Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Harry Innes, 13 December 1802

From Harry Innes

Kentucky Frankfort Decr 13th 1802


The office of Cheif Judge in the Indiana Territory being vacated by the death of Mr. Wm Clarke I take the liberty of soliciting the appointment, or more properly speaking your nomination in favor of James Blair Esqr. of this town.

Mr. Blair has officiated for several years in this State as Atto. General, which he is inclined to abandon on account of the too arduous duties imposed on the person holding that office by our legislature.

Mr. Blair’s moral rectitude is unexceptionable, & he is well respected by those who have the pleasure of being acquainted with him.

I have lived a neighbour to Mr. Blair for five or six years, during which period he has always espoused the cause of republicanism.

With this Sketch of Mr. Blairs general character, he is recommended to your attention on the present occasion by him who is anxious for your happiness and prosperity, in both your public & private life & who has the honor to be with great respect & esteem

your mo. ob. Servt

Harry Innes

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 4 Jan. 1803 and “James Blair to be Judge of Indiana” and so recorded in SJL.

james blair migrated from Virginia to Kentucky and had served as attorney general of the state since 1796 (Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, 14 [1916], 37–8). He also secured recommendations from Benjamin Howard, Joseph Crockett, and Humphrey Marshall in his unsuccessful bid for the Indiana judgeship (Howard to St. George Tucker, 6 Dec. 1802, probably enclosed in Tucker to TJ, Williamsburg, 13 Jan. 1803, which is recorded in SJL as received 18 Jan. with the notation “Blair to be judge Indiana,” but has not been found; Crockett to James Madison, 9 Dec. 1802, endorsed by TJ: “Blair James of Kentucky to be judge Indiana”; Marshall to Madison, 16 May 1803, endorsed by TJ: “Blair James to be judge of Indiana. v. Davies”; all in DNA: RG 59, LAR).

Innes also recommended Vincennes attorney Henry Hurst for the vacant Indiana judgeship. Writing James Madison on 14 Dec., Innes stated that Hurst was clerk of the territory’s superior court and son-in-law to Judge Benjamin Sebastian of Kentucky. Innes has known Hurst for more than seven years and asserts that his “moral rectitude, (to my knowledge) has never been impeached.” Citing his recommendation to the president of James Blair for the same office, Innes assures Madison that “neither that nor this letter is to be considered as giving by me a decided preference, on the contrary, merely containing a statement of character, as far as my knowledge extends” (DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “Innes Harry to mr Madison. Hurst to be judge Indiana”). His letter to Madison also enclosed a recommendation from Sebastian, dated 10 Dec., in which the Kentucky jurist describes Hurst as “unstained” by any vice, “inflexibly honest,” and “rigidly temperate.” In addition to his legal acumen, Hurst’s politics “are purely republican, and he is firmly attached to the present administration” (same; endorsed by TJ: “Hurst to be judge of Indiana”).

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