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Category Archives: Constitutional issues

Any money must come from Pennsylvania, not the U.S.

Dr. Deveze, who is the subject of your letter of Mar. 3. had I believe great merit in the services he rendered in Philadelphia on the first visitation of the Yellow fever in 93. the courage with which he exposed himself to it, when it’s novelty frightened away the physicians & inhabitants of the place, marked a mind of superior benevolence … with respect to Dr. Deveze’s request of some acknolegement for his services … his application can of course be recieved by the government of Pensylvania … I hope Dr. Deveze will see … my personal sentiments & esteem I render him the justice he merits.
Thomas Jefferson to Pierre August Adet, June 29, 1806

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, brave leadership goes unrewarded.
Dr. Deveze, a French refugee from Haiti, volunteered to serve in Bush Hill hospital during Philadelphia’s 1793 deadly yellow fever epidemic. His treatment, considerably gentler than other physicians’ (especially that of the city’s famed Dr. Benjamin Rush), resulted in a favorable recovery rate.

Jefferson noted that Deveze was among the first to recognize that yellow fever was not contagious. He also believed the “superior benevolence” of Deveze 13 years earlier merited reward. Adet now sought that reward for Deveze from the national government. The President declined, citing constitutional limitations, and directed Deveze’s case to the state where his services were rendered.

Although he could not authorize compensation from Washington, he asked Adet to convey his “personal sentiments & esteem.”

Read this excerpt from Deveze’s memoir for a detailed and sometimes grisly account of 15 case studies from the 1793 epidemic.

Mr. Jefferson will spare your audience the grisly details. Unless they ask …
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Health, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Uncle Sam must stay in his lane.

… your letter of the 9th. announced of a method of curing Yellow fever  …  in the distribution of the powers of government however, made by our general & state constitutions, no other encoragement for useful discoveries has been confided to the general [national] government but that of securing to their authors the exclusive use of them [a patent] for a term of years. all further reward is within the competence of the state-governments alone … those which have suffered under this affliction cannot fail to remunerate with liberality any real discovery for remedying it in future.
Thomas Jefferson to Antonio Garcia Herreros, August 18, 1805

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know who can and cannot help.
Herreros solicited the President for federal support for his “cure” for yellow fever. Jefferson acknowledged that any cure would be of great value. He explained that the U.S. Constitution gave the national government no authority to promote it beyond the issuance of a patent. Herreros must look to state governments for support.

The President affirmed liberal compensation should be owing anyone with a “real discovery” for curing the fever. Obviously, Herreros possessed no such cure.

Mr. Jefferson offers a real cure for boring meetings.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Let the market, not government, prove the worth of your medicine.

…  physicians are as far from being agreed as to what is the yellow fever, as what is it’s cure. if the disease which you have so successfully treated [is] … the yellow fever, and your remedy so certain, I shoud imagine some of the great cities in which it has prevailed & is still prevailing, would be the best scene for exhibiting proofs of your discovery … [and] would in all probability produce satisfactory recompence … I do not think an application to Congress could be useful, because they have already as far as their constitutional powers go, done what they thought best for securing to inventors the benefits of their inventions.
Thomas Jefferson to John Allen, October 25, 1802

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders respect the role of private enterprise.
John Allen, a English physician practicing in Maine, claimed he had cured nearly 60 people of the yellow fever. He asked the President’s advice about how to roll out his discovery. Should he take it to a medical society, to a warmer climate for more research or to Congress? (There was a hint in Allen’s letter that he might be looking for financial gain.)

The President cast a little doubt on Allen’s claims but declined involvement, citing the press of his official duties. Wanting to be helpful, he suggested trying it out in “some of the great cities” still afflicted, those along the Atlantic coast.

Congress, limited by the Constitution, could be of no help beyond what they’d already done, allowing “inventors the benefits of their inventions.”

Mr. Jefferson desires to be helpful to your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
Leave a comment Posted in Commerce, Congress, Constitutional issues, Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hands off God, again. Part 6

In matters of Religion, I have considered that it’s free exercise is placed by the constitution independant of the powers of the general government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it: but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction & discipline of the state or church authorities acknoleged by the several religious societies.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Strict constructionist leaders take the Constitution at its word.
This single paragraph in its entirety sums up Thomas Jefferson’s views on the national government’s role in religion:
1. The Constitution set religion apart as independent of that government.
2. Accordingly, he authorized no national days of prayer, fasting or thanksgiving.
3. Religious observances were left to state or church authorities.

The word “again” appears in this headline, referencing a 2013 post with the same subject and title.

“You put a great amount of effort into this talk …
a lot of research into medical practice in the 18th century.”
Clinical Laboratory Management Association, Central New York Chapter
Mr. Jefferson goes to great lengths to be relevant to your audience.
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THIS is how Uncle Sam should spend your taxes. Part 3

these contributions enable us to support the current expences of the government, to fulfill contracts with foreign nations, to extinguish the native right of soil within our limits, to extend those limits, & to apply such a surplus to our public debts, as places at a short day their final redemption. and, that redemption once effected, the revenue thereby liberated may, by a just repartition of it among the states, & a corresponding amendment of the constitution, be applied, in time of peace, to rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, & other great objects within each state.
Thomas Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders limit and prioritize spending.
First, Thomas Jefferson limited current federal spending to five areas:
1. Domestic commitments authorized by Congress
2. Contractual agreements with other nations
3. Purchasing tribal lands from the Indians
4. Expansion of the United States geographically
5. Paying down federal debt until it was gone

Second, when the federal debt had been paid, the Constitution amended to allow for it, and the nation was at peace, further surpluses were to be shared with the states for infrastructure and to promote commerce, education, culture and the like.

“The great length that Patrick Lee went to ensure that Mr. Jefferson’s remarks
were relevant to today’s officials was excellent.”
Executive Director, Township Officials of Illinois
Patrick Lee and Thomas Jefferson collaborate well.
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1 Comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Federal finances, Government's proper role Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

I would prefer to, but duty dictates I must not.

were I to yield to my own feelings … [or to] … so many respectable persons as have signed the petition, my path would be easy. but on mature consideration the opinion is that it would be an abusive use of the executive power, and would tend to transfer from the grand jury to the Executive the office of deciding whether a person shall be put on his trial or not. between these conflicting motives of personal feeling & of duty, the latter must be supreme.
Thomas Jefferson to John Peter Van Ness, January 9, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Must a leader sacrifice 154 opinions for the sake of a principle?
Van Ness and 153 other signatories petitioned Thomas Jefferson to pardon Robert Peacock, arrested on a credible charge of forgery. Peacock’s wife, a well-connected woman of merit with two young children, was greatly maligned by the charges against her husband. The wife promised their family would leave the country if her husband were freed.

The President had the authority to pardon and the opinion of “so many respectable persons” was significant. It would be an easy (and popular!) choice to grant their petition. Yet, doing so would undermine the judicial process while expanding executive (his) authority. He was always cautious about treading on ground occupied by the other two branches of government.

Given the choice between “personal feeling & duty,” he chose duty. It “must be supreme.”

“Those in attendance were captivated by your grasp of the subject …”
Program Committee, Rotary Club of St. Louis
Mr. Jefferson brings his knowledge for the benefit of your audience.
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Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Judiciary Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Two and I’m outta here!

my opinion originally was that the President of the US. should have been elected for 7. years, & for ever ineligible afterwards. I have since become sensible that 7. years is too long to be unremoveable …the service for 8. years with a power to remove at the end of the first four, comes nearly to my principle …  the danger is that … reelection through life shall become habitual, & election for life follow that. Genl. Washington set the example of voluntary retirement after 8. years. I shall follow it. and a few more precedents will …[establish this principle]. perhaps it may beget a disposition to establish it by an amendment of the constitution.
Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, January 6, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders self-limit their authority.
Taylor (1753-1824) was a Virginia lawyer, farmer, politician, political writer and close ally of Thomas Jefferson. He had written the President after hearing reports that Jefferson would serve a second term only and then retire. Taylor asked him to reconsider that decision.

Jefferson declined. One of his three objections to the new U.S. Constitution proposed in 1787 was no limit on the number of terms a President could serve. He feared that could turn into a President-for-life, either dictator or king. He credited Washington with setting the example of retiring after two terms. He would follow suit. Several more doing the same would establish the principle. Presidents Madison and Monroe continued in that vein, serving two terms only.

That principle continued until 1940, when Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a third term and then a fourth in 1944. This resulted in the 22nd Amendment (which Jefferson suggested) adopted in 1951, constitutionally limiting the President to two terms.

“After your presentation, it was truly amazing
how you answered questions from the audience without stepping out of character.”
Executive Director, Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio
Mr. Jefferson delights in a no-holds-barred question-and-answer session!
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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.

“… thank you for your participation in [RCA’s]
“Understand the Revolution” Seminar in Boston, Massachusetts…”
Business Chair, Rural Cellular Association
Understanding your past can guide your present and protect your future!
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Leave a comment Posted in Congress, Constitutional issues, Government's proper role Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Cancer is not within the federal government’s authority.

… with respect to any application to Congress, it would be inefficient, because the Constitution allows them to give no other reward for useful discoveries but the exclusive right for 14. years: and the care of the public health is not among those [powers] given to the general government, but remains exclusively with the legislatures of the respective states …
To James Houston, February 10, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders accept limits on their authority.
In a long curious letter to the President, Houston, a 52 year old farmer described being in Philadelphia for treatment of a cancer he’d suffered from for many years. He claimed to have been mostly healed and wanted to make the doctor’s cure known publicly. The doctor refused, because the pills he compounded to treat the cancer were a major source of income. Still, for $50,000, the doctor would release the formula.

Houston had written a “pamphlet,” some lengthy, rhyming narrative of his treatment and cure, and sent a portion of it to the President. He hoped to publish and sell it to raise funds toward that $50,000 goal. He sought a patent on his pamphlet. The President acknowledged a 14 year patent “for useful discoveries,” but that did not apply to Houston’s effort. Neither was the national government authorized by the Constitution to guard public health. Under the 10th Amendment, that authority remained with the individual states.

While he could not help his petitioner, Jefferson remained gracious. He concluded his letter by congratulating Houston “on his prospect of recovery, and sincerely wishes it may be compleated.”

Two months later, Houston filed for a copyright on his pamphlet in the federal court in Philadelphia and published it with the title, “A Plan for the Ladies Fund, in the United States of America, for the Relief of Those Afflicted with Cancers.”

“Your talk was the hit of the day …
thanks for making our convention a big success.”
Central Bank
Mr. Jefferson will contribute to the success of your convention.
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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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