Thomas Jefferson Papers

James P. Preston to Thomas Jefferson, 20 May 1818

From James P. Preston

Richmond May 20th 1818


From the determination of Mr Baldwin the late Engineer to withdraw from the service of the State, The President and Directors of the Board of Public works, are under the necessity of appointing a suitable person to supply1 the vacancy thus produced. Mr F. R. Hassler now of New Ark, New Jersey, is among others an applicant for the appointment. In his letter to the Secy of the Board in reference to the means of obtaining information respecting his qualifications, as an Engineer he says, “I take the liberty to name in this view the following; Brigadier General Joseph G, Swift, Mr Jefferson, and Mr Madison, former presidents of the United States who may remember me from my transactions relative to the Survey of the Coast.” This gentleman was formerly the Attorney General, and also the director of Roads, Bridges, and Canals for the Canton of Berne in Switzerland; I mention this fact respecting him in order to aid your recollection.

Being convinced that you are frequently interrupted and harrassed by applications of this kind, I would not voluntarily have added to your trouble; but as you are perfectly acquainted with the important duties that the Engineer to the Board of Public works, will have to perform, in relation to the great object of internal improvements contemplated by the State & also of the consequent injuries that error or incapacity in the Engineer2 might produce to the Commonwealth, I trust my appology for the trouble thus imposed, by endeavouring to obtain the best information to aid the Board in making a proper selection, will be found in the responsibility which I owe to the Board and the Public, and in the justice due to the Applicants

With every consideration of respect I have the honor to be your Obt Servt

James P. Preston

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 27 May 1818 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to William J. Coffee, 6 Oct. 1818, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson esquire Monticello Albemarle County”; franked; postmarked Richmond, 23 May. FC (Vi: RG 57, Applications for Position of Principal Engineer); in Preston’s hand and endorsed by him.

Thomas Moore succeeded Loammi baldwin as the principal engineer of Virginia’s Board of Public Works in July 1818 (Baltimore Niles’ Weekly Register, suppl. to vol. 15 [1818/19]: 40; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia description ends [1818–19 sess.], 6 [7 Dec. 1818]).

On this day Preston sent a letter of similar purport to James Madison (Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 1:288–9).

1RC: “suply.” FC: “supply.”

2Word interlined in FC in place of “appointment.”

Index Entries

  • Baldwin, Loammi; engineer to Va. Board of Public Works search
  • Hassler, Ferdinand Rudolph; and Va. Board of Public Works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; as president search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and appointments search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); presidency of search
  • Moore, Thomas (ca.1759–1822); as engineer search
  • Preston, James Patton; and appointments search
  • Preston, James Patton; as governor of Va. search
  • Preston, James Patton; letters from search
  • Swift, Joseph Gardner; U.S. general search
  • Virginia; Board of Public Works search