Extract from Thomas Jefferson to Josephus B. Stuart

You say I must go to writing history. while in public life, I had not time: and now that I am retired, I am past the time. to write history requires a whole life of observation, of enquiry, of labor and correction. it’s materials are not to be found among the ruins of a decayed memory. at this day I should begin where I ought to have left off. the ‘solve senescentem equum’ is a precept we learn in youth, but for the practice of age; and were I to disregard it it would be but a proof the more of it’s soundness. if any thing has ever merited to me the respect of my fellow-citizens, themselves, I hope, would wish me not to lose it by exposing the decay of faculties of which it was the reward. I must then, dear Sir, leave to yourself and your brethren of the rising generation to arraign at your tribunal the actions of your predecessors, and to pronounce the sentence they may have merited or incurred. if the sacrifices of that age have resulted in the good of this, then all is well, and we shall be rewarded by their approbation, and shall be authorised to say ‘go ye, and do likewise.’

RC (MH: Schaffner Collection). PoC (DLC).

solve senescentem equum: “Be wise in time, and turn loose the ageing horse”, a paraphrase of Horace, Epistles, 1.1.8 (Fairclough, Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica, 250–1). After relating the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus advised his listeners to go ye, and do likewise (Luke 10.37).

Author
Thomas Jefferson
Recipient
Josephus B. Stuart
Date Range
Date
May 10, 1817
Collection
Quotes by and about Thomas Jefferson