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Category Archives: Health

Ugly, expensive or inconvenient? Fugettaboutit!

The most approved plan of an [military] Hospital [in Boston is] of 4000. square feet area, two stories … the rooms for the sick to be well aired …
Th:J. proposes to mr Gallatin that some such advertisement as the above be published in Washington where there are many architects who will probably compete for the premium. in the erection of public buildings, taste, convenience & economy should all be respected.
To Albert Gallatin, June 21, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Public leaders should have strict standards for spending public money.
Congress had approved $15,000 for a hospital for ailing seamen in Massachusetts. President Jefferson wrote to his Secretary of the Treasury about soliciting architectural designs from architects in Washington and offered a $50 premium for the winning design.

Worth noting is his request that ” the rooms for the sick to be well aired.” He ascribed to a theory of healing that included fresh air as a necessary component, one not considered by most medical practioners of the day.

Jefferson noted three factors that “should all be respected” in the design of public buildings:
1. Taste – a strong and lasting visual appeal
2. Convenience – a design that facilitates the building’s intended use
3. Economy – remembering that public money was being spent

Gallatin did not issue the specifications as written by his boss. Neither did he solicit designs in Washington but only in Boston, where he said local residents would more appreciate a building designed by one of their own citizens.

“My franchisees thoroughly enjoyed your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.
I especially was impressed how well you tied in our meeting topics into your speech.”
Franchise Owner, Mail Boxes, Etc.
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You are depressed. This will help.

I am sorry to find by your letter that you are become so recluse. to be 4. or 5. months without descending your stairs … I have admired nothing in the character of your nation [France] more than the chearfulness & love of society which they preserve to great old age. I have viewed it as a pattern which I would endeavor to follow, by resisting the inclinations which age brings on, of retiring from society, & by forcing myself to mix in it’s scenes of recreation. do you so also, my friend. consider chearfulness as your physician, and seek it through the haunts of society … your excellent dispositions should not be lost to those among whom you are placed … keep your mind then on more pleasing subjects, & especially on the remembrance of your friendships among which none claims a warmer place than that I constantly bear to you.
To Madame De Corny, April 23, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sensitive leaders seek to encourage those who are in sad straights.
Jefferson’s old friend from his days as a minister to France had fallen on hard times. She wrote a sad letter and said she spent months on end alone in her room. He appealed to her that the beauty of Paris and the life-long friendliness of its people would help her, if only she would leave that room.

Jefferson noticed that advancing age brought on a tendency to withdraw from society. He fought that tendency by forcing himself to mingle with others and thus be encouraged by the beauty of life. He appealed to his friend to do the same. “Chearfullness” would be her physician if she sought it through society.

His final appeal was not to deprive others of her gifts and personality, which he had come to know and appreciate. She should focus “on more pleasing subjects,” and remember her friends, of whom he was the warmest.

“After seeing you perform several years ago, I did not expect
you could improve much on your character.
However, I have to say your program has gotten even better with age!”

Missouri Department of Conservation
Mr. Jefferson continues to get better with age!
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Leave a comment Posted in Grief & loss, Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Give it to me frank, truthful and complete!

… the legislature is likely to establish a marine hospital at New Orleans, where we lose about 400. boatmen & seamen annually by sickness … I consider the nomination [of superintendent] to such a place as a sacred charge … I would greatly prefer those who have established a reputation by practice. I have however as yet but a single application from a Physician of any age & experience … the object of this letter is to ask your information of his [Dr. Barnwell of Philadelphia] character medical & moral, and that you will be so good as to write it to me candidly, unreservedly, and fully, assured that it shall be confined to myself alone …
To Caspar Wistar, March 22, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders need candid input on important personnel matters.
Wistar (1761-1818) was a noted Philadelphia physician and expert in anatomy, and a friend and confidante of Jefferson’s. The President expected a raft of applicants to lead the new hospital at New Orleans, but he preferred an experienced, capable doctor. He had received only one such application but didn’t know enough about the man. He sought Wistar’s opinion.
1. He needed to know about the applicant’s “character medical & moral.” Competency in medicine was not enough. He needed to be a moral man, as well.
2. He wanted Wistar to write him “candidly, unreservedly, and fully,” (emphasis Jefferson’s). His evaluation should be frank, truthful and complete.
3. He assured Wistar that his assessment would remain between the two of them only.

Wistar responded in the manner requested, but Jefferson subsequently appointed another to the position.

“Thank you again,
and please do not hesitate to use this letter as a recommendation…”
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Missouri
Mr. Jefferson comes well-recommended.
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1 Comment Posted in Health, Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Who is more useful in old age and why, doctor, farmer or politician?

I am become sensible of a great advantage your profession has over most others, that, to the close of your life, you can be always doing good to mankind: whereas a retired politician is like a broken down courser [a swift horse], unfit for the turf, and good for little else. I am endeavoring to recover the little I once knew of farming, gardening Etc. and would gladly now exchange any branch of science I possess for the knolege of a common farmer. too old to learn, I must be contented with the occupation & amusement of the art.
To Benjamin Rush, September 22, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some old leaders are far more valuable than others.
Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) was a Philadelphia physician, life-long friend of Jefferson’s and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence. His medical views were controversial. He favored bloodletting and purging. He sent 600 of “Dr. Rush’s Bilious Pills” with Lewis and Clark. Also known as “Rush’s Thunderclappers,” this mercury and chlorine laxative of his own creation had an explosive effect on the human bowel.

But Rush also opposed capital punishment, favored education for women, actively promoted Christianity and pioneered more humane treatment of the mentally ill. He is regarded as the father of American psychiatry.

Here, Jefferson praises the value of the doctor, who can “be always good to mankind,” even to the end of his life. He likened himself, a retired politician, to a former race horse, once fast but now broken down and worthless. In between was the farmer, the identity he always preferred, who also could be useful for a lifetime. Public service drew him away from the land, and he regretted it. He would trade any of his vast scientific understanding “for the knoledge of a common farmer.” He thought himself too old to learning farming once again and amused himself by puttering around his lands.

“I have been told by both the principal and a fourth grade teacher …
that you were the best speaker

they had seen at the school, and the teacher had been in the classroom for 25 years …”
Jefferson Dinner Chair, Hannah Cole Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution
Mr. Jefferson excels at inspiring both children and adults!
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Leave a comment Posted in Aging, Agriculture, Health, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , |

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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BEFORE you get sick …

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments & his thanks to Doctr Ricketson for his treatise on the means of preserving health & the pamphlets he has been so kind as to send him. he shall read the former especially with particular pleasure, having much more confidence in the means of preserving than of restoring health.
To Shadrach Ricketson, June 21, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Health conscious leaders value prevention ahead of treatment.
Ricketson (1768-1837) was a prominent New York Quaker and physician. In 1806, he published a book, “Means of Preserving Health and Preventing Diseases … This was not so much a book on how to treat and eliminate or reduce disease-related problems as much as it was a book on how to live a long and health[y] life.”

Below the book title on the cover were these words, “Founded principally on an attention to air and climate, drink, food, sleep, exercise, clothing, passions of the mind, and retentions and excretions … Designed not merely for physicians but for the information of others …” (Quoted sections are credited to this site.)

Empirical or evidence-based medicine had a strong appeal to Jefferson. It is what he practiced for himself, his family and his servants. While he engaged a trusted doctor when his larger mountain-top family was threatened, he had great faith in the human body’s recuperative powers if just left alone. Most doctors lacked any real understanding of the human body and were inclined toward experimentation. Jefferson thought doing nothing was better than doing something uninformed.

He was also a great supporter of what we would call “wellness,” with a focus on cleanliness, diet, exercise and rest. Ricketson’s work was right up his alley!

“…our delegates really enjoyed hearing from Mr. Jefferson.
It is amazing how the thoughts, words and events of over 200 years ago transcend time
and are as relevant today as they were then.”
Conference Coordinator, Iowa League of Cities
Thomas Jefferson’s 19th century wisdom is relevant for your 21st century audience.
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Not too much drinking on the job, please.

… as to whiskey to be given to the labouring hands, it is right when they work in the water in cool weather. on other occasions in general it is an injurious & demoralising practice. they do more for a day or two, but less afterwards as we see where a harvest is lengthy. confine therefore, if you please, the giving them whiskey to those occasions which might otherwise produce colds & sickness. the first moment that ice of an inch thick forms in the river, the ice house should be filled. on this work they need whiskey.
To John Holmes Freeman, December 21, 2016

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders limit the booze.
Freeman was a new overseer at Monticello, who began his service in August, 1805. Chances are the “labouring hands” included slaves in addition to hired workers, though that is not clear.

Most people considered strong alcoholic drink to be both healthy and medicinal. Jefferson concurred, but only in part. He was willing to grant a ration of whiskey for cold, wet work, or conditions that could cause illness. Beyond that, he thought it “injurious & demoralizing.”

Beer and hard cider were common mealtime beverages. Jefferson drank wine in the evening, but only the weaker wines and never hard liquor.

“… first person interpretation was new to the conference this year.
Clearly the visits with President Jefferson and Captain Clark
have set the standard for future conferences.”
Director of Education, Indiana Historical Society
Mr. Jefferson (and his compatriots) will set the standard for other speakers.
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If he cannot gamble and drink, he might just deliver the mail.

I suspect one single foible in Abrahams is at the bottom of all his difficulties. my confidence in him is built on yours who have tried him. here, where he is known in detail, he is considered as a gambler & given to those dissipations which that vice brings on. at N. Orleans he has found opportunities of indulging that passion … hence his sickness there, hence the death & theft of all his horses … you ask my opinion; I will give it only on the condition of your regarding it so far as your own judgment approved. I would limit Abrahams to [only the first part of] the route … and get Govr. Claiborne to find at N.O. [New Orleans another rider]from Fort Stoddart to N.O. Abrams will then have no field for dissipation & his other qualifications will have fair play.”
To Gideon Granger, August 25, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders have to deal with subordinates’ vices.
Gideon Granger was the President’s Postmaster General. The two collaborated often to provide better postal routes and extend mail delivery. The task of delivering the mail was conducted by private citizens who collected postage fees, kept a portion and remitted the rest to the federal government.

This letter details the concern over a single postal contractor named Abrahams and mail service to New Orleans. Jefferson made these observations to his trusted lieutenant.
1. All of Abrahams’ “difficulties” could be attributed to gambling and resulting bad behavior.
2. Jefferson’s only confidence in Abrahams was based on Granger’s.
3. In Washington City (now D.C.), Abrahams’ difficulties were very well known.
4. In New Orleans, Abrahams found new opportunities to gamble and drink.
5. Those dissipations led to his illness plus the death or theft of all his horses, essential for mail delivery.
6. Granger had asked Jefferson’s opinion. He gave it but stipulated Granger should accept it only to the degree that it aligned with Granger’s own judgment.
7. Divide the postal route to New Orleans in half. Give the first half to Abraham’s. Give the second half to someone else.
8. Deprived of the opportunity to gamble and drink in New Orleans, Abrahams’ “other qualifications will have fair play.”

Taken altogether, those eight observations highlight an excellent example of Jefferson’s leadership: his respect for Granger’s judgment and authority, his compassion for Abrahams, and a Solomon-like solution to a problem.

“Please know how much I appreciate all your effort.
You have provided a real service for the educators of Missouri.”
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mr. Jefferson will make the effort to provide a real service to your audience.
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Is it ethical to experiment on a condemned man?

with respect to the experiment whether Yellow fever can be communicated after the vaccine, which you propose should be tried on some malefactor, no means of trying that are likely to be within my power. during the term I have been in office, not a single conviction in any capital case has taken place under the laws of the general government. the Governors of the several states would have it most in their power to favor such an experiment.
To Edward Rowse, August 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Rowse wrote to Jefferson speculating on the connection between four diseases: cowpox, smallpox, plague and yellow fever. The smallpox vaccine had already proved effective against that disease and the cowpox. There was some speculation that it worked against the plague. Rowse wanted to know if it might also protect against yellow fever.

To that end, Rowse suggested an experiment be conducted on someone already condemned to die and asked Jefferson’s help. The President declined, not on moral grounds, but for lack of a subject. During his Presidency, no one had been convicted of a capital offense under federal law. Those convictions occurred under state laws. He suggested governors might be able to help Rowse with his experiment.

“I am pleased to give Patrick Lee my highest recommendation as a speaker.”
Executive Director, Wyoming School Boards Association
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Leave a comment Posted in Health, Morality Tagged |