James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Philip Reed, 18 October 1805 (Abstract)

From Philip Reed, 18 October 1805 (Abstract)

§ From Philip Reed.1 18 October 1805, Kent County, Maryland. “Not having the honor of being personally known to you, it might perhaps appear presuming in me to trouble you with this letter, if the occasion did not seem to Justify it, I must therefore rely on this circumstance for my apology.

“The death of Judge Winchester, having vacated his Seat, as district Judge, of the district of Maryland,2 I have taken the liberty to mention Major Robert Wright,3 as a proper person to fill that place. I have no doubt it would be agreeable to the major, should he meet the approbation of the President of the U. States.

“This gentleman being a senator of the U. States, must be known to the government. The sense of the State of Maryland, of his worth, has been tested by his appointment at an important crisis of our political affairs, and his political reputation in tha⟨t⟩; appointment has gratified public expectation. But there are some particulars attaching to the charactor and pretintions of Major Wright, which may not be so well known; It remains therefore for me to speak of those facts. He was one of the most early, active and zealous supporters of the revolution. In 1776, he Served a campaign as a private Voluntier, in a minute company, In the fall of that year he was electe⟨d⟩; in the Legislature of this State, in which he served (with the exception of one year) during the war. He joined the campaig⟨n⟩; of 1777 in the same Regiment with me, and was justly considered one of the most active and meritorious officers in the Corps. As a Lawyer he has practised for upwards of thirty years, in the General, and Several of the County Courts of this State, with great reputation. Having had the honor of a Seat on the bench of Kents County Court, for nearly eleven years, I have had an opportunity of being a witness of Mr. Wrights conduct as a practitioner at that Bar, during which time, he has discharged his duty as a Lawyer with attention, candour, integrity and distinguished ability. His Standing at the general Court Bar, is well known to Judge Duval, near the U. States, to whom permit me to refer. As a republican Mr. Wrights conduct has been firm and uniform and his exertions have contributed not a little to the present happy state of things. I must beg leave, further, to observe, that with the exception of M⟨r⟩; Paca (deceased) who formerly held the office of Judge for the district of Maryland,4 the Eastern Shore has had no appointment of any importance under the Federal government. Our Situation with regard to the Chesepeak, is so insulated that we Seem to be cut off from public notice, altho of eighteen Counties in the State, the E. Shore compose eight.

“Pardon the freedom I have taken and ascribe it to a desire of lending my feeble efforts to serve a person who I think merit⟨s⟩; a portion of the attention of the govt.”

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1801–9, filed under “Wright”). 4 pp.; docketed by Jefferson. Extensively damaged at margins.

1Revolutionary War veteran Philip Reed (1760–1829) was one of the original members of the Society of the Cincinnati and also served in the Maryland militia in the War of 1812. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1807 to 1813, and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1817 to 1819 and again from 1822 to 1823. He was an associate justice in Kent County from 1794 to at least 1816 (Papenfuse et al., Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 2:674–75).

2Reed was mistaken: Judge James Winchester did not die until 5 Apr. 1806 (Maryland Republican Star or Eastern Shore General Advertiser, 15 Apr. 1806).

3Revolutionary War veteran Robert Wright (1752–1826) was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1773. He served in the military from 1776 to the conclusion of peace, after which he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. In 1801 he was chosen to represent the state in the U.S. Senate, where he was a staunch Jeffersonian. He resigned in 1806 to become governor, a post he held until 1809. In 1810 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until 1817 and again from 1821 to 1823. In 1822 he was named district judge for Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, a position he held until his death.

4William Paca (1740–1799) was educated to the law in Annapolis and London. He was a member of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was governor of Maryland from November 1782 to November 1785 and was a delegate to the 1788 state convention that ratified the Constitution. In 1789 Washington named him judge of the U.S. court for Maryland, where he served from 1789 until his death.

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