Candidates for the office of Keeper of the Light house at Smith’s point
William Mountague. owns the land adjacent, an Antirepublican therefore inadmissible.
Lancelot L. Edwards. lives near Smith’s Point … is he republican? is he sober? and careful & stationary at his residence?
Thomas Robinson. lives near the place … an old sea-captain … same questions as respecting Edwards
Joseph Jones Monroe … he was known to me about half a dozen years ago. he is republican. I did not think him then a careful man, & the nature of his business (a lawyer) made him not stationary.
Wm. Nelms. lives ¾ of a mile off … republican, honest and diligent. is he also sober?
To Albert Gallatin, December 29, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders frame the issue then delegate the decision.
The Smith’s Point lighthouse, built in 1802 in the Virginia waters of the Chesapeake Bay, needed a keeper. The President sent five names to his Treasury Secretary and the questions to be answered about each. Qualifications should be:
1. Did he live nearby and would he remain there?
2. Was he a political opponent or friend?
3. Was he honest, reliable, and diligent?
4. Was he sober?
As to being “republican,” Jefferson had these guidelines:
1. He would not appoint anyone who was an active political opponent, an “Antirepublican,” like Montague.
2. Since all appointments prior to 1801 had been Federalists, he looked for opportunities to appoint republicans, for both patronage and political balance.
3. For most appointments, political orientation was not a determing factor, so long as the candidate was not vocal in opposition to the republican cause.
The President’s preference was for Robinson. Jefferson referenced a “Dr. Jones” who knew all five. He asked Gallatin to confer with Jones and make a choice. Gallatin chose Nelms.