Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Wheaton, 1 February 1802

From Joseph Wheaton

Washington Feby 1st. 1802

Excellent Sir

There being an office in your gift connected with the Legislature where I am placed, the compensation to which, aded to the small pittance I receive from the government, would enable me to support my little family in this city, and thereby prevent a painful seperation which necessity enforces.

I therefore beg leave to offer myself to your consideration for the appointment of librarian to Congress.

If twenty five years of faithful services and perseverance through the vicisitudes of the past; If the circumstances of Seven times elected to the office in which I Stand; If growing into advanced life in the service of my Country without the means of giving to a Small family a decent support, from the Savings of my earnings, are recommendations sufficient for the occasion, and your Excellency has not fully determined on the person to fill the office, permit me to hope for some claim to your notice.

If I should be successful in this; which hope inspires, it will be received with thankfulness, and gratitude.

I am Excellent Sir with the homage of my heart your faithful and obedient Servant

Joseph Wheaton

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at head of text: “To the President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 Feb. and “to be librarian” and so recorded in SJL.

A veteran of the Revolutionary War, Joseph Wheaton (d. 1828) of Rhode Island served as sergeant at arms of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1789 to 1807. He wrote TJ and James Madison on several occasions during their respective administrations, requesting appointments and seeking to vindicate his character. Detractors accused Wheaton of secretly harboring British and Federalist sympathies and of being an admirer of Aaron Burr. In 1806, he received a contract to cut a post road and carry mail from Athens, Georgia, to Fort Stoddert. His failure to do either earned him the enmity of the postmaster general, which resulted in a lawsuit and repeated petitions by Wheaton to Congress for compensation. He returned to the military during the War of 1812, serving as a deputy assistant quartermaster general in the army. Madison nominated him to be a deputy quartermaster general in 1814, but the Senate rejected the appointment (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; Heitman, Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1793, new ed., Washington, D.C., 1914 description ends , 583; Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., 2:258–9; 3:502–4; Henry DeLeon Southerland, Jr., and Jerry Elijah Brown, The Federal Road through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama, 1806–1836 [Tuscaloosa, 1989], 24–32; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 2:543, 606; “Noname Iota” to TJ, 12 Apr. 1802; Gideon Granger to TJ, 23 Feb. 1807; Wheaton to TJ, 17 Oct. 1807; Abraham Bradley, Jr., to TJ, 6 Sep. 1808; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004–, 5 vols. description ends , 1:350–2).

Small Pittance: by an act of Congress of 2 May 1800, the sergeants at arms of the House and Senate each received a salary of $500 per annum, plus $2 per day during a session of Congress. On 29 Apr. 1802, Congress altered the compensation to a salary of $800 per annum and no per diem payments (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:58, 170–1).

Rather than reply by letter, TJ instructed Meriwether Lewis to inform Wheaton that the appointment of librarian had already been given to John Beckley. Following Beckley’s death in 1807, Wheaton made another unsuccessful bid for the position (Wheaton to TJ, 16 May 1807).

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