In January 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated his number two official in the United States Department of Justice, Solicitor General Robert H. Jackson, to move up into the Department’s top job. It was becoming vacant due to the President’s simultaneous appointment of Attorney General Frank Murphy to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S.
The U.S. Senate swiftly confirmed the appointments. President Roosevelt signed Jackson’s commission and he was sworn in as Attorney General on January 18, 1940.
Later that year, war engulfed the European continent. By June, the United Kingdom stood alone as unconquered by Nazi Germany. The U.S. pursued significant rearmament, provided desperately needed aid to the U.K., and reinstituted military conscription. The prospect that world war would engulf the U.S. was real and alarming. And in November, President Roosevelt was reelected to an unprecedented third term.
In January 1941, as Inauguration Day approached, Attorney General Jackson was battling illness. In the end, it caused him to miss the inauguration ceremony and related events. But Jackson made it a point, on January 16, to dictate, sign, and send this a formal letter to the White House:
My dear Mr. President:
I hereby present my resignation as
Attorney General of the United States effective
at your pleasure.
You are about the enter a new admin-
istration significant because of the problems peculiar
to these rapidly moving times. It seems appropri-
ate to relinquish a position for which I was
chosen in very different conditions and for
qualifications which may no longer be appropri-
It would be impossible in words to
express my appreciation for the honor of your
[/s/ Robert H. Jackson]
President Roosevelt responded two days later by writing, in longhand, this note:
I do hope you’re feeling
better – Don’t try to attend
anything Monday [January 20] unless the
M.D. really says yes.
Thank you for your note. It
can only have one answer:
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