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Guide to the Matthias B. Tallmadge Papers
 MS 612

New-York Historical Society
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@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Christine George

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on August 03, 2011
Finding Aid is written in English.
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Historical Note

Dates of Note
March 1, 1774 Matthias B. Tallmadge is born
1795 Tallmadge graduates from Yale University
1803-1805 Tallmadge serves as senator in New York State
June 12, 1805 President Thomas Jefferson gives Tallmadge recess appointment to New York District Court bench
December 23, 1805 United States Senate confirms Tallmadge as the 5th judge of the District of New York
April 9, 1814 The New York District Court is split and Tallmadge is reassigned to the Northern Distict of New York
1818 U.S. House of Representatives opens an impeachment investigation against Tallmadge after accusations that he has shirked his duty as the district judge in the Northern District of New York
February 7, 1819 Finding no cause for impeachment, investigation and charges against Tallmadge are dropped
July 1, 1819 Tallmadge resigns from his position of judge from the Northern District of New York
October 1, 1819 Tallmadge dies in Poughkeepsie, New York

Matthias Burnett Tallmadge was born in New York on March 1, 1774 to Colonel James Tallmadge and Ann Sutherland. Tallmadge graduated from Yale University in 1795 where he read law. He served on the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate before being appointed to the District Court of New York. President Thomas Jefferson gave Tallmadge a recess appointment to the bench on June 12, 1805, which had been vacated by John Sloss Hobart. Jefferson formally nominated Tallmadge for the position on December 20, 1805, and the Senate confirmed him on December 23 that same year, making Tallmadge the 5th judge of the New York District.

During Hobart’s tenure on the court, the New York District faced a rising number of admiralty cases due to unrest in Europe and the number of vessels that were seized. Until 1795 New York had a Vice-Admiralty Court which adjudicated what were considered “normal” maritime cases. Then, in 1778 (though it did not become active until 1784) the Court of the Admiralty of the State of New York took over the Vice-Admiralty Court’s jurisdiction. Later though, both courts fell to the wayside as New York’s Constitution vested the Federal Courts with admiralty jurisdiction. Admiralty law at this time covered a wide variety of offenses including breach of contract, customs claims, assault and battery, smuggling, salvage rights, and illegal transportation of both slaves and troops.

The illegal importation of slaves became a common issue beginning in 1808. Article I Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution protected slave trade for 20 years, allowing that laws could be made towards abolition starting in 1808. In 1807 Jefferson signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves into law which prohibited importing slaves into the United States, effective January 1, 1808. This illegal importation would be deemed piracy in 1819. Beginning in 1808, Tallmadge heard cases against captains and vessels accused of this illegal importation.

Perhaps the most notable case Tallmadge heard was U.S. v. Smith and Ogden (1806), which was a consequence of the Miranda Affair. Francisco de Miranda enlisted the help of William Stephens Smith (son-in-law to John Adams) to overthrow Spanish rule in Venezuela. Prior to leaving on the expedition, Miranda met and had private interviews with both President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison. Smith and Miranda chartered a boat from Samuel G. Ogden which they called the  Leander in 1806. The men gathered guns, money, and soldiers (referred to as a force of filibusters). The Spanish captured the ship and the mercenaries. Miranda managed to escape. Smith and Ogden were indicted and stood trial in New York for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794, which provided that no American should start war against a country the United States was at peace with. Smith claimed that he was under orders from the President and Secretary of State. Jefferson and Madison refused to appear in court. Both Smith and Ogden were found to be not guilty.

Tallmadge’s tenure on the bench, which lasted until he resigned on July 1, 1819, saw a marked change in New York's Federal Court. In 1814, the New York District was split into two separate districts, the Northern District of New York (which Tallmadge was reassigned to on April 9, 1814) and the Southern District of New York. William P. Van Ness, best known as being Aaron Burr’s second in Burr’s duel against Alexander Hamilton, was given the judgeship over the Southern District of New York. Tallmadge did not like Van Ness and did his best to have the two districts become completely separate. However, Tallmadge’s failing health made it necessary for Van Ness to preside over both districts, so no complete split was made.

In 1818 the U.S. House of Representatives opened an inquiry into Tallmadge’s court proceedings. He, along with Van Ness, was accused of not fulfilling his duties as a district judge, and faced potential impeachment. Tallmadge claimed he was catching up on work left by his predecessor and that his health was bad, which required a vacation. The investigators came to the conclusion that, although Tallmadge did not hold court on the days he was required to by law, it was not an impeachable offense. On February 17, 1819, it was recommended by the investigators that the inquiry be dropped.

Tallmadge resigned from the Northern District of New York on July 1, 1819. He died on October 1, 1819 in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Through blood and marriage, the Tallmadge family is related to many prominent individuals. Tallmadge, who is the main creator of these papers, was born in 1774 to Colonel James Tallmadge and Ann Southerland. Colonel James Tallmadge fought in the American Revolution, and his first cousin, through his father, was Benjamin Tallmadge who organized the Culper Spy Right for General George Washington during the American Revolution. Tallmadge’s brother, James Tallmadge Jr., served in the U.S. House of Representatives. His sister Rebecca married Theodorus Bailey, who served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and was later Postmaster of New York City. Another sister, Mary, married Stephen Gano who was a noted Baptist minister. Tallmadge’s first cousin, through his father, was Nathaniel Pitcher Tallmadge who was a U.S. Senator and later Governor of the Wisconsin Territory. A list of Colonel James Tallmadge’s immediate descendants can be seen below.

Tallmadge married Elizabeth Clinton, the daughter of the first New York Governor George Clinton, later Vice President of the United States. Elizabeth’s first cousin through her father was DeWitt Clinton, who served as a U.S. Senator and then Governor of New York. Elizabeth’s sister, Cornelia Tappen Clinton, married Edmund-Charles Genet, also known as Citizen Genet, who was the French Ambassador to the United States during the French Revolution. A list of George Clinton’s immediate descendants can be seen below.


H. Paul Burak, History of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (New York: Federal Bar Association of New York, New Jersey & Connecticut, 1962).

“Federal Court Records: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications (Part 2),” National Archives, accessed July 12, 2011.

“First Case Under Our Neutrality Laws,” Albany Law Journal 53 (1896): 182-87.

Mark Grossman, Political Corruption in America: An Encyclopedia of Scandals, Power, and Greed (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2003).

“Tallmadge, Matthias Burnett,” Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, Federal Judicial Center, accessed July 12, 2011.

Colonel James Tallmadge's Descendants
***Generation 1 (James's Children)*** ***Generation 2 (Children of Generation 1)***
Mary Tallmadge (1772-1797) m. Stephen Gano (1762-1828) Clarissa Ann Gano (1796-1872) m. Newton Robins then Peter Ludlow
Sally Gano
Maria Gano
Matthias B. Tallmadge (1774-1819) m. Elizabeth Clinton (1780-1825) George Clinton Tallmadge (1804-1833) m. Julia Matilda Clinton (?-1880)
James S. Tallmadge (b.1805)
Charles William Tallmadge (1807-1843)
Cornelia Tallmadge (b. 1809)
Theodore B. Tallmadge (1813-1842)
Mary Rebecca Tallmadge
Mary Elizabeth Tallmadge (1816-1817)
Elizabeth Matthias Tallmadge (1822-1881) m. 1838 Joseph Gazzam Taylor
Ann Tallmadge (1775-1809) m. John Sudam No children noted
James Tallmadge Jr. (1778-1853) m. Laura Tallmadge (b. 1788) No children noted
Rebecca Tallmadge (1779-1807) m. Theodorus Bailey (1759-1828) Catherine Rebecca Bailey (1804-1844) m. 1829 William Cecil Woolsey (1796-1840)
Ann Eliza Bailey m. Arthur Bronson
Sutherland Tallmadge (b.1783) No children noted
George Clinton's Descendants
***Generation 1 (George's Children)*** ***Generation 2 (Children of Generation 1)***
Catherine Clinton (1770-1811) m. John Taylor then Pierre Von Cortlandt Jr. No children noted
George Clinton Jr. (b. 1771) No children noted
Cornelia Tappen Clinton (1774-1810) m. Edmund-Charles Genet (1763-1834) Elizabeth M. Genet (b. 1795)
Eliza (Elsie) Genet (b.1797)
Henry James Genet (b. 1800-1872)
Marie Louisa Cardon Genet (b. 1802)
Charles Alexander Genet (b. 1805)
Cornelia Tappen Genet (b. 1808)
George Washington Clinton (1778-1813) m. Anna Floyd No children noted
Elizabeth Clinton (1780-1825) m. Matthias Tallmadge (1774-1819) George Clinton Tallmadge (1804-1833) m. Julia Matilda Clinton (?-1880)
James S. Tallmadge (b.1805)
Charles William Tallmadge (1807-1843)
Cornelia Tallmadge (b. 1809)
Theodore B. Tallmadge (1813-1842)
Mary Rebecca Tallmadge
Mary Elizabeth Tallmadge (1816-1817)
Elizabeth Matthias Tallmadge (1822-1881) m. 1838 Joseph Gazzam Taylor
Martha Washington Clinton (1783-1795) No children noted
Maria Clinton (1785-1829) m. Dr. Stephen D. Beekman No children noted