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One 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. The Louisiana Bill we have cut up in two days, which the Senate havebeen nine weeks in framing…”

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, from one New York Federalist Congressman to another mentions the ongoing impeachment of Judge John Pickering. Pickering presided over the District of New Hampshire from 1795 to 1804, when he became the first federal judge removed through impeachment. 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 with a 19-7 vote for impeachment on March 12.

The letter also references Aaron Burr’s run for Governor of New York, which he lost. Morgan Lewis, who was supported by Alexander Hamilton, won the election with 58 percent of the vote in April 1804.  Lewis took office on July 1, 1804, and on July 11, Burr killed 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 marines were required to keep order among the population of fifty thousand new territorial citizens. A Senate committee led by John Breckinridge of Kentucky introduced a bill, authored by President Jefferson, for governing the new territory. 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 a governor and council appointed by the President to govern Orleans. The Senate started debate on January 16, and on February 28 reported the bill to the House of Representatives. The following day, the House rejected the government proposed for Orleans by a vote of 80 to 15. The Senate rejected the change. The House at first refused to back down, but then appointed a committee 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.

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.

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.

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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