Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Pierpont Edwards, 12 April 1802

From Pierpont Edwards

New Haven April 12th 1802


Shou’d the appointment of commissioners of bankruptcy be by law vested in the President of the United States, I have to request, that my son Henry Waggaman Edwards, of this city, may be appointed one of the commissioners for this district—He is well known to the Vice-President, and to Mr Granger—I am with the highest respect and most sincere regard

Your Obed Servt

Pierpont Edwards

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); at foot of text: “Excellency Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 16 Apr. and “Henry Waggaman Edwards to be a Commissioner of bankrupts” and so recorded in SJL.

BY LAW VESTED IN THE PRESIDENT: under Section 14 of the “Act to amend the Judicial System of the United States,” approved on 29 Apr., the president received the power to appoint “from time to time, as many general commissioners of bankruptcy, in each district of the United States, as he may deem necessary.” The judge of the district had the power to select up to three of those appointed to act on a particular case, and they were allowed $6 per day while employed on a case (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:156, 164).

In the House debate over this section of the judiciary bill, the Federalists maintained that the power to appoint the commissioners should remain with the district judges. The Republicans argued that the judges had abused that power by appointing improper persons and allowing “enormous emoluments.” James Bayard argued that the president would have difficulty filling the appointments, noting, “The ordinary characters, fit to fill these offices, and willing to fill them, are infinitely below the knowledge of the President” (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends , 11:1223–7).

In early July, TJ appointed HENRY WAGGAMAN EDWARDS and three others as general commissioners of bankruptcy for New Haven and Middlesex County, Connecticut (Appendix II, Lists 1 and 2).

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