John Blair Jr.
John Blair Jr. was an American politician, Founding Father and jurist. John Blair was one of the best-trained jurists of his day. A famous legal scholar, he avoided the tumult of state politics, preferring to work behind the scenes, but he was devoted to the idea of a permanent union of the newly independent states and loyally supported fellow Virginians James Madison and George Washington at the Constitutional Convention. His greatest contribution as a Founding Father came not in Philadelphia, but as a judge on the Virginia court of appeals and on the U. S. Supreme Court, where he influenced the interpretation of the Constitution in a number of important decisions. Contemporaries praised Blair for such personal strengths as gentleness and benevolence, for his ability to penetrate to the heart of a legal question. Born in Williamsburg, Colony of Virginia Blair was a member of a prominent Virginia family. John Blair served on the Virginia Council and was for a time acting Royal governor, his granduncle, James Blair, was founder and first president of the College of Mary.
Blair attended William & Mary, receiving an A. B. in 1754. In 1755 he went to London to study law at the Middle Temple. Returning home to practice law, he was thrust into public life, beginning his public career shortly after the close of the French and Indian War with his election to the seat reserved for the College of William and Mary in the House of Burgesses, he went on to become clerk of the Royal Governor's Council, the upper house of the colonial legislature. Blair joined the moderate wing of the Patriot cause, he opposed Patrick Henry's extremist resolutions in protest of the Stamp Act, but the dissolution of the House of Burgesses by Parliament profoundly altered his views. In response to a series of Parliamentary taxes on the colonies, Blair joined George Washington and others in 1770 and again in 1774 to draft nonimportation agreements which pledged their supporters to cease importing British goods until the taxes were repealed. In the latter year he reacted to Parliament's passage of the Intolerable Acts by joining those calling for a Continental Congress and pledging support for the people of Boston who were suffering economic hardship because of Parliament's actions.
When the Revolution began, Blair became involved in the government of his state. He served as a member of the convention that drew up Virginia's constitution and held a number of important committee positions, including a seat on the Committee of 28 that framed Virginia's Declaration of Rights and plan of government, he served on Governor Patrick Henry's major advisory group. The legislature elected him to a judgeship in the general court in 1778 and soon thereafter to the post of chief justice, he was elected to Virginia's high court of chancery, where his colleague was George Wythe a fellow delegate to the Constitutional Convention. These judicial appointments automatically made Blair a member of Virginia's first court of appeals. On the Virginia Court of Appeals, Blair participated in The Commonwealth of Virginia v. Caton et al. which set the precedent that courts can deem legislative acts unconstitutional. This decision was a precursor to the United States Supreme Court decision in Madison.
In 1786, the legislature, recognizing Blair's prestige as a jurist, appointed him Thomas Jefferson's successor on a committee revising the laws of Virginia. While crossing on foot an old bridge over a flooded river en route home from the Convention and George Washington narrowly escaped accident when one of the carriage horses fell through the bridge. George Washington nominated Blair to the Supreme Court of the United States on September 24, 1789, the United States Senate confirmed the nomination two days later, he took the prescribed judicial oath on February 2, 1790. The Court's caseload during Blair's tenure was light, with only 13 cases decided over six years. Justice Blair participated, though, in the Court's landmark case of Chisholm v. Georgia, considered the first United States Supreme Court case of significance and impact. Blair resigned on October 25, 1795, died in Williamsburg in 1800, aged 68, he was buried at the Bruton Parish Episcopal Church Cemetery in Williamsburg. Blair was a Freemason.
He was named Grand Master of Freemasons in Virginia under the newly organized Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1778. Blair Street in Madison, Wisconsin is named in his honor. List of Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States Jay Court Abraham, Henry J.. Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506557-3. Cushman, Clare; the Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1995.. ISBN 1-56802-126-7. Flanders, Henry; the Lives and Times of the Chief Justices of the United States Supreme Court. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1874 at Google Books. Frank, John P.. Friedman, Leon; the Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 0-7910-1377-4. Hall, Kermit L. ed.. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505835-6. Martin, Fenton S.. The U. S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Washington, D. C.: Congressional Quarterly Books.
ISBN 0-87187-554-3. Urofsky, Melvin I.. The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland Publishing. P. 590. ISBN 0-8153-1176-1. John Blair Jr. at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public
Impeachment in the United States
Impeachment in the United States is the process by which the lower house of a legislature brings charges against a civil officer of government for crimes alleged to have been committed, analogous to the bringing of an indictment by a grand jury. At the federal level, this is at the discretion of the House of Representatives. Most impeachments have concerned alleged crimes committed while in office, though there have been a few cases in which officials have been impeached and subsequently convicted for crimes committed prior to taking office; the impeached official remains in office. That trial, their removal from office if convicted, is separate from the act of impeachment itself. Analogous to a trial before a judge and jury, these proceedings are conducted by upper house of the legislature, which at the federal level is the Senate. At the federal level, Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the Constitution grants to the House of Representatives "the sole power of impeachment", Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 grants to the Senate "the sole Power to try all Impeachments".
In considering articles of impeachment, the House is obligated to base any charges on the constitutional standards specified in Article II, Section 4: "The President, Vice President, all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, conviction of, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors." Impeachment can occur at the state level. Each state's legislature can impeach state officials, including the governor, in accordance with their respective state constitution; the number of federal officials impeached by the House of Representatives includes two presidents: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Additionally, an impeachment process against Richard Nixon was commenced, but not completed, as he resigned from office before the full House voted on the articles of impeachment. To date, no president has been removed from office by conviction. Impeachment proceedings may be commenced by a member of the House of Representatives on his or her own initiative, either by presenting a list of the charges under oath or by asking for referral to the appropriate committee.
The impeachment process may be initiated by non-members. For example, when the Judicial Conference of the United States suggests a federal judge be impeached, a charge of actions constituting grounds for impeachment may come from a special prosecutor, the President, or state or territorial legislature, grand jury, or by petition; the type of impeachment resolution determines the committee. A resolution impeaching a particular individual is referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. A resolution to authorize an investigation regarding impeachable conduct is referred to the House Committee on Rules, to the Judiciary Committee; the House Committee on the Judiciary, by majority vote, will determine whether grounds for impeachment exist. If the Committee finds grounds for impeachment, it will set forth specific allegations of misconduct in one or more articles of impeachment; the Impeachment Resolution, or Articles of Impeachment, are reported to the full House with the committee's recommendations.
The House debates the resolution and may at the conclusion consider the resolution as a whole or vote on each article of impeachment individually. A simple majority of those present and voting is required for each article for the resolution as a whole to pass. If the House votes to impeach, managers are selected to present the case to the Senate. Managers have been selected by resolution, while the House would elect the managers or pass a resolution allowing the appointment of managers at the discretion of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives; these managers are the equivalent of the prosecution or district attorney in a standard criminal trial. The House will adopt a resolution in order to notify the Senate of its action. After receiving the notice, the Senate will adopt an order notifying the House that it is ready to receive the managers; the House managers appear before the bar of the Senate and exhibit the articles of impeachment. After the reading of the charges, the managers make a verbal report to the House.
The proceedings unfold in the form of a trial, with each side having the right to call witnesses and perform cross-examinations. The House members, who are given the collective title of managers during the course of the trial, present the prosecution case, the impeached official has the right to mount a defense with his or her own attorneys as well. Senators must take an oath or affirmation that they will perform their duties and with due diligence. After hearing the charges, the Senate deliberates in private; the Constitution requires a two-thirds super majority to convict a person being impeached. The Senate enters judgment on its decision, whether that be to convict or acquit, a copy of the judgment is filed with the Secretary of State. Upon conviction in the Senate, the official is automatically removed from office and may be barred from holding future office; the trial is not an actual criminal proceeding and more resembles a civil service termination appeal in terms of the contemplated deprivation.
Therefore, the removed official may still be liable to criminal prosecution under a subsequent criminal proceeding. The President may not grant a pardon in the impeachment case, but may in any resulting Federal criminal case. Beginning in the 1980s with Harry E. Claiborne, the Senate began using "Impeachment
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the United States Congress, the Senate being the upper chamber. Together they compose the legislature of the United States; the composition of the House is established by Article One of the United States Constitution. The House is composed of Representatives who sit in congressional districts that are allocated to each of the 50 states on a basis of population as measured by the U. S. Census, with each district entitled to one representative. Since its inception in 1789, all Representatives have been directly elected; the total number of voting representatives is fixed by law at 435. As of the 2010 Census, the largest delegation is that of California, with fifty-three representatives. Seven states have only one representative: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming; the House is charged with the passage of federal legislation, known as bills, after concurrence by the Senate, are sent to the President for consideration.
In addition to this basic power, the House has certain exclusive powers, among them the power to initiate all bills related to revenue. The House meets in the south wing of the United States Capitol; the presiding officer is the Speaker of the House, elected by the members thereof. The Speaker and other floor leaders are chosen by the Democratic Caucus or the Republican Conference, depending on whichever party has more voting members. Under the Articles of Confederation, the Congress of the Confederation was a unicameral body in which each state was represented, in which each state had a veto over most action. After eight years of a more limited confederal government under the Articles, numerous political leaders such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton initiated the Constitutional Convention in 1787, which received the Confederation Congress's sanction to "amend the Articles of Confederation". All states except Rhode Island agreed to send delegates; the issue of how to structure Congress was one of the most divisive among the founders during the Convention.
Edmund Randolph's Virginia Plan called for a bicameral Congress: the lower house would be "of the people", elected directly by the people of the United States and representing public opinion, a more deliberative upper house, elected by the lower house, that would represent the individual states, would be less susceptible to variations of mass sentiment. The House is referred to as the lower house, with the Senate being the upper house, although the United States Constitution does not use that terminology. Both houses' approval is necessary for the passage of legislation; the Virginia Plan drew the support of delegates from large states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania, as it called for representation based on population. The smaller states, favored the New Jersey Plan, which called for a unicameral Congress with equal representation for the states; the Convention reached the Connecticut Compromise or Great Compromise, under which one house of Congress would provide representation proportional to each state's population, whereas the other would provide equal representation amongst the states.
The Constitution was ratified by the requisite number of states in 1788, but its implementation was set for March 4, 1789. The House began work on April 1789, when it achieved a quorum for the first time. During the first half of the 19th century, the House was in conflict with the Senate over regionally divisive issues, including slavery; the North was much more populous than the South, therefore dominated the House of Representatives. However, the North held no such advantage in the Senate, where the equal representation of states prevailed. Regional conflict was most pronounced over the issue of slavery. One example of a provision supported by the House but blocked by the Senate was the Wilmot Proviso, which sought to ban slavery in the land gained during the Mexican–American War. Conflict over slavery and other issues persisted until the Civil War, which began soon after several southern states attempted to secede from the Union; the war culminated in the abolition of slavery. All southern senators except Andrew Johnson resigned their seats at the beginning of the war, therefore the Senate did not hold the balance of power between North and South during the war.
The years of Reconstruction that followed witnessed large majorities for the Republican Party, which many Americans associated with the Union's victory in the Civil War and the ending of slavery. The Reconstruction period ended in about 1877; the Democratic Party and Republican Party each held majorities in the House at various times. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a dramatic increase in the power of the Speaker of the House; the rise of the Speaker's influence began in the 1890s, during the tenure of Republican Thomas Brackett Reed. "Czar Reed", as he was nicknamed, attempted to put into effect his view that "The best system is to have one party govern and the other party watch." The leadership structure of the House developed during the same period, with the positions of Majority Leader and Minority Leader being created in 1899. While the Minority Leader
Annapolis Convention (1774–1776)
The Annapolis Convention was an Assembly of the Counties of Maryland that functioned as the colony's provincial government from 1774 to 1776 during the early days leading up to the American Revolution. After 1775, it was named the Assembly of Freemen. In 1774, the committees of correspondence that had sprung up throughout the colonies were being drawn to the support of Boston, as they reacted to the closing of the port and increase of the occupying military force. Massachusetts had asked for Continental Congress to consider joint action. To forestall any such action, the royal governor of Maryland, Robert Eden prorogued the Assembly on April 19, 1774; this was the last session of the colonial assembly held in Maryland. But, the assembly members agreed to meet in June at Annapolis after they went home to determine the wishes of the citizens in the counties they represented. Over the next two and a half years, the Convention met nine times and operated as the state or colony level of Government for Maryland.
Throughout the period, they maintained some standing Committees that continued their function between sessions. The first convention lasted four days, from June 22 to June 25, 1774. All sixteen counties were represented by a total of 92 members, they elected Matthew Tilghman as their chair. Within that short time, they agreed: That. Passed resolutions supporting Boston, ordered supplies sent to them; the Convention would continue from time to time as needed. A Committee of Correspondence would continue between sessions, members were named, they would support non-importation agreements. Elected delegates to the first Continental Congress. Other sessions were held on November 21 – November 25, December 8 – December 12. July 26 – August 14 and December 7, 1775 – January 28, 1776 ASSOCIATION of the FREEMEN of MARYLAND July 26, 1775; the long premeditated, now avowed design of the British Government, to raise a revenue from the property of the colonists without their consent, on the gift and disposition of the Commons of Great Britain.
The Congress chose the latter, for the express purpose of securing and defending the united colonies, preserving them in safety, against all attempts to carry the above-mentioned acts into execution by force of arms. Resolved, that the said colonies be put into a state of defence, now supports, at the joint expense, an army to restrain the further violence, repel the future attacks of a disappointed and exasperated enemy. We therefore inhabitants of the Province of Maryland persuaded that it is necessary and justifiable to repel force by force, do approve of the opposition by Arms to the British troops, employed to enforce obedience to the late acts and statutes of the British parliament, for raising a revenue in America, altering and changing the charter and constitution of the Massachusetts Bay, for destroying the essential securities for the lives and properties of the subjects in the united colonies, and we do unite and associate, as one band and solemnly engage and pledge ourselves to each other, to America, that we will to the utmost of our power and support the present opposition, carrying on, as well by Arms, as by the continental association, restraining our commerce.
And as in these times of public danger, until a reconciliation with Great Britain, on constitutional principles is effected the energy of government may be impaired, so that zeal unrestrained, may be productive of anarchy and confusion. The original engagement of the Associators, preserved under glass at Annapolis, consists of two pieces torn apart, pasted down on card-board. On our p. 67 the order of names and arrangement of columns have been preserved, though not the spacing. On comparing these signatures with the Journal, 29 names will be found to be missing, viz: Philip Richard Fendall I of Charles Co..
Alien and Sedition Acts
The Alien and Sedition Acts were four laws passed by the Federalist-dominated 5th United States Congress and signed into law by President John Adams in 1798. They made it harder for an immigrant to become a citizen, allowed the president to imprison and deport non-citizens who were deemed dangerous or who were from a hostile nation, criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government; the Federalists argued that the bills strengthened national security during the Quasi-War, an undeclared naval war with France from 1798 to 1800. Critics argued that they were an attempt to suppress voters who disagreed with the Federalist party and its teachings, violated the right of freedom of speech in the First Amendment; the Naturalization Act increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years. At the time, the majority of immigrants supported Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, the political opponents of the Federalists; the Alien Friends Act allowed the president to imprison or deport aliens considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" at any time, while the Alien Enemies Act authorized the president to do the same to any male citizen of a hostile nation above the age of fourteen during times of war.
Lastly, the controversial Sedition Act restricted speech, critical of the federal government. Under the Sedition Act, the Federalists allowed people who were accused of violating the sedition laws to use truth as a defense; the Sedition Act resulted in the prosecution and conviction of many Jeffersonian newspaper owners who disagreed with the government. The acts were denounced by Democratic-Republicans and helped them to victory in the 1800 election, when Thomas Jefferson defeated the incumbent, President Adams; the Sedition Act and the Alien Friends Act were allowed to expire in 1801, respectively. The Alien Enemies Act, remains in effect as Chapter 3, it was used by the government to identify and imprison dangerous enemy aliens from Germany and Italy in World War II. After the war they were deported to their home countries. In 1948 the Supreme Court determined that presidential powers under the acts continued after cessation of hostilities until there was a peace treaty with the hostile nation.
The revised Alien Enemies Act remains in effect today. Opposition to the Federalists, spurred by Democratic-Republicans, reached new heights with the Democratic-Republicans' support of France, still in the midst of the French Revolution; some appeared to desire in the United States an event similar to the French Revolution, in order to overthrow the government. When Democratic-Republicans in some states refused to enforce federal laws such as the 1791 whiskey tax, the first tax levied by the national government, threatened to rebel, Federalists warned that they would send in the army to force them to capitulate; as the unrest sweeping Europe spread to the United States, calls for secession reached unparalleled heights, the fledgling nation seemed ready to tear itself apart. Some of this agitation was seen by Federalists as having been caused by French and French-sympathizing immigrants; the Alien Act and the Sedition Act were meant to guard against this perceived threat of anarchy. They were a major political issue in the elections of 1798 and 1800, controversial and remaining so today.
Opposition to them resulted in the controversial Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, authored by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Prominent prosecutions under the Sedition Act include: James Thomson Callender, a Scottish citizen, had been expelled from Great Britain for his political writings. Living first in Philadelphia seeking refuge close by in Virginia, he wrote a book titled The Prospect Before Us in which he called the Adams administration a "continual tempest of malignant passions" and the President a "repulsive pedant, a gross hypocrite and an unprincipled oppressor." Callender residing in Virginia and writing for the Richmond Examiner, was indicted in mid-1800 under the Sedition Act and convicted, fined $200, sentenced to nine months in jail. Matthew Lyon was a Democratic-Republican congressman from Vermont, he was the first individual to be placed on trial under the Sedition Acts. He was indicted in 1800 for an essay he had written in the Vermont Journal accusing the administration of "ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, selfish avarice."
While awaiting trial, Lyon commenced publication of Lyon's Republican Magazine, subtitled "The Scourge of Aristocracy". At trial, he was sentenced to four months in jail. After his release, he returned to Congress.:102–08 Benjamin Franklin Bache was editor of the Philadelphia Aurora, a Democratic-Republican newspaper. Bache had accused George Washington of incompetence and financial irregularities, "the blind, crippled, querulous Adams" of nepotism and monarchical ambition, he was arrested in 1798 under the Sedition Act, but he died of yellow fever before trial.:27–29, 65, 96 Anthony Haswell was an English immigrant and a printer of the Jeffersonian Vermont Gazette. Haswell had reprinted from the Aurora Bache's claim that the federal government employed Tories publishing an advertisement from Lyon's sons for a lottery to raise money for his fine that decried Lyon's oppression by jailers exercising "usurped powers". Haswell was found guilty of seditious libel by judge William Paterso
Sons of Liberty
The Sons of Liberty was a secret organization, created in the Thirteen American Colonies to advance the rights of the European colonists and to fight taxation by the British government. It played a major role in most colonies in battling the Stamp Act in 1765; the group disbanded after the Stamp Act was repealed. However, the name was applied to other local separatist groups during the years preceding the American Revolution. In the popular thought, the Sons of Liberty was a formal underground organization with recognized members and leaders. More the name was an underground term for any men resisting new Crown taxes and laws; the well-known label allowed organizers to make or create anonymous summons to a Liberty Tree, "Liberty Pole", or other public meeting-place. Furthermore, a unifying name helped to promote inter-Colonial efforts against Parliament and the Crown's actions, their motto became "No taxation without representation." In 1765, the British government needed money to afford the 10,000 officers and soldiers living in the colonies, intended that the colonists living there should contribute.
The British passed a series of taxes aimed at the colonists, many of the colonists refused to pay certain taxes. This became known as "No Taxation without Representation." Parliament insisted on its right to rule the colonies despite the fact that the colonists had no representative in Parliament. The most incendiary tax was the Stamp Act of 1765, which caused a firestorm of opposition through legislative resolutions, public demonstrations and occasional hurtful losses; the organization spread hour by hour, after independent starts in several different colonies. In August 1765, the group was founded in Massachusetts. By November 6, a committee was set up in New York to correspond with other colonies. In December, an alliance was formed between groups in New Connecticut. January bore witness to a correspondence link between Boston and New York City, by March, Providence had initiated connections with New York, New Hampshire, Newport, Rhode Island. March marked the emergence of Sons of Liberty organizations in New Jersey and Virginia.
In Boston, another example of violence could be found in their treatment of local stamp distributor Andrew Oliver. They burned his effigy in the streets; when he did not resign, they escalated to burning down his office building. After he resigned, they destroyed the whole house of his close associate Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson, it is believed that the Sons of Liberty did this to excite the lower classes and get them involved in rebelling against the authorities. Their actions made. Early in the American Revolution, the former Sons of Liberty joined more formal groups, such as the Committee of Safety; the Sons of Liberty popularized the use of tar and feathering to punish and humiliate offending government officials starting in 1767. This method was used against British Loyalists during the American Revolution; this punishment had long been used by sailors to punish their mates. In December 1773, a new group calling itself the Sons of Liberty issued and distributed a declaration in New York City called the Association of the Sons of Liberty in New York," which formally stated that they were opposed to the Tea Act and that anyone who assisted in the execution of the act was "an enemy to the liberties of America" and that "whoever shall transgress any of these resolutions, we will not deal with, or employ, or have any connection with him."
After the end of the American Revolutionary War, Isaac Sears, Marinus Willet, John Lamb in New York City revived the Sons of Liberty. In March 1784, they rallied an enormous crowd that called for the expulsion of any remaining Loyalists from the state starting May 1; the Sons of Liberty were able to gain enough seats in the New York assembly elections of December 1784 to have passed a set of punitive laws against Loyalists. In violation of the Treaty of Paris, they called for the confiscation of the property of Loyalists. Alexander Hamilton defended the Loyalists. In 1767, the Sons of Liberty adopted a flag called the rebellious stripes flag with nine vertical stripes, four white and five red. A flag having 13 horizontal red and white stripes was used by Commodore Esek Hopkins and by American merchant ships during the war; this flag was associated with the Sons of Liberty. Red and white were common colors of the flags, although other color combinations were used, such as green and white or yellow and white.
Samuel Adams – political writer, tax collector, cousin of John Adams, fire warden. Founded the Sons Of Liberty, Boston Joseph Allicocke – One of the leaders of the Sons in New York, of African ancestry. Benedict Arnold – businessman General in the Continental Army and the British Army Timothy Bigelow – blacksmith, Worcester John Brown – business leader of Providence, Rhode Island John Crane – carpenter, colonel in command of the 3rd Continental Artillery Regiment, Braintree Benjamin Edes – journalist/publisher Boston Gazette, Boston Christopher Gadsden – merchant, South Carolina John Hancock – merchant, fire warden, Boston Patrick Henry – lawyer, Virginia John Lamb – trader, New York City Alexander McDougall – captain of privateers, New York City Hercules Mulligan – tailor, spy under George Washington for the Continental Army, friend of Alexander Hamilton James Otis – lawyer, Massachusetts Matthew Phripp – a merc
New Castle Court House Museum
The New Castle Court House Museum is the center of a circle with a 12-mile radius that defines most of the border between the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania and parts of the borders between Delaware and New Jersey and Maryland. It is one of the oldest courthouses in the United States and has played a role in a number of historic events, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1972. The building is a contributing property to a second National Historic Landmark, the New Castle Historic District, it is part of First State National Historical Park. In 1682, the Duke of York gave William Penn a deed for land consisting of a 12-mile circle around the town of New Castle; the borders established by this deed were immediately contested by Lord Baltimore, proprietor of the colony of Maryland, thus began an 87-year legal struggle between the two families. Penn first commissioned a survey of the circle in 1701; as part of the boundary dispute, the two families created a Commission led by Governor Patrick Gordon of Pennsylvania and Governor Samuel Ogle of Maryland, the Commission met in the New Castle Court House four times in 1732 and 1733.
A subsequent Commission, including William Allen and Benjamin Chew met in the Court House in 1750, where it was agreed by both sides that the cupola of the Court House building would be used as the center of the 12 mile circle. The Commission met in the Court House again in 1751 and 1760; the final survey of the borders as part of the boundary dispute was conducted in 1763 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who ran a series of chains on a straight 12 mile line from the Court House. Their Mason–Dixon line has been used as the unofficial dividing line between the north and the south; the Penns and Calverts agreed to the results of the Mason-Dixon survey, their border dispute was resolved when the British crown ratified the border in 1769. The circle was surveyed again in 1849 by the Army's Corps of Topographical Engineers, again in 1892 by the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey; the borders created by the 12 mile circle were heavily contested by New Jersey beginning in 1820, when New Jersey disputed Delaware's cessation of Pea Patch Island to the United States government since the island was on the New Jersey side of the river.
Secretary of War John C. Calhoun requested a legal opinion from Attorney General William Wirt. Wirt's conclusion, based on a report by George Read, Jr. and former Attorney General Caesar A. Rodney was that the state of Delaware had the valid claim. After conflicting opinions from two different circuit courts on the issue, President James K. Polk intervened in 1847 and suggested an arbitrator resolve the disagreement. John Sergeant was appointed arbitrator, in Independence Hall heard arguments from the United States and a citizen of New Jersey regarding the history of colonial deeds and the origin of the Twelve Mile Circle. Sergeant ruled that the deed for the circle was valid and the island had belonged to the state of Delaware. New Jersey contested the circle's borders again in 1872, when Delaware arrested several New Jersey fishermen and New Jersey claimed ownership of the Delaware River up to the middle point; the issue has been adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court several times in cases named New Jersey v. Delaware, the extensive history of the circle and border dispute were documented by Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo in the 1934 case.
The oldest known courthouse on the site dates back to 1687. The building was both a courthouse and a seat of government, as the building was used by the colonial assembly. During the years when Pennsylvania and Delaware shared an assembly, it met in Philadelphia, but met in New Castle instead, such as in 1684 and 1690. In 1700, the Pennsylvania colonial assembly met in the constructed Court House, with William Penn in attendance. In addition to the routine passing of laws, Penn's primary focus during the 1700 session was healing a rift that had developed between the assemblymen from Pennsylvania proper and those from Delaware; this attempt was unsuccessful. In 1704, after the Pennsylvania counties sought to expand their representation in the assembly, the three Delaware counties demanded, were granted, an independent assembly so they could pass their own laws, they chose grandfather of Caesar Rodney, as their first Speaker. From that year on, the assembly that met in the Court House governed Delaware alone.
This earlier building was destroyed by a fire in 1729 caused by a prisoner's attempt to escape. The Court House was rebuilt on the same site within a year, the foundation of the original is still visible. In 1774, the assembly met here and chose three of Delaware's most famous politicians to represent the colony in the Continental Congress: Thomas McKean, Caesar Rodney, George Read, it was in this building that the assembly, at McKean's urging, voted on June 13, 1776 to sever all ties with England as well as the state of Pennsylvania, with which Delaware still shared a governor. The assembly resolved that: Whereas it is become necessary for the safety and happiness of the good people of this colony, forthwith to establish some authority adequately to the exigency of their affairs, until a new government can be formed. Resolved unanimously, that all persons holding any office, civil or military, in this colony, on the 13 day of June instant and shall continue to execute the same, in