Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES - The Works, vol. 6 (Correspondence 1789-1792)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 6 (Correspondence 1789-1792) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 6.
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Chesterfield, December 15th, 1789.
—I have received at this place the honor of your letters of October 13th and November the 30th, and am truly flattered by your nomination of me to the very dignified office of Secretary of State for which permit me here to return to you my very humble thanks. Could any circumstance induce me to overlook the disproportion between its duties and my talents, it would be the encouragement of your choice. But when I contemplate the extent of that office, embracing as it does the principal mass of domestic administration, together with the foreign, I can not be insensible to my inequality to it; and I should enter on it with gloomy forebodings from the criticisms and censures of a public, just indeed in their intentions, but sometimes misinformed and misled, and always too respectable to be neglected. I can not but foresee the possibility that this may end disagreeably for me, who, having no motive to public service but the public satisfaction, would certainly retire the moment that satisfaction should appear to languish. On the other hand, I feel a degree of familiarity with the duties of my present office, as far, at least, as I am capable of understanding its duties. The ground I have already passed over enables me to see my way into that which is before me. The change of government, too, taking place in the country where it is exercised, seems to open a possibility of procuring from the new rulers some new advantages in commerce, which may be agreeable to our countrymen. So that as far as my fears, my hopes, or my inclination might enter into this question, I confess they would not lead me to prefer a change.
But it is not for an individual to choose his post. You are to marshal us as may be best for the public good; and it is only in the case of its being indifferent to you, that I would avail myself of the option you have so kindly offered in your letter. If you think it better to transfer me to another post, my inclination must be no obstacle; nor shall it be, if there is any desire to suppress the office I now hold or to reduce its grade. In either of these cases, be so good as only to signify to me by another line your ultimate wish, and I will conform to it accordingly. If it should be to remain at New York, my chief comfort will be to work under your eye, my only shelter the authority of your name, and the wisdom of measures to be dictated by you and implicitly executed by me. Whatever you may be pleased to decide, I do not see that the matters which have called me hither will permit me to shorten the stay I originally asked; that is to say, to set out on my journey northward till the middle of March. As early as possible in that month, I shall have the honor of paying my respects to you in New York. In the meantime, I have that of tendering you the homage of those sentiments of respectful attachment with which I am, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant.
TO THE REV. CHARLES CLAY
Monticello, Jan 27, 1790.
—I had hoped that during my stay here I could have had the pleasure of seeing you in Bedford, but I find it will be too short for that. Besides views of business in that county I had wished again to visit that greatest of our curiosities the Natural bridge, and did not know but you might have the same desire.—I do not know yet how I am to be disposed of, whether kept at New York or sent back to Europe. If the former, one of my happinesses would be the possibility of seeing you there; for I understand you are a candidate for the representation of your district in Congress. I cannot be with you to give you my vote; nor do I know who are to be the Competitors: but I am sure I shall be contented with such a representative as you will make, because I know you are too honest a patriot not to wish to see our country prosper by any means, tho’ they be not exactly those you would have preferred; and that you are too well informed a politician, too good a judge of men, not to know, that the ground of liberty is to be gained by inches, that we must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time, and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good. Wishing you every prosperity in this & in all your other undertakings (for I am sure, from my knowlege of you they will always be just) I am with sincere esteem & respect Dear Sir your friend & servant.