Speaking on leadership & wisdom
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"Were we directed from Washington
when to plant and when to reap,
we would soon want bread."
Thomas Jefferson, 1821
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… [Should we present to] Congress at some time of every session a Calendar of 1. the interest of the public debt paid in each year. 2. the principal paid, or added. 3. the principal remaining due at the end of each year …  also …  a similar calendar of the expenditures 1. for the civil, 2. the military, 3. the naval departments, in a single sum each? the greatest security against the introduction of corrupt practices & principles into our government, which can be relied on in practice, is to make the continuance of an administration depend on their keeping the public expences down at their minimum. the people at large are not judges of theoretic principles, but they can judge on comparative statements of the expence of different epochs.
To Albert Gallatin, February 11, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders help their constituents hold them accountable.
The President decried the undecipherable mess of government finance created by the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. He wanted Gallatin, his Secretary, to make sense of it, not just for Congress but for the common man. Thus, he asked Gallatin about the wisdom of an annual report to Congress related to national debt and annual expenditures:
Debt –
1. How much interest was paid on the debt?
2. How much the debt was reduced or increased?
3. Was is the total debt at the end of the year?
Annual expenditures, a single total for each –
1. Civil government (all non-military expenditures)
2. Military (land-based forces and defenses)
3. The navy

Jefferson also asked if these numbers could be established annually from the nation’s founding. A protection against corruption was an on-going effort to keep government spending at a minimum. The public would be well able to judge of their government by comparing these totals year by year.

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Cancer is not within the federal government’s authority.

… with respect to any application to Congress, it would be inefficient, because the Constitution allows them to give no other reward for useful discoveries but the exclusive right for 14. years: and the care of the public health is not among those [powers] given to the general government, but remains exclusively with the legislatures of the respective states …
To James Houston, February 10, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders accept limits on their authority.
In a long curious letter to the President, Houston, a 52 year old farmer described being in Philadelphia for treatment of a cancer he’d suffered from for many years. He claimed to have been mostly healed and wanted to make the doctor’s cure known publicly. The doctor refused, because the pills he compounded to treat the cancer were a major source of income. Still, for $50,000, the doctor would release the formula.

Houston had written a “pamphlet,” some lengthy, rhyming narrative of his treatment and cure, and sent a portion of it to the President. He hoped to publish and sell it to raise funds toward that $50,000 goal. He sought a patent on his pamphlet. The President acknowledged a 14 year patent “for useful discoveries,” but that did not apply to Houston’s effort. Neither was the national government authorized by the Constitution to guard public health. Under the 10th Amendment, that authority remained with the individual states.

While he could not help his petitioner, Jefferson remained gracious. He concluded his letter by congratulating Houston “on his prospect of recovery, and sincerely wishes it may be compleated.”

Two months later, Houston filed for a copyright on his pamphlet in the federal court in Philadelphia and published it with the title, “A Plan for the Ladies Fund, in the United States of America, for the Relief of Those Afflicted with Cancers.”

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This is what I think. Now, you make the decision.

… I submit all this to your discretion …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

… will you be so good as to consider this, and to do finally what you think best?
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders let trusted subordinates make the decisions.
These excerpts are Jefferson’s concluding thoughts to his War Secretary on two entirely unrelated matters. One dealt with a family’s petition for the early release of a soldier. The other pertained to opening negotiations with the Creek Indians for a road to New Orleans through their lands in Georgia and Alabama. In each case, the President expressed an opinion and the reasons for it.Then he left the decision in the hands of his lieutenant.

Jefferson feared most of all the consolidation of all powers into the hands of a very few in the federal government, far removed from the lives of those affected by their decisions. Thus, he was a devoted delegator of decision making. He had no qualms about making the call when he had to, but if a matter could be resolved by someone under his authority, he eagerly left the matter in their hands.

In his retirement, Jefferson wrote to Destutt de Tracy in 1811,“… I have never been so well pleased as when I could shift power from my own, on the shoulders of others …”

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This is what I think. Now, you make the decision.

… I submit all this to your discretion …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

… will you be so good as to consider this, and to do finally what you think best?
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders let trusted subordinates make the decisions.
These excerpts are Jefferson’s concluding thoughts to his War Secretary on two entirely unrelated matters. One dealt with a family’s petition for the early release of a soldier. The other pertained to opening negotiations with the Creek Indians for a road to New Orleans through their lands in Georgia and Alabama. In each case, the President expressed an opinion and the reasons for it. Then he left the decision in the hands of his lieutenant.

Jefferson feared most of all the consolidation of all powers into the hands of a very few in the federal government, far removed from the lives of those affected by their decisions. Thus, he was a devoted delegator of decision making. He had no qualms about making the call when he had to, but if a matter could be resolved by someone under his authority, he eagerly left the matter in their hands.

In his retirement, Jefferson wrote to Destutt de Tracy in 1811, “… I have never been so well pleased as when I could shift power from my own, on the shoulders of others …”

“I would like to express my thanks to you for your outstanding presentation …
Your opening keynote presentation … had the audience spellbound …”
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Might we scratch each other’s backs?

Considering that we have shortly to ask a favour ourselves from the Creeks [Creek Indians], the Tuckabatché road, may we not turn the application of Hawkins to our advantage, by making it the occasion of broaching that subject to them? … it is becoming indispensible for us to have a direct communication from the seat of our government with that place [New Orleans], by a road which, instead of passing the mountains … shall keep below the mountains the whole way … that we do not mean to ask this favor for nothing, but to give them for it whatever it is worth; besides that they will have the advantages of keeping taverns for furnishing necessaries to travellers, of selling their provisions & recieving a great deal money in that way …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders use gifts to open negotiations.
The “application of Hawkins,” U.S. Indian Agent for the southern tribes, was approved, granting a number of supplies needed by the Creek Indians. The President asked his War Secretary to use the granting of these supplies to open negotiations for a concession from the Creeks.

The current road from Washington to New Orleans was through the mountains of Tennessee. U.S. acquisition of Louisiana required a better, faster route. That road would be south of the mountains, through Creek Indian land, across Georgia and Alabama. The U.S. would soon be asking the Creeks for permission to build that road.

Jefferson insisted the U. S. would not take the needed land but would pay for it. The granted supplies might open the door with the Creeks. Not only would they be reimbursed for the right-of-way, the Creeks would profit from maintaining the business development rights along the new road.

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Can we make a bad situation just a bit better?

the family is represented as being in a very unhappy state, the parents old & anxious once more to see their son … they pray [he] may be discharged & restored to them . every thing connected with a regular soldiery is so unpopular with citizens at large, that every occasion should be taken of softening it’s roughnesses towards them. in time of peace … I think it would have a good effect to indulge citizens of respectability in cases like the present …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders consider bending the rules occasionally.
A family member petitioned the President for an early release of a soldier who had already served eight years. In 1795, while intoxicated, that young man was induced to enlist by a zealous recruiter. When his five year term was completed, the desperate soldier lacked funds to travel 1,200 miles home and re-enlisted. The soldier’s parents were heartbroken to learn of this news and asked another son to write the President on their behalf. That son begged mercy for his aged parents and release for his brother.

The President referred the matter to Dearborn, his Secretary of War, relaying the facts given him by the petitioning brother. Jefferson acknowledged that public opinion was not on their side regarding the “roughnesses” of military life. This soldier had served one five year term and was more than half through a second five years. The nation was at peace. Could they grant an indulgence to this family, not only for their sake but for public opinion, as well?

The petitioner wrote that another brother had died in March 1803. A footnote to the petitioner’s letter recorded the petitioner himself died a month after writing to the President, at the age of 20. I find no record of how Dearborn acted in this manner, but I suspect he granted the release.

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What do we do in the worst-case-scenario?

other Questions to be considered, in the event of a British cruiser falling in with the vessel in which mr Harvie will be.
1. shall he throw the papers overboard on his vessel being brought to? or trust to an examination in hopes of liberation.
2. if detained, shall he deliver the stock to liberate his vessel? shall he accompany the stock to England? or abandon it & carry to Paris the information of what has happened?
To Albert Gallatin, January 24, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders plan for unpleasant possibilities.
Lewis Harvie, the President’s private secretary (who succeeded Meriwether Lewis), was to carry $11.25 million in stock to France for the purchase of Louisiana. How to get him safely there was a serious consideration when British ships were harassing, boarding and sometimes capturing foreign vessels or their passengers.
Jefferson directed Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin to inquire about all passages available on American ships leaving Baltimore or New York for Europe. He was to look for routes that went south of England to the Continent, rather than ones going through the English Channel, were British ships abounded. Harvie would arrive in the American port anonymously and on short notice, book his passage and leave.
If all that failed, and Harvie’s ship was stopped by the British, the President proposed five questions to be answered before that worst-case-scenario unfolded.

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It’s fake news, my friend. (But I won’t say so publicly.)

those especially who read the Gazette of the US. need to be set to rights, for in the long  statement which appeared in that paper about a week ago, there was not one single fact which was not false …
the Gazette of the US. is evidence of this [opposition] … 4. pages of solid matter … & the whole so false and malignant, as shews it is prepared for the purpose of exportation, and to poison the minds of foreign countries against their own, which is too well informed to drink of the dose.
To William Short, January 23, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Strong opposition from some of the press comes to all leaders.
The previous post, from a letter to Jefferson’s daughter, dealt with diplomatic offense taken when he did not show favoritism to British and Spanish representatives at private dinners. In this long letter to a trusted friend, Jefferson explained the conflict in much greater detail.

He was particularly concerned about a report in an opposition newspaper, the Gazette of the United States, claiming every single fact in the account to be wrong. The entirety of the paper was “so false and malignant” that its only purpose was “to poison the minds of foreign countries” against the United States. Affirming confidence in his countrymen, he said Americans were “too well informed” to drink that poison.

Jefferson regularly shared strong opinions in his correspondence with trusted friends but almost never did so publicly, where he maintained an even-handed cordiality. Yet, he wanted to reassure those who knew him well with the benefit of his thinking, to combat what opponents thought of him.

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We are all equal here. Fooey on them!

On Friday Congress give a dinner on the acquisition of Louisiana. they determine to invite no foreign ministers, to avoid questions of etiquette, in which we are enveloped by Merry’s & Yrujo’s families. … [their conflict will continue] until they recieve orders from their courts to acquiesce in our principles of the equality of all persons meeting together in society, & not to expect to force us into their principles of allotment into ranks & orders.
To Martha Jefferson Randolph, January 23, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Just leaders do not show favoritism, especially when it is expected.
President Jefferson disdained the aristocratic expectations of England’s and Spain’s ambassadors to America. They insisted on favored treatment and were incensed not to receive it. Thus, they were excluded from a Congressional dinner.

Although Jefferson wished his elder daughter could be with him in Washington City, it was better for her that she was absent. His Cabinet Secretary’s wives had already been abused in the press for not fawning over the ambassadors’ wives. His daughter would receive even worse treatment from foes who wanted to distress him.

The President was clear. Other nations:
– Must acquiesce to America’s equality for all in society.
– Should keep their privileged society, “allotment into ranks & orders,” to themselves.

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We agree on three essential principles!

The satisfaction which you express …  with the substitution of economy for taxation, & the progress and prospect exhibited of the discharge of our public debt within a convenient period, is a proof of that soundness of [your] political principle … the preference you give to the late acquisition of territory by just & peaceable means, rather than by rapine & bloodshed, is in the genuine spirit of that primitive Christianity, which so peculiarly inculcated the doctrines of peace, justice, and good will to all mankind.
To the Portsmouth, Virginia Baptist Society, January 20, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders appreciate an atta-boy!
In a November 1803 letter to the President, the Society expressed their appreciation for the direction of the new government. Jefferson acknowledged their thank-you and reiterated three areas of agreement:
1. Better for government to do less rather than tax more.
2. Prudent to have a specific plan for paying off the national debt.
3. Acquiring Louisiana by diplomacy and not war demonstrated “that primitive Christianity” characterized by “peace, justice and good will to all mankind.”

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