Tag Archives: Character
… with respect to Dr. Sibley … I observe two specific charges: 1. that he left his wife but it does not appear whether the separation was through the fault or the will of her or him. 2. that he attempted to marry again. this is a charge of weight, but no proof being adduced, it cannot weigh against the integrity of his character affirmed by others, and his unquestionable good sense and information.
Thomas Jefferson to William C. C. Claiborne, May 26, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Should unsubstantiated accusations derail a leader’s career?
John Sibley (1757-1837) was a Massachusetts-born Revolutionary War surgeon who relocated to the New Orleans area in the early 1800s. He was a contracted army surgeon there and appointed by Jefferson in 1805 to be Indian Agent for the New Orleans Territory. Territorial Governor Claiborne had written the President about allegations made regarding Sibley’s personal life that might compromise his professional effectiveness.
Jefferson acknowledged the charges but noted the first lacked clarity, and the second, more serious, lacked proof. Weighed against those charges were Sibley’s “unquestionable good sense and information [provided about native people in the area]” and “his character affirmed by others.” Thus, he would not withdraw Sibley, who had a well-known professional track record, because of unsubstantiated accusations about his personal life.
“He presented a persona that blended dignity, honesty
and just the right amount of humor …”
Executive Director, Missouri Humanities Council
Would you value that kind of speaker for your audience?
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
you see how I grow upon your goodness: but it is so frank [generous]that one cannot but grow on it. I do not foresee however that I shall impose upon it but once more. that will be by & bye, when I am ready at Monticello for carpets. the handsomest I ever saw was on your floor … were mrs Edwards or yourself in traversing Philadelphia ever to have your eye caught by any as handsome as that, I should surely ask you to arrest it for me.
To Enoch Edwards, May 7, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need honest friends they can trust completely.
In a previous post, Jefferson commissioned Edwards, a Philadelphia-area physician, to arrange for a carriage to be made for him. Earlier in this letter, he asked Edwards to stop in at a certain art dealer’s shop and inquire about the price of a Samuel Adams portrait there. (Chances are Jefferson subsequently acquired that portrait, but I can’t say for sure.)
Now, Jefferson expressed his growing appreciation for his Revolutionary War era friend and fellow patriot. He was drawn in by the man’s openness and honesty. Edwards made it easy for others to rely on his judgment.
Not wanting to abuse the relationship, Jefferson asked only one last favor. If Edwards or his wife ever happened to find carpets in Philadelphia as “handsome” as the ones he had seen in their home, they were to “arrest” (buy) them for him. Such was his confidence in them, Jefferson didn’t need to know the price or give prior approval.