Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Cornelius Coningham, 10 November 1801

From Cornelius Coningham

City of Washington Nov. 10th. 1801.


Having rented a Brewery in Alexandria about two years ago, and having entrusted an English-Man with the superintendance of it; I unfortunately, thro’ his conduct, sunk almost the whole of my active stock: Since that time, I have not been able to carry on my business to any advantage.

But can I despair under an administration I have ardently wished for? I have been long opposed, almost alone, to the Demagogues who led the City, and from whom I also suffered, not only personal abuse, but by introducing beer from other places in opposition to mine.   Now the political current is changed. I have it not in my power to take advantage of it unless I get some assistance.   I therefore address you as a man of feeling, not as President of the United States; and should you think it reasonable for the Government to lend me fifteen hundred dollars, I will secure it by a Mortgage on my property which is worth double that sum. With this assistance I could free myself from the debts I owe in a short time, & be enabled to pursue my business to some advantage, hoping for a favourable answer I am Sir with the greatest regard

Your obedient Servant

Corn. Coningham

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 10 Nov.

Irish native Cornelius Coningham (ca. 1746–1820) was a physician and veteran of the Revolutionary War, serving primarily as a hospital surgeon. He entered the brewing business in Washington in 1796 in partnership with James Greenleaf, then opened a second brewery in Alexandria in late 1798. TJ appointed him a justice of the peace for Washington County in March 1801. Coningham offered his Washington brewery for sale in 1805, then unsuccessfully sought appointment as librarian of Congress in 1807, citing his “past services & sufferings.” He reentered the military in 1810 as a surgeon’s mate in the U.S. Army, then as surgeon at Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut, from 1816 to 1820 (Heitman, Dictionary description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:320; 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 , 1:291; 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 , 2:163; Alexandria Advertiser, 25 Dec. 1798; National Intelligencer, 2 Sep. 1805; Boston Columbian Centinel, 30 Sep. 1820; Benjamin Tinkham Marshall, ed., A Modern History of New London County Connecticut, 3 vols. [New York, 1922], 1:390; Vol. 33:674; Coningham to TJ, 8 June 1807).

A letter from Coningham dated Washington, 13 Oct. 1801, is recorded in SJL as received the same day with the notation “N,” but has not been found.

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