Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to the Senate, 28 February 1801

To the Senate

Feb. 28. 1801.

Gentlemen Of The Senate

To give the usual opportunity of appointing a President pro tempore, I now propose to retire from the chair of the Senate: and as the time is near at hand,1 when the relations will cease, which have for some time subsisted between this honorable house & myself, I beg leave before I withdraw, to return them my grateful thanks for all the instances of attention & respect with which they have been pleased to honor me. in the discharge of my functions here it has been my conscientious2 endeavor to observe impartial justice, without regard to persons or subjects:3 and if I have failed of impressing this on the mind of the Senate, it will be to me a circumstance of the deepest regret. I may have erred at times. no doubt I have erred. this is the law of human nature. for honest errors however indulgence may be hoped.

I owe to truth &4 justice at the same time to declare that the habits of order & decorum which so strongly characterize the proceedings of the Senate, have rendered the umpirage of their President an office of little difficulty: that in times, & on questions which have severely tried the sensibilities of the house, calm and temperate discussion has rarely been disturbed by departures from order.

Should the support which I have recieved from the Senate, in the performance of my duties here, attend me into the new station to which the public will has transferred me, I shall consider it as commencing under the happiest auspices.

With these expressions of my dutiful regard to the Senate as a body, I ask leave to mingle my particular wishes for the health & happiness of the individuals who compose it; and to tender them my cordial and respectful Adieux.

Th: Jefferson

RC (DNA: RG 46, 6th Cong., 2d sess.). Dft (DLC).

TJ’s final act as president of the Senate was to deliver this address. The senators immediately elected James Hillhouse to serve as president pro tempore, and formed a committee consisting of Gouverneur Morris, Jonathan Mason, and Jonathan Dayton “with instruction to prepare and report the draft of an address in answer” to the vice president (MS in DLC, being an order of the Senate dated 28 Feb., in Samuel A. Otis’s hand and signed by him; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 3:134–5).

1In Dft preceding three words are written over partially erased “fast approaching.”

2Word interlined in Dft.

3In RC TJ first wrote “to the persons or subjects to which they related” before altering the passage to read as above, entering dashes in place of the erased words. TJ then altered the Dft to reflect the changes made in the RC.

4Preceding word and ampersand interlined in Dft.

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