Documents Accompanying the Bill for the Relief of Isaac Briggs. Presented the 18th March, 1808
City of Washington: A. & G. Way, 1808. Very Good. Item #9225
City of Washington: A. & G. Way, 1808. First Edition. Octavo (21cm.); removed; 5,pp. Light foxing, spine nearly split, else Good to Very Good, despite slightly musty odor.
Exceedingly uncommon pamphlet reproducing three pieces of correspondence between President Thomas Jefferson and American engineer Isaac Briggs. Briggs had volunteered his services in 1804 to lead an expedition to New Orleans with the "view of discovering the most direct and convenient route for a post-road from the city of Washington to New Orleans." The trip proved more difficult than expected, and Briggs "encountered great expense and extreme hardships, which were immediately followed by a severe and tedious sickness, and a shock to his constitution from the effects of which it will probably never recover." Briggs concludes his letter with a plea for proper compensation for his hardships, most likely a dangerous bout of malaria, though he does appear to have recovered enough to work as one of the chief engineers on both the Erie Canal and the James River and Kanawha Canal up until his death in 1825.
Jefferson's first response in this pamphlet corroborates Briggs' claims, noting from his report that "the enterprise [was] expensive, laborious and tedious, infinitely beyond expectation. The way being then quite unknown, he had to pursue his course through the woods, to go through marshes, swim rivers, cut open his path sometimes, and to encounter all obstacles as they presented themselves, sleeping out without cover, and distressed for food." Jefferson's second letter offers Briggs two hundred dollars by the sixth of June ("Saturday se'nnight") and an additional two hundred dollars the following month. Jefferson goes on to say "I am really mortified that you should have been left to suffer in an undertaking wherein I was agent," but concludes with the happy news that a road is indeed being constructed based on Briggs' survey.
Shaw & Shoemaker 16384, but missed by Sabin. OCLC locates four copies, at time of writing, at the Navy Department Library, Historic New Orleans, UVA, and AAS.