Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Maxwell, 11 November 1803

From George Maxwell

Flemington, [11] November 1803.


Having had the honor to receive the enclosed Commission appointing me District Attorney of the United States for the District of New-Jersey, I have endeavoured as far as was in my power to merit the Confidence thus reposed in me. And I assure you Sir, that from the high opinion I entertain of the present Administration I would chearfully retain the Commission, was it not that my private affairs are such that I must attend to them, and that by being absent for some time from this State. Having considerable concerns in the western Country I must go there and attend to them or else lose very considerably. You will therefore please to accept my resignation of the appointment, and will I hope be of opinion that I would not resign it, could I attend to the Duties thereof.

I am informed and I beleive that the Republican Interest in this State will be promoted by the appointment of William S. Pennington to the office. I am of Opinion that he is fully capable of fulfilling the Duties of the Office, and I know that he is firmly attached to the present Administration.

I remain with Sentiments of the highest esteem and respect for you, Sir, Your obedient Servant,

George C. Maxwell

RC (DNA: RG 59, RD); torn at dateline; at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire”; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 11 Nov. received the 17th and so recorded in SJL with notation “resigns as distr. Atty.” Enclosure: Commission dated 26 Jan. 1802 appointing George C. Maxwell “Attorney of the United States in and for the District of New Jersey”; signed by TJ and countersigned by Madison (FC in DNA: RG 59, MPTPC).

A New Jersey native, George Clifford Maxwell (1774-1816) graduated from the College of New Jersey at Princeton, studied law under James Kinsey, chief justice of the state supreme court, and was admitted to the bar in 1797. He resided in Flemington and practiced law in the Hunterdon County courts. At the urging of James Linn and other New Jersey Republicans, the president designated Maxwell U.S. attorney for New Jersey in place of Frederick Frelinghuysen, whose “midnight” appointment the president “considered as null.” TJ recorded the interim appointment at 26 June 1801; the Senate confirmed him on 26 Jan. 1802. Maxwell again held a federal office when he was elected as a Republican to the Twelfth Congress. He served a single term and then returned to his New Jersey law practice (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; J. Jefferson Looney and Ruth L. Woodward, Princetonians, 1791-1794: A Biographical Dictionary [Princeton, 1991], 194-6; Vol. 33:183, 184n, 671, 676; Vol. 36:331, 333, 336n).

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