I shall now enter [my second term as President] … , & shall proceed in the spirit of those principles which they have approved. I fear not that any motives of [self] interest may lead me astray. I am sensible of no passion which could seduce me knowingly from the path of justice. but the weaknesses of human nature, & the limits of my own understanding will produce errors of judgment sometimes injurious to your interests. I shall need therefore all the indulgence which I have heretofore experienced from my constituents. the want of it will certainly not lessen with increasing years.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Humble leaders know they can be prone to failure.
As Thomas Jefferson neared the end of his address, he pledged continued allegiance to the principles the voters approved. He knew of nothing that could dissuade him from those principles. He also understood “the weaknesses of human nature” and “the limits of my own understanding.” Those would cause him to make mistakes.
He asked that the grace shown him in the past would continue. Even worse, the aging process (he was almost 62, average life expectancy for a male at the time) would put him in need of even more grace for his errors.