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.