Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Lambert, 23 May 1801

From William Lambert

City of Washington, May 23d. 1801.


I have the honor to enclose a letter to me from Mr. Beckley, which, as it fully explains the motive of my coming to this place, will probably have more weight than any thing I could say for myself, should a vacancy happen in any of the Executive departments which I might be thought competent to fill without interfering with the pretensions of others who may have a better claim than myself.

You will pardon the liberty I have taken in thus addressing you, and allow me to repeat the assurances of perfect respect and esteem with which I am

Sir, Your most Obedient Servant,

William Lambert

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received on the 23d and so recorded in SJL with notation “Off.” Enclosure: John Beckley to Lambert, written at Georgetown, 22 May 1801, reporting that he consulted Henry Dearborn about Lambert’s situation and that Dearborn regards Lambert “as a political Martyr with me, to the fidelity of our principles”; suggesting that Lambert address a letter to the president “without specifying any particular office” but requesting employment in some “suitable Station”; and mentioning Lambert’s “past service in the settlement of the public Accounts, which I think material in reference to a particular Office as mentioned between us” (RC in same; addressed: “Mr. Lambert, at Mr. peacocks, near Rhodes’s Hotel, City of Washington”).

During Adams’s presidency, Lambert, a vocal Republican from Virginia, lost a position as clerk in the War Department. Earlier he had been an assistant to John Beckley in the office of the clerk of the House of Representatives. He had also worked on TJ’s staff at the State Department, 1790–92, where TJ said that the “superior elegance” of Lambert’s handwriting earned him the particular task of recording laws passed by Congress (Vol. 24:366; Vol. 26:234–5; Vol. 28:475–6; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004– , 3 vols. description ends , 1:54–5n).

In a brief, undated note in support of Lambert’s application for office, Burwell Bassett and three others attested “to the ability and correctness of Mr Lambert in all clerical business and also to his uprightness and respectability of general conduct” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; in Bassett’s hand and signed also by the others; addressed: “The President of the U.S.”). Lambert wrote to James Madison on 12 Mch. and 7 Apr. 1801 in the hope of obtaining an appointment in the State Department (RCs in same). Lambert wrote to TJ on 20 Mch., but that letter, recorded in SJL as received from Richmond on the 25th, has not been found. Also noted in SJL, but unlocated, is correspondence from Lambert to TJ of 3 July 1795 (received 13 July), 31 Aug. 1795 (received from Richmond 11 Sep.), 9 Dec. 1799 (received 9 Jan. 1800), and 19 Mch., 14 May, and 24 Dec. 1800 (received on 19 Mch., 14 May, and 30 Dec., respectively, the last one from Richmond).

In 1799 and 1800, Lambert drew and hand-lettered for presentation to TJ several “constructions” incorporating diagrams and data relating to an eclipse of the sun of 16 June 1806 and eclipses of the moon of 29 Mch. and 22 Sep. 1801. In some of these presentations he calculated the events for the meridian of Monticello: that is, for the September 1801 lunar eclipse (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 106:18100; dated Philadelphia, 30 Dec. 1799, for presentation “to the Proprietor of Monticello” from “a Virginian”); for the March 1801 lunar eclipse (MS in same, 106:18099; damaged; probably from December 1799); and for the June 1806 solar eclipse (MS in same, 106:18119; Philadelphia, 8 Jan. 1800, by Lambert for TJ as vice president of the U.S. and president of the APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends ). For presentation to TJ and the American Philosophical Society, Lambert also made “constructions,” calculated for Philadelphia’s longitude and latitude, of the March 1801 lunar eclipse (MS in PPAmP; dated Philadelphia, 2 May 1799) and the June 1806 solar eclipse (MS in same; Philadelphia, 14 May 1799; presented to TJ and the APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends by “a Native of Virginia”); and he prepared a table of calculations, without diagrams, for all three eclipses (MS in PPAmP; Philadelphia, 6 Apr. 1799; for presentation to TJ and the APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends in Lambert’s own name). The APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends received those materials and voted its thanks to Lambert at its meeting of 17 May 1799 (APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 281). In June 1800, Lambert gave framed “constructions” of the March 1801 lunar eclipse and the 1806 solar event, calculated for Richmond’s location, to Virginia’s governor and Council of State (CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , 9:114, 117).

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