Speaking on leadership & wisdom
                       ... from the past ... to the present ... for your future
"Were we directed from Washington
when to plant and when to reap,
we would soon want bread."
Thomas Jefferson, 1821
Rounded Corner
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Th Jefferson presents his respects to Mrs. Merry, and sends her a few seeds of the Dionaea muscipula, or Flytrap, so much celebrated as holding the middle ground between the animal & vegetable orders. tho’ a native of Carolina, this is the first he has been able to recieve after a course of six years efforts & all the interest he could make there. he recieved it the last night by post & sends mrs Merry the half of what he recieved. the plant will be best in pots because it will need some shelter in winter.
To Elizabeth Leathes Merry, December 26, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders separate personal interests from political ones.
Mrs. Merry was the wife of Anthony Merry, the new and highly disliked ambassador from England. Merry expected preferential treatment from the President and was greatly incensed not to receive it. His wife was gregarious, presumptuous and loved being the center of attention. Still, she was intelligent, a conversationalist and had an interest in botany, qualities Jefferson admired.

So, when a six year quest for seeds of the Venus flytrap was finally successful, he immediately shared half of his supply with her. He found some of her personal traits distasteful but overlooked those to cultivate the common ground they shared.

Two weeks later, in a letter to James Monroe, Jefferson disparaged both husband and wife, referring to her as a “virago.” Wikipedia describes a virago as a manly woman, a female warrior or heroine, but acknowledges a later, more common usage, found in another online search, an ill-tempered, domineering woman. Chances are Jefferson meant the latter definition.

Regardless, Mrs. Merry penned her thanks to the President later that day.

“Thank you for your appearance at Jefferson College …
It was extremely enjoyable and educational.”
President, Jefferson College
Mr. Jefferson will both teach and entertain.
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“a knock of the elbow,” but get the doctor, too.

Not knowing the time destined for your expected indisposition, I am anxious on your account. you are prepared to meet it with courage I hope. some female friend of your Mama’s (I forget who) used to say it was no more than a knock of the elbow. the material thing is to have scientific aid in readiness, that if any thing uncommon takes place, it may be redressed on the spot, and not be made serious by delay. it is a case which least of all will wait for Doctors to be sent for. therefore, with this single precaution, nothing is ever to be feared.
To Mary Jefferson Eppes, December 26, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Confident leaders can still be anxious fathers.
Mary Eppes, known as Maria, was the President’s younger daughter. She was one of two Jefferson children who survived childhood, which had claimed four others.

The “expected indisposition” referenced was the upcoming delivery of her third child. Her first son, born in 1800, lived only a few days. Her second son, Francis, was now 27 months old. Like her mother who died of childbirth complications in 1782, Maria was not a strong, healthy woman. She had suffered considerably after the birth of her first two children.

Very rarely did Jefferson refer to his long deceased wife Martha, but he did so here. No doubt wanting to lesson Maria’s anxiety, and probably his own, he relayed a comment of a friend of his wife’s that childbirth “was no more than a knock of the elbow.” Even so, he urged his daughter “to have scientific aid in readiness,” i.e. a doctor. The onset of labor would provide time to summon the doctor so any help could be rendered immediately. A knock or not, with this precaution, Maria had nothing to fear.

Time would tell that both daughter and father had plenty to fear.

“Your presentation that night, your smooth ability …
was just uncanny.”
President, Centralia Historical Society
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You lessened what we did not know. Thanks!

thanks for the Chart of the coast of Florida, & mouth of the Missisipi which he has been so good as to send him. at a time when we are endeavoring to acquire exact knolege of that country, in order to make our first arrangements understandingly, so accurate a chart whose existence was not before known here, is doubly precious …
To William Marshall, December 24, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders appreciate those who make everyone smarter.
Marshall, a South Carolina lawyer, had come into possession of a map which he claimed to be an accurate chart of the coast of West Florida (the panhandle), the coast of Louisiana, and the mouth of the Mississippi River, plus river depth soundings some distance north of New Orleans. He forwarded that map to the President.

Accurate knowledge about Louisiana in 1803 was as miniscule as the territory was large. Anything that expanded its documentation was like gold to Jefferson. He contended the purchase of Louisiana, vast lands west of the Mississippi, also included some land on the east side of that river known as West Florida. That portion was the Gulf Coast east to the Perdido River, the current boundary between Alabama and Florida. This map provided additional intelligence toward that end.

“Each year we have had a guest speaker,
and none has ever been so widely praised.”
Secretary, Missouri Emergency Preparedness Association
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Well, you just never know. (Or, size does matter.)

I was favored … about 4 years ago, with a piece of the rock Salt of Louisiana; and judging from your communication to congress, in which mention is made of that Salt mountain, that you had never seen a specimen of the Salt, have taken the liberty of forwarding to you a piece thereof;
To Thomas Jefferson from John Bradford, November 29, 1803

Th: Jefferson presents his salutations to mr Bradford and returns him thanks for the specimen of rock-salt from the Missouri which he has been so kind as to send him, and which came safely to hand.
To John Bradford, December 24, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
We should desire leaders with curious, inquisitive minds.
The President had forwarded to Congress a quantity of mostly speculative written material about Louisiana, but he hadn’t read it and didn’t vouch for its accuracy. One account was of a great salt mountain “about 1,000 miles up the Missouri … 180 miles long and 45 miles wide.” Kentuckian John Bradford had been given a chunk of Louisiana salt from a man in St. Louis. Familiar with the salt mountain reference and Jefferson’s lack of evidence, Bradford shared a specimen. The ever-gracious Jefferson acknowledged the gesture and expressed his thanks.

The opposition Federalist press had a field day ridiculing the salt mountain! In the footnotes accompanying Bradford’s letter, that press also speculated on the existence of:
– “an immense lake of molasses”
– “an extensive vale of hasty pudding”
– “vast river of golden eagles [$10 gold pieces] ready coined”
– “immense mountain of solid refined sugar
– “a considerable lake of pure Whiskey”
– or perhaps the salt mountain was “… Lot’s wife, magnified by the process of time”

The “salt mountain” was mostly likely a salt plain along the Cimarron River in western Oklahoma.

“Thanks again for the time and energy
you give to each presentation.”
Executive Director, Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau
Mr. Jefferson will bring his A-Game to your audience.
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We should not have to hang these people.

… our endeavor to procure an asylum in the colony of Sierra Leone for such persons of the description composing that colony as we might find it expedient to send there [appears to be unsuccessful].
… affairs in St. Domingo has undergone important changes… may furnish that opening which the resolution desired.
The acquisition of Louisiana, may also procure the opportunity desired.
On the whole it appears probable that St. Domingo or Louisiana may open to the legislature of Virginia the recourse which their resolution contemplates.
To John Page, December 23, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Determined leaders continue to seek solutions to vexing problems.
Virginia Governor John Page (1743-1808) had sought the President’s help in carrying out a directive of the Virginia legislature. Slave uprisings in St. Domingo (present day Haiti and Dominican Republic) had spurred unrest among slaves in America. An insurrection in Virginia in 1800 was foiled, and 26 of its participants were hanged. The legislature sought an alternative, some distant place where rebellious slaves could be relocated. Jefferson also sought a refuge for freed American slaves. His hope to join an English slave resettlement effort in Sierra Leone, West Africa, was rebuffed. Now, the vast expanse of Louisiana might provide that refuge or perhaps even St. Domingo itself.

In correspondence preceding this letter, Jefferson stressed that the Virginia insurrectionists were “not felons, or common malefactors [criminals]” and a far more humane response was needed. He was never successful in his efforts to remove freed slaves from the abuses of their former masters.

“The audience responded to his performance with a standing ovation…
they have never
[before] responded with a standing ovation.”

Assistant Executive Director, Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors
Mr. Jefferson inspires a most favorable response in his audiences.
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The “court of the US” is dead and buried! Part 2 of 2

The Washington Federalist … has published what he calls the ‘Etiquette of the court of the US.’ in his facts, as usual, truth is set at nought, & in his principles little correct to be found.

In the first place there is no ‘court of the US’ since the 4th. of Mar. 1801. that day buried levees, birthdays, royal parades, and the arrogation of precedence [an unjustified claim of superiority] in society by certain self-stiled friends of order …

In social circles all are equal, whether in, or out, of office, foreign or domestic; & the same equality exists among ladies as among gentlemen. no precedence therefore, of any one over another, exists either in right or practice, at dinners, assemblies, or on any other occasions. ‘pell-mell’ and ‘next the door’ form the basis of etiquette in the societies of this country.
Response to the Washington Federalist, February 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know all are created equal and should be treated that way.
The previous post referenced President Jefferson’s guidelines for etiquette in America with regard to foreign diplomats. An opposition newspaper belittled those guidelines, as if the President’s goal was to create dissension with other nations.

Jefferson very rarely responded publicly to political opponents, but the Washington Federalist must have really gotten his goat. His response was printed in the Philadelphia republican paper, the Aurora. First, he wrote there was no longer any “court of the US,” as that had ended with his inauguration on March 4, 1801. On that day, all privilege previously associated with Washington society ceased to be recognized within the government.

He concluded with a ringing affirmation of equality for all in social circles.

“The members of our organization appreciate the time you took to research our group.
So much of your presentation was appropriate both to your days and to current times.”
President, Missouri City Clerks and Finance Officers Association
Mr. Jefferson strives to make his time relevant to your audience.
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NOT in America! Part 1 of 2

When brought together in society all are perfectly equal, whether foreign or domestic, titled or untitled, in or out of office…
No titles being admitted here, those of foreigners give no precedence.
Difference of grade among the diplomatic members gives no precedence…
At public ceremonies to which the government invites the presence of foreign ministers & their families, a convenient seat or station, will be provided for them with any other strangers invited, & the families of the national ministers, each taking place as they arrive, & without any precedence…
Memorandum on Official Etiquette, January 12, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders treat everyone equally.
Secretary of State Madison had asked America’s ambassador to England about the rules of etiquette that governed diplomats there. Ambassador King replied with a lengthy list, noting the many distinctions made between peoples of varying rank and the procedures governing each.

President Jefferson then drafted his own list for etiquette on this side of the pond. We allowed no titles, no special privileges. With one exception granted to foreign ministers on their first visit to America, all diplomats and their families were to be regarded equally.

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Mr. Jefferson’s presentation will enhance your event!
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Let us not go through THAT mess again!

At the request of the Senate and H. of Rep. of the US. I transmit to you a copy of an article of amendment proposed by Congress to be added to the constitution of the US.1 respecting the election of President and Vice president to be laid before the legislature of the State over which you preside: and I tender you assurances of my high respect and consideration.
To the Governors of the States, December 13, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some semblance of unity amongst the top dogs is very helpful!
In what would become the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, each Elector in the Electoral College would be required to cast one vote for President and another for Vice President. Prior to this, each voted for two persons. The candidate who received the most votes would be President, the second most, Vice-President.

George Washington ran unopposed for President twice, so the Electoral College posed no problem. In 1796, John Adams received the most electoral votes. Thomas Jefferson came in second. This resulted in a President from one political party, the Vice President from another.

The election of 1800 revealed another flaw, when Thomas Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, received an equal number of votes in the Electoral College. The contest then went to the House of Representatives, which voted 36 times before finally awarding the Presidency to Jefferson several months later. The new amendment would keep that from happening again.

Congress approved the 12th amendment, and President Jefferson submitted it to the states’ governors for consideration by their legislatures. The amendment became part of the Constitution on June 15, 1804, when New Hampshire became the 13th of 17 states (3/4 required) to approve it. Two more states followed with their positive votes, making the total 15 of 17 states. Connecticut and Delaware were the only states to vote against it.

“Again, thank you for such an excellent presentation
and a great end to the evening.”
Continuing Education Coordinator, Institute for Executive Development

College of Business and Public Administration, University of Missouri
Mr. Jefferson will end your meeting on a high note!
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Let us throw 1/4 of the rascals out!

the principle of rotation established by the legislature in the body of Directors in the principal bank [Bank of the United States], it follows that the extension of that principle [to subordinate banks] … was wise & proper … it breaks in upon the esprit de corps so apt to prevail in permanent bodies, it gives a chance for the public eye penetrating into the sanctuary of those proceedings & practices which the avarice of the directors may introduce for their personal emolument … and it gives an opportunity at the end of a year, or at other periods, of correcting a choice which on trial proves to have been unfortunate …
To Albert Gallatin, December 13, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders do not trust permanent office-holders.
Congress provided in 1791 that no more than 3/4 of the 25 directors of the national bank could be re-elected for a second year. The President applauded the extension of that principle to its regional branches, for three reasons:
1. It broke up the good-old-boy network arising among those who can hold office forever.
2. It allowed the public to examine their practices, especially those designed to enrich themselves.
3. It provided the opportunity to correct an appointment that had “been unfortunate.”

As a general rule, Jefferson opposed all offices and appointments that were permanent and thus shielded from public accountability. He thought Supreme Court justices should be subject to periodic review. The same principle should apply to national bank directors.

“Your presentation kept everyone’s undivided attention.”
Executive Vice-President, North Carolina Agribusiness Council
There will be no nodding off or distracted listeners when Thomas Jefferson speaks.
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We are all imperfect. Let us accept that and work together. Part 2 of 2

I see too many proofs of the imperfection of human reason to entertain wonder or intolerance at any difference of opinion on any subject; and acquiesce in that difference as easily as on a difference of feature or form: experience having taught me the reasonableness of mutual sacrifices of opinion among those who are to act together, for any common object, and the expediency of doing what good we can, when we cannot do all we would wish.
To John Randolph, December 1, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Practical leaders understand the need for mutual sacrifice.
This complicated passage could be summarized:
1. Everyone’s reasoning is different, and all of it is imperfect.
2. Thus, I am neither amazed nor angered at differences of opinion.
3. I accept major differences as easily as minor ones.
4. Laboring for the common good requires “mutual sacrifices of opinion.”
5. Accomplishing some good work together is worthwhile, even “when we cannot do all we would wish.”

“I look forward to working with you in the future
if Mr. Jefferson remains in the area.
President, Hawthorn Foundation, New and Expanding Business Conference
Mr. Jefferson is still in the area.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Diplomacy, Human nature, Politics
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