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Category Archives: Diplomacy

Make love (dispassionately), not war.

That nations should, in friendship & harmony, take liberal & dispassionate views of their interfering interests, and settle them by timely arrangements, of advantage to both undiminished by injuries to either, is certainly wiser than to yield to short-sighted passions, which, estimating neither chances nor consequences, prompt to measures of mutual destruction, rather than of mutual benefit.
To the Mississippi Territory Legislative Council, December 29, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Diplomatic leaders trump undiplomatic ones.
The President acknowledged the Council’s congratulatory message on the peaceful addition of Louisiana, an achievement it called second only to our 1776 independence. In this long, run-on sentence, Jefferson expressed the highest goals for international diplomacy, that nations should:
1. Proceed from a basis of friendship
2. Look for the best in the other nation’s motivation
3. Even in disagreement, keep emotion out of it
4. Take time to settle issues in advance of a crisis
5. Seek solutions that will benefit both and hurt neither

These principles guided Jefferson in his negotiations with France over open navigation on the Mississippi River. He contrasted them with the “short sighted passions” of his political opponents, who wanted war rather than diplomacy.

“It was a pleasure to have you perform as Thomas Jefferson.
Feedback from our convention participants … was very positive.”
Executive Director, Association of Partners for Public Lands
Your audience will regard Mr. Jefferson’s presentation as most positive!
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Showing personal kindness to ones you dislike …

Th Jefferson presents his respects to Mrs. Merry, and sends her a few seeds of the Dionaea muscipula, or Flytrap, so much celebrated as holding the middle ground between the animal & vegetable orders. tho’ a native of Carolina, this is the first he has been able to recieve after a course of six years efforts & all the interest he could make there. he recieved it the last night by post & sends mrs Merry the half of what he recieved. the plant will be best in pots because it will need some shelter in winter.
To Elizabeth Leathes Merry, December 26, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders separate personal interests from political ones.
Mrs. Merry was the wife of Anthony Merry, the new and highly disliked ambassador from England. Merry expected preferential treatment from the President and was greatly incensed not to receive it. His wife was gregarious, presumptuous and loved being the center of attention. Still, she was intelligent, a conversationalist and had an interest in botany, qualities Jefferson admired.

So, when a six year quest for seeds of the Venus flytrap was finally successful, he immediately shared half of his supply with her. He found some of her personal traits distasteful but overlooked those to cultivate the common ground they shared.

Two weeks later, in a letter to James Monroe, Jefferson disparaged both husband and wife, referring to her as a “virago.” Wikipedia describes a virago as a manly woman, a female warrior or heroine, but acknowledges a later, more common usage, found in another online search, an ill-tempered, domineering woman. Chances are Jefferson meant the latter definition.

Regardless, Mrs. Merry penned her thanks to the President later that day.

“Thank you for your appearance at Jefferson College …
It was extremely enjoyable and educational.”
President, Jefferson College
Mr. Jefferson will both teach and entertain.
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The “court of the US” is dead and buried! Part 2 of 2

The Washington Federalist … has published what he calls the ‘Etiquette of the court of the US.’ in his facts, as usual, truth is set at nought, & in his principles little correct to be found.

In the first place there is no ‘court of the US’ since the 4th. of Mar. 1801. that day buried levees, birthdays, royal parades, and the arrogation of precedence [an unjustified claim of superiority] in society by certain self-stiled friends of order …

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.
Response to the Washington Federalist, February 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know all are created equal and should be treated that way.
The previous post referenced President Jefferson’s guidelines for etiquette in America with regard to foreign diplomats. An opposition newspaper belittled those guidelines, as if the President’s goal was to create dissension with other nations.

Jefferson very rarely responded publicly to political opponents, but the Washington Federalist must have really gotten his goat. His response was printed in the Philadelphia republican paper, the Aurora. First, he wrote there was no longer any “court of the US,” as that had ended with his inauguration on March 4, 1801. On that day, all privilege previously associated with Washington society ceased to be recognized within the government.

He concluded with a ringing affirmation of equality for all in social circles.

“The members of our organization appreciate the time you took to research our group.
So much of your presentation was appropriate both to your days and to current times.”
President, Missouri City Clerks and Finance Officers Association
Mr. Jefferson strives to make his time relevant to your audience.
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NOT in America! Part 1 of 2

When brought together in society all are perfectly equal, whether foreign or domestic, titled or untitled, in or out of office…
No titles being admitted here, those of foreigners give no precedence.
Difference of grade among the diplomatic members gives no precedence…
At public ceremonies to which the government invites the presence of foreign ministers & their families, a convenient seat or station, will be provided for them with any other strangers invited, & the families of the national ministers, each taking place as they arrive, & without any precedence…
Memorandum on Official Etiquette, January 12, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders treat everyone equally.
Secretary of State Madison had asked America’s ambassador to England about the rules of etiquette that governed diplomats there. Ambassador King replied with a lengthy list, noting the many distinctions made between peoples of varying rank and the procedures governing each.

President Jefferson then drafted his own list for etiquette on this side of the pond. We allowed no titles, no special privileges. With one exception granted to foreign ministers on their first visit to America, all diplomats and their families were to be regarded equally.

“I would like to highly recommend Patrick Lee
for interpretive programming to enhance your events.”
Executive Director, Fort Mandan Foundation
Mr. Jefferson’s presentation will enhance your event!
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We are all imperfect. Let us accept that and work together. Part 2 of 2

I see too many proofs of the imperfection of human reason to entertain wonder or intolerance at any difference of opinion on any subject; and acquiesce in that difference as easily as on a difference of feature or form: experience having taught me the reasonableness of mutual sacrifices of opinion among those who are to act together, for any common object, and the expediency of doing what good we can, when we cannot do all we would wish.
To John Randolph, December 1, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Practical leaders understand the need for mutual sacrifice.
This complicated passage could be summarized:
1. Everyone’s reasoning is different, and all of it is imperfect.
2. Thus, I am neither amazed nor angered at differences of opinion.
3. I accept major differences as easily as minor ones.
4. Laboring for the common good requires “mutual sacrifices of opinion.”
5. Accomplishing some good work together is worthwhile, even “when we cannot do all we would wish.”

“I look forward to working with you in the future
if Mr. Jefferson remains in the area.
President, Hawthorn Foundation, New and Expanding Business Conference
Mr. Jefferson is still in the area.
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Leave a comment Posted in Diplomacy, Human nature, Politics

Can you believe this guy?!

Th: Jefferson … regrets that, having no acquaintance in the mercantile line, at Philadelphia, there is not a single house there of whom he is authorised to ask the favor desired by mr Mery, & that his entire unacquaintance with every person & thing connected with money-matters disables him from indicating any other resource for the advance of money mr Mery may have occasion for. he returns him the note from the Marquis de la Fayette … & presents him his salutations.
To Méry, October 6, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need a diplomatic way to say, “Get lost!”
An unknown Frenchman wrote Jefferson from Philadelphia, asking for money. He said the British had robbed him of his reference letters of credit. He needed cash until more could arrive from home. All Méry could offer to establish credibility was to include with his letter one from the President’s old friend, Lafayette, written to someone else.

Jefferson, who innately desired to be helpful, was diplomatic but uncharacteristically abrupt. He knew of no one or no resource who could help Méry. He was returning the letter from Lafayette with his greetings only, and nothing more.

“Organizations of lawyers rarely agree on many things,
but I received unanimous praise for your presentation.”
Chair, Programs Committee, American College of Real Estate Lawyers
New Orleans, LA
If Mr. Jefferson can impress lawyers, he can impress anyone.
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What I wrote 6 days ago? Fuhgeddabout it!

On the 10th. inst. I wrote you on the subject of Louisiana, and mentioned the question of a supplement to the constitution on that account. a letter recieved yesterday renders it prudent to say nothing on that subject, but to do sub silentio [in silence] what shall be found necessary. that part of my letter therefore be so good as to consider as confidential.
To Thomas Paine, August 16, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Practical leaders know when to walk back their previous positions.
Six days earlier, the President had written Paine about Louisiana and how Congress would need to pass an authorizing constitutional amendment at the same time they ratified the treaties. The day before, Jefferson received a letter from his Ambassador Livingston in France, saying Napoleon was looking for any excuse to cancel the sale.

The President updated his friend in this letter, but only to this extent: Make no mention of a constitutional amendment. The President and Congress would do whatever they had to do to complete the deal, but they would do it quietly. Thus, he warned his friend not to reveal that portion of his August 10 letter, lest his political opponents use it to scuttle the purchase of Louisiana.

“…how excellent it was having Mr. Jefferson
be our conference keynote speaker … Thank you, greatly.”
Deputy Executive Director, Missouri Rural Water Association
Mr. Jefferson will be excellent for your audience, too.
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Read my lips. NO new taxes!

[There was a hiccup in cyberspace, or in my brain, because this notice didn’t go out as it should have. Maybe this time?]

… the purchase of Louisiana will require the aid of all our resources to pay the interest of the additional debt without laying a new tax, and of course call for the adoption of every possible economy.
To Tobias Lear, July 14, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Bold initiatives don’t always require tax increases.
Lear (1762-1816) was best known as George Washington’s personal secretary for the last 15 years of Washington’s life. Lear’s reputation was a checkered one, but he also served President Jefferson as commercial agent in St. Domingo and then as Consul General to several North African city-states. Lear’s duties in Algiers and Tripoli included ongoing negotiations to protect American shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. That protection was secured, in part, by annual payments to those nations. The President was intent on holding the line on, if not decreasing, those payments.

Why? In part, because he wanted to pay the interest on new debt for the purchase of Louisiana without a new tax. To do so would obviously require “every possible economy.”

“Again, it was a delight working with you,
and I wish you much continued success!”
Executive Vice President, Carolina-Virginias Telephone Membership Association
Mr. Jefferson will delight your audience!
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Haters gonna hate. *

I find our opposition is very willing to pluck feathers from Munroe [James Monroe], although not fond of sticking them into Livingston’s coat. the truth is, both have a just portion of merit, & were it necessary or proper it could be shewn that each has rendered peculiar services, & of important value. these grumblers too are very uneasy lest the administration should share some little credit for the acquisition, the whole of which they ascribe to the accident of war. they would be cruelly mortified could they see our files from May 1801, the first organisation of the administration, but more especially from April 1802.
To Horatio Gates, July 11, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Like the tortoise, smart leaders know the value of slow and steady.
Gates (1727-1806), a controversial Revolutionary War general, wrote an effusive letter praising the President’s acquisition of Louisiana. He also made a strong recommendation for William Smith, son-in-law of former President John Adams, to be named as head of a new government to be formed in New Orleans.

Jefferson acknowldeged Gates’ praise, and in turn, gave credit to both of his ambassadors, Robert Livingston and James Monroe, for their essential roles in securing Louisiana. He noted the Federalist opponents not only criticized both men but were also unwilling to give his administration any credit for the happy result. They claimed it had come about as an accident, a by-product of pending war between France and England. What the detractors didn’t know was that for the previous two years, Jefferson’s administration had actively pursued every possible diplomatic effort to secure New Orleans and avoid war with France over use of the Mississippi River.

Jefferson did not comment on Gates’ recommendation of Smith, nor did he appoint him to the position.

“… should you wish to use us as a reference, feel free to do so.”
President, Linn State Technical College
College Presidents recommend Thomas Jefferson!
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*Songwriters: Taylor Swift / Max Martin / Karl Johan Schuster
Shake It Off lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
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A birthday pig in a poke, with benefits!

On the evening of the 3d inst. [July] we recieved a letter from … Livingston & Monroe [America’s ambassadors to France on the subject of purchasing New Orleans and maintaining open Mississippi River navigation] … that on the 30th. of April they signed a treaty with France, ceding to us the island of N. Orleans and all Louisiana as it had been held by Spain. the price is not mentioned. we are in hourly expectation of the treaty by a special messenger … it is something larger than the whole US. probably containing 500 millions of acres, the US. containing 434. millions. this removes from us the greatest source of danger to our peace.
To Thomas Mann Randolph, July 5, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Happy birthday, Mr. President!
Jefferson concealed his own birth date, so people couldn’t celebrate him. He believed July 4 was the only date worthy of national celebration. Just hours before America’s 27th birthday, he’d received word that his spirited diplomatic efforts had yielded an unimaginable result: France would sell not only New Orleans but ALL of Louisiana! That would more than double the size of the nation and make the Mississippi River a totally American waterway.

Jefferson’s tactical goal had been met, securing duty-free shipping on all goods produced for export west of the Appalachian mountains. His strategic goal was met, too, eliminating what otherwise was inevitable, war with France over control of the Mississippi.

The President didn’t know the price! (A “pig in a poke” refers to a purchase where the buyer doesn’t really know the extent of the purchase or the price paid.) He expected to find out soon. He had authorized $10M for New Orleans and West Florida. He would soon be delighted to learn that the whole deal was signed for just $15M. Settlement of old shipping claims against France would significantly lower the purchase price to $11.25M.

This purchase would completely change the complexion of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, from a small company exploring foreign land to a large military company laying further claim to American land.

“… as Thomas Jefferson … His audiences have included … students, constitutional scholars,
lawyers and judges. He was very well received by these diverse groups.”

Director of Law-Related Education, The Missouri Bar
Mr. Jefferson will please your audience, whatever they are!
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