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Category Archives: Family matters

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.
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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
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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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“a knock of the elbow,” but get the doctor, too.

Not knowing the time destined for your expected indisposition, I am anxious on your account. you are prepared to meet it with courage I hope. some female friend of your Mama’s (I forget who) used to say it was no more than a knock of the elbow. the material thing is to have scientific aid in readiness, that if any thing uncommon takes place, it may be redressed on the spot, and not be made serious by delay. it is a case which least of all will wait for Doctors to be sent for. therefore, with this single precaution, nothing is ever to be feared.
To Mary Jefferson Eppes, December 26, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Confident leaders can still be anxious fathers.
Mary Eppes, known as Maria, was the President’s younger daughter. She was one of two Jefferson children who survived childhood, which had claimed four others.

The “expected indisposition” referenced was the upcoming delivery of her third child. Her first son, born in 1800, lived only a few days. Her second son, Francis, was now 27 months old. Like her mother who died of childbirth complications in 1782, Maria was not a strong, healthy woman. She had suffered considerably after the birth of her first two children.

Very rarely did Jefferson refer to his long deceased wife Martha, but he did so here. No doubt wanting to lesson Maria’s anxiety, and probably his own, he relayed a comment of a friend of his wife’s that childbirth “was no more than a knock of the elbow.” Even so, he urged his daughter “to have scientific aid in readiness,” i.e. a doctor. The onset of labor would provide time to summon the doctor so any help could be rendered immediately. A knock or not, with this precaution, Maria had nothing to fear.

Time would tell that both daughter and father had plenty to fear.

“Your presentation that night, your smooth ability …
was just uncanny.”
President, Centralia Historical Society
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Do not speak of politics (or religion). Part 1 of 2

we rarely speak of politics, or of the proceedings of the house but merely historically, and I carefully avoid expressing an opinion on them, in their presence, that we may all be at our ease.
To John Randolph, December 1, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders avoid subjects that unnecesarily promote controversy.
The prickly Congressman Randolph had written the President the day before. He disclaimed a newspaper account on a disagreement in the House of Representatives, which involved him and one of Jefferson’s two sons-in-law, both House members. Jefferson replied immediately that no explanation was needed. Jefferson vouched for the independence of his sons-in-law and his unwillingness to influence their opinions.

The President preferred to keep peace in their family relationship, the same as he preferred in all his relationships. To do that, it was necessary that they not speak of politics or any other divisive issues. He kept his opinions to himself unless asked and would not debate those who disagreed, “that we may all be at our ease.”

“…our delegates greatly enjoyed your ability to portray President Thomas Jefferson
from a humorous yet meaningful perspective.”
Meetings Administrator, Iowa Association of Counties
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What to do with an excellent workman, now a drunk?

William Stewart, a smith who has lived with me at Monticello some years … is one of the first workmen in America, but within these 6. months has taken to drink … abandoned his family … he writes me word he will return, & desires me to send him 20. D. to bear his expences back … [this] would only enable him to continue his dissipations. I … [enclose] that sum to you … [as] charity for his family of asking the favor of you to encourage him to return to them, to pay his passage … & give him in money his reasonable expences on the road … if he has more it will only enable him to drink & stop by the way. when he arrives here I shall take other measures to forward him. he is become so unfit for any purposes of mine, that my only anxiety now is on account of his family …
To Jones & Howell, November 22, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Humane leaders demonstrate concern for employees’ families.
Stewart, a gifted craftsman in Jefferson’s long-term employ, began drinking, abandoned his family and vowed never to return. He had a change of heart and wrote his patron from Philadelphia, asking for $20 to get back to Monticello.

Cash-in-hand would only enable Stewart to drink. Instead, and only out of concern for Stewart’s family, he sent the amount requested to trusted businessmen in Philadelphia, asking them to encourage Stewart’s return. They were to purchase his passage home and give him only what he’d need for food and lodging on the three day journey, no “more than 2. or 3. dollars a day.”

Jefferson had no use for the Stewart upon his return but was greatly concerned for his family, “consisting of a very excellent wife & several children.”

“I do hope the opportunity presents itself to work with you again …”
Conference Coordinator, Iowa League of Cities
Thomas Jefferson makes a most favorable impression!
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Death. Diversion. Duty.

I have heard of your misfortune and lament it, but will say nothing, ha[ving] learnt from experience that time, silence, & occupation are the only medicines… I should have regretted the necessity of writing to you on a subject of business, did I not believe it useful to withdraw the mind from what it is too apt to brood over, to other objects.
You know the importance of our being enabled to announce in the message that the interest of the Louisiana purchase (800,000. D) can be paid without a new tax … to be quite secure. the [budget] estimate recieved from your office, which I inclose you, amounts probably to 770, or 780. & were it possible to reduce it to 600. it would place us at ease.
To Robert Smith, October 10, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders know life goes on even when it does not.
In a recent post, the President encouraged Secretary of the Navy Smith’s attendance at an important Cabinet meeting about the purchase of Louisiana and its funding, but acknowledged the illness in Smith’s family demanded his attention. Shortly after that request, Smith’s youngest daughter died.

Jefferson had experienced the death of four of his six children. (A fifth would die six months hence.) He knew from experience there was nothing he could say to his friend that would help. He would have preferred not to write at all, except that there was important business at hand, and he knew a diversion from tragedy was sometimes helpful.

The United States had only half of the $800,000 interest payment required by the new debt for the purchase of Louisiana. Asking Congress for a new tax would probably scuttle the sale. Thus, the President asked each of his department secretaries to tighten their belts to free up the needed cash. Other secretaries had done so. Jefferson asked Smith to cut $180,000 from his budget.

Not only did the President eventually get the funds he needed, he gave his friend a difficult task to distract his mind.

“…our Education Department received glowing reports for every attendee ..
Our members were thrilled.”
Executive Director, Florida Surveying and Mapping
Mr. Jefferson will impress your audience, too.
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Family & health come first, before leadership!

Having understood that you have been unwell, & that your family is still so, I have not asked your attendance here, lest these circumstances should stand in the way. Mr. Madison, Dearborne & Gallatin are here & mr Lincoln expected tomorrow … should your own health or that of your family not render it inconvenient we should be very happy to see you on Monday & to recieve your aid at a meeting which I propose for Tuesday next. but this is not meant to be pressed against considerations of health or of family distress.
To Robert Smith, September 30, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders are sensitive to the difficulties of their associates.
Smith (1757-1842) was Jefferson’s Secretary of the Navy. As a member of the Cabinet, his attendance was needed very soon. All the other cabinet members would arrive in Washington City the following day. In addition to other business to bring before Congress, they faced the critical issue of the constitutional amendment needed to authorize the purchase of Louisiana. Prompt action from a united front was critical.

Yet, both Smith and his family were ill. While the President greatly hoped for his Secretary’s attendance and help at the Cabinet meeting four days hence, he stressed that Smith’s health and family came first.

“Mr. Lee has the ability to successfully BE
the personage he is impersonating.”
Director of Entertainment, Delta Queen Steamboat Company
Patrick Lee will BECOME Thomas Jefferson for your audience.
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