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Category Archives: Monticello

THIS is the life!

I am constantly in my garden or farm, as exclusively employed out of doors as I was within doors when at Washington, and I find myself infinitely happier in my new mode of life.
To Etienne Lemaire, April 25, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
A radical change of scenery can do a leader great good!
Lemaire managed the President’s House during both Jefferson administrations and had since moved to Philadelphia. In this letter, he asked his former butler to secure several cooking ingredients not available nearer to Monticello. His grandson, Jefferson Randolph, was in Philadelphia and would pay for the items. He sent on several other tidbits of common interest and concluded with the sentiment above.

Over the previous 35 years, Jefferson’s time at Monticello was overshadowed by the great events of war, independence, diplomacy and governance. His hands-on involvement with those events was now behind him. He could dig in the dirt and putter around his farms to his heart’s content. He was much happier now, “infinitely” so.

“This is a key thought – you are a serious student of Thomas Jefferson, not just an imitator –
and it quickly became evident that… [we were] listening to Thomas Jefferson,
not Patrick Lee portraying Thomas Jefferson.”

Deputy Executive Director, Missouri Rural Water Association
Your audience will suspend disbelief
and know they are hearing from Mr. Jefferson himself.

Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Agriculture, Horticulture, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , , , |

ENOUGH! You must come and see for yourself.

It is with great regret that I write you a letter which I am sure must give you pain, but your interest as well as my own makes it my duty, & yours is still more urgent than mine. I have little doubt that your sons write you flattering accounts of their proceedings & prospects at the Shadwell mills… come and inform yourself …I wish it [this letter] for your own reading only, because I do not wish to have any quarrel with your son. yet when you come, I will state facts to enable you to enquire. in the mean time be assured of my real friendship.
To Jonathan Shoemaker, April 6, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Confrontation-hating leaders must step up eventually, but it may be too late.
Shoemaker was a Pennsylvania businessman who operated a grain-grinding mill at Washington City. He leased Jefferson’s mill near Monticello in 1807 and put his sons in charge. Two years later, the entire milling operation was a mess:
-Jefferson had not received his rent.
-Neighbor’s grain taken to the mill for grinding had disappeared.
-Neighbors were forced to ship their grain to distant mills at greater expense.
-The poor reputation of the mill ruined prospects for new business.

The extraordinarily patient Jefferson was reaching his limit. Not only his finances but also his standing in the neighborhood were jeopardized. He insisted Shoemaker come to the mill, see for himself and make the matter right.

Correspondence over the ensuing 16 months reveal excuses, partial rent payments, missed payments, and a further deterioration of the business agreement between the two men. The lease was eventually terminated, and Jefferson never received all that was owed to him.

“City officials are a “tough crowd”
and the ovation they gave you was well deserved.”
Executive Director, Missouri Municipal League
If Mr. Jefferson can please a tough crowd, he can certainly please yours!
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Leave a comment Posted in Agriculture, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , |

I accept THEIR opinion, but I trust in YOURS.

I gladly lay down the distressing burthen of power…the part which I have acted on the theatre of public life, has been before them [the citizens of the nation]; & to their sentence I submit it: but the testimony of my native county, of the individuals who have known me in private life, to my conduct in it’s various duties, & relations, is the more grateful as proceeding from eye witnesses & observers … of you then, my neighbors, I may ask, in the face of the world, ‘whose ox have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed, or of whose hand have I recieved a bribe to blind mine eyes therewith’? on your verdict I rest with conscious security
To the Inhabitants of Albemarle County, April 3, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders have no fear of going home to stay.
Albemarle County, Virginia was Jefferson’s home county. Its citizens had welcomed his return to Monticello after his retirement, and he prepared this acknowledgement.

He was glad to be done with power! He believed he had acted honorably in office and was willing to accept whatever verdict came from the nation. He was far more concerned with the verdict of his neighbors and friends, people who had known him for decades.

In addressing his friends, he also made his response to distant observers who questioned his judgment, morals and faith. To these who knew him well, he quoted the prophet Samuel from the Old Testament (1 Sam. 12:3), asking whom had he cheated, oppressed or deprived of justice? He would live out his remaining years among those friends and neighbors in the confidence (“conscious security”) of their judgment.

“Mr. Lee has presented as Thomas Jefferson …
on two different occasions and in two very different formats.
In both instances, the presentations were of exceedingly high quality …”

Executive Director, Missouri Humanities Council
Whatever your meeting, Mr. Jefferson will bring a relevant message.
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Leave a comment Posted in Monticello, Morality, Politics, Religion Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Hell is behind me, paradise ahead!

… for altho’ I too have written on politics, it is merely as a private individual, which I am now happily become. within two or three days I retire from scenes of difficulty, anxiety & of contending passions to the elysium [paradise] of domestic affections & the irresponsible [not accountable to anyone] direction of my own affairs. safe in port myself, I shall look anxiously at my friends still buffeting the storm, and wish you all safe in port also.
To John Armstrong, March 6, 1809

NOTE: I have excerpted most of Jefferson’s significant correspondence from the first year of each of his two Presidential terms (March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1802 and March 4, 1805 – March 3, 1806) for the most recent blog posts. I will now turn the clock ahead and work from the first year of his retirement, which began March 4, 1809, when James Madison succeeded him as President.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders look forward to retirement!
Armstrong (1758-1843) had been a U.S. Senator from New York and was now America’s ambassador to France. Jefferson wrote about America’s failed embargo, continued conflict involving American ships at sea and the prospect of war, and Napoleon’s attempts to subdue much of Europe. He also thanked Armstrong for acquiring a “dynamometer” for him, a device that measured pulling force, something he had wanted for many years.
He concluded by stressing, thankfully, that his views on politics were now simply as a private individual. Within days, he would leave the non-stop stress of Washington City for peacefulness of Monticello. There he would reside as a ship safely arrived at its final port and hope the same destiny for those he left behind.

“Patrick Lee is a professional … easy to work with …
and very effective portraying Thomas Jefferson …”
Director, Living History Associates, for OpSail 2012, Norfolk, VA
If professional, low maintenance and high impact appeals to you,
invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Monticello, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |

Would you paint your floors GREEN?

… I was at the painting room of mr Stewart (the celebrated portrait painter) who had first suggested to me the painting a floor green … the true grass-green, & as he had his pallet & colours in his hand, I asked him to give me a specimen of the colour … and I spreed it with a knife on the inclosed paper. be so good therefore as to give it to mr Barry as the model of the colour I wish to have the hall floor painted of. The painters here talk of putting a japan varnish over the painted floor and floor-cloth after the paint is dry, which they say will prevent it’s being sticky & will bear washing.
To James Dinsmore, June 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What does this have to do with leadership?
Not much, though it does illustrate how minutely Jefferson was involved in his decades-long pet project, building and rebuilding his home, Monticello, and his careful attention to detail.

James Dinsmore was the skilled workman who produced much of the fine interior woodwork at Monticello. Mr. Barry was a house painter. “mr Stewart” was most likely Gilbert Stuart, the foremost portrait artist of the day. His subjects numbered around 1,000, including the first six Presidents.

If Gilbert Stewart recommended a “true grass-green” as a fitting floor paint color, that was good enough for Jefferson.

Floor cloths were explained in a previous post.

“It was truly amazing how you answered questions from the audience
without stepping out of character.”
Executive Director, Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio, Inc.
Mr. Jefferson will amaze your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Monticello, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |

He is a BIG problem, but I can put up with him.

Dear Sir
The mad-man Stewart is again here. he has called on me for $:105—which I was obliged to let him have, or I supposed suffer him to go to Jail…
George Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson, November 16, 1801

… I note & approve what you did as to Stewart. he is the best workman in America, but the most eccentric one: quite manageable were I at home, but doubtful as I am not …
To George Jefferson, December 3, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some employees, no matter how skilled, need close supervison.
George Jefferson was the President’s cousin and Richmond-based business agent. William Stewart was a Philadelphia blacksmith hired by the President to move to Monticello. A ship captain’s bill for moving the family of six was $75. Stewart demanded $105 reimbursement instead. When George asked for documentation for the extra $30, Stewart cited (but didn’t produce) a letter from the President supposedly authorizing the extra funds. George thought it better to pay Stewart and get rid of him, but he made clear what he thought about the man.

Jefferson accepted George’s decision. He also acknowledged Stewart’s skill and great eccentricity. The latter could be managed if he were close by but must be tolerated from a distance.

Stewart’s wife died in 1805 and was buried in the Monticello cemetery. He was fired two years later, after fully training the slave Joe Fossett, who served in that capacity until Jefferson’s death in 1826. Fossett was freed in Jefferson’s will, but his wife and 10 children were sold because of Jefferson’s debts. Fossett eventually purchased his wife and some of their children from slavery.

”Everyone, to a person, commented on how thorough you were
and how every detail that was possible to recreate was covered.”
President, Cole County Historical Society
Let Mr. Jefferson transport your audience to another era!
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1 Comment Posted in Monticello, Personalities of others, Slavery Tagged , , , , , , |

I am very anxious to obtain the disease here.

… inoculated two persons with the matter [cowpox vaccine] of the 24th. & 4. with that of the 26th. the latter has no effect, but the two former shew inflammation & matter. one of them complains of pain under the arm pit, & yesterday was a little feverish … we have considerable hopes he has the true infection … you shall be regularly informed of the progress & success of this business … I am very anxious to obtain the disease here.
To Benjamin Waterhouse, August 14, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Persistent leaders keep trying until they find something that works.
New England physician Waterhouse (1754-1846), one of the founders of Harvard Medical School, was the first person to test the cowpox vaccine in America, on four of his own children. His effort to enlist President Adams’ support for a public campaign was unsuccessful, but President Jefferson embraced the concept immediately.

This is one of several letters in 1801 where Jefferson wrote about the cowpox vaccine. Numerous attempts to induce immunity by infecting healthy people with the live vaccine had been unsuccessful. In this account, Jefferson reported the first hoped-for response at Monticello, evidence of an slight infection. Immunity to cowpox also protected against the much more deadly smallpox.

Jefferson would later have all of his family and slaves inoculated and circulated the vaccine widely among his Virginia neighbors. Some accounts credit Jefferson with conducting the first mass public health campaign in America.

“The feedback from our conferees has been overwhelmingly favorable …”
Executive Director, Missouri Safety Council
Try something special for your audience.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Health, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Who exactly is in charge here? Part 7

[This is the 7th interchange in Jefferson’s internal dialog between his head and his heart, anguishing over Maria Cosway’s departure.]

Head. Very well. Suppose then they come back. They are to stay two months, & when these are expired, what is to follow? Perhaps you flatter yourself they may come to America?

Heart. God only knows what is to happen. I see nothing impossible in that supposition. And I see things wonderfully contrived sometimes to make us happy. Where could they find such objects as in America for the exercise of their enchanting art? especially the lady, who paints landscapes so inimirably [inimitably?] …
To Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders do well to remain optimistic. Part 7
Jefferson’s logical Head has already advised his Heart to forget the Cosways. Even if there is a return visit, it, too, will end. Is Heart so presumptuous to think these European artists would cross the Atlantic just to see him?
Heart replies that it could happen! Sometimes things just work out very well for our happiness.
Heart, using a little logic of its own, cites the grandeur of America and the many scenes awaiting permanent capture by the lady’s paint brush if they did come. (This passage also contains an eloquent and romantic description of Monticello, often reproduced as evidence of Jefferson’s lifetime love of his mountaintop home.)

Jefferson’s presentations are “wonderfully contrived” to make your audience happy!
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Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , , , |

What the heck is floorcloth?

1805 May 26. (Jefferson to Thomas Claxton). …I have desired Mr. Smilie (the person whom I was told you employed) to provide floorcloth for the hall and passage below only.”
1805 June 8. (Jefferson to James Dinsmore). “…I wish to have the hall floor painted … The painters here talk of putting a japan varnish over the painted floor and floor-cloth after the paint is dry, which they say will prevent its being sticky and will bear washing …”
1805 June 9. (Jefferson to Thomas Claxton). “The floor cloth for the hall is prepared and will be painted immediately in the Capitol.”

Source: http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/floor-coverings

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Today’s post has nothing to do with leadership!
After nearly 24 years as Thomas Jefferson, I know all the main aspects of his life, most of the not-so-well known aspects, and quite a bit of trivia. Every so often, though, I come across something new from his everyday life. Such is the subject of today’s post.

Floorcloth is fabric that has been painted and sealed and then used like we might use an area or throw rug, a runner or an accent piece. They were popular in the 1700s and 1800s but rendered obsolete by linoleum. The first excerpt above pertains to floorcloth in the President’s House, which we now call the White House. The second excerpt is for  Monticello, the third for the Capitol Building in Washington City.

According to this article, http://www.wickedlocal.com/marblehead/fun/gardening/x1266953998/Bringing-back-floorcloths, both Washington and Jefferson imported floorcloth from England. This account even gives instructions for making your own, painting your design on the papery back side of a piece of vinyl flooring.

You can learn more about floorcloth at http://www.gracewooddesign.com/, the company cited in the article.

After nearly a quarter century of studying this man, it is fun to learn and add tidbits like this to my store of knowledge!

“The feedback from our conferees has been overwhelmingly favorable …”
Executive Director, Missouri Safety Council

Give your audience an overwhelmingly favorable experience!
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739

1 Comment Posted in Miscellaneous, Monticello Tagged , , , , , |

I lost almost everything in the fire.

My late loss may perhaps have reac[hed y]ou by this time, I mean the loss of my mother’s house [Shadwell] by fire, and in it, of every pa[per I] had in the world, and almost every book. On a reasonable estimate I calculate th[e cost o]f t[he b]ooks burned to have been £200. sterling. Would to god it had been the money [;then] had it never cost me a sigh! …
If this conflagration, by which I am burned out of a home, had come before I had advanced so far in preparing another, I do not know but I might have cherished some treasonable thoughts of leaving [thes]e my native hills.
To John Page, February 21, 1770

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Resilient leaders rebound from losses.
Jefferson was born at Shadwell plantation. When not occupied with the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg or traveling because of his law practice, he lived there with his mother. He was nearly 27 when this fire destroyed the house and practically all of his possessions. That included copies of his correspondence, all of his legal work, and his what he cherished most, his books. He didn’t mind the value lost. He minded a great deal the wisdom contained in those volumes.
He had already begun work on his own home across the Rivanna River, a hilltop he named Monticello (Italian for little mountain). The ground had already been leveled and probably work had begun on a one room building, now known as the South Pavilion. Jefferson moved there in November, 1770. The main mansion, which today we call Monticello, was still a dream. It wouldn’t be habitable for six or seven years.
Who knows whether Jefferson’s “home” might have been some other place else, as he hinted in this letter, had work at Monticello not already begun.

“His unique style of delivery brings you into his world
while tailoring the message to the audience.”
Linn State Technical College, Dean of Institutional Research and Planning

Thomas Jefferson welcomes you into his world with a message relevent to yours.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

Leave a comment Posted in Family matters, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , , |