Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 11 January 1802

To the Senate and the House of Representatives

Gentlemen of the Senate, & of
the House of representatives

I now communicate to you, a memorial of the Commissioners for the City of Washington together with a letter of later date, which, with their memorial of Jan: 28: 1801. will possess the legislature fully of the state of the public interests, & of those of the city of Washington, confided to them. The monies now due, & soon to become due to the State of Maryland, on the loan guarantied by the U.S. call for an early attention. The lots in the city which are chargeable with the paiment of these monies, are deemed not only equal to the indemnification of the public, but to ensure a considerable surplus to the city, to be employed for it’s improvement, provided they1 are offered for sale only in sufficient numbers to meet the existing demand. but the act of 1796 requires that they shall be positively sold in such numbers as shall be necessary for the punctual paiment of the loans. 9000 D. of interest are lately become due; 3000 D. quarter-yearly will continue to become due; and 50,000 D. an additional loan, are2 reimburseable on the 1st. day of November next. these sums would require sales so far beyond the actual demand of the market, that it is apprehended that the whole property, may be thereby sacrificed, the public security destroyed, & the residuary interest of the city entirely lost. under these circumstances, I have thought it my duty, before I proceed to direct a rigorous execution of the law, to submit the subject to the consideration of the legislature. whether the public interest will be better secured in the end, & that of the city saved by offering sales commensurate only to the demand at market, & advancing from the treasury in the first instance what these may prove deficient, to be replaced by subsequent sales, rests for the determination of the legislature. if indulgence for the funds can be admitted, they will probably form a resource of great & permanent value; and their embarrasments have been produced only by overstrained exertions to provide accomodations for the government of the Union.

Th: Jefferson

Jan. 11. 1802.

RC (DNA: RG 233, PM, 7th Cong., 1st sess.); in a clerk’s hand, corrected, dated, and signed by TJ; endorsed by House clerk. Dft (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand. Enclosures: (1) Memorial from the District of Columbia Commissioners, 4 Dec. 1801, and enclosure. (2) District of Columbia Commissioners to TJ, 19 Dec. 1801.

On this date, Meriwether Lewis delivered TJ’s message to Congress, where it was read in the Senate and referred to Uriah Tracy and the Maryland senators Robert Wright and John E. Howard for a report. The House of Representatives read and referred the message to Joseph H. Nicholson of Maryland, James A. Bayard of Delaware, John Taliaferro of Virginia, Seth Hastings of Massachusetts, and Willis Alston of North Carolina, to examine and report their opinion (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 3:167; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:44–45).

For a discussion of their memorial of 28 Jan. 1801, see note to the Memorial from the District of Columbia Commissioners, 4 Dec. 1801.

May Be Thereby Sacrificed: in an act that became law on 1 May 1802, Congress gave the president the right to appropriate money from the U.S. Treasury to repay the Maryland loans if, in his opinion, a sufficient number of lots could not be sold “without an unwarrantable sacrifice of the property” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:175–6; John F. Mercer to TJ, 5 June 1802).

1Here in Dft TJ canceled “can be sold only.”

2In Dft TJ first wrote “is” before overwriting it to read “are.”

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