Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Barry, 26 September 1801

From James Barry

City of Washington. September 26th. 1801

The subscriber being interrested in property in this City and the regulations belonging thereto; & finding some deviations from the conduct heretofore observed by the Commissioners, He has to complain that in the compact formed between the Proprietors when they gave up half their property to the United States, it was considered, the City was to be laid off, & their lotts & squares surveyed out of the fund arising from that property given up, & the residue to be appropriated to the Public buildings &ca., altho not materially concerned in this part, He considers what property he bought from the Public, that the Commissioners had a right to have the Lotts measured & bounded for him, in fact it has been the practice heretofore, as it is also the practice [with other] […] of Lands & Lotts, that they allways survey & convey the sold lands to the purchasers, at their own expence, the Subscriber considered it the duty of the Commissioners, to mark out his Lotts at the public expence, but from the enclosed papers, it appears the Commissioners refuse doing so—He wrote them on the subject enclosing Mr King’s account receiving from them no satisfaction or inclination to do what he thinks just, He takes the liberty to transmit the same to the President of the United States for his decision—

James Barry

RC (DLC); top of sheet clipped, including TJ’s endorsement; at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. President of the United States.” Recorded in SJL as received 1 Oct. Enclosure: Gustavus Scott, William Thornton, and Alexander White to James Barry, Commissioners’ Office, 12 Dec. 1800, acknowledging that they had seen King’s statement of lots surveyed for Barry; the commissioners explaining to Barry that while it had been their practice not to charge for the survey of lots “purchased of the public” when two surveyors were in the commission’s employ, “the Affairs of the City” now required that only one surveyor be kept in its employ, and by powers vested in them by President John Adams, the commissioners allowed King to charge “reasonable compensation” for his work (RC in DLC; in William Brent’s hand, signed by Scott, Thornton, and White; addressed: “James Barry Esqr”). Other enclosures not found.

James Barry (1755?–1808), a merchant born in Ireland, lived in India, Portugal, and Baltimore before moving to Washington around 1800. He began investing in real estate in the capital in the 1790s, and by 1801 he had constructed a wharf on the Anacostia River. Since 1791, Barry had been vice consul for Portugal in Maryland and Virginia. In December 1801, Madison acknowledged Barry as acting consul general of Portugal. Barry, his wife, Joanna Gould, and their two daughters were buried at St. Mary’s Church in Washington (Allen C. Clark, “Captain James Barry,” RCHS description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1895–1989 description ends , 42–43 [1942], 1–16; Carrie Rebora Barratt and Ellen G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart [New Haven, 2004], 268–9; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 2:294; TJ to John Carroll, 3 Sep.).

Compact Formed between the Proprietors: for the 1791 agreement by which proprietors of land in the newly created District of Columbia conveyed land to trustees, see Opinion on George Walker’s Case, 14 June.

The principal surveyor of the city of Washington from 1797 to 1802 was Robert King, Sr. He was the father of Nicholas King (Ralph E. Ehrenberg, “Nicholas King: First Surveyor of the City of Washington, 1803–1812,” RCHS description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1895–1989 description ends , 69–70 [1971], 45–6; Vol. 34:199–200).

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