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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Do you want change back from your $90?

I recieved … [your letter that] you had … 90.D. [$90] recieved for me as rent for the salt-petre cave at the Natural bridge, and asking it as a donation for the female academy of that neighborhood. I have ever believed that the duty of contribution to charitable institutions would produce the greatest sum of good by every one’s devoting what they can spare to the institutions of their neighborhood, or in the vicinity of their property; because under the eye of their patrons they would be more faithfully conducted than at a distance from them … the applications to me from every part of the union being more than any income but that of the union, could supply. on this principle I am persuaded you will think twenty five Dollars a donation fully proportioned to my property in that quarter, giving this sum therefore to the institution there, I will thank you to remit the balance …
To William Carothers, September 7, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Charitable leaders give to charities wisely.
Caruthers, Jefferson’s agent in a western Virginia county where he owned property, held $90 rent owed to him. Caruthers asked if Jefferson would like to donate it to support a local school for girls. Jefferson’s reply:
1. Everyone had a duty to support charitable institutions to produce the greatest good for all.
2. Donations were best made to charities where donors lived or owned property, so they could carefully monitor its use.
3. He received more requests for donations than he could ever honor.
4. He would donate $25 to the school and wanted the remaining $65 sent to him.

He might have used his reasoning in #2 to decline any donation, because he lived 100 miles away, beyond any possible oversight. Yet he did own real estate in the vicinity, though he visited it rarely. He thought it more important to give than decline.

“The decision to bring Patrick Lee was a wise one.
His presentation was both credible and enlightening.”
CEO, Schoor DePalma Engineers and Consultants, Manalapan, NJ
Both credible and enlightening!
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Thanks for the geese. Have some cigars.

Having recieved a box of fine Havanna segars & knowing your fondness for them, I cannot make any use of them so gratifying to myself as by sending them to you. having occasion to send a cart to Washington, it will go by Fauqr C.H. [Fauquier Court House] to deposit this charge with you. it will return by Dumfries for a pair of Wild geese promised me there, as I have had the misfortune to lose the goose of the pair you were so kind as to give me. ever affectionately yours
To Doct. James W. Wallace, August 24, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders remember kindnesses shown them by others.
While Jefferson raised tobacco, the only cash crop available besides wheat, there is no record he used it other than on rare ceremonial visits from Indian chiefs. So, what to do with a box of “fine Havanna segars” that must have been a gift to him?

In other correspondence the same day, he said “Davy,” a servant (slave) would leave the next day with a horse and cart to retrieve a “big-tailed ram” promised him to replace two that died. The route would take him near Wallace’s home. Remembering his friend’s fondness for cigars, he would have Davy leave them at a convenient place for Wallace to retrieve. He was returning the kindness Wallace had shown earlier in giving him a pair of geese.

The female of Wallace’s pair died. Davy would return by another route to pick up a replacement pair offered to the former President.

“…your presentation brought to life not only the spirit of Thomas Jefferson
but also the sense of commitment to discovery and exploration …”
Executive Director, Association of Partners for Public Lands
Would spirit, commitment, discovery and exploration appeal to your audience?
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We gotta help this kid!

The bearer hereof, mr Smith, is the son of Gen. Smith of Baltimore … who wishes to qualify himself to be useful to his country hereafter, will visit Paris, and will wish to derive from the visit, all the useful information he can acquire … my own desire to aid the laudable views of our young men … & knowing your particular sense of the importance of a right direction in youth … I take the liberty of presenting him to you … he will prove himself not unworthy of your attentions.
To Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, July 29, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise old leaders continue to mentor potential young ones.
Du Pont (1739-1817) was a French intellectual who became Jefferson’s friend during his diplomatic service in Paris. Du Pont emigrated to America in 1800 to escape the guillotine.

Both men recognized the importance of educating gifted young men whose place in life positioned them for “the care of the liberties & interests of their country.” The son of Jefferson’s old friend, Gen. Smith, was such a prodigy, and Jefferson wrote a reference letter, asking Du Pont to introduce him as widely as possible.

The editor’s footnotes to this letter, found in the link above, translate two Latin sentences Jefferson used to conclude this letter: “You and your family and your possessions are all the objects of my closest care, and shall be while I live. Good-bye” and “take care that you fare well, and love me as you are loved”. I’ve edited thousands of Jefferson’s letters in the five years of this blog. I don’t recall ever seeing so personal a benediction.

One of Du Pont’s sons, trained as a chemist, founded a gunpowder manufacturing company in Delaware in 1802. We know the resulting multinational conglomerate today as DuPont.

“The President was outstanding!”
Executive Director, Missouri Society of Professional Engineers
Mr. Jefferson will be outstanding for your audience!
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CHILL! Your reputation precedes you.

Happily withdrawn from the knolege of all the slanders which beset men in public life, I am totally uninformed of the tale respecting yourself alluded to in your letter, & equally unable to conjecture the author of it … I presume it impossible that in a state where you are known by character to every individual, their representatives can be led away by tales of slander, a weapon so worn as to be incapable of wounding the worthy. that the views of the person [Cong. John Randolph of VA] who procured the appointment of a committee of investigation were merely malignant, I never doubted, but his passions are too well known to injure any one.
To Samuel Smith, Maryland, July 26, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Public leaders have to expect slander.
Smith (1752-1839) was a successful businessman, Jefferson supporter and Maryland politician for many years. He had written to Jefferson about a proposed Congressional investigation into alleged improprieties regarding his private funds and public responsibilities. Smith knew but declined to identify to Jefferson the source of the accusations, the former President’s trusted Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin.

Interesting observations from Jefferson:
1. All public leaders should expect slanders, spoken untruths intended to defame.
2. He was happily ignorant of the case and would not speculate about the source of accusations.
3. Smith’s well-known reputation was all the defense he needed.
4. Without mentioning John Randolph by name, he alluded to Randolph’s attack-dog personality and his general lack of credibility.

The investigation was derailed when Smith’s brother Robert, Jefferson’s Secretary of Navy, brought forth facts which established Samuel’s innocence.

“Your topic selection and program were extraordinary.
Your responses to our questions were insightful”
American College of Real Estate Lawyers
Mr. Jefferson will be extraordinary for your members.
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This is a team to DIE for!

… I rejoice in the prospect of a pacification with England. in what degree it is owing to the past or present administration [my Presidency or Madison’s] is not worth a thought. whatever claims the former might have, mr Madison had the principal agency, and the latter acts are entirely his. I always considered it as among the happiest circumstances of my administration that the harmony & cordiality which subsisted among all it’s members amalgamated us into one mind. we had never a question who had a right to the merit or demerit of any particular measure; for in truth all measures of importance were the measures of all…
To John Minor, July 10 , 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
A really good leader builds a team of “harmony and cordiality.”
Minor, like many others, had congratulated Jefferson on his Presidency. He thanked Minor, but included his Secretary of State and now President, James Madison, as equally deserving of praise. He went on to praise all of his cabinet members, and the unity that pervaded all their deliberations.

If something went well, they all enjoyed the results. If poorly, they all accepted responsibility. Their work was never “mine” or “yours” but always “ours.”

“Thank you for helping to make our Annual Meeting a complete success.”
North Carolina Agribusiness Council
Mr. Jefferson will contribute to the success of your meeting!
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Let us meet ONLY when we can come to a conclusion!

I recieved yesterday from the Master Commissioner Ladd a notification in the suit of Gilliam v. Fleming to attend at his office on the 1st of Aug. … our meeting whenever it takes place should be rendered effectual & final, by the attendance of all material persons …. I have therefore proposed to mr Ladd to change the day to one in the healthy season, say in October after the frosts will have set in …
To Skelton Jones, June 25, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Practical leaders avoid ineffectual meetings.
The lawsuit referenced arose from the 1770 death of Bathurst Skelton, the first husband of Jefferson’s wife, Martha. The issues were complicated and irrelevant here. What was relevant was that the matter had been contested for nearly 35 years, and Jefferson wanted it settled before his heirs, who knew nothing of the details, could be dragged into the prolonged fight.

The proposed date for the hearing was August 1 in the tidewater region of Virginia, a time of the year prone to outbreaks of the deadly yellow fever. Anyone who could fled inland for August and September to avoid the scourge. That meant some of the parties to the case would not attend.

He was eager to settle the case but had no interest in attending a meeting where a final result could not be reached. He proposed a later day, “say in October after the frosts will have set in.” At that time, everyone would be available and the issues could be finally resolved.

(The spread of yellow fever by virus-carrying mosquitoes would not be discovered until after Jefferson’s lifetime. They did know the disease was worst in late summer in swampy areas affected by changing tides. Fall frosts killed the mosquitoes and the scourge would end for another year.)

“I personally want to thank you.
It is a delight to have speakers like you who make me look good.”
Meetings Administrator, Iowa State Association of Counties
Mr. Jefferson will make you look good to your members!
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What does a local library mean for US? Part 4 of 4

… having had more favorable opportunities than fall to every man’s lot of becoming acquainted with the best books on such subjects as might be selected, I do not know that I can be otherwise useful to your society than by offering them any information respecting these which they might wish. my services in this way are freely at their command …
To John Wyche, May 19, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders are helpful but not too helpful.
This was Jefferson’s closing in his response to news of a proposed county library in south Virginia. He had stated the importance of an educated citizenry, the value of a lending library toward that end, and the types of books that library should contain. Now, he limited his invovlement in their effort.

He did not endorse that particular library. He did not contribute to the capital campaign to establish it. Yet, acknowledging his good fortune when it came to books (his personal library contained over 6,000), he offered to advise them on what books they should acquire. He did not offer that counsel unsolicited; they would have to ask again.

“On behalf of the attendees … in Philadelphia …
I want to express our gratitude for an incredible opening session.”
Executive Vice President, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
Mr. Jefferson will contribute greatly to the success of your meeting.
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A job very well done deserves high praise, even belatedly!

… I must supply now in writing, what I then could not express, the sense of my attachment to you & satisfaction with your services. they were faithful, & skilful, and your whole conduct so marked with good humour, industry, sobriety & economy as never to have given me one moment’s dissatisfaction: and indeed were I to be again in a situation to need services of the same kind, yours would be more acceptable to me than those of any person living. I have thought it my duty thus to declare what is just & true respecting you …
To Etienne Lemaire, March 16, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders value gifted employees and tell them so.
Lemaire was the manager of the President’s House during Jefferson’s administrations, overseeing the staff and meal preparations. Earlier in this letter, Jefferson apologized for saying only “Adieu” when he left Washington City. He explained that he was overcome at the prospect of returning to his family at Monticello and once again having a life of his own that “goodbye” was all he could manage for those who had served him so well.

Jefferson now corrected that oversight with flowing praise for Lemaire’s skilled and faithful service. He cited the specifics of Lemaire’s character and should the need arise, would hire him again above all others.

He closed with a request to know Lemaire’s new address that he might write him and invited his butler’s correspondence, as well.

“The Missouri Bar will undoubtedly invite Mr. Lee to future functions,
and we recommend him highly.”
Director of Law-Related Education, The Missouri Bar
If Mr. Jefferson can please lawyers, he can certainly please your members!
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The principle must rule. I cannot help you.

The friendship which has long subsisted between the President of the United States [James Madison] and myself gave me reason to expect, on my retirement from office, that I might often receive applications to interpose with him on behalf of persons desiring appointments … It therefore became necessary for me to lay down as a law for my future conduct never to interpose in any case, either with him or the Heads of Departments (from whom it must go to him) in any application whatever for office. To this rule I must scrupulously adhere …
Circular to Office Seekers, March 9, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retired leaders should respect old friends and not impose unnecessarily.
The ex-President prepared this form letter declining to help those who might seek his influence in finding a job with the new administration. President Madison was his friend of more than 30 years, and he would not impose on him in that way.

Jefferson went on to explain in the remainder of the letter that his inaction was due only to this principle and not to any lack of interest in the applicant’s cause. He further stressed that he wanted to be “useful to my friends” in any other proper way.

“…our sincere appreciation for your magnificent portrayal of Thomas Jefferson
to our worldwide guests during the Caterpillar ThinkBIG Global Conference.”
President, Linn State Technical College
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Why I keep my sources confidential

Th: Jefferson presents his respects … & regrets that it is not consistent with the rule he lays down for his own conduct to communicate to them the papers asked for in their note of the 27th. applications to him for office, & information given him as to the character of applicants, he considers as confidential, to be used only for his own government … he suffers these papers to go to no office, but keeps them with the most private of his own in order that those who will assist him with information may be assured they do it with safety …
To Joseph Stanton, March 1, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders apply the rules evenly and without exception.
Stanton, along with Benjamin Howland, asked the President for any information he had gathered on them in regard to their application for employment. Jefferson said no, citing his across-the-board policy. He regarded such information as confidential and kept it under his personal control. Only those with a need-to-know would ever see it.
Jefferson offered to oblige in other matters if it could be done “with propriety,” but he would not break this rule, which he applied in all cases. He closed by assuring Stanton and Howland of his respect.

“We could not have asked for a better keynote presenter
to set the tone for our conference theme, ‘Prepared to Lead.'”
Executive Director, Nevada Association of Counties
Mr. Jefferson will firmly establish your theme with your audience.
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