James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Samuel Latham Mitchill, 6 May 1812 (Abstract)

§ From Samuel Latham Mitchill

6 May 1812, Washington. Lays before the president two letters, one from J. L. Broome and one from J. Targee, recommending John Ferguson for the additional district judgeship.1 “These papers may serve as a specimen of the communications addressed to SLM on the subject.”

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1809–17, filed under “Ferguson”). RC 1 p. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1The enclosures, two letters (each 2 pp.) dated 3 May 1812 that Mitchill had received from Tammany Society members John L. Broome and John Targee, were the first in a series of communications Mitchill was to forward to JM over the next five days relating to the candidacy of John Ferguson. Both Broome and Targee endorsed Ferguson’s claims to office, declared that his appointment was desired by the “real friends” of the administration in New York, and warned, as Targee put it, that Ferguson was in danger of losing the position he held from the New York Council of Appointment because of his “open and decided conduct in supporting the Madisonian ticket at our present Election.”

Mitchill’s 7 May letter to JM (ibid.; 1 p.) forwarded a paper on Ferguson’s behalf, subscribed by “a number of his best political and personal friends,” to which Mitchill added the claim that “a more respectable recommendation could not be expected in favor of any candidate, nor from persons more attached to the Madison administration.” The paper was a one-page petition, dated 2 May 1812 and signed by Isaac Lawrence and twenty-two others. This petition was enclosed in a 3 May letter (ibid.; 2 pp.) Mitchill had received from John Haff, which he referred to JM as “particularly worthy of perusal.” In addition to supporting Ferguson’s candidacy, Haff reported that the aid of John Smith and Ebenezer Sage would be especially solicited on Ferguson’s behalf. He also mentioned that the Federalists and the Quids in New York City “had it in contemplation to call a Meeting to pass resolutions to endeavour to operate against the Measures of Government.” Should this happen, Haff promised, “our old Patriot Coll. Rutgers will come out and the strongest measures will be used to assure the Genl. Government of our support.” Haff quoted Rutgers as having said recently that rather than see the government “recede he would see our city in Ruins and his fortune Ruined.”

Mitchill’s 8 May letter to JM (ibid.; 1 p.) enclosed a 5 May letter (ibid.; 1 p.) he had received from John Bingham, who wrote that he “need not say much in his recommendation” as he had already written on that day to JM on Ferguson’s behalf. Mitchill’s 10 May letter (ibid.; 2 pp.), after informing JM that the “popular branch” of the New York legislature had become “federal” as a result of the elections held in late April, enclosed a letter from Adrian Hagerman, whom Mitchill described to JM as “one of your warmest political friends, in favor of John Ferguson.” JM could place “full and perfect reliance” on this letter and Mitchill hoped he would “estimate it accordingly.” In a postscript Mitchill again urged JM: “Read it, admirable & excellent Sir, Read it!” Hagerman’s 7 May letter to Mitchill (ibid.; 2 pp.) stressed that Ferguson was the most qualified candidate, both professionally and politically, for the additional judgeship. Since the Republicans had just lost control of the state, Hagerman pointed to the need to build up the party in New York City. In this context Ferguson was esteemed by all Republicans, even the Clintonians, who had not yet removed him from his office. If a Clintonian were to receive the judgeship, Hagerman concluded, it would be a “blow” to the Madisonian interest from which it would take years to recover.

Mitchill’s 11 May letter to JM (ibid.; 1 p.) enclosed yet another letter on Ferguson’s behalf and admitted that nothing could excuse this “reiterated application but the desire of the friends of the administration, to get a firm Madisonian officer on the bench.” The enclosure was an 8 May letter from John L. Broome (ibid.; 2 pp.) expressing concern that Mitchill might not have received the earlier correspondence on Ferguson’s behalf, especially the petition of 2 May and the 3 May letter from John Haff, before the president made a nomination. Broome explained the desire of the Madisonians, as opposed to the Clintonians, to obtain “a fair expression of the wishes of the friends of the administration” in the aftermath of the recent election. In case Mitchill had not received this correspondence, Broome urged him to request that JM delay any nomination until he had read the recommendations for Ferguson.

Index Entries