Jefferson’s Reply to the Address of Welcome of the Virginia House of Delegates
I receive with humble gratitude, Gentlemen, the congratulations of the honorable the H. of Delegates on my return: And I beg leave thro’ you to present them my thanks and dutiful respects. Could any circumstance heighten my affection to my native country, it would be the1 indulgence with which they view my feeble efforts to serve it and the esteem with which they2 are pleased3 to honour me. I shall hope to merit a continuance of their goodness by obeying the impulse of a zeal of which public good is the first object, and public esteem the highest reward. Permit me gentlemen for a moment to separate from my general thanks, the special ones I owe to you the organs of so flattering a communication.
Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 52: 8938); with numerous alterations, some of which are indicated below (Dft of response to Senate committee on verso). Tr (DLC: TJ Papers, 52: 8939); attested by John Stewart, clerk of the House of Delegates, and therefore presumably made sometime during 1795–8 when Stewart held that office; being a copy of extracts from the journal for 7 and 9 Dec. 1789 (see below); docketed: “No.7th.”
On 7 Dec. the House of Delegates appointed a committee “to Congratulate Thomas Jefferson Esqr., late Ambassador of the United States to the Court of Versailles, on his return to his native Country, and to assure him of the Esteem, which the House of Delegates bear for his Character and public Services” (Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 52: 8937; attested by Charles Hay, clerk of the House; also in Tr by Stewart cited above: printed in JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1789, 1828 edn., p. 107). The members of the committee were Henry Lee, Isaac Zane, Edmund Randolph, Samuel Hopkins, Francis Corbin, John Dawson, Edward Carrington, Miles King, Zachariah Johnston, French Strother, William Cabell, Jr. In JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends and in copy made by Stewart, TJ is designated as “late minister plenipotentiary from the United States” and the name of “Mr. Nicholas” is added to the committee (Wilson Cary Nicholas of Albemarle). No text of the address by the committee has been found. On 9 Dec. 1789 Henry Lee reported “that the Committee had … waited on that Gentleman with the Congratulations of the House, to which he was pleased to return the following Answer” (followed by full text of TJ’s reply; Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 52: 8939; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1789, 1828 edn., p. 112). The resolution, the report, and the address are printed in Gazette of the United States, 2 Jan. 1790.
1. At this point TJ first wrote and then deleted “kind.”
2. TJ first wrote: “are pleased to express <for these>. In whatever situation fortune or the <public will> my country may place me <their> it’s <the public> good shall be my first object, their approbation my highest reward” then he altered the passage by deletion and interlineation to read as above.
3. Above these two words TJ first wrote and then deleted: “so kindly.”