James Madison Papers

From James Madison to an Unidentified Correspondent, 10 September 1812 (Abstract)

§ To an Unidentified Correspondent

10 September 1812, Montpelier. “The bearer John Neilson1 has been employed between three and four years by me as a House Carpenter. He has appeared to be unusually skilfull in his profession and very faithfull in the work done by him, I have never heard any thing injurious in the slightest Degree to his integrity, and believe his character in every other respect to be worthy of Confidence.”

RC (DNA: RG 42, Records of the District of Columbia Commissioners, Letters Received and Drafts of Letters Sent by the Superintendent of the City of Washington, vol. 21). 1 p.; in a clerk’s hand; marked as a “True Copy.” Enclosed in Jefferson to Thomas Munroe, 4 Mar. 1815, which recommended Neilson and James Dinsmore for employment in the rebuilding of Washington (ibid.).

1In an 11 May 1815 letter to Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Jefferson offered high praise for the skills of John Neilson, whom he had hired from Philadelphia in 1804 as a house joiner. Neilson worked for Jefferson for four years at Monticello before going to work for the Madisons (Van Horne, Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 3:673 n. 2). Neilson stayed on at Montpelier until Dec. 1812. His work there focused on the upper southwest end of the mansion, including the installation of ten double-hung windows, four single windows with Venetian blinds, and a “Venetian Door & Side Lights” leading to the roof of the southwest wing. All the remodeling of Montpelier was completed by early 1813, when the Madisons were ready to receive visitors in their home away from Washington (Hunt-Jones, Dolley and theGreat Little Madison,” 72).

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