Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James B. Heard, [on or before 6 February 1802]

From James B. Heard

[on or before 6 Feb. 1802]

The Petition of James Brooke Heard, respectfully sheweth,

That he hath been presented by the Grand Jury of Washington County, in the District of Columbia, for retailing Spirituous Liquors without Licence, and upon a submission to the Court of the said District was fined according to Law, but hopes upon a representation of facts to your Excellency, that you will remit the said fine.

Your Petitioner had soon after the organisation of the Government of the District, applied to the Clerk of the County of Washington for a permit to retail Spirituous Liquors untill the meeting of the Court, and then applied for a Licence to the said Court which was granted!—

That when your Petitioner applied for the same, it was with a view to Keep an Ordinary; your petitioner not being advised that it was necessary to speak to the Court upon the Occasion, confined his application To the Clerk, as had been heretofore customary, who gave him a Licence to retail spirituous Liquors, which Licence intended to restrict the Sale of any quantity below a pint

Your Petitioner at the period of his application was prepared to pay the customary price of an Ordinary Licence, and was surprised at its not being demanded, but expected that under the new regulation it would be collected by a proper Officer—

Altho’ ignorant of his restriction, Your petitioner had in one solitary instance only, disposed of a less quantity than a pint, Knowing that he had done so, he submitted his Case to the Court, who were bound to fine your petitioner as the Law directs and leave the remittance thereof to the proper Authority—

Your petitioner therefore prays your Excellency will remit the fine so innocently and unintentionally incurred,

And your petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray

James B Heard

RC (DLC); undated; in an unidentified hand, signed by Heard; at head of text: “To the President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Feb. and so recorded in SJL with notation “petn. for remission of fine.”

On 6 Feb., TJ received another undated petition almost identical to the one printed above and in the same hand, which was signed by James Thompson (RC in DLC, at head of text: “To the President of the United States,” endorsed by TJ as received 6 Feb. and so recorded in SJL with notation “petn. for remission of fine”). TJ received a number of documents relating to the case of Heard and Thompson, which may have been forwarded to the president by the defendants, or perhaps by John T. Mason, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. These include a copy of a license granted to Heard, dated 30 Apr. 1801, authorizing him to sell spirituous liquors in Washington County until the June meeting of the federal circuit court (Tr in same); a license granted to Heard, dated 23 June, authorizing him to sell spirituous liquors in Washington County until the fourth Monday in June 1802 (MS in same); a copy of the circuit court proceedings against Heard and Thompson, which included a September 1801 presentment against them for retailing liquor in quantities less than a pint without a license and a December 1801 judgment that fined each defendant $16 plus costs, the execution of which was returnable to the March 1802 session of the court (Tr in same; TJ Papers, 116:20087); and an 8 Jan. 1802 affidavit of Robert Brent, a justice of the peace for Washington County, testifying that Heard and Thompson had sworn before him that each came to the June 1801 term of court with the intention of acquiring a tavern license, and that each believed that the license he received authorized the retailing of liquor in quantities of less than a pint; “they did so sell,” Brent testified, “and have therefore Inocently incurred a presentment and fine” (RC in DLC; 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 , 1:404).

No evidence has been found that TJ ordered a remission of the fines against Heard and Thompson. See John T. Mason to TJ, 9 Feb.

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