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A Federalist Congressman Writes to Another on the Impeachment of Judge Pickering, the Race Between Aaron Burr & Lewis Morris, the New Marine Corps, and New Orleans
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“The Senate are on Pickerings impeachment…. Burr vs. Lewis is now the cause that is preparing for our State trial. Our Marine Corps is ordered to N. Orleans, where our new Brethren require more Bayonets, then representative government.

Two Federalist Congressmen, in the minority in the U.S. House of Representatives, correspond over the news from Congress and in New York during Aaron Burr’s run for New York governor and the organization of a government for the Louisiana Purchase.

KILLIAN K. VAN RENSSELAER. Autograph Letter Signed, March 5, 1804, to George Tibbits, 3 pp with integral address leaf free franked by Rensselaer as a Member of Congress. 8 x 12⅝ in.

Inventory #24705       Price: $1,750

Complete Transcript

March 5th 1804

DSir

            The Senate are on Pickerings impeachment. The question now agitated is, shall counsel be heard to shew cause why he did not attend his summons, -two days have been taken up already, when the Senate will finish the trial I know not. Burr vs. Lewis is now the cause that is preparing for our State trial. The former has many advocates here, and what his friends are doing at home <2> you know better than I can advise. [New York Federalist Joshua] Sands is off for N. York. We shall rise about the 15 or 20 Inst.

            Miss Hunt had her shoulder dislocated in going to Philadelphia, by the overturning of the stage.

            Our Marine Corps is ordered to N. Orleans, where our new Brethren require more Bayonets, then representative government. The Louisiana Bill we have cut up in two days, which the Senate have <3> been nine weeks in framing- [New Jersey Republican James] Sloan &c are for Representative Government- [Pennsylvania Republican John Baptiste Charles] Lucas against it. Thus you see our new Premiers since you left us.

            Burrows has resigned [as Commandant of the Marine Corps].

            [Virginia Republican] Thomas Lewis will loose his seat. [North Carolina Federalist Samuel Dinsmore] Purvaiance will keep his.

                                                                        yours sincerely,

                                                                        K. K. V. Rensselaer

Historical Background

This letter, rich in content, mentions the ongoing impeachment of Judge John Pickering who presided over the District of New Hampshire from 1795 to 1804. President Thomas Jefferson sent evidence of unlawful rulings and drunkenness while on the bench. Federalists argued that Democratic-Republicans were violating the Constitution by attempting to remove a judge who had committed neither high crimes nor misdemeanors. Still, the Senate trial of Pickering began on January 4, 1804, and concluded on March 12 with a 19-7 vote making Pickering the first federal judge removed through impeachment.

The letter also references “the state trial,” the election of New York’s governor.  Morgan Lewis, supported by Alexander Hamilton, defeated Aaron Burr to win the election with 58 percent of the vote a month after this letter.  Lewis took office on July 1, 1804. Ten days later, Burr mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a duel, arising in part from allegations made during the campaign.

Van Rensselaer also comments on the recently completed Louisiana Purchase, where U.S. Marines were required to keep order among the population of fifty thousand territorial citizens. A Senate committee led by John Breckinridge of Kentucky introduced a bill dividing the territory into a vast northern portion called the Louisiana District and a smaller southern part called the Territory of Orleans (the present state of Louisiana), the bill called for the President to appoint a governor and council to govern Orleans. The Senate started debate on January 16, and reported a bill to the House of Representatives on Feb. 28. The following day, the House rejected part of the proposal by a vote of 80 to 15. After the Senate rejected the change, and the House refused to back down, a committee was appointed to work out a compromise. On March 23, the House agreed to the plan but limited it to one year. A year later, Congress passed a new law giving Orleans Territory the same governmental structure as Mississippi.

Killian K. Van Rensselaer (1763-1845) was born in New York and attended Yale College. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1784. He served as a private secretary to General Philip Schuyler. He served as a Federalist in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1801 to 1811, when he returned to New York and the practice of law. This Killian was a descendant of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer (1586-1643), a diamond and pearl merchant from Amsterdam, who became a founder and director of the Dutch West India Company, and the only patroon successful in establishing American settlements. (Patroonships were large tracts of land with manorial rights granted to individuals to encourage Dutch colonization and settlement in New Netherland.) When the English assumed control and New Netherland became New York in the seventeenth century, Rensselaerswyck became an English manor containing all of the land around Albany, New York, along both sides of the Hudson River. Alexander Hamilton’s mother-in-law was another Van Rensselaer descendant.

Lt. Colonel William Ward Burrows (1758-1805) served in the Revolutionary War with South Carolina troops. Afterwards, he moved to Philadelphia to practice law. In 1798, President John Adams appointed him as Major Commandant of the newly formed U.S. Marine Corps. Burrows began many of the Corps’ institutions, including the U.S. Marine Band. He was forced to resign due to ill health on March 6, 1804, and he died exactly one year later.

George Tibbits (1763-1849) was born in Rhode Island and became a businessman. In 1797, he moved to Troy, New York, where he engaged in extensive mercantile activities. He served as a Federalist in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1803 to 1805. He later served in the New York Senate from 1815 to 1818, and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1816. He served as mayor of Troy from 1830 to 1836.

Condition

Addressed to Tibbits in Troy, with remnant of wax seal. Bit of dusting and short marginal fold splits, without loss. Small hole in blank portion from removal of seal. Very Good.


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