Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to John Carroll, 3 September 1801

To John Carroll

Monticello Sep. 3. 1801.


I have recieved at this place the application signed by yourself and several respectable inhabitants of Washington on the purchase of a site for a Roman Catholic church from the Commissioners. as the regulation of price rests very much with them, I have referred the paper to them, recommending to them all the favor which the object of the purchase would urge, the advantages of every kind which it would promise, and their duties permit. I shall be happy on this and on every other occasion of shewing my respect & concern for the religious society over which you preside in these states and in tendering to yourself assurances of my high esteem and consideration.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Bishop Carrol Baltimore.”

Born in Maryland and educated in Europe, John Carroll (1736–1815) became America’s first Roman Catholic bishop in 1789, when he was named bishop of the new diocese of Baltimore. A strong supporter of Catholic education, he was instrumental in the creation of a number of institutions of higher learning in America, including St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore (the nation’s first Catholic seminary) and Georgetown College in the District of Columbia (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

The application: on 13 Aug., TJ recorded in SJL the receipt of an undated letter from Bishop Carroll and others, which has not been found. The plan related to what became St. Mary’s Church, a small Catholic church erected between O and P streets near the navy yard. It was more commonly known as Barry’s Chapel in honor of the project’s primary supporter, Washington merchant James Barry (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 , 1:602–3; RCHS description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1895–1989 description ends , 15 [1912], 48–9; 42–3 [1942], 13–15; Thomas O’Brien Hanley, ed., The John Carroll Papers, 3 vols. [Notre Dame, 1976], 2:355–6, 363, 366).

Forwarding Carroll’s application to the District of Columbia Commissioners, TJ covered it with a brief letter dated 3 Sep., which noted that “none can better than yourselves estimate the considerations of propriety & even of advantage which would urge a just attention to the application, nor better judge of the degree of favor to it which your duties would admit” (RC in DLC; bottom of page removed. PrC in DLC; at foot of text: “The Commissioners of Washington”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso).

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