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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

No quagmires for me! (Or: HR sucks. Part 2 of 4)

to the unsuccessful multitude, am I to go with every one into the reasons for not appointing him? besides that this correspondence would literally engross my whole time, into what controversies would it lead me? sensible of this dilemma, from the moment of coming into office, I laid it down as a rule to leave the applicants to collect their answer from the fact. to entitle myself to the benefit of the rule in any case it must be observed in every one: and I never have departed from it in a single case, not even for my bosom friends.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders learn what works and stick with it, regardless.
In the first post in this series, Jefferson explained he was under no obligation to let Smith know he had been passed over for a government appointment or to tell him the reasons why. Now he explained:
1. To do so for every unsuccessful applicant would take all of his time.
2. It would also open the door to even further “controversies,” debate, argument and conflict, all of which he disliked.

Aware of these pitfalls from the very beginning of his administration, it was his policy that the only notice given would be of the successful applicant. All the losers would get their answer, and their only answer, in the same way.

Since Jefferson benefited from this policy by avoiding # 1 and # 2 above, he was obligated to use it with everyone. He applied it in every case, even when a loser was a close friend.

” … your performance and address held them spellbound.”
Director of Operations, Indiana Telecommunications Association
Let Thomas Jefferson bind a spell on your audience.
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Consider yourself fully employed!

Have bin down to Richmond to se if I could ingage a job of work before I movd my tools, but have bin unsucsesful in the trip … I moast seriously regret being out of imployment, for it is my wish never to Spend time in indelence whilst am able to earn a shilling in an honest way.
James Oldham to Thomas Jefferson, October 7, 1804

[I] am sorry for your disappointment at Richmond … [will] the work [described herein] give you an opportunity of shewing there your stile of working, and give you time to get into imployment? … [I] shall consider your wages going on till you have a reasonable time to get into employ.
To James Oldham, October 11, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Appreciative leaders step up for former employees.
A recent post was a strong recommendation for Oldham, a skilled joiner (woodworker) at Monticello, to a friend of Jefferson’s in Richmond. Oldham did not find employment and wrote to his old boss of his dilemma.

Jefferson immediately stepped up on behalf of his former employee, sending a list of joinery projects. He suggested Oldham complete the work in Richmond and then transport the finished goods to Monticello. Doing so would allow Oldham to showcase the quality of his work to prospective employers.

Jefferson valued always being productive. Not only was he impressed by Oldham’s skill but by his desire, “never to spend time in indelence.”  Jefferson told Oldham he was still on the payroll and would remain there until he could find other work.

“Your presentation was an excellent blend of history, education and inspiration …”
Deputy Director, Washington Association of County Officials
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He is a very good man. Help him, please.

… James Oldham … is an able workman … skilled in the orders of architecture, honest, sober and industrious. he wishes to get into business on a larger scale than that of merely monthly wages and I have recommended Richmond … taking an interest in his success, and knowing that a first introduction is the most difficult step, I have taken the liberty of making his character known to you, and of asking your advice and influence on his behalf towards getting himself under way. …you may rely on his acquitting himself of his undertakings so as to do justice to your recommendation.
To John  Harvie, September 27, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Empowering leaders help their subordinates move out and up.
Oldham was a joiner, a workman skilled in fashioning every kind of high-quality finished woodwork. Jefferson had employed him for over three years at Monticello. Oldham wanted to better himself, and his patron suggested taking his skills to Richmond. He sent this letter of introduction to an old family friend there.

Jefferson listed Oldham’s qualities. He was:
– Skilled
– Hard working
– Honest
– Sober

Jefferson assured his friend that any work he helped the joiner find would bring credit back to Harvie for the recommendation.

“Your presentations hit the fine line between human interest and factual information.
You are able to present leading themes and messages
without overloading us with unnecessary data.”

Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association
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This is how you express a complaint to a friend.

The Champagne you were so kind as to send me the last year proved to be very good …and I should have troubled you this year … but that a very good batch was fortunately offered me here, on reasonable terms, which I thought it best to secure & avoid the delay & risks of importation. the risk of breakage alone is very great, as of the 400. bottles recieved through you, though well packed 153. had burst or forced out the cork & the wine lost.
To Fulwar Skipwith, July 11, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders surround a complaint with compliments.
Skipwith was an American diplomat in France. The previous year, he had secured for Jefferson a very good supply of champagne. The President would have ordered more, but he had the opportunity to buy good champagne in America and took it. He avoided both the delay and destruction of imports. Of 400 bottles in Skipwith’s shipment, 153 (38%) were lost, either through broken bottles or premature bottling, when excess fermentation popped the corks.

Jefferson loved his wine! He complimented Skipwith on the quality of the champagne and the care taken in packing it. Even so, much of it was wasted. Buying locally allowed Jefferson to enjoy all the wine he paid for, and perhaps, send a message …

“After seeing you perform several years ago,
 I did not expect that you could improve much on your character.
However, I have to say your program has gotten even better with age!
Missouri Department of Conservation
With 29 years of practice, Thomas Jefferson has gotten MUCH better with age!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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I do like wine, but I cannot help you.

I … confine my contributions of this kind to the state in which my property lies, & to the district in which the seat of government makes me a resident. within this district, where every thing is to be done, the calls are quite sufficient to absorb every thing which it’s inhabitants can spare. for these considerations I withold with regret the act you desired, and I trust you will think the ground sufficient.
To J. P. G. Muhlenberg, February 24, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The practical leader cannot support everyone’s worthy cause.
Muhlenberg, president of a Pennsylvania wine production company, solicited a subscription (contribution) from one of the nation’s premier wine fanciers. Jefferson declined.

Jefferson received many such solicitations when he became President. He lent his support broadly and soon discovered he did not have the personal funds to continue. Of necessity, he limited his contributions to causes where he owned property and to those in the nation’s capital. He regretted not being able to help a favored cause and hoped Muhlenberg would understand.

“This letter is to recommend a both talented and fascinating performer –
Patrick Lee.”
Missouri Department of Conservation
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Thomas Jefferson had a copy machine?

I communicate to Congress, for their information, a report of the Surveyor of the public buildings at Washington, stating what has been done under the act of the last session concerning the city of Washington, on the Capitol and other public buildings and the highway between them.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of US, February 22, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders embrace new technology.
The content this letter, reproduced in its entirety, has no particular significance. How it was written does. The notes accompanying this letter in the Founders Archives relate this was Jefferson’s “first recorded use of the polygraph machine.”

The polygraph was a copy machine. A wooden frame suspended two ink pens over two sheets of paper. The pens were held together by a series of wooden arms and hinges. When the writer wrote with one pen on one sheet, the other pen followed along, making an identical copy on the other sheet. Some polygraphs had three ink pens, some four. Jefferson found those difficult to keep in adjustment and used one with just two.

Jefferson, always intrigued with machines and inventions, loved the new device! He referred to it as “the finest invention of the present age.” Since he kept copies of all his correspondence, some 20,000 letters over a lifetime, the polygraph represented a major advance over the letter press. This letter was written on a borrowed polygraph. It would be 1806 before he owned one of his own.

“You were great to work with. I recommend you highly …”
VP-Operations, Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives
Does someone “great to work with” sound great to you?
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What do we do in the worst-case-scenario?

other Questions to be considered, in the event of a British cruiser falling in with the vessel in which mr Harvie will be.
1. shall he throw the papers overboard on his vessel being brought to? or trust to an examination in hopes of liberation.
2. if detained, shall he deliver the stock to liberate his vessel? shall he accompany the stock to England? or abandon it & carry to Paris the information of what has happened?
To Albert Gallatin, January 24, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders plan for unpleasant possibilities.
Lewis Harvie, the President’s private secretary (who succeeded Meriwether Lewis), was to carry $11.25 million in stock to France for the purchase of Louisiana. How to get him safely there was a serious consideration when British ships were harassing, boarding and sometimes capturing foreign vessels or their passengers.
Jefferson directed Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin to inquire about all passages available on American ships leaving Baltimore or New York for Europe. He was to look for routes that went south of England to the Continent, rather than ones going through the English Channel, were British ships abounded. Harvie would arrive in the American port anonymously and on short notice, book his passage and leave.
If all that failed, and Harvie’s ship was stopped by the British, the President proposed five questions to be answered before that worst-case-scenario unfolded.

“Your presence …
helped make the inauguration evening ceremonies
even more special.”
President, Board of Directors, Cole County Historical Society
Let Mr. Jefferson enhance the special character of your meeting.
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No thanks, but thanks.

The information first recieved as to the bed of Sulphur at Genesee was certainly such as to interest the government and make it our duty to enquire into it. this has been done. the result is that there is at the spring not more than a ton of sulphur formed … we do not think it an object for the government to intermeddle with: at the same time we give you just credit for the readiness you have shewn to accomodate the public with the purchase, had it been expedient for them to buy.
To Mountjoy Bayly, January 5, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Careful leaders must discern the motives of seemingly helpful people.
Bayly was a Revolutionary War veteran from Maryland and a not-too-successful businessman and Federalist politician. In his first letter to the President, he offered to sell land containing a sulfur spring. Sulfur was a component in gunpowder, and a ready supply was necessary for the nation’s defense. Claiming the British were about to buy that land, he bought it instead, ostensibly to secure it for the United States.

In a second letter, Bayly attempted to clarify some controversy about the quantity and quality of the sulfur at the spring. Then, in a self-pitying way, he claimed selling this land was essential for the provision of his “large, young, helpless, and friendless family.”

Jefferson’s courteous reply explained that an investigation indicated only a small supply of sulfur, not a large one that would have been of great interest to the nation. As such, it did not merit the government’s involvement. Nonetheless, Jefferson thanked a political opponent for his offer of help.

Left unsaid by the President was that the nation was not in the business of rescuing people from their own poor choices.

“A friend of mine heard Patrick Lee speak to the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors
and was captivated by his presentation. She recommended him to me.
The decision to bring Patrick Lee was a wise one.”
Chairman and CEO, Schoor DePalma, Manalapan, NJ
Mr. Jefferson will captivate your audience!
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Liars gotta lie. Ignore them. I do.

the uniform tenor of a man’s life furnishes better evidence of what he has said or done on any particular occasion than the word of an enemy … [who] prefers the use of falsehoods which suit him to truths which do not … to divide those by lying tales whom truths cannot divide, is the hackneyed policy of the gossips of every society. our business is to march straight forward,1 to the object which has occupied us for eight & twenty years, without, either, turning to the right or left.
To George Clinton, December 31, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Confident leaders give no thought to lies spread about others (or themselves).
New York Governor Clinton wrote to the President, disavowing printed allegations that he enclosed, which questioned his loyalty to the administration. Jefferson told him to ignore it. He considered “the uniform tenor of a man’s life” as the proper measurement of that man, not conduct alleged in a specific instance. Gossips always used lies in trying to divide those united in the truth.

The business of his administration was to pursue a straight course, upholding the republican (small r) principles established in 1776, and not be distracted those who had other agendas.

Jefferson replaced Vice-President Aaron Burr with Governor Clinton in 1804.

“… thanks for your excellent program …
I have received nothing but compliments … “
Past President, Cole County Historical Society
Compliments are a natural consequence following Mr. Jefferson’s presentations.
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Is he sober, careful, honest, diligent, nearby & republican?

Candidates for the office of Keeper of the Light house at Smith’s point

William Mountague. owns the land adjacent, an Antirepublican therefore inadmissible.
Lancelot L. Edwards. lives near Smith’s Point … is he republican? is he sober? and careful & stationary at his residence?
Thomas Robinson. lives near the place … an old sea-captain … same questions as respecting Edwards
Joseph Jones Monroe … he was known to me about half a dozen years ago. he is republican. I did not think him then a careful man, & the nature of his business (a lawyer) made him not stationary.
Wm. Nelms. lives ¾ of a mile off … republican, honest and diligent. is he also sober?
To Albert Gallatin, December 29, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders frame the issue then delegate the decision.
The Smith’s Point lighthouse, built in 1802 in the Virginia waters of the Chesapeake Bay, needed a keeper. The President sent five names to his Treasury Secretary and the questions to be answered about each. Qualifications should be:
1. Did he live nearby and would he remain there?
2. Was he a political opponent or friend?
3. Was he honest, reliable, and diligent?
4. Was he sober?

As to being “republican,” Jefferson had these guidelines:
1. He would not appoint anyone who was an active political opponent, an “Antirepublican,” like Montague.
2. Since all appointments prior to 1801 had been Federalists, he looked for opportunities to appoint republicans, for both patronage and political balance.
3. For most appointments, political orientation was not a determing factor, so long as the candidate was not vocal in opposition to the republican cause.

The President’s preference was for Robinson. Jefferson referenced a “Dr. Jones” who knew all five. He asked Gallatin to confer with Jones and make a choice. Gallatin chose Nelms.

“We appreciate your sharing your expertise …
It has been a pleasure working with you.”
Director, The Leadership Academy,

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

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