Tag Archives: Change

What about America’s Aborigines? Part 7b

But the endeavors to enlighten them on the fate which awaits their present course of life, to induce them to exercise their reason, follow it’s dictates, & change their pursuits with the change of circumstances, have powerful obstacles to encounter …  the habits of their bodies, prejudices of their minds, ignorance, pride, & the influence of interested & crafty individuals among them, who [fear loss of influence] … these persons inculcate a sanctimonious reverence for the customs of their ancestors; that whatsoever they did must be done through all time … that their duty is to remain as their creator made them, ignorance being safety, and knolege full of danger …  they too have their Anti-Philosophists [anti-science, reason and progress] …
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders understand there are powerful influences against change.
The previous post outlined Thomas Jefferson’s strong support for helping native Americans transition from hunting to agriculture. This post details their difficulty in doing so.

While business-as-usual was not possible for the Indians, they faced formidable challenges to a new way of life. In addition to their own “habits … prejudices … ignorance [&] pride,” some in their midst insisted they must remain as they always had been, with safety in ignorance, fearing danger in knowledge.

In this regard, Jefferson drew a parallel to his own political opposition, “Anti-Philosophists.” Both cultures had to contend with those who only looked backwards and resisted all change.

“It was a great pleasure to have you return the the Old Court for our annual
“Historic Fourth of July Celebration”.”
Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, National Park Service
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Do limited plans indicate a small vision?

… when we reflect how difficult it is to move or inflect the great machine of society, how impossible to advance the notions of a whole people suddenly to ideal right, we see … that no more good must be attempted than the nation can bear, and that will be chiefly to reform the waste of public money, & thus drive away the vultures who prey on it, and improve some little on old routines. some new fences for securing constitutional rights may, with the aid of a good legislature, perhaps be attainable.
To Walter Jones, March 31, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know how little influence they really have over major issues.
Jefferson thanked another congratulatory writer and acknowledged “how difficult it is” to make great changes, no matter how obvious or necessary. Given that limitation, what could he do? Only what people would accept:
– End “the waste of public money”
– Deprive “the vultures” who fed on that waste
– Make minor improvements to things they were already doing
– Strengthen constitutional rights if the legislature would be so inclined

To address the question in the title: Jefferson had a vast vision for America’s future, but that potential rested with its citizens, not its government. His limited plans didn’t indicate a small vision but the opposite. He recognized where the responsibility lay, and it wasn’t with him or the government.

“You really had the audience interacting with you
as if you were Thomas Jefferson himself.”

Owner, Lanit Consulting
It is Thomas Jefferson himself who will be inspiring your audience.
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Have you given people enough time?

In the meanwhile the public opinion was ripening by time, by reflection, and by the example of Pensylva, where labor on the highways had been tried without approbation [approval] from 1786 to 89. & had been followed by their Penitentiary system on the principle of confinement and labor, which was proceeding auspiciously. In 1796. our legislature resumed the subject and passed the law for amending the Penal laws of the commonwealth.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders give people enough time.
This excerpt is on the same subject used in the previous post but illustrates a different point.

In the late 1770s, Virginia had decided on hard labor on public projects as appropriate punishment for crimes that had previously been punished by death. Pennsylvania had a similar plan, and it seemed reasonable. Later evidence from that state proved otherwise, that public demeaning did not rehabilitate criminals but made them worse. Virginia was likely experiencing the same result.

Virginian’s support for hard labor in public probably had been enthusiastic. Doing away with hard labor may have faced their opposition. Giving convicts labor to perform within a prison complex, perhaps seen as not harsh enough, might have lacked public support, as well.

Virginia’s legislature would not change the law, because they lacked public support to do so. Pennsylvania’s example, however, was now proving that hard-labor-in-public did not work but labor- within-prison did.

Given 10-15 years, public opinion was changing. Leaders could now act with public support rather than opposition. Thus, Virginia’s laws were changed in 1796 to more humane treatment.

Jefferson later wrote concerning another matter, “Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.” This example is one of waiting for public opinion to ripen in support of something new, rather than forcing it upon them before they were ready.

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Mr. Lee for an event that you’ll find most memorable.”

Mr. Jefferson stands ready to make lasting memories for your audience.
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WHAT is he writing about? (The S-word)

The subject of your letter of April 20, is one on which I do not permit myself to express an opinion, but when time, place, and occasion may give it some favorable effect. A good cause is often injured more by ill-timed efforts of its friends than by the arguments of its enemies. Persuasion, perseverance, and patience are the best advocates on questions depending on the will of others.
The revolution in public opinion which this cause requires, is not to be expected in a day, or perhaps in an age; but time, which outlives all things, will outlive this evil also. My sentiments have been forty years before the public. Had I repeated them forty times, they would only have become the more stale and threadbare. Although I shall not live to see them consummated, they will not die with me; but living or dying, they will ever be in my most fervent prayer  …
To James Heaton, Monticello, May 20, 1826

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders understand that big change comes very slowly.
The subject is slavery. (There’s a new book, a grossly inaccurate one, I think, on Jefferson, the evil slaveholder.) Consider this letter, written by the frail, ailing Jefferson just six weeks before his death. These are his last words on this grievous issue.

1. He expressed an opinion only when it could have “some favorable effect.” Otherwise, he kept his thoughts to himself.
2. By poor timing, friends could injure a good cause more than its enemies.
3. When change depends on the will of others, rely on “persuasion, perseverance and patience.”
4. Revolutionary change in thinking comes not in a day and maybe not in a lifetime.
5. Time will outlive slavery, which he called evil. The practice would end … sometime.
6. Since the late 1760s, his views on slavery were well-known. To harp on them year after year would have made his voice irrelevant.
7. He wouldn’t live to see this evil ended, but he wouldn’t give up. Slavery’s end would be his “most fervent prayer,” even in death.
Do these principles apply today where a “revolution in public opinion” is required?

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