Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO EDMUND RANDOLPH. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XI (1785-1790).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.
New York, 30 November, 1789.
Your letter of the 8th of October gave me pleasure, as I not only entertain hopes, but shall fully expect from the contents of it, to see you in the office of attorney-general when the purposes mentioned by you for the delay are answered.
I shall now mention some matters to you in confidence. Mr. Pendleton’s declining to accept the appointment of district judge has embarrassed me, and this embarrassment was not a little increased by the lateness of the period at which (being on a tour through the eastern States) I came to the knowledge of it. When I was about to make the nominations in the judiciary for the Union, the character and abilities of Mr. Wythe did not escape me; and I accordingly consulted such gentlemen from the State of Virginia, (then in this city,) as I thought most likely to have some knowledge of his inclinations. Their opinion was, that, as he had lately been appointed sole Chancellor, an office to which by inclination he was led, and engaged in other avocations, which engrossed his attention and appeared to afford him pleasure, he would not exchange the former for a federal appointment. However, since these appointments have been announced, I have heard that it has been the wonder of some in Virginia, that Mr. Wythe should have been overlooked. The cause (if the epithet applies) I have assigned. And if there was reason to apprehend a refusal in the first instance, the non-acceptance of Colonel Pendleton would be no inducement to him to come forward in the second. To consult him through the medium of a friend there was not time, as the third Tuesday in December is the day appointed for holding the District Court in the district of Virginia, and to hazard a second refusal I was on many accounts unwilling to do. Under these circumstances I have, by the powers of the constitution, appointed Mr. Cyrus Griffin during the recess of the Senate.
My reasons for this appointment in preference to any other, except Mr. Wythe, are, because he has, (as I am informed,) been regularly bred to the law, has been in the court of appeals, has been discontinued of the Council in Virginia, (contrary to the expectation of his friends here at the time, who thought that his temporary appointment as a negotiator with the southern Indians would not bring him under the disqualifying law of Virginia,) and thereby thrown entirely out of employment, and because I had it in my power to ascertain with precision his acceptance. I shall say nothing of his being a man of amiable character and of competent abilities, because in these respects some of the present judges in that State may be his equals; but to what I have said may be added, he has no employment now, and needs the emolument of one as much as any of them.
I will not conceal from you, that two motives have induced me to give this explanation; the first, if a favorable opportunity should present itself, is, that Mr. Wythe may, in a delicate manner, be informed of the principles by which I was governed in this business; the second, that my inducements to appoint Mr. Griffin may not, (if the propriety of it should be questioned,) be altogether unknown. For having in every appointment endeavored, as far as my own knowledge of characters extended, or information could be obtained, to select the fittest and most acceptable persons, and having reason to believe that the appointments, which have been made heretofore, have given very general satisfaction, it would give me pain if Mr. Wythe or any of his friends should conceive, that he has been passed by from improper motives. I have prejudices against none, nor partialities which shall bias me in favor of any one. If I err, then, my errors will be of the head, and not of the heart of, my dear Sir, your most obedient, &c.1
[1 ]In reply, Mr. Randolph said: “You may be assured, that Mr. Wythe neither wished nor expected to be the successor of Mr. Pendleton.”—December 15th. Again: “I found a fortunate moment for a conversation with Mr. Wythe. He repeated what I wrote to you in answer to your favor of the 30th ultimo. Indeed he declared himself happy in believing, that he held a place in your esteem, and that he was confident you had looked towards him with every partiality, which he could wish. Nay, without going into the detail of our discourse, I am convinced from his own mouth, that the knowledge of his present situation is considered by him as the only reason of a seat on the bench not being tendered to him.”—Richmond, December 23d.