George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Oliver Wolcott, Jr., 9 July 1795

From Oliver Wolcott, Jr.

Treasy Departt July 9th 1795.

The Secretary of the Treasury respectfully transmits to the President of the United States, a Letter from the Commissioner of the Revenue dated the 7th instant, covering proposals by Thomas Dodge and Jonathan Beck junior dated at Newbury Port on the 16th of June 1795 for erecting a Lighthouse on Plumb-Island in Massachusetts.1

It appears that the same persons proposed in May 1794 to erect the said Lighthouse for the sum of Two hundred & Eighteen pounds lawful money; but owing to a delay in this Department occasioned by the absence & other engagements of the late Secretary, the said proposals were not submitted for the President’s approbation until the 28th of May 1795: and the present high prices of labour & materials now renders it impossible to contract agreeably to the President’s former permission.2

It is now proposed to erect the said Lighthouse for Two hundred & Eighty nine pounds lawful money, which, considering all circumstances the Secretary is of opinion, is no more than the value of the work, & that it will be proper to permit a Contract to be made accordingly.3 All which is respectfully submitted by

Oliv. Wolcott Jr
Secretary of the Treasury.


1Thomas Dodge (1755–1817) and Jonathan Beck, Jr. (1757–1838) were housewrights at Newburyport, Massachusetts. They wrote to Benjamin Lincoln in Boston that they had received information that he planned to proceed with the lighthouse on Plum Island and desired to accept the estimated cost that they had provided earlier. They could not, however, currently agree to the amount because of “the great Rise of every Article necessary to build the house” as well as additions in labor. They proposed to complete the lighthouse according to the dimensions specified by Lincoln for £289 (DNA: RG 26, Coast Guard Historical Documents, 1790–1983).

2Tench Coxe, commissioner of the revenue, reviewed the history of Dodge and Beck’s proposal in his letter to Wolcott of 7 July: “You will find within this enclosure sundry letters relative to the building of a Keepers House at Plumb Island Light House. In my letter of May 24th 1794 I transmitted to your predecessor the proposals, for submission to the President. A subsequent letter of August 9th reminded him of it—and since your appointment, I again brought the subject into view. The lapse of time has occasioned the persons to raise their terms.” Coxe urged Wolcott “to obtain the Presidents determination upon it at the present rate” (DNA: RG 26, Lighthouse Letters).

Coxe had sent a reminder of the proposal to Wolcott on 20 April: “The building season is arrived, and indeed from the rise of wages & prices, it is to be feared, that the proposer may decline” (DNA: RG 26, Lighthouse Letters). Wolcott notified GW of the proposal on 28 May and urged his approval (LB, DLC:GW). The president agreed to the contract the next day (see JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 328).

3On 9 July, GW signed his approval for the increased costs at the bottom left of the letter from Dodge and Beck (DNA: RG 26, Coast Guard Historical Documents, 1790–1983).

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