Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Baker, 22 April 1802

From William Baker

April 22 1802

Dr Sir

The repeal of the late Judiciary carrying with it the potomack district, leaves me no views of advantage from my Marshalsy! The changes which have been made, and are now making by Congress, will necessarily create new offices—I know you will excuse me when I inform you that the inducements which prompted me to solicit an appointment at the commencement of your Presidentcy are now greatly increased by the heavy losses I have sustained in Fitzgeralds insolvency, and in security ship!

Thus circumstanc’d I have consulted several of my Friends in and out of the Goverment upon the elegibility of these new offices, and my competentcy to discharge the dutys—It is suggested that an Auditor will be appointed instead of accountants, and that an appointment here would be honorable and yeelding a support—It is unusual I know for medical men to understand business of this kind, but I have receiv’d a regular education in accounts and know myself capable! The office of Superintendant in the City has been recommended to me as desireable; and my Friends have stated That as I am interested in the prosperity of the City—as I have been long acquainted with the affairs of it—as I hold no lots in it to make me partial—and as I know most of the inhabitants of the district, You might consider such a person as likely to lessen your own fatigue in this additional duty assigned you by law!—However Sir you may arrange these things I am sure it will be right whether I am included or not; but I must beg leave to declare with candour and sincerity that any office which would amount to a decent support would be a blessing to my Children and myself—permit me also to say that if any information shall be necessary upon those essentials which gives “to Character its stamp” I beg leave to refer you to Robert Smith Genl Smith & Walter Bowie Esqrs with whom I have serv’d in publick life—To Gabriel Duvall and John T. Mason Esqrs who have done with me a great deal of business as lawyers, and who have known my conduct in the most trying situations of difficulty and distress—Or to my neighbours of the oldest standing.

I have a deputy marshal in Alexandria Mr Lewis Summers who will continue to act until July. However, I will not resign myself unless I can fill some Post; merely that I may1 keep the old Rotten Vessel afloat ’till she Lawfully sinks.—I will Just add a few words—That under the contemplated constitution A Chancellor was to be appointed and I supposed the Register might do after some time; but (sincerely to my sorrow, for it will hurt the majority in Congress more than all they have done will do them good) it seems the Bill is not to pass! I am Dr Sir with the highest respect and esteem

yr most Obt Serv

Wm Baker

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Apr. and so recorded in SJL with notation “to be auditor or Superintt. of Washn.”

For Baker’s recess APPOINTMENT as marshal for the district of Potomac, see Vol. 34:208; Vol. 36:318, 325, 332.

FITZGERALDS INSOLVENCY: John Fitzgerald, former mayor and collector of Alexandria as well as president of the Potomac Company, left much real estate and debt upon his death in December 1799. His executors advertised the sale of his property to raise money for security demands against him. In August 1801, the U.S. district attorney filed a bill in equity against Robert T. Hooe and the executors, claiming that Fitzgerald had died insolvent and in arrears to the government for $57,000. An injunction to stay the sale of his property, alleging that the United States was entitled to a prior lien, was dismissed in May 1802 although claims against the estate continued in court for several years (Alexandria Advertiser and Commercial Intelligencer, 4 Apr. and 9 July 1801; City of Washington Gazette, 14 May 1818; Washington, Papers description begins W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Philander D. Chase, Theodore J. Crackel, and others, eds., The Papers of George Washington, Charlottesville, 1983–, 53 vols. description ends , Pres. Ser., 1:187; Cranch, Reports description begins William Cranch, Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Supreme Court of the United States, 1801–1815, Washington, D.C., 1804–17, 9 vols. description ends , 1:318–20; 3:73–92; Vol. 35:683).

LEWIS SUMMERS, a native of Fairfax County, Virginia, became a judge and, from 1817 to 1818, represented Kanawha as a delegate in the Virginia Assembly (Leonard, General Assembly description begins Cynthia Miller Leonard, comp., The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619–January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, Richmond, 1978 description ends , 290; George W. Atkinson, History of Kanawha County [Charleston, W.Va., 1876], 250–1).

1Preceding three words interlined in place of canceled “to.”

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