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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to the unsuccessful multitude, am I to go with every one into the reasons for not appointing him? besides that this correspondence would literally engross my whole time, into what controversies would it lead me? sensible of this dilemma, from the moment of coming into office, I laid it down as a rule to leave the applicants to collect their answer from the fact. to entitle myself to the benefit of the rule in any case it must be observed in every one: and I never have departed from it in a single case, not even for my bosom friends.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders learn what works and stick with it, regardless.
In the first post in this series, Jefferson explained he was under no obligation to let Smith know he had been passed over for a government appointment or to tell him the reasons why. Now he explained:
1. To do so for every unsuccessful applicant would take all of his time.
2. It would also open the door to even further “controversies,” debate, argument and conflict, all of which he disliked.

Aware of these pitfalls from the very beginning of his administration, it was his policy that the only notice given would be of the successful applicant. All the losers would get their answer, and their only answer, in the same way.

Since Jefferson benefited from this policy by avoiding # 1 and # 2 above, he was obligated to use it with everyone. He applied it in every case, even when a loser was a close friend.

” … your performance and address held them spellbound.”
Director of Operations, Indiana Telecommunications Association
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Leave a comment Posted in Leadership styles, Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , , |

You have your answer. (Or: HR sucks, Part 1 of 4)

Your letter of the 10th. came to hand yesterday evening. it is written with frankness and independance, and will be answered in the same way. you complain that I did not answer your letters applying for office. but if you will reflect a moment you may judge whether this ought to be expected. to the successful applicant for an office the commission is the answer. to the unsuccessful multitude, am I to go with every one into the reasons for not appointing him?
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders do not owe everyone an explanation.
Smith’s letter of November 10 was the third he had written to the President, complaining that he had not been notified of being passed over for a government appointment. Smith thought his service during the war for independence and his political orientation merited his selection. (Founders Archives, my source for Jefferson’s correspondence, does not contain Smith’s first two letters. Either the letters never reached Jefferson or did and were then lost.) Jefferson promised he would now reply in the same vein Smith had used with him.

Did Smith have a right to be notified that the office had gone to another? No. The announcement that someone else was appointed was the only notification anyone would receive. Was Jefferson obligated to explain his reasoning to the many unsuccessful applicants? Again, no. The reasons will be in Part 2.

In a churlish aside to his complaint, Smith said he had just recently married well, and no longer needed or wanted the job. He wouldn’t have pursued it in the first place had he not been in dire financial straits.

“Again, a very heartfelt thank you
for sharing your time, talent and knowledge …”

Conferences and Seminars Manager, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
Mr. Jefferson looks forward to sharing his time, talent and knowledge with your audience.
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Leave a comment Posted in Leadership styles Tagged , , , , , , , , |

This awful situation has only one insufficient remedy.

Your two letters, my dear friend, of Aug. 31. & Sep. 9. reached me on the 9th. & 31st. of October. I had already learned through other channels the melancholy event they announced. be assured I deeply felt for your situation: but on this subject I will not say one word; experience in the same school having taught me that time alone can mitigate what nothing can remedy.
To Elizabeth House Trist, November 23, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders acknowledge loss … then shut up.
Jefferson met Trist (1751-1828) when he roomed at her mother’s boarding house during his congressional service in the early 1780s. They remained friends throughout their lives.

Trist’s two letters announced the death of her only child. The year before, the President appointed that son as tax collector for the lower Mississippi River. She moved with him and his family to New Orleans. A promising future for the healthy young man was wiped out in five days when he contracted yellow fever.

Jefferson had endured the death of five of his six children, most recently his daughter Maria just seven months earlier. He knew the torment of his good friend and acknowledged her loss. He would say no more, knowing that “time alone can mitigate [lessen]” her sorrow, which would always be with her.

“I would like to say how much we enjoyed your leadership addresses
as Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Boone.”
Past President, Washington Municipal Treasurer’s Association
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Leave a comment Posted in Family matters, Grief & loss Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

I’ve shown you mine. Show me yours. (Part 3 of 3)

Whether the great interests of agriculture, manufactures, commerce or navigation, can, within the pale of your constitutional powers be aided in any of their relations? whether laws are provided in all cases where they are wanting? whether those provided are exactly what they should be? whether any abuses take place in their administration or in that of the public revenues? whether the organisation of the public agents, or of the public force is perfect in all it’s parts? in fine, Whether any thing can be done to advance the general good? are questions within the limits of your functions
To United States Congress, November 8, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders respect jurisdictional lines.
In the first post from Jefferson’s fourth annual message, he reported on 10 areas under his authority. In only two of those did he invite Congress’ input. The second post summarized income, expense and debt. This excerpt suggested areas where Congress might act:
1. Within constitutional limits, could they aid agriculture, business and navigation?
2. What new laws are needed?
3. What existing laws need improving?
4. Are the laws or public finances being abused?
5. Is the federal government and its workforce “perfect in all it’s parts”?
6. In summary, what could they do, constitutionally, to advance the public good?

Jefferson understood that the legislature’s role was to make the laws. His role, as head of the Executive Branch, was merely to carry them out while he saw to the nation’s defense and foreign relations.

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THIS is how to get U.S. out of debt! Part 2 of 3

The state of our finances continues to fulfill our expectations. Eleven millions & an half of Dollars recieved in the course of the year ending on the 30th. of Sep. last, have enabled us, after meeting all the ordinary expences of the year to pay 3,600,000. Dollars of the principal of the public debt. This paiment, with those of the two preceding years, has extinguished upwards of twelve millions of principal and a greater sum of interest within that period, and, by a proportionate diminution of interest, renders already sensible the effect of the growing sum yearly applicable to the discharge of principal.
To United States Congress, November 8, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders make debt their servant, not their master.
President Jefferson’s annual report to Congress detailed in simple fashion the nation’s financial health.
1. Income for the fiscal year ending September 30 was $11.5 million.
2. Expenses were $7.9 million.
3. The $3.6 million surplus was applied to paying down the national debt.
4. $12 million had been applied to that debt in the previous three years.
5. Interest saved and applied to the debt would lower it even faster in coming years.

Jefferson reduced the size of the federal government, including its army and navy, repaying debt with the savings. His administration reduced that debt in seven of its eight years, from $83 million to $57 million.  The one exception was 1803, when the U.S. borrowed $11.25 million to finance the purchase of Louisiana.

“We have also had Mr. Lee portray [Lewis & Clark’s] Captain Clark
and were so impressed that we had to have him back to witness his other characters.”
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What in the world is happening? Part 1 of 3

… These, fellow citizens, are the principal matters which I have thought it necessary at this time to communicate for your consideration & attention. some others will be laid before you in the course of the session.
To United States Congress, November 8, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The Constitution (Art. II, Sect. 3) requires the President to report to Congress from “time to time” on the “State of the Union.” It never was a yearly requirement but has evolved into what we know as the annual “State of the Union Address,” when the President makes a report to the opening session of Congress. In the early 1800s, Congress traditionally convened in late fall for four to five months.

Jefferson delivered his reports in writing. This lengthy account included his thoughts on these subjects:
1. War in Europe and its affect on America
2. Private U.S. citizens preying on the shipping of other nations
3. Misunderstanding with Spain regarding the Bay of Mobile
4. Satisfying France on terms of U.S. purchase of Louisiana
5. Diplomatic relations with European nations
6. Success against the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean
7. Establishing the new government in Louisiana
8. Relations with the Indians
9. Expanding the navy
10. Federal receipts, expenses & debt (Part 2 of 3)
11. Actions Congress might take on its own (Part 3 of 3)

On only #2 and #7 did the President invite Congress’ action. All the rest fell within his Constitutional duty, either in foreign affairs or executing the law already established by the Congress.

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I hate the thought of four more years of this!

my heart fails me at the opening such a campaign of bustle & fatigue: the unlimited calumnies [untrue accusations designed to damage another’s reputation] of the federalists have obliged me to put myself on the trial of my country by standing another election. I have no fear as to their verdict; and that being secured for posterity, no considerations will induce me to continue beyond the term to which it will extend. my passion strengthens daily to quit political turmoil, and retire into the bosom of my family, the only scene of sincere & pure happiness. one hour with you & your dear children is to me worth an age past here.
To Martha Jefferson Randolph, November 6, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders sacrifice personal happiness for a greater good.
The President wrote his daughter that Congress was convening, and the political season was about to begin. The opposition attacks on him required him to prove them wrong, by standing for re-election. He knew the vote would vindicate him and cement the reforms his first term had established. (There was no single election day in Jefferson’s time. Results dribbled in over a period of weeks, as each state chose its delegates to the electoral college.)

There was no constitutional limit on the number of terms the President could serve. Jefferson would have none of that. He would serve a second term only and be out of there! He had no happiness in Washington, and all of his time there wasn’t worth one hour with his daughter and grandchildren.

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1 Comment Posted in Congress, Family matters, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

About your brother, Meriwether …

I inclose you a letter directed to your brother which came to me under cover a few days ago. I have the pleasure also to inform you that we have lately recieved thro a channel meriting entire confidence, advice that on the 4th. of Aug. he was at the mouth of the river Plate, 600 miles up the Missouri, where he had met a great council of the Missouris, Panis, & Ottos, at their invitation … he will be through his whole course as safe as at home. believing that this information would be acceptable to yourself, his mother & friends, I communicate it with pleasure …
To Reuben Lewis, November 6, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep family members in the loop.
The President forwarded a letter he had received for Meriwether Lewis to the latter’s younger brother and wrote of the latest account he’d had about his intrepid explorer. That report came days before, originating with someone who must have been coming downstream when Lewis was headed the opposite direction. The report was that Lewis and Clark were 600 miles upstream, at the mouth of the Platte River, just south of present day Omaha, NE. (Lewis’s journal records that date as July 21, 1804, two months after they departed St. Louis.)

The report also relayed a successful meeting with Indian chiefs, the desertion of two men, plans for some of the men to return the following spring and the rest to head on up the Missouri. There were numerous factual errors in the account, but it may have been the first word Jefferson had on their progress. Buoyed by his successful meeting with the chiefs, Lewis felt no danger lay ahead of them. Jefferson knew Lewis’ mother and brother would appreciate the reassurance.

There was plenty of danger ahead, but Lewis and Clark led their men successfully through it all and returned to St. Louis almost two years later.

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Was Jefferson GREEN?

…  I should ask the favor of you to select for me in Philadelphia 3. of the handsomest stoves, of the kind called Open stoves, or Rittenhouse stoves, which are in fact nothing more than the Franklin stove …  the Rittenhouse stove is the one commonly used in Philadelphia …  the taste is left to yourself … debit me with them in their account.
To Benjamin Henry Latrobe, November 3, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders have to stay warm!
Latrobe (1764-1820), America’s first professional working architect, emigrated from England in 1796. He quickly gained a following and was appointed by President Jefferson as Surveyor of Public Buildings in 1803. He also served as superintendent for the construction of the U.S. Capitol.

Jefferson wanted to improve the efficiency of the fireplaces at Monticello. Well-familiar with Latrobe and his design sense, he asked the architect to secure for him “3. of the handsomest stoves” in Philadelphia. They were to be Rittenhouse stoves, an improved design of the one created decades before by Benjamin Franklin. Both stoves brought in cold air for combustion, returned heated air to the room and slowed the exhaust of fumes and smoke.

Rittenhouse (1732-1796), noted mathematician, inventor, and astronomer, was the second president of the American Philosophical Society, the nation’s premier intellectual organization of scientists. Benjamin Franklin was one of APS’s founders in 1743, the year of Jefferson’s birth, and its first president. The third APS president, following Rittenhouse’s death, was Thomas Jefferson, an office he would hold and chererish for 20 years.

True to form, when Jefferson wanted something, he just bought it. He did not inquire the price of the three stoves, only directing the bill be sent to his agent.

“You are an amazingly talented man …
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1 Comment Posted in Architecture, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

This has to stop! Help me, please.

[This post marks #900 since the blog’s inception in February, 2011!]

Craven & Lillie at last have come to an open rupture: a desperate battle took place between them 4 days since: it terminated without serious injury to either but a bruising and languor to both which will keep them apart a long time I think. Both claim the victory and both look like defeat.
Thomas Mann Randolph to Thomas Jefferson, October 11, 1804

I have learnt with extreme concern the rupture between Craven & Lilly, and percieve that it will become extremely embarassing & prejudicial to my affairs unless it can be made up. this can only be done by an oblivion [choice to not remember] of the past without going into any enquiry which was most in the wrong.
To Thomas Mann Randolph, October 28, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Absentee leaders have the deck stacked against them.
Lilly was the overseer of non-agriculture activities at Monticello. Craven was an adjoining landowner who also leased some of Jefferson’s Monticello lands. The two men had come to blows, perhaps over the President’s livestock that had made their way onto Craven’s property.

As long as the Presidency forced Jefferson to be an absentee landowner, he was seriously dependent on both men to keep his home operation running smoothly. He saw no way forward unless each man would choose to forget the offense and move on. He would impress that point on each man. He also thought the combatants would benefit from the efforts of a mediator, and he asked Mann, his son-in-law, to fill that role.

“It was again a pleasure to host your performance …
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1 Comment Posted in Agriculture, Human nature, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |
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