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Category Archives: History

I admire smart women!

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mrs Warren & returns her the paper she had been pleased to inclose to him with his own subscription & that of the heads of departments … he learns with great satisfaction that mrs Warren’s attention has been so long turned to the events which have been passing. the last thirty years will furnish a more instructive lesson to mankind than any equal period known in history. he has no doubt the work she has prepared will be equally useful to our country & honourable to herself.
Thomas Jefferson to Mercy Otis Warren, February 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Empowering leaders encourage the marginalized.
The Massachusetts born Warren (1728-1814) was a strong supporter of American independence. She wrote prolifically on its behalf but always under a pen name, since female authors were almost unheard of. In 1790, she published a book of poems and plays under her own name. In 1805, she completed a three volume history of the United States, the first written by a woman.

It is that history Thomas Jefferson referenced in this letter. He was buying copies of her work for himself and his cabinet members. He had no doubt her seminal work would “be equally useful to our country and honourable to herself.”

“Your presentation was totally amazing
to our group from Mexico, Canada and the U.S.”
Program Chair, International Hunter  Education Conference
Let your audience be amazed.
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1 Comment Posted in History, Miscellaneous, Personalities of others Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Jesus trumps all the ancient moral philosophers!

I had promised some day to write … my view of the Christian system … [after taking] a general view of the moral doctrines of the most remarkeable of the antient philosophers … I should proceed to a view of the life, character, & doctrines of Jesus … a pure[r] deism, and juster notions of the attributes of god, to reform their moral doctrines to the standard of reason, justice, & philanthropy, and to inculcate the belief of a future state. this view would purposely omit the question of his divinity & even of his inspiration … [and] shew a master workman, and that his system of morality was the most benevolent & sublime probably that has been ever taught; and eminently more perfect than those of any of the antient philosophers.
To Joseph Priestley, April 9, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders take pains to assess the morals of even wiser ones.
Priestley (1733-1804) was a renowned English-born scientist, philosopher, theologian, and Jefferson confidante. The work envisioned here was completed in 1804 with the title, “The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth.” Fifteen years later, in 1819, he produced an expanded version called, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” That final version, excerpts from the four Gospels was produced in parallel form, with English, Greek, Latin and French translations on each page. Both were produced solely for his personal, private meditation, and made known to only a very few. Some years after his death, it would come be known, however incorrectly, as “The Jefferson Bible.”

Jefferson’s work focused only on Jesus’ words and historical accounts from the Gospels. Omitted were any claims of divinity and all of his miracles. Those, Jefferson believed, had been added by Jesus’ disciples to embellish their teacher. Even so, he found Jesus to be “more perfect” than all ancient philosophers “and that his system of morality was the most benevolent & sublime probably that has been ever taught.”

“I would like to thank you for your excellent presentation …
I continue to hear compliments …”
Secretary/Treasurer, Virginia Association of Surveyors
Your members will be talking about Mr. Jefferson long after your event.
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Leave a comment Posted in History, Morality, Religion Tagged , , , , , , , |

I opened it by mistake. I apologize.

Th: Jefferson presents his respectful salutations to Judge Washington and incloses him a package which came to Th:J. in a very voluminous mail. opening the letters hastily & without always reading the superscription [sender’s name], he had opened this and read some lines in M. de la Fayette’s letter before he discovered it not to be meant for him. looking at the corner & finding his mistake he instantly re-incloses it with an assurance on his honor that he did not see a word beyond the 4th. or 5th lines in la Fayette’s letter and not one in the others. he hopes Judge Washington will accept his apology & his regret for this accident
To Bushrod Washington, August 13, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders do not take advantage of another’s mistake.
Bushrod Washington (1762-1829) was George Washington’s nephew, heir, executor of his estate and Supreme Court justice for more than 30 years, appointed to the Court in 1798 by President Adams. The rift between Jefferson and the first President had grown pronounced before the latter’s death in 1799. Bushrod would be considered both a personal and political opponent of Thomas Jefferson.

Bushrod was compiling a history of the Revolutionary War and using correspondence between his late uncle and Marquis de Lafayette. A packet of that correspondence mailed to Bushrod had come to President by mistake, who opened it, not noting the addressee on the package. He read just a few lines, realized the package was not for him, and only then noticed Bushrod’s name on the outside. He immediately resealed the package and included this letter of apology.

“Some of the comments…included…
Very entertaining; A good way to close out; Fun and fitting; and Wow! What a finish”
President, Professional Event Services, for the Rural Cellular Association, Boston, MA
Mr. Jefferson will add a Wow! factor to your meeting.
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I insist that you not write about me!

The enquiries in your printed letter of Aug. 1808. would lead to the writing the history of my whole life, than which nothing could be more repugnant to my feelings. I have been connected, as many fellow labourers were, with the great events which happened to mark the epoch of our lives. but these belong to no one in particular.
To Skelton Jones, July 28, 1809

This is the 700th post in the Jefferson Leadership Blog! Woo-woo!

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Servant leaders acknowledge team accomplishments over their own.
Jones was a Virginia newspaper publisher and historian who wished to compile a history of his native state and Jefferson’s role in it. Jones made several requests of Jefferson for information. The lengthy reply containing this excerpt was an earnest attempt to summarize the work of the revisors of statutes in post-independence Virginia. Jefferson was one of five revisors appointed to the task in 1776 and one of two, along with George Wythe, who did the bulk of the work.

Jones’ 1808 query referenced here was an extensive list of questions about every aspect of Jefferson’s life. Always helpful in furthering others’ intellectual and historical pursuits, he declined this request. He said he was only one of “many fellow labourers” involved in a common cause in uncommon times. He did not want anyone to write the history of his life alone. “Nothing could be more repugnant to my feelings,” he wrote.

“Although the land surveyors have had numerous types of entertainment at the conference,
they have never
responded with a standing ovation.”
Assistant Executive Director, Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors
Mr. Jefferson doesn’t seek ovations, but your audience might just give him one!
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1 Comment Posted in History, Independence, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |

What does a local library mean for US? Part 3 of 4

these should be such [books in your library] as would give them a general view of other history & particular view of that of their own country, a tolerable knolege of geography, the elements of Natural philosophy, of agriculture & mechanics. should your example lead to this, it will do great good.
To John Wyche, May 19, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Educated leaders encourage foundational reading for all.
What types of books should be in a county library for circulating among its citizens?

  1. History in general, to know what preceded us on a global scale
  2. History in particular, that of the United States
  3. Basic geography, how the elements of our earth are represented
  4. Science (“Natural philosophy”)
  5. Agriculture, how we feed and clothe ourselves
  6. “Mechanics,” how things work

A basic knowledge in these six areas would be sufficient for citizens to know, respect and safeguard their rights as free Americans.

“It is my pleasure to write about my professional experience with Patrick Lee …
Our members were thrilled.”
Executive Director, Florida Surveying and Mapping Society
Your members will be thrilled with Mr. Jefferson, too.
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1 Comment Posted in Agriculture, Education, History, Natural history (science), Protecting ourselves Tagged , , , , , , , |

These two things are of supreme importance.

I have safely received the copy of your history of the American revolution … it is a happy circumstance for our country that it’s fortunes interest the eloquent writers of your country and through them find their way to the notice of the world … inasmuch as to they presented to mankind the first example in Modern times of a people asserting succesfully the right of self government, and establishing that government among themselves by common consent.
To Jean Chas, September 3, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders cling to founding principles.
Chas was a French journalist who sent his book to Jefferson months before. The President thanked him and expressed his appreciation for skilled foreign writers who documented America’s victory 20 years earlier. It wasn’t for vanity but for the example and hope it presented to other nations.

That example presented the only modern occurrence of two fundamental truths about America:
1. Its citizens had the right to govern themselves.
2. Its government functioned only with the consent of the governed.

These were still radical ideas in a time when other nations were ruled at will by kings, nobles and dictators. Jefferson believed America’s example was destined to adopted eventually by other nations, and writers like Chas furthered that end.

“Your talk was the hit of the day –
everyone was still talking about Thomas Jefferson during the banquet in the evening.”

Central Bank
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20,000 letters but only one book …

… in the year 1781. I had received a letter from M. de Marbois, of the French legation in Philadelphia … addressing to me a number of queries relative to the state of Virginia. I had always made it a practice whenever an opportunity occurred of obtaining any information of our country, which might be of use to me in any station public or private, to commit it to writing. These memoranda were on loose papers, bundled up without order, and difficult of recurrence when I had occasion for a particular one. I thought this a good occasion to embody their substance, which I did in the order of Mr. Marbois’ queries, so as to answer his wish and to arrange them for my own use … On my arrival at Paris I found it could be done [printed in book form] for a fourth of what I had been asked here [in America]. I therefore corrected and enlarged them, and had 200. copies printed, under the title of Notes on Virginia.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders kill at least two birds with one stone.
Over the years, Jefferson collected a great quantity of material about his native Virginia, unorganized and difficult to access. This French inquiry gave him the opportunity to both gratify the request and bring order to his mess. The result was the only book Jefferson completed, Notes on Virginia. It came to be regarded as an authoritative scientific source, a third bird.

Primarily a compilation of natural history of Virginia, Jefferson answered 23 “Queries” on these topics: 1. Boundaries, 2. Rivers, 3. Sea Ports, 4. Mountains, 5. Cascades, 6. Productions, 7. Climate, 8. Population, 9. Military force, 10. Marine force, 11. Aborigines, 12. Counties and towns, 13. Constitution, 14. Laws, 15. Colleges, buildings and roads, 16. Proceedings as to Tories, 17. Religion, 18. Manners, 19. Manufactures, 20. Subjects of commerce, 21. Weights, Measures and Money, 22. Public revenue and expences, 23. Histories, memorials, and state papers


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he was also very professional.”

The Missouri Bar
Mr. Jefferson will be excellent. I will be professional. Your audience will love us!
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1 Comment Posted in History, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , |

If it has been done well already, why do it over?

On the 1st of June 1779. I was appointed Governor of the Commonwealth [of Virginia] … Being now, as it were, identified with the Commonwealth itself, to write my own history during the two years of my administration, would be to write the public history of that portion of the revolution within this state. This has been done by others, and particularly by Mr. Girardin … has given as faithful an account as I could myself. For this portion therefore of my own life, I refer altogether to his history.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders leave well enough alone.
Jefferson’s two one-year terms as governor of Virginia (June 1, 1779 to June 1, 1781) were fully occupied with the state’s participation in the war for independence. Any history written of that time would have covered little else. A “Mr. Girardin,” who had access to all of Jefferson’s wartime papers, had faithfully reported those two years. Jefferson saw no need to duplicate a work someone else had already done well.

“[We] appreciate the time you took to research our group.
… your presentation was appropriate both to your days and to current times.”

Missouri City Clerks and Finance Officers Association
Mr. Jefferson will speak directly to your audience’s interests.
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Please wait until I am dead.

I do not think a biography should be written, or at least published, during the life of the person the subject of it. It is impossible that the writer’s delicacy should permit him to speak as freely of the faults or errors of a living, as of a dead character. There is still a better reason. The letters of a person, especially of one whose business has been chiefly transacted by letters, form the only full and genuine journal of his life; and few can let them go out of their hands while they live. A life written after these hoards become opened to investigation must supercede any previous one.
To Robert Walsh, April 5, 1823
From Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 643-4

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders hope for a thorough biography (after they’re dead).
Walsh was a writer and historian. He had written Jefferson, asking him to supply the material necessary to write a biography of the 80 year old statesman. Jefferson declined for three reasons:
– Earlier in this letter, he said he wasn’t up to the task. His health was too poor.
– The biographer of a living person couldn’t be objective.
– He couldn’t turn over his correspondence, essential for any biographer.

There isn’t much in Jefferson’s writing that suggests humor, but there could be a wry bit in this letter. As further justification for biographies of the dead only, he wrote, “it may be observed too that before you will have got through with the dead, the living will be dying off and furnishing fresh matter.”

“I want to thank you for your high degree of professionalism.
We have a small staff, and working with presenters who are reliable,
self-reliant and efficient makes my job a whole lot easier.”
President, National Association of Workforce Development Professionals

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Leave a comment Posted in Aging, Health, History Tagged , , , , , |

Hands off for now, or it will destroyed!

Those [Virginia’s laws] in MS. [manuscript, i.e. hand-written] were not sent, … because some of them will not bear removal, being so rotten, that in turning over a leaf it sometimes falls into powder. These I preserve by wrapping & sewing them up in oiled cloth, so that neither air nor moisture can have access to them.
To George Wythe, January 16, 1796

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Careful leaders take great care in preserving the past.
Jefferson was sending Wythe, the man who guided his legal training 35 years earlier, his collection of Virginia’s printed laws. In an earlier post from this letter, he suggested printing all of the laws and distributing copies broadly in libraries. (May 3, 2013 post, “I just want you to know …,” categoried under Education and History)

Here, Jefferson demonstrated his concern that none of Virginia’s history be lost. He wouldn’t forward hand-written documents so fragile that they might fall apart. Instead, he employed the historic preservation technique available to him. He sealed those documents in cloth treated with oil, probably linseed oil rendered from the linen-producing flax plant. That process made them impervious to water and air.

Perhaps he knew a future generation would have a method to restore such documents? Until then, he would keep them safe.

“We cannot thank you enough for a relevant, engaging, entertaining Opening Keynote.”
Executive Vice-President, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science

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Leave a comment Posted in Education, History Tagged , , , , , |