Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Compton, 1 March 1809

Philada. March 1st. 1809.—


I take the liberty of soliciting your interference on a subject that I think calls loudly for redress—The Fact is this—I arriv’d in this Country in the Ship Corn-Planter from London in July 1808 & brought with me sundry articles for my own private use & amusement; (it being my intention to reside in this Country) amongst others a small Bust of Sir Francis Burdett, made of Plaister Paris, & a Copper plate Print (View of Scarboro, a Sea port in the North Riding of Yorkshire) set in a plain black frame both of which are very much defaced—the latter particularly, being torn & the glass broke entirely to pieces, owing to the carelessness of those on board said Ship to whose care they were entrusted—

after a considerable lapse of time was inform’d these two Articles were lodged in the Custom House of the Port of Philada. & that I could not have them from thence unless I petitioned the Judge of the District Court of the United States; (Richd. Peters) neither should I be allow’d to disclaim them (which I would freely have done) without paying double or threble their full value: of the two alternatives I prefer’d the former.—

I call’d this day on the District Atty: David Caldwell who inform’d me, my Petition was granted & that I might have the Articles specified on payment of 11 dollars 93 Cents!!! I confess I was much astonish’d at the unjustness of the demand as I firmly believe the first cost of the Goods when perfect was not more than ten Shillings Sterling—this I stated to Mr. Caldwell I am confident from the State in which they now are (were I to offer them for Sale) they would not bring me fifty Cents.—

with the greatest respect & esteem I am Sir your Obdt. Servt.

Wm. Compton


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