Within a few days I retire to my family, my books and farms; and having gained the harbor myself, I shall look on my friends still buffeting the storm, with anxiety indeed, but not with envy. Never did a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power.
To P. S. Dupont de Nemoirs, March 2, 1809
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retiring leaders need to walk away … and rejoice.
Two days after writing this letter, President Jefferson’s second term ended, and he turned the reins over to James Madison, his close friend of more than 30 years. He would trade the “shackles of power,” which he compared to a prisoner’s chains, for all the delights of home.
He had gained the “harbor” of retirement. While he was anxious for his friends as America teetered on the brink of war with England, he did not envy them. Jefferson now had his fondest wish: The prisoner had been set free.