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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

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
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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
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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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What to do with an excellent workman, now a drunk?

William Stewart, a smith who has lived with me at Monticello some years … is one of the first workmen in America, but within these 6. months has taken to drink … abandoned his family … he writes me word he will return, & desires me to send him 20. D. to bear his expences back … [this] would only enable him to continue his dissipations. I … [enclose] that sum to you … [as] charity for his family of asking the favor of you to encourage him to return to them, to pay his passage … & give him in money his reasonable expences on the road … if he has more it will only enable him to drink & stop by the way. when he arrives here I shall take other measures to forward him. he is become so unfit for any purposes of mine, that my only anxiety now is on account of his family …
To Jones & Howell, November 22, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Humane leaders demonstrate concern for employees’ families.
Stewart, a gifted craftsman in Jefferson’s long-term employ, began drinking, abandoned his family and vowed never to return. He had a change of heart and wrote his patron from Philadelphia, asking for $20 to get back to Monticello.

Cash-in-hand would only enable Stewart to drink. Instead, and only out of concern for Stewart’s family, he sent the amount requested to trusted businessmen in Philadelphia, asking them to encourage Stewart’s return. They were to purchase his passage home and give him only what he’d need for food and lodging on the three day journey, no “more than 2. or 3. dollars a day.”

Jefferson had no use for the Stewart upon his return but was greatly concerned for his family, “consisting of a very excellent wife & several children.”

“I do hope the opportunity presents itself to work with you again …”
Conference Coordinator, Iowa League of Cities
Thomas Jefferson makes a most favorable impression!
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A drunken cheater or a plodding illiterate?

… have nothing to do with Catlett. his character is in three words, a sharper [cheat], bankrupt & besotted. …  every person in that neighborhood would in confidence tell you the same. I think you had better put every thing respecting your land into the hands of Price. he is illiterate, & slow, but very steady, honest & punctual. he would be equal to the two objects of seeing that the tenants observed the rules of culture, & of remitting your rents to Richmond
To William Short, November 6, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Friends warn friends away from cheaters.
Short (1750-1849) was Jefferson’s protege, personal secretary in France and lifelong friend. He spent many years abroad in the diplomatic service. He owned land in Virginia, bought a decade earlier at Jefferson’s urging, and now sought his recommendation for a manager.

The President warned his friend about Catlett, a potential candidate, and said every neighbor would confirm his assessement. Far better to deal with Price, although slow and uneducated was honest and reliable. That man would do the two things any land-owner needed, enforce his rules and collect his rents.

I am still receiving many compliments
from your thoughtful and knowledgeable speech.”
Executive Director, Indiana Municipal Power Agency
Your audience will find much to remember in Mr. Jefferson’s remarks.
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How do you keep track of all that stuff?

… If Sir you can … lay your Hands on that Letter (I am told, you have for many years been in the practice of preserving all Letters written to you on the Subject of Politicks) …
From Benjamin Galloway to Thomas Jefferson, July 19, 1803

I shall be extremely obliged to you Sir; if you will cause to be inclosed to me at Annapolis by next Mail; an authenticated Copy of the Letter I requested a favour of you to supply me with, in my address to you dated July 19th last—
From Benjamin Gallaway to Thomas Jefferson, October 11, 1803

I recieved yesterday your favor [request] of the 11th. and immediately proceeded to search for the letter … as every letter I recieve is filed away alphabetically, the search is short & easily practicable. I then turned to my letter list, for I note in a particular list the name & date of letters as I recieve them daily … and find no letter from you within that period, & think therefore I may safely say I recieved none within that period … & am sorry I have nothing else to offer in compliance with your desire.
To Benjamin Galloway, October 14, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
If leaders don’t have it, they can’t give it.
Galloway was embroiled in a political dispute in Maryland. He questioned a bill to revise the state’s courts and in turn, his fellow republicans questioned his judgment and fitness for public duty. Galloway claimed to have written a letter to Jefferson in 1800 that would aid greatly in his defense. He wrote two impassioned requests to the President seeking a copy of that letter.

Jefferson had an effective way of cataloging his voluminous correspondence. Upon receipt, he filed letters alphabetically. He also kept a daily “letter list,” where he recorded the same information chronologically.

Jefferson found only one letter from Galloway, recorded in both places in 1797. There was no correspondence in 1800, and he was unable to help.

There’s an interesting tidbit in one of Galloway’s letters, the phrase “half seas over.” He used it to describe Maryland Attorney General Luther Martin, a sharp republican critic. It means intoxicated.

“I know there will be other opportunities for us
to utilize your excellent skills.”
Executive Director, The Missouri Bar
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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
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