Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Beckley, 18 March 1802

From John Beckley

Washington, 18th: March 1802.


Permit me to lay before you the enclosed Certificate. The restoration of the Judiciary System, to that state in which it stood before the Act, lately repealed, was passed, necessarily occasions the State of pennsylvania to become again, an entire judicial district, and, of consequence, that the Office of one of the present Marshalls, must be discontinued.

Mr: Smith, reasonably supposes, that in addition to the fact, that nineteen twentieths of the business of pennsylvania accrues in the Eastern district, this Certificate of his good conduct and character from men of opposite politics, will not be unavailing in the mind of the Chief magistrate, on the Question, which of the two present Marshalls shall be continued.

At his request, and on his behalf, I therefore present it, and am, with every sentiment of respect and esteem, Sir,

Your obedt: Servant,

John Beckley

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 19 Mch. and “John Smith to be marshal Pensva” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: perhaps a recommendation sent to Smith, at his request, dated 1 Mch. 1802, signed by 24 members of the Philadelphia bar, including Federalists William Rawle, James Milnor, William Lewis, Edward Tilghman, and Jonathan W. Condy and Republicans John L. Leib, Moses Levy, and Mahlon Dickerson, noting that although at the time of his appointment some entertained unfavorable opinions of him, they now agree that, as far as their knowledge extends, Smith “has been impartial vigilent and firm; and free from any cause of censure, or reproach” (RC in same; John H. Martin, Martin’s Bench and Bar of Philadelphia [Philadelphia, 1883], 258–317; Richard G. Miller, Philadelphia—The Federalist City: A Study of Urban Politics, 1789–1801 [Port Washington, N.Y., 1976], 68, 80, 132, 155n, 178n; Andrew Shankman, Crucible of American Democracy: The Struggle to Fuse Egalitarianism & Capitalism in Jeffersonian Pennsylvania [Lawrence, Kans., 2004], 162; Vol. 33:543;Vol. 34:74n; Josias Wilson King to TJ, 21 Jan. 1802).

When John SMITH successfully applied in March 1801 to be marshal of the eastern district of Pennsylvania, Beckley had submitted a certificate in his support. Early in his administration, TJ appointed Presley Carr Lane as marshal for the western district, but it was Smith who retained the office after the state became a single judicial district (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 , 1:432, 440; Vol. 33:219, 246–8, 674).

On 30 Mch., Pennsylvania congressmen Robert Brown, Isaac Van Horne, and John Stewart wrote TJ expressing their support for Smith. They noted that he had “faithfully discharged the duties of his Office” and hoped he would continue in office “when the law creating two districts shall cease to exist” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; in an unidentified hand, signed by Brown, Van Horne, and Stewart; at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 31 Mch. and “Smith John. to be Marshl. of Pensva.” and so recorded in SJL).

TJ viewed three other certificates or recommendations for Smith. On 27 Mch., Richard Peters certified that the marshal “has given perfect Satisfaction to me (in every Respect) in all Things which have fallen under my Observation.” William Griffith, judge of the Third Circuit Court, wrote on 30 Mch. that all Smith’s “official proceedings and conduct which have fallen under my notice on the bench have appeared to evince—integrity—industry— and impartiality, and all the qualifications most requisite in that office.” On 6 Apr., William Tilghman acknowledged in a letter to Smith that he endorsed the testimony given by the Philadelphia bar on Smith’s behalf and wished to add his opinion that the marshal’s conduct was “attentive, upright, & entirely satisfactory” (all in same; last two endorsed by TJ as recommending Smith for Pennsylvania marshal).

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