Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Francis Mentges, 2 June 1802

From Francis Mentges

Philadelphia 2 June 1802—


It is with extreme regret, that I venture to trespass upon time devoted to affairs of greater moment, to request your Attention for a few minutes to a representation which it is necessary for me to make I trust I shall be pardoned for the intrusion as my Claim is only for Justice, and for that consideration Knowing of me what you do, I am confident you will not refuse Ought I to add, as with truth I may, my present circumstances render this application Absolutely necessary—

from the Copy of a letter from Mr M’Henry, formerly Secretary of War herewith enclosed and marked A, you will see the Nature of an Appointment which I held for some years as connected with the expenditures in the Account (marked B) also enclosed, and that Gentlemans Opinion of my Conduct, permit me also to submit to your attention the following circumstances which I stated to General Dearborn in a letter dated the 19 Decr last (marked C) I do conseive from these facts, that I am entitled to a greater Commission on the monies expended by me in this Agency, than, that which is paid for common receipts & expenditures, and have accordingly claimed the allowance of 5 p. Ct. The Comptroller of the Treasury, who it may be presumed, is better acquainted than any other officer with the difference in the Nature of expenditures made by me, and those for which the usual Commission is allowed, will, I have no doubt readily admit the justice of granting me a more liberal compensation, but the present Secretary of war has denied me the ballance of Dr. 1721.58 Cts. which by a reference of my account, it will be seen that I still claim, and has directed the Accountant of his Department to close my Account without that allowance as will be seen by his Letter, D, in which he notified me that my accounts with the public are accordingly finaly closed, Against that settlement or finaly close, made, without my consent I do protest and solemnly disavow it, humbly submitting a Consideration of all the Circumstances attending my Claim and of the seperate grounds upon which it stands, to your Candour and Justice and requesting your favorable interference in my behalf—Whilst before you with a Claim upon your Justice I would also prefer one, to your Benevolence, my services to this Country have been of long continuance, they commenced in her hour of Danger you know what they were, you know too whether or not in every situation in which I was placed, I did my duty and received the Approbation of my Superiors. I was not so fortunate as to amass wealth or even a Competency in 21 years Service, it is necessary that I should still be in some employment, which would bring a pecuniary compensation and the Nature of the Services to which I have been attached for so long a time renders the public service most suitable for me, the present Secretary of War, has been pleased to promise me & my friends that he would not be unmindful of me, I beg leave also to request your favorable Attention if any thing that might with propriety be conferred upon me should offer It is not much I ask, may I request, that you will not think my relation too tedious or my Application unbecoming, I have the Honor to be with high Consideration Sir/Your Ob hb Servant

F Mentges

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 3 June and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) James McHenry to Samuel Dexter, Philadelphia, 9 June 1800, stating that Mentges has been serving as inspector of troops and garrisons under an appointment by Henry Knox, and that he has also been given the general agency relative to the fortifications on Mud Island, in which capacity he is responsible for procuring materials, paying workmen, and disbursing all monies; for said agency Mentges is “intitled to the usual Commissions” and McHenry believes he has carried out his duties with “Integrity and Deligence” and saved “a Considerable Sum to the public.” (2) Account of Francis Mentges with the United States, closing 18 Dec. 1801, in which Mentges claims a balance due to him of $1,721.58 ½. (3) Mentges to Henry Dearborn, Washington, 19 Dec. 1801, acknowledging Dearborn’s letter of 1 May 1801 that directed an end to his agency at Mud Island and stating that he has submitted his accounts to the accountant of the War Department for final settlement; Mentges explains the causes of the “very extraordinary expenses” incurred while executing his agency; he visited Mud Island thrice weekly to see the number of men at work, take regular accounts of the work done, and to pay the workmen every Saturday; advances were made to masons who were under contract, for which Mentges retained receipts; he bypassed Philadelphia merchants and contracted directly with nearby sawmills, saving between 40 and 50 percent on costs; he saved additional money by negotiating favorable contracts for stone, brick, lime, and sand; Mentges continually traveled to quarries and sawmills to “Keep the work going forward and all at my own Expense”; yellow fever outbreaks in 1797, 1798, and 1799 forced banks to remove to Germantown and obliged Mentges to quit the city as well, which increased his traveling expenses; Mentges trusts that these considerations shall be taken into account and can be confirmed by the comptroller of the Treasury, with whom Mentges has accounted for the largest sums expended and all of his transactions; Mentges believes he has acted with fidelity, saving the public a considerable sum, and hopes that Dearborn will therefore “agree to my final Settlement at the rate of 5 per Cent Commission on the Expenditures.” (4) William Simmons to Mentges, Department of War, Accountant’s Office, 10 May 1802, stating that the secretary of war, in consultation with the comptroller, has directed that Mentges be allowed additional compensation as agent of fortifications to balance his account; a statement has thereby been made and the sum of $1,913.27 passed to Mentges’s credit, “which finally closes your accounts on the Books of this office” (Trs all in same).

KNOWING OF ME WHAT YOU DO: Mentges had previously written TJ on 4 Mch. 1801, summarizing his military service and seeking a new appointment (Vol. 33:161–2).

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