Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Winthrop Sargent, 7 February 1793

From Winthrop Sargent

Cincinnati County of Hamilton, and Territory of the
United States north west of the Ohio Feby: the 7th: 1793.

I conceive it my duty Sir, in the absence of Governour St: Clair to represent to the General Government, that considerable public embarrassments, and injury, accrue to this Territory, from the absence of the Judges thereof.

Our Code of laws materially deficient to promote the welfare and happiness of the people (as observation must evince) can know no alteration from this cause, at the same time that the judicial trusts of their Honours must be suspended.

Complaints upon this subject having already been transmitted with my recent official communications, would not again be laid before the Sovereign Authority, but for the sudden departure of the honourable Judge Symmes from the Government—thereby virtually effecting a total present abdication upon1 the Supreme Bench of this Territory. Some of the probable consequences of which, together with my solicitation and remonstrances to avert them, in the enclosed copy of a letter to his Honour, upon the 6th: instant, I deem it incumbent to submit by this the earliest opportunity. I have the honour to be, Sir, with every sentiment of respect, Your most obedt: humble servant,

Winthrop Sargent

PrC of Tr (DLC); in a clerk’s hand; at foot of text: “Honble: Secretary of State.” Tr (Lb in DNA: RG 76, Yazoo Land Claims). Recorded in SJL as dated 6 Feb. 1793 and received 27 Mch. 1793. Enclosure: Sargent to John Cleves Symmes, 6 Feb. 1793, asking Symmes to delay his intended visit to Philadelphia until either he or Judges Rufus Putnam or George Turner, who were already absent from the Northwest Territory, held “the next terms of the Supreme Court in the two western counties,” so as to avoid further antagonizing the people of those districts, who have made their dissatisfaction known to the President as “a very great grievance,” and inducing them “to remove to the Spanish Government” (PrC of Tr in DLC; in a clerk’s hand; at head of text: “Copy of a letter to Judge Symmes”). Letter and enclosure enclosed in TJ to George Turner, 30 Mch. 1793.

Winthrop Sargent (1753–1820), a graduate of Harvard, brevet major in the Continental Army, and secretary of the Ohio Company, was secretary and sometime acting governor of the Northwest Territory from 1787 to 1798, when he became the first territorial governor of Mississippi, an office to which TJ refused to reappoint him in 1801 because of his staunch Federalism and autocratic methods of government (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ). The absence of the Judges from the Northwest Territory had been a matter of concern to TJ for some time (TJ to George Turner, 9 Nov. 1792, and note).

1Word canceled and “of” interlined in pencil by an unidentified hand. Tr: “upon.”

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