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Category Archives: Foreign Policy

What in the world is happening? Part 1 of 3

… These, fellow citizens, are the principal matters which I have thought it necessary at this time to communicate for your consideration & attention. some others will be laid before you in the course of the session.
To United States Congress, November 8, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The Constitution (Art. II, Sect. 3) requires the President to report to Congress from “time to time” on the “State of the Union.” It never was a yearly requirement but has evolved into what we know as the annual “State of the Union Address,” when the President makes a report to the opening session of Congress. In the early 1800s, Congress traditionally convened in late fall for four to five months.

Jefferson delivered his reports in writing. This lengthy account included his thoughts on these subjects:
1. War in Europe and its affect on America
2. Private U.S. citizens preying on the shipping of other nations
3. Misunderstanding with Spain regarding the Bay of Mobile
4. Satisfying France on terms of U.S. purchase of Louisiana
5. Diplomatic relations with European nations
6. Success against the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean
7. Establishing the new government in Louisiana
8. Relations with the Indians
9. Expanding the navy
10. Federal receipts, expenses & debt (Part 2 of 3)
11. Actions Congress might take on its own (Part 3 of 3)

On only #2 and #7 did the President invite Congress’ action. All the rest fell within his Constitutional duty, either in foreign affairs or executing the law already established by the Congress.

“It was impressive to notice the entire banquet hall silent with everyone,
including the hotel banquet staff,
paying rapt attention to your portrayal.”
IT Administrative Coordinator, Missouri Department of Conservation
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What do we do in the worst-case-scenario?

other Questions to be considered, in the event of a British cruiser falling in with the vessel in which mr Harvie will be.
1. shall he throw the papers overboard on his vessel being brought to? or trust to an examination in hopes of liberation.
2. if detained, shall he deliver the stock to liberate his vessel? shall he accompany the stock to England? or abandon it & carry to Paris the information of what has happened?
To Albert Gallatin, January 24, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders plan for unpleasant possibilities.
Lewis Harvie, the President’s private secretary (who succeeded Meriwether Lewis), was to carry $11.25 million in stock to France for the purchase of Louisiana. How to get him safely there was a serious consideration when British ships were harassing, boarding and sometimes capturing foreign vessels or their passengers.
Jefferson directed Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin to inquire about all passages available on American ships leaving Baltimore or New York for Europe. He was to look for routes that went south of England to the Continent, rather than ones going through the English Channel, were British ships abounded. Harvie would arrive in the American port anonymously and on short notice, book his passage and leave.
If all that failed, and Harvie’s ship was stopped by the British, the President proposed five questions to be answered before that worst-case-scenario unfolded.

“Your presence …
helped make the inauguration evening ceremonies
even more special.”
President, Board of Directors, Cole County Historical Society
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Make love (dispassionately), not war.

That nations should, in friendship & harmony, take liberal & dispassionate views of their interfering interests, and settle them by timely arrangements, of advantage to both undiminished by injuries to either, is certainly wiser than to yield to short-sighted passions, which, estimating neither chances nor consequences, prompt to measures of mutual destruction, rather than of mutual benefit.
To the Mississippi Territory Legislative Council, December 29, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Diplomatic leaders trump undiplomatic ones.
The President acknowledged the Council’s congratulatory message on the peaceful addition of Louisiana, an achievement it called second only to our 1776 independence. In this long, run-on sentence, Jefferson expressed the highest goals for international diplomacy, that nations should:
1. Proceed from a basis of friendship
2. Look for the best in the other nation’s motivation
3. Even in disagreement, keep emotion out of it
4. Take time to settle issues in advance of a crisis
5. Seek solutions that will benefit both and hurt neither

These principles guided Jefferson in his negotiations with France over open navigation on the Mississippi River. He contrasted them with the “short sighted passions” of his political opponents, who wanted war rather than diplomacy.

“It was a pleasure to have you perform as Thomas Jefferson.
Feedback from our convention participants … was very positive.”
Executive Director, Association of Partners for Public Lands
Your audience will regard Mr. Jefferson’s presentation as most positive!
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NOT in America! Part 1 of 2

When brought together in society all are perfectly equal, whether foreign or domestic, titled or untitled, in or out of office…
No titles being admitted here, those of foreigners give no precedence.
Difference of grade among the diplomatic members gives no precedence…
At public ceremonies to which the government invites the presence of foreign ministers & their families, a convenient seat or station, will be provided for them with any other strangers invited, & the families of the national ministers, each taking place as they arrive, & without any precedence…
Memorandum on Official Etiquette, January 12, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders treat everyone equally.
Secretary of State Madison had asked America’s ambassador to England about the rules of etiquette that governed diplomats there. Ambassador King replied with a lengthy list, noting the many distinctions made between peoples of varying rank and the procedures governing each.

President Jefferson then drafted his own list for etiquette on this side of the pond. We allowed no titles, no special privileges. With one exception granted to foreign ministers on their first visit to America, all diplomats and their families were to be regarded equally.

“I would like to highly recommend Patrick Lee
for interpretive programming to enhance your events.”
Executive Director, Fort Mandan Foundation
Mr. Jefferson’s presentation will enhance your event!
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Read my lips. NO new taxes!

[There was a hiccup in cyberspace, or in my brain, because this notice didn’t go out as it should have. Maybe this time?]

… the purchase of Louisiana will require the aid of all our resources to pay the interest of the additional debt without laying a new tax, and of course call for the adoption of every possible economy.
To Tobias Lear, July 14, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Bold initiatives don’t always require tax increases.
Lear (1762-1816) was best known as George Washington’s personal secretary for the last 15 years of Washington’s life. Lear’s reputation was a checkered one, but he also served President Jefferson as commercial agent in St. Domingo and then as Consul General to several North African city-states. Lear’s duties in Algiers and Tripoli included ongoing negotiations to protect American shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. That protection was secured, in part, by annual payments to those nations. The President was intent on holding the line on, if not decreasing, those payments.

Why? In part, because he wanted to pay the interest on new debt for the purchase of Louisiana without a new tax. To do so would obviously require “every possible economy.”

“Again, it was a delight working with you,
and I wish you much continued success!”
Executive Vice President, Carolina-Virginias Telephone Membership Association
Mr. Jefferson will delight your audience!
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1 Comment Posted in Debt, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

A birthday pig in a poke, with benefits!

On the evening of the 3d inst. [July] we recieved a letter from … Livingston & Monroe [America’s ambassadors to France on the subject of purchasing New Orleans and maintaining open Mississippi River navigation] … that on the 30th. of April they signed a treaty with France, ceding to us the island of N. Orleans and all Louisiana as it had been held by Spain. the price is not mentioned. we are in hourly expectation of the treaty by a special messenger … it is something larger than the whole US. probably containing 500 millions of acres, the US. containing 434. millions. this removes from us the greatest source of danger to our peace.
To Thomas Mann Randolph, July 5, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Happy birthday, Mr. President!
Jefferson concealed his own birth date, so people couldn’t celebrate him. He believed July 4 was the only date worthy of national celebration. Just hours before America’s 27th birthday, he’d received word that his spirited diplomatic efforts had yielded an unimaginable result: France would sell not only New Orleans but ALL of Louisiana! That would more than double the size of the nation and make the Mississippi River a totally American waterway.

Jefferson’s tactical goal had been met, securing duty-free shipping on all goods produced for export west of the Appalachian mountains. His strategic goal was met, too, eliminating what otherwise was inevitable, war with France over control of the Mississippi.

The President didn’t know the price! (A “pig in a poke” refers to a purchase where the buyer doesn’t really know the extent of the purchase or the price paid.) He expected to find out soon. He had authorized $10M for New Orleans and West Florida. He would soon be delighted to learn that the whole deal was signed for just $15M. Settlement of old shipping claims against France would significantly lower the purchase price to $11.25M.

This purchase would completely change the complexion of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, from a small company exploring foreign land to a large military company laying further claim to American land.

“… as Thomas Jefferson … His audiences have included … students, constitutional scholars,
lawyers and judges. He was very well received by these diverse groups.”

Director of Law-Related Education, The Missouri Bar
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1 Comment Posted in Commerce, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Lewis & Clark, National Prosperity Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

What in the world does plenipotentiary mean?

Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States of America,
Greeting:      To
Reposing especial Trust and Confidence in Your Integrity, Prudence and Ability I have appointed Minister Plenipotentiary for the United States of America at the Court of His Britannic Majesty, authorizing you hereby to do and perform all such matters and things as to the said place or office do appertain … said office to Hold and exercise during the pleasure of the President of the United States for the time being, and until the end of the next Session of the Senate of the United States, and no longer.
Commission for Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain, 18 April 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
A plenipotentiary possesses his leader’s full confidence.
To this blank form, President Jefferson added James Monroe’s name with full authority as ambassador to act on behalf of the United States. From an earlier post, we learned Monroe was dispatched to Europe to help negotiate American rights to free shipping down the Mississippi River and through New Orleans. In a time when round-trip communication between London or Paris and Washington, D.C. was at least two months, a trusted diplomat had to have the legal authority to act on his own.

That’s what plenipotentiary means, having full authority to act independently.

The President left no room for doubt about Monroe’s status. This blank form to the British Court was the first of six completed for him. Another was to the French Court, two to Napoleon, and one each to King George III and Queen Charlotte of Britain.

(While my 50 year old Webster’s Dictionary divides that 14 letter word into just five syllables, modern online versions give it seven!)

“Patrick Lee as Thomas Jefferson … was a keynote speaker …[at our] Annual Conference.
I am pleased to give Patrick Lee my highest recommendation as a speaker.”
Executive Director, Wyoming School Boards Association
Mr. Jefferson comes well-recommended!
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1 Comment Posted in Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Lewis & Clark Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

I am the boss. America needs you. You do not have a choice.

… the fever into which the Western mind is thrown by the affair at N. Orleans …threatens to overbear our peace. in this situation we are obliged to call on you for a temporary sacrifice of yourself … I shall tomorrow nominate you to the Senate for an extraordinary mission to France, & the circumstances are such as to render it impossible to decline; because the whole public hope will be rested on you … in the mean time pray work night & day to arrange your affairs for a temporary absence; perhaps for a long one.
To James Monroe, January 10, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, leaders have to demand sacrifices of trusted lieutenants.
“.. the affair at N. Orleans” concerning the “Western mind” was customs-free shipping through the port of New Orleans and open traffic on the Mississippi River. The first had been withdrawn by Spain; the second faced a threat from France’s pending takeover of Louisiana, giving her partial control over the river and full control of the port.

American Ambassador Robert Livingston had been in France for some time, hoping to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans or some other land at the mouth of the Mississippi for duty-free shipping. Under the best circumstances, round trip communication between the U.S. and Paris took two months. The President thought Livingston might need help and dispatched a trusted protege.

Jefferson usually left the decision whether to take an offered job up to the individual. Not this time! He called on Monroe “for a temporary sacrifice of yourself.” The importance of the task made it “impossible to decline.” Success might rest on him. He was to get his affairs in order and depart immediately. He might be gone a short time, maybe a long time.

Monroe sailed for France on March 9, but the day before he arrived in Paris, Napoleon’s government offered all of Louisiana to Ambassador Livingston. Monroe’s purpose in going was now moot, but the two ambassadors negotiated the terms of the massive land deal.

“…our sincere appreciation for your excellent portrayal of Thomas Jefferson …”
Superintendent, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior
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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 …
made a significant contribution [to] our Annual Conference.”
Executive Director, Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio
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1 Comment Posted in Diplomacy, Family matters, Foreign Policy Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Let us do this to avoid war.

I think therefore, that while we do nothing which the first nation on earth [France] would deem crouching, we had better give to all our communications with them a very mild, complaisant, and even friendly complection, but always independant. ask no favors, leave small & irritating things to be conducted by the individuals interested in them, interfere ourselves but in the greatest cases, & then not push them to irritation. no matter at present existing between them & us is important enough to risk a breach of peace; peace being indeed the most important of all things to us, except the preserving an erect & independant attitude.
To Robert Livingston, October 10, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders take pains to avoid giving offense to one’s adversaries.
While France had not yet taken possession of Louisiana, it was only a matter of time before she would influence shipping on the Mississippi River and control all goods flowing through the port of New Orleans. Jefferson foresaw the potential for great conflict with France and very likely, war.

While diplomatic efforts proceeded to eliminate that conflict, the President gave these pointers to his ambassador in France to minimize unnecessary aggravation:
1. While not acting in any way subservient, the U.S. should be calm, agreeable and friendly, but always independent.
2. Don’t put us in their debt by asking any favors.
3. Leave minor disputes to be worked out by those affected by them.
4. Concern yourself only with the largest disputes or issues.
5. Be diplomatic even in those great issues, giving no cause for irritation.
6. Nothing should jeopardize our greatest goal of peace, except this one thing, maintaining America’s unflinching independence.

Jefferson’s skilled diplomatic dance resulted the following year in acquiring Louisiana from France and eliminating the conflict that could have resulted in war.

“… many participants remarked on the value of Lee’s presentation.
A number had seen his
[earlier]
performance …
and expressed that it was equally compelling.”

Executive Director, Greater St. Louis Federal Executive Board
Mr. Jefferson’s wisdom and compelling presentation will bring value to your meeting!
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