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Category Archives: Personalities of others

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
Leave a comment Posted in Family matters, Grief & loss, Personalities of others Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

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
Leave a comment Posted in Personalities of others, Religion Tagged , , , , , , |

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
Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Personalities of others, Politics Tagged , , , , , , |

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
Leave a comment Posted in Agriculture, Miscellaneous, Personalities of others 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 , , , , , , , , |

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
Leave a comment Posted in Miscellaneous, Personalities of others Tagged , , , , , , , |

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
Leave a comment Posted in Personalities of others, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , |

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
Leave a comment Posted in Lawyers, Personalities of others

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!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Monticello, Personalities of others, Slavery Tagged , , , , , , |

Weak leaders avoid the tough calls.

I have known mr Page from the time we were boys & classmates together, & love him as a brother. but I have always known him the worst judge of man existing. he has fallen a sacrifice to the ease with which he gives his confidence to those who deserve it not.
To Albert Gallatin, August 28, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders can’t avoid tough choices just to please people.
Jefferson sought opinions from three men about the qualifications of a certain individual for an appointment to a federal office. One of those three was fellow Virginian John Page (1743-1808), his oldest friend. They had been close since their student days at the College of William and Mary, 40 years before.

It appears that Page had already responded with a recommendation for the man being considered even though Page had not met him. Jefferson expected the other two replies soon. He affirmed his affection for Page, but said he was a poor choice of character. Page found it easier to avoid tough calls and praise people whether they deserved it or not.

[We] hired Mr. Patrick Lee to perform as Thomas Jefferson
at our regional meetings around the state …
The result was far beyond our expectations.”
Executive Vice President, Missouri Bankers Association
Mr. Jefferson will exceed your expectations!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Leadership, Personalities of others Tagged , , , , , |