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    President James Madison seeks a replacement for Supreme Court Justice William Cushing

    James Madison Autograph Letter Signed "James Madison" as President. One page, 8" x 9.75", Washington, June 10, 1811, to Asher Robbins. Robbins, a prominent Rhode Island attorney, had been forwarded as a potential successor to Supreme Court Justice William Cushing, who had died on September 13, 1810. Some of Robbins' political enemies had denounced him as a tool of the Federalists. One correspondent told Madison that "objections might be found in his political character, as a Monarchist, &c &c in his moral character as a Speculator &c." Asher caught wind of these intrigues and wrote Madison to clear his name: "I have been recently informed, from a source entitled to respect, that whilst you were deliberating upon the selection of a Successor to Judge Cushing, you received a letter from this State, denouncing me as a monarchist in principle. . . . I owe it to myself to declare to you Sir, that the representation is a calumny, fabricated without the least regard to truth, and for which I defy the writer to give even a specious excuse, from an thing any thing I ever wrote or said."

    Madison, who had been dodging requests from every political quarter to fill the seat, diplomatically responded to Robbins in this letter: "I have duly received your letter of the 3d instant. Its declaration of your principles & sentiments on certain subjects will have the attention which is due to the frankness and explicitness with which it is made. I ought at the same time not to authorize and influence form this assurance, that might prejudice any individual whatever in your estimation." Robbins was passed over for nomination for the Supreme Court for Joseph Story (1779 - 1845) who is perhaps best known for his opinion in United States v. Amistad. The next year, Madison would reward Robbins for his patience with an appointment as United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island. In 1818, he entered politics and was elected to the Rhode Island Assembly. In 1825 he was elected as Senator where he served as an anti-Jacksonian and later Whig until 1839. Faint dampstains, usual folds, and slight damage to the upper left corner.

    References for Quotations:
    J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison Digital Edition. David Howell to James Madison, 26 November 1810 (also see Charles Collins and David A. Leonard to James Madison, 27 November 1810); Asher Robbins to James Madison, 3 June 1811.

    Provenance: Walter Benjamin, The Collector, No 801 [1967], item A-98.


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