Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Thomson Mason’s Notes on Candidates for Bank Director, [ca. August 1801]

John Thomson Mason’s Notes on Candidates for Bank Director

[ca. August 1801]

James Dunlop. A merchant of good character, not much understanding, in good circumstances, clear of debt, but a tool to U.F.
Thos. Beall of Geo. A man clear of debt, of good estate, and character, of no understanding, and a tool to F. & S.
John Laird A merchant of fair character, exceeding good understanding, of considerable property clear of Debt, and a tool to no man.

These men reside in George Town and are violent and bitter Federalists.

Daniel Carroll of Dudlington
Notley Young
} Two wealthy honest men,
unacquainted with business,
but very attentive to their own
interest, moderate Federalists
Thomas Law A man by no means deficient in either genius or knowledge, but totally unfit for any kind of business, and perhaps of all men the least fit for a Bank Director.
John Oakely. A very honest upright man, of very good understanding, very eccentrick, he would be perfectly regardless of his own money, if he had any, and for that reason I think it might not be altogether safe to trust him with the management of that which belongs to others.
Daniel Carroll Brent. A very honest man, entirely unacquainted with Banking or mercantile business, but joined with others who had a competent knowledge of those subjects, would make a very good director.
John Mason A man of very fair character, I believe very deservedly so, and as he is a man of very good understanding, and has been long engaged in business of this kind, I presume he would make a very good director.

It does not occur to me that there is any other man in the County of Washington who would be thought of as a Bank director by any person who knew him. I have endeavoured to give you some idea of the character of those I have named, how far they or any them are proper persons to be trusted in that way, you will determine, if men tollerably well quallified could be found, there are only five of them that I should be willing to trust, Carroll, Young, Laird Brent & Mason. Every man that I have named on the other side, except Brent & Oakely, are I believe very large Stock holders in the Bank of Columbia.

MS (DNA: RG 59, LAR); undated, but see below; entirely in Mason’s hand; endorsed by TJ: “Mason J. T. for Bank directors.”

TJ may have asked John T. Mason for his recommendations for the board of directors of the Bank of the United States’s office of discount and deposit at Washington as early as June, when Gallatin wrote Thomas Willing, arguing for the establishment of a branch in the city to be used for the deposit of government funds instead of the Bank of Columbia. TJ and Gallatin probably discussed who should be included on a list of proposed candidates for directors (now missing), which Gallatin submitted to Willing in a letter of 11 Aug. Whether TJ had gathered information on the subject by that time, or waited until after the Bank of the United States agreed to establish the branch on 18 Aug., is not clear. The election of the directors took place in early October. None of the candidates described above were elected, but John T. Mason became a director (see Gallatin to TJ, 24 Aug., especially Enclosure No. 2, and note).

U.F.: Uriah Forrest. F. & S.: Forrest and Benjamin Stoddert. Forrest, Stoddert, Beall, Young, and Carroll were among the early property holders in the federal district. In 1793, Forrest, Stoddert, John Mason, and several others founded the Bank of Columbia. By 1798, Dunlop, Laird, and Law had joined the board of directors. John Mason served as president of the Bank from 1798 to 1816. TJ appointed John Oakley (Oakely) collector of customs at Georgetown in October 1801. He had earlier appointed Daniel Carroll Brent marshal of the District of Columbia (Bryan, National Capital description begins Wilhelmus B. Bryan, A History of the National Capital from Its Foundation through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, New York, 1914–16, 2 vols. description ends , 1:135, 223; Walsh, Early Banks in D.C. description begins John Joseph Walsh, Early Banks in the District of Columbia, 1792–1818, Washington, 1940 description ends , 68, 76–7; Vol. 33:203n, 231n, 345, 670, 671, 675, 677). For TJ’s appointment of John T. Mason as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, see Vol. 33:380n, 671, 675.

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