Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Jacob Bouldin, 15 July 1802

From Jacob Bouldin

City of Baltimore July 15th 1802


May I beg leave to lay before you, the Heads of Some draughts, for your Examination, & Opinion thereon? as I am diffident of my own abilities—and fear to venture them into the world, before they have undergone the scrutiny of a competent Judge. Therefore,—and because I believe the Agricult’ral, & Mechanical Interests; as well, as the Internal & External navigation of the Union, may be benefitted thereby.—I am induced to make this request. Hoping, & believing, that your Excellency will indulge me therein: and likewise with your advice how to act most benefically for the union.

Should I be so far indulged.—when, & where, will it be most convenient to your Excellency, to examine them? when this shall be the case, I have the presumption be think,1 you will excuse me for thus impertuning you.

I am, with the most perfect respect, Sir, your most obedient, and very humble servant

Jacob Bouldin

Should your Excellency oblige me with a line upon this Subject, please to inclose, under Cover, “to Mr Jehu Bouldin” Surveyor for this City.   as above


RC (MHi); addressed: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson, Esquire President of the united States Washington”; postmarked 17 July; franked; endorsed by TJ as received 19 July and so recorded in SJL.

Jacob Bouldin, a resident of Baltimore, petitioned the U.S. House of Representatives in December 1805, stating that he was “the author of many valuable discoveries” and asking for an appropriation of funds to allow for the testing of his ideas by the executive branch. The House referred the matter to the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures and took no further action. Bouldin’s petition declared that his inventions included a method for creating a machine “for taking courses, distances, ascents, descents, and true altitudes”; a method to improve inland navigation; a way of making salt “without the aid of fuel”; a plan for a cultivating machine; a water system and a method of preventing and combatting fires; means of building ships that would not spring leaks; and an apparatus for saving lives at sea. Bouldin had previously been part owner of a water-powered grist mill. In 1807, apparently following some period of confinement for debt, he petitioned a Maryland court for classification as an insolvent debtor under the state’s insolvency laws (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 5:189; Baltimore Daily Intelligencer, 28 May 1794; Baltimore Federal Gazette, 9 May, 1 Aug. 1807).

JEHU BOULDIN was city surveyor of Baltimore for several years (James Robinson, The Baltimore Directory, for 1804 [Baltimore, 1804], 111; William Fry, The Baltimore Directory, for 1810 [Baltimore, 1810], 35; Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser, 11 Feb. 1818).

1Thus in MS.

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