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Category Archives: Human nature

“Fake news” is as old as the hills. And it appears to be true!

you will see in the papers an extra letter of Elliott’s of extraordinary aspect. it contains some absolute untruths. but what is most remarkeable is that expressions are so put together as to be literally true when strictly considered & analysed, and yet to convey to 99 readers out of 100. the most absolute & mischievous falsehoods. it is a most insidious attempt to cover [conceal] his own opinions & passions … and to fill with inquietude the republicans who have not the means of good information.
Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, May 27, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Manipulative leaders also manipulate the facts.
The content of Elliott’s letter in the newspapers is unknown as is the identity of Elliott himself. It may have been Vermont Congressman James Elliott. The President alerted his widowed son-in-law and Congressman about the that content.

This Elliott published “some absolute untruths” presented in such a manner as to appear “to be literally true,” with the effect of deceiving almost everybody. He did it in such a way to conceal his own interests while causing “inquietude [restlessness]” among faithful republicans, the President’s supporters, who had no way of discerning the truth.

“The folks really admire the ease and friendliness you show.
They were impressed with your wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm …”
Tour Director, Foretravel Motor Club
Invite us to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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He left his wife & may marry again w/o a divorce.

… with respect to Dr. Sibley … I observe two specific charges: 1. that he left his wife but it does not appear whether the separation was through the fault or the will of her or him. 2. that he attempted to marry again. this is a charge of weight, but no proof being adduced, it cannot weigh against the integrity of his character affirmed by others, and his unquestionable good sense and information.
Thomas Jefferson to William C. C. Claiborne, May 26, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Should unsubstantiated accusations derail a leader’s career?
John Sibley (1757-1837) was a Massachusetts-born Revolutionary War surgeon who relocated to the New Orleans area in the early 1800s. He was a contracted army surgeon there and appointed by Jefferson in 1805 to be Indian Agent for the New Orleans Territory. Territorial Governor Claiborne had written the President about allegations made regarding Sibley’s personal life that might compromise his professional effectiveness.

Jefferson acknowledged the charges but noted the first lacked clarity, and the second, more serious, lacked proof. Weighed against those charges were Sibley’s “unquestionable good sense and information [provided about native people in the area]” and “his character affirmed by others.” Thus, he would not withdraw Sibley, who had a well-known professional track record, because of unsubstantiated accusations about his personal life.

“He presented a persona that blended dignity, honesty
and just the right amount of humor …”
Executive Director, Missouri Humanities Council
Would you value that kind of speaker for your audience?
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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No drunks allowed!

… I have since learnt with great pain & from an authority not to be doubted that mr Duffield has contracted a habit of drinking to a degree which renders him unfit for a judge … if the fact abovementioned be true … my duty will not permit me to nominate him to the Senate. it would be an act of friendship to let him know this … under these circumstances I have thought it my duty to put it in your power to endeavor that he might be saved from these disagreeable circumstances by resignation.
Thomas Jefferson to John Rhea, April 30, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders avoid embarrassing subordinates.
The President had commissioned Duffield to be a judge in the Orleans Territory, upon the recommendation of Rhea and one other. His term ran concurrent with Congress. Following that, he would be nominated to the US Senate, receiving a lifetime appointment if approved. Reliable intelligence since then convinced Jefferson he had made a poor choice, and there would be no Senate nomination.

If Jefferson understood correctly, he suggested “an act of friendship” by Rhea to Duffield: Get him to resign before he moved to take the job. That would avoid both unsettling his present affairs and the disgrace of being recalled from office. Jefferson couldn’t have him in that office but had no wish to expose him to embarrassment.

“Certainly having a historical figure speak to a general assembly
is a unique and memorable way to welcome people to a certain region.”
Meeting Planner, FOCUS Publications. Inc.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
1 Comment Posted in Human nature, Judiciary, Lawyers Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Not unless they’ve changed their minds!

… [choose] a sound preponderance of those who are friendly to the order of things so generally approved by the nation. men hostile to that, & whose principal views are to embarras & thwart the public measures, cannot be too carefully kept out of the way of doing it. I do not mean by this to proscribe honest, well meaning men, heretofore federalists, and now sincerely disposed to concur with the national sentiment & measures.
Thomas Jefferson to Robert Williams, April 28, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Reasonable people wake up and smell the coffee!
This letter to soon-to-be Territorial Governor Williams (1773-1836) of Mississippi is very similar to the previous post, a letter to the corresponding official in the Indiana Territory. The President had been asked by the legislature in each territory to pick five men from a list of 10 for a legislative council. In each case, not knowing the individuals nominated, Jefferson delegated the decision to the Governor and suggested criteria for the selection.

One standard for Indiana was no Federalist appointments. It appeared to be a blanket rejection of anyone from the other party and an endorsement of strict political patronage. He moderated that position in this letter, written the same day.

To Indiana, he cited an opposition with no interest but to obstruct. To Mississippi, he allowed for political opponents who understood that in the election of 1800, citizens had changed political direction and reinforced that choice in 1804. He would not prohibit the appointment of “honest, well-meaning men, heretofore federalists” who recognized the political climate had changed and had shifted with it.

“…our sincere appreciation to you for your exceptional presentation
at our recently concluded convention.”
President/General Manager, Missouri Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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No cheats! No hacks! No speculators!

… I can only recommend an adherence to the principles which would have governed myself in making the selection. 1. to reject dishonest men. 2. those called federalists even the honest men among them, are so imbued with party prejudice … that they are incapable of weighing candidly the pro and the con … their effect in the public councils is merely to embarras & thwart them. 3. land-jobbers [speculators] are undesirable. it is difficult for them, even with honest intentions, to act without bias in questions having any relation to their personal interests.
Thomas Jefferson to William Henry Harrison, April 28, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know even honest men can act dishonorably.
The President had been asked to pick five men out of ten nominated to serve on a legislative council for the Territory of Indiana. He knew none of the nominees and delegated the selection to Harrison (1773-1841), Territorial Governor. He recommended three standards:
1. No “dishonest men”
2. None from the political opposition – Even honest ones were so partisan they could not fairly weigh an issue. Their only motivation was “to embarrass & thwart.”
3. None who could benefit financially – Again, even honest men could not “act without bias” where money was to be made or lost.

Thirty six years later, in 1841, Harrison became the 9th President of the U.S., defeating Martin Van Buren. He died just 31 days after his inauguration and was succeeded by his Vice-President, John Tyler. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, served one term as President, 1889-1893.

“Mr. Lee’s creative energy and talent were a major factor
in making this critical event the success it was.”
Program Coordinator, The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Jefferson will make a significant contribution to your meeting!
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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They have too much pride to admit their error.

[I] had before observed what was said in the Chronicle of it’s conciliatory tendency. some are of opinion that attempts at conciliation are useless. this is true only as to distinguished leaders who had committed themselves so far that their pride will not permit them to correct themselves. but it is not true as to the mass of those who had been led astray by an honest confidence in the government & by misinformation. the great majority of these has already reconciled itself to us, & the rest are doing so as fast as the natural progress of opinion will permit.
Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Elwyn, March 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders value humility.
Elwyn wrote a political pamphlet that was published in Boston and had received a favorable review in the Chronicle newspaper. He sent a copy of his pamphlet to the President, who apparently had read the Chronicle’s review. The tone of the pamphlet must have hoped for some reconciliation between political opponents.

Jefferson disagreed with those who maintained “attempts at reconciliation are useless.” That was true of leaders whose views were so rigid that pride prevented them from changing their minds. It was not true of the “mass” of citizens who had been led astray “by misinformation.” Reconciliation had happened for most already and would for the remainder in due time.

In an 1825 letter to a child, summarizing what he had learned in 81 years, Jefferson wrote, among other things, “Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.”

“… thank you for your excellent presentation …
your portrayal and your responses to questions from the audience were right on the mark.”
Secretary/Treasurer, Virginia Association of Surveyors
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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I will fail. Please forgive me. Part 12

I shall now enter [my second term as President] … , & shall proceed in the spirit of those principles which they have approved. I fear not that any motives of [self] interest may lead me astray. I am sensible of no passion which could seduce me knowingly from the path of justice. but the weaknesses of human nature, & the limits of my own understanding will produce errors of judgment sometimes injurious to your interests. I shall need therefore all the indulgence which I have heretofore experienced from my constituents. the want of it will certainly not lessen with increasing years.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Humble leaders know they can be prone to failure.
As Thomas Jefferson neared the end of his address, he pledged continued allegiance to the principles the voters approved. He knew of nothing that could dissuade him from those principles. He also understood “the weaknesses of human nature” and “the limits of my own understanding.” Those would cause him to make mistakes.

He asked that the grace shown him in the past would continue. Even worse, the aging process (he was almost 62, average life expectancy for a male at the time) would put him in need of even more grace for his errors.

“For an inspirational message with meaningful content, and one that is also entertaining,
we highly recommend Patrick Lee!”
Assistant Executive Director, Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors
We come highly recommended!
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, go to FoundersArchives.gov. Cut a few words from the letter in the post, paste them into the search box at the top, with beginning and ending quotation marks, and click the GO button. The correct letter … should … come up.
Or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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What about America’s Aborigines? Part 7b

But the endeavors to enlighten them on the fate which awaits their present course of life, to induce them to exercise their reason, follow it’s dictates, & change their pursuits with the change of circumstances, have powerful obstacles to encounter …  the habits of their bodies, prejudices of their minds, ignorance, pride, & the influence of interested & crafty individuals among them, who [fear loss of influence] … these persons inculcate a sanctimonious reverence for the customs of their ancestors; that whatsoever they did must be done through all time … that their duty is to remain as their creator made them, ignorance being safety, and knolege full of danger …  they too have their Anti-Philosophists [anti-science, reason and progress] …
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders understand there are powerful influences against change.
The previous post outlined Thomas Jefferson’s strong support for helping native Americans transition from hunting to agriculture. This post details their difficulty in doing so.

While business-as-usual was not possible for the Indians, they faced formidable challenges to a new way of life. In addition to their own “habits … prejudices … ignorance [&] pride,” some in their midst insisted they must remain as they always had been, with safety in ignorance, fearing danger in knowledge.

In this regard, Jefferson drew a parallel to his own political opposition, “Anti-Philosophists.” Both cultures had to contend with those who only looked backwards and resisted all change.

“It was a great pleasure to have you return the the Old Court for our annual
“Historic Fourth of July Celebration”.”
Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, National Park Service
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Not enough paper to write to his wife!

I have the pleasure to inform you that mr Briggs & his companion were in good health at Colo. Hawkins establishment near the Talapousee river, which place they left on the 3d. of Oct. and expected to be at Fort Stoddart in a week from that time. mr Briggs having been able to procure but a single half sheet of paper, which he was obliged to fill with a report to me, had no means of writing to you. the Indians had recieved & treated him with great kindness. we may shortly expect to hear of his arrival at New Orleans.
Thomas Jefferson to Hannah Briggs, December 5, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep wives informed.
Isaac Briggs, Surveyor General of the Mississippi Territory, was traveling between Washington City and New Orleans to make astronomical observations for the development of a new southern postal road. He reported to the President on October 2 about their arduous progress.

He did not have enough paper to write both his boss and his wife. He put his job first, concluding his report with a request that the President inform his wife of his well-being.

In a reply two weeks later, Hannah Briggs thanked the President, claiming this was the first word she’d had about her husband in three months. She begged any further information he might receive,  good or bad.

On January 2, Thomas Jefferson wrote again to Mrs. Briggs about her husband’s safe arrival in New Orleans.

“We received a number of compliments
for adding a unique element to the conference program.”
Co-Conference Coordinator, Natural Areas Association, Bend, OR
Try something out of the ordinary … unique! … to enliven your conference program.
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1 Comment Posted in Family matters, Human nature, Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Such bickering is useless and destructive!

With respect to the late conduct of mr Lilly & Perry towards you as stated in your letter, I trust you know my line of conduct better than to suppose it could flow from any orders of mine … it is my rule never to take a side or any part in the quarrels of others, nor to enquire into them. I generally presume them to flow from the indulgence of too much passion on both sides, & always find that each party thinks all the wrong was in his adversary. these bickerings, which are always useless, embitter human life more than any other cause: and I regret that which has happened in the present case. I shall always be ready to render you any service I can …
To James Oldham, November 30, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders stay out of problems not their own.
Oldham, Jefferson’s highly regarded former joiner (skilled woodworker) at Monticello, wrote his patron about ugly accusations and death threats received from Lilly, a Monticello overseer, and his brother-in-law, Perry. The accusers claimed they were acting on information from Jefferson, himself.

Not so, wrote the President, claiming Oldham should know him well enough to know otherwise. Beyond that, Jefferson explained:
1. He took no part in such quarrels, not even asking questions about them.
2. Usually, the fault was “too much passion on both sides.”
3. Always, each side imputed all the blame to the other.
4. Always such useless bickering harmed personal relationships “more than any other cause.”

While staying out of the argument, Jefferson regretted Oldham found himself in such a predicament and affirmed his willingness to be of any assistance needed.

“Even though it has been a few months since the seminar in Boston,
I continue to hear comments about the closing session.
You definitely made an impact on the group.”
President, Professional Event Services, for the Rural Cellular Association
Mr. Jefferson will give your audience a presentation to remember for a long while.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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