George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from William Vans Murray, 24 January 1796

From William Vans Murray

112 Spruce St.1 [Philadelphia] 24. Jany 96.

Sir,

You will excuse me I am certain for the liberty I take in mentioning Mr Chase. Without touching in the remotest degree upon any thing belonging to the conversation I had the honour of, lately; & without intimating that I had been spoken to, or that Mr Chase had been even thought of by you Sir, I have taken some little pains to discover the opinions of several very respectable men from Maryland of Mr Chase—as one whose name would possibly among others naturally present itself to the recollection of the Executive, when the Judicial vacancies were contemplated—His competence & merit are admitted by the gentlemen whom I have chatted with. With Mr Gale, late of Baltimore, I had this morning a conversation about Mr Chase. He says that the recent attack on the Jurisdiction of the General Court has produced in Mr Chase’s mind great discontent—& that he thinks Mr Chase anxious to be out of the reach of the Judicial changes, to which the fluctuating spirit of a State Government seems to render the General Court perpetually liable.2

You Sir will not deem it presumtion in me to declare, that after much reflexion upon Mr Chase’s competence and fitness, I think him worthy of the honour of filling a seat on the Federal Bench; to which I do believe he would carry an energy which a Jurisdiction, in many cases concurrent, requires, particularly in its infancy. He is now Chief Justice of the State of Maryland—a high testimony to his general worth. A party spirit roused a Resolution of Impeachment against him in seventeen hundred and ninety Four—It was confined to a supposed violation of the Constitution in his having accepted the Chief Justiceship & the Presiding Judgeship of a local Jurisdiction in Baltimore, called their criminal court.3 His conduct as a Judge, morally considered would have undergone a similar scrutiny had there been any foundation. The Resolution failed. I am with the greatest Respect Sir yr mo. ob. Sert

W. V. Murray.

ALS, DLC:GW.

1112 Spruce St. was the address of a boardinghouse kept by Mary Jones, a widow (Edmund Hogan, The Prospect of Philadelphia, and Check on the Next Directory [Philadelphia, 1796], 146).

2The 1794 session of the Maryland legislature passed “An Act concerning the Jurisdiction of the General Court,” which assigned much of the original jurisdiction of the general court to other courts and made it unlawful for the court “to summon any grand or petit jury upon any occasion whatsoever.” However, the Senate had introduced an amendment requiring that the act be confirmed in the next legislature before it could go into effect. In the 1795 session, the confirmation passed the House but failed in the Senate (Md. House Proc., Nov. 1794, description begins Votes and Proceedings of the House of Delegates of the State of Maryland. November Session, 1794. Being the First Session of this Assembly. [Annapolis, 1795]. description ends 43–44, 105; Md. House Proc., Nov. 1795, description begins Votes and Proceedings of the House of Delegates of the State of Maryland. November Session, 1795. Being the First Session of this Assembly. [Annapolis, 1796]. description ends 7, 53, 59; Md. Senate Proc., Nov. 1794, description begins Votes and Proceedings of the Senate of the State of Maryland. November Session, 1794. Being the Fifth Session of the Fourth Senate. [Annapolis, 1795]. description ends 29–30; Washington Spy [Elizabethtown, Md.], 9 Dec. 1794). Murray probably had conversed with George Gale.

3About the resolution, see GW to Alexander Hamilton, 29 Oct. 1795 (second letter), n.5.

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