Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 21 August 1807

Washington, Augt. 21t. 1807

Dear Sir,

Your favor of the 18th. came to hand this morning, & I feel exceedingly obliged by your early attention to mine of the 13th. I should have been the happiest Man in the United States had you adopted my first instead of my second proposition. But you have not, & I must now pluck up the courage of a Man who marches to meet certain death at the breach, & do my duty without inquiring the result of what it enjoins.—But upon endeavoring to reduce to practice the 2d proposition I made as to shingling, I must abandon it, for the following reasons, which in the haste & under the impressions of my letter of 13h. I had not time to explore. 1. [GRAPHIC IN MANUSCRIPT] The distance between the line of Shingling o—o at X near the lower lights & the roof would be such as to render the flank of the Shingling visible from within, (if there were no Venetian Blinds to the lights of which I shall speak presently)—& consequently to darken the room exceedingly 2. It would be quite as necessary to make the line on which the masses of shingling touch the roof, light as any other part, & this is impossible.

3. We can neither afford time, money, nor obtain materials for this operation, before the meeting of congress.

Therefore, as the leakage, by trials made since my last letter is in a great measure owing to the Putty being destroyed by the frost, I have resolved to take off all the strips, & reputty them. But as all our Men have been rendered sick of their labor on the roof last Winter by the cold, & this Summer by the excessive heat,—(for when the Sun shines, the hand cannot bear the heat of the Iron), I have been obliged to promise them a Small increase of Wages while engaged in this Work.

It seems as if however the difficulties of this mode of lighting were innumerable & endless. A new one occurs in blinding the lights by Venetian Shutters. [GRAPHIC IN MANUSCRIPT] The apparatus which would be necessary to manage these shutters in the manner once proposed would be too tedious to make, too expensive, & after all in such a building, so immediately out of order & useless, to be attempted this Year. Therefore fixed Blinds will be necessary at least for the present. Now, if, for instance the light falls in the direction of the arrow upon g it would shine into the room at all the lights from g to d unless they were closely shut. With the most perfect machinery, it will be difficult to manage & attend to the shifting of the Sun in the month of May, in which Congress often sit.—I confess I am at a loss on this head, & cannot at this moment think of a method of keeping out the Sushine, which tho’ in the bank of Pennsylvania it could never reach the floor, was found so disagreeable when reflected from the Walls, that all the windows of the Lanthorn have been blinded. In the mean time I shall put in hand the blinds of the Southern lights, & place the boards so that they shall mask the Sun at its highest ascension at the Solstice.—

With your letter I received a packet from Philada. which I have only this instant opened. It contains the Invoice of the Glass & all the Ironmongery which has arrived in Philadelphia per Brig Helen, & which will be immediately sent round. The amount of the Glass is enormous, and will cripple our fund exceedingly.

The Glass cost in London £ sterlg. 680. 12.9
 Commission in Engld 5 p Ct. 34.  0.8
 Proportion of Duties, Insurance & all English Charges 6[8].
£782: 13.5
 Exchange 65 p Cent 50[9]. 14.8½
 Pennsylvanian Cury. £1,291.  8.1½
Duty & charges here, I suppose 20 PCent 258.  6.7½
£1,549. 14.9
=Dollars. 4,130.$10. cts

There are a double set of these squares which brings them to my former estimate (Oct 27h.) of 20$ dollars for plates of this size, altho I charged them in the carrying out at 12$.—I shall employ half of them in the North wing & charge them accordingly.

I have written in great haste in order not to lose the post. We go on well in all other respects.

With the highest respect I am most faithfully Yrs.

B Henry Latrobe

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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