Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from William Lambert, 8 June 1793

From William Lambert

Philadelphia, 8th: June, 1793.


The many instances of politeness and indulgence I received from you, during my continuance in your office, demand my sincere acknowledgments. There are some of them, in particular, which conferred the highest obligations, and will ever be remembered with sentiments of gratitude and respect.

I have reason to suppose, that the arrangements which will probably be made in the office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, at the next Session of Congress will be favorable to me, and I have had the strongest assurances from Mr. Beckley, of his friendship and support. Permit me, Sir, to hope that as far as my conduct may appear to deserve it, your influence will also be employed in my behalf. I have the honor to be, with the most perfect esteem, Sir, Your most Obedient Servant.

William Lambert

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The Secretary of State”; endorsed by TJ as received 8 June 1793 and so recorded in SJL.

William Lambert (d. 1834) of Virginia, a skilled mathematician, served in 1788 as a clerk helping to arrange the state’s accounts with the United States. He was principal clerk to John Beckley during the latter’s service as clerk of the House of Representatives during the first session of the First Congress. TJ employed him as a clerk in the Department of State from November 1790 until the end of September 1792. Thereafter he held various governmental clerkships, often under Beckley at the House though, as with Beckley, his fierce Republicanism temporarily cost him his position in the late 1790s. Restored to their positions after the Republicans gained a majority in the House in 1801, they later quarreled and Beckley fired Lambert in 1805. Lambert corresponded frequently with TJ during his presidency and retirement about topics in astronomy, especially Lambert’s tireless but largely fruitless efforts to improve the calculation of longitude, establish a national observatory, and obtain governmental sanction for the establishment of a point at Washington, D.C., to replace Greenwich, England, as America’s prime meridian ([Washington] Daily National Intelligencer, 21, 23 Oct. 1834; CVSP description begins William P. Palmer and others, eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Richmond, 1875–93, 11 vols. description ends , iv, 362, 466; Berkeley, Beckley description begins Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, John Beckley: Zealous Partisan in a Nation Divided, Philadelphia, 1973 description ends , 57, 223–4, 239, 267–9; Lambert to TJ, 15 Dec. 1804, 31 July 1805, 2 Apr. 1806, 6 July 1825; TJ to Lambert, 22 Dec. 1804, 29 Nov. 1822; Charles O. Paullin, “Early Movements for a National Observatory, 1802–1842,” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, xxv [1923], 40–3). The date when Lambert’s service ended at the Department of State— given incorrectly as 1793 in Vol. 17: 356n, 358n, and Vol. 24: 367n—is established by salary accounts of the Department of State for the quarters ending 31 Dec. 1792 and 31 Mch. 1793 (MSS in DNA: RG 217, MTA; dated 31 Dec. 1792 and 31 Mch. 1793, respectively; in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., signed by TJ; registered in the Treasury under Nos. 3402 and 3834); and by Lambert to TJ, 27 July 1819.

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