James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Jonathan Steele, 24 April 1804 (Abstract)

§ From Jonathan Steele

24 April 1804, Durham. “I have this day had the honour of receiving your letter of the 31 March,1 accompanying the evidence of my appointment to the Office of Attorney of the United States for the New Hampshire District—A token of respect, that under other circumstances and impressions would have been flattering to my feelings; but the pleasure resulting from a coincidence of inclination and propriety is denied me on this occasion.

“Although I may have once yielded to different propositions, my mind has long rested on a deliberate resolution of quitting all professional business in a few months from this time—A period much too limited for entering upon a new engagement, requiring some preparation, if the dignity and interest of Government be supported.

“Beyond the regulations, thus prescribed to myself, it can only be necessary to add, that I was unwillingly made a contributory instrument in creating vacancies; and a due regard to my own reputation forbids me to profit by that achievement.2

“It remains to be observed, that Governmental Agency has left me no justifiable alternative, but that of declining to accept the appointment. I, therefore, avail myself of the earliest means of forwarding to you the Commission submitted to my consideration.”

RC (DNA: RG 59, Acceptances, 1789–1812). 2 pp.; docketed by Wagner as received 21 May.

1PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends , 6:655.

2Both Steele, clerk of the federal court in New Hampshire, and New Hampshire district attorney John Samuel Sherburne had testified against Judge John Pickering during his impeachment trial in the House of Representatives. When Pickering was dismissed from office, Jefferson appointed Sherburne judge, thus creating a vacancy in the district attorney’s position. Steele apparently believed he should have had the judgeship and distanced himself from the Republicans as a result (Turner, The Ninth State, 213–14, 256).

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