Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Brent, 11 March 1801

From William Brent

Commissioners Office, Washington
11th March 1801.


My friend and Relation, Mr. Richard Brent informed me some time ago, that he had signified my wish to you of becoming your private Secretary; and I make no doubt that his partiality for me induced him to give the highest colouring to my Pretensions to that Office. My Object in troubling you now, is respectfully to renew this Subject, though I do it with the utmost diffidence, and under the fear that I perhaps unnecessarily trespass upon your Time, in the liberty I take: But not having understood that any person was Yet appointed by you to the Office in question, and as I have very much at heart the success of this application in my behalf, I cannot but hope for your Indulgence, while I presume thus di[rec]tly to bring myself again under your notice, to solicit myself, an honor at your hands, which the friendship of another has been already exerted to procure for me. With sentiments of profound respect

I am, Sir, yr. very Obt Servt

Wm Brent

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); damaged; at foot of text: “President of the United-States”; endorsed by TJ as received 12 Mch. and so recorded in SJL.


William Brent (1775–1848), a native of Stafford County, Virginia, was employed in Washington by the board of commissioners until May 1801. He was one of three commissioners designated to receive subscriptions for the Columbia Manufacturing Company in Washington. A member of the municipal council and a colonel of the militia, Brent declined an offer extended by Meriwether Lewis in 1803 to become TJ’s private secretary, citing his intent to become established in a mercantile line instead. He agreed to render temporary service as needed to the president. Upon the death of Uriah Forrest in 1805, he succeeded as clerk of the circuit court for the District of Columbia, an office he held for 38 years (Bryan, National Capital description begins Wilhelmus B. Bryan, A History of the National Capital From Its Foundation Through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, New York, 1914–16, 2 vols. description ends , 1:85, 411, 455, 555; Chester Horton Brent, The Descendants of Collo Giles Brent Capt George Brent and Robert Brent, Gent Immigrants to Maryland and Virginia [Rutland, Vt., 1946], 137–8; Brent to Meriwether Lewis, 25 Feb. 1803 [RC in DLC, endorsed by TJ]).

Some time ago: see Richard Brent to TJ, 14 Jan.

TJ’s reply to William Brent of 13 Mch., recorded in SJL, has not been found. Brent also offered himself as a candidate for marshal of the District of Columbia in a letter to TJ of 17 Mch. (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ as received 17 Mch. and so recorded in SJL).

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