WASHINGTON, GEORGE (1732-1799), President. Letter signed ("Go:Washington") as President to George Read, Jr., [New York], 30 September 1789. 1 page, 4to, paper slightly brittle, several chips to left-hand edge (repairable), not affecting text.
"THE HIGH IMPORTANCE OF THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN OUR NATIONAL GOVERNMENT": THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE JUDICIARY UNDER THE CONSTITUTION
The general, non-specific character of Article 3 of the Constitution, regarding the judiciary, made it necessary for the new Congress, as one if its earliest acts to draft the Judiciary Act of 1789, creating the actual framework of the nation's judicial system. That key act was signed into law by President Washington on 24 September, and almost immediately afterwards, he began to sign the necessary judicial appointments, like the present, to make it operative. Here, he names Read, the son of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, to the post of District Attorney for the state of Delaware: "I have the pleasure to inform you that you are appointed Attorney of the District of Delaware, and your commission is enclosed [not present], accompanied with such laws as have passed relative to the Judicial Department of the United States. The high importance of the Judicial System in our national Government, made it an indispensable duty to select such characters to fill the several offices in it as would discharge their respective trusts with honor to themselves and advantage to their Country."
Read was a member of an important Delaware family that played a key role in that state's social and political development. George Read Jr. accepted the judicial post offered by the President here and served as District Attorney for an astonishing 47 years (1789-1836). His father, George Read Sr. (1733-1798), had served as Crown District attorney, was a delegate to the Continental Congress and the only Signer to have voted against independence. George Sr. also served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and worked tirelessly to ensure that Delaware was the first state to ratify the Federal Constitution.
Washington's circular letters making judicial appointments are unexpectedly rare; we trace no other examples at auction in over 25 years. Published in Fitzpatrick, 30:424.