No duty the executive had to perform was so trying...(Quotation)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Many sources quote Thomas Jefferson as saying, "No duty the Executive had to perform was so trying as to put the right man in the right place." This is in fact a paraphrase of Jefferson's actual statement, in an 1801 letter to the New Haven merchants:

"Of the various Executive duties, no one excites more anxious concern than that of placing the interests of our fellow citizens in the hands of honest men, with understandings sufficient for their station. no duty, at the same time, is more difficult to fulfill."[1]


  1. Jefferson to the New Haven Merchants, Washington, D.C., July 12, 1801, in PTJ, 34:554. Press copy available online from the Library of Congress.

Further Sources

  • Cunningham, Noble E. The Jeffersonian Republicans in Power: Party Operations, 1801-1809. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 1963. See especially Chapter Two, "The Party and the Patronage: The Initiation of Policy," which discusses at length the political context and meaning of the letter quoted above.