Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from the District of Columbia Commissioners, 8 February 1802

From the District of Columbia Commissioners

Commissioners Office 8th. February 1802


We received by last post a Letter from the Governor of Maryland, and not having it in our power to pay the interest due to the State we have agreeably to the Governors request transmitted his letter with the inclosures to the President of the United States—

We are with sentiments of the highest respect Sir Yr. mo. Obt. Servts

Alexr. White

Tristram Dalton

RC (DLC); in Dalton’s hand, signed by Dalton and White; at foot of text: “President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 8 Feb. and so recorded in SJL with notation “loan of Maryland.” FC (DNA: RG 42, DCLB). Enclosure: John F. Mercer to the District of Columbia commissioners, Annapolis, 2 Feb., enclosing a letter from the treasurer of the western shore of Maryland, 2 Feb. (not found), and a copy of the 23 Dec. 1799 resolution of the Maryland General Assembly, authorizing the loan of $50,000 to the commissioners with the stipulation that if the interest were not paid on time, a suit would be instituted to recover the principal; the governor urges the commissioners to pay the overdue interest promptly; Mercer and the Maryland executive council request that if the commissioners cannot make the payment, they “submit this with its inclosures without delay” to the president in order “that competent measures may be adopted to forward such satisfactory payments” and thus avoid a suit (FC in Lb in MdAA, at foot of text: “The Commissioners of the Federal Buildings”; Votes and Proceedings of the Senate of the State of Maryland. November Session, 1799 [Annapolis, 1800], 23; DNA: RG 42, PC, 9 Feb. 1802).

TJ returned the letter from the governor of Maryland and the enclosures to the commissioners in person on 9 Feb. He recommended that they communicate the papers to the congressional committee, chaired by Joseph H. Nicholson, that was considering TJ’s message of 11 Jan. to the Senate and the House of Representatives. The commissioners immediately did as TJ had advised, “without any formal message from him,” and White and Dalton offered to come to the Capitol the next day to discuss the documents. On 10 Feb., the commissioners informed Mercer that they had met with the congressional committee, which was to report shortly, and from the “tendency of the conversation” they believed the report would be “favourable” (FCs in DNA: RG 42, DCLB; DNA: RG 42, PC, 9 Feb. 1802). The committee’s report, submitted to the House of Representatives on 12 Feb., recommended that the sums required to pay the Maryland loans be advanced from the Treasury, if necessary, by the direction of the president, to be reimbursed to the Treasury as soon as other city debts were paid. The resolutions on the Maryland debt were incorporated as Sections 5, 6, and 7 of “An Act to abolish the Board of Commissioners in the City of Washington; and for other purposes” of 1 May 1802 (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Miscellaneous, 1:260; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:175–6).

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