Description[Samuel Chase] Impeachment of Samuel Chase: William S. Biddle Autograph Letter Signed. Six pages, 8" x 10", Philadelphia, March 25, 1805, to his brother, Nicholas Biddle ("care of his Exc. General [John] Armstrong Min. Plenip. of the U. States of America") in Paris, containing news on the Samuel Chase impeachment and the Aaron Burr western secession conspiracy.
Concerning the Chase trial, Biddle writes in part, "I spent the month of February at the City of Washington where I was summoned to attend the Senate as a witness on the Trial of Judge Chase. The Judge was acquitted, 19 being the highest number of votes against him on any one article. The whole of this interesting Trial will shortly be published in a volume which I will send to you. On the 4th february, Chase's answer to the articles of Impeachment was read & in a few days after the replication of the House of R. was put in & the Trial proceeded. The managers were [John] Randolph, Nicholson, Rodney, Early, Campbell, Clarke & Boyle all of whom except the last spoke. None of them possessed abilities equal to the occasion. . . . Even Randolph." Chase, who had been appointed by President George Washington in 1796 as a Supreme Court associate justice, was impeached in 1805, making him the only Supreme Court justice ever impeached. During the impeachment process, William Biddle was summoned as a witness for the prosecution. John Randolph of Roanoke, a dandy known to use opium, asked Biddle eleven questions during his examination.
Concerning Aaron Burr, who presided over the Senate during Chase's impeachment, Biddle writes in part, "Mr. [Aaron] Burr presided upon this Trial & had the whole management of the mode of conducting it. . . . Mr. Burr is at present in Philada., undetermined I believe as to his future plan of Life, a Bill of Indictment was found by the Grand Jury of Bergen County, New Jersey, on a law of Jersey. . . . It is said in some of the Prints that his active genius is employed in bringing about a separation of the Western States from the Atlantic." Burr had left the vice presidency three weeks before this letter was written. He travelled throughout the then western states, as rumors circulated back east that he was forming an army and a separate government. He was arrested in 1807 and tried for treason, but, just like Justice Chase, was acquitted. This letter, which contains a postscript dated November 4, 1806, also includes news of the end of the First Barbary War. Nicholas Biddle, the recipient of the letter, later served as the brilliant, yet arrogant, president of the Second Bank of the United States. The toned paper is in fine condition, yet bears a small amount of paper loss due to the original breaking of the seal.
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