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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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7460. RETIREMENT, Reasons for.—
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7460. RETIREMENT, Reasons for.—

The President [Washington] said, in an affectionate
tone, that he had felt much concern
at an expression which dropped from me yesterday
[Feb. 28, 1792], and which marked my
intention of retiring [from the Secretaryship of
State] when he should; that as to himself,
many motives obliged him to it, * * * yet
he should consider it as unfortunate, if that
should bring on the retirement of the great
officers of the government, and that this might
produce a shock on the public mind of dangerous
consequence. I told him that no man had
ever had less desire of entering into public of
fices than myself; that the circumstance of a
perilous war, which had brought everything
into danger, and called for all the services
which every citizen could render, had induced
me to undertake the administration of the government
of Virginia; that I had both before and
after refused repeated appointments of Congress
to go abroad in that sort of office, which, if I
had consulted my own gratification, would almost
have been the most agreeable to me; that
at the end of two years, I resigned the government
of Virginia, and retired with a firm resolution
never more to appear in public life; that
a domestic loss, however, happened, and made
me fancy that absence and a change of scene
for a time might be expedient for me; that i,
therefore, accepted a foreign appointment, limited
to two years; that at the close of that, Dr.
Franklin having left France, I was appointed to
supply his place, which I had occupied, and
though I continued in it three or four years,
it was under the constant idea of remaining
only a year or two longer; that the Revolution
in France coming on, I had so interested myself
in the event of that, that when obliged to
bring my family home, I had still an idea of
returning and awaiting the close of that, to fix
the era of my final retirement; that on my arrival
here I found he had appointed me to my
present office [Secretary of State]; that he
knew I had not come into it without some reluctance;
that it was, on my part, a sacrifice of
inclination to the opinion that I might be more
serviceable here than in France, and with a firm
resolution in my mind, to indulge my constant
wish for retirement at no very distant day; that
when, therefore, I had received his letter, written
from Mount Vernon, on his way to Carolina
and Georgia (April 1, 1791), and discovered
from an expression in that, that he meant to
retire from the government ere long, and as to
the precise epoch there could be no doubt, my
mind was immediately made up, to make that
the epoch of my own retirement from those labors
of which I was heartily tired. That, however,
I did not believe there was any idea in
any of my brethren in the administration of
retiring; that, on the contrary, I had perceived
at a late meeting of the trustees of the sinking
fund, that the Secretary of the Treasury had developed
the plan he intended to pursue, and
that it embraced years in its view. He said
that he considered the Treasury Department
as a much more limited one, going only to the
single object of revenue, while that of the Secretary
of State, embracing nearly all the objects
of administration, was much more important,
and the retirement of the officer, therefore,
would be more noticed; that though the government
had set out with a pretty general good will
of the public, yet that symptoms of dissatisfaction
had lately shown themselves far beyond
what he could have expected, and to what
height these might arise in case of too great a
change in the administration, could not be foreseen.—
The Anas. Washington ed. ix, 102. Ford ed., i, 175.
(Feb. 29, 1792)