Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Kilty and John P. Van Ness, 28 June 1803

From William Kilty and John P. Van Ness

June 28th. 1803


We have the honor to inform you that the Committee of arrangements for the celebration of the 4th. of July next, appointed by the Citizens of Washington have determined on a public dinner at Stelle’s Hotel; and have directed us to request the favor of your company on the occasion at half after three OClock P.M—

We have very great pleasure in executing this commission; and shall be highly gratified if the man who was so instrumental in the accomplishment of our Independence, and who now presides in our Councils shall find it agreeable & convenient to comply with the wishes of the Committee and the Citizens whom they represent, upon this subject—

We have the honor to be with the greatest respect your very hble. Servants

Wm. Kilty

John P. Van Ness

RC (MoSHi: Jefferson Papers); in Van Ness’s hand, signed by Kilty and Van Ness; at foot of text: “The President of the U. States”; endorsed by TJ as received from Washington on 29 June and so recorded in SJL.

A former New York congressman, John P. Van Ness (1770–1846) became a resident of Washington, D.C., after accepting appointment as major of the District of Columbia militia in 1802. The next year, he was elected to the city council and became its president. He was mayor of Washington from 1830 to 1834. He also became a prominent banker (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; National Intelligencer, 12 Dec. 1803). For Van Ness’s family background and early career, see Vol. 36:82n.

Kilty and Van Ness were both part of a nine-person committee of arrangements. Other members included Mayor Robert Brent, Daniel Carroll of Dudington, who was president of the second chamber of the city council, William Ward Burrows, Thomas Munroe, John Cassin, Samuel Harrison Smith, and Thomas Tingey (National Intelligencer, 27 June, 12 Dec. 1803).

The Washington celebration of the 4th. of july included 18-gun salutes at sunrise and noon, an oration by Captain William O. Sprigg, and a parade of uniformed militia in front of the President’s House. Between noon and two o’clock, a large gathering of ladies and gentlemen, including militia officers, city officials, heads of departments, and foreign ministers, waited on the president and enjoyed cake, punch, and wine. At half past three o’clock, about 100 people, “including the heads of department, foreign ministers, the officers of the general government, and strangers of distinction” met at Stelle’s Hotel. Smith read the Declaration of Independence before the assembled diners. After dinner, 18 toasts, including one to TJ, were interspersed with patriotic songs and with entertainment provided by Burrows’s “excellent band.” The National Intelligencer reported that “in addition to the usual circumstances that endear the day to Americans, the deeply interesting intelligence of the cession of Louisiana, received the antecedent evening, excited the most lively joy” (National Intelligencer, 4, 6, 11 July; Margaret Bayard Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington Society, ed. Gaillard Hunt [New York, 1906], 38–9).

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