Tag Archives: Lifetime appointment
… I have since learnt with great pain & from an authority not to be doubted that mr Duffield has contracted a habit of drinking to a degree which renders him unfit for a judge … if the fact abovementioned be true … my duty will not permit me to nominate him to the Senate. it would be an act of friendship to let him know this … under these circumstances I have thought it my duty to put it in your power to endeavor that he might be saved from these disagreeable circumstances by resignation.
Thomas Jefferson to John Rhea, April 30, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders avoid embarrassing subordinates.
The President had commissioned Duffield to be a judge in the Orleans Territory, upon the recommendation of Rhea and one other. His term ran concurrent with Congress. Following that, he would be nominated to the US Senate, receiving a lifetime appointment if approved. Reliable intelligence since then convinced Jefferson he had made a poor choice, and there would be no Senate nomination.
If Jefferson understood correctly, he suggested “an act of friendship” by Rhea to Duffield: Get him to resign before he moved to take the job. That would avoid both unsettling his present affairs and the disgrace of being recalled from office. Jefferson couldn’t have him in that office but had no wish to expose him to embarrassment.