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Category Archives: Human nature

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
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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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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!
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, 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.
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Business decisions are easy. Personnel ones are not. (OR: HR sucks. Part 5 of 5)

the transaction of the great interests of our country costs us little trouble or difficulty. there the line is plain to men of some experience. but the task of appointment is a heavy one indeed. he on whom it falls may envy the lot of a Sisyphus or Ixion. their agonies were of the body: this of the mind. yet, like the office of hangman, it must be executed by some one. it has been assigned to me & made my duty. I make up my mind to it therefore, & abandon all regard to consequences.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The hangman has to suck it up and do his job.
The subtitle for these five posts, “HR sucks,” is only an attention-getter, not a disparagement of the important field of human relations. Thomas Jefferson never used those words, but he might have had that thought. This series highlights the hardest part of his job, making decisions that affected people’s lives, their families and finances. He concluded with this summary.
1. Key leadership decisions were not troublesome “to men of some experience.”
2. Appointing people to offices was extremely troublesome.
3. He might envy mythological characters condemned to eternal physical punishment for their choices. His (Jefferson’s) torment was of the mind.
4. Like the hangman, this was his job, and he accepted the responsibility.
5. Having done so, he did it without “regard to the consequences,” i.e. human disappointment or collateral damage.

“Our attendees enjoyed your presentation … very educational, informative,
and the details seemed to come to life …”
Director of Member Services, Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives
Watch the real Thomas Jefferson come to life for your audience!
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I make one friend & 10 enemies at the same time. (OR: HR sucks. Part 4 of 5)

… [if] you [had] hundreds to nominate, instead of one, be assured they would not compose for you a bed of roses. you would find yourself in most cases with one loaf & ten wanting bread. nine must be disappointed, perhaps become secret, if not open, enemies.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders sometimes must turn friends into detractors.
Five posts from this single letter detail Jefferson’s challenges in the human relations realm. Larkin had written to the President, expressing not only his dismay over losing a federal appointment he thought he had earned but also his annoyance at not receiving personal notification of the loss.

While Larkin had only himself to consider, the President had hundreds! Every federal job opening brought a flood of applicants. Each choice would make one person happy and disappoint all the rest, feed one and send the others away hungry. Some losers would become secret enemies. Some would even turn into public ones.

Instead of “a bed of roses,” with countless ones paying him compliments while seeking his favor, this aspect of his job was more a bed of thorns.

“… I had no idea what to expect.
However, we were delighted to see a very professional and accurate portrayal…”

Executive Director, MO Society of Professional Surveyors
Yes! An accurate, professional and inspiring portrayal awaits your audience!
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This has to stop! Help me, please.

[This post marks #900 since the blog’s inception in February, 2011!]

Craven & Lillie at last have come to an open rupture: a desperate battle took place between them 4 days since: it terminated without serious injury to either but a bruising and languor to both which will keep them apart a long time I think. Both claim the victory and both look like defeat.
Thomas Mann Randolph to Thomas Jefferson, October 11, 1804

I have learnt with extreme concern the rupture between Craven & Lilly, and percieve that it will become extremely embarassing & prejudicial to my affairs unless it can be made up. this can only be done by an oblivion [choice to not remember] of the past without going into any enquiry which was most in the wrong.
To Thomas Mann Randolph, October 28, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Absentee leaders have the deck stacked against them.
Lilly was the overseer of non-agriculture activities at Monticello. Craven was an adjoining landowner who also leased some of Jefferson’s Monticello lands. The two men had come to blows, perhaps over the President’s livestock that had made their way onto Craven’s property.

As long as the Presidency forced Jefferson to be an absentee landowner, he was seriously dependent on both men to keep his home operation running smoothly. He saw no way forward unless each man would choose to forget the offense and move on. He would impress that point on each man. He also thought the combatants would benefit from the efforts of a mediator, and he asked Mann, his son-in-law, to fill that role.

“It was again a pleasure to host your performance …
you have again developed a believable authentic personification …”
Runge Nature Center Manager, Missouri Department of Conservation
Your audience will be convinced they are in the presence of Thomas Jefferson!
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1 Comment Posted in Agriculture, Human nature, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

This is the worst sin of all.

another object still more important is that every officer of the government make it his peculiar object to root out that abominable venality [willingness to be bribed or corrupted], which is said to have been practised so generally there heretofore. every connivance [willingness to be involved in an illegal act] at it should be branded with indelible infamy, and would be regarded by the General government with distinguished severity.
To William C.C. Claiborne, August 30, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
T
olerating dishonesty is the worst kind of favoritism in a leader.
The previous post stressed the importance of including the French in the new American government of Louisiana at New Orleans and giving both English and French languages equal status. But there was something more important than including and respecting the political opposition.

The Spanish, who had governed Louisiana for decades, and the French, the majority population, had earned the reputation of being susceptible to bribery. Jefferson denounced it in the strongest language, and made it the responsibility of every government official to root it out.

“Not only did you connect two centuries,
I would stress you really connected with our members …”
President & CEO, Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Mr. Jefferson will make a vital connection with your audience.
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