In giving these outlines, I do not mean, fellow citizens, to arrogate [claim without justification] to myself the merit of the measures. that is due in the first place to the reflecting character of our citizens at large … it is due to the sound discretion with which they select … those to whom they confide the legislative duties. it is due to the zeal & wisdom of the characters thus selected, who lay the foundations of public happiness in wholsome laws … and it is due to the able and faithful auxiliaries, whose patriotism has associated them with me in the executive functions.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders credit others freely and widely.
Thomas Jefferson had recited his administration’s accomplishments in curtailing government and taxes, spending wisely, acquiring Louisiana, staying out of religion and work on behalf of the Indians. Now, he refused to take claim that success as his own but acknowledged where true credit belonged:
1. First, the wisdom of America’s citizens
2. Then, the Congressional Representatives chosen by those citizens
3. The “zeal & wisdom” of those Representatives
4. His “able & faithful” co-laborers in the Executive Branch
He put citizens first, Congress and its work next, and then his capable lieutenants. He didn’t mention himself.