Thomas Jefferson Papers

Petition of William Connor, with Jefferson’s Order, 5 January 1803

Petition of William Connor, with Jefferson’s Order

To the President of the United States

William Conner of the County of Washington, and District of Columbia, petitioning, States—That at the late races, near the City of Washington, he was in a Booth, where a gaming table was kept by one—Mordacai—that permission was granted him to keep said table a few minutes, whilst some emergency called off said Mordacai to some other part of the race ground, which he did for the space of ten or fifteen minutes only, when said owner returned and again took possession of it—in which time nothing considerable was won or lost, the bets being the small sum of five pence half penny a time only, and the persons playing, but two or three—that the Grand Jury were notified of this by a Constable, and presented your petitioner therefor, and that during the present Circuit Court of the County aforesaid, he hath been fined the sum of fifty pounds under the statute of Maryland against excessive gaming passed in the year 1797—and Costs of prosecution—for which fine and fees he is now in close confinement in the Common Jail of said County—Your petitioner solemnly avers that he was ignorant of the Law prohibiting the act which he committed—that he is a young man just released from his apprenticeship, extremely poor and has no other means of support, than by hiring himself as a journeyman Hair-dresser, and is besides under the necessity of applying part of his wages, to the support of an aged Mother—notwithstanding the inauspicious aspect exhibited by said prosecution, on account of his recent unfortunate conduct; yet the general tenor of his life has been that of honesty and industry; and this unfortunate instance is rather attributable to the inexperience and ignorance of youth, than to a wanton propensity to vice, or idle dissoluteness of manners—that his present unfortunate condition shall serve as a memento against similar imprudence in future, and stimulate to the honest & industrious pursuit of his said trade—He therefore implores the humanity of the president, and prays a remission of the fine & fees aforesaid—

William Connor

William Conner the Petitioner this day made oath on the Holy Evangels of Almighty God that the facts stated in the aforegoing petition are substantially true as stated—

Sworn before me a Justice of the peace for the County of Washington this Fifth day of January 1803—

Benjamin More

[Order by TJ:]

Let a pardon issue

Th: Jefferson
Jan. 7. 1802. [i.e. 1803]

MS (DNA: RG 59, GPR); petition and attestation in an unidentified hand, signed by Connor and More; TJ’s order written below affidavits signed by William Kilty, James Marshall, and William Cranch, 5 Jan. 1803, recommending the remission of Connor’s fine, and by John Thomson Mason, undated, stating that he has known Connor for several years and believes him to be well behaved, that he is just out of his apprenticeship and probably still underage, and that Connor had no interest or property in the gaming table and that his exhibiting the same “happened accidentally.” Enclosure: Affidavit of Robert McClan, 5 Jan. 1803, stating that he has known Connor for nearly six years, describing him as “a very young man scarcely twenty one years of age”; Connor is just out of his hairdresser’s apprenticeship and has maintained “the character of an honest industrious person” for the time that McClan has known him; Connor’s mother, “a Widow extremely poor,” receives much of her support from her son’s labor and McClan believes that Connor “is worth nothing more than what he has made by hiring himself as a journeyman Hair dresser” (same; attested by Uriah Forrest).

According to the record of his trial, William Connor of Washington County was indicted for operating a “Fair play table” on 4 Dec. 1802. Appearing before the December 1802 session of the U.S. Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, he was found guilty and fined $133.33⅓ plus court costs (Tr in same; attested by Uriah Forrest). TJ issued a pardon and remission of Connor’s fines and charges on 8 Jan. 1803 (FC in Lb in same).

late races: the annual meeting of the Washington Jockey Club commenced on 30 Nov. 1802 with three days of horse racing held at an oval track west of the President’s House. TJ attended the first two days, recording a total expenditure of $2.25 at the event in his financial memoranda (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 , 2:1087; Washington Federalist, 8 Nov., 1 Dec. 1802).

statute of maryland against excessive gaming: the Maryland legislature passed “An Act to prevent excessive gaming” on 20 Jan. 1798. The act authorized a fine of £50 upon persons found guilty of keeping gaming tables or other devices in any dwelling house, out house, or any place occupied by a tavern keeper or retailer of wine, liquor, beer, or cider (Laws of Maryland, Made and Passed at a Session of Assembly, Begun and Held at the City of Annapolis on Monday the sixth of November, in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Seven [Annapolis, Md., 1798], chap. 110).

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