Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Agnes Jackson, 22 January 1802

From Agnes Jackson

City of Washington January 22d. 1802

The Petition of Agnes Jackson of the City of Washington humbly sheweth that on the 8th day of November 1800 when the War Office was burnt, notwithstanding the vigorous exertions of the Neighbours and Spectators to check the progress of the fire, her dwelling House was soon enveloped in flames and sunk in ruins. That a few hours previous to the fire she had sustained the greatest loss this world can inflict, namely a tender, affectionate and provident Husband, who lay in the House a cold and lifeless Corpse insensible of the Conflicting passions and dangers that surrounded and rent the hearts of his loving Widow and tender Offspring. And thus when she was bereft of the greatest comfort this World could bestow, and the cup of misery filled to the brim,—deprived of the small remaining Comfort, her House and home, and thrown upon an unthinking World to struggle and support a number of small Children.

Your Petioner therefore implores your Excellency to compassionate her sufferings, and use your influence with the Grand Council of the Nation to make her such compensation for her losses as your Excellency shall in his wisdom and goodness think proper, and your Petitioner as in duty bound will pray &c.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received from Agnes Jackson on 27 Jan. and so recorded in SJL.

A fire in the 2100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue destroyed the War Department building owned by the hatter Joseph Hodgson, as well as an adjoining building belonging to Agnes Jackson’s husband. Jonathan Jackson, a master carpenter who owned real estate in Washington and Georgetown, had worked on the government buildings prior to his death just six hours before the fire broke out. Although the cause of the conflagration remained unconfirmed, several newspaper and government reports concluded that it had probably originated in the fireplace of the Jackson house. The widow sold her remaining real estate but was still unable to settle with creditors. In 1813, she petitioned Congress for compensation for her burned house, claiming that a government officer had used the adjacent house as a public office, but she only received permission to withdraw the claim. Agnes Jackson never acquired compensation for her loss, unlike Joseph Hodgson’s widow to whom an act of Congress awarded a $6,000 reimbursement in 1822 (Elaine C. Everly, “The Local Impact of the War Office Fire of 1800,” Washington History, 12 [2000], 8–10; Elaine C. Everly and Howard H. Wehmann, “The War Office Fire of 1800,” Prologue, 31 [1999], 22–35; Gazette of the United States, 11 Nov. 1800; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 9:190, 199; Vol. 32:435–6n).

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