From Matthew McAllister
Savannah April 15 1801.
I am informed Mr. Clay has declined the office of Circuit Judge for this District, to which he had been appointed under the New Arrangement.
Should you, Sir, feel at a loss for a person to fill the vacancy, I take the liberty of suggesting my readiness to take a part under your Administration so far as I may be deemed capable.
Some time since, I received a commission as one of the Judges of our Superior Court. The great labor attached to the office—the duties of it requiring half the years absence from my family, will not permit me to continue long in the appointment; for this reason, Sir, I must beg your indulgence for the trouble I now give you.
I acted as Atty Genl. of this State three years and was about seven years Atty for the District.
That you may enjoy every degree of, happiness in the exalted & arduous station to which your Country has called you is the sincere wish of
Sir Yours with the highest consideration
P.S. As it is probable the Gentn. from this State may have left the Seat of Governmt. ere this—for your satisfaction, I inclose a small extract from a Sava. paper, merely to show that out of 20 odd Gentn. of the Law residing in this City there was unanimity on that occasion—This I am persuaded comes with an ill grace from me, yet there may be a propriety in indeavoring to satisfy your mind on a point where the responsibility attaches in a great measure to the first Executive Majestrate.—
With great respect
Dupl (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at head of text: “(Duplicate)”; at foot of first page: “The President of the United States &c.”; endorsed by TJ as received 4 May and so recorded in SJL with notation “Off.” RC (same); dated 13 Apr.; torn, with minor variations and lacking postscript; endorsed by TJ as received 1 May and so recorded in SJL with notation “Off”; also endorsed by TJ: “to be Circuit judge vice Clay.” Enclosure not found.
Matthew McAllister (1758–1823) was a native of York County, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of the College of New Jersey at Princeton. He moved to Savannah, Georgia, around 1784, where he established a lucrative legal practice. He was appointed federal attorney for the district of Georgia in 1789, but was replaced by Charles Jackson in 1797. McAllister also served in the Georgia legislature. In the late 1790s, however, he became linked with the Yazoo Land Fraud of 1795 and was the target of scathing public attacks by James Jackson, Georgia’s leading Republican. McAllister’s subsequent political ambitions were seriously handicapped by the allegations; he did not receive an appointment during TJ’s administration (Harrison, Princetonians, 1776–1783, 269–72; George R. Lamplugh, Politics on the Periphery: Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783–1806 [Newark, Del., 1986], 108, 175, 182–4; Paul M. Pressly, “The Northern Roots of Savannah’s Antebellum Elite, 1780s–1850s,” Georgia Historical Quarterly, 87 , 157–99; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States… to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:29, 228).
Joseph Clay, Jr., had served as judge of the federal district of Georgia since 1796. On 23 Feb. 1801, John Adams appointed him to be a judge of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States… to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:217, 383; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ).