James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 18 January 1811

From Benjamin Henry Latrobe

Washington, January 18h. 1811


In obedience to your directions conveyed to me by Mr Munroe, & contained in the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 14h. of January transmitted to me,1 I shall without Loss of time comply with that part of it which relates to the outstanding Claims.

But to make an estimate of the sum necessary to finish the Capitol, it is impossible for me to proceed without Assistance especially as the time remaining of the Session is so short, and the Clerk of the works is absent. I therefore solicit leave to employ, one or more Clerks to assist me in so extensive & laborious a task it being understood that the Salary of the Clerk of the works during the time be appropriated towards payment for this assistance. As the parts of the work cannot be estimated without being drawn, it is evident that I cannot possibly go thro’ this labor myself, even if [I] had not any other business to do. But having at present more work to design; & direct at the Navy Yard than my whole time will easily accomplish, the resolution of the House cannot possibly be complied with unless I can obtain the assistance asked, of which, I beg leave to assure you, I will not employ any more than is indispensibly necessary. I have already made some Years ago all the general drawings, but the details which are essential necessary are untouched.

I solicit your attention to this request as early as possible, and am with high respect Yours

B H Latrobe
Surv. p Bldgs UStates

P.S. I presume there cannot be any doubt of the appropriation necessary to carry the resolution of the house into effect.

RC (DLC); FC (MdHi: Latrobe Letterbooks). RC docketed by JM. Filed with the RC is a one-page note: “Mr. Latrobe has drawn on Accot. of the fund for furnishing the Presidents House—13.800.—of which there remains unaccounted for [in] his hands Ds. 1130..96, exclusive of the proceeds of old Furniture which may have been sold by him.”

1On 14 Jan. 1811 Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina had presented a resolution calling on the president to lay before the House “an estimate of the sum necessary to finish the Capitol, designating what may be necessary to finish each wing, and the main building, and what time may be required to finish the whole building.” After some debate the resolution was amended at the suggestion of Benjamin Tallmadge of Connecticut to include a call for an account of the debts due to individuals for work on the Capitol and of the “whole moneys expended on the public buildings” (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 11th Cong., 3d sess., 517–18).

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