My hope of preserving peace for our country is not founded in the greater principles of non-resistance under every wrong, but in the belief that a just and friendly conduct on our part will procure justice and friendship from others. In the existing contest, each of the combatants will find an interest in our friendship. I cannot say we shall be unconcerned spectators of this combat. We feel for human sufferings, and we wish the good of all. We shall look on, therefore, with the sensations which these dispositions and the events of the war will produce.
To the Earl of Buchan, July 10, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders value neutrality and pick their battles wisely.
Jefferson strongly resisted America’s involvement in the disputes between other nations. He expressed that sentiment in this letter about the conflict Napoleon was wreaking on Europe. He wrote again that he would “bless the Almighty Being” who put an ocean between the two continents, a natural barrier sparing the United States from Europe’s wars.
Americans would not be “unconcerned spectators.” We would grieve their suffering and look forward to its end.
Jefferson was not a pacifist, but unless conflict directly threatened the United States, we would remain concerned by-standers only. Perhaps our example of “justice and friendship” toward all combatants would bring the same response toward us.
Thomas Jefferson had both wisdom and wit for your 21st century audience.
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739