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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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4474. LATROBE (B. H.), Building of U. S. Capitol.—
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4474. LATROBE (B. H.), Building of U. S. Capitol.—

My memory retains no trace
of the particular conversations alluded to[by
you [289] ], nor enables me to say that they are or
are not correct. The only safe appeal for me
is to the general impressions received at the
time, and still retained with sufficient distinctness.
These were that you discharged the
duties of your appointment with ability, diligence
and zeal, but that in the article of expense
you were not sufficiently guarded. You must
remember my frequent cautions to you on this
head, the measures I took, by calling for frequent
accounts of expenditures and contracts,
to mark to you, as well as to myself, when
they were getting beyond the limits of the appropriations,
and the afflicting embarrassments
on a particular occasion where these limits had
been unguardedly and greatly transcended.
These sentiments I communicated to you freely
at the time, as it was my duty to do. Another
principle of conduct with me was to admit
no innovations on the established plans, but on
the strongest grounds. When, therefore, I
thought first of placing the floor of the Representative
chamber on the level of the basement
of the building, and of throwing into its height
the cavity of the dome, in the manner of the
Halle aux Bleds at Paris, I deemed it due to
Dr. Thornton, author of the plan of the Capitol,
to consult him on the change. He not only
consented, but appeared heartily to approve of
the alteration. For the same reason, as well as
on motives of economy, I was anxious, in
converting the Senate chamber into a Judiciary
room, to preserve its original form, and to leave
the same arches and columns standing. On
your representation, however, that the columns
were decayed and incompetent to support the
incumbent weight, I acquiesced in the weight
you proposed, only striking out the addition
which would have made part of the middle
building, and would involve a radical change
in that which had not been sanctioned. I have
no reason to doubt but that in the execution of
the Senate and Court rooms, you have adhered
to the plan communicated to me and approved.
* * * On the whole, I do not believe any one
has ever done more justice to your professional
abilities than myself. Besides constant commendations
of your taste in architecture, and
science in execution, I declared on many and all
occasions that I considered you as the only person
in the United States who could have executed
the Representative Chamber, or who
could execute the middle buildings on any of
the plans proposed.—
To Benjamin H. Latrobe. Washington ed. v, 578.
(M. 1811)

See Architecture.


Latrobe was the architect of the Capitol at Washington.
The quotation is interesting, showing as it
does the impress of Jefferson's taste in architecture.—Editor.