Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Alexander White, 5 July 1802

To Alexander White

Washington July 5. 1802.

Dear Sir

In your present situation it will probably be practicable for you to furnish me with tolerably exact information relative to the ice-caves in your neighborhood, as I imagine there must be persons in Winchester who can say whether the ice exists there through the summer, whether it is generated in summer &c. I will thank you to communicate to me such information as you can readily get. I expect we shall leave this place in a fortnight so as to avoid passing the last days of July here.

Your favor of June 10. was duly recieved: our recollections of fact correspond nearly. my intention was to use the justification (which was a solid one) as far as the 4000. D. laid out for so useful a purpose; but not actually to draw the balance from the treasury, but to let it stand in account to the credit of the City with the US. it is now quite immaterial, the affairs of the city devolving in fact on the US.

mr Hobens has set up an extraordinary claim to mr Munroe. it is that he continues in his office at 300. guineas a year until the buildings shall be finished, and independent of any body & every body. this he founds on a written appointment of the Commissioners, or perhaps an entry in their journals, which expressing no definite time of continuance, Luther Martin (as Hoben says) deems1 determinable only by the finishing of the buildings. I believe the writing says he is to continue till they are finished. he claims damages too for what he suffers in his reputation as an architect by their not being finished. I relate these things from mr Monroe, not having seen mr Hobens myself, but he delivered Monroe a written copy of his appointment to shew me. Accept assurances of my esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (PPRF); addressed: “Alexander White esq. Winchester”; franked; postmarked 6 July. PrC (DLC); endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

ICE-CAVES: located along North River in Hampshire County, West Virginia, Ice Mountain is known for the refrigeration effect generated within the talus at its base, which vents cold air throughout the year. During winter, the circulation of water and cold air within the talus produces ice, portions of which survive well into the summer months. TJ learned of this phenomenon in 1796 from English agriculturalist William Strickland, who had been informed of its existence by White on a visit to Winchester while touring the area in 1795 (Earl L. Core, “The Botany of Ice Mountain, West Virginia,” Castanea: The Journal of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club, 33 [1968], 345–8; Vol. 28:372n; Vol. 29:116–19, 320, 321; Vol. 30:455; White to TJ, 20 Sep. 1802).

In a 26 June letter, James Hoban (HOBENS) was informed by Thomas MUNROE that his salary as superintendent of public buildings for the District of Columbia had ceased as of 1 June with the abolishment of the board of commissioners. “This communication might be deemed unnecessary,” wrote Munroe, “it is, however made to prevent the possibility of misunderstanding on the subject.” Hoban was first hired by the District of Columbia COMMISSIONERS in 1792 to oversee construction of the President’s House at an annual salary of 300 guineas per year. His duties were later expanded to oversee construction of the Capitol in 1798. At their meeting of 24 June 1801, the commissioners agreed to continue Hoban’s annual salary of 300 guineas from 1 Jan. 1801 upon his consenting to perform the duties of inspector and superintendent of public works “so long as his Services shall be required.” Hoban, who was present at the meeting, agreed to the terms (Dft in DNA: RG 42, LR; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DNA: RG 42, PC; Vol. 24:159n; Vol. 26:462–3).

LUTHER MARTIN was the Federalist attorney general of Maryland and fierce critic of TJ (Vol. 29:408–10, 452–5).

1TJ here canceled “it irrevocable until.”

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