Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Thomson Mason, 20 March 1801

From John Thomson Mason

George Town 20th March 1801.

Dear Sir

Mr William Kelty is a man of learning, of sound knowledge in the law, of exemplary life, unexceptionable character, and much respected in the State of Maryland. Altho’ a man of real worth, he does not possess that address and readiness of expression or action, which compel all who see him to acknowledge his merit, those who know him well value him highly. I know no man in this State or in the neighbourhood of this place, in the other State, that would accept the appointment, so well calculated to fill it. In Virginia you are much better acquainted with the characters of professional men than I am. I do not think Mr Kelty upon a level in point of talents, with such men as Messrs George Hay, John Wickham, and some others I could mention, at the bar of your State Courts. I have no hesitation however to say that he is superior to what Mr T. Johnson now is, or to either of those named for his associates.

No letter addressed to Mr Kelty by post can reach him in time to have his attendance here on Monday. The direct post to Annapolis left this yesterday, and goes but once a week. From Baltimore to Annapolis the Mail goes twice a week, on Mondays, and on Saturdays, so that no letter by that rout can reach him until Monday night.

Accept the best wishes of one who is with real respect & esteem Your Obedt Servt

John T. Mason

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 20 Mch. and so recorded in SJL; TJ later canceled “Mason John T.” and added “Kilty” to his endorsement.


John Thomson Mason (1765–1824), younger brother of Virginia Senator Stevens Thomson Mason, was a Georgetown attorney who actively campaigned for TJ in the elections of 1796 and 1800. He was defeated for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1800. Shortly after TJ took office, he appointed him U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia (Bryan, National Capital description begins Wilhelmus B. Bryan, A History of the National Capital From Its Foundation Through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, New York, 1914–16, 2 vols. description ends , 1:411–12, 414; Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser., 1:66; Vol. 29:197n; Vol. 30:13n; Stevens Thomson Mason to TJ, 5 Sep. and 17 Oct. 1800).

For the appointment of Thomas Johnson as chief judge for the District of Columbia and James Marshall and William Cranch as his associates, see List of John Adams’s Appointments, 23 Feb. 1801, and JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States… to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:386–7.

On this date TJ sent a letter by express to William Kilty offering him the office of chief judge of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia. Kilty accepted the position (see William Kilty to TJ, 23 Mch. 1801).

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