Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to George Hay, 20 June 1807

Washington June 20. 07.

Dear Sir

Mr. Latrobe now comes on as a witness against Burr. his presence here is with great inconvenience dispensed with, as the 150. workmen require his constant directions on various public works of pressing importance. I hope you will permit him to come away as soon as possible. how far his testimony will be important as to the prisoner I know not, but I am desirous that those meetings of Yrujo with Burr & his principal accomplices should come fully out & judicially, as they will establish the just complaints we have against his nation.

I did not see till last night the opinion of the judge on the spa duces tecum against the President. considering the question there as coram non judice, I did not read his argument with much attention. yet I saw readily enough that, as is usual where an opinion is to be supported, right or wrong, he dwells much on smaller objections, & passes over those which are solid. laying down the position generally that all persons owe obedience to a spa, he admits no exception unless it can be produced in his lawbooks. but if the constitution enjoins on a particular officer to be always engaged in a particular set of duties imposed on him, does not this supercede the general law subjecting him to minor duties inconsistent with these? the constitution enjoins his constant agency in the concerns of 6. millions of people. is the law paramount to this which calls on him on behalf of a single one? let us apply the judges own doctrine to the case of himself & his brethren. the sheriff of Henrico summons him from the bench to quell a riot somewhere in his county. the federal judge is, by the general law, a parte of the posse of the state sheriff. would the judge abandon major duties to perform lesser ones? again. the court of Orleans or Maine commands by spas the attendance of all the judges of the supreme court. would they abandon their posts as judges & the interests of millions committed to them, to save the purposes of a single individual? the leading principle of our constitution is the independance of the Legislative, Executive & Judiciary of each other, & none are more jealous of this than the Judiciary. but would the Executive be independant of the Judiciary if he were subject to the commands of the latter & to imprisonment for disobedience; if the several courts could bandy him from pillar to post, keep him constantly trudging from North to South & East to West, and withdraw him entirely from his constitutional duties? the intention of the constitution that each branch should be independant of the others is further manifested by the means it has furnished to each to protect itself from enterprises of force attempted on them by the others, and to none has it given more effectual or diversified means than to the Executive. again, because ministers can go into a court in London as witnesses without interruption to their executive duties, it is inferred that they would go to a court 1000. or 1500. miles off, and that ours are to be dragged from Maine to Orleans by every criminal who will swear that their testimony ‘may be of use to him.’ the judge says ‘it is apparent that the President’s duties as chief magistrate do not demand his whole time, & are not unremitting.’ if he alludes to our annual retirement from the seat of government during the sickly season, he should be told that such arrangements are made for carrying on the public business at & between the several stations we take, that it goes on as unremittingly there as if we were at the seat of government. I pass more hours in public business at Monticello than I do here every day, and it is much more laborious because all must be done in writing. our stations being known all communications come to them regularly as to fixed points. it would be very different were we always on the road, or placed in the noisy & crowded taverns where courts are held.—mr Rodney is expected here every hour, having been kept away by a sick child. I salute you with friendship & respect

Th: Jefferson

P.S. I have this moment had a conversation with an Edward [. . .]nd who was at New Madrid when Burr was there. he sets out for Richmond with mr Latrobe & will be worth subpoenaing. he is known to Genl. Wilkerson.

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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