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I admire smart women!

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mrs Warren & returns her the paper she had been pleased to inclose to him with his own subscription & that of the heads of departments … he learns with great satisfaction that mrs Warren’s attention has been so long turned to the events which have been passing. the last thirty years will furnish a more instructive lesson to mankind than any equal period known in history. he has no doubt the work she has prepared will be equally useful to our country & honourable to herself.
Thomas Jefferson to Mercy Otis Warren, February 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Empowering leaders encourage the marginalized.
The Massachusetts born Warren (1728-1814) was a strong supporter of American independence. She wrote prolifically on its behalf but always under a pen name, since female authors were almost unheard of. In 1790, she published a book of poems and plays under her own name. In 1805, she completed a three volume history of the United States, the first written by a woman.

It is that history Thomas Jefferson referenced in this letter. He was buying copies of her work for himself and his cabinet members. He had no doubt her seminal work would “be equally useful to our country and honourable to herself.”

“Your presentation was totally amazing
to our group from Mexico, Canada and the U.S.”
Program Chair, International Hunter  Education Conference
Let your audience be amazed.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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“Hamilton”? Shmamilton!

This mini-rant is my tribute to Mr. Jefferson on his favorite day, July 4.

Of all the piling on Thomas Jefferson has endured the last 20 years, most of it unfounded and undeserved, much “credit” can be given to the incredible popularity of the play, “Hamilton.” It is a clever, rap music account of Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury and Jefferson’s arch political foe.

I have not seen the play, though I have read plenty about it. I have read Ron Chernow’s biography, Hamilton, which inspired the play. Chernow’s characterization of Jefferson was unfavorable. The play followed suit.

Two authors have taken a little of the bloom off the “Hamilton” rose in the article below. I wrote to them immediately, with an email that began and ended:
“Hello, Valerie & Cameron –
FINALLY! Finally someone has taken on the myth of “Hamilton.” Thank you! … “Hamilton,” like “1776,” might be great entertainment, but they are lousy history.””


Enough With Hamilton, Say Fans of Other Founding Fathers

By Valerie Bauerlein and Cameron McWhirter
https://www.wsj.com/articles/enough-with-hamilton-say-fans-of-other-founding-fathers-11561312822

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—It’s a hard time to be a Founding Father if your name isn’t Alexander Hamilton.

The runaway Broadway success of “Hamilton: An American Musical” has meant that Thomas Jefferson isn’t even the sole attraction in his own home-turned-museum, Monticello. Visitors can take a standard house tour—or a $40 “Hamilton Takeover” one that focuses on Jefferson’s political adversary.

Long after its 2015 Broadway debut, “Hamilton” continues to make the Revolutionary period hip, and to the dismay of many history buffs, steal the limelight from other Founding Fathers. Fans of the other giants of early American history have been trying to fight the tide and grab some attention for their overlooked favorites. It hasn’t been easy.

On a recent afternoon, Monticello tour guide Carrie Soubra stopped in the library of Jefferson’s sunlit private suite to try to shore up the former president’s reputation, taking a dig at Hamilton along the way. Yes, the musical portrays Jefferson as a self-absorbed patrician, she said, but he trusted the voice of the people more than his rival did.

“Alexander Hamilton declared we should have a president for life,” Ms. Soubra said, pointing to an engraved copy of the Declaration of Independence, of which Jefferson was the principal author. “That sounds a lot like what this was trying to get rid of.”

In Philadelphia, crowds line up for a Hamilton exhibit at the National Constitution Center, but a beer-trolley tour led by a Benjamin Franklin impersonator is no longer offered because of lack of interest.

Warren Royal, the owner of Royal Bobbles in suburban Atlanta, says he produced a run of nonpresidential Founding Father bobbleheads a few years before the musical. He made Hamiltons, Franklins, Thomas Paines, John Hancocks and Sam Adamses.

After the musical hit Broadway, sales of the Hamiltons skyrocketed, outselling all other founders but George Washington. Hamilton is now closing in on Negan, a zombie-apocalypse survivor on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

Mr. Royal discontinued Paine and Hancock. Other founders are foundering, including the nation’s fourth president, James Madison. “He’s no Elvis, I’ll put it that way,” Mr. Royal says.

Historian Nancy Isenberg, author of “Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr” and other books on Revolutionary leaders, published a series of essays saying Burr was principled and progressive, not the “stand-for-nothing” sycophant portrayed in the musical. She says she was inundated with emails from “rabid fans with an attachment to an imaginary, invented Hamilton.”

“That’s not history,” she says. “That’s rooting for your favorite team.”

Sarah Maria Everett, a 30-year-old James Madison superfan and impersonator living in Juneau, Alaska, says she is “appalled and confused” by the hit musical’s depiction of Madison as unstable. She says the biggest problem for her favorite president is public ignorance.

Yet she has scant opportunity to don her tricorn hat and plead his case, with a lone coming appearance this summer in a July Fourth parade. No theater groups have agreed to perform her five-hour play, “Jemmy Madison: The Mind and the Man Behind Religious Liberty.” Jemmy was Mr. Madison’s nickname.

“There is not a lot of demand for James Madison in Alaska,” says Ms. Everett, who is considering impersonating German composer Richard Wagner in the future.

One Philadelphia-area Franklin impersonator, Brian Patrick Mulligan, posted a tongue-in-cheek audition video when casting directors were recruiting for a “Hamilton” national tour. His headshot was the $100 bill. The show’s casting director didn’t reach out, and Franklin remains absent from the show.

“It’s so young and hip and fresh,” Mr. Mulligan, 58 years old, says of the musical. “I can understand why they wouldn’t have an old man in the show.”

Mr. Mulligan has a few gigs lined up as Franklin, including an AARP internet commercial. He supplements his income with appearances as his backup characters, which include Winston Churchill and Uncle Fester from the 1960s sitcom “The Addams Family.”

Descendants and supporters of Burr, who killed Hamilton in an 1804 duel in Weehawken, N.J., have debated how hard to push back on the play’s characterization that Burr dishonorably fired on Hamilton.

“The play adopts the theory as true that Hamilton deliberately missed Burr,” says Stuart Fisk Johnson, a criminal-defense attorney distantly related to Burr who heads the Aaron Burr Association. “Throwing away your shot, they called it. But no one really knows what happened.”

The association debated sending a letter of protest to playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda. Its members couldn’t agree on whether to take a stand.

A spokesman for Mr. Miranda didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“Some members really leaned on me to make a big stink,” Mr. Johnson says. “We thought it’s going to make the Aaron Burr Association look like a bunch of kooks.” going to make the Aaron Burr Association look like a bunch of kooks.”

Some of the group’s 80 or so members complained when the association took no action, and one, the group’s webmaster, quit in protest, a blow since no one else knows how to update the website, Mr. Johnson says.

The group did decide to protest statues of Burr and Hamilton erected in Weehawken, recently sending a sternly worded letter to township Mayor Richard Turner.

“The statues are despicable,” explained Antonio Burr, an association member who has impersonated his forebear at debates and a duel re-enactment. “Burr looking at Hamilton with intense hatred, and Hamilton is shooting in the air and looking like he is receiving the Good Lord.”

Mayor Turner didn’t reply to the letter, according to the association. The mayor didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“What are we going to do about it?” Mr. Johnson says. “We can’t issue a duel anymore.”

Veteran Jefferson interpreter Bill Barker recently joined the staff at Monticello as curators experiment with programming to reverse a recent dip in attendance.

He made his debut at a “Pursuit of Happiness Hour” on the west lawn earlier this month. Mr. Barker prepared a raft of responses to questions about Hamilton, ready to respond to questioning teens while posing for selfies.

But he says it is possible that Jefferson ends up a bad guy to a generation of fans.

“They would have every right if they should choose,” he said, speaking in character. “That is a founding principle of our nation.”

For now, boosters of non-Hamilton founders are pinning their hopes on the planned 2021 revival of the Tony Award-winning musical “1776.” It stars Franklin, Jefferson and Adams. There is no Hamilton.

Write to Valerie Bauerlein at valerie.bauerlein@wsj.com and Cameron McWhirter at cameron.mcwhirter@wsj.com

Appeared in the June 24, 2019, print edition.

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On the death of our children … Part 1 of 4

The affectionate sentiments … in your letter of May 20. towards my dear departed daughter, have awakened in me sensibilities natural to the occasion, & recalled your kindnesses to her which I shall ever remember with gratitude & friendship. I can assure you with truth they had made an indelible impression on her mind, and that, to the last, on our meetings after long separations, whether I had heard lately of you, and how you did, were among the earliest of her enquiries. in giving you this assurance I perform a sacred duty for her…
To Abigail Smith Adams, June 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Suffering leaders value encouragement from fellow sufferers.
Still smarting over grievances between her husband, the previous President, and his successor, the current President, Abigail Adams delayed acknowledging the death of his daughter. Finally overwhelmed by her affections for Maria Jefferson, she wrote a sincere letter of condolence. Three of her six children preceded her in death, and she knew what her former friend was experiencing. (Maria’s passing marked the fifth of Jefferson’s six children to die.)

Jefferson thanked Abigail, reminiscing about when she and Maria became close. Maria never waned in her affection for Mrs. Adams and always asked her father for news about her. Acknowledging Adams’ kindness to his daughter allowed him to “perform a sacred duty for her…”

The President had more to express to the former First Lady. That will be the subject of future posts.

” … please accept this letter of thanks and appreciation
for your outstanding presentation … “
Staff Advisory Council Chair, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
University of Missouri
Mr. Jefferson addressed the staff in a huge garage amidst multiple farm machines.
He will speak in (almost) any venue. Invite him! Call 573-657-2739
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The fake news possibilities are endless!

I … learnt the death of Dr. Priestly … [and] request that you will be so kind as to take measures to prevent my letter & syllabus from ever getting into other hands. you know that if I write as a text that two and two are four, it serves to make volumes of sermons of slander and abuse.
To Thomas Cooper, February 24, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thin-skinned leaders shouldn’t add fuel to the fire.
Jefferson had sent his comparison of Jesus and other philosophers to Joseph Priestly, who had since died. The President guarded closely his personal views on religion and shared them only with very few trusted friends. Both Cooper and Priestly were in that select company. He asked Cooper’s help in keeping those private papers private.

Jefferson was always sensitive to criticism, convinced his political opponents would twist anything against him. In this example, he claimed that if he wrote publicly two plus two equaled four, his enemies would make that the basis for volumes of abuse.

“Your well-researched portrayals President Thomas Jefferson and Captain William Clark
were highlights of the five-day event.”
Director, Prairieland Chautauqua, Jacksonville, IL
Invite Thomas Jefferson (or his friends Boone & Clark) to highlight your meeting!
Call 573-657-2739
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How much do you trust that person?

Th: Jefferson … returns him Govr. Mc.kean’s letter;  … [the content of the original accusation] was so little noted that neither the person, nor manner can now be recollected …Th:J. has been entirely on his guard against these idle tales, and considers Govr. Mc.kean’s life & principles as sufficient evidence of their falsehood, and that he may be perfectly assured that no such insinuations have or can make an impression on his mind to the Governor’s disadvantage.
To Henry Dearborn, February 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders affirm other principled leaders.
A letter by someone unidentified claimed that Pennsylvania’s Governor McKean was heading a group to oppose President Jefferson’s re-election. McKean denied the charge but was concerned to learn the rumor was circulating in the nation’s capital.

McKean wrote an impassioned letter to Dearborn, Jefferson’s Secretary of War, perhaps knowing Dearborn would share the denial with the President. Dearborn did just that, and Jefferson laid the matter to rest for both men with this reply:
1. He was somewhat aware of the original accusation but paid so little attention to it that he could no longer remember the accuser or the details of the charge.
2. He was “entirely on his guard against these idle tales.”
3. Gov. McKean’s “life & principles” rendered this accusation baseless.
4. Nothing past, present or future would alter his confidence in McKean.

Thank you for, yet another, outstanding performance.”
President, Missouri Valley Adult Education Association
Schedule an outstanding presentation for your audience.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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A drunken cheater or a plodding illiterate?

… have nothing to do with Catlett. his character is in three words, a sharper [cheat], bankrupt & besotted. …  every person in that neighborhood would in confidence tell you the same. I think you had better put every thing respecting your land into the hands of Price. he is illiterate, & slow, but very steady, honest & punctual. he would be equal to the two objects of seeing that the tenants observed the rules of culture, & of remitting your rents to Richmond
To William Short, November 6, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Friends warn friends away from cheaters.
Short (1750-1849) was Jefferson’s protege, personal secretary in France and lifelong friend. He spent many years abroad in the diplomatic service. He owned land in Virginia, bought a decade earlier at Jefferson’s urging, and now sought his recommendation for a manager.

The President warned his friend about Catlett, a potential candidate, and said every neighbor would confirm his assessement. Far better to deal with Price, although slow and uneducated was honest and reliable. That man would do the two things any land-owner needed, enforce his rules and collect his rents.

I am still receiving many compliments
from your thoughtful and knowledgeable speech.”
Executive Director, Indiana Municipal Power Agency
Your audience will find much to remember in Mr. Jefferson’s remarks.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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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
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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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They hated him. He revered them.

I recieved yesterday evening your letter … informing me of the death of mrs Washington: [I was a]        witness of her constant course in whatsoever was benevolent and virtuous in life, had marked her in my judgment as one of the most estimable of women, and had inspired me with an affectionate and respectful attachment to her. this loss is the more felt too as it renews the memory of a preceding one, of a worthy of that degree which providence, in it’s wise dispensations, sees fit rarely to bestow on us, whose services in the cause of man had justly endeared him to the world, and whose name will be among the latest monuments of the age wherein he lived, which time will extinguish.
To Thomas Law, May 31, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders don’t sacrifice friendships over business differences.
On numerous occasions, Jefferson lamented that former friends had distanced themselves from him over political differences. It was one of the things that repelled him about public life. He maintained he was never the one to end a friendship because of politics.

Jefferson was critical of President Washington during his second term, and of President Adams, who continued his policies. Those were political disagreements only, never personal. The Washingtons took the criticisms personally and developed an intense dislike for Jefferson. (See the footnote at the link above for a description of Martha Washington’s scathing comments about Jefferson a few months prior to this letter!)

Receiving word of Mrs. Washington’s death, he had nothing but praise for her, a position he had always held. Her death reminded him of her husband’s passing two and a half years earlier, and of the stunning contributions George Washington had made to the new nation.

“I received so many great compliments
on your performance of Thomas Jefferson …”
Missouri Land Title Association
Your members will be surprised at the value Mr. Jefferson brings to your meeting.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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What kind of a man was Patrick Henry?

he was certainly the man who gave the first impulse to the ball of revolution. were I to give his character in general terms, it would be of mixed aspect. I think he was the best humored man in society I almost ever knew, and the greatest orator that ever lived. he had a consummate knolege of the human heart, which directing the efforts of his eloquence enabled him to attain a degree of popularity with the people at large never perhaps equalled. his judgment in other matters was inaccurate in matters of law it was not worth a copper: he was avaritious & rotten hearted. his two great passions were the love of money & of fame: but when these came into competition the former predominated.
To William Wirt, August 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
How do leaders assess other leaders?
Wirt asked Jefferson’s detailed assistance for a book about Patrick Henry. Jefferson declined, citing the time it would require. Instead, he made these general observations. Henry was:
1. In public, almost “the best humored man” he had ever known.
2. The greatest public speaker with an unequalled ability to influence people
3. Lacking in judgment in matters other than oratory
4. Incompetent as a lawyer
5. Greedy and dishonest, motivated by money and fame

Jefferson did not comment on their political differences, which were many, but on Henry’s character as a person. Nor did he mention Henry’s accusation of his (Governor Jefferson’s) cowardice in fleeing Monticello as British soldiers ascended the mountain to capture him in 1781, charges that grieved him for years.

Wirt’s 1817 book on Patrick Henry is the source of Henry’s famous address to the House of Burgesses in 1775, claiming “… give me liberty or give me death!” None of Henry’s speeches were written down at the time of delivery. This version, given more than 40 years later, is considered fanciful, as is Henry’s most famous quote.

“… we would like to express our sincere appreciation for your excellent portrayal
of Thomas Jefferson at our Annual Volunteer Banquet and Awards Ceremony …”
National Park Service, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
Mr. Jefferson will inspire your audience, too!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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