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Category Archives: Family matters

“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
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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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Let us banish the murderous slave, for the good of all.

should Brown recover so that the law shall inflict no punishment on Cary, it will be necessary for me to make an example of him in terrorem [to induce fear] to others… if he could be sold in any other quarter so distant as never more to be heard of among us, it would to the others be as if he were put out of the way by death. I should regard price but little in comparison with so distant an exile of him as to cut him off compleatly from ever again being heard of … in the mean time let him remain in jail at my expence, & under orders not to permit him to see or speak to any person whatever.”
To Thomas Mann Randolph, June 8, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know harsh actions merit harsh consequences.
Cary and Brown were slaves in Jefferson’s nail-making shop. Cary had attacked Brown, and Brown’s survival was in question. If Brown died, the law Jefferson referred to required criminal prosection of Cary. If Brown survived, punishment was left to the discretion of the slave owner.

Jefferson’s choice was to direct his son-in-law to sell Cary to some far-distant owner, both to be done with his influence and to send a strong message to other slaves. The price Cary might bring was not a factor. Restoring order at Monticello was. Until that was accomplished, Jefferson would bear the expense to keep Cary incarcerated and away from everyone.

“… You were just outstanding as Thomas Jefferson.
I have no idea how you pulled if off so well,
but you certainly did.”
Substantive Program Chair,
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
Judicial Conference, Point Clear, AL
Mr. Jefferson knows how to pull it off so well and will do so for your audience.
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I will deal with the devil if I have to.

you mentioned that the receipt of the 400. D. in March would be quite sufficient, or even later if it should be inconvenient to me. I am not yet certain how that will be; but either then, if I have it not in hand, or at any other moment when your calls require it, I can get it from the bank here; but that being in the hands of federalists, I am not fond of asking favors of them. however I have done it once or twice when my own resources have failed, and can do it at all times.
To John Wayles Eppes, February 21, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Indebted leaders are humbled by their financial insecurity.
Eppes was married Maria Jefferson, the President’s younger daughter. Always solicitous of his two daughters and their families, Jefferson was quick to come to their financial aid, even when his own resources were lacking.

There was little cash in circulation. Financing was most often by credit – personal loans, advances on future tobacco and wheat crops, and mortgages on property, plus the buying and selling of the “paper” created by those advances. Borrowing money from one source to pay another was a common practice, one Jefferson had been forced into since his ambassadorship to France in the late 1780s. Only those prudent enough to buy only with cash, or “ready money,” had control over their financial health. Jefferson was rarely in that category.

Eppes had $400 coming due in March and had asked his father-in-law for help in meeting those “calls.” Jefferson didn’t have the cash and didn’t know if he would when the time came. If so, he would go to the bank for another advance. He hated that last resort, as the bank was controlled by his political opponents. Whether they charged him harsher terms or simply exulted in humbling the President or both is unknown, but his liberal personal spending, coupled with political and economic reverses he had no control over, left him at their mercy.

“Your presentation as Thomas Jefferson was a definite highlight
of our meeting
and enjoyed by all.”
Associate Executive Director, Arkansas Bar Association
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I want you to know how highly I think of you!

… the shade [mental state] into which you throw yourself neither your happiness nor mine will admit that you remain in … certainly there could not have been an alliance on earth more pleasing to me from the beginning or rendered more dear to me in the sequel of it’s continuance … in matters of interest I know no difference between yours & mine. I hope therefore you will feel a conviction that I hold the virtues of your heart and the powers of your understanding in a far more exalted view than you place them in; and that this conviction will place your mind in the same security and ease in which mine has always been.
To Thomas Mann Randolph, November 2, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sensitive leaders are alert to the mental health of those closest to them.
Randolph was married to Jefferson’s older daughter, Martha, a 13 year union which had produced numerous children. Randolph was a skilled farmer and a leader of some competence but given to emotional disturbances. He had written a flowery letter to his father-in-law, exalting him but debasing himself, doubting his status within in the family.

Jefferson knew of his son-in-law’s weakness and was quick to pen this encouraging reply. He:
1. Pleaded that Randolph could not remain in this frame of mind.
2. Praised the “alliance” which brought them together (the marriage to his daughter) and its ongoing nature.
3. Assured the younger man of no significant differences of opinion between them.
4. Acknowledged his opinion of Randolph was far higher than Randolph’s opinion of himself.
5. Hoped Randolph would have the same confidence in himself that he (Jefferson) always had in him.

“He specifically designed topic content to meet the … [client’s] needs
and to best educate and entertain …”
Program Coordinator, The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D. C.
Mr. Jefferson will tailor his remarks to educate and entertain your audience.
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Diplomacy has to trump personal preferences.

Great and Good Friend,
I have lately received the letter of your Majesty … announcing that contracts of marriage … between your much beloved son … and the Infanta of Naples Donna Maria Antonia; and between your very dear daughter … and the hereditary Prince of that Kingdom Don Francis Genaro … we pray your Majesty to receive our cordial congratulations on these occasions which we fervently hope may promote both the happiness of your Majesty and of your August family … we pray God to have you great and good Friend always in his holy keeping.
To Carlos IV, King of Spain, October 15, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders stuff their personal views for the greater good.
Jefferson congratulated the King of Spain, whom he called his “Great and Good Friend,” on the engagements of both his son and daughter. Beyond that, he offered a benediction that the King would always be in God’s “holy keeping.”

Flowery rhetoric for a man who despised the concept of royalty as contrary to nature’s law! Both of the King’s children were marrying people also of royal status, further cementing hereditary control.

Not only that, Carlos had restricted America’s right of duty free shipping through New Orleans, dismissed American entreaties to remain in possession of Louisiana, transferred Louisiana to France, and set up the very real possibility of war between the U.S. and France over traffic on the Mississippi River.

Nonetheless, Jefferson, the consummate diplomat, always looked for common ground. He had two married daughters and multiple grandchildren. He could set aside political considerations to congratulate the King on this new joy in his family. There could be diplomatic advantages in making nice, too.

“Your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson was very enjoyable and …
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Executive Director, Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio
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Google Maps, Thomas Jefferson Style

NOTE: Glance over the text then skip to the explanation

From Edgehill to Gordon’s 18. miles.  

 

A good tavern, but cold victuals on the road will be better than any thing which any of the country taverns will give you. lodge at Gordon’s go

to Orange courthouse 10. miles to breakfast. a good tavern. on leaving Orange courthouse be very attentive to the roads, as they begin to be difficult to find.
Adams’s mill 7. miles. here you enter the flat country which continues 46. miles on your road.
Downey’s ford 2. here you ford the Rapidan. the road leads along the bank 4 miles further, but in one place, a little below Downey’s, it turns off at a right angle from the river to go round a gut. at this turn, if not very attentive, you will go strait forward, as there is a strait forward road still along the bank, which soon descends it & crosses the river. if you get into this, the space on the bank is so narrow you cannot turn. you will know the turn I speak of, by the left hand road (the one you are to take) tacking up directly towards some huts, 100 yards off, on a blue clayey rising; but before getting to the huts, your road leads off to the right again to the river. no tavern from Orange courthouse till you get to
Stevensburg 11. miles. you will have to stop here at Zimmerman’s tavern (brother in law of Catlett) to feed your horses, and to feed yourselves, unless you should have brought something to eat on the road side, before arriving at Stevensburg. Zimmerman’s, is an indifferent house. you will there probably see mr Ogilvie: he will certainly wish to be sent for to see mr Randolph.
mr Strode’s 5. miles. it will be better to arrive here in the evening. on stopping at his gate, you will see Herring’s house about 2 or 300 yards further on1 the road. you had better order your servants (except your nurse) horses & carriage & baggage (not absolutely wanting at night) to go straight there, where those sent from here will be waiting for you.
Bronaugh’s tavn. at Elkrun church. 13. miles. the only tavern you will pass this day. obliging people.
Slate run church. 14 ½ miles. here you leave the flat country & engage in a very hilly one.
Brown’s tavern 5 ½ miles. here you will have to dine & lodge being the first tavern from Bronaugh’s.2 a poor house, but obliging people.
Fairfax court house 15. miles. you can either breakfast here, or go on to
Colo. Wren’s tavern 8. miles. a very decent house and respectable people.
George town ferry 6. miles.

Enclosure to Martha Jefferson Randolph, June 3, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Detail-obsessed leaders/fathers/grandfathers just can’t help themselves.
In an accompanying letter, Jefferson wrote his daughter that he was at Monticello, and she and her family should join him there soon. He warned her the measles were everywhere, so they were in no greater danger with him than someplace else. He described the itinerary in general, calling attention to where the road was narrow, obscure, and when she’d have to get out of the carriage and walk.

He enclosed this detailed breakdown of the 115 mile trip from Edgehill, where the Randolph’s lived, to the George town ferry, where he would send horse and carriage for her. It appears they would have to lodge five or six nights on their journey.

“Thanks again for the wonderful presentation by President Jefferson.”
Program Committee Chair, National American Wildife Enforcement Officers Association
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