James Madison Papers

To James Madison from David Howell, 26 November 1810

From David Howell


Providence Nov: 26. 1810.


After prevailing on the late Judge Cushing to retain his office for several years, under the failure of his powers, lest a Republican Should succeed him, the Federalists have had the address to unite with that Fraction of the Republican party in this State, which is inimical to Governor Fenner & his Friends, in recommending Asher Robbins, Esquire, of Newport, in this State, to succeed him.1

I am of opinion that the slender condition of Mr Robbins’s health would illy comport with the arduous duties of that office; & that other & Stronger objections might be found in his political character, as a Monarchist, &c. & in his moral ch⟨a⟩racter as a Speculator &c. and that, in his conduct & exhibitions as a Lawyer, have not been found Specimens of that candour, & of those legal Talents, which are required in a judge.

I hope I shall be excused in adding a Suggestion that the present District Judge in this State,2 (having been previously District Attorney for several years,) has laboriously & with credit discharged the duties of his present office, (to which he was named by the late President) & endeavoured to avoid the active Scenes of party, & is, in my opinion, on every ground of pretensions, more worthy of this promotion than Mr Robbins.

I have expected that the Hon: J Q. Adams,3 or some other Gentleman in whose character & good attachments confidence could be placed, would be called to succeed Mr Cushing.

It is expected that Governor Fenner will write you on this Subject,4 & that time will be allowed for advice from all quarters. As one mean of increasing your confidence in our most excellent ⟨Go⟩vernor I have enclosed the republican re⟨so⟩lutions passed in this Town Feby. 6. 1809.5 Our Ticket for General Officers last April, which prevailed, is also enclosed—And I shall only add, as proof that Governor Fenners Friends have the ascendancy, that my only Son was elected by our Legislature at their late Session, as Senator in Congress for six years commencing next March. In him you will find a close Friend to your person, & a most zealous Supporter of your administration. I have the Honor to be with the most respectful Con[s]ideration sir, Your Obedt. Servant

David Howell

RC (DLC). RC torn. Docketed by JM. Enclosures not found, but see n. 5.

1See Christopher Ellery to JM, 21 Dec. 1809 and 30 Sept. 1810, and Constant Taber and others to JM, 24 Sept. 1810 (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (3 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 2:140–41 and nn., 566–67 and n. 2, 553–54).

2Howell referred to David Leonard Barnes, who had been serving as U.S. attorney for Rhode Island when Jefferson appointed him federal district judge in 1801 (see Barnes to JM, 14 May 1802, PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (3 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986—). description ends , 1:173 and n. 1).

3JM nominated John Quincy Adams to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court on 21 Feb. 1811 (Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:168).

5The resolutions were evidently passed in support of the Embargo, and Howell enclosed them to make the point that Gov. James Fenner and Howell’s son, Jeremiah B. Howell, had been among the few New Englanders who had wholeheartedly supported that measure (see David Howell to Jefferson, 27 Nov. 1810 [DLC: Jefferson Papers]).

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