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Category Archives: Politics

Who is more useful in old age and why, doctor, farmer or politician?

I am become sensible of a great advantage your profession has over most others, that, to the close of your life, you can be always doing good to mankind: whereas a retired politician is like a broken down courser [a swift horse], unfit for the turf, and good for little else. I am endeavoring to recover the little I once knew of farming, gardening Etc. and would gladly now exchange any branch of science I possess for the knolege of a common farmer. too old to learn, I must be contented with the occupation & amusement of the art.
To Benjamin Rush, September 22, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some old leaders are far more valuable than others.
Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) was a Philadelphia physician, life-long friend of Jefferson’s and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence. His medical views were controversial. He favored bloodletting and purging. He sent 600 of “Dr. Rush’s Bilious Pills” with Lewis and Clark. Also known as “Rush’s Thunderclappers,” this mercury and chlorine laxative of his own creation had an explosive effect on the human bowel.

But Rush also opposed capital punishment, favored education for women, actively promoted Christianity and pioneered more humane treatment of the mentally ill. He is regarded as the father of American psychiatry.

Here, Jefferson praises the value of the doctor, who can “be always good to mankind,” even to the end of his life. He likened himself, a retired politician, to a former race horse, once fast but now broken down and worthless. In between was the farmer, the identity he always preferred, who also could be useful for a lifetime. Public service drew him away from the land, and he regretted it. He would trade any of his vast scientific understanding “for the knoledge of a common farmer.” He thought himself too old to learning farming once again and amused himself by puttering around his lands.

“I have been told by both the principal and a fourth grade teacher …
that you were the best speaker

they had seen at the school, and the teacher had been in the classroom for 25 years …”
Jefferson Dinner Chair, Hannah Cole Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution
Mr. Jefferson excels at inspiring both children and adults!
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Leave a comment Posted in Aging, Agriculture, Health, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , |

I accept THEIR opinion, but I trust in YOURS.

I gladly lay down the distressing burthen of power…the part which I have acted on the theatre of public life, has been before them [the citizens of the nation]; & to their sentence I submit it: but the testimony of my native county, of the individuals who have known me in private life, to my conduct in it’s various duties, & relations, is the more grateful as proceeding from eye witnesses & observers … of you then, my neighbors, I may ask, in the face of the world, ‘whose ox have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed, or of whose hand have I recieved a bribe to blind mine eyes therewith’? on your verdict I rest with conscious security
To the Inhabitants of Albemarle County, April 3, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders have no fear of going home to stay.
Albemarle County, Virginia was Jefferson’s home county. Its citizens had welcomed his return to Monticello after his retirement, and he prepared this acknowledgement.

He was glad to be done with power! He believed he had acted honorably in office and was willing to accept whatever verdict came from the nation. He was far more concerned with the verdict of his neighbors and friends, people who had known him for decades.

In addressing his friends, he also made his response to distant observers who questioned his judgment, morals and faith. To these who knew him well, he quoted the prophet Samuel from the Old Testament (1 Sam. 12:3), asking whom had he cheated, oppressed or deprived of justice? He would live out his remaining years among those friends and neighbors in the confidence (“conscious security”) of their judgment.

“Mr. Lee has presented as Thomas Jefferson …
on two different occasions and in two very different formats.
In both instances, the presentations were of exceedingly high quality …”

Executive Director, Missouri Humanities Council
Whatever your meeting, Mr. Jefferson will bring a relevant message.
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Leave a comment Posted in Monticello, Morality, Politics, Religion Tagged , , , , , , , , |

I am sorry, my old friend. We really tried.

It is with much concern I inform you that the Senate has negatived [vetoed] your appointment [as ambassador to Russia] … mr Madison, on his entering into office, proposed another person (John Q. Adams.) he also was negatived … our subsequent information was that, on your nomination, your long absence from this country, & their idea that you do not intend to return to it had very sensible weight … I pray you to place me rectus in curiâ [innocent] in this business …
To William Short, March 8, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes circumstances conspire to defeat a leader’s best intentions.
William Short (1759-1849) was Jefferson’s protégé and friend. He served in various diplomatic roles in Europe from 1785-1802, including five years as personal secretary to Ambassador Jefferson in France. After a few years back in America, Short returned to Europe in 1808 on a temporary assignment in Russia. Jefferson proposed to the U.S. Senate to make Short’s appointment permanent. The Senate turned him down cold. There were several reasons.
1. Short’s 17 year residency in Europe had made his allegiance suspect.
2. Elsewhere in this letter, Jefferson explained the Senate was interested both in detangling America from European matters and reducing the size of the diplomatic core.
3. While not stated, Jefferson’s influence was waning. He was a lame duck President when Short was nominated.
4. The Senate was equally independent-minded in vetoing John Quincy Adams, President Madison’s nominee for the same position.

Jefferson began this letter with, “It is with much concern I inform you …” That is probably a great understatement. Most likely, he would have been mortified that  his faithful friend and supporter for a quarter century,a well-qualified man, had been cast aside.

” …what a magnificent and delightful job you did as President Thomas Jefferson
in our substantive program…”
Substantive Program Chair, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Mr. Jefferson even impresses constitutional lawyers and judges!
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Leave a comment Posted in Congress, Diplomacy, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , |

A common foe keeps friends united.

the annihilation of federal opposition has given opportunity to our friends to divide in various parts. a want of concert [unity] here threatens divisions at the fountain head [source]. nor is it on principle, but on measures that the division shews itself. but I fear it will produce separations which will be as prejudicial as they are painful.
To John Minor, March 2, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders appreciate the unifying effect of a strong opposition.
John Minor (1761-1816) was 18 years younger than Jefferson, a Virginia lawyer and Republican. The Federalist majority in Washington had been reversed by the election of 1800 and reduced to an empty shell in 1804. Jefferson lamented an unfortunate result of the Republican ascendency.

Since there was no political opposition to unite against, Republicans were splintering into factions and turning on one another. They weren’t disagreeing on key principles but on “measures,” how to implement those ideas. Not only would friendships be sacrificed over those differences, but prejudices would arise as factions accused one another of bad faith.

“I would like to compliment you and thank you for your masterful performance
of Thomas Jefferson at our 2016 Annual Conference …”
Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Mr. Jefferson will be masterful for your audience, too!
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Why piss people off when it can be avoided?

on seeing an account of Gibaut’s death in the Salem paper I immediately ordered a commission for Kittridge. I gave notice of it to Crownenshield by the same post. I am glad it was done. for after a good candidate is known, delay only gives time to intrigue, to interest a greater number of persons & consequently to make more malcontents by disappointment.
To Albert Gallatin, August 30, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Decisive leaders nip potential problems in the bud.
Without going into detail about the individuals or position, death created a vacancy in a federally appointed office. As soon as the President learned of it in the newspaper, he immediately appointed another and made a public announcement. Why act so quickly?
1. He had a qualified candidate, so there was no need to wait.
2. Delay created space for political intrigue to develop.
3. Delay gave time for other candidates to express interest.
4. The result would create “malcontents” among those not chosen.

“We appreciated your willingness to take questions from the audience,
handling all questions with thoughtfulness and agility.”
Western Coal Transportation Association, Denver, CO
Thomas Jefferson delights to answer questions from his audience, no holds barred!
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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.
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Leave a comment Posted in Newspapers, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , |

Yes. No. Absolutely not.

[You requested] letters of introduction to England & France for your son, & a passport. the passport is now inclosed… [As to] my furnishing such letters on any occasion. it was decided to be unadviseable & improper, & I have adhered rigorously to the rule then laid down … with respect to the pecuniary [financial] aid desired in the contingency of his wanting it, this could not possibly be taken from any public funds … prudent precautions taken by your son would prevent his having occasion for this recurrence …
To Robert Gamble, June 15, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders are often imposed upon with impossible requests.
For his 23 year old son, Gamble asked Jefferson for a passport and letters of introduction to government officials in England and France. The passport was simple and granted. The letters were not. Jefferson cited experience learned early in office that it simply wasn’t approrpiate for the President to write such letters. Wanting to be helpful, he did agree to mention the son in his private correspondence.

Presumptuously, Gamble also asked if up to $500 could be made available from some government official should his son have need of it. Jefferson turned him down cold and suggested Gamble’s son should conduct himself in such a manner that he wouldn’t need financial help.

In subsequent correspondence on the same subject, Jefferson revealed that Gamble was a Federalist (a political opponent), had been bankrupt twice, and had two sisters “married to two most estimable republicans.” This request was a mixed-bag for the President!

Gamble’s letter  was written June 11, saying his son’s ship was sailing in 10 days. Jefferson received the request on the 14th and responded the next day. When he could, Jefferson was diligent to help.

“Mr. Lee’s re-enactment of Thomas Jefferson is educational, informative,
thought-provoking and entertaining …”
The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D.C.
Let Thomas Jefferson inspire and teach your audience.
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Not worth the paper they are written on

agreeable to my promise I now enclose a list of pamphlets, published whilst in Dublin—if you honour me with your Command for one or more of them I will instantly attend to it
To Thomas Jefferson from Patrick Byrne, May 23, 1805

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments to mr Byrne & his thanks for the inclosed catalogue of pamphlets, which he now returns not finding any thing in it which he has occasion to call for. in truth political pamphlets are of so ephemeral an interest that their value passes almost with the moment which produces them.
To Patrick Byrne, May 31, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Discerning leaders know when to be dismissive.
Byrne was a Philadelphia book seller from whom Jefferson had bought numerous volumes. Apparently, Byrne also thought his patron would be interested in current political writings and sent him a list of pamphlets, hoping for another sale.

Jefferson said thanks but no thanks. The political thought represented in those pamphlets held no interest for him. Remember, Jefferson was a man interested in almost everything, so this dismissal is extraordinary.

He was very interested in classic political thought, ideas that stood the test of time, and possessed numerous books on the subject. That he had no interest in these may have meant they dealt with current political thought, i.e. what was popular or trendy or partisan. For him, any value evaporated as soon as they were printed.

“Enhancing this presentation is his animated and sincere delivery
that leaves his audience inspired and motivated.”
Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your audience!
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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!
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How do you change minds?

… some are of opinion that attempts at [re]conciliation [with the political opposition] are useless. this is true only as to distinguished leaders who had committed themselves so far that their pride will not permit them to correct themselves. but it is not true as to the mass of those who had been led astray by an honest confidence in the government & by misinformation. the great majority of these has already reconciled itself to us, & the rest are doing so as fast as the natural progress of opinion will permit.
To Thomas Elwyn, March 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know it takes both time and results to change minds.
Elwyn had sent Jefferson a pamphlet on some subject, and the President replied with his thanks. Something in Elwyn’s submission must have dealt with reconciliation between the political parties, a subject much on Jefferson’s mind. He made these observations:

1. Reconciliation of differences is always a worthwhile goal.
2. Too much pride would keep some from ever changing their minds.
3. “honest confidence in the government” had deceived some people.
4. “misinformation” had deceived others.
5. The majority of those “led astray” had changed their minds already.
6. The rest would do so, given enough time to consider the evidence.

“As a meeting planner, it was a pleasure to work with you …”
Director of Member Services, Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives
Mr. Jefferson is a pleasure to work with!
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