Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 3.djvu/23

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1805.
11
INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT.

the office, and Robert Smith continued to act as Secretary of the Navy, probably by the verbal request of the President. At length he consented to retain his old position permanently, and Jefferson sought for a new attorney-general. He offered the post, June 15, to John Julius Pringle of South Carolina, who declined. He then offered it, July 14, to John Thomson Mason, who also declined. August 7, Jefferson wrote to Senator Breckinridge of Kentucky, asking him to accept the office of attorney-general, and a temporary commission was the same day issued to him.

When Congress met, Dec. 2, 1805, Breckenridge was attorney-general under a temporary commission, and Robert Smith, who had ceased to be Secretary of the Navy on the confirmation of his successor, March 3, was acting as secretary under no apparent authority. Dec. 20, 1805, the President sent a message to the Senate making nominations for vacancies which had occurred during the recess, for which commissions had been granted "to the persons herein respectively named." One of these persons was John Breckinridge of Kentucky to be Attorney-General of the United States, and the nomination was duly confirmed. Breckenridge's permanent commission bore date Jan. 17, 1806.

These dates and facts were curious for the reason that Robert Smith, who had ceased to be Secretary of the Navy, March 3, 1805, ceased necessarily to be attorney-general on the confirmation of Breckinridge, and