James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 12 March 1809

From Benjamin Henry Latrobe

Capitol March 12th. 1809.


Previously to the establishment of arrangements for carrying on the work during the ensuing Season, I beg to lay before you a proposition of which I hope to receive your approbation, and which I beg specially to explain on account of the personal interest I appear to have in it.

Independently of my Salary, the expenses of the direction of the public works have been,

Salary of the Clerk of the works per Annum 1.400 .—
office rent 150
a clerk in the office 300 days at 1.25   375

If the extent of the approbation were as formerly, approaching to or exceeding 100.000, or if the objects of expenditure were More various, this expense could not be diminished without injury to the public. For a man of first rate talents & experience as a mechanic would be required to succeed Mr Lenthall as the Clerk of the Works.1 But in the State of the works, & under the moderate appropriation, I propose to conduct the work with the assistance of my Son as an additional Clerk. His education at College has been specially directed to the objects of my profession, he is an excellent draughtsman, a good accountant, & having employed his time in my office during the vacations in architectural studies & for the last 3 Months been entirely engaged as my assistant in the public business, he would be, independently of personal Motives, the best assistant I could procure.

I propose his Salary for this year to be 600$
The Salary of the present Clerk  375 
The office I have removed to the Capitol  975 
Making an annual saving to the public  950 
To which must be added Salary of the Clerk of
the works for 6 Months during which I have
performed his duties myself

I therefore respectfully submit this proposition to your approbation. With the highest respect I am Yrs.

B Henry Latrobe
Surv. Pblic Bldgs U.S.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1John Lenthall (1762–1808), Latrobe’s clerk of the works since April 1803, was killed by the fall of vaulting while superintending the building of the Capitol. He was replaced by Henry Sellon Latrobe (1793–1817), the architect’s son, who had been educated at the University of Pennsylvania and at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore (Hamlin, Latrobe, pp. 260, 276–78, 602).

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