Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 28 April 1806

Washington, April 28th. 1806

Dear Sir,

In the success of my exertions to compleat the South wing of the Capitol so far as that it shall be capable of receiving the House of representatives at their next session, I conceive all my professional reputation, & every evidence of the truth of my profession of attachment & respect to You to be at Stake,—& I beg leave therefore to assure you,—that whatever may be the event of my present application to you I will not withdraw myself from my duty, or suffer personal considerations to influence me to neglect it. At the same time I submit to you an extract from my books, from which you will see, that my duty to my family, and to myself require a candid statement of my situation, as to the means of support not to say recompence which I have derived from my employment as surveyor of the public buildings during the last Year 1805

Acct. currt., Salary as surveyor of public Buildings of the United States

Dr.. B H Latrobe Cr..
To his salary for one —By deductions for absence from the
Year 1805—$ 1.700 C.aD. Canal Works
from his Salary of 3.500$[. . . .]
January 14 days
March —22—
June —30—
Sept. —14—
Decr. 18 98 days —940.80
By expence of living at Washington 215.66
By travelling expenses 6 trips @ 18$ 108:—
By half the time of a Clerk
employed in the drawings of the whole detail of the
Work* @750$ 375.—
By balance 60.54

*This charge is unavoidable, as it is impossible for any architect to carry on such a Work as the Capitol without the assistance of a Clerk, in his own office, independently of the Clerk of the Works on the spot.

The above statement may be corrobarated by Vouchers, but the truth of the items are evident on the face of it.—From this it appears that had I remained in Washington six days longer in the course of last Year, the whole of my Salary would have vanished under the operation of deductions & expenses.—

From the Naval department indeed I have received to the amount of 450$ chargeable to the business performed during the last Year, which being an accidental compensation has rendered my professional engagements at Washington of more value,—and when the Treasury fireproof shall be compleated, I shall be further intitled to about 200$ Dollars more.

Of the importance of my services to the public it is not my province to say any thing. With the difficulties which popular clamor creates in every transaction in which public money is to be paid, I am well acquainted, and wish to make no claims for any thing that is past. But I am convinced that you will forgive me, if under a view of the case I have presented to you, I suggest the wish that, in the attendance which the pressing state of work will during this Season require of me, I may be so compensated, as not to be an actual loser by the services I render, especially, as by retiring from business altogether, I could procure to myself infinitely more personal happiness, & preserve at least, what I actually now possess.

My ideas on this subject have been these. That an arrangement might be made, which, instead of the very uncertain compensation, for services to the Navy & other departments of government which I now receive, should give to me an inducement to reside principally at Washington, and to the government the right to call upon me on all occasions whatever,—either for Naval buildings, for advice on the construction of light houses,—fortifications &c, provided the advice given on the buildings erected were at the city.

The amount of my compensation ought not to be less, I conceive than 1,700 for the public buildings 1.300 for the naval department, & 500$ for the other departments, in all 3.500$. At 5 pcent on the money expended,—the established charge in other cases,—my commission on the public buildings would have been last Year 3,750,$—& in the Navy department, about 1.000$.—

I now beg leave to submit most respectfully the above considerations,—assuring you,—that whatever may be the inconvenience or loss which I suffer, I will not withdraw myself from the strictest performance of my duty,—should you see reason to continue the present arrangement.

I am with the truest respect Yours faithfully

B Henry Latrobe

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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