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Category Archives: Family matters

This is my problem, not yours. Go. (Part 2 of 2)

I must now turn to the painful task of finding a successor. altho you had prepared me for this event, I am as much unprovided as if it were now for the first time mentioned. I see not who is to fill the chasm. but this labour is my lot. be yours that of domestic felicity, of health & long life: and with this wish accept my affectionate salutations & assurances of great & constant esteem & respect.
Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, December 28, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Departing trusted lieutenants are one of a leader’s greatest challenges.
In the previous post, Thomas Jefferson reluctantly but with understanding accepted the resignation of his Attorney General for family reasons. Filling the vacancy now posed a “painful task.”

In a series of recent posts, the President explained how personnel issues were the most difficult part of his job. Governing was easy. Picking the people who would govern with him was not. Although Jefferson knew this day was coming, he was still unprepared with a successor. No one could “fill the chasm.”

Stoic in this regard, Jefferson acknowledged his job was to deal with it. Lincoln’s was to enjoy family, “health & long life.” Although unspoken, Jefferson must have envied Lincoln’s escaping Washington. It would be four more years before he could enjoy what Lincoln would have immediately.

John Breckenridge and then Caesar Rodney would serve as Attorney General in the President’s second term.

“Not only was the portrayal realistic,
but it was technically and historically accurate.”

Conference Chairman, Nevada Association of Land Surveyors
Patrick Lee will bring the real deal!
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I have been where you are. Go. (Part 1 of 2)

I recieved last night your letter of the 26th. proposing to resign your office, and I recieved it with real affliction. it would have been my greatest happiness to have kept together, to the end of my term, our executive family: for our harmony & cordiality has really made us but as one family … yet I am a father and have been a husband. I know the sacred duties which these relations impose the feelings they inspire, & that they are not to be resisted by a warm heart. I yield therefore to your will. you carry with you my entire approbation of your official conduct, my thanks for your services, my regrets on losing them, and my affectionate friendship.
Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, December 28, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders know family must come before work.
Massachusetts born Lincoln (1749-1820) was a close political ally of Thomas Jefferson. Elected to Congress in 1800, the President immediately appointed him Attorney General, instead. Lincoln intended to serve two years in Congress and return home. Instead, he had served the President almost four years. He had spoken to Jefferson of his interest in retiring, but now he put it in writing.

Jefferson’s cabinet had been with him for his first administration. He appreciated their counsel, cooperation and friendship, regarding them “as one family.” He was planning on a second term and hoped his cabinet would remain with him to enjoy the acclaim of a grateful nation four years hence.

But Lincoln said no. His family needed him. Jefferson, father and widower, understood those “sacred duties.” Though it pained him, the President acceded to Lincoln’s request, offering his highest possible professional and personal commendation.

“Mr. Jefferson’s presentation on leadership
was a wonderful and unique way to kick off an extremely successful conference.”
County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
Leadership. Wonderful. Unique. Successful.
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Not enough paper to write to his wife!

I have the pleasure to inform you that mr Briggs & his companion were in good health at Colo. Hawkins establishment near the Talapousee river, which place they left on the 3d. of Oct. and expected to be at Fort Stoddart in a week from that time. mr Briggs having been able to procure but a single half sheet of paper, which he was obliged to fill with a report to me, had no means of writing to you. the Indians had recieved & treated him with great kindness. we may shortly expect to hear of his arrival at New Orleans.
Thomas Jefferson to Hannah Briggs, December 5, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep wives informed.
Isaac Briggs, Surveyor General of the Mississippi Territory, was traveling between Washington City and New Orleans to make astronomical observations for the development of a new southern postal road. He reported to the President on October 2 about their arduous progress.

He did not have enough paper to write both his boss and his wife. He put his job first, concluding his report with a request that the President inform his wife of his well-being.

In a reply two weeks later, Hannah Briggs thanked the President, claiming this was the first word she’d had about her husband in three months. She begged any further information he might receive,  good or bad.

On January 2, Thomas Jefferson wrote again to Mrs. Briggs about her husband’s safe arrival in New Orleans.

“We received a number of compliments
for adding a unique element to the conference program.”
Co-Conference Coordinator, Natural Areas Association, Bend, OR
Try something out of the ordinary … unique! … to enliven your conference program.
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This awful situation has only one insufficient remedy.

Your two letters, my dear friend, of Aug. 31. & Sep. 9. reached me on the 9th. & 31st. of October. I had already learned through other channels the melancholy event they announced. be assured I deeply felt for your situation: but on this subject I will not say one word; experience in the same school having taught me that time alone can mitigate what nothing can remedy.
To Elizabeth House Trist, November 23, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders acknowledge loss … then shut up.
Jefferson met Trist (1751-1828) when he roomed at her mother’s boarding house during his congressional service in the early 1780s. They remained friends throughout their lives.

Trist’s two letters announced the death of her only child. The year before, the President appointed that son as tax collector for the lower Mississippi River. She moved with him and his family to New Orleans. A promising future for the healthy young man was wiped out in five days when he contracted yellow fever.

Jefferson had endured the death of five of his six children, most recently his daughter Maria just seven months earlier. He knew the torment of his good friend and acknowledged her loss. He would say no more, knowing that “time alone can mitigate [lessen]” her sorrow, which would always be with her.

“I would like to say how much we enjoyed your leadership addresses
as Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Boone.”
Past President, Washington Municipal Treasurer’s Association
Both Jefferson and Boone stand ready to share their leadership lessons with your audience.
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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.

“Our people attend lots of conferences and hear lots of speakers.
We wanted something different.
We knew you would grab their attention with your unique portrayal.”
President, Excellence in Missouri Foundation / Missouri Quality Award
Mr. Jefferson will grab your attendees’ attention!
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On the death of our children … Part 1 of 4

The affectionate sentiments … in your letter of May 20. towards my dear departed daughter, have awakened in me sensibilities natural to the occasion, & recalled your kindnesses to her which I shall ever remember with gratitude & friendship. I can assure you with truth they had made an indelible impression on her mind, and that, to the last, on our meetings after long separations, whether I had heard lately of you, and how you did, were among the earliest of her enquiries. in giving you this assurance I perform a sacred duty for her…
To Abigail Smith Adams, June 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Suffering leaders value encouragement from fellow sufferers.
Still smarting over grievances between her husband, the previous President, and his successor, the current President, Abigail Adams delayed acknowledging the death of his daughter. Finally overwhelmed by her affections for Maria Jefferson, she wrote a sincere letter of condolence. Three of her six children preceded her in death, and she knew what her former friend was experiencing. (Maria’s passing marked the fifth of Jefferson’s six children to die.)

Jefferson thanked Abigail, reminiscing about when she and Maria became close. Maria never waned in her affection for Mrs. Adams and always asked her father for news about her. Acknowledging Adams’ kindness to his daughter allowed him to “perform a sacred duty for her…”

The President had more to express to the former First Lady. That will be the subject of future posts.

” … please accept this letter of thanks and appreciation
for your outstanding presentation … “
Staff Advisory Council Chair, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
University of Missouri
Mr. Jefferson addressed the staff in a huge garage amidst multiple farm machines.
He will speak in (almost) any venue. Invite him! Call 573-657-2739
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My daughter died.

On the 17th. instant [i.e. April] our hopes & fears here took their ultimate form.
To James Madison, April 23, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders will be laid low now and then.
When Congress adjourned, the President returned to Monticello to see his daughter Maria. She had given birth to her third child in February and was not recovering.

Jefferson wrote six letters from the time of his arrival at Monticello through the date of this letter to Secretary of State Madison, his closest personal and political confidante. Five of those missives were devoted first to affairs of state and then to the deteriorating condition of his dear daughter.

This letter was no different. He began with ongoing diplomatic difficulties with England. His last paragraph began with this sentence, telling his friend of Maria’s death six days earlier. This was the first letter he wrote after her passing. He went on to write that he would stay at Monticello longer than he planned, citing “a desire to see my family in a state of more composure before we separate.”

The baby, who bore her mother’s name, would live only two years.

“… the content [was] interesting, informative and provided great insight …”
Sr. VP, Community Bankers Association of Illinois
For a presentation engaging, educational and insightful,
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I have to serve again, and it is THEIR fault.

I sincerely regret that the unbounded calumnies [false and damaging statements] of the Federal party have obliged me to throw myself on the verdict of my country for trial, my great desire having been to retire at the end of the present term to a life of tranquility, and it was my decided purpose when I entered into office. they force my continuance. if we can keep the vessel of state as steady in her course for another 4. years, my earthly purposes will be accomplished, and I shall be free to enjoy as you are doing my family, my farm, & my books.
To Elbridge Gerry, March 3, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Do principled leaders step aside … or fight?
Since no one else had the necessary reputation in 1800, Jefferson agreed to lead the republican cause and stand for election as President. His hope to cement the nation’s future in four years and retire was not to be.

By early 1804, Jefferson could claim considerable progress in re-orienting the America’s course, but that new direction was not solid. It was continually being undermined by his political opposition. He claimed their on-going character assassination necessitated his serving another four years to secure the nation’s new foundation. Only then could he return to “my family, my farm, & my books.”

On this same day, Jefferson learned his younger daughter Maria had not recovered from her third childbirth on February 15. Maria was frail, like her long-deceased mother, and had suffered slow recoveries after her first two deliveries. (Her firstborn boy in late 1799 lived only a few weeks.) The President was greatly frightened that one of his two remaining children might succumb to the same fate as his late wife. Judge for yourself the decision (and sacrifice) he made to serve his nation rather than flee to his family’s side.

Maria would die six weeks later.

“The California [MO] Chamber of Commerce would highly recommend you …”
President, California Chamber of Commerce
Mr. Jefferson comes highly recommended.
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Can we make a bad situation just a bit better?

the family is represented as being in a very unhappy state, the parents old & anxious once more to see their son … they pray [he] may be discharged & restored to them . every thing connected with a regular soldiery is so unpopular with citizens at large, that every occasion should be taken of softening it’s roughnesses towards them. in time of peace … I think it would have a good effect to indulge citizens of respectability in cases like the present …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders consider bending the rules occasionally.
A family member petitioned the President for an early release of a soldier who had already served eight years. In 1795, while intoxicated, that young man was induced to enlist by a zealous recruiter. When his five year term was completed, the desperate soldier lacked funds to travel 1,200 miles home and re-enlisted. The soldier’s parents were heartbroken to learn of this news and asked another son to write the President on their behalf. That son begged mercy for his aged parents and release for his brother.

The President referred the matter to Dearborn, his Secretary of War, relaying the facts given him by the petitioning brother. Jefferson acknowledged that public opinion was not on their side regarding the “roughnesses” of military life. This soldier had served one five year term and was more than half through a second five years. The nation was at peace. Could they grant an indulgence to this family, not only for their sake but for public opinion, as well?

The petitioner wrote that another brother had died in March 1803. A footnote to the petitioner’s letter recorded the petitioner himself died a month after writing to the President, at the age of 20. I find no record of how Dearborn acted in this manner, but I suspect he granted the release.

“The feedback from our conferees was overwhelmingly favorable
and … [a] testimony to the presentation and your considerable skills.”
Executive Director, Missouri Safety Council
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Cash out & in, 1804, plus sad news

Jan. 1                   Gave in charity 5.D. [$5]. …
Feb. 13                 Paid for 13. glass pens 2.43 3/4. …
Mar. 28                Sent Mrs. Madison for a mantua [lady’s dress] maker 3.50. …
Apr. 3                   Culpepper C.H. [Court House] oats & etc. .58.   barber .50…
May 13                 Thomas Shields for finding pistol   .1.D…
June 7                  Gibson & Jefferson have sold my tobo [tobacco]… 1267.D.
July 20                 Pd. S.H. Smith for newspapers 10.D. …
Aug. 30                Pd. shoeing horses at Mr. Madison’s 1. …
Sept. 14                Recd. of J. Barnes 500.D. …
Oct. 31                  Tooth pick case 1.75. …
Nov. 13                 Paid at the races 1.D. …
Dec. 10                 Recd. back from Jos. Daugherty 3.50 overpaid [for] contingencies.
Memorandum Books, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Careful leaders keep a record. (They should also keep a balance.)
The link above lists all of Jefferson’s expenditures and receipts for 1804. I excerpted one entry from the 50 or so listed for each month. These are not meant to be representative but to illustrate a variety of money coming and going.

Mr. Jefferson was an avid list maker. He would have jotted these amounts day-by-day during the year and summarized them all at year’s end. I have read (but cannot verify) that while he kept a careful record of every expense, he never struck a total at the end of the month or year, never a profit or loss statement, never an accounting of his net worth. Had he done so, he might have been more aware that his general financial health was slowly deteriorating through the years. He died deeply in debt.

Not all entries concerned money. On April 17, after recording a payment of $156.67 for corn, he also noted, ” This morning between 8. & 9. aclock my dear daughter Maria Eppes died.”

“Patrick Lee … as Thomas Jefferson … is obviously a very talented person
and did a great job of putting our regulatory burden in perspective.”
President & CEO, Citizens National Bank
Mr. Jefferson and I together will make a great addition to your meeting.
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