Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Laurence A. Dorsey, 9 December 1802

From Laurence A. Dorsey

Wilmington N.C.
9th. Decr. 1802.

The Petition of Laurence A. Dorsey a natural born Citizen of America.

Respectully Sheweth

That Your Petitioner for many years past has acted as Deputy of the Cape Fear District to John S. West Esquire Marshal of North Carolina: That he is informed that Mr. West will be out of Office, or that his term of appointment will expire on the tenth instant.

Your Petitioner therefore, being (he flatters himself) fully adequate to the duties of Marshal of North Carolina, solicits that in case the said Mr. West should not be re-appointed, that he Your Petitioner from being long conversant in the duties of the Office, and he hopes also from the Character he has long borne of integrity and industry, that you will appoint him to the Office.

and Your Petitioner shall ever pray &c.

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at head of text: “To the President of the United States of America”; at head of list, on a separate sheet, in the same hand: “We the Subscribers Do respectfully recommend the prayer of the within Petition to the attention of the President,” signed by Timothy Bloodworth, William Giles, and 27 others; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Dec. and “to be Marshal N. C. v. West” and so recorded in SJL.

Laurence A. Dorsey served as one of the port inspectors and measurers at the Wilmington, North Carolina, custom house in 1800. Although not a graduate, he was a founding member of the Philanthropic Society established at the University of North Carolina in 1795 for the improvement of its members in English composition, the science and art of debating, and a “knowledge of parliamentary rules and modes of conducting public business.” The society also promoted the cultivation of moral and social virtues and lasting friendships (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832-61, 38 vols. description ends , Miscellaneous, 1:276; Stephen B. Weeks, ed., Register of Members of the Philanthropic Society, Instituted in the University of North Carolina, August 1st, 1795, 4th ed. [Raleigh, N.C., 1887], 3–5; Kemp P. Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, 2 vols. [Raleigh, N.C., 1907–12], 1:76, 85).

john s. west had let it be known that because of ill health he probably would not seek another term as marshal of North Carolina. On 10 Oct., however, West wrote the secretary of state that he still had fees to collect and important business to complete. Unless another had been nominated, he requested that Madison “make known to the President my willingness to accept a reappointment” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “West John S. to mr Madison. to be reappointed Marshal of N.C.”).

For a previous recommendation for the North Carolina marshalcy, see note to David Stone to TJ, 3 Nov. 1802.

The imminent expiration of West’s commission probably prompted TJ to inquire at the State Department about all commissions for marshals. In an undated memorandum “For the President,” the State Department sent “A List of the Marshals of the United States with the dates of their Commissions, terminating four years from thence respectively.” West’s name heads the list of 19 marshals, with his designation in the North Carolina district in one column and the date of his commission, 14 July 1798, in the second. Only West’s entry has an emendation, in an unidentified hand, noting that his commission “was limited to take effect on the 10th Decr. 1798 & expires 10 Decr. 1802” (MS in DNA: RG 59, MCL, in a clerk’s hand).

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