George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Gunn, 11 February 1793

From James Gunn

[Philadelphia] February 11th 1793


At the time, that Mr John Rutledge Was appointed Chief Justice of the State of South Carolina, I did myself the honor to address you on the Subject of filling his Vacancy, and I took the liberty of mentioning Mr John Houstoun, as a Gentleman whose Professional abilities warranted my recommending him for an Appointment in the Federal Judiciary;1 at that time, I did not know Mr Houstouns sentiments respecting a Federal Appointment; But I have since Conversed with him, and find him Solicitous to fill an Appointment in the Judiciary; and I will add, that his declining to come forward as a Senator from the State of Georgia, was owing to a Wish of being Employed in the department suitable to his Profession:2 Being Informed of the Resignation of Judge Johnson, it is my duty, to repeat the Application, and as the President have seen Mr Houstoun, since my first, he will Judge of the Propriety of the present.3 I have the honor to be With the highest respect sir, Your Very Obedt servt

James Gunn


Virginia native James Gunn (1753–1801) was captain of the dragoons in the Virginia Line and participated in the relief of Savannah, Ga., in 1782. He subsequently settled in Savannah, where he practiced law. Gunn was elected to five terms in the Georgia legislature, and he served in the U.S. Senate 1789–1801. He participated in the Yazoo land fraud of 1794–95.

1For Associate Justice John Rutledge’s resignation from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1791 in order to become South Carolina’s chief justice, see Rutledge to GW, 5 Mar. 1791. For Gunn’s earlier letter recommending fellow Savannah lawyer and politician John Houstoun, see Gunn to GW, 7 Mar. 1791.

2Houstoun also had declined an appointment as auditor of the United States, in part because of his lack of “acquaintance with figures” (Alexander Hamilton to GW, 6 Oct. 1791).

3For Associate Justice Thomas Johnson’s resignation from the U.S. Supreme Court, see Johnson to GW, 16 Jan. 1793, and note 2. GW had met Houstoun during a visit to Savannah in May 1791 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:135). For Edmund Randolph’s evaluation of Houstoun’s qualifications, see Randolph to GW, 18 Feb. 1793. GW nominated New Jersey governor William Paterson to replace Johnson (GW to U.S. Senate, 27 Feb. 1793).

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