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Category Archives: Politics

Risk 38 years of esteem? No way! Part 2

and with respect to myself particularly, after eight & thirty years of uniform action in harmony with those now constituting the republican party, without one single instant of alienation from them, it cannot but be my most earnest desire to carry into retirement with me their undivided approbation [approval] & esteem. I retain therefore a cordial friendship for both the sections now so unhappily dividing your state.
Thomas Jefferson to Michael Leib, August 11, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders near retirement safeguard their legacy.
In the previous post, Jefferson wrote as matter of policy and as a federal official, he must take no side in state political quarrels. Here, he went from the philosophical to the personal.

For almost four decades, he had allied himself consistently with the republican (small r) cause. No person of that persuasion had ever distanced themselves from him over intra-party differences. He was nearing the end of his public life and wished to carry with him into retirement “their undivided approbation & esteem.” Thus, he would remain friends with both sides, regardless of the damage they were doing to the republican cause in Pennsylvania.

“The Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Inc. highly recommends Mr. Lee
for an event they’ll find most memorable.”
Director of Entertainment, Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Inc.

Need a highly recommended speaker for a memorable event?
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739

NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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I am staying out of this mess! Always have. Part 1

You must be persuaded that great sensibility would be excited in this State, could it be believed that the President of the United States would interfere in our elections; and without any other authority than my confidence in you, I have flatly denied any such interference.
Michael Leib to Thomas Jefferson, July 22, 1805

I see with extreme concern the acrimonious dissensions into which our friends in Pensylvania have fallen, but have long since made up my mind on the propriety of the general [national] government’s taking no side in state quarrels…
Thomas Jefferson to Michael Leib, August 12, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep their noses out of other people’s disagreements.
The Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Robert McKean, was being challenged for that office by another Republican, Simon Snyder. Michael Leib reported that Jefferson had been represented as favoring McKean over Snyder. Leib alerted the President to the danger of such action and to local disputants, denied Jefferson’s involvement.

The President hated controversy and confrontation, particularly between friends or political allies. He would try to defuse such feelings if possible and take no side, regardless. State quarrels were not his to mediate, no matter how much they troubled him.

“Thank you for playing a key role
in making our 118th Annual Conference such a great success.”
Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Mr. Jefferson will contribute greatly to the success of your meeting!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.

 

 

 

 

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How much trash talk should I put up with?

the revival of antient slanders under pretext of new evidence, has induced Th:J. to do, what he never took the trouble of doing before, to revise [re-examine] some papers he happens to have here (for most of that date are at Monticello) and to make a statement of the transactions as they really took place, with a view that they shall be known to his friends at least. under this view he taxes mr Gallatin with reading the inclosed, altho’ it extends to three sheets of paper.
Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, June 21, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
An effective leader knows when to reassure his friends.
What “antient slanders” Jefferson referred to are unknown, but he rarely if ever defended himself publicly. George Washington’s advice to him years before had been to ignore slanders, whether political or personal. In the time it took to answer the attack, 10 more would spring up. It was a losing game, a sucker bet.

Still, the thin-skinned President was not immune to the effect those attacks could have on his allies. Occasionally in private correspondence to trusted associates he would deny such charges (his paternity of Sally Hemings’ children, for instance) or remind them of the facts, as he did here. Referring to himself in the third person, “Th:J.” asked his Treasury Secretary to review three enclosed pages of background material regarding the latest charges against him. He knew Gallatin would circulate that information to others.

“Not only was Mr. Lee an excellent Thomas Jefferson,
he was also very professional.”
Director of Law-Related Education, The Missouri Bar
Even lawyers recommend Thomas Jefferson!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Can you believe this man’s gall?!

the father [Robert Gamble] asked from me a letter of introduction to you. I was the more surprised at this, as his federalism had distinguished itself by personal hostility to me … yet having made the request, I felt myself bound in delicacy to give him a civil answer … of the young man I know nothing … he [the father] has two sisters married to two most estimable republicans, for whom I have great friendship … I will ask your notice of mr Gamble [the son] & even that you will let him know I had done so. the father even asked a letter of credit for his son: but this I declined. he the father has been twice bankrupt, tho’ is now deemed in good circumstances: but has never been deemed delicate in his pecuniary [financial] dealings.
Thomas Jefferson to John Armstrong, Jr., June 21, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes a leader just has to suck it up and be cordial to jerks.
The immediate previous post was Jefferson’s letter to Gamble, who had requested letters of introduction and a line of credit for his European-bound 23 year old son. Armstrong, serving as a U.S. diplomat in England, now received one of those introductions. He was also received very interesting background information!

The father who had requested the favors not only was Jefferson’s political opponent in Virginia but had shown “personal hostility” to him! Yet, Gamble had two sisters married to “estimable republicans” who were close friends of his. But for this, Jefferson might have ignored Gamble’s brazen request, but “delicacy” required of him “a civil answer.”

In light of the line of credit, which Jefferson denied, he pointed out that the father had been bankrupt twice. Like father, line son?

“I …[thought] having Mr. Jefferson as our conference keynote in Richmond
at The Hotel Jefferson would be ideal, and it was!”
EVP, Carolina-Virginias Telephone Membership Association
Mr. Jefferson has spoken in far less impressive places than the 5-Star Jefferson Hotel!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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I must think of myself as a robot. It helps, a little.

it is indeed far the most painful part of my duty, under which nothing could support me but the consideration that I am but a machine erected by the constitution for the performance of certain acts according to laws of action laid down for me, one of which is that I must anatomise the living man as the Surgeon does his dead subject, view him also as a machine & employ him for what he is fit for, unblinded by the mist of friendship.
Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, June 13, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders must learn how to do the unpleasant parts of their work.
The director of the U.S. Mint was retiring and naming his replacement fell by law to the President. He felt compelled by both British and American precedent to appoint the most renowned mathematician to the job. That would be Robert Patterson.

This is the second letter Jefferson wrote to old and trusted friends, both eminent scientists, who might have been equally qualified for the job, explaining why they were not chosen. Personnel decisions were painful for him, ones involving friends especially so. In such cases, he had to regard himself as nothing “but a machine,” doing the job required by the Constitution. He compared himself to an anatomy professor, dissecting the living man as the professor did the dead one, each making the best possible use of their subject. Friendship could not be a factor.

“… Also, should you wish to use us as a reference,
feel free to do so.”
President, Linn State Technical College
One President recommends another!
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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“Fake news” is as old as the hills. And it appears to be true!

you will see in the papers an extra letter of Elliott’s of extraordinary aspect. it contains some absolute untruths. but what is most remarkeable is that expressions are so put together as to be literally true when strictly considered & analysed, and yet to convey to 99 readers out of 100. the most absolute & mischievous falsehoods. it is a most insidious attempt to cover [conceal] his own opinions & passions … and to fill with inquietude the republicans who have not the means of good information.
Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, May 27, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Manipulative leaders also manipulate the facts.
The content of Elliott’s letter in the newspapers is unknown as is the identity of Elliott himself. It may have been Vermont Congressman James Elliott. The President alerted his widowed son-in-law and Congressman about the that content.

This Elliott published “some absolute untruths” presented in such a manner as to appear “to be literally true,” with the effect of deceiving almost everybody. He did it in such a way to conceal his own interests while causing “inquietude [restlessness]” among faithful republicans, the President’s supporters, who had no way of discerning the truth.

“The folks really admire the ease and friendliness you show.
They were impressed with your wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm …”
Tour Director, Foretravel Motor Club
Invite us to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Your thick skin just gets thicker!

if we suffer ourselves to be frightened from our post by mere lying, surely the enemy will use that weapon: for what one so cheap to those of whose system of politics morality makes no part? the patriot, like the Christian, must learn that to bear revilings & persecutions is a part of his duty: and in proportion as the trial is severe, firmness under it becomes more requisite & praiseworthy. it requires indeed self-command. but that will be fortified in proportion as the calls for it’s exercise are repeated.
Thomas Jefferson to James Sullivan, May 21, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders must stand in the face of slander.
Sullivan (1744-1808) was a Massachusetts lawyer, politician and Jefferson ally. The President commiserated with him regarding lies from the opposing party and suggested George Washington himself would not have been able to bear up against the current slanders.

Fleeing public office because of lies would only encourage the liars to use the same tactic against others. It was a cheap weapon for those without any moral sense. Enduring slander was simply one’s duty. The worse the slander, the more important and noble resistance became. That resistance, while never easy, would become less difficult with practice.

“… Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts about democracy, responsibility and leadership
at the local level surely succeeded in reinforcing the call to serve …”
Executive Director, Maine Municipal Association
Mr. Jefferson will sound a strong call to serve!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Not unless they’ve changed their minds!

… [choose] a sound preponderance of those who are friendly to the order of things so generally approved by the nation. men hostile to that, & whose principal views are to embarras & thwart the public measures, cannot be too carefully kept out of the way of doing it. I do not mean by this to proscribe honest, well meaning men, heretofore federalists, and now sincerely disposed to concur with the national sentiment & measures.
Thomas Jefferson to Robert Williams, April 28, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Reasonable people wake up and smell the coffee!
This letter to soon-to-be Territorial Governor Williams (1773-1836) of Mississippi is very similar to the previous post, a letter to the corresponding official in the Indiana Territory. The President had been asked by the legislature in each territory to pick five men from a list of 10 for a legislative council. In each case, not knowing the individuals nominated, Jefferson delegated the decision to the Governor and suggested criteria for the selection.

One standard for Indiana was no Federalist appointments. It appeared to be a blanket rejection of anyone from the other party and an endorsement of strict political patronage. He moderated that position in this letter, written the same day.

To Indiana, he cited an opposition with no interest but to obstruct. To Mississippi, he allowed for political opponents who understood that in the election of 1800, citizens had changed political direction and reinforced that choice in 1804. He would not prohibit the appointment of “honest, well-meaning men, heretofore federalists” who recognized the political climate had changed and had shifted with it.

“…our sincere appreciation to you for your exceptional presentation
at our recently concluded convention.”
President/General Manager, Missouri Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
Do you want an exceptional speaker for your meeting?
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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No cheats! No hacks! No speculators!

… I can only recommend an adherence to the principles which would have governed myself in making the selection. 1. to reject dishonest men. 2. those called federalists even the honest men among them, are so imbued with party prejudice … that they are incapable of weighing candidly the pro and the con … their effect in the public councils is merely to embarras & thwart them. 3. land-jobbers [speculators] are undesirable. it is difficult for them, even with honest intentions, to act without bias in questions having any relation to their personal interests.
Thomas Jefferson to William Henry Harrison, April 28, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know even honest men can act dishonorably.
The President had been asked to pick five men out of ten nominated to serve on a legislative council for the Territory of Indiana. He knew none of the nominees and delegated the selection to Harrison (1773-1841), Territorial Governor. He recommended three standards:
1. No “dishonest men”
2. None from the political opposition – Even honest ones were so partisan they could not fairly weigh an issue. Their only motivation was “to embarrass & thwart.”
3. None who could benefit financially – Again, even honest men could not “act without bias” where money was to be made or lost.

Thirty six years later, in 1841, Harrison became the 9th President of the U.S., defeating Martin Van Buren. He died just 31 days after his inauguration and was succeeded by his Vice-President, John Tyler. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, served one term as President, 1889-1893.

“Mr. Lee’s creative energy and talent were a major factor
in making this critical event the success it was.”
Program Coordinator, The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Jefferson will make a significant contribution to your meeting!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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They have too much pride to admit their error.

[I] had before observed what was said in the Chronicle of it’s conciliatory tendency. some are of opinion that attempts at conciliation 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.
Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Elwyn, March 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders value humility.
Elwyn wrote a political pamphlet that was published in Boston and had received a favorable review in the Chronicle newspaper. He sent a copy of his pamphlet to the President, who apparently had read the Chronicle’s review. The tone of the pamphlet must have hoped for some reconciliation between political opponents.

Jefferson disagreed with those who maintained “attempts at reconciliation are useless.” That was true of leaders whose views were so rigid that pride prevented them from changing their minds. It was not true of the “mass” of citizens who had been led astray “by misinformation.” Reconciliation had happened for most already and would for the remainder in due time.

In an 1825 letter to a child, summarizing what he had learned in 81 years, Jefferson wrote, among other things, “Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.”

“… thank you for your excellent presentation …
your portrayal and your responses to questions from the audience were right on the mark.”
Secretary/Treasurer, Virginia Association of Surveyors
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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