Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Oakley, [on or before 24 October 1802]

From John Oakley

[on or before 24 Oct. 1802]

John Oakley as Justice of the peace for the County of Washington District of Columbia has four Constables to wait on him before Breakfast every day and they having their pockets filled with Warrants Accounts, Blank Supersedeses &c. &c. &c. entertain him so completely throughout the Day that he has not dined 6 times in two Months To Morrow I am engaged in taking Bail from a Colonel for feloniously (so says the deposition) taking a Girl from a General I have pledged myself to Morrow to so many that my Breakfast will resemble a Levee and I shall scarcely extricate myself by Suppertime Ludicrous & improbable as this may appear it is a melancholy fact that I issue & try as many Warrants in a Week as would neatly folded make a smart Octavo—I hope this will be considered as a sufficient apology or I shall be unhappy from the appointment which engrosses all my time—I have enclosed Mr Stoddert’s letter to me respecting the Subscription for the River Potomak. I remain with great Respect Your very hble Servt.

John Oakley

RC (MoSHi: Jefferson Papers); undated; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Oct. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found.

John Oakley became revenue inspector and collector for the port of Georgetown in October 1801. John Thomson Mason had described him to TJ as a “very honest upright man, of very good understanding, very eccentrick” but not a good money manager. Oakley and 14 others received a commission dated 27 Apr. 1802 to serve as justices of the peace for Washington County (FC of commission in Lb in DNA: RG 59, MPTPC; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States . . . to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:423; Vol. 33:231n, 670; Vol. 35:190; Vol. 36:314, 320; Vol. 37:181).

SUBSCRIPTION FOR THE RIVER POTOMAK: a shallow channel in the Potomac prevented large vessels from loading at Georgetown. Its merchants feared that mudbanks would ruin navigation to their wharves and give Alexandria a competitive edge. Many Georgetown citizens supported public works for the river, including the use of a dredging or mud machine to clear the silt deposits in the channel below Analostan Island. Former secretary of the navy Benjamin Stoddert dreamed that Georgetown would one day rival Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, or Boston as a trading center. In July 1802, TJ paid to see the “Mud-scoop work” and, according to his financial memoranda, on 25 Oct. directed John Barnes to pay Oakley $100 for his subscription for deepening the bed of the Potomac River to Georgetown (MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1077, 1085: Bryan, National Capital description begins Wilhelmus B. Bryan, A History of the National Capital from Its Foundation through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, New York, 1914–16, 2 vols. description ends , 1:496–7; John Lauritz Larson, “A Bridge, a Dam, a River: Liberty and Innovation in the Early Republic,” Journal of the Early Republic, 7 [1987], 355, 356, 358; TJ to Nathaniel Macon, 17 July 1802).

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