From Charles Peale Polk
George Town Feby 28th. 1801 [i.e. ca. 27 Feb. 1802]
Conceiving in some measure of your many and important engagements, It is with extreme reluctance that, I intrude for one moment on your valueable time. But the extreme distress of a Dear family has Occasioned, and I trust will plead my Apology for writing this Letter.
You will recollect Sir, that in the course of last summer, I had the honor of waiting on you with a view of Obtaining some subordinate Appointment. Your Attention encouraged the hope of success; and supported by Mr. Madison’s repeated Assurances of the friendship of the Administration and a sincere desire of doing something for me, I rested perfectly secure that the event would be brought about; and in consequence removed my family to this Town.
There is a vacancy, as a Clerk, at this time in the Office of the Accountant of the War Department. But I find that my want of an extensive Knowledge of Accounts, entirely disqualifies me for the Station. my expectation was that, I might be placed in one of the Public Offices, where Copying would be the principle business; but at present I can hear of no such situation.
It has not been in my power to Obtain any business in the line of my Profession for the greater part of the last Year, and I can Assure you Sir, that in Consequence, have been compelled to dispose of the principal part of my Household furniture for the support of my family. After stating these facts Sir, I wish to address you as a Gentleman of fortune and humanity in behalf of a Dear suffering family who, at this time want the necessaries of Life; and hope that it may suit you to Afford some pecuniary aid, at present,
I have only to add the Assurances of the profound respect with which I ever have been, and am, Your Obd Servt.
Charles Peale Polk
RC (DLC); misdated (see below); addressed: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 28 Feb. 1802 received 27 Feb. and so recorded in SJL.
The nephew and adopted son of artist Charles Willson Peale, Charles Peale Polk (1767–1822) was born in Annapolis and worked in Baltimore as a portrait painter, drawing school master, and owner of a dry goods store. His work as an itinerant artist often took him to Hagerstown, Frederick, and Richmond. After James Madison gave him a letter of introduction to TJ on 2 Nov. 1799, Polk took TJ’s likeness at Monticello and became a strong supporter of Jeffersonian Republicanism. In 1800, he was secretary of the county Republican committee in Frederick and reported on the likely electoral votes for Maryland. Upon TJ’s election, he created a transparent painting for the Frederick illumination and celebration of the inauguration. Never as successful an artist as his uncle, Polk planned to start a Republican newspaper in 1800 and, in April 1802, considered opening a museum in Washington. Neither venture materialized. Financial difficulties and the demands of a large family prompted him to seek a salaried government position and by late 1801 he and his family moved from Frederick to Georgetown. In a letter to Madison of 14 May 1801, he expressed gratitude for Madison’s “friendly assurances” that he would try to aid Polk’s family. Polk later wrote the secretary of state requesting his influence to secure a position under the postmaster general or a clerkship in the Treasury Department. He finally obtained the latter position (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 1: 65–6, 175; 2:234, 372; 3:399; Linda Crocker Simmons, Charles Peale Polk, 1767–1822: A Limner and His Likenesses [Washington, D.C., 1981], 12–19; Peale, Papers description begins Lillian B. Miller and others, eds., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, New Haven, 1983–2000, 5 vols. in 6 description ends , V. 2, pt. 1:423–4; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1066; Vol. 31:xliii, 231–2).
Pecuniary aid: on 27 Feb. 1802, TJ wrote an order on John Barnes to pay Polk $25 “in charity” (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1066). Barnes also recorded the order at 27 Feb. in his statement of TJ’s account for cash and orders, 3 Mch. (see Appendix IV).