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Category Archives: Education

Do you want change back from your $90?

I recieved … [your letter that] you had … 90.D. [$90] recieved for me as rent for the salt-petre cave at the Natural bridge, and asking it as a donation for the female academy of that neighborhood. I have ever believed that the duty of contribution to charitable institutions would produce the greatest sum of good by every one’s devoting what they can spare to the institutions of their neighborhood, or in the vicinity of their property; because under the eye of their patrons they would be more faithfully conducted than at a distance from them … the applications to me from every part of the union being more than any income but that of the union, could supply. on this principle I am persuaded you will think twenty five Dollars a donation fully proportioned to my property in that quarter, giving this sum therefore to the institution there, I will thank you to remit the balance …
To William Carothers, September 7, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Charitable leaders give to charities wisely.
Caruthers, Jefferson’s agent in a western Virginia county where he owned property, held $90 rent owed to him. Caruthers asked if Jefferson would like to donate it to support a local school for girls. Jefferson’s reply:
1. Everyone had a duty to support charitable institutions to produce the greatest good for all.
2. Donations were best made to charities where donors lived or owned property, so they could carefully monitor its use.
3. He received more requests for donations than he could ever honor.
4. He would donate $25 to the school and wanted the remaining $65 sent to him.

He might have used his reasoning in #2 to decline any donation, because he lived 100 miles away, beyond any possible oversight. Yet he did own real estate in the vicinity, though he visited it rarely. He thought it more important to give than decline.

“The decision to bring Patrick Lee was a wise one.
His presentation was both credible and enlightening.”
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Both credible and enlightening!
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What does a local library mean for US? Part 3 of 4

these should be such [books in your library] as would give them a general view of other history & particular view of that of their own country, a tolerable knolege of geography, the elements of Natural philosophy, of agriculture & mechanics. should your example lead to this, it will do great good.
To John Wyche, May 19, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Educated leaders encourage foundational reading for all.
What types of books should be in a county library for circulating among its citizens?

  1. History in general, to know what preceded us on a global scale
  2. History in particular, that of the United States
  3. Basic geography, how the elements of our earth are represented
  4. Science (“Natural philosophy”)
  5. Agriculture, how we feed and clothe ourselves
  6. “Mechanics,” how things work

A basic knowledge in these six areas would be sufficient for citizens to know, respect and safeguard their rights as free Americans.

“It is my pleasure to write about my professional experience with Patrick Lee …
Our members were thrilled.”
Executive Director, Florida Surveying and Mapping Society
Your members will be thrilled with Mr. Jefferson, too.
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What does a local library mean for US? Part 2 of 4

I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expence than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county to consist of a few well chosen books, to be lent to the people of the county under such regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.
To John Wyche, May 19, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Frugal leaders seek the most bang for the buck.
In the first excerpt from this letter, Jefferson explained the vital importance of an educated citizenry as essential to protecting their own rights. He supported any institution which furthered that end.

In this excerpt, he focused on the one institution which could best help accomplish that goal at the least expense, a library in every county. It could be small. It’s books should be well-chosen. It should lend those books to citizens and provide for their safe return.

“Our local government leaders were thrilled with your remarks,
as evidenced by the extended standing ovation you received at their conclusion.”

Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Cities
Mr. Jefferson will delight your audience!
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What does a local library mean for US? Part 1 of 4

[Your letter] informs me of the establishment of the Westward mill library society, of it’s general views & progress. I always hear with pleasure of institutions for the promotion of knolege among my countrymen. the people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights, and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction. and certainly they would never consent to be so used were they not decieved. to avoid this they should be instructed to a certain degree …
To John Wyche, May 19, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders always promote the broad education of their constitutents.
A portion of this letter was excerpted in a 2013 post. Since we are reviewing all of the significant correspondence of Jefferson’s first year of retirement, we will look at the entire letter, broken into four posts.

Wyche wrote at length to Jefferson about the formation of a library in Brunswick County, VA, on the VA/NC border, about 70 miles south of Richmond. Local citizens had adopted a constitution and pledged $10 each to acquire books. He was seeking the retired President’s “patronage.” He did not specify what that might be though financial support might have been a likely goal.

Jefferson opened with why he liked libraries. He supported any institution which promoted knowledge among his countrymen – schools, colleges, academic societies, even churches (to some degree). People were “the only safe guardians of their own rights,” and the only ones who could take them away. Protecting those rights and defeating those who would deny them required an educated citizenry. Libraries furthered that end.

“Your presentation, particularly your response to questions, was most impressive.”
For the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, New Orleans
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Not worth the paper they are written on

agreeable to my promise I now enclose a list of pamphlets, published whilst in Dublin—if you honour me with your Command for one or more of them I will instantly attend to it
To Thomas Jefferson from Patrick Byrne, May 23, 1805

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mr Byrne & his thanks for the inclosed catalogue of pamphlets, which he now returns not finding any thing in it which he has occasion to call for. in truth political pamphlets are of so ephemeral an interest that their value passes almost with the moment which produces them.
To Patrick Byrne, May 31, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Discerning leaders know when to be dismissive.
Byrne was a Philadelphia book seller from whom Jefferson had bought numerous volumes. Apparently, Byrne also thought his patron would be interested in current political writings and sent him a list of pamphlets, hoping for another sale.

Jefferson said thanks but no thanks. The political thought represented in those pamphlets held no interest for him. Remember, Jefferson was a man interested in almost everything, so this dismissal is extraordinary.

He was very interested in classic political thought, ideas that stood the test of time, and possessed numerous books on the subject. That he had no interest in these may have meant they dealt with current political thought, i.e. what was popular or trendy or partisan. For him, any value evaporated as soon as they were printed.

“Enhancing this presentation is his animated and sincere delivery
that leaves his audience inspired and motivated.”
Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association
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Be careful, or they will suck you dry. Be gracious, too.

I had the honor of transmiting to you (in June last,) a plan of the Female Humane Charity School of this City; and likewise, a list of Doners and Annual subscribers to the same. I now inclose a note of Bishop Carrolls, for your perusal—, Which you will please to return by the next Mail, with the list above mentioned.
Kezia Norris, Trustee, to Thomas Jefferson, October 19, 1801, Baltimore

I have duly recieved your favor covering a Note of Bishop Carroll’s which I now return according to your desire … [as President] I recieved applications from different parts of the Union for contributions to churches, colleges, schools, bridges, & other useful institutions. I yielded to them until they became so numerous… [that I must limit] myself to the one with which I was associated by situation. beyond this, all had their equal claims … [Giving to all was beyond] the means of any individual, I was obliged to adopt the latter as the only remaining rule of my conduct.
To Kezia Norris, October 20, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders limit the causes they support and compliment the rest.
Four months earlier, Mrs. Norris had solicited a contribution for her cause from the President with a sincere but almost manipulative appeal. She included a list of donors and wanted to put his name, as President, at the top of her list. Apparently, Jefferson had not responded. She now sent him a second request, upping the ante with an appeal from the Bishop who would head the school’s board of trustees.

Often generous, Jefferson declined her request, explaining he had been inundated with appeals. There were so many worthwhile causes that they were beyond any individual’s means to support. Thus, he had to limit himself to the causes he knew personally. He didn’t say so, but he was also leery of people, well-intentioned or otherwise, who might try to benefit from their association with him as President.

Practically always gracious, Jefferson complimented her cause, her zeal and the “wealth & public spirit of the city of Baltimore” which would support the school. He wished her every success.

“This letter is to recommend a both talented and fascinating performer –
Patrick Lee.”

Missouri Department of Conservation
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What is the best way to educate everyone?

… concerning the College of Wm. & Mary … [I] prepared three bills for the Revisal, proposing three distinct grades of education, reaching all classes. 1. Elementary schools for all children generally, rich and poor. 2. Colleges for a middle degree of instruction, calculated for the common purposes of life, and such as would be desirable for all who were in easy circumstances. And 3d. an ultimate grade for teaching the sciences generally, & in their highest degree.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders will provide for an educated citizenry.
Jefferson proposed three education bills. The first of those three is described above, with three levels of instruction:

  1. Elementary schools for all children, regardless of circumstances – The curriculum would be what every person needed to know, how to read and write and perform basic arithmetic. These would be established in each county, within walking distance for each child.
  2. Colleges for advanced education and learning a specific skill – These would benefit those with the drive to get ahead and please those of financial means, for whom further education was a given. Colleges would be in 24 districts throughout the state, all within one day’s horse ride for the residents of the district.
  3. A university where the highest levels of the sciences would be taught

“All children generally” did not include slave children. It did include poor children and girls, both radical provisions in a time when only white males born to parents of means were educated.

More than 15 years passed before the Virginia legislature enacted only the elementary school provision. They then gutted its effectiveness by leaving it up to each county when to establish their own school. Jefferson’s vision was to establish them all at once.

“… what a magnificent and delightful job you did as President Thomas Jefferson …”
Chair, Substantive Program
11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judicial Conference
Mr. Jefferson will do a magnificent job for your audience, too!
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What qualities make a good mentor?

[I] then went to Wm. and Mary college, to wit in the spring of 1760, where I continued 2. years. It was my great good fortune, and what probably fixed the destinies of my life that Dr. Wm. Small of Scotland was then professor of Mathematics, a man profound in most of the useful branches of science, with a happy talent of communication, correct and gentlemanly manners, & an enlarged & liberal mind. He, most happily for me, became soon attached to me & made me his daily companion when not engaged in the school; and from his conversation I got my first views of the expansion of science & of the system of things in which we are placed.
Autobiography, 1821*

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders-to-be need skilled mentors.
Jefferson was almost 17 when he continued his education in college at Williamsburg. He came into the orbit of Dr. William Small, the only faculty member who was not an Anglican clergyman. Because of upheaval within the school, Small became Jefferson’s only professor, teaching all of his classes.

Sixty years later, Jefferson would cite the qualities that made Small extraordinary:

  1. “Profound,” which Webster’s 7th New Collegiate defines as “intellectual depth and insight”
  2. Devoted to the “useful branches of science,” wisdom relevant to everyday life
  3. “a happy talent for communication,” an engaging and effective classroom teacher
  4. “correct and gentlemanly manners,” proper and polite
  5. “an enlarged and liberal mind,” willing to consider all the possibilities
  6. “made me his daily companion,” taking young Jefferson under his wing
  7. “from his conversation,” verbal interaction with a high purpose

I’ve begun re-reading Jefferson’s Autobiography. I may take posts from it for some time.

*This link is to the entire autobiography. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.
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The President’s recommendation open doors!

The bearer hereof, mr Mills, a native of South Carolina, has passed some years at this place as a Student in architecture. he is now setting out on a journey through the states to see what is worth seeing in that line in each state. he will visit Boston with the same view, and knowing your taste for the art, I take the liberty of recommending him to your notice, and of asking for him whatever information on the subject may be useful to his views while in Boston.
To Charles Bulfinch, July 2, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders nurture young talent.
Robert Mills (1781-1855) was almost 21 when Jefferson wrote this letter of introduction. Young Mills was already studying architecture and had helped build the President’s House in Washington City. Jefferson made his library available to Mills. Now, Mills was beginning an architectural tour of the states.

Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844) was a noted Boston architect. With very little university training available in America, the mentor-protege system was necessary to prepare young talented young men. By this letter, Jefferson introduced Mills to Bulfinch, asking the older man’s assistance in educating the architect-in-training.

Mills had a significant architectural career. Although modified considerably from his original rendering, Mills was the designer of the Washington Monument. That construction began in 1848, reaching a height of about 155’ by the time of Mills’ death. For several reasons, construction ceased and was not begun again for 20 years. Upon completion in 1884, it was the tallest building in the world, just over 555’.

Among the inscriptions on the nine-inch aluminum tip that caps the monument, facing the rising sun each day, are these words, “Laus Deo.” Translated from Latin, they read “Praise be to God.”

“Your talent and ability to tie the theme of our … Conference to his [Thomas Jefferson’s] presentation was amazing.”
North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association
Let Mr. Jefferson amaze your audience.
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Are interns taken advantage of?

I always was of opinion that the placing a youth to study with an attorney was rather a prejudice than a help. we are all too apt by shifting on them our business, to incroach on that time which should be devoted to their studies. the only help a youth wants is to be directed what books to read, and in what order to read them. I have accordingly recommended strongly to Phill to put himself into apprenticeship with no one, but to employ his time for himself alone. to enable him to do this to advantage I have laid down a plan of study which will afford him all the assistance a tutor could, without subjecting him to the inconvenience of expending his own time for the emolument of another.
To Thomas Turpin, February, 1769

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Hands-on or hands-off for a leader-in-training?
Thomas Turpin was Jefferson’s uncle and the father of two sons, Horatio and Phillip. He had written to Jefferson asking if he would take Phillip as an apprentice to become a lawyer. (There were no law schools.) Jefferson was not quite 26. He had been in the practice of law for just two years, after five years of study.

In this response, Jefferson declined the request for two reasons, one practical and one professional.
1. He was on the move. Still living at home, he expected to be traveling in the practice of law seven of the next nine months. Come winter, he hoped to move to a small cottage he was building across the river from his current residence, and would not have room to house an apprentice. (That cottage would become the South Pavilion, the first building constructed on the hilltop complex that would come to be known as Monticello.)
2. Too often, legal apprentices were expected to spend much of their time doing the lawyer’s work for him and not enough time studying law itself.

What his aspiring young cousin really needed was a plan of study and the proper books to read. Jefferson provided that plan and a catalog of books. The cost of those books was “pound 100 sterling.” One source indicates that might be $15,000 in today’s money. Another source doubles that amount. Regardless, it was sizeable, but Jefferson offered two suggestions to lessen the burden.
1. He divided his catalog in quarters, so it could be acquired in pieces, one-fourth at a time.
2. The cost could be considered as part of his cousin’s inheritance and deducted from that amount later.

“The evaluations have been tallied … There is not a doubt about it.
You were the hit of our annual conference.”
MO Association for Adult Continuing and Community Education
Mr. Jefferson will be the hit of your conference, too!
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