Having daily to read voluminous letters & documents for the dispatch of the public affairs, your letters have consumed a portion of my time which duty forbids me any longer to devote to them. your talents as a divine I hold in due respect … of the special communications to you of his will by the supreme being, I can have no evidence, and therefore must ascribe your belief of them to the false perceptions of your mind. it is with real pain that I find myself at length obliged to say in express terms what I had hoped you would have inferred from my silence. Accept of my respects & best wishes.
To David Austin, January 21, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even patient leaders have their breaking points.
This is an extraordinary response from a very self-controlled but obviously exasperated man!
Since Jefferson’s inauguration 10 months earlier, the minister Austin had written to him 26 times. Austin offered advice and criticism, begged for a face-to-face meeting, almost insisted on a job, and suggested he had divine solutions to the President’s biggest problems. Finally, the confrontation-hating Jefferson had had enough. His blunt reply made these points:
1. I am too busy to read any more of your letters.
2. I respect your position as a minister.
3. Your claim God has spoken to you must be self-deception.
4. My lack of reply should have told you I wasn’t interested.
5. Since you didn’t grasp that, it grieves me that I must tell you so outright.
5. I will be respectful of you in concluding this letter.
Undeterred for a time, Austin wrote six more letters in the next four months and a seventh and final letter in 1804.