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

Category Archives: Presidency

I give the credit to others. Part 9

In giving these outlines, I do not mean, fellow citizens, to arrogate [claim without justification] to myself the merit of the measures. that is due in the first place to the reflecting character of our citizens at large … it is due to the sound discretion with which they select … those to whom they confide the legislative duties. it is due to the zeal & wisdom of the characters thus selected, who lay the foundations of public happiness in wholsome laws … and it is due to the able and faithful auxiliaries, whose patriotism has associated them with me in the executive functions.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders credit others freely and widely.
Thomas Jefferson had recited his administration’s accomplishments in curtailing government and taxes, spending wisely, acquiring Louisiana, staying out of religion and work on behalf of the Indians. Now, he refused to take claim that success as his own but acknowledged where true credit belonged:
1. First, the wisdom of America’s citizens
2. Then, the Congressional Representatives chosen by those citizens
3. The “zeal & wisdom” of those Representatives
4. His “able & faithful” co-laborers in the Executive Branch

He put citizens first, Congress and its work next, and then his capable lieutenants. He didn’t mention himself.

“Thank you for making this year’s Annual Meeting a success!
… hopefully we will work together in the future.”
Associate Executive Director, Arkansas Bar Association
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, go to FoundersArchives.gov. Cut a few words from the letter in the post, paste them into the search box at the top, with beginning and ending quotation marks, and click the GO button. The correct letter … should … come up.
Or call me. I’ll help you find it.
Leave a comment Posted in Congress, Miscellaneous, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Two and I’m outta here!

my opinion originally was that the President of the US. should have been elected for 7. years, & for ever ineligible afterwards. I have since become sensible that 7. years is too long to be unremoveable …the service for 8. years with a power to remove at the end of the first four, comes nearly to my principle …  the danger is that … reelection through life shall become habitual, & election for life follow that. Genl. Washington set the example of voluntary retirement after 8. years. I shall follow it. and a few more precedents will …[establish this principle]. perhaps it may beget a disposition to establish it by an amendment of the constitution.
Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, January 6, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders self-limit their authority.
Taylor (1753-1824) was a Virginia lawyer, farmer, politician, political writer and close ally of Thomas Jefferson. He had written the President after hearing reports that Jefferson would serve a second term only and then retire. Taylor asked him to reconsider that decision.

Jefferson declined. One of his three objections to the new U.S. Constitution proposed in 1787 was no limit on the number of terms a President could serve. He feared that could turn into a President-for-life, either dictator or king. He credited Washington with setting the example of retiring after two terms. He would follow suit. Several more doing the same would establish the principle. Presidents Madison and Monroe continued in that vein, serving two terms only.

That principle continued until 1940, when Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a third term and then a fourth in 1944. This resulted in the 22nd Amendment (which Jefferson suggested) adopted in 1951, constitutionally limiting the President to two terms.

“After your presentation, it was truly amazing
how you answered questions from the audience without stepping out of character.”
Executive Director, Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio
Mr. Jefferson delights in a no-holds-barred question-and-answer session!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

This is my problem, not yours. Go. (Part 2 of 2)

I must now turn to the painful task of finding a successor. altho you had prepared me for this event, I am as much unprovided as if it were now for the first time mentioned. I see not who is to fill the chasm. but this labour is my lot. be yours that of domestic felicity, of health & long life: and with this wish accept my affectionate salutations & assurances of great & constant esteem & respect.
Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, December 28, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Departing trusted lieutenants are one of a leader’s greatest challenges.
In the previous post, Thomas Jefferson reluctantly but with understanding accepted the resignation of his Attorney General for family reasons. Filling the vacancy now posed a “painful task.”

In a series of recent posts, the President explained how personnel issues were the most difficult part of his job. Governing was easy. Picking the people who would govern with him was not. Although Jefferson knew this day was coming, he was still unprepared with a successor. No one could “fill the chasm.”

Stoic in this regard, Jefferson acknowledged his job was to deal with it. Lincoln’s was to enjoy family, “health & long life.” Although unspoken, Jefferson must have envied Lincoln’s escaping Washington. It would be four more years before he could enjoy what Lincoln would have immediately.

John Breckenridge and then Caesar Rodney would serve as Attorney General in the President’s second term.

“Not only was the portrayal realistic,
but it was technically and historically accurate.”

Conference Chairman, Nevada Association of Land Surveyors
Patrick Lee will bring the real deal!
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Family matters, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Business decisions are easy. Personnel ones are not. (OR: HR sucks. Part 5 of 5)

the transaction of the great interests of our country costs us little trouble or difficulty. there the line is plain to men of some experience. but the task of appointment is a heavy one indeed. he on whom it falls may envy the lot of a Sisyphus or Ixion. their agonies were of the body: this of the mind. yet, like the office of hangman, it must be executed by some one. it has been assigned to me & made my duty. I make up my mind to it therefore, & abandon all regard to consequences.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The hangman has to suck it up and do his job.
The subtitle for these five posts, “HR sucks,” is only an attention-getter, not a disparagement of the important field of human relations. Thomas Jefferson never used those words, but he might have had that thought. This series highlights the hardest part of his job, making decisions that affected people’s lives, their families and finances. He concluded with this summary.
1. Key leadership decisions were not troublesome “to men of some experience.”
2. Appointing people to offices was extremely troublesome.
3. He might envy mythological characters condemned to eternal physical punishment for their choices. His (Jefferson’s) torment was of the mind.
4. Like the hangman, this was his job, and he accepted the responsibility.
5. Having done so, he did it without “regard to the consequences,” i.e. human disappointment or collateral damage.

“Our attendees enjoyed your presentation … very educational, informative,
and the details seemed to come to life …”
Director of Member Services, Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives
Watch the real Thomas Jefferson come to life for your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

I respect your principled choice, for or against me. (Or: HR sucks. Part 3 of 5)

you observe that you are, or probably will be, appointed an elector. I have no doubt you will do your duty with a conscientious regard to the public good & to that only. your decision in favor of another would not excite in my mind the slightest dissatisfaction towards you. on the contrary I should honor the integrity of your choice.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Secure leaders do not get overly invested in others’ choices.
Larkin had expressed his dismay over not receiving any notification that he had been passed over for what he deemed a well-deserved federal appointment. The President explained why in previous posts.

Larkin concluded his letter with the likelihood he would be chosen as a delegate from Virginia to the Electoral College, where he would certainly cast his vote for Jefferson’s reelection. Was it an honest compliment or blatant flattery … or both? Was he implying: I will have your back. Why couldn’t you have mine?

Jefferson replied he didn’t care who received Larkin’s  vote. He trusted him to vote his conscience and only with “regard to the public good.” He would not mind if Larkin voted for another, nor would it change his attitude toward him.  Rather, if Larkin voted against him, Jefferson would “honor the integrity of your choice.”

This was a common theme for Jefferson, that he didn’t let others’ political choices affect their personal relationships, unless they first withdrew from him.

“… your presentation for the New Mexico FEB [Federal Executive Board]
marks the fourth FEB you have addressed.
We can understand why and would highly recommend your presentation to others.”

Executive Director, New Mexico FEB
Mr. Jefferson makes a very good impression!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Politics, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

What in the world is happening? Part 1 of 3

… These, fellow citizens, are the principal matters which I have thought it necessary at this time to communicate for your consideration & attention. some others will be laid before you in the course of the session.
To United States Congress, November 8, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The Constitution (Art. II, Sect. 3) requires the President to report to Congress from “time to time” on the “State of the Union.” It never was a yearly requirement but has evolved into what we know as the annual “State of the Union Address,” when the President makes a report to the opening session of Congress. In the early 1800s, Congress traditionally convened in late fall for four to five months.

Jefferson delivered his reports in writing. This lengthy account included his thoughts on these subjects:
1. War in Europe and its affect on America
2. Private U.S. citizens preying on the shipping of other nations
3. Misunderstanding with Spain regarding the Bay of Mobile
4. Satisfying France on terms of U.S. purchase of Louisiana
5. Diplomatic relations with European nations
6. Success against the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean
7. Establishing the new government in Louisiana
8. Relations with the Indians
9. Expanding the navy
10. Federal receipts, expenses & debt (Part 2 of 3)
11. Actions Congress might take on its own (Part 3 of 3)

On only #2 and #7 did the President invite Congress’ action. All the rest fell within his Constitutional duty, either in foreign affairs or executing the law already established by the Congress.

“It was impressive to notice the entire banquet hall silent with everyone,
including the hotel banquet staff,
paying rapt attention to your portrayal.”
IT Administrative Coordinator, Missouri Department of Conservation
Mr. Jefferson will hold your audience spell-bound.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Congress, Foreign Policy, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , |

I hate the thought of four more years of this!

my heart fails me at the opening such a campaign of bustle & fatigue: the unlimited calumnies [untrue accusations designed to damage another’s reputation] of the federalists have obliged me to put myself on the trial of my country by standing another election. I have no fear as to their verdict; and that being secured for posterity, no considerations will induce me to continue beyond the term to which it will extend. my passion strengthens daily to quit political turmoil, and retire into the bosom of my family, the only scene of sincere & pure happiness. one hour with you & your dear children is to me worth an age past here.
To Martha Jefferson Randolph, November 6, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders sacrifice personal happiness for a greater good.
The President wrote his daughter that Congress was convening, and the political season was about to begin. The opposition attacks on him required him to prove them wrong, by standing for re-election. He knew the vote would vindicate him and cement the reforms his first term had established. (There was no single election day in Jefferson’s time. Results dribbled in over a period of weeks, as each state chose its delegates to the electoral college.)

There was no constitutional limit on the number of terms the President could serve. Jefferson would have none of that. He would serve a second term only and be out of there! He had no happiness in Washington, and all of his time there wasn’t worth one hour with his daughter and grandchildren.

“Our people attend lots of conferences and hear lots of speakers.
We wanted something different.
We knew you would grab their attention with your unique portrayal.”
President, Excellence in Missouri Foundation / Missouri Quality Award
Mr. Jefferson will grab your attendees’ attention!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Congress, Family matters, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

I have to serve again, and it is THEIR fault.

I sincerely regret that the unbounded calumnies [false and damaging statements] of the Federal party have obliged me to throw myself on the verdict of my country for trial, my great desire having been to retire at the end of the present term to a life of tranquility, and it was my decided purpose when I entered into office. they force my continuance. if we can keep the vessel of state as steady in her course for another 4. years, my earthly purposes will be accomplished, and I shall be free to enjoy as you are doing my family, my farm, & my books.
To Elbridge Gerry, March 3, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Do principled leaders step aside … or fight?
Since no one else had the necessary reputation in 1800, Jefferson agreed to lead the republican cause and stand for election as President. His hope to cement the nation’s future in four years and retire was not to be.

By early 1804, Jefferson could claim considerable progress in re-orienting the America’s course, but that new direction was not solid. It was continually being undermined by his political opposition. He claimed their on-going character assassination necessitated his serving another four years to secure the nation’s new foundation. Only then could he return to “my family, my farm, & my books.”

On this same day, Jefferson learned his younger daughter Maria had not recovered from her third childbirth on February 15. Maria was frail, like her long-deceased mother, and had suffered slow recoveries after her first two deliveries. (Her firstborn boy in late 1799 lived only a few weeks.) The President was greatly frightened that one of his two remaining children might succumb to the same fate as his late wife. Judge for yourself the decision (and sacrifice) he made to serve his nation rather than flee to his family’s side.

Maria would die six weeks later.

“The California [MO] Chamber of Commerce would highly recommend you …”
President, California Chamber of Commerce
Mr. Jefferson comes highly recommended.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Family matters, Politics, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Smoke ’em if you got ’em? (NO!)

I now lay before Congress the annual account of the fund established for defraying the Contingent [random, unforseeable] charges of government. No occasion having arisen for making use of any part of it in the present year, the balance of eighteen thousand five hundred and sixty dollars, unexpended at the end of the last year, remains now in the Treasury.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the US. of America, December 31, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Self-limiting leaders exercise restraint with money not their own.
In May 1802, Congress approved $20,000 for “defraying the contingent expenses of government.” By the end of that year, the President reported a single expenditure of $1,440, to return to the United States 72 American seamen stranded abroad. The balance in that fund stood at $18,560.

A year later, the President reported again to Congress on the status of that fund. He had “no occasion” in 1803 to use any part of it. The full balance of $18,560 remained in the nation’s treasury.

“Thank you for your excellent presentation
to the MPUA Annual Conference earlier this month.”
President, CEO & General Manager, Missouri Public Utility Alliance
Mr. Jefferson will provide an excellent presentation for your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Congress, Debt, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , |

Let us not go through THAT mess again!

At the request of the Senate and H. of Rep. of the US. I transmit to you a copy of an article of amendment proposed by Congress to be added to the constitution of the US.1 respecting the election of President and Vice president to be laid before the legislature of the State over which you preside: and I tender you assurances of my high respect and consideration.
To the Governors of the States, December 13, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some semblance of unity amongst the top dogs is very helpful!
In what would become the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, each Elector in the Electoral College would be required to cast one vote for President and another for Vice President. Prior to this, each voted for two persons. The candidate who received the most votes would be President, the second most, Vice-President.

George Washington ran unopposed for President twice, so the Electoral College posed no problem. In 1796, John Adams received the most electoral votes. Thomas Jefferson came in second. This resulted in a President from one political party, the Vice President from another.

The election of 1800 revealed another flaw, when Thomas Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, received an equal number of votes in the Electoral College. The contest then went to the House of Representatives, which voted 36 times before finally awarding the Presidency to Jefferson several months later. The new amendment would keep that from happening again.

Congress approved the 12th amendment, and President Jefferson submitted it to the states’ governors for consideration by their legislatures. The amendment became part of the Constitution on June 15, 1804, when New Hampshire became the 13th of 17 states (3/4 required) to approve it. Two more states followed with their positive votes, making the total 15 of 17 states. Connecticut and Delaware were the only states to vote against it.

“Again, thank you for such an excellent presentation
and a great end to the evening.”
Continuing Education Coordinator, Institute for Executive Development

College of Business and Public Administration, University of Missouri
Mr. Jefferson will end your meeting on a high note!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , |