Washington Feb. 16. 09.
I have duly recieved your favor of the 11th. covering resolutions of the General assembly of Virginia on our foreign relations, and an Address to myself on my approaching retirement, & I ask leave, through the same channel to return the inclosed answer. nothing can give me more sincere satisfaction than this kind & honourable testimony from the General assembly of my native state, a state in which I have drawn my first, & shall draw my latest breath, & to which I retire with inexpressible pleasure. I am equally sensible of your goodness in the approving terms in which you have made this communication. the concurrence of a veteran patriot who from the first dawn of the revolution to this day has pursued unchangeably the same honest course, cannot but be flattering to his fellow labourers. I pray you to accept the assurances of my sincere esteem & respect.
DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.
Feb. 16. 1809
I recieve with peculiar sensibility the affectionate address of the General assembly of my native state, on my approaching retirement from the office with which I have been honored by the nation at large. having been one of those who entered into public life at the commencement of an aera the most extraordinary which the history of man has ever yet presented to his contemplation, I claim nothing more, for the part I have acted in it, than a common merit of having, with others, faithfully endeavored to do my duty in the several stations allotted me. in the measures which you are pleased particularly to approve, I have been aided by the wisdom & patriotism of the National legislature & the talents and virtues of the able coadjutors with whom it has been my happiness to be associated, & to whose valuable & faithful services I with pleasure & gratitude bear witness.
From the moment, that, to preserve our rights, a change of government became necessary, no doubt could be entertained that a republican form was most consonant with reason, with right, with the freedom of man, & with the character & situation of our fellow citizens. to the sincere spirit of republicanism are naturally associated the love of country, devotion to it’s liberty, it’s rights and it’s honour. our preference of that form of government has been so far justified by it’s success, and the prosperity with which it has blessed us. in no portion of the earth were life, liberty & property ever so securely held: and it is with infinite satisfaction that, withdrawing from the active scenes of life, I see the sacred deposit of these blessings committed to those who are sensible of their value and determined to defend them.
It would have been a great consolation to have left the nation under the assurance of a continued peace, nothing has been spared to effect it: and at no other period of history would such efforts have failed to ensure it, for neither belligerent pretends to have been injured by us, or can say that we have in any instance departed from the most faithful neutrality; & certainly none will charge us with a want of forbearance.
In the desire of peace, but in full confidence of safety from our unity, our position, & our resources, I shall retire into the bosom of my native state, endeared to me by every tie which can attach the human heart. the assurances of your approbation, and that my conduct has given satisfaction to my fellow citizens generally, will be an important ingredient in my future happiness; & that the supreme ruler of the Universe may have our country under his special care, will be among the latest of my prayers.