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Lot #3
John Adams

The federal judiciary faces a major overhaul in 1799 as President Adams appoints a Maryland politician to the district court

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The federal judiciary faces a major overhaul in 1799 as President Adams appoints a Maryland politician to the district court

Manuscript vellum DS as president, one page, 16.5 x 13, December 10, 1799. Adams appoints James Winchester of Maryland “Judge of the District Court in and for Maryland District.” Signed at the conclusion by Adams and countersigned by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering. In very good condition, with intersecting folds, one through a single letter of signature, scattered toning and soiling, heavier to center of document, light creasing and wrinkling, mounting remnant and small hole to top edge, and a few stains. The white seal is toned and worn, but mostly intact.

Winchester, a Maryland politician, received a recess appointment from Adams in October 1799 and was formally nominated on December 8, receiving his commission—the document offered here—two days later. Winchester’s judicial appointment came as the nation was quickly outgrowing the judicial structure created in 1789. That system provided for a Supreme Court of six justices, regional circuit courts, and district courts, with a Supreme Court justice presiding over each session of a circuit court. The result was a nearly impossible schedule of travel for the judges, and created such unusual scenarios as a justice hearing an appeal of a case he had decided at a lower level. In his annual messages of 1799 and 1800, Adams recommended judicial reform, but Congress was unable to agree on a bill until after the 1800 presidential election—in which Adams was defeated by Thomas Jefferson. This appointment dates to a period of pending reform of the federal judiciary. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RRAuction COA.

Auction Info

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  • Dates: #360 - Ended August 11, 2010

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