James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 6 August 1812

From Benjamin Henry Latrobe

Washington Augt. 6t. 1812


I beg leave to submit to you, & to solicit your approbation of these accounts,1 the only ones relating to the public buildings on which I have occasion to give you any trouble, because unless allowed by you they cannot pass the treasury, and must stand as a charge against me personally.

1. Of the first, the enclosed affidavit2 explains the nature perfectly, and I will only add that altho’ the custom of all public buildings obliged me on extraordinary occasions to treat the workmen it is the only treat which I have charged the public with in the S. Wing of the Capitol. Mr Stelle3 has received of the Superintendent 100$ on acct.
2. The second is also for a treat on compleating the Vaults of the North wing. I promised it to the Workmen during your absence in July 1809 to induce them to strike the centers of the great arch, to do which they were afraid, the first arch having fallen down. To avoid dispute I contracted for 50$ for a supper for about 80 Men, including Liquors. I have paid the amount.
3. The third item is for the Assistance necessarily required for the Estimates called for by the House of Representatives in Jany. 1809, on which occasion I explained its necessity in a letter to You,4 and also had a verbal conversation on the subject.

Mr Hadfield5 has received 150$ of Mr. Munroe & 150 from me as he could not wait for the appropriation. Altho’ the Estimate of the timber part was not laid before Congress, it was made in great detail & required much labor.

I beg leave to refer to the Superintendent of the city for further information & am with high respect Yrs.

B Henry Latrobe

FC and FC of enclosure (MdHi: Latrobe Letterbooks). For surviving enclosure, see n. 2.

1Enclosure not found.

2In his 6 Aug. 1812 affidavit, Latrobe described his request that the workmen be treated to a dinner on 17 Oct. 1807, after the completion of the south wing of the Capitol. He claimed that Jefferson initially agreed to the request and that Pontius D. Stelle was contracted to purchase and prepare the food and drink for the event. However, a disagreement over the price of the dinner led Jefferson to refuse payment to Stelle. The superintendent of the city, Thomas Munroe, paid Stelle $100, and the Commercial Company of Washington eventually verified the rest of the charges. At that point Jefferson claimed a lapse of memory about the entire event and declined again to sanction the account.

3Pontius D. Stelle (1763–1826) was a Washington innkeeper with an establishment near the Capitol. From 1812 to 1818 he served as secretary to the Common Council of Washington (Van Horne, Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 2:97 n. 1).

4Letter not found.

5George Hadfield (1763–1826), an architect trained at the Royal Academy in England, was the brother of Jefferson’s friend Maria Cosway. He was appointed superintendent of the U.S. Capitol in 1795, where he served for three years before being dismissed (ibid., 1:50 n. 1).

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