Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Stoddert, 18 August 1801

From Benjamin Stoddert

Geo Town 18 August 1801.


Knowing that the Comrs. of Washington, were about addressing you on a subject in which I have an Interest, I sent to them a letter, the copy of which I take the liberty to lay before you; as I find they had made up their dispatches before the rect. of the letter.

Mr White, the Comr. alluded to, as not Joining in the engagement to the State of Maryland, informs me, that I have mistated his motive for the refusal.—that it was not the apprehension of pecuniary loss, but a doubt of the power of the Comrs. to pledge the lots to the State, which with-held him.—Be it so—My object was to prove some little merit, & no crime in those, who notwithstanding such doubts would risk themselves to obtain money for the City, at a time when it could be got by no other means, and when it was known the necessary accomodations for the Govt could not be prepared without it.

I have the honor to be with great respect Sir Yr. most Obed Servt

Ben Stoddert.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 27 Aug. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Stoddert to the “Commissioners of the City of Washington,” 17 Aug., pointing out inaccuracies in their account sent to the president of payments made on notes given by Uriah Forrest for the purchase of lots, which included payments made by Stoddert of “something more than 1000 Drs.”; these lots had previously been mortgaged by Robert Morris and John Nicholson to Stoddert, Forrest, and Gustavus Scott, and were purchased at public sale to prevent losing the debt due them by Morris and Nicholson and not “with views to speculation”; Stoddert also wishes it known to the president that Scott’s estate owes more than one-third of the debt remaining on the notes, but that the trustees have yet to authorize the sale of any part of the estate; much of the property belonging to Forrest and Scott is bound to the state of Maryland for its loan of $50,000 to the commissioners, a loan of such risk that “one of the Comrs. equal to any in zeal for the advancement of the City, refused to be a party in it”; Stoddert claims that considerable sums have already been paid to the commissioners as payments on the Maryland loan, but that “little or none of it, has been so applied”; Stoddert cannot sell his lots because they are tied up in the Maryland loan and he questions the justice of directing “coercive measures to enforce payment from persons circumstanced as the Debtors in these notes are”; if the lots bound to Maryland were released for sale, Stoddert believes that all of the debt would be repaid within one month except that due from Scott’s estate; in the meantime Stoddert will work to pay “every dollar in which I have any concern” and reminds the commissioners that he has already caused around $17,000 to be paid them, almost one half of it on account of Forrest’s notes, and that the remainder is not due for another eight months (Tr in same; in Stoddert’s hand).

Addressing you on a Subject: District of Columbia Commissioners to TJ, 17 Aug.

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