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Here we go again, but this is the last time.

I recieved lately a letter from Genl. Lawson solliciting a charity which he desired me to send through your hands. I had yielded last year to an application of the same nature from him [sending him $50] and although I think his habits & conduct render him less entitled to it than many others on whom it might be bestowed, yet (pour la derniere fois) [for the last time] I inclose for him 30. Dollars which I must ask you to apply to his use as you may think most serviceable for him.
To James Monroe, July 20, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Soft-hearted leaders have to know when charity becomes enabling.
Robert Lawson had served in America’s continental army and had some connection with the Cinncinati Society, an organization of retired army officers. Through both poor choices and poor health, Lawson was reduced to asking for money for living expenses. Jefferson had already given him $50 and was now asked for more. He thought others were more deserving of his help. Somewhat grudgingly, Jefferson, who was known to be generous, made a final contribution of $30.

Lawson asked any contributions for him be sent to James Monroe. Jefferson did so but asked his protege to spend it on Lawson’s behalf, rather than simply turning the money over to him, where it could be wasted.

“You gave us an excellent program!”
Executive Director, New Mexico Federal Executive Board
Mr. Jefferson will give your audience an excellent program!
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Leave a comment Posted in Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , |

This is better, smarter and cheaper!

… forts and shipyards are mere contrivances to sink the first expences, and entail everlasting expence afterwards. with a dry dock here in which our ships, kept dry & under cover, will be as sound at the beginning of a 2d. war as they were at the end of a 1st …
To Nathaniel Macon, July 17, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Self-governing leaders must limit government’s reach.
Jefferson opposed a standing army and a seaborne navy in peacetime for two reasons. First, having them would lead to using them, putting America unnecessarily into conflict with other nations. Second would be the cost to the public treasury of maintaining those military services year round.

Much of this letter dealt with a pet project of his, dry docks for maintaining ships. Leaving the nation’s small navy in the water year round brought the continual expense of maintaining their wooden hulls against the ravages of salt water and sea creatures. Far better would be to lift them out of the water using high tide on the Potomac River, a lock, and the water flow from the Tyber River. They could be put under roof and maintained for practically no cost. They could remain there, in perfect condition, until needed for the next war.

Congress never approved the President’s plan to dry dock the navy.

“My members raved about this presentation
for the remainder of the conference.”
Executive Director, Missouri Society of Professional Surveyors
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How much freedom for man? How much power for government?

… Can man govern himself? … [This is] the one great object of proving that a government may be so free as to leave every man in the unrestrained exercise of all his rights, while it has energy enough to protect him from every wrong …
To Nathaniel Macon, July 17, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Self-governing leaders promote a self-limiting government.
Jefferson held strongly that America was an experiment that all the world was watching. That experiment was summed in the first four words, “Can man govern himself?”

Man could govern himself, provided government would keep to its essential constitutional role. Government needed enough power to protect its citizens from other nations, and that was all. Doing so would “leave every man in the unrestrained exercise of all his rights.” In other words, man would indeed be left in the position of doing what only he could do best, govern himself.

“Were it not for time constraints, the Q&A session
might have continued for hours …”
Director of Operations, Indiana Telecommunications Association
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2 Comments Posted in Government's proper role, Independence Tagged , , , , , , |

I wish I had never heard of this guy!

I am really mortified at the base ingratitude of Callender. it presents human nature in a hideous form: it gives me concern because I percieve that relief, which was afforded him on mere motives of charity, may be viewed under the aspect of employing him as a writer…
soon after I was elected to the government, Callender came on here, wishing to be made postmaster at Richmond. I knew him to be totally unfit for it: and however ready I was to aid him with my own charities (and I then gave him 50. D.) I did not think the public offices confided to me to give away as charities. he took it in mortal offence, & from that moment has been hauling off to his former enemies the federalists.
To James Monroe, July 15, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Charitable leaders know sincere motives can backfire.
In the mid-1790s, Jefferson first learned of James Callender by reputation, a Scottish immigrant and political writer of some standing who was persecuted by England. Jefferson approved of Callender’s work and gave him money to buy more of his writing. Subsequent anti-British writing did not measure up, but he turned his pen against the Federalist administration, earning Jefferson’s encouragement and support. Eventually, Callender was jailed under President Adams’ Sedition Act. Jefferson contributed more small amounts to his support and to pay his fine.

When Jefferson became President, Callender demanded the job as Postmaster at Richmond, VA, as his reward for attacking the political opposition. Jefferson refused him as “totally unfit” for the job and gave him $50 as personal charity, but political appointments were not his to give away as government charity. Callender took “mortal offense” and turned his poisoned pen against Jefferson.

Callender threatened Jefferson with the release of damaging information unless he was named Postmaster. Jefferson claimed he had nothing to fear. Later in 1802, Callender published allegations that the President had fathered children by one of his slaves, later identified as Sally Hemings.

A year after this letter, Callender, who was given to alcohol, fell into the James River and drowned in water three feet deep.

“Your (Thomas Jefferson’s) presentation entitled “The History of Refrigeration”
was well received … Again, a heartfelt thank you …
Conferences and Seminars Manager, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
If Mr. Jefferson can wax eloquent on refrigeration, he can speak to your interests, too.
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1 Comment Posted in Politics, Sally Hemings Tagged , , , , , , , |

It is not personal. It is business. It is life.

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.

“On behalf of the WMTA, I would like to say how much we enjoyed
your leadership addresses as Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Boone.”
Past President, Washington Municipal Treasurer’s Association
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Leave a comment Posted in Leadership, Military / Militia, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , |

There is no need to justify the motives of honest men.

I have duly recieved your favor of Mar. 10. explaining the motives of the Commissioners … but they needed no explanation. when gentlemen, selected for their integrity, are acting under a public trust, their characters and consciences are sufficient securities that what they do, is done on pure motives. I had the less reason in this case to refuse credit to their sense of official duty, as some of them were known to me personally, and possess my confidence.
To John Trumbull, July 14, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders should be able to trust other leaders.
Jefferson had recommended a certain action to American representatives on a U.S.-Great Britain commission that was mediating shipping disputes between the two nations. The commissioners did the opposite of what he asked. Trumbull, one of the commissioners, felt the need to explain their action to the President.

No need to explain, Jefferson replied. The commissioners were selected for their integrity and given a public trust. Their character and conscience assured him their motives were pure, even when they disagreed with him. Even if he knew none of the commissioners, he trusted the process that selected them. But he did know some of them personally, and that gave him even more confidence in their judgment.

Trumbull was better known as a painter. His famous tableau, “The Declaration of Independence” hangs in the U.S. Capitol and also adorns the back of the $2 bill.

“…thank you for your participation in …[our] … “Understand the Revolution” Seminar
in Boston, Massachusetts…
[You helped us]
deliver real value to our audience.”
Business and Marketing Chair, Rural Cellular Association
Mr. Jefferson will bring both understanding and value to your audience.
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Leave a comment Posted in Commerce, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy Tagged , , , , , , |

Keep the powder dry!

I am to thank you for the specimens of waterproof cotton and cloth which you were so good as to send me. the former was new to me. I had before recieved as much of the cloth as made me a great coat, which I have so fully tried as to be satisfied it is water proof except at the seams. I shall be glad when such supplies come over as will enable us to get our common clothes of them: & should suppose they would sell very readily. the silk must be valuable for summer great coats. perhaps the best thing would be for the company to send a person to perform the operation here. I had also recieved some of the water proof paper, & recommended to the Secretary at war to import a quantity for cartridges. Accept my respects & best wishes.
To John Ponsonby, July 14, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Inventive leaders look for new uses for new things!
Ponsonby was a representative of a British firm that had patented a process for waterproofing paper and cloth. He had already forwarded written descriptions and samples to America’s inventor-President, who had sent them on to his son-in-law, with guarded optimism for their utility. Here, Jefferson replied to the English agent.

He appreciated the waterproofed cotton, something that was “new to me.” (Jefferson loved anything new of a scientific and practical nature!) The coat he made from the cloth samples leaked only “at the seams.”

Ever on the lookout for things that would benefit his country, he suggested the British firm arrange to manufacture water-proofed goods in America. He also wanted to apply the waterproof paper to military use. Soldier’s muskets were fired by a small quantity of gunpowder wrapped in a paper cartridge. (One cartridge was tamped down the barrel with the ram rod, followed by a lead ball. The cartridge was ignited by a small spark from a piece of flint.) Wet cartridge paper meant wet powder which would not fire. Jefferson wanted the Secretary of War to buy this new product so soldiers could keep their weapons ready to fire regardless of the weather.

“Great Speaker – Great idea.
It was a nice change of pace to all the technical stuff.”
Vice-President, Distribution Control Systems, Inc./TWACS
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Can Americans be trusted with their own government?

we have no interests nor passions different from those of our fellow citizens. we have the same object, the success of representative government. nor are we acting for ourselves alone, but for the whole human race. the event of our experiment is to shew whether man can be trusted with self government. the eyes of suffering humanity are fixed on us with anxiety as their only hope, and on such a theatre & for such a cause we must suppress all smaller passions & local considerations. the leaders of federalism say that man cannot be trusted with his own government.
To David Hall, July 6, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders let people govern themselves.
Jefferson’s republican supporters in Delaware urged him to dismiss a customs official in Wilmington who had been appointed by a previous federalist administration. Complainers said the office holder was too political in his duties and should be replaced with a loyal republican.

Yet, the offending official had been fully investigated by the court and found innocent.

Jefferson refused to intervene. To do so would be putting himself above the local court. In addition to being wrong, it would play into the hands of his political opponents, who said, “man cannot be trusted with his own government.” Jefferson believed just the opposite, that man was capable of self-government. Local government had acted justly, and he accepted their decision.

“Suffering humanity” around the world was watching the American experiment “as their only hope.” For this experiment to be successful, lesser and local issues, like the complaints lodged with the President, must be suppressed.

“…the entire banquet hall [was] silent …
everyone, including the hotel banquet staff,
paying rapt attention to your portrayal.”
IT Administrative Coordinator
Forestry Conservation Communications Association
Mr. Jefferson will captivate your audience. (Maybe even the banquet staff, too!)
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Leave a comment Posted in Judiciary, Politics Tagged , , , , , , |

Insurgent slaves HERE could be leaders THERE!

[The slave uprisings in] West Indies appears to have given a considerable impulse to the minds of the slaves in different parts of the US. a great disposition to insurgency has manifested itself among them, which, in one instance, in the state of Virginia broke out into actual insurrection …
the legislature … wish that some place could be provided, out of the limits of the US. to which slaves guilty of insurgency might be transported …
it is material to observe that they are not felons, or common malefactors, but persons guilty of what the safety of society … obliges us to treat as a crime, but which their feelings may represent in a far different shape. they are such as will be a valuable acquisition to the settlement already existing there …
To Rufus King, July 13, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some problems are just too thorny for leaders to agree upon.
This was the subject of a recent post, but what constituted “insurgent negroes” was not clear. This letter five weeks later provides both context and clarity.

Slave uprisings in San Domingo (today’s Dominican Republic) in the Caribbean had inspired similar action in multiple places in the American South. Jefferson distinguished between insurgency, which might have been some kind of active protest, and insurrection, which must have involved some kind of overt action, or at least its planning, against slave owners. The latter resulted in 26 slaves being hung in Virginia for complicity in an insurrection two years before.

That was the law, but elsewhere in this letter, Jefferson hoped for a new law with lesser punishment, “some alternative, combining more mildness with equal efficacy.” Removal to Sierra Leone was such an alternative.

Jefferson observed that insurgents selected for relocation were not criminals. While society wanted to treat them as such regardless, he acknowledged the slaves probably saw themselves quite differently.

His last sentence contained an oblique compliment. Insurgent slaves were rational people who had given thought to their depraved condition and acted to change it. Some of them were leaders. Those kinds of people would be assets to a new society.

“We have also had Mr. Lee portray Captain Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
at a previous conference and were so impressed
we had to have him back to witness his other characters.”
President, Nevada Association of Land Surveyors, South Lake Tahoe, NV
Your audience will find all three characters impressive.
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Leave a comment Posted in Morality, Slavery Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Ugly, expensive or inconvenient? Fugettaboutit!

The most approved plan of an [military] Hospital [in Boston is] of 4000. square feet area, two stories … the rooms for the sick to be well aired …
Th:J. proposes to mr Gallatin that some such advertisement as the above be published in Washington where there are many architects who will probably compete for the premium. in the erection of public buildings, taste, convenience & economy should all be respected.
To Albert Gallatin, June 21, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Public leaders should have strict standards for spending public money.
Congress had approved $15,000 for a hospital for ailing seamen in Massachusetts. President Jefferson wrote to his Secretary of the Treasury about soliciting architectural designs from architects in Washington and offered a $50 premium for the winning design.

Worth noting is his request that ” the rooms for the sick to be well aired.” He ascribed to a theory of healing that included fresh air as a necessary component, one not considered by most medical practioners of the day.

Jefferson noted three factors that “should all be respected” in the design of public buildings:
1. Taste – a strong and lasting visual appeal
2. Convenience – a design that facilitates the building’s intended use
3. Economy – remembering that public money was being spent

Gallatin did not issue the specifications as written by his boss. Neither did he solicit designs in Washington but only in Boston, where he said local residents would more appreciate a building designed by one of their own citizens.

“My franchisees thoroughly enjoyed your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.
I especially was impressed how well you tied in our meeting topics into your speech.”
Franchise Owner, Mail Boxes, Etc.
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