My dearest Anne
I do not know whether it is owing to your laziness or mine that our letters have been so long intermitted [suspended]. I assure you it is not to my want of love to you, and to all of those about you, whose welfare I am always so anxious to learn. but it is useless to discuss old bankrupt scores. we will therefore burn our old accounts, and begin a new one on the 1st. day of October next.
Thomas Jefferson to Anne Cary Randolph, July 6, 1806
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know when a do-over is called for.
Anne Randolph, age 15, was Jefferson’s first grandchild. He wrote to his grandchildren often and encouraged, often insisted, they write him regularly. They rarely complied to his satisfaction.
Grandpapa, as he was known to them, again drew attention to the lack of correspondence but acknowledged the problem might be on his end. (Very likely it was not, for no one would ever accuse him of “laziness” or lack of attention to his sole surviving child and her growing family.)
Regardless the cause, he wrote it was “useless to discuss old bankrupt scores,” suggesting they burn them and start over. It was a philosophy he applied to his political leadership as well, being willing to set past offenses aside and start again if an opponent was similarly-minded.