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5 steps to maintain public trust over public money

In our care too of the public contributions entrusted to our direction, it would be prudent to multiply barriers against their dissipation, by appropriating specific sums to every specific purpose susceptible of definition; by disallowing all applications of money varying from the appropriation in object, or transcending it in amount; by reducing the undefined field of Contingencies, & thereby circumscribing discretionary powers over money; and by bringing back to a single department all accountabilities for money, where the examinations may be prompt, efficacious, & uniform.
First Annual Message, November 27, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Responsible leaders know the importance of protecting taxpayers’ money.
Deciphering this challenging passage, Jefferson laid out to Congress specific strategies for making sure that taxes weren’t wasted:
1. Set amounts of money should be appropriated for specific purposes
2. No spending for anything outside those purposes
3. No spending in excess of what was agreed upon
4. Minimize undefined purposes, limiting discretionary power over spending
5. Have one department responsible for accounting for all funds in a timely and uniform manner, to assure items 1 through 4 were carried out.

“Your contribution … added immeasurably to the success of the workshop.
We hope to be able to work with you in the future.”
Missouri Department of Corrections
Let Mr. Jefferson contribute to the success of your meeting.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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It doesn’t have to be complicated!

I have read and considered your report … and entirely approve of it, as the best plan on which we can set out. … I think it an object of great importance … to simplify our system of finance, and bring it within the comprehension of every member of Congress … we might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant’s books, so that every member of Congress, and every man of any mind in the Union, should be able to comprehend them to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them.
To Albert Gallatin, April 1, 1802
(Second letter down)

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Objective leaders simplify to help people to understand.
Gallatin was Jefferson’s Treasury Secretary for eight years. Together, they wanted to replace the indecipherable finances and bookkeeping of the previous Secretary, Alexander Hamilton.  One year into Jefferson’s Presidency, he commented favorably on Gallatin’s plan to do that.
The goal of their plan was simple. The nation’s finances should be so straightforward that every member of Congress and every thinking person could understand them, “investigate abuses,” and thus control those abuses.

“We heard nothing but praise from audience members.”
Policy Director, Washington State Association of Counties

Thomas Jefferson will earn the praise of your audience, too!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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Thomas Jefferson on using a secret code

Got secrets?
I send you a cipher [a coding device] to be used between us, which will give you some trouble to understand, but, once understood, is the easiest to use, the most undecipherable, and varied by a new key with the greatest facility of any I have ever known … But why a cipher between us…? … there may be matters merely personal to ourselves, and which require the cover of a cipher more than those of any other character. This last purpose and others, which we cannot foresee, may render it convenient and advantageous to have at hand a mask for whatever may need it.

Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, 1802, 1275

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
In a portion
of this letter not included here, Jefferson explains how the coding device worked. That explanation might not be obscure to some readers, but it is to me! No doubt, Jefferson loved creating things like this, not only for their practical application but for the intellectual challenge.
Jefferson did not trust the postal carriers to safeguard the confidentiality of his written correspondence. He would not send sensitive material through the post. He often chose to have his correspondence hand delivered by a trusted friend. A cipher would have protected him in these instances.
To what degree Jefferson actually used coded messages I cannot say. He did send these instructions with Meriwether Lewis, should he need to send a secret message while on his exploration of Louisiana. Lewis did not use it.
How “crackable” Jefferson’s code was is also debatable. He thought it secure.
For an delightful article about a Jefferson-era cipher (and practical joke!) that eluded him and everyone else until 2009, read this article from the Wall Street Journal, by Rachel Emma Silverman, “Two Centuries On, a Cryptologist Cracks a Presidential Code,”

2 Comments Posted in Intellectual pursuits