Tag Archives: Age discrimination
… it is objected indeed in the remonstrance, that he is 77. years of age: but, at a much more advanced age, our Franklin was the ornament of human nature. He may not be able to perform in person all the details of his office: but if he gives us the benefit of his understanding, his integrity, his watchfulness, and takes care that all the details are well performed by himself, or his necessary assistants…
To the New Haven Merchants, July 12, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Inclusive leaders don’t rule anyone out.
The merchants in New Haven, CT, wrote a remonstrance, a letter of complaint, to the new President about his appointment of Samuel Bishop to be federal tax collector for their city. A previous office-holder died in early February. John Adams, defeated for reelection, appointed Federalist Congressman Elizur Goodrich to the post, two weeks before Jefferson was inaugurated. The new President routinely made it clear that he considered such lame-duck appointments by Adams as nullities. Jefferson removed Gingrich and appointed the Republican Blair in his place.
The merchants raised a number of objections, in particular, Blair’s age (77) and ability to do the job. Jefferson countered with the example of Benjamin Franklin, a major contributor to the American cause until his death at age 84. Second, the qualities that Blair had demonstrated in his long life (wisdom, character and caution) would be assets in this position. Finally, even if Blair could not perform all of the duties personally, they could be done by others who worked under his supervision.
Jefferson could have ignored the complaint, written from strictly partisan motivation. Instead, he wrote a long, reasoned and respectful reply.