Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the House of Representatives, 3 February 1803

To the House of Representatives

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives

The inclosed letters and affidavits exhibiting matter of complaint against John Pickering District judge of New Hampshire which is not within executive cognisance, I transmit them to the House of Representatives, to whom the constitution has confided a power of instituting proceedings of redress, if they shall be of opinion that the case calls for them.

Th: Jefferson
Feb. 3. 1803.

RC (DNA: RG 233, PM, 7th Cong., 2d sess.); endorsed by House clerks. PrC (DLC). Recorded in SJL with notation “judge Pickering.” Enclosures: see Gallatin to TJ, 31 Jan., and enclosures. All are printed in Message from the President of the United States, Enclosing Sundry Documents, Relative to John Pickering, District Judge of the District of New Hampshire (Washington, D.C., 1803); Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819, New York, 1958-63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 5360.

The House received TJ’s message and the enclosed papers on 3 Feb. The next day they read the materials and referred them to Joseph H. Nicholson, James A. Bayard, John Randolph, Samuel Tenney, a New Hampshire Federalist, and Lucas C. Elmendorf, a New York Republican, to “examine the matter” and prepare a report offering their opinion. The report, presented by Nicholson on 18 Feb., was read and ordered to be considered on the 23d. Not until 2 Mch., the evening before adjournment, did the whole House consider the committee’s resolve, “That John Pickering, Judge of the District Court of the district of New Hampshire, be impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors.” Federalists Benjamin Huger of South Carolina and Calvin Goddard of Connecticut proposed delaying action on the matter until the next session of Congress, but their motion was defeated by a wide margin. The House then passed the resolution by a 45 to 8 vote. Tenney and Goddard were among those who voted against it. The next day Nicholson and Randolph notified the Senate of their action, promised that the House would, in due time, “exhibit particular articles of impeachment against him, and make good the same,” and demanded that the Senate order the appearance of Pickering “to answer to the said impeachment.” The Senate responded affirmatively later that day (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:322, 351, 383–4, 387, 392; 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 , 12:640–2, 645).

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