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Thomas Jefferson offers shutdown wisdom in rediscovered 219-year-old letter

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 1/12/2019 Mike Valerio

He was a founding father who wrote not only of independence, but of unity.

A fragile letter from a newly elected President Thomas Jefferson recently emerged at an Alexandria auction house, a rare piece of presidential parchment speaking to the current government shutdown – now the longest in American history.

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The dispatch is dated July 23, 1801. The nation’s third president expresses grave concern that a schism between Republicans and Federalists may have reached a point of no return.

“If we do not learn to sacrifice small differences of opinion, we can never act together,” Jefferson wrote to his political ally, John Dickinson.

“Every man cannot have his way in all things. If his own opinion prevails at some times, he should acquiesce on seeing that of others preponderate at others.”

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The letter is now under the care of the Potomack Company in Old Town, where it will be sold at auction Feb. 2.

“It's hard not to compare it to today's politics,” Potomack CEO Elizabeth Wainstein said in an interview Friday. “That we do need to come together as a nation.”

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