Blog posts may be reprinted without permission,
provided a link to www.JeffersonLeadership.com is included.

Category Archives: Personal preferences

Your religion is NONE of my business!

[This post is the last of four from this one letter.]

… I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of enquiry into the religious opinions of others. on the contrary we are bound, you, I, & every one, to make common cause, even with error itself, to maintain the common right of freedom of conscience. we ought with one heart and one hand to hew [cut] down the daring and dangerous efforts of those who would seduce the public opinion to substitute itself into that tyranny over religious faith which the laws have so justly abdicated. for this reason, were my opinions up to the standard of those who arrogate [claim without justification] the right of questioning them, I would not countenance that arrogance by descending to an explanation.
To Edward Dowse, April 19, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders respect the privacy of all moral beliefs.
Concluding a letter in which Jefferson wrote openly about his appreciation for the superiority of Jesus’ teaching while respecting the contribution of others to the moral canon, he took direct aim at those who sought to inquire into this most private realm:
1. He vowed total opposition to religious intolerance or even questioning another’s beliefs.
2. All are bound to support “the common right of freedom of conscience,” even for those they believe to be in error.
3. Since the Constitution guaranteed religious freedom, the efforts of those who sought any form of religious tyranny should be destroyed.
4. He would not dignify with answers the inquiries of those who claimed a right to question his religious beliefs.

” … our sincere appreciation to you for your exceptional presentation …”
President/GM, Missouri Association, Mutual Insurance Companies
Mr. Jefferson adds a unique and memorable dimension to your conference.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Morality, Personal preferences, Religion Tagged , , , , , , , |

Your destiny is to serve the public! It is obvious.

I am sensible after the measures you have taken for getting into a different line of business, that it will be a great sacrifice on your part, and presents from the season & other circumstances serious difficulties. but some men are born for the public. nature by fitting them for the service of the human race on a broad scale, has stamped them with the evidences of her destination & their duty.
To James Monroe, January 13, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Those gifted with skills have a duty to lead, regardless of sacrifice.
A previous post detailed the President’s nomination of James Monroe (1758-1831) as ambassador to France and his unwillingness to let Monroe decline. In this letter, Jefferson buttressed case.

After outlining the positives of Monroe’s appointment and the disastrous results should he decline, and acknowledging the personal hardship this would cause, Jefferson got to the bottom line of his argument: Monroe was destined for public service and leadership. Nature obviously had gifted him to serve “on a broad scale” and made that gifting evident. It was both Monroe’s duty and destiny to fulfill that role.

I don’t recall Jefferson ever admitting the same destiny about himself, but it was obvious he was fulfilling that role, too. Had he thought only of himself, he would have happily pursued a private life at Monticello with his family, farm and books. Nature had other plans for him, and he acquiesced to a destiny different from the one he desired. Only when his Presidency was completed in 1809 (at age 66) did he allow himself to indulge those personal desires for the remaining years of his life.

“Your presentation … was outstanding! …
we wanted an upbeat kind of talk. That’s exactly what you gave us.”
Clinical Laboratory Management Association, Central New York Chapter
Does your audience need an outstanding and upbeat presentation?
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Leadership, Personal preferences, Personalities of others Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Keep my contribution anonymous!

We learn by the public papers that a great calamity by fire has happened to Portsmouth, and that yourself and some others are appointed to recieve contributions for the distressed sufferers and to distribute them. I take the liberty of inclosing to yourself an hundred dollars for this purpose. I observe the trustees say in the papers that they will make a record of the donations. I pray that in my case it may be of the sum only, without the name.
To John Langdon, January 11, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders don’t always have to grab headlines for their charitable work.
Newspapers spread the word of a disastrous fire on December 26, 1802 in Portsmouth, NH, that damaged or destroyed about 100 buildings at a loss of about $200,000. Without being asked, the President contributed $100 to the relief effort. Even though all donations were to be recorded, Jefferson asked to remain anonymous, that his contribution be noted only by the amount and not his name.

In 1802, disaster victims didn’t automatically look to governments for help. In a 19th century “crowdfunding” effort, Portsmouth dispatched three representatives to travel to other cities to encourage donations for their relief. Perhaps in response to their emissary to southern cities, Jefferson made a 2nd contribution of $100 on February 12.

John Langdon (1741-1819) was a successful businessman, early supporter of independence and a signer of the U.S. Constitution. He served in both state and national legislatures, as Governor of New Hampshire, and declined the nomination to be Madison’s Vice-President in 1812.

“Your presentation was original and refreshing,
and you made Thomas Jefferson real for us.”
Director of Communications and Education, Illinois Municipal League
Thomas Jefferson will refresh your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Newspapers, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |

Chess, anyone?

Th: Jefferson asks the favor of Mr. E. Thornton’s company to dinner and chess on Monday next, the 8th. Inst., at half after three.
Friday Novr. 5th. 1802.
The favor of an answer is requested.
To Edward Thornton, November 5, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Strategic leaders practice thinking strategically.
Jefferson was well-known for inviting people to join him for his typical mid-afternoon dinner. (He ate only two meals a day, breakfast at 9:00 and dinner at 3:00 or 3:30, and perhaps a light snack in the evening.) He shared his dinner table with friends, fellow scientists and elected officials, those who supported him and some who did not. He used it as a time of friendship, intellectual stimulation and diplomacy. Thornton was a British diplomat serving in America.

Jefferson enjoyed chess! I have featured his dinner invitations and companions before. This is the second one I’ve seen where he invited someone to come to the President’s house for both dinner AND chess. (This is the first.) The President had many strong reservations about the way England conducted itself toward the United States. Yet, he could set those aside to dine and play a favored game. Jefferson usually took the long view, and the game kept his instincts sharp.

Since this was written on December 5 for dinner that afternoon, it would have been hand-delivered to the diplomat who would use the same courier to convey his answer.

“Your wonderful presentation as Daniel Boone
was well-received and appropriate to the interests of our group.”
Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association 
Sometimes, Mr. Jefferson sends Frontiersman Daniel Boone in his stead.
Invite either man to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Diplomacy, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , |

Publicly, I shut up. Privately, I explain.

seeing the impossibility that special vindications should ever keep pace with the endless falshoods invented & disseminated against me, I came at once to a resolution to rest on the justice & good sense of my fellow citizens, to consider from my general character and conduct thro’ life, not unknown to them, whether these [false or slanderous statements] were probable: and I have made it an invariable rule never to enter the lists of the public papers with the propagators of them. in private communications with my friends I have contradicted them without reserve.
To David Redick, June 19, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders have to know when to hold ’em, when to fold em’.
Redick had relayed to Jefferson an unfavorable report he’d heard from a missionary about comments Jefferson was purported to have made to Indians visiting him in Washington City. Redick wanted to give the President an opportunity to rebut the charges. His reply stated:
1. There was no end to the falsehoods invented against him.
2. He would respond to none of them publicly or in the press.
3. Instead, he would trust “the justice & good sense of my fellow citizens.”
4. They knew his “general character and conduct.”
5. From that knowledge, they could judge for themselves whether such charges were true.
6. To his friends, he had no hesitation in contradicting the charges.

Thus, he wanted to reassure Redick of the baseless nature of the charge by giving the details of his interaction with the Indians. He invited Redick to share this information with others, especially with the one who brought the accusatory report. He specifically warned Redick that his written reply was for Redick’s use only, and this letter was not to escape his possession.

“You are not the traditional conference speaker!
That’s why we hired you!”
President, Excellence in Missouri Foundation
Treat your audience to something other than the traditional conference speaker!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
2 Comments Posted in Personal preferences, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , |

What I have is the opposite of what I wanted.

my strongest predilections are for study, rural occupations, & retirement within a small but cherished society. born, as I unfortunately was, in an age of revolution, my life has been wasted on the billows of revolutionary storm. the sweet sensations & affections of domestic society have been exchanged with me for the bitter & deadly feuds of party: encircled with political enemies & spies, instead of my children & friends. time however & the decay of years is now fast advancing that season when it will be seen that I can no longer be of use, even in the eyes of those partial to me: and I shall be permitted to pass through the pains & infirmities of age in the shades of Monticello.
To Madame De Corny, April 23, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Committed leaders play the hand dealt to them.
De Corny was one of a small number of cultured, educated women Jefferson came to admire during his ambassadorship to France, 1784-89. They resumed a correspondence in 1801 after a decade of self-imposed silence, though he had periodically inquired about her and sent regards to her through others. Her letter to him a year before was full of sadness over a lack of communication from him and her greatly diminished existence in post-revolutuionary France.

Prehaps Jefferson wanted to commiserate with De Corny by contrasting the life he would have preferred with the one thrust on him by events. He had to forego the joys of home, family, friendship, farming and books for the thankless task of politics, governing, and enemies at every turn.

Not 14 months into his Presidency that would consume seven more years, he was already looking forward to retirement, when through time and decrepitude, “I can no longer be of use.” Only then could he enjoy what was left of his life at Monticello, where he would have preferred to spend all of it.

“I have now hired you three times to present your characters to my annual conference…
Each brought value and a unique, inspiring message to our group.”
Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association
Thomas Jefferson and his compatriots, Daniel Boone & William Clark,
will bring unique, valuable and inspiring messages to your audience.
Invite them to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Monticello, Personal preferences, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , |

Let us eat and play games!

Th: Jefferson requests the favor of Mr. Clinton’s company to dinner and chess on Tuesday next at half after three, or at whatever later hour the house may rise [adjourn].
Saturday Apl. 3. 1802.
The favor of an answer is asked.
To Dewitt Clinton, April 3, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders use social gatherings and games to build relationships.
Jefferson regularly invited people to join him for dinner, which was usually at 3:30 pm. When Congress was in session, his dinner guests often were Representatives and Senators, of both parties, except perhaps for the High Federalists, who wouldn’t have dined with him, regardless.

Clinton (1769-1828) was a New York politician, serving briefly in the U.S. Senate. He is credited with being the primary inspiration for the Erie Canal, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. He was also the nephew of George Clinton, who would become Vice-President during Jefferson’s second term.

Jefferson’s correspondence is sprinkled with these dinner invitations. This is the first one I’ve seen that mentioned playing chess as part of the evening’s activity. He loved chess! This link demonstrates that. Near the end of those references, is this 1853 excerpt from his granddaughter, Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge:
“So he was, in his youth, a very good chess-player. There were not among his associates, many who could get the better of him. I have heard him speak of ‘four hour games’ with Mr. [James] Madison.”

“I sincerely appreciate and thank you
for your outstanding and motivating presentation ….”
Chair, Seattle Federal Executive Board
Mr. Jefferson will be an inspiration to your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Congress, Intellectual pursuits, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |

Enough of politics. Now, about me.

So much as to my country. now a word as to myself. I am retired to Monticello, where, in the bosom of my family, & surrounded by my books, I enjoy a repose to which I have been long a stranger. my mornings are devoted to correspondence. from breakfast to dinner I am in my shops, my garden, or on horseback among my farms; from dinner to dark I give to society & recreation with my neighbors & friends; & from candlelight to early bed-time I read. my health is perfect … as great as usually falls to the lot of near 67 years of age.
To Tadeusz Kosciuszko, February 26, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retired leaders can enjoy the benefits that come from no longer leading.
In a long letter, Jefferson wrote frankly and at length on the nation’s strength and preparation for a likely war with England. Business taken care of, he wanted his old friend to know how he was personally.

He enjoyed great rest to be amid his family and books. He rose at dawn each day and wrote from then until breakfast at 9:30. After breakfast and until dinner at 3:30 (only 2 meals a day), he was outside, supervising his multiple agricultural endeavors. After dinner and until dark, he enjoyed the company of family, friends and neighbors. Once daylight was gone, he read by candlelight until an early bedtime.

He claimed his health was as good as any 67 year old man could enjoy and credited his retired and relaxed lifestyle for that result.

“This letter is to recommend a both talented and fascinating performer …
His professional abilities show that he’s done his homework – extensively!”
Runge Nature Center, Missouri Department of Conversation
Invite Thomas Jefferson to fascinate your audience.
Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Aging, Family matters, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , |

I do NOT want to go to court with you!

… litigation has ever been to me the most painful business I could be engaged in. to this has been owing some of the delays in the present case. the discussion however in this case has been attempered [blended with] by candor & friendship. and by the honest and mutual desire of seeking nothing but what is right. that this spirit animated your father, his letters on this subject, as well as his character prove. that it is equally yours, I feel as entire confidence as I have a knolege that my own wishes have no other object. in this spirit I tender you the assurances of my esteem & respect.
To John Harvie, December 28, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Consensus leaders choose loss rather than confrontation.
The Harvies were long-standing family friends. One John Harvie was guardian for Jefferson when he was a fatherless teenager. That Harvie’s son, also named John, was a contemporary of Jefferson’s. This John Harvie was the grandson, who had inherited a competing claim for land Jefferson believed was rightly his, acquired more than 30 years before. Each man asserted an undeniable claim to the land in question.

Jefferson hated confrontation, even with his political foes. He especially disliked it when it involved friends. Twice, Jefferson unsuccessfully sought arbitration to settle the matter. This John Harvie agreed to arbitration without conceding any claim to the land. Jefferson made these points:
1. Contending in court was the “most painful business” he knew.
2. He admitted delaying settlement in dread of that confrontation.
3. Both men had been straightforward and wanted “what is right,” even though they disagreed on what “right” was.
4. Harvie’s father was an honorable man, and surely the son would be, also.
5. That spirit would enable them to settle the matter equitably.

Two months later, they agreed to divide the land’s valuable equally. Each man, though firmly believing himself entitled to the whole thing, chose half a loaf instead out of respect for the other and the desire to avoid a fight.

“I want to compliment the MBA [Missouri Bankers Association] and Patrick Lee
for the excellent presentation he made as Thomas Jefferson …”
President and CEO, Citizens National Bank
Mr. Jefferson will make an excellent presentation for your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Monticello, Personal preferences, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , |

I insist that you not write about me!

The enquiries in your printed letter of Aug. 1808. would lead to the writing the history of my whole life, than which nothing could be more repugnant to my feelings. I have been connected, as many fellow labourers were, with the great events which happened to mark the epoch of our lives. but these belong to no one in particular.
To Skelton Jones, July 28, 1809

This is the 700th post in the Jefferson Leadership Blog! Woo-woo!

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Servant leaders acknowledge team accomplishments over their own.
Jones was a Virginia newspaper publisher and historian who wished to compile a history of his native state and Jefferson’s role in it. Jones made several requests of Jefferson for information. The lengthy reply containing this excerpt was an earnest attempt to summarize the work of the revisors of statutes in post-independence Virginia. Jefferson was one of five revisors appointed to the task in 1776 and one of two, along with George Wythe, who did the bulk of the work.

Jones’ 1808 query referenced here was an extensive list of questions about every aspect of Jefferson’s life. Always helpful in furthering others’ intellectual and historical pursuits, he declined this request. He said he was only one of “many fellow labourers” involved in a common cause in uncommon times. He did not want anyone to write the history of his life alone. “Nothing could be more repugnant to my feelings,” he wrote.

“Although the land surveyors have had numerous types of entertainment at the conference,
they have never
[before]
responded with a standing ovation.”
Assistant Executive Director, Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors
Mr. Jefferson doesn’t seek ovations, but your audience might just give him one!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in History, Independence, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |