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How does the epidemic affect a dirt plow?

…  you take a great interest in whatever relates to this first & most precious of all the arts [agriculture], I have packed in a small box, a model of a mouldboard of a plough …  accompanied by a block, which will shew the form in which the block is to be got for making the [it] …however as this would not explain it’s principles, alone, I accompany it … [with]a minute description of the principles & construction. the printer having (on his removal from the yellow fever) lost several of the plates …  & among them that relating to the Mouldboard, I have supplied this last by some sketches which may enable you to understand the description.
Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, April 30, 1800

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the yellow fever that ravaged coastal cities in the nation’s earliest years.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders freely give to help others understand.
Thomas Jefferson created a new design for the moldboard, the cutting edge of a plow, making it much more efficient implement for turning the soil. In an age when most men were farmers, his invention had an immediate, practical and valuable benefit. He never patented his invention but shared it freely with others, often including instructions and drawings to illustrate its creation from a block of wood.

He did that for his good friend Livingston (1746-1813), a lifelong political ally. Livingston, served with Jefferson on the “Committee of Five” to draft the Declaration of Independence and in 1803, helped negotiate France’s sale of Louisiana to the U.S.

Jefferson wanted to include the printer’s renderings of the plow, but the printer lost the plates when he fled the yellow fever epidemic. Thus, Jefferson supplied his own sketches.

The fever will not hinder Mr. Jefferson from sharing his wisdom with you.
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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Fake news, on steroids!

Accounts five & thirty years, since the Date of this Transaction, spent in the regular Discharge of public, & private Duties, with an Uniformity of Tenor which I am not afraid to rest on the Verdict of those who have been known me—
They will judge of me by my whole Life, & not by a single false Step taken at the Commencement of it
To you I have said these Things, because I have known you from our early youth, & wish to stand approved by you—
Thomas Jefferson to William Fitzhugh, Jr. July 1, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders reassure friends who might have reason to doubt.
Fitzhugh (1741-1809) was a Virginia plantation owner, statesman, and life-long friend of Jefferson’s, who was responding to newspaper accounts alleging multiple accounts of his immoral behavior. Specifically, Jefferson addressed a charge regarding his improper conduct toward a neighbor’s wife in 1768 or ’69. He acknowledged the truth of that charge, then laid out his defense:
1. For 35 years, he had conducted his public and private life with a “Uniformity of Tenor.”
2. He did not fear the verdict of those who knew him well.
3. They would judge him by the whole of his life, not by a single youthful indiscretion.
4. You (Fitzhugh) are one of those who’ve known me since my youth, and I care what you think about me.

Another letter written the same day was the subject of a 2016 post. It dealt with this subject but in a more detailed manner. In essence, by admitting to the Walker indiscretion, Jefferson denied the allegations regarding Sally Hemings.

 “The city officials were captivated …
and would have posed questions for another hour if time had been available.”
Executive Director, Missouri Municipal League
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 will not leave you, unless you leave me.

you say you are forcibly led to say something on another subject, very near your heart, which you defer to another opportunity. I presume it to be on your political situation, and perhaps the degree in which it may bear on our friendship. in the first place I declare to you that I have never suffered political opinion to enter into the estimate of my private friendships; nor did I ever abdicate the society of a friend on that account till he had first withdrawn from mine. many have left me on that account. but with many I still preserve affectionate intercourse, only avoiding to speak on politics, as with a quaker or catholic I would avoid speaking on religion…
To John F. Mercer, October 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know how to remain friends with their opponents.
Mercer (1759-1821), Revolutionary War veteran, lawyer and politician in Virginia and then Maryland, alerted the President to a unspecified change in his situation. In this reply, Jefferson speculated it may be a change in Mercer’s political affiliation, from ally to opponent.

Jefferson reassured his friend he never withdrew friendships over political differences unless someone else did so first. Many had deserted him for that reason, but many had not. With the latter, he continued his friendships, taking care to avoid politics, the subject where they disagreed. He applied the same principle to spiritual differences, maintaining friendships with Quakers and Catholics, only being careful to “avoid speaking on religion.”

“… thank you for the enlightening and education presentation …
It was wonderful … and enjoyed by all.”
Lieutenant Governor’s Office, State of Missouri
Enlightening. Educational. Wonderful. Enjoyable.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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This is what I think. Now, you make the decision.

… I submit all this to your discretion …
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

… will you be so good as to consider this, and to do finally what you think best?
To Henry Dearborn, February 9, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders let trusted subordinates make the decisions.
These excerpts are Jefferson’s concluding thoughts to his War Secretary on two entirely unrelated matters. One dealt with a family’s petition for the early release of a soldier. The other pertained to opening negotiations with the Creek Indians for a road to New Orleans through their lands in Georgia and Alabama. In each case, the President expressed an opinion and the reasons for it.Then he left the decision in the hands of his lieutenant.

Jefferson feared most of all the consolidation of all powers into the hands of a very few in the federal government, far removed from the lives of those affected by their decisions. Thus, he was a devoted delegator of decision making. He had no qualms about making the call when he had to, but if a matter could be resolved by someone under his authority, he eagerly left the matter in their hands.

In his retirement, Jefferson wrote to Destutt de Tracy in 1811,“… I have never been so well pleased as when I could shift power from my own, on the shoulders of others …”

“I would like to express my thanks to you for your outstanding presentation …
Your opening keynote presentation … had the audience spellbound …”

Program Co-Chair, MO Organization for Clinical Laboratory Science, St. Louis Chapter
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What to do with an excellent workman, now a drunk?

William Stewart, a smith who has lived with me at Monticello some years … is one of the first workmen in America, but within these 6. months has taken to drink … abandoned his family … he writes me word he will return, & desires me to send him 20. D. to bear his expences back … [this] would only enable him to continue his dissipations. I … [enclose] that sum to you … [as] charity for his family of asking the favor of you to encourage him to return to them, to pay his passage … & give him in money his reasonable expences on the road … if he has more it will only enable him to drink & stop by the way. when he arrives here I shall take other measures to forward him. he is become so unfit for any purposes of mine, that my only anxiety now is on account of his family …
To Jones & Howell, November 22, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Humane leaders demonstrate concern for employees’ families.
Stewart, a gifted craftsman in Jefferson’s long-term employ, began drinking, abandoned his family and vowed never to return. He had a change of heart and wrote his patron from Philadelphia, asking for $20 to get back to Monticello.

Cash-in-hand would only enable Stewart to drink. Instead, and only out of concern for Stewart’s family, he sent the amount requested to trusted businessmen in Philadelphia, asking them to encourage Stewart’s return. They were to purchase his passage home and give him only what he’d need for food and lodging on the three day journey, no “more than 2. or 3. dollars a day.”

Jefferson had no use for the Stewart upon his return but was greatly concerned for his family, “consisting of a very excellent wife & several children.”

“I do hope the opportunity presents itself to work with you again …”
Conference Coordinator, Iowa League of Cities
Thomas Jefferson makes a most favorable impression!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Two million bucks oughtta be enough.

Congress having passed the two million bill, you will recieve by this mail your last dispatches. others will follow you about the 2d. week of April … Congress has [also] given authority for exploring the Missisipi, which however is ordered to be secret. this will employ about 10. persons two years.
To James Monroe, February 25, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders know that diplomacy sometimes requires a lot of money.
Uncharacteristic for him, Jefferson had commanded Monroe to go to France to help negotiate America’s right to freely use the port of New Orleans. That was the easy part. The diplomats needed money to go where their mouths were, so he asked Congress for $2,000,000, and they approved it. The money was to buy New Orleans along with East and West Florida (our present state of Florida, the southern parts of Alabama and Mississippi, and southeastern Louisiana). This was several months before France’s bombshell offer to sell all of Louisiana.

He also informed Monroe of Congress’ authorization of a small company for “exploring the Missisipi” and $2,500 to pay for it. Both actions were being kept from public knowledge.

Jefferson may have been withholding information from Monroe, too, or protecting his mission should the letter become public. The $2,500 was not for exploring the Mississippi River but the Missouri. That river was still owned by Spain, which had already rebuffed Jefferson’s request to explore it.

“I’m sure your presentation appeals to a wide range of Americans …
I would highly recommend it …”
Executive Director, Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors
Mr. Jefferson & his compatriots, Daniel Boone and William Clark, come highly recommended.
Invite them to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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I do not need or want power.

I have no pleasure in the exercise of power … to fortify the principles of free government, to fence them by every barrier practicable, and to establish in the government habits of economy, present the principal means by which I can render any permanent service: and if the pursuit of these should be found to acquire popularity, the love of popularity may induce some of those who come after me to practise what their natural dispositions might not otherwise lead them to.
To Timothy Bloodworth, December 31, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Not all strong leaders desire that role.
The only Presidential authority Jefferson cared to exercise had these goals, to:
1. Strengthen the principles of free government
2. Limit government’s reach in every practical way
3. Make frugality in government spending a habit

Any success in these areas would be the permanent legacy he wanted. If his vision of limited government proved popular, perhaps future leaders would continue the trend, even if their personal interests were more expansive.

Historian Jon Meacham won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2012 biography, Thomas Jefferson – The Art of Power takes a more expansive view of Jefferson and his “exercise of power.” The President said he didn’t like it. Meacham said he did but credits Jefferson with using it very effectively.

“The group did not think you were an actor playing a role … but had become the MAN himself….
You did a marvelous job indeed …”
Program Committee Chair, International Hunter Education Association

Before your audience’s eyes, a costumed man will BECOME Thomas Jefferson.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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Pissing THEM off a little can help US behave.

… nor do I foresee a single question which ought to excite party contention. still every question will excite it, because it is sufficient that we propose a measure, to produce opposition to it from the other party. a little of this is not amiss, as it keeps up a wholesome censorship on our conduct;
To Ephraim Kirby, December 10, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Shrewd leaders appreciate the value of opposition.
In a previous post, Jefferson wrote that the country was doing so well, there was little to recommend to Congress in his annual report (State of the Union Address as we know it today).  He expressed the same sentiment to Kirby, with nothing on the horizon to divide the republican party.

Yet they were bound to propose something, and it would of necessity cause the Federalist party to rally in opposition. That opposition in turn would keep the republican party on its toes, united in its focus and proper in its conduct.

“The address was fascinating history
and presented with a flair that kept the audience spellbound.”
Region 7 Conference Chair, National Academic Advising Association
How many of your conference speakers will keep your audience spellbound?
Thomas Jefferson will!
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Which profession is better, law or medicine? Part 2 of 2

… [doctors, like lawyers] are also numerous. yet I have remarked that wherever one sets himself down in a good neighborhood, not preoccupied, he secures to himself it’s practice, and, if prudent, is not long in acquiring whereon to retire & live in comfort. the Physician is happy in the attachment of the families in which he practises. all think he has saved some one of them, & he finds himself every where a welcome guest, a home in every house. if, to the consciousness of having saved some lives, he can add that of having at no time, from want of caution, destroyed the boon he was called on to save, he will enjoy in age the happy reflection of not having lived in vain …
To David Campbell, January 28, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
This lawyer leader preferred medicine over law.
Campbell wanted the President’s advice for his 18-year-old son, Thomas Jefferson Campbell, whether to be a lawyer or doctor. Jefferson began and ended by deferring to the young man’s ability and the father’s direction. In between, he gave his opinion of both professions.

Lawyers did not fare well, but doctors did:
1. The doctor who settled in a community and devoted himself to his practice would earn a good livelihood and retirement.
2. Everyone would believe he had saved lives.
3. He would be welcome everywhere.
4. In addition to saving lives, if no deaths could be attributed to him for lack “of caution,” in old age he could be confident his life had not been in vain.

“Thank you for, yet another, outstanding performance.”
President, Missouri Valley Adult Education Association
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Which profession is better, law or medicine? Part 1 of 2

I am sensible of the mark of esteem manifested by the name you have given to your son … you doubt between Law, & Physic [medicine], which profession he shall adopt. his peculiar turn of mind & your own knolege of things will best decide this question. Law is quite overdone. it is fallen to the ground; and a man must have great powers to raise himself in it to either honour or profit. the Mob of the profession get by it as little money, & less respect, than they would by digging the earth … [contrasted with the doctor] the lawyer has only to recollect, how many, by his dexterity, have been cheated of their right, and reduced to beggary. after all, I end where I began, with the observation that your son’s disposition, & your prudence, are the best arbiters of this question …
To David Campbell, January 28, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
A lawyer-leader’s take on the legal profession

In 1791, David Campbell wrote then Secretary of State Jefferson that he had named his first son Thomas Jefferson Campbell. Eighteen years later, the father sought the namesake’s opinion on whether his son should pursue law or medicine.

Jefferson acknowledged the naming honor and said the decision should be based on young Campbell’s natural inclination coupled with his father’s experience and wisdom. That being said, Jefferson (a practicing lawyer for seven years in the late 1760s and early 70s) weighed in with his opinion on the two professions.

Lawyers did not get high marks!
1. The practice of law was in disrepute.
2. It took an extraordinary man to achieve either honor or profit.
3. Ditch diggers earned more money and respect than most lawyers.
4. The lawyer’s legacy would be how many, by his skill, he had cheated and reduced to poverty.

Jefferson concluded by reiterating his original advice, that the decision should be made by father and son together.

“Our guests were impressed …
They found the content interesting, informative and provided great insight …”
Senior VP, Community Bankers Association of Illinois
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your audience.
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