I have duly recieved your favor of the 7th. and have taken care that it shall be communicated to the Secretary at war, within whose province it is to consider of the best means of promoting the public interest within his department, and of the agents whom it is best to employ … the duty is a very painful one, which devolves on the Executive [President], of naming those on whom the reductions are to fall which have been prescribed by the law. we trust to the liberality of those on whom the lot falls, to consider the agency of the Executive as a general not personal thing, and that they will meet it, as they would any other of the numerous casualties to which we are exposed in our passage through life.
To Frances Mentges, July 15, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Tough minded leaders accept the good and bad effects of their decisions.
Mentges, now unemployed, had been a U.S. military agent and buyer, distinguishing himself by his diligence and economy. In two pleading letters, he asked the President’s help in recovering $1,700 in unpaid commissions. He also begged for a government job, or he would have to sell his land to support himself, an asset he needed for old age.
With regard to unpaid commissions, Jefferson delegated the decision to the proper subordinate, his Secretary of War. Employment prospects were slim, as the President was reducing the size of the military. Down-sizing was a painful duty for him, because he knew what job losses meant to those affected.
He trusted in the “liberality” of those affected by loss of employment, that they would see it as necessary but not personal. He asked Mentges to treat the setback as he would any other, just one of the “numerous casualties” that come with life.