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

Category Archives: Personal preferences

Interrupted, Incomplete, Premature, Immature & ANONYMOUS!

not having written any three lines of this without interruption it has been impossible to keep my ideas rallied to the subject. I must let these hasty outlines go therefore as they are. some are premature, some probably immature; but make what use you please of them except letting them get into print.
Thomas Jefferson to Littleton W. Tazewell, January 5, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know attribution can be a liability.
Jefferson was nearing the end of a long letter, describing in both grand terms and lesser ones his vision for a top-notch university in Virginia. Some letters he answered as time permitted. This one he answered immediately.

He had read Tazewell’s letter the evening before, on a subject dear to his heart and responded the next day, squeezing it in among his presidential duties. As such, he said he hadn’t written more than three lines at a time “without interruption.” He claimed he couldn’t keep his thoughts clear on the project.

Still, he was so eager to contribute to the debate, he would let his thoughts go out immediately, jumbled or not, well-thought-out or not. Tazewell could pick and choose as he liked.

The only thing he insisted on was anonymity, not wanting to give his political foes more to use against him or the university-to-be.

“When Patrick Lee appeared on stage in full costume …
he commanded the surveyors’ immediate attention.”
Assistant Executive Director, Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak.
Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Education, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , , |

I like it! I’d also like this and this. Oh, and this, too.

Passing as I do the active hours of my life in my study, I have found it essential to bring all the implements I use there within the narrowest compas possible; & in no case to lose a single inch of space which can be made to hold any thing. hence every thing is placed within my reach without getting out of my chair. on this principle I approve of the two drawers to the Polygraph proposed in your letter of the 25th … which would hold paper, pens, penknife, pencils, scissors, Etc. Etc. …
To Charles Willson Peale, November 28, 1804
P.S. Since writing my letter of this morning it has occurred to me …

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Efficient leaders appreciate advice in being even more efficient!
Previous posts detailed Jefferson’s delight in his polygraph, a personal copy machine. Philadelphia friend, artist and museum owner Peale was making two more, one ordered by the President for a friend and another for Jefferson’s use. Peale suggested the design of the polygraph case would allow for the addition of two storage drawers. Jefferson agreed!

Drawers would add to his efficiency, a matter of great interest to him. He wouldn’t have to leave his desk to get more supplies! Always the micro-manager when it came to his personal tastes, not only did he approve the drawers, but he also dictated their exact size, one “10⅜ I. square” and another “12⅜ I. by 6.” While he was at it, he suggested two other design changes.

If that weren’t enough, yet another modification came to mind later in the day. He rarely added postscripts to his letters, but he did this time. The proposed change would necessitate decreasing one dimension of each drawer “three quarters of an inch.”

“This was the third Blue & Gold Banquet I have attended,
and it was the only one that the 100 plus Scouts kept quiet and paid attention …”
Vice-President, Site Development Engineering, Inc.
If Daniel Boone (one of Jefferson’s speaking compatriots) can captivate 100 Boy Scouts,
they can certainly do the same for your audience of adults!
Invite them to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Miscellaneous, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

I am tapped out!

… no man is less in condition to aid his friends pecuniarily [financially] than myself. I have always endeavored so to live as just to make both ends meet; but imperfect calculations disappoint that endeavor, and occasion deficiencies which accumulating, keep me always under difficulties. my resources of every kind have for some time been on the stretch so that I can with truth assure you that at this time they could not be made to place one thousand dollars at my command. under these circumstances I can only express unavailing regrets that it is not in my power to be useful to you …
To Ferdinando Fairfax, September 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even smart leaders can deceive themselves.
Fairfax asked two things in his letter to the President, for the national government to buy his ironworks and for Jefferson to loan him $10,000. Jefferson declined both, and perhaps Fairfax’s status in Virginia earned him Jefferson’s reasoning in both cases. The ironworks issue was explained in the previous post. This excerpt is an unusually candid glimpse of his finances.

Although he claimed to match outgo to income, he was kidding himself. As early as his French Ambassador days in the 1780s, he was living beyond his means, occasionally borrowing money for living expenses and then borrowing more to pay off previous loans. His “imperfect calculations” about future income were often overly optimistic, assuming higher crop prices and better weather. When neither happened, he was “always under difficulties.” He couldn’t put together $1,000 in cash.

Many of Jefferson’s financial difficulties were caused by factors beyond his control. Still, he often lived beyond his means, with few restrictions on his creature comforts.

“Our audience of Western state legislators truly appreciates
the lessons of American history that are so relevant to their duties today.”
Program Manager, Council of State Governments-WEST, Vancouver, WA
Lessons from Thomas Jefferson ARE relevant to your duties today!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Debt, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Should leaders keep their good deeds secret?

We have just heard of the calamitous event of Norfolk … [I] take the liberty of inclosing two hundred dollars to you, & of asking the favor of you to have it applied in the way you think best, for the relief of such description of sufferers as you shall think best. I pray not to be named in newspapers on this occasion.
To Thomas Newton, March 5, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Tragedy should not be a publicity opportunity for leaders.
A fire in Norfolk, Virginia on February 22 injured or killed many and destroyed more than 250 buildings. The President sent $200 for the relief fund, in care of a Virginia Congressman. Jefferson did not want his donation publicized in the newspapers.

The year before, Jefferson made another disaster-related donation to Portsmouth, NH. He insisted on anonymity then, too.

How many leaders today, do you suppose, deliberately keep their charitable efforts out of the public eye?

“Mr. Lee was engaged to represent both William Clark and Thomas Jefferson.
His portrayal of both men was outstanding …”
Executive Director, Greater St. Louis Federal Executive Board
Want an outstanding presentation for your audience?
Invite Thomas Jefferson (or Lewis & Clark’s William Clark) to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Leadership styles, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

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?
Invite Patrick Lee to speak to your audience. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Miscellaneous, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , |

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 , , , , , , , |