Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Abraham Hargis, 26 May 1802

From Abraham Hargis

May the 26th 1802


as I have often Wrote to the superintendant respecting the situation of the Light House &c at Cape Henlopen & have not been answered by him, I at last went to the City of Philadia & informd him of the business he informd me he was makeing out his returns to close the business & to be done with the department he allso informd me that the Commissioner of the Revenue was out of Office & that no such & office existed & new no other resorce than to trouble your excellency with a few lines as I conceive the situation of this place requires immediate attenshan—as the foundation of the Light House & dwelling house is giveing Way the arch of the Kitchen Chimnay oil vault roof & doar is in bad order. the wharf (at which the Oil & all the articles is landed) is going to rack—the business in this place has been badly Conducted for this 6 years past—formerly I had the supplying the Light House with articles Oil & Glass excepted for which the former superintendant paid me 48 Dols. pr year & for the constant & yearly repairs in keeping the foundation of Light House Dwelling house &c up by brushing loging &c 38 Dols. for inspecting the oil bringing it to Light House 60 Dols. all which the feds. has taken from me. the former superintent Wm. Allibone inspected this place once a year The preasent superintendant never come near to see what was wanting or to Give orders of any kind When I informd that repairs was wanting he would reply there was no money to do any thing with. so but little repairs was attended to & frequently I have been kept nine months before I could Get my sallery & was Obliged to pay intrest to my creditors which redoosed my small salery which is too small for the labour & Expence of this place—

I have kept the Light House ninteen years & it was never in such bad repair I am ashamed to see publick property in such condition— & the federlists would fain pirsuade people that it is owing to a republican adminestration but I am able to convince them that it was under the Fedl. administration that this took place for when a republican had the supplying & repairing they them selves kno it was kep in good order. I mus confess I am disappointed in not seeing Republicans in office in place of those who have thus acted—Please to excuse the Liberty of this observation I am Honoured Sir your Verry Hbl Svt to Command

Abrm Hargis
Keeper of Cape Henlopen Light House

RC (NHi: Gallatin Papers); at foot of text: “To the Honbl. Thos. Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 5 June and “Cape Henlopen lighthouse” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in TJ to Gallatin, 6 June 1802.

Abraham Hargis (d. 1811) served as a lieutenant in the Pennsylvania line of the Continental Army, prior to becoming keeper of the Cape Henlopen lighthouse at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. He remained in that post until securing an appointment as an inspector for the port of Wilmington, Delaware, in 1806 (Heitman, Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1793, new ed., Washington, D.C., 1914 description ends , 274; Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 13:306).

WROTE TO THE SUPERINTENDANT: William McPherson (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Finance, 1:771).

Before the federal government assumed control over the Delaware Bay lighthouse, Hargis received a salary of £130 plus £13 for supplies from the state of Pennsylvania. In letters to the secretary of the Treasury in 1790, Superintendent William ALLIBONE described the conditions at the Cape Henlopen lighthouse, urged repairs, and defended Hargis’s salary. President Washington, however, thought his compensation was too high. Under a new contract, Hargis reluctantly agreed to a reduced annual salary of $266.66 2/3 (Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 6:468, 475, 479, 514, 561, 562; Washington, Papers description begins W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Philander D. Chase, Theodore J. Crackel, and others, eds., The Papers of George Washington, Charlottesville, 1983–, 53 vols. description ends , Pres. Ser., 5:533).

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