Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Josias Wilson King, 21 January 1802

From Josias Wilson King

City of Washington, January, 21st. 1802.


Anticipating your approbation of an act passed this day, and which I have inrolled, vesting in you the sole appointment of a Librarian to the congressional library; I beg you Sir, to consider this as my application for the said appointment. Having been a clerk in the office of the House of Representatives of the United States, nearly five years, part of which period, I have been principal clerk in the office, and the entire charge of the books attached to the said office, I trust, will together with the necessary enquiry of my character and ability from the members of the Legislature and Senate be a recommendation in my favor. The compensation allowed by the act cannot be an object to any person but myself, being under the employ of Mr. Beckley, and receiving his sanction for this application, will enable me to discharge the duties of both offices. Your confering this appointment on me Sir, will I trust be a pleasing reflection, that you are giving subsistence to a young man with an infant family. The enclosed is a list of Gentlemen who have expressed an approbation of my capability.

With sentiments of the highest respect, I have the Honor to be, Sir, Your Obedient Servant.

Josias Wilson King.

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at head of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Jan. and “to be librarian” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: attestation of King’s “suitable character” for the appointment of congressional librarian signed by 30 representatives, mostly Republicans (MS in same; in King’s hand, signed by congressmen).

Josias Wilson King, a clerk in the office of the house of representatives hired by Federalist Jonathan Condy in 1797, was retained but demoted under John Beckley, who eventually fired him in December 1805. Beckley, to whom TJ had given the post of librarian of Congress, assigned King, without extra compensation, some of the librarian’s duties. In a memorial presented to Congress in 1806, King claimed that Beckley had agreed to divide the library compensation equally with him. King protested that he had not been paid since 1802, when, as assistant librarian, he was appointed “to label, arrange, and take charge of the books” in the library (William Dawson Johnston, History of the Library of Congress [Washington, D.C., 1904], 1:35; Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, John Beckley: Zealous Partisan in a Nation Divided [Philadelphia, 1973], 239, 241; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 5:280; Vol. 29:374; Beckley to TJ, 21 Jan.).

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