James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Lewis Deblois, 3 September 1817

From Lewis Deblois

Boston 3d Septr. 1817

Much esteemed, and highly respected Sir

It is with great reluctance I presume to address you on the subject of my private concerns, but the extreme anxiety of my family and friends on account of my present indigent situation, and the great need we have of succour from some source obliges me once more to trouble you.1 I will be as brief in my statement, and take as little of your valuable time, as my ability will permit. It is only a little over two years since I removed with my family from Washington, at which time we were destitute of every article of furniture but our bedding, from the kind assistance of our friends, but chiefly with the aid of our truly affection [sic] father in law Mr. Dalton2 have we been enabled to get along comfortably. The little he did for us, together with his own distressed situation when he entered the Office, and the short period of little more than two years he lived to enjoy it, prevented his leaving any thing for the support of Widow, Daughter, niece, & my oldest daughter which they have brot. up, all of whom have now joined my family this additional expence, and the loss of the aid that truly good Man Mr. Dalton (while living) afforded me, renders my situation truly deplorable. My pay &c. does not exceed one thousand dollars a Year, and it is all I have for the support of so large a family. The Office wished for, may be said now to be in the family, and we think not another of the same number can be found, whose pecuniary situation so much needs it, or has a stronger claim to it.

I have no doubt that if his Excellency Mr. Monroe has been honestly informed of the relative situations of the several applicants, that he will gratify our wishes, terminate as this may, we shall one, and all of us, ever feel under every obligation to you, and your inestimable Mrs Madison, to whom, and to yourself, our united, respectful and best wishes are presented. With a tender of my best services to execute any commands you, or Mrs. Madison may have this way I remain much esteem’d sir—Your very Sincere & Respectful Hble. Svt.

Lewis Deblois.3

RC (NN). Addressed by Deblois to JM at Montpelier. Docketed by JM.

1Dolley Madison wrote Ruth Hooper Dalton Deblois on 8 June 1817: “I have this moment reced. your mournful letter beloved friend! Our sympathy in your affliction is deep & sincere! I wrote you some weeks ago, to assure you that we were never unmindful of your interest. Colo. Monroe was made acquainted with your claims upon the office held by your lamented father, & we have every hope & belief that your worthy husband will now fill it” (1 p.; addressed by JM to Lewis Deblois at Boston and franked; printed facsimile [Scott J. Winslow Associates, Inc., Catalogue 5, December 2003, item 104]). Despite Dolley Madison’s assurances, Lewis Deblois was not appointed surveyor of the port of Boston; James Monroe appointed Elbridge Gerry Jr. to that position in December 1817 (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 3:95–96).

2Tristram Dalton (1738–1817) was a Massachusetts merchant and politician who served in the U.S. Senate, 1789–91. He later moved to Washington, and invested in real estate. Financial reverses forced him to solicit office, and JM appointed him surveyor of the port of Boston in 1814, a position he held until his death (Eben F. Stone, “A Sketch of Tristram Dalton,” Essex Institute Historical Collections 25 [1888]: 1–12).

3Lewis Deblois (1760–1833) was a merchant in Alexandria, Virginia, who served as director of the Washington branch of the Bank of the United States, 1806–11. He also acted as agent and consul for Portugal, 1808–19. JM appointed Deblois naval purser at Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1812 (American Antiquarian Society, comp., Index of Obituaries in Massachusetts Centinel and Columbian Centinel, 1780 to 1840 (5 vols.; Boston, 1961), 2:1281; PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (6 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 2:81 n. 2; Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:250, 257).

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