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Category Archives: Congress

Shut up, quit and go home.

I observe the house [House of Representatives] is endeavoring to remedy the eternal protraction [prolonging] of debate by setting up all night … I have thought that such a Rule as the following would be more effectual & less inconvenient. ‘Resolved that at [VIII.] aclock in the evening (whenever the house shall be in session at that hour) it shall be the duty of the Speaker to declare that hour arrived, whereupon all debate shall cease.”
To John Wayles Eppes, January 17, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders understand the value of a deadline.
A previous post from this letter complained about long-winded speeches in the House, and the ill effects they had on its members and the public. Here, Jefferson observed that Congress was trying to deal with the problem by letting the debate go into the wee hours of the morning, wearying everyone involved. He offered a solution.

Why not have the House agree in advance to end all debate at a designated hour? He suggested a mechanism for disposing of whatever was being considered at that moment, and then they could adjourn and go home for the day.

Jefferson asked his former son-in-law to use his idea in any way he could, but not to reveal him as the source of the suggestion.

The House of Representatives did not change its ways.

“Thanks for making our convention a big success.”
Central Bank
Mr. Jefferson will help make your meeting a big success!
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Would you just shut up?

I observe that the H. of R. [House of Representataives] are sensible of the ill effect of the long speeches in their house on their proceedings. but they have a worse effect in the disgust they excite among the people …these speeches therefore are less & less read, and if continued will cease to be read at all …
To John Wayles Eppes, January 17, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders who talk too much undermine themselves and disgust others.
Eppes (1773-1823), Jefferson’s former son-in-law, was a member of the House. The two men corresponded often on political matters. Here, Jefferson noted the long speeches given in Congress House members were starting to burden House members.

Worse yet, their long-windedness was wearying the citizens. (Speeches were sometimes printed in local newspapers.) Public irritation was evident, because fewer people were reading those speeches. If the trend continued, they wouldn’t be read at all.

Jefferson depended on a literate, well-read and engaged citizenry to safeguard the republic. Congress was driving people away and thus undermining the government.

“Mr. Lee was a principal speaker for the 2004 Executive Forum…
His ability to think, adapt, and accept the prescribed role … was outstanding.”
Executive Director, Greater St. Louis Federal Executive Board
Mr. Jefferson’s presentation for your audience will be outstanding, too!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

 

 

 

 

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I am sorry, my old friend. We really tried.

It is with much concern I inform you that the Senate has negatived [vetoed] your appointment [as ambassador to Russia] … mr Madison, on his entering into office, proposed another person (John Q. Adams.) he also was negatived … our subsequent information was that, on your nomination, your long absence from this country, & their idea that you do not intend to return to it had very sensible weight … I pray you to place me rectus in curiâ [innocent] in this business …
To William Short, March 8, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes circumstances conspire to defeat a leader’s best intentions.
William Short (1759-1849) was Jefferson’s protégé and friend. He served in various diplomatic roles in Europe from 1785-1802, including five years as personal secretary to Ambassador Jefferson in France. After a few years back in America, Short returned to Europe in 1808 on a temporary assignment in Russia. Jefferson proposed to the U.S. Senate to make Short’s appointment permanent. The Senate turned him down cold. There were several reasons.
1. Short’s 17 year residency in Europe had made his allegiance suspect.
2. Elsewhere in this letter, Jefferson explained the Senate was interested both in detangling America from European matters and reducing the size of the diplomatic core.
3. While not stated, Jefferson’s influence was waning. He was a lame duck President when Short was nominated.
4. The Senate was equally independent-minded in vetoing John Quincy Adams, President Madison’s nominee for the same position.

Jefferson began this letter with, “It is with much concern I inform you …” That is probably a great understatement. Most likely, he would have been mortified that  his faithful friend and supporter for a quarter century,a well-qualified man, had been cast aside.

” …what a magnificent and delightful job you did as President Thomas Jefferson
in our substantive program…”
Substantive Program Chair, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Mr. Jefferson even impresses constitutional lawyers and judges!
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A common foe keeps friends united.

the annihilation of federal opposition has given opportunity to our friends to divide in various parts. a want of concert [unity] here threatens divisions at the fountain head [source]. nor is it on principle, but on measures that the division shews itself. but I fear it will produce separations which will be as prejudicial as they are painful.
To John Minor, March 2, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders appreciate the unifying effect of a strong opposition.
John Minor (1761-1816) was 18 years younger than Jefferson, a Virginia lawyer and Republican. The Federalist majority in Washington had been reversed by the election of 1800 and reduced to an empty shell in 1804. Jefferson lamented an unfortunate result of the Republican ascendency.

Since there was no political opposition to unite against, Republicans were splintering into factions and turning on one another. They weren’t disagreeing on key principles but on “measures,” how to implement those ideas. Not only would friendships be sacrificed over those differences, but prejudices would arise as factions accused one another of bad faith.

“I would like to compliment you and thank you for your masterful performance
of Thomas Jefferson at our 2016 Annual Conference …”
Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Mr. Jefferson will be masterful for your audience, too!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Get the MAIN thing first. Details will follow.

Considering that the important thing is to get the militia classed so that we may get at the young for a year’s service at a time, and that training may be supplied after they are called out, I think we may give up every part of the bill which respects training & arming. let us once get possession of the principle, & future Congresses will train & arm. in this way we get rid of all those enemies to the bill to whom different details would be objectionable.
To General Henry Dearborn, December 31, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Strategic leaders leave tactics to be sorted out later.
Dearborn (1751-1829) was involved in America’s military affairs for much of his life. He was President Jefferson’s Secretary of War through both administrations.

Jefferson was a strong proponent of using militias for immediate crises and raising a regular army only if needed for prolonged engagements. To make the militia more effective, he favored classifying the type of temporary service required by age, requiring longer terms of service from younger, single men. Congress was considering not only classification-by-age but how the militia would be armed and trained. There was much for Congress to argue about.

The President knew the main issue was getting the classification. Arguments over arming and training threatened to derail the essential principle. He asked his general to stick with the one main goal. Once that principle was established, future Congresses would settle the lesser issues of arming and training. Focusing on the main thing eliminated the enemies who wanted to major in the minors and defeat the entire proposition.

“I am writing this to offer a solid and enthusiastic recommendation of Mr. Patrick Lee …
for his first person portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.”
Executive Director, Missouri Humanities Council
Others speak highly of Mr. Jefferson’s presentation. Your audience will, too.
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Forget political correctness. Pick gifted people, instead.

if you appoint all the members of the legislature to be members of the institution, it will gratify no particular member, nor lead him to feel any more interest in the institution than he does at present. on the other hand, a judicious selection of a few, friends of science, or lovers of the military art, will be gratifying to them inasmuch as it is a selection, and inspire them with the desire of actively patronising it’s interests.
To Jonathan Williams, July 14, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders want other leaders to be inspriring, too.
In addition to appointing Williams Superintendent of West Point in 1801, Jefferson asked him to revive a scientific society devoted to military history. Williams had asked the President about appointing a leadership board from Congress that would actively promote the society. He suggested appointing the entire Congress, so as not to give offense by leaving anyone out.

Jefferson disagreed. Appointing everyone would make the position special for no one, and the society would receive no benefit. Instead, it would be best to select a few gifted military history partisans. Not only would they would appreciate the honor of being chosen, they would actively work to promote the society’s agenda.

“I cannot say it better than the board member who wrote,
‘Well done, enjoyable and timeless.’

… what I was looking for in a closing speaker and what you provided so well.”
Conference Manager, NE Association of School Boards
& NE Association of School Administrators
Well done. Enjoyable. Timeless.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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How do you change minds?

… some are of opinion that attempts at [re]conciliation [with the political opposition] are useless. this is true only as to distinguished leaders who had committed themselves so far that their pride will not permit them to correct themselves. but it is not true as to the mass of those who had been led astray by an honest confidence in the government & by misinformation. the great majority of these has already reconciled itself to us, & the rest are doing so as fast as the natural progress of opinion will permit.
To Thomas Elwyn, March 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know it takes both time and results to change minds.
Elwyn had sent Jefferson a pamphlet on some subject, and the President replied with his thanks. Something in Elwyn’s submission must have dealt with reconciliation between the political parties, a subject much on Jefferson’s mind. He made these observations:

1. Reconciliation of differences is always a worthwhile goal.
2. Too much pride would keep some from ever changing their minds.
3. “honest confidence in the government” had deceived some people.
4. “misinformation” had deceived others.
5. The majority of those “led astray” had changed their minds already.
6. The rest would do so, given enough time to consider the evidence.

“As a meeting planner, it was a pleasure to work with you …”
Director of Member Services, Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives
Mr. Jefferson is a pleasure to work with!
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Despite our differences, join me for a meal, please.

Th: Jefferson requests the favour of The Honble Mr. Dwight Foster to dine with him the day after tomorrow—at half after three, or at whatever later hour the house may rise.
Monday Feb 1st. 1802.
The favour of an answer is asked.
To Dwight Foster, February 1, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders make efforts to connect with their opponents.
I have featured Jefferson’s dinner invitations before, drawing attention to his use of his name alone, rather than his predecessors’ practice of including their title, “President Washington/Adams requests …” This invitation shows another aspect of the President’s thinking.
Foster was a lawyer and Massachusetts Federalist, a former Congressman and now Senator. We don’t know the agenda for that dinner, but we know this: Jefferson invited a political opponent to join him for an evening meal at the President’s House. Chances are the primary focus was intellectual discussion over good food and wine. Anything political would have come later. Bridge-building, 101.

“… I would like to say how much we enjoyed your leadership addresses
as Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Boone.”
Washington Municipal Treasurer’s Association, Lake Chelan, WA
Mr. Jefferson and his compatriots have leadership wisdom for your audience!
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How do you assess the motives of another?

Our winter campaign has opened with more good humor than I expected … bitter men are not pleased with the suppression of taxes. not daring to condemn the measure, they attack the motive … but every honest man will suppose honest acts to flow from honest principles; & the rogues may rail without interruption.
To Benjamin Rush, December 20, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders know they cannot please rogues and bitter people.
The President could write freely to Philadelphia physician Rush (1745-1813), an old and dear friend and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson’s “winter campaign” was his state of the union report with its recommendations to Congress. Both House and Senate were controlled by Republicans, allies who shared his vision. The hard core Federalist opposition in Congress, the “bitter men,” opposed Jefferson’s desire to decrease taxes and make the federal government smaller. Instead of condemning the action on its merits, they accused the President of simply currying favor with the masses.

Jefferson said honest people would give him the benefit of the doubt, and bitter people, “the rogues,” never would.

“Thank you for hanging on to and presenting the truths this great nation was founded on.”
North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association Annual Conference
Mr. Jefferson will encourage your audience with America’s foundational truths.
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Welcome! These are my boundaries.

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mr Ellery. he is glad to recieve visits either of business or society at any hour of the forenoon. he generally goes out for exercise at noon. and is then engaged with company till candle-light, after which his friends will again find him entirely disengaged. he takes the liberty of mentioning this to mr Ellery, lest doubts on his part might deprive Th:J. of the pleasure of his visits which he shall be glad to recieve as often as convenient.
To Christopher Ellery, December 12, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders share their boundaries with others.
Ellery (1768-1840) had just been elected to the U.S. Senate from Rhode Island as a Democratic-Republican (i.e. Republican). The President was welcoming the newcomer to town and invited him to visit, either for business or pleasure. He wanted Ellery to know his schedule and personal habits, so nothing would interfere with a pleasant meeting.

Referring to himself in the third person, he gave these guidelines:
1. Any time in the morning was acceptable for Ellery to visit.
2. At noon he left for exercise (a horseback ride).
3. From his return until dark, he was occupied with commitments to others.
4. From dark until bedtime, he kept to himself.

The President wanted to encourage Ellery’s visits while at the same time honoring his other commitments and personal habits.

Thomas Jefferson has spoken from Maine to Hawaii, from Minnesota to Louisiana.
If your meeting is anywhere in between, Invite him to speak.
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