Thomas Jefferson Papers

Citizens of Washington, D.C., to Thomas Jefferson, 4 March 1809

From the Citizens of Washington D.C.


The Citizens of Washington cannot forego the last opportunity, which may, perhaps ever occur, to bid you a respectful and affectionate farewell. As members of the great and flourishing nation, over which you have so illustriously presided, your virtues, talents, and services command their esteem, admiration and gratitude. Embarked in the fate of this solitary republic of the world, they have in common with their fellow-citizens, rejoiced in its prosperous and sympathised in its adverse fortunes as involving every thing dear to freemen. They have marked with exultation, the firm column of its glory, laid on imperishable foundations, rising as a monument of the reign of principle in this quarter of the globe. To you they have been instructed to ascribe the memorable Act, which by declaring a gallant people free and independent, in a tone that appalled tyranny, instilled those sentiments and principles, which, inspiring every virtue, and urging every sacrifice, led them to triumph and empire.

We have since beheld you, with parental solicitude, and with a vigilance that never sleeps, watching over the fairest offspring of liberty, and by your unremitted labors, in upholding, explaining and vindicating our system of government, rendering it the object of love at home, and respect abroad.

It would be a pleasing task for us, as Citizens of the U. S. to fill up and extend the outlines we have sketched. But it is as Citizens of the National metropolis that we now appear before you. In addition to every patriotic feeling that can warm our breasts, we have still further inducements to open our hearts to you on this proud yet painful occasion.

The world knows you as a philosopher and philanthropist; the American people know you as a patriot and statesman;—we know you, in addition to all this as a Man. And, however your talents have extorted our respect, there is not one among us, whose predominant feeling at this moment is not that of affection for the mild and endearing virtues, that have made everyone here your friend, and you his. We should be lost to gratitude, did we not acknowledge that it is to you we owe much, very much of that harmony of intercourse and tolerance of opinion, which characterises our State of society,—of that improvement which amidst unpropitious circumstances, has progressed with sure and steady steps, and above all, of that spirit of enterprise, which your beneficence and liberality have invariably aided, and which promises in a few years to render this place the fairest seat of wealth and science.

Deeply as we feel your retirement, we approve, nay applaud it. Personal considerations aside, it was to be expected from the friend and protector of republican institutions, that he would follow, and by his co-operation strengthen the example of the illustrious hero of the revolution.

May you in the retirement, to which you go, be happy! As Your fellow Citizens will still look towards you with interest, and pray for your felicity, so will you find it impossible to lose sight of the arduous scenes through which we have passed as well as those in store for our Country. Your heart will still beat with patriotism, and the energies of your mind continue to be engaged on national objects. In your retreat, may every anxious thought be softened by the mild and tender occupations of private life! Happy, thrice happy retreat! where patriotism and philosophy, friendship and affection will animate, direct and soften the purest feelings of the heart! With a grateful nation, we pray that you may be happy, and if the just Being, that presides over the Universe insure to you but a portion of that felicity you have conferred on others our prayers will be fulfilled.

Robert Brent—Chairman.

Nichs King. Secy

MS (DLC); in King’s hand, signed by Brent and King, dateline in Brent’s hand; at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as an “Address citizens of Washn” received 4 Mar. 1809 and so recorded in SJL. Printed in Washington National Intelligencer, 6 Mar. 1809. Enclosed in a brief covering letter of 4 Mar. 1809 from Brent, Samuel H. Smith, and James H. Blake (RC in DLC; in Smith’s hand, signed by Brent, Smith, and Blake; dateline adjacent to first signature; endorsed by TJ as received 4 Mar. 1809 and so recorded in SJL).

Robert Brent (1764–1819) served as mayor of Washington from 1802 to 1812, an unpaid post that he tried to relinquish in 1809. His paid positions included justice of the peace and judge of the orphans’ court for the District of Columbia’s Washington County and paymaster general of the army (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:388, 423, 2:110 [2 Mar. 1801, 28 Apr. 1802, 17 Feb. 1809]; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 6 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 1:193; Bryan, National Capital description begins Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan, A History of the National Capital: From its Foundation through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, 1914, 2 vols. description ends , 1:411; Washington National Intelligencer, 9 Sept. 1819).

Nicholas King (1771–1812) was an English-born surveyor who arrived in Washington in 1796. He worked on his own until TJ appointed him surveyor of the city in 1803, a postion he held until his death (Ralph E. Ehrenberg, “Nicholas King: First Surveyor of the City of Washington, 1803–1812,” RCHS description begins Records of the Columbia Historical Society, 1895– description ends 69/70 [1969/70]: 31–65; Washington National Intelligencer, 23 May 1812).

memorable act: the Declaration of Independence. illustrious hero of the revolution: George Washington.

Index Entries

  • Blake, James Heighe; letters from accounted for search
  • Brent, Robert; chairs meeting of Washington Republicans search
  • Brent, Robert; identified search
  • Brent, Robert; letters from search
  • Brent, Robert; letters from accounted for search
  • Declaration of Independence; TJ as author of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of congratulation to search
  • King, Nicholas; and meeting of Washington Republicans search
  • King, Nicholas; identified search
  • King, Nicholas; letters from search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); prints TJ’s correspondence search
  • Smith, Samuel Harrison; letters from accounted for search
  • Washington, George; lauded as hero of Revolution search
  • Washington (D.C.); citizens of, address TJ search