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Should leaders keep their good deeds secret?

We have just heard of the calamitous event of Norfolk … [I] take the liberty of inclosing two hundred dollars to you, & of asking the favor of you to have it applied in the way you think best, for the relief of such description of sufferers as you shall think best. I pray not to be named in newspapers on this occasion.
To Thomas Newton, March 5, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Tragedy should not be a publicity opportunity for leaders.
A fire in Norfolk, Virginia on February 22 injured or killed many and destroyed more than 250 buildings. The President sent $200 for the relief fund, in care of a Virginia Congressman. Jefferson did not want his donation publicized in the newspapers.

The year before, Jefferson made another disaster-related donation to Portsmouth, NH. He insisted on anonymity then, too.

How many leaders today, do you suppose, deliberately keep their charitable efforts out of the public eye?

“Mr. Lee was engaged to represent both William Clark and Thomas Jefferson.
His portrayal of both men was outstanding …”
Executive Director, Greater St. Louis Federal Executive Board
Want an outstanding presentation for your audience?
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Keep my contribution anonymous!

We learn by the public papers that a great calamity by fire has happened to Portsmouth, and that yourself and some others are appointed to recieve contributions for the distressed sufferers and to distribute them. I take the liberty of inclosing to yourself an hundred dollars for this purpose. I observe the trustees say in the papers that they will make a record of the donations. I pray that in my case it may be of the sum only, without the name.
To John Langdon, January 11, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders don’t always have to grab headlines for their charitable work.
Newspapers spread the word of a disastrous fire on December 26, 1802 in Portsmouth, NH, that damaged or destroyed about 100 buildings at a loss of about $200,000. Without being asked, the President contributed $100 to the relief effort. Even though all donations were to be recorded, Jefferson asked to remain anonymous, that his contribution be noted only by the amount and not his name.

In 1802, disaster victims didn’t automatically look to governments for help. In a 19th century “crowdfunding” effort, Portsmouth dispatched three representatives to travel to other cities to encourage donations for their relief. Perhaps in response to their emissary to southern cities, Jefferson made a 2nd contribution of $100 on February 12.

John Langdon (1741-1819) was a successful businessman, early supporter of independence and a signer of the U.S. Constitution. He served in both state and national legislatures, as Governor of New Hampshire, and declined the nomination to be Madison’s Vice-President in 1812.

“Your presentation was original and refreshing,
and you made Thomas Jefferson real for us.”
Director of Communications and Education, Illinois Municipal League
Thomas Jefferson will refresh your audience!
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You cannot turn me down now!

I now learn that it is thought possible you might be induced to relieve our distress by undertaking it [the job of Navy Secretary]. the residence here is very pleasant indeed. a charming society, & not too much of it, all living on affectionate & unceremonious terms. it is impossible to be associated with more agreeable collegues. I hope therefore that you will undertake the office, & so say by return of post … and we shall entertain the hope of seeing mrs Langdon & yourself as soon after as your convenience will admit. accept assurances of my constant esteem & high consideration.
To John Langdon, May 23, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, leaders can plead and still get turned down. Even the President.
Jefferson had great difficulty recruiting a Secretary of the Navy. He was downsizing that department, and it was not an appealing position.

Langdon (1741-1819), was a wealthy New Hampshire republican businessman from a ship-building family. He had already turned the job down once. Then, Capt. Jones declined to serve. A third person was filling the office on a temporary basis only. Jefferson offered it to again Jones, who turned him down a second time.

Now, he turned to Langdon again. Hoping to change his mind, he painted a rosy picture of Washington City: Charming people but not too many of them, friendly, unpretentious, pleasant to work with.

None of it worked. Langdon turned him down again.

“I especially was impressed how well you tied our meeting topics into your speech.”
Mailboxes, Etc.
Mr. Jefferson will reinforce the themes of your meeting.
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Will someone help me, PLEASE?

Stoddart also accomodated me by staying till I could provide a successor. this I find next to impossible. R.R.L. [Robert Livingston] first refused. then Genl. Smith refused. next Langdon. I am now returning on Genl. Smith, but with little confidence of success. if he will undertake 6. months or even 12. months hence, I will appoint Lear in the mean time. he promised, if Langdon would take it for 6. months, he would in that time so dispose of his business as to come in. this makes me hope he may now accept in that way
To James Madison, March 12, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even Presidents can have trouble finding help!
Jefferson had been President just eight days and was having difficulty finding someone to serve as Secretary of the Navy. Benjamin Stoddert had filled that role for President Adams and was willing to stay until a replacement could be found.

Three people had already turned him down. Perhaps there was no number four, as he was going back to “Genl. Smith,” a political ally from Maryland. Smith did serve for several months and was succeeded by his brother Robert, who held the post through the remainder of Jefferson’s Presidency.

Cutbacks in the Navy budget made the head job less than desirable. Jefferson biographer Dumas Malone wrote, in Jefferson the President, First Term, page 59, “Jefferson had been in office more than four months before he acquired a secretary of the navy. He said privately with grim humor that he would probably have to advertise for one.”

The next post will feature a significant admission to his Navy Secretary Morris in 1805, relating to allegations Jefferson had a sexual relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings.

Your choice of Mr. Jefferson will be of great benefit to your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

 

 

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Thomas Jefferson on monarchy-mangling

The practice of kings marrying only in the families of kings, has been that of Europe for some centuries. Now, take any race of animals, confine them in idleness and inaction, whether in a sty, a stable or a state-room, pamper them with high diet, gratify all their sexual appetites, immerse them in sensualities, nourish their passions, let everything bend before them, and banish whatever might lead them to think, and in a few generations they become all body, and no mind; and this, too, by a law of nature, by that very law by which we are in the constant practice of changing the characters and propensities of the animals we raise for our own purposes. Such is the regimen in raising kings, and in this way they have gone on for centuries.
To John Langdon, 1810, 4264

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thomas Jefferson’s views on monarchies were as harsh as they were on almost any subject. A monarchy was the antithesis of republican (small r) rule, where all were to be regarded and treated as equals.
This is what would ruin kings (or any group of people) over generations:
– Require them to interbreed only with their own kind
– Keep them in idleness and inaction
– Feed them very well
– Fulfill every sexual fantasy
– Satisfy every personal interest
– Make everyone treat them as superior
– Give them no opportunity to think or reason for themselves
After several generations, this produces people who are “all body, and no mind,” like farm animals, raised either for work or slaughter.

Let Thomas Jefferson protect you from kings and kingly-thinking.
Invite him to speak to your audience.
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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