Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Susannah Bolton Finch, 14 July 1804

From Susannah Bolton Finch

Washington July 14 1804

Honoured sir

I hope my destress will plead an a apology for the liberty I have taken the person who house genl. Mason lived in four years Col Cabell five Col Tregg six genl Tregg six years in philedelphia and this place I have livd in a house of Mr Law this three years and a half he has taken and sold at vandue a valuable property for nothing and my daughter and my self to lay on the hard boards it would not have happend had I not1 engaged to find the gentlemen wood and the winter being so hard if you would be so kind as oblige me with a trifel till the Gent return it will ever be remembered with gratitude and respect as I am in real want nothing else could have induce me to taken such a liberty I am honrd sir with respect your most obdient humble serv

Susannah B Finch

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 15 July and so recorded in SJL.

Susannah Bolton Finch arrived in Philadelphia from England in 1793. She came in the company of actor William Finch, at least one son, and a number of performers who, like William Finch, had been recruited for the city’s new theater. Her husband died in early 1796, but by then Finch had already opened up her home to “Genteel Boarding & Lodging.” Between October 1799 and January 1800, she married and divorced a Richard Guy of Philadelphia and by 1801 had moved her boardinghouse business to Washington near Capitol Hill. That year she oversaw a dozen congressional lodgers, including Samuel Cabell and brothers John and Abram Trigg, her former lodgers from Philadelphia. After Thomas Law sold the property she was leasing, her boardinghouse business appears to have ended, and her whereabouts after writing TJ are unknown. Her son, William Bolton Finch, rose from what the newspapers called a “humble station” to become master commandant of the sloop of war Vincennes on a historic tour around the globe, 1826-30 (Perry M. Goldman and James S. Young, The United States Congressional Directories 1789-1840 [New York, 1973], 34, 37, 38-9, 41; Park M’Farland, Jr., Marriage Records of Gloria Dei Church, “Old Swedes’,” Philadelphia; Compiled from the Original Records [Philadelphia, 1879], 233; Philadelphia General Advertiser, 13 Feb. 1792, 17 Feb. 1794; Philadelphia National Gazette, 2 Oct. 1793; Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, 16 Jan. 1796, 22 Jan. 1800; Philadelphia Gazette, 17 Nov. 1797; Amherst Farmers’ Cabinet, 15 May 1830; James L. Mooney, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships [Washington, D.C., 1959], 3:525).

genl. Mason: Senator Stevens Thomson Mason, although congressional directories do not list him as lodging at the Finch boardinghouse.

sold at vandue: Law auctioned off the Finch boardinghouse on 2 May 1804. In the public notice, he described it as a two-story brick home on B Street, “34 feet deep by 24 front, more or less” (Washington Federalist, 23 Apr.).

till the Gent return: that is, until her lodgers returned to Washington for the next session of Congress.

1Preceding three words repeated in MS.

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