Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Thomson Mason, 7 July 1803

From John Thomson Mason

George Town 7th July 1803

Dear Sir

Since I had last the pleasure to see you I have revolved in my mind the subject we then conversed on, towit the vacancy which Mr Marshall ought and probably would shortly make by his resignation. No man can be generally known as a man eminent in the law unless it be by his success as a practitioner, and it is to be apprehended that a man thus situated would scarcely be prevailed on to accept that office. Indeed it has always been subject of surprize to me that these offices are as well filled as they are in this Country. I then took the liberty to explain to you the propriety indeed necessity that one Judge should reside in Alexandria, this circumstance will I have no doubt increase the difficulty. You will I hope excuse the liberty I take at this time in naming to you a Gentleman who would I have no doubt be pleased with the appointment should you not be able to find one willing to accept and better quallified to fill the office. It is Mr Nicholas Fitzhugh of Fairfax County. He is a man firm and decided in his political principles which are truly republican. He was bred to the law, and tho’ not very earnestly he has always practised it in the County in which he lives. He was a contempory of mine at Wm & Mary and is I think a sound lawyer and a man of good sense. He is a man of as nice honor and strict integrety as lives.

It is my duty however to state that he never was thought eminent at the bar, he has no talent for public speaking, indeed he is not by any means fitted for the practice of the law

He has been several years a member of the Virga Legislature and is much respected by those who know him

With sentiments of high respect I have the Honor to be your Obedt Servt

John T. Mason

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); endorsed by TJ as received 9 July and “Fitzhugh Nichs. to be judge of Columbia” and so recorded in SJL.

James M. marshall, appointed by Adams during the last days of his presidency, did not officially submit his resignation as judge of the circuit court for the District of Columbia until 16 Nov., when he wrote Madison that it was no longer convenient for him to perform the duties. Marshall was establishing a law practice in Winchester, Virginia (RC in DNA: RG 59, RD, endorsed by TJ: “Marshall James to mr Madison. resigns as judge of Columbia”; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Vol. 33:52n). For the appointment of nicholas fitzhugh, see his letter to TJ of 22 Aug. and TJ to the Senate, 21 Nov. 1803.

Index Entries