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Herald-Phoenix, Windham, CT, front page, August 15, 1795

In July 1795, before receiving President George Washington’s letter of acceptance, John Rutledge made a speech at a Charleston church. He coarsely criticized the peace treaty John Jay had recently negotiated with Great Britain. The president and Congress supported Jay’s treaty. When newspapers publicized Rutledge’s remarks, public opinion turned against him.

Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress

Herald-Phoenix, Windham, CT, front page, August 15, 1795 Herald-Phoenix, Windham, CT, front page, August 15, 1795

The Senate Rejects a Chief Justice

While Congress was in recess in 1795, President George Washington appointed a successor to resigning Chief Justice John Jay. Washington chose John Rutledge, who sought the position and had briefly served as an associate justice. Before the Senate reconvened, Rutledge made a speech harshly criticizing Jay and the president. When the Senate met to exercise its power of advice and consent, it rejected Rutledge because of his political activity. It was the Senate’s first rejection of a Supreme Court nominee.

Presidential appointments of Supreme Court justices require the Senate’s advice and consent. The Senate withheld its consent to a Supreme Court nomination for the first time in 1795.