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Category Archives: Military / Militia

This is what I think. Now, you make the decision.

… I submit all this to your discretion …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

… will you be so good as to consider this, and to do finally what you think best?
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders let trusted subordinates make the decisions.
These excerpts are Jefferson’s concluding thoughts to his War Secretary on two entirely unrelated matters. One dealt with a family’s petition for the early release of a soldier. The other pertained to opening negotiations with the Creek Indians for a road to New Orleans through their lands in Georgia and Alabama. In each case, the President expressed an opinion and the reasons for it. Then he left the decision in the hands of his lieutenant.

Jefferson feared most of all the consolidation of all powers into the hands of a very few in the federal government, far removed from the lives of those affected by their decisions. Thus, he was a devoted delegator of decision making. He had no qualms about making the call when he had to, but if a matter could be resolved by someone under his authority, he eagerly left the matter in their hands.

In his retirement, Jefferson wrote to Destutt de Tracy in 1811, “… I have never been so well pleased as when I could shift power from my own, on the shoulders of others …”

“I would like to express my thanks to you for your outstanding presentation …
Your opening keynote presentation … had the audience spellbound …”
Program Co-Chair, MO Organization for Clinical Laboratory Science, St. Louis Chapter
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your conference.
Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Leadership styles, Military / Militia Tagged , , , , , , , |

Can we make a bad situation just a bit better?

the family is represented as being in a very unhappy state, the parents old & anxious once more to see their son … they pray [he] may be discharged & restored to them . every thing connected with a regular soldiery is so unpopular with citizens at large, that every occasion should be taken of softening it’s roughnesses towards them. in time of peace … I think it would have a good effect to indulge citizens of respectability in cases like the present …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders consider bending the rules occasionally.
A family member petitioned the President for an early release of a soldier who had already served eight years. In 1795, while intoxicated, that young man was induced to enlist by a zealous recruiter. When his five year term was completed, the desperate soldier lacked funds to travel 1,200 miles home and re-enlisted. The soldier’s parents were heartbroken to learn of this news and asked another son to write the President on their behalf. That son begged mercy for his aged parents and release for his brother.

The President referred the matter to Dearborn, his Secretary of War, relaying the facts given him by the petitioning brother. Jefferson acknowledged that public opinion was not on their side regarding the “roughnesses” of military life. This soldier had served one five year term and was more than half through a second five years. The nation was at peace. Could they grant an indulgence to this family, not only for their sake but for public opinion, as well?

The petitioner wrote that another brother had died in March 1803. A footnote to the petitioner’s letter recorded the petitioner himself died a month after writing to the President, at the age of 20. I find no record of how Dearborn acted in this manner, but I suspect he granted the release.

“The feedback from our conferees was overwhelmingly favorable
and … [a] testimony to the presentation and your considerable skills.”
Executive Director, Missouri Safety Council
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your audience.
Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Family matters, Military / Militia Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Death. Diversion. Duty.

I have heard of your misfortune and lament it, but will say nothing, ha[ving] learnt from experience that time, silence, & occupation are the only medicines… I should have regretted the necessity of writing to you on a subject of business, did I not believe it useful to withdraw the mind from what it is too apt to brood over, to other objects.
You know the importance of our being enabled to announce in the message that the interest of the Louisiana purchase (800,000. D) can be paid without a new tax … to be quite secure. the [budget] estimate recieved from your office, which I inclose you, amounts probably to 770, or 780. & were it possible to reduce it to 600. it would place us at ease.
To Robert Smith, October 10, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders know life goes on even when it does not.
In a recent post, the President encouraged Secretary of the Navy Smith’s attendance at an important Cabinet meeting about the purchase of Louisiana and its funding, but acknowledged the illness in Smith’s family demanded his attention. Shortly after that request, Smith’s youngest daughter died.

Jefferson had experienced the death of four of his six children. (A fifth would die six months hence.) He knew from experience there was nothing he could say to his friend that would help. He would have preferred not to write at all, except that there was important business at hand, and he knew a diversion from tragedy was sometimes helpful.

The United States had only half of the $800,000 interest payment required by the new debt for the purchase of Louisiana. Asking Congress for a new tax would probably scuttle the sale. Thus, the President asked each of his department secretaries to tighten their belts to free up the needed cash. Other secretaries had done so. Jefferson asked Smith to cut $180,000 from his budget.

Not only did the President eventually get the funds he needed, he gave his friend a difficult task to distract his mind.

“…our Education Department received glowing reports for every attendee ..
Our members were thrilled.”
Executive Director, Florida Surveying and Mapping
Mr. Jefferson will impress your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Debt, Family matters, Military / Militia Tagged , , , , , , , |

If I do it for one, must I do it for all?

No one would more willingly than myself pay the just tribute due to the services of Capt Barry, by writing a letter of condolance to his widow as you suggest. but when one undertakes to administer justice it must be with an even hand, & by rule, what is done for one, must be done for every one in equal degree. to what a train of attentions would this draw a President? how difficult would it be to draw the line between that degree of merit entitled to such a testimonial of it, & that not so entitled? … however well affected to the merit of Commodore Barry, I think it prudent not to engage myself in a practice which may become embarrassing.
To Benjamin Rush, October 4, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some expressions of compassion have unintended consequences.
The President’s old friend Rush had asked him to write a “letter of condolance” to the widow of a Philadelphia Navy officer. If Jefferson expressed his sympathies in this case, he would feel obligated to do it in all cases. The varying merits of the deceased and the potential for giving offense made this a minefield for the President.

In the excised portion of this letter, Jefferson explained that when Benjamin Franklin died, the King of France and the U.S. House of Representatives went into official mourning. The U.S. Senate did not. President Washington rejected the recommendation of his Secretary of State (Thomas Jefferson) that the Executive Branch “should wear mourning.” Washington’s position was if he started that policy for Franklin, he didn’t know where he would draw the line for ones less deserving. Best not to start down that slippery slope.

President Jefferson took a page from his wise predecessor’s playbook and followed the same hands-off policy.

“Thank you for playing a key role in making
our 118th Annual Conference such a great success.”
Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Mr. Jefferson will play a key role in the success of your conference, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Grief & loss, Military / Militia, Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , |

There is another way to go about this.

I have recieved your petition praying for the discharge of your son Jehiel Goff from military service on the ground of his being under age … the discharge in such a case does not rest on the will of the military alone, but that on your application to a judge of the US. he will issue a Habeas Corpus & the fact of infancy will be enquired into under the civil authority, & the discharge be ordered by the same. as this process may be troublesome to you, you need not resort to it, unless in the enquiry ordered by the military officer, he should decide the fact contrary to what you deem proveable; in which case the Habeas Corpus will furnish you relief.
To Aaron Goff, August 13, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Again, thoughtful leaders provide options.
Jefferson forwarded Goff’s petition for his son’s discharge from the army to the Secretary of War, who had the authority to act on it. But there was another authority, a non-military one, Goff should know about.

A civil judge could command the boy’s presence in court (habeas corpus) and order his release if the facts warranted it. It wasn’t a simple process, but it was an option. Goff might prefer to let the military investigation proceed and revert to civil procedure only of the army refused to discharge his son.

For a different take on the same issue, see this 12-17-17 post, “Get your hands off him.”

“Your presentation, particularly your response to questions,
was most impressive.”
Program Chair, American College of Real Estate Lawyers
Mr. Jefferson trusts that your audience, too, will be most impressed!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Judiciary, Military / Militia Tagged , , , , , , , , |

One dad to another, I will give your son a chance.

the warrant to your son as midshipman had been suspended for enquiry on a suggestion of too great a propensity in him to drink … it is sufficient that you are apprised of it … his warrant was therefore signed two days ago … such a doubt having been once excited, more circumspection & regularity will on that account be necessary from him, than from others; and that, were it to be strengthened, he would find himself in a cul de sac, without explanation. my friendly respect for you calls for this candor, because no circumstance of connection could permit an inattention to public duty in matters of appointment; & because also, being put on his guard, he will feel a stronger inclination to dissipate all doubt by a regularity of deportment.
To Thomas Cooper, April 9, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Conscientious leaders put responsibility ahead of friendship.
The England-born Cooper (1759-1839) emigrated to Pennsylvania, established himself as a chemist, one of the foremost scientists in America, and friend and confident of Thomas Jefferson. Cooper’s son’s appointment to midshipman, the lowest ranking office in the navy, had been held up on suspicions the young man drank too much. Cooper, Sr. wrote to Jefferson and vouched for his son.

The President’s “friendly respect” for Cooper required such straightforwardness:
1. Cooper, Sr. needed to know the concerns about his son.
2. Upon his father’s assurance, the warrant would be issued.
3. His son would be watched more closely than others because of his past.
4. A navy career would be a dead-end (cul de sac) if he abused alcohol.
5. Even the closest friendship was not sufficient for him to appoint an unqualified officer.
6. Once warned, the young man would “feel a stronger inclination” to remove any doubt about his behavior.

Cooper, Sr.’s faith in his son was unwarranted. Cooper, Jr. was dismissed from the navy 15 months later over issues of sobriety.

“One of the audience members even went so far as to take on the persona of Aaron Burr
and confronted President Jefferson who, although not expecting such an event,
responded with sharp wit and ready facts.”
Executive Director, Kentucky Bar Association
Mr. Jefferson stands ready to field any question from your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Military / Militia, Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , , |

A strong militia is our first and best defense!

… I take the liberty of urging on you the importance and indispensible necessity of vigorous exertions … [to] render the militia a sure and permanent bulwark of national defence.

None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. to keep ours armed and disciplined, is therefore at all times important. but especially so at a moment when rights the most essential to our welfare have been violated …

… that I may have a full and correct view of the resources of our country in all it’s different parts, … [furnish me with a report of the] militia, & of the arms & accoutrements of your state, and of the several counties, or other geographical divisions of it.
Circular to the Governors of the States, February 25, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
A ready defense of the nation is a leader’s first responsibility.
The U.S. had no standing army, and the President didn’t want one, for two reasons. First was the cost to maintain it. Second, an army, created to fight, would want to fight and might cause provocations for that reason alone. Far better was a well-armed and trained militia, private citizens ready to provide a first line of defense. If the militia proved inadequate, their existence would provide time to raise a standing army.

Militias were the responsibility of the states. Jefferson wrote to the Governors, reinforcing their role in providing for a militia that was “armed and disciplined.” He asked each Governor to report to him on the men and arms available from each state, county and territory.

The particular violation referenced by Jefferson was at New Orleans, where a Spanish agent had suspended America’s treaty-guaranteed right of free shipping through that essential river port.

“Without question, you enjoy an actor’s sense of timing and theater
that makes a lasting impression.
You demonstrated a steady and clear delivery without relying on histrionics.”

Executive Director, Western Coal Transportation Association
No exaggeration from Mr. Jefferson! Only a “steady and clear delivery.”
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Government's proper role, Military / Militia Tagged , , , , , , , |

Get your hands off him!

Immediately on the reciept of your letter of Sep. 16. stating the enlistment of Jeremiah Battels, an infant, against the will of his father, directions were sent to the proper officer to enquire into the fact and, if true, to discharge him [failing that] … by applying to a judge for a Habeas corpus, the young man will be brought before the judge … and, if satisfactory, the judge will discharge him … this method of discharge, where it can be conveniently resorted to, is preferable to the other, because it is useful to exhibit examples of the military will controuled & circumscribed by the civil authority.
To Anthony Haswell, October 13, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders strengthen civil authority over the military.
Haswell entreated the President, on behalf of an elderly neighbor, whose underage son (not an infant but 18), was conscripted into the militia against his father’s will. Jefferson took immediate action to initiate an investigation by the military. If unsuccessful in securing the boy’s release, they should apply to the judge for habeas corpus, an order to bring the boy out of custody and before the judge for an inquiry. .

That could be a better approach, Jefferson stated. Not only could it secure the boy’s release, it would strengthen the principle of the civilian court controlling and limiting the power of the military.

“Mr. Lee is very easy to work with
and his professionalism and understanding of clients was extremely appreciated.”
Executive Director, Missouri Concrete Association
Mr. Jefferson is easy to work with, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Judiciary, Military / Militia Tagged , , , , , , |

This is better, smarter and cheaper!

… forts and shipyards are mere contrivances to sink the first expences, and entail everlasting expence afterwards. with a dry dock here in which our ships, kept dry & under cover, will be as sound at the beginning of a 2d. war as they were at the end of a 1st …
To Nathaniel Macon, July 17, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Self-governing leaders must limit government’s reach.
Jefferson opposed a standing army and a seaborne navy in peacetime for two reasons. First, having them would lead to using them, putting America unnecessarily into conflict with other nations. Second would be the cost to the public treasury of maintaining those military services year round.

Much of this letter dealt with a pet project of his, dry docks for maintaining ships. Leaving the nation’s small navy in the water year round brought the continual expense of maintaining their wooden hulls against the ravages of salt water and sea creatures. Far better would be to lift them out of the water using high tide on the Potomac River, a lock, and the water flow from the Tyber River. They could be put under roof and maintained for practically no cost. They could remain there, in perfect condition, until needed for the next war.

Congress never approved the President’s plan to dry dock the navy.

“My members raved about this presentation
for the remainder of the conference.”
Executive Director, Missouri Society of Professional Surveyors
Mr. Jefferson will impress your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Military / Militia Tagged , , , , , , |

It is not personal. It is business. It is life.

I have duly recieved your favor of the 7th. and have taken care that it shall be communicated to the Secretary at war, within whose province it is to consider of the best means of promoting the public interest within his department, and of the agents whom it is best to employ … the duty is a very painful one, which devolves on the Executive [President], of naming those on whom the reductions are to fall which have been prescribed by the law. we trust to the liberality of those on whom the lot falls, to consider the agency of the Executive as a general not personal thing, and that they will meet it, as they would any other of the numerous casualties to which we are exposed in our passage through life.
To Frances Mentges, July 15, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Tough minded leaders accept the good and bad effects of their decisions.
Mentges, now unemployed, had been a U.S. military agent and buyer, distinguishing himself by his diligence and economy. In two pleading letters, he asked the President’s help in recovering $1,700 in unpaid commissions. He also begged for a government job, or he would have to sell his land to support himself, an asset he needed for old age.

With regard to unpaid commissions, Jefferson delegated the decision to the proper subordinate, his Secretary of War. Employment prospects were slim, as the President was reducing the size of the military. Down-sizing was a painful duty for him, because he knew what job losses meant to those affected.

He trusted in the “liberality” of those affected by loss of employment, that they would see it as necessary but not personal. He asked Mentges to treat the setback as he would any other, just one of the “numerous casualties” that come with life.

“On behalf of the WMTA, I would like to say how much we enjoyed
your leadership addresses as Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Boone.”
Past President, Washington Municipal Treasurer’s Association
Thomas Jefferson (& Daniel Boone) want to share their leadership with your audience!
Invite them to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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