seeing the impossibility that special vindications should ever keep pace with the endless falshoods invented & disseminated against me, I came at once to a resolution to rest on the justice & good sense of my fellow citizens, to consider from my general character and conduct thro’ life, not unknown to them, whether these [false or slanderous statements] were probable: and I have made it an invariable rule never to enter the lists of the public papers with the propagators of them. in private communications with my friends I have contradicted them without reserve.
To David Redick, June 19, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders have to know when to hold ’em, when to fold em’.
Redick had relayed to Jefferson an unfavorable report he’d heard from a missionary about comments Jefferson was purported to have made to Indians visiting him in Washington City. Redick wanted to give the President an opportunity to rebut the charges. His reply stated:
1. There was no end to the falsehoods invented against him.
2. He would respond to none of them publicly or in the press.
3. Instead, he would trust “the justice & good sense of my fellow citizens.”
4. They knew his “general character and conduct.”
5. From that knowledge, they could judge for themselves whether such charges were true.
6. To his friends, he had no hesitation in contradicting the charges.
Thus, he wanted to reassure Redick of the baseless nature of the charge by giving the details of his interaction with the Indians. He invited Redick to share this information with others, especially with the one who brought the accusatory report. He specifically warned Redick that his written reply was for Redick’s use only, and this letter was not to escape his possession.