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I thought one way. Facts proved another.

in the early history of this disease [yellow fever], I did suppose it to be infectious … until the fever at Alexandria brought facts under my own eye, as it were, proving it could not be communicated but in a local atmosphere … we know only that it is generated near the water side, in close built cities, under warm climates … where one sufficient cause for an effect is known, it is not within the economy of nature to employ two. if local atmosphere suffices to produce the fever, miasmata [foul discharge] from a human subject are not necessary, and probably do not enter into the cause.
Thomas Jefferson to John Page, August 16, 1804

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders are willing to  change their minds.
In the previous post from this letter to Virginia’s Governor Page, the President raised the question: Was the yellow fever contagious, passed from person to person, or was it endemic, its cause being associated with a particular place? Experts disagreed, but Jefferson thought the former.

Facts (Jefferson loved facts!) from the outbreak in Alexandria, VA, caused him to change his mind. The fever ran rampant only in warm weather and in densely populated cities close to the water. Reason told him (he really loved reason!) if one cause was identified, a second cause was unnecessary. Thus, the disease was “probably” not infectious but caused by unique, local conditions.

Jefferson was correct in identifying warm weather and a waterfront as contributors. He may have been correct about densely populated cities, but he disliked those, anyway. Everyone would be wrong about the real cause for the next 100 years: the lowly mosquito, active in warm weather, needing water to reproduce, and appearing more of a menace in urban areas.

Your audience is welcome to challenge Mr. Jefferson.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Don’t lay blame. Instead, decide and act!

on the question Whether the Yellow fever is infectious [contagious], or endemic [confined to a certain place], the Medical faculty is divided into parties, and it certainly is not the office of the public functionaries to denounce either party as the Doctr. [Benjamin Rush] proposes. yet, so far as they are called on to act, they must form for themselves an opinion to act on.
Thomas Jefferson to John Page, August 16, 1804

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders see no value in placing blame.
Virginia’s Governor Page (1743-1808), a life-long friend, was facing the seasonal return of the deadly yellow fever in the state’s coastal region. Jefferson enclosed a letter from a mutual friend, Dr. Rush, expressing his (Rush’s) opinion on the disease and criticism of those who disagreed.

Jefferson would have none of it. Laying blame would serve no purpose, especially when the medical experts themselves were divided about the cause of the disease. Facing the unknown, “public functionaries” (government and public health leaders) had the responsibility to form the best opinion possible from conflicting information and act on it.

Thomas Jefferson will act upon your invitation to speak.
Invite him. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
1 Comment Posted in Health, Leadership, Protecting ourselves Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Keep my name out of it!

I pray you to recieve & apply the within sum of one hundred dollars to the use of those among you afflicted with the present sickness, who may be in need of it. I further request that no acknolegement may be made of it in the public papers, nor otherwise in any manner. I offer my best wishes for the reestablishment of the health of Alexandria, & to yourself my respectful salutations.
Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Snowden, September 29, 1803

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders don’t need credit for their good deeds.
This post clarifies an earlier one drawn from Jefferson’s Memorandum Book for 1803. He did forward the $100 he had just received to Snowden as a charitable contribution for those suffering from the yellow fever outbreak in Alexandria, VA.

Snowden, a newspaper publisher, was also involved in the local relief effort. The President stipulated his contribution was to be kept anonymous, both in “public papers” and elsewhere. Snowden published the amount of the donation but not the source. A Founders Archives footnote to this letter indicates Jefferson was outed anyway, by a grateful local minister who also mentioned the amount in writing and speculated the source, “supposed to be the President.”

The principled leader Jefferson desires to share his wisdom with your audience.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Will fresh air defeat disease?

… you mentioned the plan of the town which you had done me the honour to name after me, and to lay out according to an idea I had formerly expressed to you … I do believe it to be the best means of preserving the cities of America from the scourge of the yellow fever which being peculiar to our country must be derived from some peculiarity in it. that peculiarity I take to be our cloudless skies … a constant sun produces too great an accumulation of heat … ventilation is indispensably necessary. experience has taught us that in the open air of the country the yellow fever is not only not generated, but ceases to be infectious.
Thomas Jefferson to William Henry Harrison, February 27, 1803

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders design for others’ health.
Harrison (1773-1841) was Governor of the Indiana Territory and christened Jeffersonville, just across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY. He also wanted to lay out the new city on the President’s checkerboard plan, where squares of one color were developed, those of the other color left as open land.

Jefferson believed that clouded European skies prevented the urban heat build-up sunny America cities experienced every season. Perhaps urban heat contributed to unhealthy air, the cause of yellow fever. More ventilation in our cities would reduce that heat and defeat the disease. Leaving half of a city’s land undeveloped would accomplish that.

Some of Mr. Jefferson’s many ideas appeared logical and reasonable, but were impractical to implement or maintain. His plan for urban design was one of those. He was also wrong about the cause of yellow fever, but so was everyone else for the next 97 years.

Harrison became President in 1841 at age 68, the oldest until Ronald Reagan assumed the office in 1981. He died just 31 days after his inauguration and was succeeded by his Vice-President, John Tyler. Harrison’s grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was elected President for one term in 1888.

Mr. Jefferson will share his practical leadership ideas with your audience.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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If you are blessed, share with those who suffer.

Gave in charity 4.D. do 1.D.
Recd. from J. Barnes 100.D
Inclosed the same to S Snowden in charity for the sick of Alexandria
Gave in charity 4.D.
Thomas Jefferson’s Memorandum Books, 1803 (Entry for September 29)

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Grateful leaders are generous people.
Jefferson’s Memorandum Books were a detailed record he kept for many years, primarily of his income and expenses. This date’s entry records four charity donations. “4.D.” would be $4. “do 1.D.” would mean ditto (do.) $1. Perhaps both amounts were given at the same time? Later in the day was another $4 for charity.

In between, he recorded the receipt of $100, followed by another entry, a donation “for the sick in Alexandria.” Perhaps “Inclosed the same” meant he sent the $100 he received from Barnes to the relief effort. Footnote 54 for this entry referenced a serious yellow fever epidemic in Alexandria, VA.

The President spent August and September every year at Monticello, escaping the worst months for the yellow fever along Atlantic coast. Many were not so fortunate to be able to flee inland. He was aware of their plight.

A compassionate Thomas Jefferson awaits an invitation to share his story with your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
1 Comment Posted in Grief & loss, Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Your family comes first.

I sincerely condole [grieve] with you on the sickly state of your family and hope this will find them reestablished with the approach of the cold season. as yet however we have had no frost at this place, and it is believed the yellow fever still continues in Philadelphia if not in Baltimore. we shall all be happy to see you here whenever the state of your family admits it.
Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, October 25, 1802

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Yellow fever wasn’t the only deathly scourge leaders faced.
Massachusetts born Lincoln (1749-1820) was Jefferson’s Attorney General. In a letter to the President eight days before, he wrote of the desperate illness that had afflicted his large family. Lincoln seemed to have remained healthy but wrote the constant attention to his family was wearing him down. They were recovering, and he hoped to be back in the capital in early November. (A footnote to Lincoln’s letter referenced a dysentery in New England in the fall of 1802 that claimed a number of lives. Children were especially vulnerable.)

Jefferson wrote the yellow fever still plagued large coastal cities. The fall frost, which marked the end of the seasonal and sometimes fatal fever, had not yet come to Washington City. He welcomed Lincoln’s return “whenever” his family recovered.

Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your audience.
Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Let the market, not government, prove the worth of your medicine.

…  physicians are as far from being agreed as to what is the yellow fever, as what is it’s cure. if the disease which you have so successfully treated [is] … the yellow fever, and your remedy so certain, I shoud imagine some of the great cities in which it has prevailed & is still prevailing, would be the best scene for exhibiting proofs of your discovery … [and] would in all probability produce satisfactory recompence … I do not think an application to Congress could be useful, because they have already as far as their constitutional powers go, done what they thought best for securing to inventors the benefits of their inventions.
Thomas Jefferson to John Allen, October 25, 1802

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders respect the role of private enterprise.
John Allen, a English physician practicing in Maine, claimed he had cured nearly 60 people of the yellow fever. He asked the President’s advice about how to roll out his discovery. Should he take it to a medical society, to a warmer climate for more research or to Congress? (There was a hint in Allen’s letter that he might be looking for financial gain.)

The President cast a little doubt on Allen’s claims but declined involvement, citing the press of his official duties. Wanting to be helpful, he suggested trying it out in “some of the great cities” still afflicted, those along the Atlantic coast.

Congress, limited by the Constitution, could be of no help beyond what they’d already done, allowing “inventors the benefits of their inventions.”

Mr. Jefferson desires to be helpful to your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
Leave a comment Posted in Commerce, Congress, Constitutional issues, Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

What good might come from this evil epidemic?

I … congratulate you on the healthiness of your city [Philadelphia]. still Baltimore, Norfolk & Providence admonish us that we are not clear of our new scourge. when great evils happen, I am in the habit of looking out for what good may arise from them as consolations to us: and Providence has in fact so established the order of things as that most evils are the means of producing some good. the yellow fever will discourage the growth of great cities in our nation; & I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man. true, they nourish some of the elegant arts; but the useful ones can thrive elsewhere, and less perfection in the others with more health virtue & freedom would be my choice.
Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the yellow fever that ravaged coastal cities in the nation’s earliest years.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders expect good to arise from the bad.
The Vice-President was encouraged that his friend’s home town, devastated in previous years by yellow fever, had come through the dangerous months in good shape. The scourge was still a danger, as other cities were still menaced.

Jefferson was generally an optimist. When evil came, he looked for what good might result, believing  Providence generally arranged things in that way.

He believed one positive result would be less interest in large cities. He had firsthand experience, living in Paris for five years, visiting London, and serving over the years in both New York and Philadelphia. He thought cities threatened the health, morals and liberties of their inhabitants. He gave cities credit for nourishing the “elegant arts” but would sacrifice some of that for “more health virtue & freedom.”

The continued growth of cities proved Jefferson’s expectations wrong.

Mr. Jefferson is right on most things. Your audience will agree.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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This virus is messing with business!

In consequence of your friendly letter of May 23. I wrote you on the 8th. of June that I should immediately order 10. hhds [hogheads, large wooden barrels holding 10,000 pounds] of tobo. [tobacco] from Richmond to New York, consigned to you … [I write} to enquire whether they got safe to hand and are sold or likely to be so, & what prospect there would be of selling our whole crop of the same quality? I am aware that the yellow fever may have disturbed the operations of commerce so far as to have prevented the sale. I only wish to know the fact.
Thomas Jefferson to Henry Remsen, October 14, 1799

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the yellow fever that ravaged coastal cities in the nation’s earliest years.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Extenuating circumstances leave even leaders in the dark.
Four months earlier, the Vice-President  directed his agent in Richmond, VA, to ship a quantity of tobacco to New York for Remsen to sell. Jefferson knew it had been shipped but didn’t know if it arrived or had been sold. (The value would have been from $7,000-9,000 in his time.) He asked Remsen for an update.

August and September were always the worst months for the yellow fever in coastal America. Jefferson acknowledged the illness might have delayed the shipping or sale. He just wanted to know where he stood.

Remsen replied on October 21, a letter which hasn’t been found. Jefferson wrote again in mid-January, still uncertain about the fate of his crop. Tobacco was one of only two crops farmers could raise and sell for cash. The other was wheat.

Mr. Jefferson will not be uncertain when he inspires your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
Leave a comment Posted in Commerce, Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

How does the epidemic affect a dirt plow?

…  you take a great interest in whatever relates to this first & most precious of all the arts [agriculture], I have packed in a small box, a model of a mouldboard of a plough …  accompanied by a block, which will shew the form in which the block is to be got for making the [it] …however as this would not explain it’s principles, alone, I accompany it … [with]a minute description of the principles & construction. the printer having (on his removal from the yellow fever) lost several of the plates …  & among them that relating to the Mouldboard, I have supplied this last by some sketches which may enable you to understand the description.
Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, April 30, 1800

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the yellow fever that ravaged coastal cities in the nation’s earliest years.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders freely give to help others understand.
Thomas Jefferson created a new design for the moldboard, the cutting edge of a plow, making it much more efficient implement for turning the soil. In an age when most men were farmers, his invention had an immediate, practical and valuable benefit. He never patented his invention but shared it freely with others, often including instructions and drawings to illustrate its creation from a block of wood.

He did that for his good friend Livingston (1746-1813), a lifelong political ally. Livingston, served with Jefferson on the “Committee of Five” to draft the Declaration of Independence and in 1803, helped negotiate France’s sale of Louisiana to the U.S.

Jefferson wanted to include the printer’s renderings of the plow, but the printer lost the plates when he fled the yellow fever epidemic. Thus, Jefferson supplied his own sketches.

The fever will not hinder Mr. Jefferson from sharing his wisdom with you.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
2 Comments Posted in Uncategorized