Having understood that you have been unwell, & that your family is still so, I have not asked your attendance here, lest these circumstances should stand in the way. Mr. Madison, Dearborne & Gallatin are here & mr Lincoln expected tomorrow … should your own health or that of your family not render it inconvenient we should be very happy to see you on Monday & to recieve your aid at a meeting which I propose for Tuesday next. but this is not meant to be pressed against considerations of health or of family distress.
To Robert Smith, September 30, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders are sensitive to the difficulties of their associates.
Smith (1757-1842) was Jefferson’s Secretary of the Navy. As a member of the Cabinet, his attendance was needed very soon. All the other cabinet members would arrive in Washington City the following day. In addition to other business to bring before Congress, they faced the critical issue of the constitutional amendment needed to authorize the purchase of Louisiana. Prompt action from a united front was critical.
Yet, both Smith and his family were ill. While the President greatly hoped for his Secretary’s attendance and help at the Cabinet meeting four days hence, he stressed that Smith’s health and family came first.