Tag Archives: Alcohol

One dad to another, I will give your son a chance.

the warrant to your son as midshipman had been suspended for enquiry on a suggestion of too great a propensity in him to drink … it is sufficient that you are apprised of it … his warrant was therefore signed two days ago … such a doubt having been once excited, more circumspection & regularity will on that account be necessary from him, than from others; and that, were it to be strengthened, he would find himself in a cul de sac, without explanation. my friendly respect for you calls for this candor, because no circumstance of connection could permit an inattention to public duty in matters of appointment; & because also, being put on his guard, he will feel a stronger inclination to dissipate all doubt by a regularity of deportment.
To Thomas Cooper, April 9, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Conscientious leaders put responsibility ahead of friendship.
The England-born Cooper (1759-1839) emigrated to Pennsylvania, established himself as a chemist, one of the foremost scientists in America, and friend and confident of Thomas Jefferson. Cooper’s son’s appointment to midshipman, the lowest ranking office in the navy, had been held up on suspicions the young man drank too much. Cooper, Sr. wrote to Jefferson and vouched for his son.

The President’s “friendly respect” for Cooper required such straightforwardness:
1. Cooper, Sr. needed to know the concerns about his son.
2. Upon his father’s assurance, the warrant would be issued.
3. His son would be watched more closely than others because of his past.
4. A navy career would be a dead-end (cul de sac) if he abused alcohol.
5. Even the closest friendship was not sufficient for him to appoint an unqualified officer.
6. Once warned, the young man would “feel a stronger inclination” to remove any doubt about his behavior.

Cooper, Sr.’s faith in his son was unwarranted. Cooper, Jr. was dismissed from the navy 15 months later over issues of sobriety.

“One of the audience members even went so far as to take on the persona of Aaron Burr
and confronted President Jefferson who, although not expecting such an event,
responded with sharp wit and ready facts.”
Executive Director, Kentucky Bar Association
Mr. Jefferson stands ready to field any question from your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Not too much drinking on the job, please.

… as to whiskey to be given to the labouring hands, it is right when they work in the water in cool weather. on other occasions in general it is an injurious & demoralising practice. they do more for a day or two, but less afterwards as we see where a harvest is lengthy. confine therefore, if you please, the giving them whiskey to those occasions which might otherwise produce colds & sickness. the first moment that ice of an inch thick forms in the river, the ice house should be filled. on this work they need whiskey.
To John Holmes Freeman, December 21, 2016

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders limit the booze.
Freeman was a new overseer at Monticello, who began his service in August, 1805. Chances are the “labouring hands” included slaves in addition to hired workers, though that is not clear.

Most people considered strong alcoholic drink to be both healthy and medicinal. Jefferson concurred, but only in part. He was willing to grant a ration of whiskey for cold, wet work, or conditions that could cause illness. Beyond that, he thought it “injurious & demoralizing.”

Beer and hard cider were common mealtime beverages. Jefferson drank wine in the evening, but only the weaker wines and never hard liquor.

“… first person interpretation was new to the conference this year.
Clearly the visits with President Jefferson and Captain Clark
have set the standard for future conferences.”
Director of Education, Indiana Historical Society
Mr. Jefferson (and his compatriots) will set the standard for other speakers.
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If he cannot gamble and drink, he might just deliver the mail.

I suspect one single foible in Abrahams is at the bottom of all his difficulties. my confidence in him is built on yours who have tried him. here, where he is known in detail, he is considered as a gambler & given to those dissipations which that vice brings on. at N. Orleans he has found opportunities of indulging that passion … hence his sickness there, hence the death & theft of all his horses … you ask my opinion; I will give it only on the condition of your regarding it so far as your own judgment approved. I would limit Abrahams to [only the first part of] the route … and get Govr. Claiborne to find at N.O. [New Orleans another rider]from Fort Stoddart to N.O. Abrams will then have no field for dissipation & his other qualifications will have fair play.”
To Gideon Granger, August 25, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders have to deal with subordinates’ vices.
Gideon Granger was the President’s Postmaster General. The two collaborated often to provide better postal routes and extend mail delivery. The task of delivering the mail was conducted by private citizens who collected postage fees, kept a portion and remitted the rest to the federal government.

This letter details the concern over a single postal contractor named Abrahams and mail service to New Orleans. Jefferson made these observations to his trusted lieutenant.
1. All of Abrahams’ “difficulties” could be attributed to gambling and resulting bad behavior.
2. Jefferson’s only confidence in Abrahams was based on Granger’s.
3. In Washington City (now D.C.), Abrahams’ difficulties were very well known.
4. In New Orleans, Abrahams found new opportunities to gamble and drink.
5. Those dissipations led to his illness plus the death or theft of all his horses, essential for mail delivery.
6. Granger had asked Jefferson’s opinion. He gave it but stipulated Granger should accept it only to the degree that it aligned with Granger’s own judgment.
7. Divide the postal route to New Orleans in half. Give the first half to Abraham’s. Give the second half to someone else.
8. Deprived of the opportunity to gamble and drink in New Orleans, Abrahams’ “other qualifications will have fair play.”

Taken altogether, those eight observations highlight an excellent example of Jefferson’s leadership: his respect for Granger’s judgment and authority, his compassion for Abrahams, and a Solomon-like solution to a problem.

“Please know how much I appreciate all your effort.
You have provided a real service for the educators of Missouri.”
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mr. Jefferson will make the effort to provide a real service to your audience.
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I must have wine!

… you mention having for disposal two casks of white & red Sherry, and one of Malaga. if the Sherry be dry, I will gladly take them, as also the Malaga. if you could order for me a pipe [cask] of dry Pacharetti, and one of dry Sherry of the first qualities, to be forwarded from Spain by the first safe occasion I should be obliged to you … I wish the wines as old as could be got, so as to be ready for immediate use
To Joseph Yznardi, Sr., March 24, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders are very particular about their lubrication.
After Jefferson sold his personal library of 23,000 books to Congress, he wrote, “I cannot live without books.” He began to buy more books. He did not write, “I cannot live without wine,” but he certainly could have. He loved wine, having two or three glasses each evening, more if the after-dinner company was particularly enjoyable. He limited the alcohol’s effect by drinking only weaker wines.

The footnote to this letter, available at the Yznardi link above, provides details on what Jefferson received from this order. The “pipe” alone contained 129 gallons.

Note that Jefferson did not inquire about the price or set a limit on what he would pay. Another source claims, “According to Hailman’s Jefferson on Wine, Jefferson spent $3,200 per year on wine during his first term, which equates to roughly 13% of his annual salary.”

“What a unique presentation you offered as Thomas Jefferson
for the luncheon keynote …”
Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry
A unique presentation awaits your audience, too! (But no wine. Sorry.)
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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