Thomas Jefferson Papers

Peter Lenox to Thomas Jefferson, 27 June 1812

From Peter Lenox

Washington City 27th June 1812.

Honoured Sir

I take the liberty to tender my good wishes and grateful respect for your health and happiness & should feel myself committing an act of ingratitude which is the worst of crimes. If I was not to acknowledge your friendship by your encouragement in my business, while you resided in washington, which by my industry did enable me to lay up something for my young family, not having in my power sir to return my gratitude any other way I did take the honour of naming my only son with your name, with a view to continue in my family your memory, But Alas in that1 I am disappointed by the alwise Creator. Our City progresses slow, but regular, many persons who in our city who from want of thought or other cause, did complain of you and your administration, but they was told then that when you was gone they would wish you back again which I am happy to find is the case. Without wishing to censure President our citizens generally believe that from your talent and taste for improvement our city if you was with us all the time would have had many more improvements, but the difficulty of the times is a good apology for more not being done. At the commencement of the session of Congress they appropriated money for finishing the Patent office & General Post Office, the business was so contrived by design as to make Mr Granger the acting man which made it a delicate thing for the President to say much in favour of any one Mr G. having a person in view. Although Mr G. Advertised for proposals yet their is no doubt he was determined on his own man. Because their was proposals upwards of 2000 Dollars less than had been given in at first still he gave it to that person at a little2 trifle under the lowest proposal. Being at this time out employment by losing that; and not having been in the habit of doing private business, has left me Idle, their is a Public hospital to be built which Mr Latrobe is making the drawing for. Mr Secretary Hamilton is the acting person in that Business; Mr Latrobe advises me to ask your aid if you have a personal acquaintance withe the secretary as their is so many applicants and some who has good friends. I have had some conversation with the secretary and he has given me some encouragement. If It be concistent with you to intercede for me I shall be glad, but if not so I am confident it will proceed from some other cause than an unwillingness to serve me.

Sir With the highest respect My Family withe me Join in presenting our unfading Esteem for your Character And Person,

Peter Lenox.

RC (CSmH: JF-BA); at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson Esq.”; endorsed by TJ as received 15 July 1812 and so recorded in SJL.

Peter Lenox (ca. 1770–1832), carpenter, was a native of Williamsburg who received a public-school education and probably his craft apprenticeship in Richmond. About 1792 he moved to the emerging federal capital of Washington. Lenox joined a crew of artisans directed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe to complete construction of the President’s House, 1797–98. He worked there again during TJ’s presidency and made extensive repairs and alterations (often at TJ’s direction), including adding a cellar, stable, and shed. Lenox also undertook commissions for TJ, improving the icehouse at the President’s House and building packing boxes, a coffin for an infant slave, venetian blinds for Monticello, and a frame for the Mammoth Cheese. Continuing at the President’s House as foreman during the administration of James Madison, Lenox served after the invasion fire of 1814 as foreman and clerk to supervise restoration work, 1815–17. In the latter year he became chief carpenter and clerk of construction at the Capitol, a position he held for twelve years. He also managed private construction projects and invested in building materials and real estate. Lenox was civically active from about 1802 until his death, serving variously as a militia officer, city councilman and alderman, trustee of the poor, inspector and measurer of lumber, and member of the board of appeal. He helped direct the defense of Washington during the War of 1812. Later he served on the boards of the Bank of the Metropolis, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, and the Baltimore Potomac Steam Packet Company. At his death Lenox owned extensive property in Washington and $1,000 in city corporation stock, and his will directed that his five slaves be emancipated gradually during the decade after his death (Glenn Brown, History of the United States Capitol [1900–03], 1:96–7; Latrobe, Papers description begins John C. Van Horne and others, eds., The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1984–88, 3 vols. description ends ; William Seale, The President’s House: A History, 2 vols. [1986]; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends ; Georgetown Olio, 22 July 1802; Acts of the Corporation of the City of Washington [1804]: 31; [1813]: 48; Lenox to TJ, 26 May 1804 and subjoined 30 May 1804 notes by TJ [MHi]; TJ to Lenox, 20 July 1806 [DLC]; Washington National Intelligencer, 25 May 1808; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 1:48–9; Latrobe to TJ, 12 July 1815; Baltimore Patriot & Evening Advertiser, 14 Apr. 1815; City of Washington Gazette, 3 Apr. 1819, 10 July, 2 Aug. 1820; Washington Gazette, 20 Sept., 1 Dec. 1821; Richmond Enquirer, 16 June 1829, 22 June 1830; Baltimore Patriot & Mercantile Advertiser, 5 Jan. 1831; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 5 Dec. 1832; Wesley E. Pippenger, comp., District of Columbia Probate Records: Will Books 1 Through 6, 1801–1852 and Estate Files, 1801–1852 [2003], 179–80).

In a statute dated 7 Mar. 1812, the United States Congress appropriated nearly $17,000 to complete renovations of the patent and post offices and authorized Postmaster General Gideon granger to oversee the work (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 2:691–2). Late in 1810 Lenox had begun building shelves for the patent office. Latrobe sent his report and plans for a United States marine hospital to Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton on 3 July 1812, but the facility was never constructed (Latrobe, Papers description begins John C. Van Horne and others, eds., The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1984–88, 3 vols. description ends , 2:899, 938, 3:330–6).

1Lenox here canceled “we are.”

2Lenox here canceled “below.”

Index Entries

  • Granger, Gideon; as postmaster general search
  • Hamilton, Paul (1762–1816); secretary of the navy search
  • hospitals; marine search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; administration supported search
  • Latrobe, Benjamin Henry; and proposed marine hospital search
  • Lenox, Peter; identified search
  • Lenox, Peter; letters from search
  • Lenox, Peter; seeks position at Washington search
  • Madison, James; mentioned search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • President’s House; mentioned search
  • Washington (D.C.); proposed marine hospital at search