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To George Washington from Thomas Johnson, 16 January 1793

From Thomas Johnson

Frederick [Md.] 16 January1 1793.

sir.

This incloses a Resignation of my Commission of Judge:2 it would have better suited with my Inclination and my Ideas of propriety to have held it till after the next supreme Court but I am not very well and a Journey now to Philadelphia would be at least disagreeable.

On my first reading the Judiciary Act it appeared to me rather an Essay and I had no Doubt but that there would have been an Alteration as soon as the Attention of Congress could be again drawn to the Subject: The Experience we have had of the little that has been or could be done under the present System though excessively fatiguing to the Judges would I thought have insured their Discharge from Circuit Duty—I am not conscious of being greedy of the Profits of Office and would voluntarily have given up part of the Salary as I believe all my Brethren would have done But I am informed the Judges of the supreme Court are still to go the Circuits with an Increase of power to one eventually.3

I have not Self consequence enough to blame others for not thinking as I do or to wish Arrangements for my Accomodation I have measured Things however and find the Office and the Man do not fit—I cannot resolve to spend six Months in the Year of the few I may have left from my Family, on Roads at Taverns chiefly and often in Situations where the most moderate Desires are disappointed: My Time of Life Temper and other Circumstances forbid it.

I am truly sensible to the good Opinion and Confidence you have so often shewn towards me—and with best wishes and Sentiments of perfect Esteem I remain sir most respectfully Your obedt Servant.

Th. Johnson

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Johnson originally wrote “Feb” on the manuscript page before altering the dateline to read “January.” The entry for 26 Jan. 1792 in GW’s executive journal records receipt of Johnson’s letter “a few days ago” (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 36).

2The enclosed resignation reads, “I Thomas Johnson do hereby resign surrender and give up my Office of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Witness my Hand this 16th Day of January 1793” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). GW nominated and the U.S. Senate confirmed Johnson to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1791 (GW to U.S. Senate, 31 Oct. 1791 [first letter]; Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:86, 88).

3For “An Act to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States,” 24 Sept. 1789, see 1 Stat., description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 73–93. For complaints about the required attendance of Supreme Court justices at the several circuit courts, see their letter to GW of 9 Aug. 1792, and note 1. GW submitted their appeal in his second letter of 7 Nov. 1792 to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In January 1793 both houses of Congress considered this request (see Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., 801) and eventually passed “An Act in addition to the Act, entitled ‘An Act to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States,’ ” approved on 2 Mar., in which “the attendance of only one” Supreme Court justice at each circuit court was deemed “sufficient” (1 Stat., description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 333).

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