Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from Thomas Munroe, 18 February 1804

From Thomas Munroe

Superintendants Office
Washington 18 February 1804


The enclosed representation having been this day delivered to me to be laid before you, it may not be improper for the following observations to accompany it.

A man by the name of Jenkins, tenant of Samuel Davidson an Original proprietor claims the right of retaining possession of the part of the City mentioned in the representation, under that part of the Deed of Trust, of which the enclosed is a Copy, and accordingly keeps the same enclosed as a Corn field—. The Cattle, horses and hogs of the Citizens get into this field, and it is said Jenkins frequently kills them—. Several Applications have been made to me for prompt redress under your Authority, and I have told the Applicants they must resort to the Judicial authority, it being the Opinion of the Attorney of the District “that so soon as Appropriations & designations were made by the President whether for streets or other public purposes, and so soon as Lots were sold to individuals, from that moment did the right of the Original proprietor to possess the land so disposed of cease” I have frequently communicated this to Davidson, Jenkins and the persons who have made complaints, as long ago as April last but Jenkins still keeps up his enclosures and justifies it under his landlords construction of the deed of Trust; altho’ he admits the streets are designated by the plan of the City, and that lots have been sold in their vicinity; but he contends these lots must be required for actual improvements, that the streets must become necessary for the convenience of the improvers of the lots, or of the public in such degree as to make it manifestly necessary that the Original proprietor should relinquish his possession—.

I have always supposed that these streets were notoriously known as such, and that the plan of the City was a sufficient designation of them, but perhaps you, Sir, may deem it proper to make some declaration on the subject to be published that the Court may have the less hesitation in acting, & Offenders have better information.—

I have the Honor to be with the utmost respect, Sir Yr mo Ob Hum Servt

Thomas Munroe

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 18 Feb. and “inclosures” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found, but see below.

On 13 Apr. 1803, Munroe wrote Thomas jenkins regarding a written complaint he had received from a number of “respectable inhabitants of this city,” that Jenkins’s enclosures were obstructing several streets, including “Eleventh street west.” He asked Jenkins to allow free passage on the streets so as to “render unnecessary a resort to compulsory measures.” A week later, Jenkins proposed erecting gates across the streets. In a letter of the 21st, however, Munroe explained that the complainants could not accept this solution because of the “injuries which they apprehend would, unavoidably, tho’ unintentionally be done to your crops by persons, horses & cattle passing through the fields unprotected by fencing on each side the road or street.” He repeated his advice to remove the obstructions to the streets voluntarily. Many years later, a Thomas Jenkins certified that a “trespassing stray” horse had gotten into his enclosures in the district and requested the owner to “prove property, pay charges, and take him away” (Munroe to Thomas Jenkins, 13 and 21 Apr. 1803, DNA: RG 42, LRDLS; Washington Gazette, 31 May 1821).

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