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After witnessing the grueling confirmation process for Judge Neil Gorsuch, it may be hard to believe people have begged off a seat on the Supreme Court.

But it's happened more than once, though well before the age of careful vetting of nominees and Senate hearings.

Robert Harrison was confirmed to the court just two days after President George Washington nominated his former lawyer and military aide. It took Harrison a month to decline the post, partly because of poor health, according to the "Documentary History of the Supreme Court." Washington then sent Harrison a personal letter urging him to reconsider. Alexander Hamilton also made a pitch to Harrison, who initially relented and set out from Maryland for New York, then the nation's capital. But a week later, Harrison wrote Washington again to reaffirm his refusal. He died less than three months later.

John Jay and William Cushing both served on the court, Jay as the first chief justice. Washington wanted to make Cushing chief justice a year after Jay resigned, but the justice turned down the promotion, even after Senate confirmation, and served on the court another 14 years, until his death in 1810. President John Adams wanted Jay to return as the court's chief in 1800. He said no.

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