That nations should, in friendship & harmony, take liberal & dispassionate views of their interfering interests, and settle them by timely arrangements, of advantage to both undiminished by injuries to either, is certainly wiser than to yield to short-sighted passions, which, estimating neither chances nor consequences, prompt to measures of mutual destruction, rather than of mutual benefit.
To the Mississippi Territory Legislative Council, December 29, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Diplomatic leaders trump undiplomatic ones.
The President acknowledged the Council’s congratulatory message on the peaceful addition of Louisiana, an achievement it called second only to our 1776 independence. In this long, run-on sentence, Jefferson expressed the highest goals for international diplomacy, that nations should:
1. Proceed from a basis of friendship
2. Look for the best in the other nation’s motivation
3. Even in disagreement, keep emotion out of it
4. Take time to settle issues in advance of a crisis
5. Seek solutions that will benefit both and hurt neither
These principles guided Jefferson in his negotiations with France over open navigation on the Mississippi River. He contrasted them with the “short sighted passions” of his political opponents, who wanted war rather than diplomacy.