'I must give myself the sack'

How to resign

This morning, for no reason in particular, I was looking at the letter of resignation that brought Richard Nixon’s presidency to a close in 1974: essentially a single, eleven-word sentence on White House stationery—a purely functional document, free of any fat—that was signed by Nixon on the morning of 8 August in order to avoid impeachment. It remains the only letter of resignation from a US President. But that could change, and it could, in theory, change very soon.

Revisiting it brought to mind some other letters of resignation, a selection of which I’ve quoted below. I don’t know about you but I find it quite satisfying to resign vicariously through the letters of others.

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I hereby resign the Office of President of the United States.

US President Richard Nixon | Letter to Henry Kissinger | 9 Aug 1974

To my friends at Carsey-Werner Company, ABC, to the cast, crew and staff of ‘Roseanne’:

My sincere and heartfelt thanks to all of you.

I have chosen not to return to the show next season. Instead, my wife and I have decided to share a vacation in the relative peace and quiet of Beirut.

Jeff Harris, Executive Producer

Jeff Harris | Letter to colleagues | 27 March 1990

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.

This, sir, is my resignation.

William Faulkner | Letter to the Postmaster General | October 1924

It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with John Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate…

I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.

Emma Thompson | Letter to Skydance Animation | 23 Jan 2019

I must ask you, much as it grieves me to do so, to kindly relieve me of my duties as director of church music until circumstances allow for the appointment of a different organist to the one who rendered his services for today's mass at the Maximilianskirche. His incompetence makes impossible any successful performance, and it is thus so unpleasant for me to see the efforts of the other performers and of myself go entirely to waste that I hope you will graciously grant my request.

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy | Letter to Joseph von Fuchsius | 12 October 1834

Please accept my resignation. I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.

Groucho Marx | Letter to the Friar’s Club | 1948

You have a man in your employ that I have thought for a long time should be fired. I refer to Sherwood Anderson. He is a fellow of a good deal of ability, but for a long time I have been convinced that his heart is not in his work.

There is no question but that this man Anderson has in some ways been an ornament to our organization. His hair, for one thing being long and mussy gives an artistic carelessness to his personal appearance that somewhat impresses such men as Frank Lloyd Wright and Mr. Curtenius of Kalamazoo when they come into the office.

But Anderson is not really productive. As I have said his heart is not in his work. I think he should be fired and if you will not do the job I should like permission to fire him myself. I therefore suggest that Anderson be asked to sever his connections with the Company on August 1st. He is a nice fellow. We will let him down easy but let's can him.

Sherwood Anderson | Letter to Bayard Barton | 25 June 1918

I am afraid that I have never been a very useful member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, so I know it will make very little difference to you whether I resign, or whether I continue to be a member of your organization.

However, I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist. You have set an example which seems to me unfortunate, and I feel obliged to send in to you my resignation. You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed.

I realize that many people will not agree with me, but feeling as I do this seems to me the only proper procedure to follow.

Eleanor Roosevelt | Letter to the DAR | 26 Feb 1939

This is my resignation. I am not worth my salt to the Star; and you will be more at your ease without having constantly to suppress my articles. Sooner than trample on my feelings by telling me so, you would probably allow the paper to pay me £10,000 a year for doing nothing. So I must give myself the sack.

George Bernard Shaw | Letter to T. P. O’Connor | 9 Feb 1888

So, after being a loyal if invisible member for so long, I am resigning from the Guild. I am, however, retaining membership in the National Writers Union and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, both of which opposed the “Google settlement.” They don’t have your clout, but their judgment, I think, is sounder, and their courage greater.

Ursula K. Le Guin | Letter to the Authors Guild | 18 Dec 2009

My only resource is, after thirty-six years of patience, to resign my own membership and to make some sort of public protest against the essentially unscientific and biased work of a Society which has for a whole generation produced no constructive work of any kind, but has confined its energies to the misrepresentation and hindrance of those who have really worked at the most important problem ever presented to mankind.

Arthur Conan Doyle | Letter to the Society for Psychical Research | 22 Jan 1930

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