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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1172
AUTHOR: John Randolph (1773–1833)
QUOTATION: Never were abilities so much below mediocrity so well rewarded; no, not when Caligula’s horse was made Consul.
ATTRIBUTION: Representative JOHN RANDOLPH of Roanoke, referring to Richard Rush, upon Rush’s appointment as secretary of the treasury by President John Quincy Adams. Published as an appendix to a new edition of his speech in the House, February 1, 1828, on retrenchment and reform.—William Cabell Bruce, John Randolph of Roanoke, 1773–1833, vol. 2, chapter 7, p. 200 (1922, reprinted 1970).

Caligula, Roman emperor from A.D. 37–41, was a “cruel, prodigal, and insane tyrant,” according to The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, ed. Sir Paul Harvey, p. 373 (1937). There is some disagreement whether he actually made his horse, Incitatus, consul to humiliate the Senate, or merely proposed it.
SUBJECTS: Mediocrity