Extract from Thomas Jefferson to Edward Rutledge

You have seen my name lately tacked to so much of eulogy & of abuse, that I dare say you hardly thought it meant for your old acquaintance of 76. in truth I did not know myself under the pens either of my friends or foes. it is unfortunate for our peace that unmerited abuse wounds, while unmerited praise has not the power to heal us. these are hard wages for the services of all the active & healthy years of one’s life. I had retired after five & twenty years of constant occupation in public affairs and total abandonment of my own. I retired much poorer than when I entered the public service, and desired nothing but rest and oblivion. my name however was again brought forward, without [. . .] consent or expectation on my part (on my salvation I declare it.) I do not as yet know the result as a matter of fact; for in my retired canton we have nothing later from Philadelphia than of the 2d week of this month. yet I have never one moment doubted the result. I knew it was impossible mr. Adams should lose a vote North of the Delaware, and that the free and moral agency of the South would furnish him an abundant supplement. on principles of public respect I should not have refused: but I protest before my god that I shall, from the bottom of my heart, rejoice at escaping. I know well that no man will ever bring out of that office the reputation which carries him into it. the honey moon would be as short in that case as in any other, & it’s moments of extasy would be ransomed by years of torment & hatred. I shall highly value indeed the share which I may have had in the late vote, as an evidence of the share I hold in the esteem of my countrymen. but in this point of view a few votes more or less will be little sensible, and in every other the minor vote will be preferred by me to the major vote. I have no ambition to govern men, no passion which would lead me to delight to ride in a storm ... my attachment to my home has enabled me to make the calculation with rigor, perhaps with partiality to the issue which is to keep me there. the newspapers will permit me to plant my Cow-peas in hills or drills as I please ... while our Eastern friend will be struggling with the storm which is gathering over us, perhaps be shipwrecked in it. this is certainly not a moment to covet the helm.

PrC (DLC). Published in PTJ, 29:232.
Author
Thomas Jefferson
Recipient
Edward Rutledge
Date Range
Date
December 27, 1796
Collection
Quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson
Quote Category