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Category Archives: Miscellaneous

I make a lot of money, but …

… as the salary annexed to my office looks large in every man’s eye, it draws the attention of the needy in every part of the Union and increases the demands of aid, far beyond the proportion of means it furnishes to satisfy them. I am obliged therefore to proceed by rule, & not to give to one the share of another.
To Isaac Briggs, May 20, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders always have people asking them for favors.
Jefferson’s friend, Isaac Briggs (1763-1825), was an engineer, surveyor and inventor of considerable renown. This short letter covered a half dozen subjects, including the many requests he received for money. Those requests were prompted by the size of the President’s salary.

That salary was $25,000 per year. It was established for President Washington and continued unchanged through the first 18 executives, ending with Ulysses S. Grant. It was a sizeable sum, and it attracted the attention of many who sought the President’s support for their particular cause. In Jefferson’s time, at least, that salary had to cover all the costs of staffing and running the President’s House, later called the White House. Those expenses, increased by Jefferson’s sometimes lavish personal tastes, made his actual compensation far less.

The requests for help were numerous and beyond any ability to satisfy. Jefferson’s rule was that he supported a few personal causes only and would not deprive them to help the masses.

“…what a pleasure it was to have you entertain our guests [on the Mississippi]
The top notch performance you gave was evident …”
CEO, President, Riverbarge Excursion Lines
Mr. Jefferson doesn’t just inspire & teach. He entertains, too!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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You cannot come in until he is gone.

I have delayed writing to you, because my great regard for Capt Lewis made me unwilling to shew a haste to fill his place before he was gone, & to counteract also a malignant & unfounded report that I was parting with him from dissatisfaction, a thing impossible either from his conduct or my dispositions towards him. I shall probably recieve a letter from him on his arrival at Philadelphia, informing me when he expects to be back here, and will have the pleasure of communicating to you the earliest conjecture I can form myself for your government. it cannot now be many days.
To Lewis Harvie, April 22, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Loyal leaders treat trusted subordinates with respect and sensitivity.
Jefferson had previously invited Harvie to become his personal secretary once Meriwether Lewis left for the West. Lewis held that position but was away from Washington City and had been delayed in his preparations for the journey. The President expected to receive a letter from Lewis soon, with an update on his planned departure.

Jefferson’s respect for Lewis was profound. It would be improper to appoint Lewis’ successor until his departure had occurred. There was another reason for the delay. A false report appeared in several newspapers the month before that Lewis was staging a political journey to the Southwest. Delaying Harvie’s appointment would reinforce Jefferson’s confidence in Lewis and lay those false claims to rest.

“Hearing Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts about democracy, responsibility and leadership …
surely succeeded in reinforcing the call to serve …”
Executive Director, Maine Municipal Association
Thomas Jefferson’s lessons are timeless.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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It is not necessary to lay blame when a mistake is made.

It appears that on the 31st. Mar. 1800. a paiment of cents & half cents was made into the treasury, which raised the whole amount paid in to more than 50,000. D. and that the Treasurer ought then forthwith to have announced it in the gazettes. consequently it ought, now that the omission is first percieved, to be forthwith announced … to avoid the appearance of blaming our predecessors within whose time the omission happened, I would not specify the date when the sum of 50,000. D. had been paid in …
To Albert Gallatin, April 10, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders quietly correct another’s error and move on.
A 1792 law provided for an announcement in the newspapers whenever the U.S. Mint had transferred more than $50,000 in pennies and half pennies to the Treasury Department. That threshold was reached eight years later, in President Adams’ administration, but the public notification was not made. Albert Gallatin, Jefferson’s Treasury Secretary, discovered the omission and asked his boss how he wanted to handle it.

Jefferson said the error should be corrected, but he didn’t want to lay any blame on Mr. Adams or his staff. Thus, he directed his Secretary to announce the threshold had been reached but make no mention of when it happened.

“On behalf of our annual conference participants, I’d like to thank you
for closing the event on such a memorable note.”
Conference Manager, Nebraska Association of School Boards
Your attendees will remember Mr. Jefferson’s remarks.
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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
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Even if I could help you, I would not. This is why.

… it is so important to the public service that I should be the center of information as to whatever concerns them, that in order to induce it to be freely given I am obliged to let it be understood that whatever I recieve is sacredly confidential, and shall not under any circumstances be given up. this imposes on me the obligation to suffer no impression to be made on me by any secret information, nor to act on it, until I verify it by further & sufficient enquiry. for this reason had I such a paper as you suppose I could not communicate it without a breach of trust …
To Thomas Mendenhall, February 25, 1803

[Woo-woo! This is Mr. Jefferson’s 800th blog post!]

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders know the importance of maintaining confidentiality.
Delaware businessman Mendenhall wrote a fawning letter to Jefferson, asking for a copy of a document the President had received about him almost two years earlier. That document might help Mendenhall defend himself against political attacks on his character. Jefferson opened his reply stating that he had no knowledge of the material requested. But even if he did, he would not provide it.

The President needed and wanted information from his constituents about their concerns. To encourage people to share their sentiments freely, he made it known that the information would be “sacredly confidential.” Such intelligence was for informing him only and would remain private until he had verified it by other sources. To disclose it prematurely would be violating the trust people placed in him.

Jefferson closed his letter the same way he opened it, reassuring Mendenhall that he had “not the smallest recollection” of the document requested.

“Patrick was an instant hit with all of our attendees.
He held them in the palm of his hand from the moment he strode into the room …”

Assistant to the Executive Director, Illinois Association of School Boards
Let Mr. Jefferson captivate your attendees.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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What? Me, a fair weather friend? Never!

… My intention … was, to have some Conversation with you … you have not only shewn no disposition towards it, but have, in some measure, by a sort of shyness, as if you stood in fear of federal observation, precluded it. I am not the only one, who makes observations of this kind.
From Thomas Paine to Thomas Jefferson, January 12, 1803

… you have certainly misconcieved what you deem shyness. of that I have not had a thought towards you, but on the contrary have openly maintained in conversation the duty of shewing our respect to you and of defying federal calumny in this as in other cases, by doing what is right. as to fearing it, if I ever could have been weak enough for that, they have taken care to cure me of it thoroughly.
To Thomas Paine, January 13, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders can’t please all the people all the time, not even their friends.
In November, 1802, Thomas Paine (1737-1809), the British-born American patriot and author of the highly influential pro-revolution pamphlet Common Sense in 1776, delivered models of bridges and wheels to the President. He sought Jefferson’s comments, perhaps his support, and hoped to profit from his designs. Two months passed with no response. That prompted his letter of 1-12-03, suggesting Jefferson was shy about being associated with him and feared some guilt-by-association. Paine twisted the knife more by suggesting others felt the same way. (Paine’s anti-Christian writings had made him highly unpopular in many circles.)

Jefferson, always sensitive to criticism, replied immediately and returned Paine’s models. He was not shy in his friendship and had defended Paine publicly. He had no concern for what his political opponents might say. If he had ever been weak enough to be swayed by them, he had endured enough of their invective now to be immune to it.

As to Paine’s models and Jefferson’s lack of comment, he explained that his Presidential responsibilities were so pressing that he no longer had time to devote to personal interests, though he was complimentary in general about Paine’s ideas.

“We had Patrick Lee portray Thomas Jefferson [for our annual educational conference].
The presentation was well done and extremely well received by our attendees.”
Executive Director, Township Officials of Illinois
Mr. Jefferson will do well for your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Your eyes make me happy!

I am extremely happy when I can recieve recommendations for office from characters in whom I have such entire confidence; as nothing chagrins me so much as when I have been led to an injudicious appointment … the other duties of administration are easy in comparison with this. the appointment to office, where one cannot see but with the eyes of others, is far the most difficult of my duties.
To Ephraim Kirby, December 10, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders need and appreciate sound input from others.
Kirby had recommended a trusted acquaintance for an opening on Connecticut’s Bankruptcy Commission. He cited the man’s background, credentials and qualifications. Jefferson trusted Kirby and was effusive in his appreciation for Kirby’s insight.

Personnel issues were always the most vexing for Jefferson, far more difficult than administrative ones. He had to rely on others’ advice for many appointments and had been burned when some recommendations turned out to be faulty. Kirby’s advice would protect him from that fate and serve the public interest well.

“Your presentation on Thomas Jefferson was outstanding
and very realistic.”
Utah Council of Land Surveyors
Mr. Jefferson will be outstanding for your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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What makes for a good public servant?

there is here a mr John Barnes … he is old (between 60. and 70) but is as active as a boy, always in good health, and the most punctual and assiduous man in business I ever knew. after an acquaintance with him of 40. years, I can pronounce him in point of fidelity as to any trust whatever, worthy of unbounded confidence. there is not a man on earth to whom I would sooner trust money untold. he is an accurate accountant, of a temper incapable of being ruffled, & full of humanity. I give you his whole character because I think you may make good use of him for the public … I would deem it a great favor to myself were you to think of him …
To J.P.G. Muhlenberg, October 10, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Savvy leaders will occasionally set policy aside in favor of principle.
John Barnes had been required to move his business from Philadelphia to Washington when the national government relocated but was unable to prosper there and was returning to his former place of residence. Muhlenberg had been appointed Collector of Revenue in Philadelphia earlier in the year.

The President, who made a rule of staying out of personnel matters, asked his appointee to find Barnes a job paying about $1,000/year, and cited his qualifications:
1. While old, he was mature, very active and in good health.
2. He was always diligent and on time.
3. He was trustworthy in every endeavor, meriting unlimited confidence.
4. He could be trusted completely with other’s money and would account for it accurately.
5. He was incapable of losing his temper.
6. He was compassionate.

Jefferson apologized for making the recommendation, a practice he strongly avoided, but his concern for Barnes outweighed his reluctance to get involved. He did ask Muhlenberg to keep his recommendation private, so as not to stir any additional opposition in the newspapers.

Muhlenberg complied with a position paying $600/year. It allowed Barnes enough free time to make additional money until a better paying position became available.

“Thank you for a very excellent presentation.”
Executive Director, Associated General Contractors of Missouri
Mr. Jefferson will be an excellent addition to your meeting!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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This father suggests letting the child win this one.

I have recieved a letter from Governor Strong on the subject of their cannon &c. which concerning the War department principally, I inclose to Genl. Dearborne, and must ask the favor of you to be referred to him for a sight of it. I think, where a state is pressing, we should yield in cases not very unreasonable, and treat them with the indulgence and liberality of a parent.
To Robert Smith, September 3, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders know when to yield, even when right is on their side.
In 1798, Massachusetts transferred ownership of a fort in the Boston harbor to the federal government. A provision in that transfer called for the state to be reimbursed for the value of armaments within the fort. Massachusetts submitted its claim, and the national government had disputed the extent and amount of that reimbursement. The state’s governor, a moderate Federalist, was pressing the Republican administration to pay the bill in full.

The President involved the Secretaries of the Navy (Smith, the recipient of this letter) and War, Henry Dearborne, in this discussion. It appears that the Federal position might have been stronger, but Jefferson asked a favor of his subordinate. Massachusetts was pressing their case strongly but not unreasonably. It would be better, the President wrote, to treat the state as a parent would their child, with “indulgence and liberality,” rather than enforcing parental authority, regardless.

“Mr. Patrick Lee did a wonderful job of portraying Thomas Jefferson …
He also tailored his presentation to fit in with our theme of “Exploring New Frontiers.” “
Executive Director, Missouri Independent Bankers Association
No cookie-cutter talks here! Mr. Jefferson tailors his remarks to your interests.
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Appearances matter, even small ones.

…altho saving of one salary to the publick is but a small consideration yet the Salutory [salutary, i.e. beneficial] scheme of oeconomy so valuable to our repubican Goverment can not be carried into full effect unless things of this kind be noticed…
Thomas Underwood, Jr. to Thomas Jefferson, July 25, 1802

I recieve information that [John] Hopkins Commr. [Commissioner]  of loans in Richmd. being allowed by law 2. clerks and having scarceley occasion for one, in fact employs but one, & gives him the salary of two. will you have this enquired into, and exact restitution of the double salary illegally given.
To Albert Gallatin, August 3, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Careful leaders promptly investigate abuses under their command.
Underwood was the whistleblower, informing Jefferson that John Hopkins, a Federalist officer-holder and businessman in Richmond had authorization to employ two clerks when he needed only one and was paying that one a double salary. Underwood acknowledged that saving one salary was negligible, but the nation’s republican principles must be upheld, and the people would appreciate the gesture.

Jefferson had to contend with many government employees who were appointed by Presidents Washington and Adams. He accepted Federalist officers who performed their duties impartially but had no patience with ones who abused the trust placed in them.

He acted immediately in this case, directing his Treasury Secretary Gallatin to investigate and recover any funds spent illegally. Two weeks later, Gallatin furnished the President with a certificate verifying that Hopkins had submitted the names of the two clerks he claimed to employ. Gallatin went no further, saying Jefferson’s source must verify whether Hopkins actually employed only one.

The results of this matter are not disclosed, but Hopkins remained in his position for another two years.

“I want to thank you … for a wonderful evening with Daniel Boone.”
Vice President, Site Development Engineering, Inc., St. Louis, MO
Mr. Jefferson’s contemporary, frontiersman Daniel Boone,
stands ready to inspire, teach and entertain your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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