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Category Archives: Human nature

He has earned mercy, not judgment.

I am informed that James Hemings my servant has put himself under your superintendance until he can hear from me on the subject of his return. I can readily excuse the follies of a boy and therefore his return shall ensure him an entire pardon. during my absence hereafter I should place him with Johnny Hemings and Lewis at house-joiner’s work. if you will get him a passage in the Richmond stage I will get mr Higginbotham to pay his fare on his arrival at Milton.
Thomas Jefferson to James Oldham, July 20, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders take difficult circumstances into account.
Hemings, one of Jefferson’s young slaves, had abandoned Monticello a few months before and was working odd jobs between Richmond and Norfolk. Someone who knew of Hemings’ whereabouts asked James Oldham, Jefferson’s former carpenter now living in Richmond, if he should confine Hemings until he could be returned. Oldham said no, that Hemings could stay with him until Jefferson’s wishes were known.

Hemings was willing to return to Monticello if he was not placed under the overseer, Gabriel Lilley, who had treated him harshly. (Lilley was known for his severe treatment, and Jefferson was seeking his replacement.) Oldham was now asking his former employer’s opinion.

Jefferson would grant Hemings, whom he called a servant, not a slave, a full pardon for his youthful folly. Acknowledging Hemings’ legitimate concern, upon his return, he would be freed from Lilley and placed under a skilled carpenter, where he might learn a trade.

“… he set the bar very high with his
remarkable portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.”
Chairman of the Board, Sedalia Heritage Foundation
Mr. Jefferson will set a high bar for other presenters at your meeting.
Invite him 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.
Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Slavery Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Fake news, on steroids!

Accounts five & thirty years, since the Date of this Transaction, spent in the regular Discharge of public, & private Duties, with an Uniformity of Tenor which I am not afraid to rest on the Verdict of those who have been known me—
They will judge of me by my whole Life, & not by a single false Step taken at the Commencement of it
To you I have said these Things, because I have known you from our early youth, & wish to stand approved by you—
Thomas Jefferson to William Fitzhugh, Jr. July 1, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders reassure friends who might have reason to doubt.
Fitzhugh (1741-1809) was a Virginia plantation owner, statesman, and life-long friend of Jefferson’s, who was responding to newspaper accounts alleging multiple accounts of his immoral behavior. Specifically, Jefferson addressed a charge regarding his improper conduct toward a neighbor’s wife in 1768 or ’69. He acknowledged the truth of that charge, then laid out his defense:
1. For 35 years, he had conducted his public and private life with a “Uniformity of Tenor.”
2. He did not fear the verdict of those who knew him well.
3. They would judge him by the whole of his life, not by a single youthful indiscretion.
4. You (Fitzhugh) are one of those who’ve known me since my youth, and I care what you think about me.

Another letter written the same day was the subject of a 2016 post. It dealt with this subject but in a more detailed manner. In essence, by admitting to the Walker indiscretion, Jefferson denied the allegations regarding Sally Hemings.

 “The city officials were captivated …
and would have posed questions for another hour if time had been available.”
Executive Director, Missouri Municipal League
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.
2 Comments Posted in Human nature, Morality, Sally Hemings, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Can you believe this man’s gall?!

the father [Robert Gamble] asked from me a letter of introduction to you. I was the more surprised at this, as his federalism had distinguished itself by personal hostility to me … yet having made the request, I felt myself bound in delicacy to give him a civil answer … of the young man I know nothing … he [the father] has two sisters married to two most estimable republicans, for whom I have great friendship … I will ask your notice of mr Gamble [the son] & even that you will let him know I had done so. the father even asked a letter of credit for his son: but this I declined. he the father has been twice bankrupt, tho’ is now deemed in good circumstances: but has never been deemed delicate in his pecuniary [financial] dealings.
Thomas Jefferson to John Armstrong, Jr., June 21, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes a leader just has to suck it up and be cordial to jerks.
The immediate previous post was Jefferson’s letter to Gamble, who had requested letters of introduction and a line of credit for his European-bound 23 year old son. Armstrong, serving as a U.S. diplomat in England, now received one of those introductions. He was also received very interesting background information!

The father who had requested the favors not only was Jefferson’s political opponent in Virginia but had shown “personal hostility” to him! Yet, Gamble had two sisters married to “estimable republicans” who were close friends of his. But for this, Jefferson might have ignored Gamble’s brazen request, but “delicacy” required of him “a civil answer.”

In light of the line of credit, which Jefferson denied, he pointed out that the father had been bankrupt twice. Like father, line son?

“I …[thought] having Mr. Jefferson as our conference keynote in Richmond
at The Hotel Jefferson would be ideal, and it was!”
EVP, Carolina-Virginias Telephone Membership Association
Mr. Jefferson has spoken in far less impressive places than the 5-Star Jefferson Hotel!
Invite him 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.
Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , |

I must think of myself as a robot. It helps, a little.

it is indeed far the most painful part of my duty, under which nothing could support me but the consideration that I am but a machine erected by the constitution for the performance of certain acts according to laws of action laid down for me, one of which is that I must anatomise the living man as the Surgeon does his dead subject, view him also as a machine & employ him for what he is fit for, unblinded by the mist of friendship.
Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, June 13, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders must learn how to do the unpleasant parts of their work.
The director of the U.S. Mint was retiring and naming his replacement fell by law to the President. He felt compelled by both British and American precedent to appoint the most renowned mathematician to the job. That would be Robert Patterson.

This is the second letter Jefferson wrote to old and trusted friends, both eminent scientists, who might have been equally qualified for the job, explaining why they were not chosen. Personnel decisions were painful for him, ones involving friends especially so. In such cases, he had to regard himself as nothing “but a machine,” doing the job required by the Constitution. He compared himself to an anatomy professor, dissecting the living man as the professor did the dead one, each making the best possible use of their subject. Friendship could not be a factor.

“… Also, should you wish to use us as a reference,
feel free to do so.”
President, Linn State Technical College
One President recommends another!
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.
1 Comment Posted in Human nature, Personal preferences, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Your clever device solves a BIG problem for me.

Having determined never while in office to accept presents beyond a book or things of mere trifling value, I am sometimes placed in an embarrassing dilemma by persons whom a rejection would offend. in these cases I resort to counter-presents. your Polygraph, from it’s rarity & utility offers a handsome instrument of retribution to certain characters.
Thomas Jefferson to Charles Willson Peale, June 9, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders look for innovative ways to avoid giving offense.
It was common for people to give the President gifts. Some were simply expressions of gratitude while others may have been from people seeking favor. Either way, Jefferson would not accept anything of value, often returning the gift with a ‘thank you but I cannot accept.’ He would not be beholden to any gift giver.

Sometimes, though, to return a gift would give offense to the giver. Jefferson, usually sensitive to others’ opinions, hated giving offense. He found the answer in Peale’s marvelous copy machine, the polygraph. Jefferson owned several of these and was so delighted with them, he would commission one to give as a gift to donors whose sensitivities he wished to safeguard.

” … what a pleasure to have you entertain our guests …
[with your] …
top-notch performance …”
CEO, President, RiverBarge Excursion Lines, New Orleans, LA
Mr. Jefferson will impress your audience!
Invite him 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.

 

Leave a comment Posted in Diplomacy, Human nature, Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

“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.
Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Newspapers, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

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?
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.
1 Comment Posted in Human nature, Louisiana, Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

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.
Want your attendees to remember their meeting?
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.
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
Do you want an exceptional speaker for your meeting?
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.
Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , , |

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!
Invite him 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.
Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Leadership, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |