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Category Archives: Family matters

Enough of politics. Now, about me.

So much as to my country. now a word as to myself. I am retired to Monticello, where, in the bosom of my family, & surrounded by my books, I enjoy a repose to which I have been long a stranger. my mornings are devoted to correspondence. from breakfast to dinner I am in my shops, my garden, or on horseback among my farms; from dinner to dark I give to society & recreation with my neighbors & friends; & from candlelight to early bed-time I read. my health is perfect … as great as usually falls to the lot of near 67 years of age.
To Tadeusz Kosciuszko, February 26, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retired leaders can enjoy the benefits that come from no longer leading.
In a long letter, Jefferson wrote frankly and at length on the nation’s strength and preparation for a likely war with England. Business taken care of, he wanted his old friend to know how he was personally.

He enjoyed great rest to be amid his family and books. He rose at dawn each day and wrote from then until breakfast at 9:30. After breakfast and until dinner at 3:30 (only 2 meals a day), he was outside, supervising his multiple agricultural endeavors. After dinner and until dark, he enjoyed the company of family, friends and neighbors. Once daylight was gone, he read by candlelight until an early bedtime.

He claimed his health was as good as any 67 year old man could enjoy and credited his retired and relaxed lifestyle for that result.

“This letter is to recommend a both talented and fascinating performer …
His professional abilities show that he’s done his homework – extensively!”
Runge Nature Center, Missouri Department of Conversation
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Being related to me has its drawbacks.

… towards acquiring the confidence of the people the very first measure is to satisfy them of his disinterestedness, & that he is directing their affairs with a single eye to their good, & not to build up fortunes for himself & family: & especially that the officers appointed to transact their business, are appointed because they are the fittest men, not because they are his relations. so prone are they to suspicion that where a President appoints a relation of his own, however worthy, they will believe that favor, & not merit, was the motive. I therefore laid it down as a law of conduct for myself never to give an appointment to a relation…
To John Garland Jefferson, January 25, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders sometimes have to disappoint members of their own family.
In 1801, J. G. Jefferson wrote to his cousin, the new President, seeking a job with the federal government. He explained that his name (and family connection!) should not be a disqualification. J.G. sent that unsealed letter to his brother, George, asking him to forward it to the President. George read his brother’s letter and included one of his own to their famous cousin, highly critical of his brother for even making the request.

President Jefferson replied to cousin George, commending him for his reasoning for not appointing his brother to a position. He did not reply to cousin J.G., who took offense at his brother’s interference, offense at the President’s approval of his brother’s reasoning and offense at not receiving an appointment. There the matter lay for eight years.

In late 1809, J.G. again wrote the now retired cousin-President, wanting to clear the air, explaining his 1801 position and admitting his anger. (To his credit, J.G. did not pursue the matter during his famous relative’s administration, lest it harm the latter’s reputation.) Thomas Jefferson replied in this letter, saying his difficult choice had nothing to do with J.G.’s qualifications and everything to do with public perception. Some would assert the only reason the younger man got the job was because of family connections. The President would not weaken his standing with the people unnecessarily, and J.G. was an innocent victim of that policy.

In 1801, both George Jefferson in his letter and Thomas Jefferson in his reply cited the examples of the first two Presidents. Washington refused to appoint relatives and was widely praised for it. Adams did appoint relatives and paid a high price in public opinion.

“I want to thank you for once again bringing your magic time machine
to [our] annual conference.

Our city officials were mesmerized by your performance …”
Executive Director, Missouri Municipal League
Mr. Jefferson delights to travel through time and amaze your audience.
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Trapping, hunting and ABCs

Francis has enjoyed constant & perfect health, and is as happy as the day is long. he has had little success as yet with either his traps, or bow & arrows. he is now engaged in a literary contest with his cousin Virginia, both having begun to write together. as soon as he gets to z (being now only at h) he promises you a letter.
To John Wayles Eppes, December 8, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Grandfather leaders know both indoor and outdoor education is necessary!
Jefferson reported to his widowed son-in-law (married to his daughter Maria, who died in 1804) on the safe arrival of his 8-year-old son Francis at Monticello. In a time when health and life could vanish in an instant, he reassured the father that his son was both healthy and happy.

Jefferson treasured a multi-faceted education. Chances are he was helping his grandson with both outdoor and indoor skills. Francis’ hunting and trapping prowess needed some work, but his indoor education was coming along. Competing with his 8-year-old cousin, both were learning how to write their letters. Francis was up to the letter H. His father could expect a letter when he got to Z. (Maybe he would have some hunting success to report on by then?)

“Thank you again for an enjoyable, entertaining, and educational time warp.”
District Manager, Break Time Convenience Stores
Bring a time warp to your meeting.
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Give him freedom and watch him closely!

J. Randolph now proceeds to Richmond in order to enter at mr Girardin’s academy … through a course of mathematics & Natural philosophy. the annual charges … 67. D. [$67] … [pay from] my account, & also for his board. I … have desired him to decide where he would rather [live] … I must pray you also to furnish Jefferson his other proper expences. he has been so correct in them heretofore as to give me strong confidence they will be reasonable with you. were any contrary indications to arise, I would sollicit your confidential communication of it to me that I may take such measures for his good as may in no wise commit you with him or any body.
To George Jefferson, October 31, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Clear-eyed leaders trust their proteges yet monitor their progress.
Thomas Jefferson Randolph (1792-1875), former President’s eldest grandson known as Jeff, had pursued his advanced education in Philadelphia and then Richmond. There, the grandfather enlisted his cousin and business agent to cover the 18 year-old’s tuition, room and board. The elder Jefferson had a preference for living quarters but left the choice to his grandson.

He also authorized funds for “his other proper expences,” i.e. spending money. The young man had been wise in handling money, and Grandfather had confidence that would continue. Yet, if his agent learned otherwise, Jefferson wanted to know confidentially. He would handle it with his grandson in such a manner that Jeff would not know the source of the report.

“Your presentation … your Jefferson presence … your smooth ability …
was just uncanny.”
President, Centralia Historical Society
Mr. Jefferson will impress your audience!
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Does a family compromise your value to society?

You mention in your letter that you are proceeding with your family to Fort Massac. this informs me that you have a family, & I sincerely congratulate you on it. while some may think it will render you less active in the service of the world, those who take a sincere interest in your personal happiness, and who know that by a law of our nature we cannot be happy without the endearing connections of a family, will rejoice for your sake as I do.
To William Clark, September 10, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders with strong family connections make for happy leaders.
Clark wrote Jefferson in June, 1808, but the letter took 13 months to reach its destination. That letter mentioned the skin of a Rocky mountain sheep and a blanket manufactured by the Indians that he had already sent to Jefferson and three boxes of bones yet to come. The latter he would deliver to Fort Massac, Illinois country, on the Ohio River, for shipment through New Orleans and on to Virginia, when he moved his family from Louisville to St. Louis. Two months later, the former President wrote his thanks for the sheep skin and blanket he had received and the bones that had not yet arrived. (See “Enclosure” for a description of the bones.)

The last Jefferson knew, William Clark was single. Now he learned that Clark would be traveling with his family to St. Louis to take up his new duties there. Jefferson was delighted to learn that his accomplished explorer was now a family man! (The 37 year-old Clark had married 17 year-old Julia Hancock in January, 1808. A year later, they named their firstborn son, Meriwether Lewis Clark.)

Jefferson disagreed with those who claimed family responsibilities made one less capable of public service. Citing his desire for Clark’s “personal happiness” coupled with “a law of our nature” that family connections were essential to that happiness, he congratulated the new husband and father. Those connections would make him a happier … and better … leader.

“…your command of Mr. Jefferson’s persona and mind,
and your facility
in answering complex questions were impressive.”
Chairman, Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Committee, St. Louis
Mr. Jefferson will impress and inspire your audience, too.
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Why are Virginians giants and New Englanders but Pygmies?

Your letter of March 25th has been a cordial to me, and the more consoling as it was brought by your Grandsons Mr Randolph and Mr Coolidge … how happens it that you Virginians are all sons of Anak, we New Englanders, are but Pygmies by the side of Mr Randolph; I was very much gratified with Mr Randolph, and his conversation …
Public affairs go on pretty much as usual, perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be …
My love to all your family—and best wishes for your health—
FROM John Adams TO Thomas Jefferson, April 17, 1826

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The personal abuse of leaders is on the rise!
In honor of President’s Day (Monday, February 20), this week’s posts are devoted to the last letters exchanged between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Tuesday was Jefferson’s letter, today, Adams’ reply.

Jefferson’s letter to Adams requesting an audience for his grandson, T.J. (Jeff) Randolph, must have been presented personally by Jeff to the elder statesman, who was delighted with their conversation. Jeff’s younger sister, Ellen, had married Joseph Coolidge of Boston the year before and now lived there. The “Mr. Coolidge”Adams referred to must have been Jeff’s brother-in-law, Ellen’s husband.

Jeff Randolph was probably tall like his grandfather, who was 6′ 2 1/2″. Adams was only 5′ 7”. He wanted to know why New Englanders were short while Virginia produced “sons of Anak,” a tall race described in the Old Testament books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.

In a deleted portion of this letter, Adams complained about two current politicians, at least one of whom was contesting the legality of his son John Quincy Adams’ election as President. That probably explains his reference to “more personal abuse.”

Health was a concern for both men, who had far exceeded normal life expectancy. Jefferson was almost 83, and Adams was 90. He died 2 1/2 months later on the same day as Jefferson, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

“Your portrayal of President Thomas Jefferson was intellectually stimulating,
historically accurate, and very professional presented.”
Executive Director, The Missouri Bar
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My grandson wants to meet you!

My grandson Th: Jefferson Randolph, being on a visit to Boston, would think he had seen nothing were he to leave it without having seen you … like other young people, he wishes to be able, in the winter nights of old age, to recount to those around him what he has heard and learnt of the Heroic age preceding his birth, and which of the Argonauts particularly he was in time to have seen …my solicitude for your health by enabling him to bring me a favorable account of it. mine is but indifferent, but not so my friendship and respect for you.
To John Adams, March 25, 1826

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Near-death grandparent leaders want their grandchildren to remember.
In honor of President’s Day (yesterday, February 20), this week’s posts are devoted to the last letters exchanged between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Today will be Jefferson’s letter, Thursday Adams’ reply.

Thomas Jefferson Randolph (1792 – 1875) was the 2nd child and 1st son of his eldest daughter, Martha. Always a favorite of his grandfather, Jeff as he was known, supervised the elder man’s lands and perilous finances. Now, the 34 year old grandson was coming to Boston and wanted to meet Adams. Jefferson apologized for the intrusion but asked Adams for the indulgence, so that when Jeff was old, he might have some first-hand accounts to give his grandchildren.

Jefferson, almost 83, reported his health as “indifferent,” but hoped his grandson would bring a “favorable account” from the 90 year old Adams. Jefferson died just over three months later on the same day as Adams, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

“Working with Patrick was wonderful.
He was very flexible and easily adjusted his program to meet the audience.”
Executive Director, Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, Washburn, ND
Thomas Jefferson is low-maintenance, high impact!
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He will learn bad things soon enough. Please don’t help him.

I have a grandson, Thos J. Randolph, now at Philadelphia, attending the Botanical lectures … [he] has a peculiar fondness for that branch of the knolege of nature … I am led to ask for him a permission of occasional entrance into your gardens, under such restrictions as you may think proper … in presenting him to my friends at Philadelphia I take the liberty of requesting them not to consider it as an introduction to such civilities as might abstract him from the studies which are his sole object there. the allurements of society are better deferred, & will always present themselves early enough.
To William Hamilton, May 9, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise old leaders protect young ones from unnecessary worldly influence.
Hamilton (1746-1813) was an accomplished horticulturalist whose gardens near Philadelphia were considered the finest in America. Jefferson asked if his 17 year old grandson, who loved botany, might visit those gardens. He vouched for the boy’s character and sent this letter in care of him, that he might deliver it personally and make Hamilton’s acquaintance.

Jefferson added a caution to Hamilton, as he did to others in Philadelphia to whom he introduced Jeff, as his grandson was called. He was there to study only. He did not want his friends to expose Jeff to any “allurements of society” that would distract him from that purpose. Those should be postponed as long as possible and would still make themselves known too soon.

“Mr. Lee’s interpretation of William Clark was outstanding and very believable…
I have also seen him perform as Thomas Jefferson, and that, too, is a very impressive program.”
Director, Division of Employment Security, State of Missouri
Whether Lewis & Clark Expedition’s William Clark or President Jefferson,
your audience will be captivated!
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I admit one indiscretion. I deny the rest.

The inclosed copy of a letter to mr Lincoln will so fully explain it’s own object, that I need say nothing in that way. I communicate it to particular friends because I wish to stand with them on the ground of truth, neither better nor worse than that makes me. you will percieve that I plead guilty to one of their charges, that when young & single I offered love to a handsome lady. I acknolege it’s incorrectness; it is the only one, founded in truth among all their allegations against me … [I count] you among those whose esteem I value too much to risk it by silence.
To Robert Smith, July 1, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What is a leader to do with a mess like this?
In late 1802, political writer James Callender, who had been encouraged by Jefferson just a few years earlier, now turned on his benefactor. Chief among Callender’s charges was that the President kept a slave concubine at Monticello, had initiated the relationship with her 15 years earlier in France, and fathered several children with her. She was not identified specifically at the time, but the woman was Sally Hemings. Callender also wrote of a Jefferson indiscretion with a married neighbor more than 30 years before.

These allegations and others became fodder for opposition politicians and were circulated widely during and after the 1804 elections. Although Jefferson never addressed the accusations publicly, he wanted a few close friends to know the truth. Robert Smith was one of those friends.

Jefferson admitted that as a young single man, he had propositioned a neighbor’s wife and “acknolege[d] it’s incorrectness.” He also wrote that of “all their allegations against me,” it was the only one “founded in truth.” Admitting to this one, he denied the others, including the charges involving Sally Hemings.

The “inclosed copy of a letter to mr Lincoln,” his Attorney General, has not been found. Apparently, it offered a much fuller explanation. All that’s left is this cover note to Smith.

“Having you as a special surprise guest … turned out to be an excellent idea …
a pleasant and refreshingly different aspect …”
FOCUS on Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine Conference
Refreshingly different! That’s Thomas Jefferson!
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I will have you arrested.

   Miss Eleanor W. Randolph to Th: Jefferson        D.[ebit]
1805. May 21. To a letter which ought to be written once in every 3. weeks, while I am here, to wit from Jan. 1. 1805. to this day, 15. weeks 5.
Cr.[edit]
Feb. 23. By one single letter of this day’s date               1
Letters Balance due from E. W. Randolph to Th:J.                                                                        4
                                                                                     5

So stands the account for this year, my dear Ellen, between you and me. unless it be soon paid off, I shall send the sheriff after you.
To Ellen W. Randolph, May 21, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need the encouragement of news from home.
Jefferson prepared a chart indicating that he expected a letter every three weeks from the recipient, for a total of five letters due since the first of the year. So far, he had received only one. The recipient was delinquent four letters and threatened with arrest unless the imbalance was corrected.

Who was the laggard letter-writer? Jefferson’s nine-year old granddaughter. He subsequently lightened the tone, inquiring about the flowers at Monticello, for a report on mumps afflicting the family, and asking her to convey his affection to her parents and siblings.

Being away from Monticello was a sacrifice Jefferson accepted. More correspondence from everyone at home was a frequent request, one never acted upon to his satisfaction.

“… how enthralled our attendees were …
a pleasant and refreshingly different aspect of the overall medical lectures agenda.”
Chairman, FOCUS on Respiratory Care and Sleep Medicine Conference
Mr. Jefferson is always relevant, even at a 21st century medical conference.
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