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Category Archives: Human nature

Why focus on the ONLY area where you disagree?

I consider it a great felicity [happiness], through a long and trying course of life, to have retained the esteem of my early friends unabated. I find in old age that the impressions of youth are the deepest & most indelible. some friends indeed have left me by the way, seeking, by a different political path, the same object, their country’s good, which I pursued, with the crowd, along the common highway. it is a satisfaction to me that I was not the first to leave them. I have never thought that a difference in political, any more than in religious opinions should disturb the friendly intercourse of society. there are so many other topics on which friends may converse & be happy, that it is wonderful [astonishing, in this context] they should select of preference the only one on which they cannot agree.
To David Campbell, January 28, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders maintain friendships with those who disagree.
Jefferson appreciated friends who stuck with him over the decades. He acknowledged that philosophical differences inspired some to seek the country’s good “by a different political path” than his, and that cost him some friendships. He took satisfaction that any loss of friendship over political differences was not his doing but the choice of others.

Why should political or religious differences separate people? Why pick the one area of disagreement and make that the deciding factor in what could be an otherwise cordial relationship? Such choices astonished Jefferson when there was so much common ground where “friends may converse & be happy.”

“We are always on the lookout for programs that reach all ages …
Your presentation was entertaining as well as enlightening.”
Daniel Boone Regional Library
Thomas Jefferson will enlighten your audience and entertain them in the process!
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What is meant by a gift given to an office-holder?

…. The inviolable rule which I have laid down for myself never while in a public character to accept presents which bear a pecuniary [monetary] value … it is the duty of every friend of republican government to fence out every practice which might tend to lessen the chastity [purity] of the public administration.
To Phillipe Reibelt, October 12, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Equality-minded leaders avoid everything that undermines confidence in the organization.
The opening sentence is one featured before in this space, that Jefferson refused to accept any gift of value while in office. He would either return the gift or make a return offering of equal value. The second sentence gives the reasoning.

By “republican government,” in its simplest form, he referred to the foundational principle expressed in the Declaration of American Independence, “all men are created equal.” No one was to have any bestowed or artificial preference over anyone else. Any aristocracy was to arise from integrity and talent, not from wealth, ancestry, or other privilege.

A leader who accepted a gift, even with no-strings-attached, could give the appearance of impropriety, that the giver was seeking favor from the recipient, a preferred position above others. That is why Jefferson said it was the duty of every citizen of honest government “to fence out” or prohibit anything that could undermine the people’s confidence in their leaders.

“Thank you so much for your outstanding performance of Thomas Jefferson …
inspiring and very appropriate for our audience of leaders …”
Executive Director, Missouri School Boards Association
Engage a leader to inspire and teach your leaders.
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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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You should have nailed it! You have not.

Be pleased to send two tons of nailrod …
I am sorry to be obliged to make complaint to you. my manager desired me to do last spring or fall, but I let it go by in hopes the ground of his complaint was temporary. he sais that for a twelvemonth past there has been an extraordinary proportion of the short & flawy pieces of rod, which cannot be used at all … I have thought it due to you as well as myself to hand this complaint on to you, as your people might carry on this abuse to your prejudice & without your knolege.
To Messrs. Jones & Howell, August 23, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Avoiding confrontation is a leader’s loss.
Jefferson regularly purchased “nailrod,” long thin lengths of iron, which slave boys turned into nails for sale and for use at Monticello. Jones and Howell were Philadelphia iron merchants who allowed Jefferson to buy on credit.

Jefferson’s nailery manager had been telling him for a year of a marked decrease in quality of nailrod. In some 50 lb. bundles, 12-15 lbs. were worthless. In all bundles, there were at least 5 – 6 lbs. of waste.

Jefferson hated direct confrontation with anyone, so he had delayed acting on his manager’s complaint, hoping the problem was temporary. Now, when it was time to order more, he had to address the problem. Even so, he extended the merchants a courtesy, suggesting the problem was not theirs personally but one concealed by their subordinates.

The President showed his confidence in the merchants by ordering more nailrod and promising payment soon of $253.33 for rod received in May. He made no deduction for the worthless rod (10-20% the total) that had already been shipped to him.

“One [attendee] wrote, ‘I have to say that will all the excellent speakers you had for us,
I was particularly taken by Patrick Lee aka Thomas Jefferson.’ “

Executive Director, Missouri Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
Mr. Jefferson will be excellent for your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Is your hide thick enough?

you have indeed recieved the federal unction of lying & slandering. but who has not? who will ever again come into eminent office unanointed with this chrism [oil]? it seems to be fixed that falsehood & calumny are to be the ordinary engines of opposition: engines which will not be entirely without effect … I certainly have known, & still know, characters eminently qualified for the most exalted trusts, who could not bear up against the brutal beatings & hewings … I may say, from intimate knolege, that we should have lost the services of the greatest character of our country [George Washington] had he been assailed with the degree of abandoned licentiousness now practised.
To James Sullivan, May 21, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Great leaders are lost for fear of public attack.
Sullivan [1744-1808] was the Republican attorney general in Massachusetts and would soon become governor. Jefferson commiserated with him on the “lying & slandering” both had endured, the only weapons in their opponents’ arsenal. Although their accusations were without merit, they still stung.

Some “eminently qualified” individuals avoided public service because of those attacks. Even President Washington, known for his fearlessness, would have abandoned public life had he been subjected to the current level of abuse.

Jefferson was considered thin-skinned but able to heed the advice Washington had given him years before, that when attacked, do not respond. He vented to friends in his private correspondence, but publicly, he suffered in silence.

“Mr. Jefferson’s presentation on leadership was a wonderful and unique way
to kick off an extremely successful conference.”
County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
Let Mr. Jefferson enliven your conference in a unique way!
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How do you change minds?

… some are of opinion that attempts at [re]conciliation [with the political opposition] 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.
To Thomas Elwyn, March 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know it takes both time and results to change minds.
Elwyn had sent Jefferson a pamphlet on some subject, and the President replied with his thanks. Something in Elwyn’s submission must have dealt with reconciliation between the political parties, a subject much on Jefferson’s mind. He made these observations:

1. Reconciliation of differences is always a worthwhile goal.
2. Too much pride would keep some from ever changing their minds.
3. “honest confidence in the government” had deceived some people.
4. “misinformation” had deceived others.
5. The majority of those “led astray” had changed their minds already.
6. The rest would do so, given enough time to consider the evidence.

“As a meeting planner, it was a pleasure to work with you …”
Director of Member Services, Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives
Mr. Jefferson is a pleasure to work with!
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How do you assess the motives of another?

Our winter campaign has opened with more good humor than I expected … bitter men are not pleased with the suppression of taxes. not daring to condemn the measure, they attack the motive … but every honest man will suppose honest acts to flow from honest principles; & the rogues may rail without interruption.
To Benjamin Rush, December 20, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders know they cannot please rogues and bitter people.
The President could write freely to Philadelphia physician Rush (1745-1813), an old and dear friend and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson’s “winter campaign” was his state of the union report with its recommendations to Congress. Both House and Senate were controlled by Republicans, allies who shared his vision. The hard core Federalist opposition in Congress, the “bitter men,” opposed Jefferson’s desire to decrease taxes and make the federal government smaller. Instead of condemning the action on its merits, they accused the President of simply currying favor with the masses.

Jefferson said honest people would give him the benefit of the doubt, and bitter people, “the rogues,” never would.

“Thank you for hanging on to and presenting the truths this great nation was founded on.”
North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association Annual Conference
Mr. Jefferson will encourage your audience with America’s foundational truths.
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The government well is going dry. Dig your own.

in a few days … I propose … to reduce public offices fully one half. when so many are to be dropped, it will be difficult for new to find admission. but I am in hopes that public offices being reduced to so small a number, will no longer hold up the prospect of being a resource for those who find themselves under difficulties, but that they will at once turn themselves for relief, to those private pursuits which derive it from services rendered to others. our duty is not to impede those pursuits by heavy taxes, and useless officers to consume their earnings.
To Joseph Bloomfield, December 5, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know refusing help can be a greater help to one in need.
Bloomfield sought a federal job on behalf of Stephen Sayre, an effective Republican operative in New Jersey. Sayre had written Jefferson directly about a job in early October. Three weeks later, Sayre wrote James Madison, noting he had not received a reply from the President. Now Sayre had Governor Bloomfield lobbying on his behalf.

Sayre’s urgency was that a large sum borrowed more than 20 years before was now due, and he lacked the means to pay his debt. If he had a job, perhaps he could postpone the bill collector. He felt he was owed a job because of his prior service.

Jefferson made these observations:
1. He was cutting public jobs in half. Sayre’s chance of getting one was slim.
2. With fewer government jobs, people in financial trouble would be less likely to look to the government for employment.
3. Instead, those in need should consider how they could generate profit by serving others.

Jefferson concluded with a common theme. Government should not hinder private enterprise with useless employees and the taxes needed to pay them.

“I received so many great compliments
on your performance of Thomas Jefferson ….”

Missouri Land Title Association
Invite Thomas Jefferson to wow your audience!
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Weak leaders avoid the tough calls.

I have known mr Page from the time we were boys & classmates together, & love him as a brother. but I have always known him the worst judge of man existing. he has fallen a sacrifice to the ease with which he gives his confidence to those who deserve it not.
To Albert Gallatin, August 28, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders can’t avoid tough choices just to please people.
Jefferson sought opinions from three men about the qualifications of a certain individual for an appointment to a federal office. One of those three was fellow Virginian John Page (1743-1808), his oldest friend. They had been close since their student days at the College of William and Mary, 40 years before.

It appears that Page had already responded with a recommendation for the man being considered even though Page had not met him. Jefferson expected the other two replies soon. He affirmed his affection for Page, but said he was a poor choice of character. Page found it easier to avoid tough calls and praise people whether they deserved it or not.

[We] hired Mr. Patrick Lee to perform as Thomas Jefferson
at our regional meetings around the state …
The result was far beyond our expectations.”
Executive Vice President, Missouri Bankers Association
Mr. Jefferson will exceed your expectations!
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We are NOT that different from one another.

… the greatest good we can do our country is to heal it’s party divisions & make them one people. I do not speak of their [Federalist] leaders who are incurables, but of the honest & well-intentioned body of the people. I consider the pure federalist as a republican who would prefer a somewhat stronger executive; & the republican as one more willing to trust the legislature as a broader representation of the people, & a safer deposit of power for many reasons. but both sects are republican, entitled to the confidence of their fellow citizens …
To John Dickinson, July 23, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Unifying leaders look for common ground with their opponents.
Jefferson wrote to Dickinson (of Pennsylvania and Delaware, 1732-1808), a life-long friend and ally, about the division within the republicans in Delaware. The President was trying bridge the divide between the two major political camps. He didn’t want his own people squabbling among themselves.

In trying to bridge the political divide, Jefferson maintained there was not a great distance between the republicans and the vast majority of “pure federalist[s]”. He cast them all as republicans, devoted to the principles of 1776, but making this distinction:
– republicans gave more authority to the legislature, the peoples’ representatives.
– federalists preferred more authority in a “somewhat stronger executive” (President).

Most of Jefferson’s letters began with just the recipient’s name, and then he began writing. Sometimes, he added a “Dear Sir.” As a measure of his opinion of Dickinson, this letter opened with, “My Dear & Respected Friend.”

“Thanks for your enlightening presentation for the Leadership Academy.”
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mr. Jefferson will enlighten (and entertain!) your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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