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
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… no man is less in condition to aid his friends pecuniarily [financially] than myself. I have always endeavored so to live as just to make both ends meet; but imperfect calculations disappoint that endeavor, and occasion deficiencies which accumulating, keep me always under difficulties. my resources of every kind have for some time been on the stretch so that I can with truth assure you that at this time they could not be made to place one thousand dollars at my command. under these circumstances I can only express unavailing regrets that it is not in my power to be useful to you …
To Ferdinando Fairfax, September 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even smart leaders can deceive themselves.
Fairfax asked two things in his letter to the President, for the national government to buy his ironworks and for Jefferson to loan him $10,000. Jefferson declined both, and perhaps Fairfax’s status in Virginia earned him Jefferson’s reasoning in both cases. The ironworks issue was explained in the previous post. This excerpt is an unusually candid glimpse of his finances.

Although he claimed to match outgo to income, he was kidding himself. As early as his French Ambassador days in the 1780s, he was living beyond his means, occasionally borrowing money for living expenses and then borrowing more to pay off previous loans. His “imperfect calculations” about future income were often overly optimistic, assuming higher crop prices and better weather. When neither happened, he was “always under difficulties.” He couldn’t put together $1,000 in cash.

Many of Jefferson’s financial difficulties were caused by factors beyond his control. Still, he often lived beyond his means, with few restrictions on his creature comforts.

“Our audience of Western state legislators truly appreciates
the lessons of American history that are so relevant to their duties today.”
Program Manager, Council of State Governments-WEST, Vancouver, WA
Lessons from Thomas Jefferson ARE relevant to your duties today!
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Private enterprise can do that FAR better than government!

… our principle on that subject is that it is better for the public to procure at the common market whatever the market can supply: because there it is by competition kept up in it’s quality, and reduced to it’s minimum price. the public can buy there silver guns cheaper than they can make iron ones. as therefore private individuals can furnish cannon, shot &c. we shall never attempt to make them, nor consequently meddle with mines, forges, or any thing of that kind.
To Ferdinando Fairfax, September 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders acknowledge what government can’t do well.
Fairfax was a godson of George Washington’s and sometimes successful Virginia entrepreneur. He had offered to sell his ironworks to the government for the manufacture of their own armaments. Jefferson declined.
Why, when national defense was the government’s responsibility?
1. Jefferson’s policy was to buy such goods rather than make them.
2. Competition in the market kept the quality high and the price low. (It must have been with tongue-in-cheek that he said guns made privately from silver would be cheaper than those made from iron by the government!)
3. Not only would the government not manufacture its own armaments, they would not own any of the means to supply their manufacture, either.

“I received so many great compliments
on your performance of Thomas Jefferson…”
Education Committee, Missouri Land Title Association
Mr. Jefferson will make you look good to your members!
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Would honest Democrats and honest Republican today agree?

both of our political parties, at least the honest portion of them, agree conscientiously in the same object, the public good: but they differ essentially in what they deem the means of promoting that good … one fears most the ignorance of the people: the other the selfishness of rulers independant of them. which is right, time & experience will prove … with whichever opinion the body of the nation concurs, that must prevail…
I conclude with sincere prayers for your health & happiness that yourself & mr Adams may long enjoy the tranquility you desire and merit, and see, in the prosperity of your family, what is the consummation of the last and warmest of human wishes.
To Abigail Adams, September 11, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders agree on the goals, differ on the means to achieve them.
The President and former First Lady exchanged nine letters after Adams’ initial condolences on the death of Jefferson’s daughter, Maria. Each sought to explain (or justify) their position to the other. Jefferson was more conciliatory, separating political differences from personal ones. Mrs. Adams was more combative and unrelenting, unable to divorce the political from the personal.
Jefferson made three points about their differences:
1. Honest political leaders had the same goal, the public good, differing only in how to achieve that goal.
2. One party feared people incapable of self-government. The other feared self-seeking leaders unaccountable to the voters.
3. “time & experience” would prove which position was right, as determined by a majority vote of the citizens.

He concluded, as always, with a strong expression of his regard and hopes for the Adamses. It is unlikely he had an effect on Mrs. Adams. She did not respond, as she had three times before. This was the final letter between the two of them. Eight years later, Jefferson and John Adams would resume their long-derailed friendship.

“I sincerely appreciate and thank you for your outstanding
and motivation[al] presentation and for providing inspiration to our audience.”
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Don’t tell me your secret. Tell him.

Being unwilling to become the depository of secrets valuable to their author I will not give you the trouble of a meeting proposed in your letter of Aug. 23. nevertheless as I should not be justifiable in shutting the door to any benefit which your patriotism might intend for your country, I will observe to you that the Secretary of the Navy, mr Robert Smith is the person to whom such a communication as you propose would belong officially. as the members of the Executive will reassemble at Washington about the last of this month, mr Smith may be conferred with on the subject there at any time after that date…
To Abraham Husted, Jr., September 10, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders delegate!
Husted wrote to the President from Richmond, VA, offering secret plans for an underwater bomb. It could be manuevered under foreign ships harrassing our coastline and could render much of the American navy unnecessary. Husted claimed the French government had offered him a great deal of money for his plans, but he wanted them to be in American hands.

The President said thanks but no thanks. He didn’t care to hold another person’s secrets. Yet, if Husted’s plan might benefit their country, he should make them known to the appropriate person, Robert Smith, Secretary of the Navy. Jefferson went so far as to say Mr. Smith would be back in Washington at the end of September, and Husted could make arrangements to meet with him them.

Apparently, nothing came of Husted’s plans. These two letters are the only ones recorded between him and Jefferson. Monticello.org has no information on Husted. A Wikipedia search for the inventor yielded only this correspondence.

“Everyone, to a person, commented on how thorough you were
and how every detail that was possible to recreate was covered.”
President, Cole County Historical Society
That’s Thomas Jefferson! Detailed and thorough. And captivating in the process, too!
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THIS is how you staff a new operation.

After waiting almost to the 12th. hour to get all the information I could respecting characters at N. Orleans, I have, on consultation with mr Madison … [and] the heads of departments separately & provisionally …

[a list of executive, legislative and judicial appointments for the new government in New Orleans]

In this composition, the several interests American & French, city & country, mercantile & agricultural, have been consulted as much as possible. Claiborne as you know was not the person originally intended. but that person cannot now be appointed: and Claiborne’s conduct has on the whole been so prudent & conciliatory that no secondary character could have a better right. I was able too by a frank private explanation to let him consider his appointment perhaps as ad interim only.
To Henry Dearborn, September 6, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Consensus-seeking leaders build effective teams.
Almost nine months after France transferred ownership of Louisiana to the United States, the President was ready to establish its territorial government. This excerpt to his Secretary of War outlined his steps in the presenting these nominees. He:
1. Was not in a hurry but took all the time he needed to make the best choices.
2. Sought the advice of his Cabinet officers.
3. Conferred with his Secretary of State, James Madison, on the final choices. (Louisiana would fall under Madison’s supervision.)
4. Considered all the competing stakeholder interests: American and French, urban and rural, commercial and agricultural.
5. Acknowledged Claiborne was not his first choice for the top job of governor, but he had no better alternative.
6. Since he had reservations about Claiborne, he let Claiborne know his appointment was temporary and provisional.

“Lastly, most of the conference attendees stated that
Patrick Lee’s portrayal of William Clark was, “Super, the Best!”
Conference Chair, MO Council for Exceptional Children
Thomas Jefferson willingly yields the floor to his Lewis & Clark Expedition Co-Leader,
Capt. Wm. Clark.

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This is how you express a complaint to a friend.

The Champagne you were so kind as to send me the last year proved to be very good …and I should have troubled you this year … but that a very good batch was fortunately offered me here, on reasonable terms, which I thought it best to secure & avoid the delay & risks of importation. the risk of breakage alone is very great, as of the 400. bottles recieved through you, though well packed 153. had burst or forced out the cork & the wine lost.
To Fulwar Skipwith, July 11, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders surround a complaint with compliments.
Skipwith was an American diplomat in France. The previous year, he had secured for Jefferson a very good supply of champagne. The President would have ordered more, but he had the opportunity to buy good champagne in America and took it. He avoided both the delay and destruction of imports. Of 400 bottles in Skipwith’s shipment, 153 (38%) were lost, either through broken bottles or premature bottling, when excess fermentation popped the corks.

Jefferson loved his wine! He complimented Skipwith on the quality of the champagne and the care taken in packing it. Even so, much of it was wasted. Buying locally allowed Jefferson to enjoy all the wine he paid for, and perhaps, send a message …

“After seeing you perform several years ago,
 I did not expect that you could improve much on your character.
However, I have to say your program has gotten even better with age!
Missouri Department of Conservation
With 29 years of practice, Thomas Jefferson has gotten MUCH better with age!
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Is this what we agreed to?

We did not collect the sense of our brethren the other day by regular questions, but as far as I could understand from what was said it appeared to be
1. that an acknolegement of our right to the Perdido …
2. no absolute & perpetual relinquishment of right is to be made …
3. that a country may be laid off within which no further settlement …
To James Madison, July 5, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders make sure the team is all on the same page.
The President regularly polled his cabinet members, both in writing and in meetings, on positions or actions the government was to take. A July 3 cabinet poll regarding instructions to U.S. negotiators in Spain did not reach a consensus. The issue was Spanish claims to land along the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans. This region, known as West Florida, was in dispute over whether it was conveyed to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

While all cabinet secretaries were involved in these discussions, this matter fell under the jurisdiction of Secretary of State Madison. Thus, not being sure of his cabinet’s position, Jefferson wrote to Madison for clarification. The three points he made are not the subject of this post. The subject is that the President wanted to be sure he had the correct sense of his leadership team before he acted.

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Program Coordinator, The Smithsonian Associates
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Reverse course and leave the church alone!

I think it was an error in our officer to shut the doors of the church, & in the Governor to refer it to the Roman catholic head. The priests must settle their differences in their own way, provided they commit no breach of the peace. If they break the peace they should be arrested. On our principles all church-discipline is voluntary; and never to be enforced by the public authority; but on the contrary to be punished when it extends to acts of force. The Govr. should restore the keys of the church to the priest who was in possession.
To James Madison, July 5, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Constitutional leaders protect people’s rights to protest peacefully.
Louisiana Governor Claiborne wrote to Secretary of State Madison about strongly disputing factions within a Catholic Church in New Orleans. A local officer, fearing the public might be endangered, locked the church doors, forbade either side entrance, and asked a more senior official in the Church to decide the matter.

Jefferson called this a mistake. Disputants within the church who broke no laws were not subject to any government action. This was the same theme as in his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, enacted more than 20 years before. That law, which dis-established the official church in his home state, limited government involvement in church affairs to people’s illegal actions only. In 1790, the First Amendment to the Constitution clearly tied the national government’s hands in most church matters.

The President ordered the return of the church’s keys.

“Thank you so much for the great job
you did as Thomas Jefferson.”
Missouri Mappers Association
Mr. Jefferson will do a great job for your audience.
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Forgiven! Friends again? Part 4 of 4

if my respect for him did not permit me to ascribe the whole blame to the influence of others, it left something for friendship to forgive, and after brooding over it for some little time, and not always resisting the expression of it, I forgave it cordially, and returned to the same state of esteem & respect for him which had so long subsisted … I have thus, my dear Madam, opened myself to you without reserve, which I have long wished an opportunity of doing; and, without knowing how it will be recieved, I feel relief from being unbosomed … that you may both be favored with health, tranquility and long life, is the prayer of one who tenders you the assurances of his highest consideration and esteem.
To Abigail Smith Adams, June 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Choosing to forgive is an empowering leadership trait.
In previous posts from this letter, Jefferson thanked Adams for the condolence for his deceased daughter, reaffirmed his esteem for her, and then described the only act of her husband, former President John Adams, that he considered personally unkind. He continued that thread in this post.

Most, but not all, of John Adams’ actions Jefferson could attribute to political foes. Yet, Adams himself was responsible in some smaller measure. Jefferson admitted brooding over Adams’ offenses, even speaking of those offenses with others. And then, “I forgave it cordially,” he wrote and resumed his long-held esteem for Mr. Adams.

Jefferson had the desire to preserve friendship despite political differences. He was able to forgive most offenses and knew the futility of holding a grudge. He was far more inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt and move on.

Abigail Adams would have none of it. Her reply contained a full-throated justification of her husband’s actions, the ones Jefferson found personally unkind. She condemned Jefferson’s involvement with the scandal-monger journalist, James Callendar. She also bore a personal offense for his denying her son John Quincy Adams, a federal position.

As a meeting planner, it was a pleasure to work with you…
I look forward to working with you in the future.”
Legislative Services Manager, Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives
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That really hurt! (But it was the only hurt.) Part 3 of 4

I can say with truth that one act of mr Adams’s life …  and one only, ever gave me a moment’s personal displeasure. I did consider his last appointments to office as personally unkind. they were from among my most ardent political enemies, from whom no faithful cooperation could ever be expected, and laid me under the embarrasment of acting thro’ men whose views were to defeat mine; or to encounter the odium of putting others in their places. it seemed but common justice to leave a successor free to act by instruments of his own choice.
To Abigail Smith Adams, June 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Should a leader deliberately handicap his successor?
After appreciating her condolences on the death of his daughter and affirming his unflagging respect for Mrs. Adams, he turned to the differences between himself and her husband, the former President, John Adams. Those differences he described as political, not personal … except in one instance.

When Adams had been defeated for re-election by someone of the opposite party (Jefferson), but before he left office, he filled a number of vacancies with men he knew would be strong opponents of the new President. That left Jefferson in a no-win situation. He could try to work with people who would deliberately undermine him, or dismiss them and experience considerable public backlash.

Jefferson considered it “but common justice” to let him choose his own officers. That her husband sought to deprive him of that choice was the “one act of mr Adams’s life … and one only” that was “personally unkind.”

” … the Society received more favorable comments and inquiries …
than we have had about any other program …”
First Vice President, Boone County Historical Society
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