I have learned, with real sorrow, that circumstances have arisen among our executive counsellors [President Madison’s cabinet], which have rendered foes those who once were friends.
To Dr. Walter Jones, 1810, 1032
The dissensions between two members of the Cabinet are to be lamented. But why should these force Mr. Gallatin to withdraw? They cannot be greater than between Hamilton and myself, and yet we served together four years in that way. We had indeed no personal dissensions. Each of us, perhaps, thought well of the other as a man, but as politicians it was impossible for two men to be of more opposite principles.
To Joel Barlow, 1810, 1033
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Albert Gallatin was Secretary of the Treasury for all eight years of Jefferson’s Presidency. Jefferson had the highest regard for Gallatin and his management of the nation’s money. Gallatin continued that role under President Madison, but within two years, he was in such disagreement with another member of Madison’s cabinet that Gallatin felt he might need to resign. He didn’t step down, though, until 1814.
Jefferson was making the point that political differences don’t need to cause personal ones. He cites his own example of contending with Alexander Hamilton in President Washington’s cabinet. In another portion of his letter to Walter Jones, he wrote, “Hamilton and myself were daily pitted in the cabinet like two cocks.” Even so, Jefferson claimed to maintain personal respect for Hamilton, even while strongly disagreeing with him on almost everything. He urged others in political life to have the same tolerance for their opponents.
Jefferson did resign from Washington’s cabinet after four years, in part, because of his ongoing political disagreements with Hamilton.