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Category Archives: Newspapers

NO MORE of what I tolerated but never liked!

… and I add one further request that you will be so good as notify them my desire for their discontinuance. I shall give over reading newspapers. they are so false & so intemperate [lacking moderation] that they disturb tranquility without giving information.
To Levi Lincoln, March 11, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders avoid unnecessary aggravation.
Lincoln (1749-1829) was a Massachusetts lawyer and Attorney General in Jefferson’s first term. He was governor of his home state when this letter was written.

Lincoln had purchased subscriptions to Massachusetts newspapers for Jefferson for the previous four years. The ex-President was now sending him $45.62 in reimbursement, along with a request that Lincoln cancel the subscriptions.

From Jefferson’s description of their being “false & so intemporate,” these must have been Federalist newspapers. They provided no helpful information and upset him in the process. Retirement meant he could now be done with such unsettling influences.

” … [you] stimulated great audience interaction, interest, comments and questions.”
Executive VP, Carolina-Virginia Telephone Membership Association
Thomas Jefferson will greatly engage your audience in his message!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Do not encourage the cockroaches.

as long as the criticisms on it [a Jefferson appointment] were confined to Jackson’s paper, I did not think it ought to be answered; because papers which are in the habit of condemning every measure, ought not to be answered on any one, lest it should give force to their unanswered criticisms.
To Henry Dearborn, August 22, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The wise leader ignores those who are always opposed.
The opposition press was critical of Jefferson’s appointment of a certain businessman to provide supplies for the Indians in the West. Jefferson didn’t respond, because that paper opposed everything he did. If he responded to an attack on one issue, it could give credibility to other issues not responded to. Better to ignore them completely.

This letter went on to address criticism of this appointment by a friendly newspaper. That was much more of a concern to Jefferson, and he explained to Dearborn his reasoning in selecting that individual.

“Our profession faces difficult challenges, and we needed and “upbeat” kind of talk.
That’s exactly what you gave us.”
Clinical Laboratory Management Association, Central New York Chapter.
Mr. Jefferson will encourage your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Is your hide thick enough?

you have indeed recieved the federal unction of lying & slandering. but who has not? who will ever again come into eminent office unanointed with this chrism [oil]? it seems to be fixed that falsehood & calumny are to be the ordinary engines of opposition: engines which will not be entirely without effect … I certainly have known, & still know, characters eminently qualified for the most exalted trusts, who could not bear up against the brutal beatings & hewings … I may say, from intimate knolege, that we should have lost the services of the greatest character of our country [George Washington] had he been assailed with the degree of abandoned licentiousness now practised.
To James Sullivan, May 21, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Great leaders are lost for fear of public attack.
Sullivan [1744-1808] was the Republican attorney general in Massachusetts and would soon become governor. Jefferson commiserated with him on the “lying & slandering” both had endured, the only weapons in their opponents’ arsenal. Although their accusations were without merit, they still stung.

Some “eminently qualified” individuals avoided public service because of those attacks. Even President Washington, known for his fearlessness, would have abandoned public life had he been subjected to the current level of abuse.

Jefferson was considered thin-skinned but able to heed the advice Washington had given him years before, that when attacked, do not respond. He vented to friends in his private correspondence, but publicly, he suffered in silence.

“Mr. Jefferson’s presentation on leadership was a wonderful and unique way
to kick off an extremely successful conference.”
County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
Let Mr. Jefferson enliven your conference in a unique way!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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What are insults among friends?

Lest your rural tranquility should become insipid for want of a little seasoning, I have thought it might not be amiss to animate it from the pepper pots of the tories. their printers, when they have any thing very impudent, send it to me gratis. I will freely give therefore what I freely recieve. I this week send you a dish of the Monitor. the next perhaps it may be of the Palladium, or of Timothy of Charleston &c.
To Stevens Thomson Mason, October 28, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders share the persecution, just for fun.
Mason (1760-1804) was a lawyer and Republican U.S. Senator from Virginia. In a bit of humor, rarely expressed in his correspondence, Jefferson offered to spice up the too-tranquil life of his younger friend by forwarding an opposition newspaper. Always a target of the Federalist press, he suggested he might forward several more.

Those Federalist printers, hoping to pour salt into a wound, often sent Jefferson a free copy of any edition that was particularly critical of him. Subverting a statement of Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 10:8) as he instructed his disciples, Jefferson also offered to give freely to his neighbor what had been freely given to him.

The “Monitor” was a opposition newspaper in Connecticut, the “Palladium” one in Boston, and Timothy published one in South Carolina. In a July letter to Jefferson, his Attorney General claimed the Palladium was given for free to Boston clergy, for the purpose of using it from their pulpits and encouraging paid subscriptions.

“Again, thanks for helping to make this one of our best conventions ever.”
Sr. Vice President, Community Bankers Association of Illinois
Mr. Jefferson will raise the bar at your convention.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Some are so jaded they gripe about everything.

[Some news] papers will make a noise about it [replacing federalist appointees with republicans]. but we see they are determined to blame every thing … & therefore consider their clamours … consequently not to be regarded.
To Benjamin Hitchborn, July 29, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know some will always stand in opposition.
Jefferson wrote of his plans to remove certain office-holders whose views were openly antagonistic to his administration. He knew some newspapers would oppose him, no matter the issue. Since they would not give him the time of day, regardless of his actions, he had no regard for their criticism.

“The decision to bring Patrick Lee was a wise one … “
Schoor-Depalma, Engineers & Consultants, Manalapan, NJ
Your audience will think your decision to bring Mr. Jefferson was a wise one.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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What should be done about abusive newspapers?

I am sensible, with you, of the distortions and perversions of truth and justice practised in the public papers, and how difficult to decypher character through that medium. but these abuses of the press are perhaps inseparable from it’s freedom; and it’s freedom must be protected or liberty civil & religious be relinquished. it is a part of our duty therefore to submit to the lacerations of it’s slanders, as less injurious to our country than the trammels which would suppress them.
To Elijah Brown, June 7, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know bad sometimes comes with the good.
A congratulatory letter from the 16th regiment of South Carolina observed that it was difficult to obtain a clear view of the new President from the newspapers. Jefferson acknowledged the “distortions and perversions of truth and justice” evident in the papers, partisan mouthpieces with no concern for balance or objectivity.

Yet, Jefferson defended newspapers and the freedom they represented. If that freedom were restricted, other liberties would suffer, too. Better to endure the abuses of the newspapers than the greater abuse that would come from restricting them.

“I personally want to thank you.
It is a delight to have speakers like yourself who make me look good.”
Meetings Administrator, Iowa State Association of Counties
Mr. Jefferson will make you look good to your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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What do newspapers and priests have in common?

the mild and simple principles of the Christian philosophy, would produce too much calm, too much regularity of good, to extract from it’s disciples a support for a numerous priesthood, were they not to sophisticate it, ramify it, split it into hairs, and twist it’s texts till they cover the divine morality of it’s author with mysteries, and require a priesthood to explain them. the Quakers seem to have discovered this. they have no priests, therefore no schisms. they judge of the text by the dictates of common sense & common morality. so the printers can never leave us to a state of perfect rest and union of opinion. they would be no longer useful, and would have to go to the plough.
To Elbridge Gerry, March 29, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders complicate issues to justify their own existence.
Gerry was an ardent Massachusetts republican, a friend many years. In this curious passage, the President took on the rabble-rousing printers, the “media” of the day, and compared them to priests who perverted the gospel.

Jefferson likened ” the mild and simple principles of the Christian philosophy” to the mild and simple principles of republican philosophy. Both could be embraced and practiced, as the Quakers did religion, without a priesthood (leaders) and without divisions (political parties). But that was too simple. In the same way priests complicated religion to the point where people needed priests to explain it, the newspaper printers (media) so roiled the political waters that the people needed the printers to explain political issues to them.

But “common sense & common morality” were too much for both priests and printers. If the latter couldn’t divide the people and make them unhappy, they would serve no purpose and would have to become farmers. Jefferson loved farmers.

His reference to “priests” was not directed to any one sect or denomination but described all who complicated a simple message from Jesus, inserting themselves between that message and the people, as its interpreters.

“From all the comments, Thomas Jefferson was big hit.”
President, Hawthorne Foundation,
for the Missouri Conference on New and Expanding Business
Thomas Jefferson’s “mild and simple principles” will be a hit with your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Who is to blame for trashy media?

Defamation is becoming a necessary of life; insomuch, that a dish of tea in the morning or evening cannot be digested without this stimulant. Even those who do not believe these abominations, still read them with complaisance [Webster’s 7th Collegiate: “a disposition to please or oblige”] to their auditors [ibid, “one that hears or listens’], and instead of the abhorrence & indignation which should fill a virtuous mind, betray a secret pleasure in the possibility that some may believe them, tho they do not themselves. It seems to escape them, that it is not he who prints, but he who pays for printing a slander, who is it’s real author.
To John Norvell, June 14, 1807

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Does this sound like 2014 to you?
Jefferson was on a rant about slander in the newspapers. In an earlier post from this letter, he summarized four categories for newspaper content, “Truths, Probabilities, Possibilities, and Lies.” He said the first category would be the smallest, the last the largest.
The language in this excerpt is a bit confusing. Here’s a summary:
1. Reading another’s trashed reputation had become such a stimulant that people could not begin or end their day without it.
2. Even those who didn’t believe the lies read them anyway, to please those who did read them.
3. Instead of having a “virtuous mind,” horrified by lies, they “betray a secret pleasure” that others may actually believe the slander, even though they don’t.
4. Who is to blame, then, for slander? Not the one who offers the slander but the one who pays for it. (By reading it. Or watching it. Or listening to it.)

“Thank you so much for your enormous contribution
to the success of our recent workshop … “
The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D. C.
Mr. Jefferson desires to contribute to the success of your meeting!
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739
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What keeps a government “virtuous”?

No government ought to be without censors: & where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack & defence. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth either in religion, law, or politics.
To the President of the United States, September 9, 1792

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Secure leaders value a free press.
This excerpt comes from a l-o-n-g letter to his boss, President Washington. Much of the letter is a harsh criticism of Alexander Hamilton’s conduct as Treasury Secretary and a passionate defense of his own as Secretary of State. He also defended his efforts to promote a free press, by which he meant an anti-Federalist press.

There was no attempt at objectivity in the press. Newspapers were outspoken mouthpieces for one side or the other. Jefferson believed the anti-Federalist cause to be under-represented. He also strongly opposed editorials with fictitious names, where the authors would not be publicly associated with their views.

Jefferson had a conflicted view of the press. He encouraged those newspapers which supported him and railed against ones in opposition. Regardless, he maintained that a free press, with “attack & defence,” was an essential protection, for the citizens and even the government itself. Only a free press could sort out the truth, and a “virtuous” government had nothing to fear from it.

“Thanks once again for an OUTSTANDING presentation
at our annual meeting!
VP-Operations, Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

For an outstanding experience for your audience,
invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739.

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Truths, Probabilities, Possibilities & Lies

Perhaps an editor might begin a reformation [of his newspaper] in some such way as this. Divide his paper into 4 chapters, heading the 1st, Truths. 2d, Probabilities. 3d, Possibilities. 4th, Lies. The first chapter would be very short, as it would contain little more than authentic papers, and information from such sources, as the editor would be willing to risk his own reputation for their truth. The 2d would contain what, from a mature consideration of all circumstances, his judgment should conclude to be probably true. This, however, should rather contain too little than too much. The 3d & 4th should be professedly for those readers who would rather have lies for their money than the blank paper they would occupy.
To John Norvell, June 11, 1807

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
For leaders, the media can be a blessing, a curse, or both.
Norvell had inquired about publishing a newspaper. Much of Jefferson’s reply was a lament about the sorry state of that medium as a source of reliable information. An earlier post from this letter suggested one was more informed about the truth if he did not read the newspaper.
Newspapers of the time were strictly mouthpieces for the political views of its publisher. There wasn’t a hint of objectivity. Now, near the end of his Presidency and 40 years of dealing with an oppositional slanderous press, he had a cynical (and, rare for him, slightly humorous) suggestion about how a newspaper should be organized.

“I have also seen him perform as Thomas Jefferson,
and that, too, is a very impressive program.”
Director, Missouri Division of Employment Security

Thomas Jefferson stands ready to impress your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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