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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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7840. SERVICE, Tours of.—
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7840. SERVICE, Tours of.—

You say I
“must not make my final exit from public life
till it will be marked with justifying circumstances
which all good citizens will respect,
and to which my friends can appeal”. To my
fellow-citizens the debt of service has been
fully and faithfully paid. I acknowledge that
such a debt exists, that a tour of duty, in whatever
line he can be most useful to his country,
is due from every individual. It is not easy,
perhaps, to say of what length exactly this tour
should be, but we may safely say of what length
it should not be. Not of our whole life, for
instance, for that would be to be born a slave—
not even of a very large portion of it. I have
now been in the public service four and twenty
years; one-half of which has been spent in
total occupation with their affairs, and absence
from my own. I have served my tour then.
No positive engagement, by word or deed, binds
me to their further service. No commitment
of their interests in any enterprise by me requires
that I should see them through it. I
am pledged by no act which gives any tribunal
a call upon me before I withdraw. Even my
enemies do not pretend this. I stand clear,
then, of public right on all points. My friends
I have not committed. No circumstances have
attended my passage from office to office, which
could lead them, and others through them, into deception as to the time I might remain, and
particularly they and all have known with what
reluctance I engaged and have continued in the
present one [Secretary of State], and of my
uniform determination to retire from it at an
early day. If the public, then, has no claim on
me, and my friends nothing to justify, the decision
will rest on my own feelings alone.
There has been a time when these were very
different from what they are now; when perhaps
the esteem of the world was of higher
value in my eye than everything in it. But
age, experience and reflection preserving to
that only its due value, have set a higher on
To James Madison. Washington ed. iii, 577. Ford ed., vi, 290.
(June. 1793)

See Jefferson.