Philadelphia 8th February 1797
Having been informed, that, you were about to Nominate, some proper person to fill the office, of District Judge in the State of Tennessee, I think it my duty as the representative, of that State, to furnish you with such information, as will Enable you to Nominate a legal Charecter, best qualified to Execute the duties of that office and whose appointment will be Most satisfactory to the Citizens. This, therefore is the object of this letter.
It will be proper in the first place to observe, that there are three legal Charecters, Namely Mr Campbell, Mr McNairy, and Mr Anderson, who under the Territorial government, filled the Judicial Chair, but when a Change took place from a Territorial to a State government they were all Candidates for the office of the state Judiciary and Mr McNairy alone obtaind his Election, from which it will appear that Mr Anderson and Campble had lost the Confidence of the people, and for some cause did not wish them to fill such important offices to the rights of the people; I believe them both to be upright good Citizens, but am Clearly of oppinion, that the appointment of Either of those gentlemen last named would not be pleasing to a majority of the citizens. I am free to declare, as to myself, that I think Mr Campbell a good upright Citizen, but his abilities as a lawyer never can be Considered as Competent to that appointment, and the duties appertaining thereto.
As I have Named those Gentlemen, who have presedent as Judges under the Territorial Government, I think it proper to bring into your View a Number of other Legal Charecters whose abilities and Respectability Equally Merit the appointment, and from amonghst whom you may perhaps think proper to make the Nomination, they are as follows Mr Rowan Mr Rhea Mr Overton and Mr Tatam, Mr Rowan now acts in the appointment of State Judge, and in his present office, is Esteemed by the Citizens, I think him a Man of abilities, Mr Rhea and Mr Overton, are Considered as possessing the greatest Legal abilities—of any gentlemen in that State—Mr Tatam is an old officer who has faced all the Stormy Showers of war, and faithfully Served and fought for his Country, his abilities Equal to any other Charecter in the State Except Overton and I may add Rhea, he is a Man of great firmness and Much Esteemed by all who Know him. Mr Claibourn is an amiable young Man, but perhaps is not possessed of sufficient Experience to fill such an important office.
I would here Remark that the appointment of Mr McNairy, Rowan Rhea Overton or Tatam would Meet with the approbation of the Citizens but Mr Rheas appointment I believe would be Most satisfactory to the Eastern part of the state as I have been informed.
I would Remark that Mr Tatam from his Service throughout the revolution, having in that cause reduced his fortune, and impaired his Constitution, If in him the Country can be as well servd as in any other I think he merrits the appointment—Mr overton and Mr Rhea from abilities have a Claim on the appointment Mr McNairy from his Services in that office before and possessing also abilities; from these Remarks perhaps you will be better able to Nominate than without them. I have the honour to be with sincere Esteem your Mo. ob. Serv.
DNA: RG 59—ML—Miscellaneous Letters.