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Category Archives: Congress

There will be no early end to slavery.  Part 1 of 2

I have long since given up the expectation of any early provision for the extinguishment of slavery among us. there are many virtuous men who would make any sacrifices to effect it. many equally virtuous who persuade themselves either that the thing is not wrong, or that it cannot be remedied. and very many with whom interest is morality. the older we grow, the larger we are disposed to believe the last party to be. but interest is really going over to the side of morality.
Thomas Jefferson to William Armistead Burwell, January 28, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What causes a leader to give up on an essential cause?
Burwell, President Jefferson’s private secretary, wrote a thoughtful analysis of two slavery related bills in Congress. One would prohibit their importation from abroad as well as their transport from one state to another. The other bill provided for emancipation. The second had already been defeated. He feared the first would be, too.

Thomas Jefferson championed emancipation for almost 35 years since his service in the colonial House of Burgesses. Since his every effort met with defeat, Jefferson retreated, not from the cause but from the timing. The nation was not ready to accept it.

He explained there were virtuous men totally opposed to slavery and virtuous men who either justified it or resigned themselves to it. The longer people lived, the more they came to accept the second group, that slavery was either necessary or inevitable.

The President held to the first position, that it was morally wrong and public interest was slowly moving in that direction. So slowly, though, that any attempt to hurry it along would hurt the cause rather than hasten it.

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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.”
President, Nevada Association of Land Surveyors
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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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paying rapt attention to your portrayal.”
IT Administrative Coordinator, Missouri Department of Conservation
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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 , , , , , , , , , |

I’d rather not herd cats.

… I rode to the Hamburg hill from whence you suppose a bridge [over the Potomac River] … it will rest with the legislature to decide at which place … in this clashing of interests between different points of the territory to all of which I sincerely wish prosperity, I hold myself aloof from medling, no law calling on me to do otherwise. should it be made my duty to take any part in it, I shall certainly place every local interest out of view and regard the general interest only.
To George W. P. Custis, February 23, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders don’t meddle.
Congress was considering a bridge from the nation’s capital across the Potomac River. Competing interests were making their preferences known for the location.
George Washington Parke Custis (1781 – 1857) was the adopted grandson of the late President George Washington. The estate he owned across the Potomac from the nation’s capital would eventually pass to his son-in-law, Robert E. Lee, and later become the site of the Arlington National Cemetery. Custis lobbied the President for a specific location, which the city of Georgetown opposed as detrimental to their interests.
Jefferson summarized this sticky-leadership-wicket as follows:
– If, when and where to build a bridge was Congress’ responsibility.
– Since he wished all the competing interests well, and his involvement was not required, he was staying out of it.
– If the time came when his input was required, he would keep “every local interest out of view,” and concern himself only with the overall public welfare.

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You do not know what you are talking about.

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. it is this last principle, maintained by the administration, which has produced some dissatisfaction with some of the diplomatic gentlemen.
Response to the Washington Federalist, February 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders make their priorities straight-forward and public.
An opposition newspaper claimed diplomatic strife was caused by the etiquette policies of the new President. Not so, wrote Jefferson in a response printed on this date in the Philadelphia republican paper, Aurora. He usually ignored political and personal attacks in the federalist press, but this one he met head on.

He gave six specific examples of how and when foreign dignitaries would be received by various members of the Executive and Legislative Branches. He affirmed Senators and Representatives had equal standing. He wrote that all preferences shown previously were “buried in the grave of federalism, on the same 4th. of March,” the day of his inauguration.

Once he defined official diplomatic etiquette, he proceeded in this passage to proclaim there was no etiquette in social (non-governmental) settings. All individuals, foreign and domestic, in office or out, male and female, were treated equally. “Pell mell” and “next the door” would be the equivalents of the 21st century’s “first come, first served.”

“What a wonderful session you provided …
I thank you for your well-received keynote address.”
Conference Co-Chair, Missouri School-Age Care Coalition
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What do we owe, & where does the money go?

… [Should we present to] Congress at some time of every session a Calendar of 1. the interest of the public debt paid in each year. 2. the principal paid, or added. 3. the principal remaining due at the end of each year …  also …  a similar calendar of the expenditures 1. for the civil, 2. the military, 3. the naval departments, in a single sum each? the greatest security against the introduction of corrupt practices & principles into our government, which can be relied on in practice, is to make the continuance of an administration depend on their keeping the public expences down at their minimum. the people at large are not judges of theoretic principles, but they can judge on comparative statements of the expence of different epochs.
To Albert Gallatin, February 11, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders help their constituents hold them accountable.
The President decried the undecipherable mess of government finance created by the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. He wanted Gallatin, his Secretary, to make sense of it, not just for Congress but for the common man. Thus, he asked Gallatin about the wisdom of an annual report to Congress related to national debt and annual expenditures:
Debt –
1. How much interest was paid on the debt?
2. How much the debt was reduced or increased?
3. Was is the total debt at the end of the year?
Annual expenditures, a single total for each –
1. Civil government (all non-military expenditures)
2. Military (land-based forces and defenses)
3. The navy

Jefferson also asked if these numbers could be established annually from the nation’s founding. A protection against corruption was an on-going effort to keep government spending at a minimum. The public would be well able to judge of their government by comparing these totals year by year.

“…Thomas Jefferson’s example of dedicated public service is easily translated to …
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Break Time Convenience Stores
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We are all equal here. Fooey on them!

On Friday Congress give a dinner on the acquisition of Louisiana. they determine to invite no foreign ministers, to avoid questions of etiquette, in which we are enveloped by Merry’s & Yrujo’s families. … [their conflict will continue] until they recieve orders from their courts to acquiesce in our principles of the equality of all persons meeting together in society, & not to expect to force us into their principles of allotment into ranks & orders.
To Martha Jefferson Randolph, January 23, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Just leaders do not show favoritism, especially when it is expected.
President Jefferson disdained the aristocratic expectations of England’s and Spain’s ambassadors to America. They insisted on favored treatment and were incensed not to receive it. Thus, they were excluded from a Congressional dinner.

Although Jefferson wished his elder daughter could be with him in Washington City, it was better for her that she was absent. His Cabinet Secretary’s wives had already been abused in the press for not fawning over the ambassadors’ wives. His daughter would receive even worse treatment from foes who wanted to distress him.

The President was clear. Other nations:
– Must acquiesce to America’s equality for all in society.
– Should keep their privileged society, “allotment into ranks & orders,” to themselves.

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Reach out to him … You will never regret it!”
Chief, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
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Smoke ’em if you got ’em? (NO!)

I now lay before Congress the annual account of the fund established for defraying the Contingent [random, unforseeable] charges of government. No occasion having arisen for making use of any part of it in the present year, the balance of eighteen thousand five hundred and sixty dollars, unexpended at the end of the last year, remains now in the Treasury.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the US. of America, December 31, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Self-limiting leaders exercise restraint with money not their own.
In May 1802, Congress approved $20,000 for “defraying the contingent expenses of government.” By the end of that year, the President reported a single expenditure of $1,440, to return to the United States 72 American seamen stranded abroad. The balance in that fund stood at $18,560.

A year later, the President reported again to Congress on the status of that fund. He had “no occasion” in 1803 to use any part of it. The full balance of $18,560 remained in the nation’s treasury.

“Thank you for your excellent presentation
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President, CEO & General Manager, Missouri Public Utility Alliance
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