power Consistent with a man of Honour, to get the Appointment

Permit a Compatriot who Served our Common country from the very begining to the End of the Revulution, A Captain in the Navy, to Request the favour of you not to fill the Appointment, Untill he has time to apply, to Some of those who laboured in the great and good Cause with him, for Recommendations, viz Genr. Smith, Colo. Stone, Colo. Forrest, Colo. Howard, and the merchants of this place, with Reall Respect

I am Sire Your Humble Servt.

John Mitchell

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 10 Mch. and so recorded in SJL.


John Mitchell served as an inspector in the collector’s office at Georgetown. Fearful of a yellow fever outbreak in 1800, Georgetown officials appointed Mitchell and two others “to diligently attend the wharves and landing places of the town and to visit all vessels which may come into the river, and if infected persons are found to prevent them from landing” (RCHS description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1895–1989 description ends , 11 [1908], 209–10; Mitchell to TJ, 19 Sep. 1801).

Late president has not appointed A collector: Mitchell believed there was a vacancy at the collector’s office in Georgetown because, on 28 Feb., Adams had nominated James M. Lingan, collector of the port since 1789, to be marshal of the District of Columbia (Washington, Papers, Pres. Ser., 2:294–5; note to List of John Adams’s Appointments, printed at 23 Feb. 1801). Lingan, however, did not resign his position to become marshal. Mitchell wrote Gallatin in September 1801 that he thought that “Mr. Adam’s tho in the last Agonizing Gasp of his Political Death, had been Cautious Enough to Clothe” Lingan “with the Necessary formality of a Commission.” That evidently was not the case. But the collector’s office did become vacant in September when Lingan resigned. Mitchell informed Gallatin that along with other “impertinant” comments, Lingan proclaimed “that he would descend to Act, no longer Under the Present Administration.” Mitchell requested that the vacancy not be filled until he could renew his application and obtain recommendations from the Masons, Samuel Smith, and Samuel Hanson (Mitchell to Gallatin, 15 Sep. 1801, in DNA: RG 59, LAR, endorsed by TJ: “Mitchell John. to mr Gallatin to be made Collector of Geo. T”). On 19 Sep., Mitchell wrote the president explaining the circumstances at Georgetown and renewing his application for the collectorship, giving John Thomson Mason as a reference (RC in same; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Oct. and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “to be Collector vice Lingan”). Mitchell reiterated his desire for the collectorship in a letter to TJ dated 8 Oct. 1801. He encouraged the president to obtain references from John T. Mason, the only person “perfectly Acquainted with my Political Sentements,” Samuel Hanson, and the “other Mr. Mason,” probably Stevens Thomson Mason (RC in same; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 8 Oct. but received on the 7th).

TJ probably learned of Lingan’s resignation on 17 Sep. when he received a letter from the collector dated 11 Sep. (recorded in SJL but not found). In early October, TJ appointed John Oakley to the Georgetown collectorship (Appendix I, Lists 3 and 4).

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