The Impeachment of Judge Nicholas Moore

These records go from 1683 to 1685, in the Provincial Council, at Philadelphia, but the Constitution borrows the same terms a hundred years later. Precedence. New data added for 23 Apr 1695.

This is a verbatim transcription of the Minutes of the Provincial Council, though the spelling, mechanics, abbreviations, and punctuation have been modernized. The dates have been translated from the Quaker method (2nd  month, 3rd month, etc) to the names of the months (April, May, etc.). At that time the first month was March, not January.

The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” is used in the Eleventh Article of the indictment, dated 16 May 1685, below. The phrase is interchangeable with “crimes and misdemeanors.”

Quakers did not swear oaths in court or in council, but they were “attested,” which now means “affirmed.”

The first few entries just give a coloring of what non-Quaker Moore was like, including his rise to power–and even his early insults of Quaker governance. He was a medical doctor.

As far as I know, this is the first extended and well-documented example of impeachment on American soil.

I hope this post provides clarity on what impeachment looked like in practice and real life.

MPC = Minutes of Provincial Council

12 Mar 1683

Transcription begins:

Wm Penn, Proprietary and Governor of Pennsylvania and counties annexed;

Capt. Wm. Markham, Christo. Taylor, Capt. Tho. Holmes, John Simcox, Lasse Cock, Wm. Haigee , John Moll, Edm’d. Cantwell, Wm. Clayton, Wm. Biles, Jam. Harrison, Wm. Clarke, Fran. Whitwell, John Richardson, John Hilliard, Ralph Withers

It being reported to the Governor and Council by several members of it that Nicholas Moore, President of the Society of Free Traders in the Province took occasion in company in a public house to utter those words against the proceedings of the Governor, Provincial Council and Assembly, as that they have this day broken the charter and therefore all that you do will come to nothing and that hundreds in England will curse you for what you have done and their children after then, and that you may hereafter be impeached for treason for what you do;

Whereupon, the Governor and Council did order that Nicholas Moore should appear before them. He accordingly did appear and being charged with such discourse said that he spoke rather by query than assertion and if he had said as it was represented, he had been to blame indeed, but he said that he spake not with such an intent; however, his discourse being unreasonable and imprudent, he was exhorted to prevent the like for the future. (MPC 58-59)

16 Mar 1683

Same persons present as 12 Mar 1683

Transcription begins:

A letter received from Nicholas Moore, President of the Society, to the Governor, desiring that the law against fornication might be explained not to extend to servants, because the present penalty would be to the mister and mistress, wherefore prayed some severe punishment may be enacted more consistent with the mister’s and mistress’s interest. (MPC 61)

18 Aug 1684

Transcription begins:

Thomas Lloyd, president

Wm Welch, James Harrison, John Simcock, Tho. Holmes, Edmund Cantwell

Provincial Judges appointed by commission, viz. Wm Welch, Nicholas Moore, Wm Wood, Robt. Turner, and John Eckley. (MPC 119)

12 Sep 1684

Transcription begins:

Thomas Lloyd, President

John Simcock, Wm Clayton, Edmund Cantwell, Jam. Harrison, Wm Clark, John Cann, Tho. Holmes, Chris. Taylor

To my trusty and loving friends: Nicholas Moore, Wm Welch, Wm Wood, Robt. Turner & John Eckley, Greeting:

Reposing special confidence in your justice, wisdom, and integrity, I do, by virtue of the king’s authority, derived unto me, constitute you provincial judges for the Province and Territories and any legal number of you a provincial court of judicature, both fixed and circular [circuit] as is by law directed, giving you and every of you full power to act therein according to the same; strictly charging you and every of you to do justice to all and to all degrees, without delay, fear, favor or reward; and I do hereby require you the due obedience and respect belonging to you station in the discharge of your duties;

This commission to be of force during two years ensuing that date hereof, you and every of you behaving yourselves well therein and acting according to the same.

Given at Philadelphia the fourth of the sixth month [August] one thousand six hundred eighty and four, being the thirty-sixth year of the king’s reign and the fourth of my government {the seal} WM PENN (MPC 121)

6 Apr 1685

Transcription begins:

Thomas Homes, President

Wm Clark, Wm Frampton, Tho. Janney, Nich. Newlin, Luke Watson, John Cann, Phin. Pemberton, Peter Alrichs, John Barnes, Chr. Taylor, John Simcock, Wm Wood

The petition of widow Acrod was delivered into this board by Nicholas Moore, her attorney, was read and proof being made by her said attorney of her being married to Benj. Acrod, decd., by a certificate from the late Lord Mayor of the City of London, Sir. Henry Talse, and a letter of attorney also produced, constitution the said Nicholas Moore, her attorney. (MPC 129)

15 May 1685

Transcription begins:

Thomas Lloyd, President

Tho. Holmes, John Simcock, Wm Frampton, John Rhodes, Peter Alrichs, John Barnes, Chris. Taylor, John Cann, Wm Southersby, Wm Darvall, Edward Green, Phin. Pemberton, Tho. Janney, Luke Watson

The President and Council being met:

Two members of the Assembly attended this board to desire a conference, which was agreed to.

The Declaration of the Freemen of the Assembly against Nicholas Moore, one of their members that he should be removed from all his offices of trust and power in this Province and Territories, which Declaration was read and ordered by this board to be recorded, which is as follows:

The Assembly’s Declaration against Nicholas Moore, present May 15th, 1685, to the President and Provincial Council in the council chamber, by the Speaker and members of the Assembly:

For the speedy redress of divers [various] evils and mischiefs which this Province and Territories now labor under and for the preventing of further growth and increase of the same and to the honor and safety of the Governor and Government of this Province and Territories and by good and welfare of the people thereof, the Freemen in Assembly now met, do by this their bill shew and declare against Nicholas Moore do accuse of the said misdemeanors, offenses and crimes.

1st. The said Nicholas Moore, assuming to himself unlimited and arbitrary power beyond the prescription or laws of this government, has presumed of his own authority to send unlawful writs to the sheriffs and to ascertain and appoint the time of the Provincial Circuits without the direction and concurrence of the Provincial Council, whereby the time of their sessions has been anticipated, the several counties being surprised by the shortness of their warning and thereby being impossible to give sue summons according to law, either of juries, witnesses, or persons concerned, whereby some persons have been forced to irregular trials and others absolutely denied justice.

2dly. The said Nicholas Moore, Judge, having high trust lodged in him for the equal distribution of justice without respect of persons, the said judge sitting in judgment at New Castle, has presumed to cast out a person from being of a jury, after the said person was lawfully attested to the true trial of the cause, thereby rending an innocent and lawful person infamous in the face of the county, by rejecting his attestation after lawfully taken and depriving the plaintiff of his right.

3dly. The said Nicholas Moore, sitting in judgment, did in the towns of New Castle refuse a verdict brought in by a lawful jury and by divers threats and menaces and threatening the jury with the same perjury and crime of their estates, forced the said jury to go out so often, until they had brought a direct contrary verdict to the first, thereby preventing justice and wounding the liberties of the free people of this Province and Territories in the tenderest point of their privilege and violently usurping over the consciences of the jury.

4thly. The said Nicholas Moore, although there was no lawful summons according to law for parties concerned to make preparation, did arbitrarily reject and cast out the complaint of John Wooters in New Castle Court, hereby not only delaying but denying justice to him, coming in a lawful way to demand it.

5thly. The said Nicholas Moore, assuming to himself an unlimited and unlawful power, did, sitting in judgment of the aforesaid town of New Castle, wherein two persons stood charged in a civil action, it being in its own nature only trover and conversion, and the pretended indictment raised it no higher, notwithstanding the said Moore did give the judgment of felony, commending to the defendant to be publicly whipped and each to be fined to pay threefold, thereby tyrannizing over persons, estates and reputations of the people of this Province and Territories, contrary to law and reason.

6thly. The said Nicholas Moore, commanding a witness to be examined, did by overawing and greatly perverting the sense of witnesses, charge and condemn the said witness to be guilty of perjury and to suffer the pains in that case provided, and by proclamation to be forever rendered incapable of being rectus in Curia in this government and also fined him, contrary to law.

7thly. And whereas, the wisdom of the General Assembly did conceive the Circular Court would be their best expedient for ending all kinds of differences whatsoever, the said Nicholas Moore, at the said town of New Castle, commanding the records of the former Circular Courts to be produced, which the said Moore reading, he did in the Open Court censure the judgment of preceding judges by saying their judgment was not right, thereby distracting the people betwixt divers and contrary judgments and perpetuating endless and vexatious suits.

8thly. The said Nicholas Moore, sitting in judgment at Chester, did in a most ambitious, insulting and arbitrary way, reverse and impeach the judgment of the justices of the said county court and publicly affronting the members thereof, although the matter came not regularly before the said Circular Court, thereby drawing the magistrates into the contempt of the people and weakening their hands in the administration of justice.

9thly. The said Nicholas Moore, being chosen as abovesaid to be judge of the Circular Court according to law which obliges the said judges both spring and fall to go their circuits; and the said Nicholas Moore, assuming to himself power of appointing the times, as he is pretended Chief Judge in the Province and Territories thereof, has notwithstanding declined the two Lower Circuits to the great delay of justice and breach of his trust and mischief and inconvenience of the free people of the said lower counties.

10thly. The said Judge Moore, resolving to put no bounds to his violence, ambition, and oppression, has, to the dishonor of the Governor and contempt of the Government, declared that neither be nor his actions are accountable to the President and Provincial Council, by despising and containing their orders and precept and questioning and denying their authority, thereby shrouding and protecting himself in all the aforesaid violences, to the rendering the miseries of the oppressed intolerable and perpetual to the subversion of the most excellent frame of this government and the raising himself above the reach of justice.

11thly. For all which and divers other High Crimes and Misdemeanors, the Freemen in Assembly met, saving to themselves by protestation, the liberty of exhibiting now and any time hereafter any further charge and accusation against the said Nicholas Moore, do now impeach the said Nicholas Moore of all the foregoing crimes and misdemeanors and humbly request the President and Provincial Council that he, the said Nicholas Moore, may be removed from his great office and trust and answer to the said objected crimes and misdemeanors.

JOHN WHITE, Speaker, in behalf and by order of the Assembly now met in Philadelphia.

Tho. Holmes, John Simcock, Wm. Darvall, Phin. Pemberton are desired to acquaint Judge Moore how that the Declaration aforementioned was presented by the Speaker and Members of the Assembly this evening and that the Council do request him to appear at the Council tomorrow morning by the seventh hour.

Adjourned till the 16 May, ’85. (MPC 135-37)

Transcription ends.

16 May 1685

Transcription begins:

Thomas Lloyd, President

Tho. Holmes, John Simcock, Tho. Janney, Nich. Newlin, Wm. Southersby, John Rhodes, Wm Framption, Phin. Pemberton, John Barnes, Luke Watson, Edward Green, John Cann, Peter Alrichs

Post Meridiem [PM]

The Speaker and Assembly again desired that the Declaration against Nicholas Moore, prior judge, might be read, which was accordingly done, which was without direction to the Council, nor subscribed by the Speaker or any of the Assembly, nor no place mentioned therein,

Adjourned till 18 May ’85. (MPC 138)

18 May 1685

Transcription begins:

Thomas Lloyd, President

John Cann, John Rhodes, Luke Watson, Wm. Framption, Thos. Holmes, John Simcock, Wm. Southersby, Wm. Darvall, Nich. Newlin, John Barnes, Edward Greene, Phin. Pemberton, Chris. Taylor, Wm. Wood, Peter Alrichs, Tho. Janney

The Speaker, with the Assembly, attended this board and declared that they were abused by Pat. Robinson, who said, “You have drawn up an impeachment against Pres. Moore at hab nab, for which he desire satisfaction.”

The President and Provincial Council, taking into consideration the words spoken by Pat. Robinson, this board concerning the Assembly that the impeachment against Judge Moore was drawn hab nab, which expressions of his we do unanimously declare to be indecent, unallowable, and disowned.

Adjourned till 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

Post Meridiem [PM]

The President and Provincial Council being met:

Wm Darvall desired leave to go home, he having extraordinary business, which was granted.

The Speaker with the Assembly attended this board to make good their allegations against Nicholas Moore.

In proof of the First Article, especially the first branch thereof, viz.: That is, perceiving to send unlawful writs to the sheriffs, etc.

The sheriff by consent and in behalf of the Assembly asserts that Judge Moore’s writ for holding a Provincial Court at New Castle came to the sheriff’s hand but six days before the prefixed day for holding the court and by his writ he commands the sheriff to summons all lords of manors and justices to attend the Provincial Judges and forty-eight freemen for grand jury and twenty-four for a petty jury; John Cann declares the same; Thos. Usher declares that the sheriff of Chester County had no time but five days before the court was held.

For proof of the Second Article:

They desire the benefit of James Reed’s testimony, formerly given in.

John Cann, a member of the Council, declares to the best of his knowledge that upon the objections of the defendants the court yielded that before the said James Reed was attested he should be laid by, but notwithstanding through some omissions after he was attested he was laid by.

For proof of the Third Article:

John Cann further declares that he was in court upon this trial when the jury came in, who being asked by Judge Moore whether they were all agreed, he thinks they said they were all agreed, he is not certain; and the jury being asked what was their verdict, they said eight pounds; the judge asked them what they meant by it; they said they found eight popunds for the plaintiff; Judge Moore urges thereupon what is eight pounds in comparison of five hundred pounds alleged in the declaration and further said to the jury this is no verdict; you must go out and find according to the evidence or else you are all perjured persons.

Whereupon they went out and brought in their verdict that next morning for the defendant with costs of suit.

John White, Speaker, declares fully with John Cann, but further saith that they jury being asked by Judge Moore whether they were all and every one agreed, and being thrice asked, they did declare they were every one agreed, and notwithstanding, he said they must bring in another verdict.

Edward Green, a member of the Council, declares that he was in court also when the verdict upon the trial of Abraham Mann, plaintiff and Edward Cantwell, defendant, and upon the jury’s giving in their verdict of eight pounds; whereupon Judge Moore said it was no verdict, but they must find the verdict according to law and evidence, so he sent them out and they came into court next morning and after the judge had admonished them he asked them if they were all agreed, and they said not; and he sent them back again, requiring them to bring in the verdict according to law and evidence. They went out again and brought in for the defendant with costs of suit. Whereas, it is omitted in the first part of the evidence upon the jury’s first coming in the judge asked if they were all agreed, and they said they were all agreed, and they finding eight pounds for the plaintiff, the judge asking them who they found eight pounds for, they said for the plaintiff.

Adjourned till 19 May ’85. (MPC 138-40)

Transcription ends.

19 May 1685

Transcription begins:

Thomas Lloyd, President

Tho. Holmes, John Simcock, Wm. Wood, Wm. Frampton, Wm. Southersby, Nich. Newlin, John Cann, Tho. Janney, Phin. Pemberton, Luke Watson, John Rhodes, John Barnes, Peter Aldrichs.

The Speaker and the Assembly attended this board.

The President and Council having received from the managers nominated by the Assembly what proof they thought well to offer to the three first Articles, which managers are the Speaker, Abraham, Mann, Tho. Usher, John Blunstone, Wm. Berry, and Samuel Gray, these persons were continued managers for the proof of the whole exhibited Articles by their own order.

As to the fourth Article, being not so intelligibly worded to the apprehension of the council, the Assembly requested by their manager that a further explainter [plainer] sense might be admitted.

As to the fifth Article, they urge a record from the clerk of the Circular Court’s hand, and in the whole say that the proof of the intended indictment was false.

As to the sixth Article, John Cann declared that Judge Moore, seeming by threatening word, called John Harrison to be an evidence against Thomas Pringler and George Archer, he demanded of Harrison to declare what he knew concerning the hog in question; the said Harrison declared he knew nothing of the taking of the hog, for he was at Philadelphia at the same time; upon several other questions asked him whether he had seen or eat any of it, he declared he had both seen and eat; upon that the jury had this in charge, the judge telling them it was perjury, they accordingly found the person guilty of perjury.

As to the seventh Article, wherein Judge Moore is accused or judging of the proceeding of the foregoing Court Circular.

As to the eighth Article, John Blunstone, Tho. Usher, and George Maries, justices of the peace for the county of Chester, upon an action, Dennis Rochford being plaintiff and John Hickman, defendant, this after judgment  regularly obtained in that court by the aforesaid plaintiff against the defendant, an execution was granted and the defendant taken [as prisoner] thereby; yet notwithstanding  the said Nicholas Moore, upon a bare petition of the said defendant, he vacated the judgment and discharged the prisoner; also the said Judge Moore did arbitrarily take upon him merely by a petition to reverse a judgment duly obtained in the county court of Chester, by Thomas Withers, plaintiff, Wm. Taylor, defendant; this was done by the said Judge Moore the 18 April 1685, last.

As to the ninth Article, Samuel Gray and John Hill allege it is apparent that Nicholas Moore was bound in duty to go to the Lower County to keep the spring Porvincial Court, yet notwithstanding declined his duty, to the manifest Rewin [sic] and disappointment of several freemen.

As to the tenth Article, whereby they suggest several contemptuous and derogatory expressions spoken by Judge Moore of the Provincial Council and of the present state of government by calling the members thereof fools and loggerheads and said it were well if all the laws had drapt [sic] and that it would never be good times as long as the Quakers had the administration.

Wm. Carter and Robert Clifton and Samuel Gray declare that Nicholas Moore advised them to protest against the last promulgated bills.

Upon the reading over the Declaration before the Provincial Council by the Assembly, against Nicholas Moore and their allegations for proof of their Articles being received by the clerk of the Council, the Assembly moved that the said Nicholas Moore might be removed from all places of trust and power.

The Speaker being asked if they came as an Assembly or a Committee, they said they came as an Assembly.

Upon the perusing of the allegations and testimonies given in by the members of the Assembly, with some of the Council, in order to prove and make apparent the charge exhibited in the articles against Nicholas Moore, one of the Provincial Judges;

The Council unanimously agreed and ordered that express notice shall be given, with all dispatch, be sent to him to signify the sense of the board and that her make his appearance before the President and Provincial Council in the Council Chamber at three of the clock this afternoon, being the 19 instant.

Adjourned till the 28 May 1685. (MPC 140-41)

Transcription ends.

Note: the impeachment of Nicholas Moore was not dealt with on that date, but next:

2 June 1685

Transcription begins:

Thomas Lloyd, President

John Simcock, Wm. Clark, Wm. Frampton, Wm. Markham

Ordered that speedy notice be sent to Judge Moore by the clerk of the Council that he desist and cease from further acting in any place of authority or judicature till the Articles of Impeachment exhibited against him by the Assembly be tried or satisfaction be made to this board (MPC 142)

10 July 1685

Transcription begins:

A Wm. Dearing, master of the ship Wrenn of London, lodged a complaint against the illegal proceedings of Judges Nicholas Moore and Robert Turner at the Circular Court at New Castle the 1st April 1685. (MPC 145)

Thus Nicholas Moore was still serving as judge by 1 April 1685, during the impeachment allegations.

28 July 1685

Transcription begins:

Post Meridiem [PM]

Thomas Holmes, President

Wm Frampton, John Simcock, John Cann, Edward Green, John Barnes, Thos. Janney, Nich. Newlin, Wm. Markham, Secretary

… Immediately stepped in Abraham Mann and John Blunstone. Abraham Mann began thus: “We are come in the name of the free people to know whether you have not forgot yourselves in not bringing Judge Moore to a trial.”

The Secretary asked him for his petition.

Abraham Mann made answer that they did not look upon themselves obliged to come by way of petition, considering whom they represent; after some sharp reprimands from the Council they withdrew and the Council [withdrew] (MPC 151)

29 July 1685

Transcription begins:

Thomas Holmes, President

Wm. Frampton, John Simcock, John Barnes, Thos. Janney, Nich. Newlin, Edward Green, Wm. Markham, Secretary.

John Blunstone and George Maris came to renew their former desire in behalf of the Assembly that … the trial of Nicholas Moore might not be delayed.

The Council answered that as soon as President Lloyd was come from New York (who is expected the next week) they would give then an answer, but at present could not (MPC 152)

16 Sep 1685

Transcription begins:

Thomas Lloyd, President

Tho. Holmes, Chris. Taylor, John Simcock, Wm Framption, Wm Southersby, Wm Wood, Phin Pemberton, John Barnes, Wm Markham, Secretary

The minutes of the Councils from the 28th of the 5th month [July] was read; and whereas on the 29th of the said month, John Blunston and George Maris told the Council that they came to renew their former desires in the behalf of the Assembly, etc.

The Council at that time gave them answer that as soon as President Lloyd came from New York, who was expected the next week, they would give them answer.

The Council did now order this answer to be recorded: That Nicholas Moore, being at this time under weak and languishing condition and not under promising hopes of a speedy recovery, so that at present they cannot give any certain or definitive answer (MPC 153)

7 Aug 1686

Transcription begins:

Thomas Lloyd, President

Wm Frampton, Wm Clark, Edward Green, John Barnes, Wm Markham, Secretary

The petition of Benjamin Chambers was read, setting forth that at last county court held at Philadelphia, judgment was obtained by Doctor Moore against the Free Society of Traders of this Province and that an appeal was granted unto the said Society to the next Provincial Court, which appeal could not be then taken out for want of sufficient security according to law.

Therefore the said Benjamin Chambers requested the President and Provincial Council that they would accept of such a lawful and able security as shall be present for the same.

The President and Council admitted the same and accepted of Benjamin Chambers and Griffith Jones, both of Philadelphia, jointly and severally bind themselves in the penal sum of four hundred and six pounds for prosecuting the said appeal and to answer the costs and damaged according to law (MPC 189)

3 Sep 1686

Transcription begins:

At Robert Turner’s House, he being sick

Francis Harrison, President, chosen by the rest

Arthur Cook, John Simcock, Robert Turner, Wm Frampton, Wm Southersby, Phin. Pemberton, Wm Markham, Secretary

The petition of Dr. Nicholas Moore was read, etc.


The Minutes of the Provincial Council do not record that Nicholas Moore came in to answer the charges. So we can assume that the order issued 2 June 1685 stands. He was removed from office. His suit against the Free Society of Traders does give the impression that it was initiated out of office.

This link at Wikipedia says that Penn still had faith in him and that Moore was appointed to the Executive Commission of five for Philadelphia. If so, the Provincial Council minutes do not report his appointment.

23 Apr 1695

Wm. Markham, Esq. Governor under William Penn, et al.

Samuel Carpenter, David Lloyd, John Donaldson, Samuel Richardson, Caleb Pussey, John William, Anthony Morris, George Maris, Richard Halliwell

It looks like Nicholas Moore died by that date, and so was his wife Marie (Mary) and son Samuel and daughter(-in-law) Rebecca.

Transcription begins:

Samuel Richardson, David Lloyd, Anthony Morris reported to this board that by the inspection of the accounts mentioned in John Holmes’ petition, the estate of Nicholas and Mari Moore’s, deceased, are considerable indebted to several persons upwards of £370.

And therefore the Governor and Council ordered:

That the said John Holmes might be permitted and allowed and is hereby permitted and allowed to sell the plantation of Green Spring, with all the lands and improvements thereto belonging and such parts of the Manor of Moreland, as descended to Samuel Moore, decd. or were allotted out for the said Samuel and Rebecca Moore, decd. as any may attempt to what they died indebted to him, the said John Holmes and others, and such parts of the estate of the said Nicholas Moore, Marie and Samuel and Rebecca Moore, decd. as will only defray their just debts and the education of the said Nicholas Moore’s surviving children; and the better improvement of the remainder of the said estate, according to law.

And further ordered:

That the members of the Council for the County of Philadelphia ot any two of them may supervise the said sales that they be made for true and valuable consideration and not undersold [undervaluated].

Transcription ends.


Removing Patrick Robinson from Office

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