From Isaac Coffin
Nantucket April the: 17th: 1803.
I take the Liberty to Address a few Lines to you to enquire after your welfare I had the Honour to be Introduced to your Excellency last February by my Friend Doctor Logan when I was at the City of Washington with a Petition to Congress from our Town; I have been again Elected a Senator in our State Legislature for this County—My Friend Matthew Barney one of the Society Called Quakers a Respectable Merchant of our Town being bound on to the City of Washington on Business, I take the Liberty to Recommend him to your Cordial esteem, any advice you may think fit to give him Respecting his Business will be Esteemed a favour granted to: Dear Sir, your most Obedient Servant
RC (DLC); at foot of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr: President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ. Recorded in SJL as received 29 Apr.
Isaac Coffin (1764–1842), a native of Nantucket Island in Massachusetts and member of the Society of Friends, began serving in the state senate in 1798, one of only two Republicans in that body. He continued to be elected by large majorities and in 1805 was unanimously chosen by the state legislature to also serve on the nine-member advisory council to the governor. In 1808, Coffin was appointed judge of probate for the county of Nantucket, a position he held until his death (Vital Records of Nantucket Massachusetts to the Year 1850, 5 vols. [Boston, 1925–28], 1:282; 5:160; Boston Independent Chronicle, 14 Apr. 1803, 6 June 1805; Salem Register, 9 May 1803; Boston Democrat, 18 Apr. 1804; Newburyport Herald, 6 May 1807; New-Bedford Mercury, 18 Mch., 20 May 1808, 4 Feb., 4 Mch. 1842; Coffin to TJ, 13 Apr. 1804, 16 Feb. 1805).
Appointed by the town meeting at Nantucket, Coffin brought a petition to congress, which was presented and read in the House of Representatives on 11 Feb. The petitioners requested congressional aid to open a channel near the harbor at Nantucket “for the accommodation and safety” of the large ships used in “that most valuable branch of business, the whale fishery.” To help defray the expense, the petitioners requested, for a limited time, the use of the revenues collected by the federal government at the port. The petition was referred to the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures. On 16 Feb., Samuel Smith reported that although aid could not be granted in the manner requested, the committee was “strongly impressed with the great importance of the whale fishery to the United States” and thought it “highly worthy of the attention of the Government.” It was too late in the session to give the subject the attention its great importance demanded but “to procure every information necessary to a fair investigation of the subject at the next session,” the committee resolved “That the Secretary of the Treasury be authorized to employ proper and intelligent persons to take a survey of the harbor in the island of Nantucket, and the bar and shoals near the same, as far as may be requisite, and to report their opinion as to the measures necessary to secure a sufficient channel for loaded ships destined for that port, with an estimate of the probable expense” (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:335, 343–4; 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 , Commerce and Navigation, 1:526–7). For the report on the survey of the harbor at Nantucket presented to Congress on 27 Oct., see 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 , Commerce and Navigation, 1:533–5.