From John Tayloe
Washington. Decr. 1st. 1820
My dear Sir,
The concerns of the Steam Boat Washington have been hitherto so injudiciously conducted, that the Stock has, so far from being valuable as we were authorised to expect, been until now so unproductive, that I flatter myself you will concur with me, that an additional effort should be made to promote its interest.1
Should I have the honor to possess your good opinion of my zeal and discretion in the advancement of its views, being now a Director of The Company, I shall feel myself flattered in voting as your proxy at the ensuing election of a board of Directors, and take the liberty of enclosing to you the requisite form.
Mrs Tayloe and myself request you will do us the favor to present us in the most cordial terms to Mrs Madison. I have the honor to be, dear Sir, with great respect, Your friend & Very Ob. Servt.
RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. Below the postscript, JM drafted his 4 Dec. 1820 reply.
1. The Potomac Steam Boat Company, organized in 1813 by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, operated the steamboat Washington on the route between Washington and Aquia Creek near Fredricksburg. The $40,000 ship was built in New York under the direction of Robert Fulton in 1813 but owing to the War of 1812 did not make its maiden voyage until 1815. Competition with the Alexandria and Norfolk Steam Boat Company drove the Potomac company out of business in 1822 (Donald G. Shomette, Maritime Alexandria: The Rise and Fall of an American Entrepôt [Westminster, Md., 2003], 105–7, 112–13).
2. John Tayloe (1772–1828), owner of Mt. Airy, a large Virginia plantation, maintained a townhouse in Washington called the Octagon House. This elegant home was used by the Madisons as their residence after the President’s House was burned in 1814 (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 1:290 n. 1).