Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Augustus B. Woodward, 15 January 1802

From Augustus B. Woodward

Jan. 15. 1802.

Mr. William O’Neale of the City of Washington, was originally invited to this place by the late Genl. Washington, for the purpose of exploring quarries for the public works. He has vested very considerable property in the City; but owing to that stagnation of business which has affected the United States generally, and which has particularly retarded the progress of the City, he finds himself now without any active employment. He is solicitous, if the appointment of a librarian should be vested in the President, as he has understood is contemplated, to obtain from him a notice of his pretensions. He is known to be a man of respectability and integrity, and I should presume as well adapted to act in that capacity as any other who may probably apply.

Augustus B. Woodward

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ: “O’Neale Wm. to be librarian.”

Augustus B. Woodward (1774–1827), a political writer and jurist born in New York City, was named Elias Brevoort Woodward but later exchanged Elias for Augustus and occasionally used both names. After graduating from Columbia College, he worked as a Treasury Department clerk in Philadelphia. In 1795, he moved to Rockbridge County, Virginia, where he read law, taught school, and first met TJ. He settled in Georgetown two years later and in 1801, under the pseudonym “Epaminondas,” began publishing scientific and political works, including a series advocating home rule for the District of Columbia. He had a lucrative law practice and was a member of the district’s first city council. TJ nominated him chief justice of the supreme court of the Michigan Territory in 1805, and the following year Woodward compiled the first code of laws for the Territory (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; RS description begins J. Jefferson Looney and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, Princeton, 2004–, 5 vols. description ends , 1:165; Vol. 29:151n; Vol. 33:212n; Vol. 35:755).

William O’Neale: in June 1794, George Washington authorized a “Mr. Oneil” of Chester County, Pennsylvania, to open a freestone quarry at Mount Vernon. James Greenleaf employed O’Neale to develop a quarry along the western boundary of the city of Washington and one at Mount Vernon for $60 a month plus expenses and pay for three to six workmen. In addition to agreeing to deliver 500 tons of stone a month out of the public quarry, O’Neale became involved in real estate speculation and by autumn 1799 had opened his own boardinghouse and general store. On 20 Jan. 1801, he witnessed the Treasury building fire and helped rescue the department’s public papers. He wrote to Gallatin on 1 July 1801, requesting a position in the office of the commissioner of the revenue or any public office (Bob Arnebeck, Through a Fiery Trial: Building Washington 1790–1800 [Lanham, Md., 1991], 214, 283, 539, 612–13; Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, D.C., 1931–44, 39 vols. description ends , 33:400; 34:59; Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 5:285; Prologue, 31 [1999], 28, 34n).

On 14 Jan. 1802, Woodward wrote to the vice president recommending O’Neale for the position of librarian (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Woodward Augustus B. to Colo. Burr. Wm. Oneale to be librarian”).

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