George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Rutledge, 29 September 1789

To John Rutledge

New York Septr 29th 1789

Dear Sir,

In requesting your candid attention to a subject, which I deem highly interesting to our Country, I am convinced that I address myself well.

Regarding the due administration of Justice as the strongest cement of good government, I have considered the first organisation of the judicial department as essential to the happiness of our Citizens, and to the stability of our political system. Under this impression it has been an invariable object of anxious solicitude with me to select the fittest Characters to expound the laws and dispense justice.

This sentiment, Sir, has over-ruled, in my mind, the opinions of some of your friends, when they suggested that you might not accept an appointment to a seat on the supreme Bench of the United-States—The hesitation, which those opinions produced, was but momentary, when I reflected on the confidence which your former services had established in the public mind, and when I exercised my own belief of your dispositions still further to sacrifice to the good of your country.

In any event I concluded that I should discharge the duty which I owe to the Public by1 nominating to this important office a Person whom I judged best qualified to execute its’ functions—and you will allow me to repeat the wish that I may have the pleasure to hear of your acceptance2 of the appointment—My best respects are offered to Mrs Rutledge and with sentiments of very great esteem and regard I am, Dear Sir, Your Most Obedient and Affectionate Humble Servant

George Washington

Df, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

For background to GW’s Judiciary appointments, see his letter to the United States Senate, 24 Sept. 1789.

1At this point the words “appointing the person” were written and crossed out.

2The remainder of this paragraph and the closing are taken from the letter-book copy. Rutledge replied on 27 Oct.: “I have had the pleasure of receiving the Letter, of September 29th, with which you were so kind as to favour me, & request that you will be pleased to accept my warmest Acknowledgements, for the Opinion you express of my former Conduct, & present disposition.

“I esteem it highly honourable, to be selected as one of the fittest Characters to fill the Supreme Judicial Department, & associated with Gentlemen of such Ability & Integrity as those whom you have chosen for that purpose.

“The future plan of Life which I had formed was that of Ease & Retirement: But, on considering the Subject of your Letter, with the Attention which it merited & excited, I have determined to accept the Trust committed to me, &, by a faithful Execution of it, contribute my best Endeavour⟨s⟩ to promote the Stability of our political System, & Happiness of our Country” (DLC:GW).

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