James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert S. Bickley, 8 May 1810

From Robert S. Bickley

Union Hotel, Geo: Town 8th May 1810


It has been represented to me by my friend Doctr. Seybert1 & other Gentn. Members of Congress, that it was understood the Hotel could be purchased for about ten thousand Dollars, in consequence of which the sum appropriated was only twenty thousand Drs.2

The bill Authorises the President to buy or build an house for public Offices, I believe it cannot be denied that it was the general wish of the friends of the bill that the President should purchase the Hotel and Altho’ it cost me in the present state thirty six thousand Dollars independent of the lots attached to it, I am disposed to meet the general Wish of the Gentn. & the inhabitants of the City of Washington, and will therefore Accept the Sum of ten thousand Dollars for the building & the lots attached to it. A clear and indisputable title will be given.

If this sum meets your approbation I pray you to inform me as I am detained in the City only on this Accot. I am with great respect—Yr obedt Servt.

Robt. S. Bickley3


1Adam Seybert of Philadelphia had been elected to replace Benjamin Say in the Eleventh Congress and took his seat in the House of Representatives in November 1809. He subsequently served as a Republican representative from Pennsylvania in the Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fifteenth Congresses.

2Congress had passed a law, signed by JM on 28 Apr. 1810, authorizing the president to “erect, or procure by purchase” a building suitable for the accommodation of the Post Office and Patent Office (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States ... (42 vols.; Washington, 1834-56). description ends , 11th Cong., 2d sess., 1771–72; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America ... (17 vols.; Boston, 1848-73). description ends , 2:589–90).

3Robert S. Bickley of Philadelphia had acquired title to property and an uncompleted building known as Blodget’s Hotel in the District of Columbia by holding the winning ticket in Federal Lottery No. 2 in the 1790s. Lengthy legal proceedings between 1798 and 1813 were necessary to confirm Bickley’s title to the property he was now trying to sell (Bryan, History of the National Capital, 1:228–30).

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