you observe that you are, or probably will be, appointed an elector. I have no doubt you will do your duty with a conscientious regard to the public good & to that only. your decision in favor of another would not excite in my mind the slightest dissatisfaction towards you. on the contrary I should honor the integrity of your choice.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Secure leaders do not get overly invested in others’ choices.
Larkin had expressed his dismay over not receiving any notification that he had been passed over for what he deemed a well-deserved federal appointment. The President explained why in previous posts.
Larkin concluded his letter with the likelihood he would be chosen as a delegate from Virginia to the Electoral College, where he would certainly cast his vote for Jefferson’s reelection. Was it an honest compliment or blatant flattery … or both? Was he implying: I will have your back. Why couldn’t you have mine?
Jefferson replied he didn’t care who received Larkin’s vote. He trusted him to vote his conscience and only with “regard to the public good.” He would not mind if Larkin voted for another, nor would it change his attitude toward him. Rather, if Larkin voted against him, Jefferson would “honor the integrity of your choice.”
This was a common theme for Jefferson, that he didn’t let others’ political choices affect their personal relationships, unless they first withdrew from him.