Tag Archives: Conflict

This has to stop! Help me, please.

[This post marks #900 since the blog’s inception in February, 2011!]

Craven & Lillie at last have come to an open rupture: a desperate battle took place between them 4 days since: it terminated without serious injury to either but a bruising and languor to both which will keep them apart a long time I think. Both claim the victory and both look like defeat.
Thomas Mann Randolph to Thomas Jefferson, October 11, 1804

I have learnt with extreme concern the rupture between Craven & Lilly, and percieve that it will become extremely embarassing & prejudicial to my affairs unless it can be made up. this can only be done by an oblivion [choice to not remember] of the past without going into any enquiry which was most in the wrong.
To Thomas Mann Randolph, October 28, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Absentee leaders have the deck stacked against them.
Lilly was the overseer of non-agriculture activities at Monticello. Craven was an adjoining landowner who also leased some of Jefferson’s Monticello lands. The two men had come to blows, perhaps over the President’s livestock that had made their way onto Craven’s property.

As long as the Presidency forced Jefferson to be an absentee landowner, he was seriously dependent on both men to keep his home operation running smoothly. He saw no way forward unless each man would choose to forget the offense and move on. He would impress that point on each man. He also thought the combatants would benefit from the efforts of a mediator, and he asked Mann, his son-in-law, to fill that role.

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Why focus on the ONLY area where you disagree?

I consider it a great felicity [happiness], through a long and trying course of life, to have retained the esteem of my early friends unabated. I find in old age that the impressions of youth are the deepest & most indelible. some friends indeed have left me by the way, seeking, by a different political path, the same object, their country’s good, which I pursued, with the crowd, along the common highway. it is a satisfaction to me that I was not the first to leave them. I have never thought that a difference in political, any more than in religious opinions should disturb the friendly intercourse of society. there are so many other topics on which friends may converse & be happy, that it is wonderful [astonishing, in this context] they should select of preference the only one on which they cannot agree.
To David Campbell, January 28, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders maintain friendships with those who disagree.
Jefferson appreciated friends who stuck with him over the decades. He acknowledged that philosophical differences inspired some to seek the country’s good “by a different political path” than his, and that cost him some friendships. He took satisfaction that any loss of friendship over political differences was not his doing but the choice of others.

Why should political or religious differences separate people? Why pick the one area of disagreement and make that the deciding factor in what could be an otherwise cordial relationship? Such choices astonished Jefferson when there was so much common ground where “friends may converse & be happy.”

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They have problems? WE had bigger ones! Get over it.

the dissensions between two members of the cabinet are to be lamented. but why should these force mr Gallatin to withdraw? they cannot be greater than between Hamilton & myself, & yet we served together 4. years in that way. we had indeed no personal dissensions. each of us perhaps thought well of the other as a man. but as politicians it was impossible for two men to be of more opposite principles. the method of separate consultation, practised sometimes in the cabinet, prevents disagreeable collisions.
To Joel Barlow, January 24, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need wisdom to manage talented but feuding subordinates.
Barlow (1754-1812) was a lawyer, editor, acclaimed writer, public official, friend and confidante. He reported on a dispute between two men in President Madison’s cabinet. The disagreement had reached the point where the Secretary of the Treasury, Albert Gallatin, was about to be driven out by the Secretary of State, Robert Morris.

Jefferson asked why a disagreement should force Gallatin to withdraw? He cited his own example of continually butting heads with Alexander Hamilton in President Washington’s cabinet, yet the two of them co-labored for four years. (Hamilton and Jefferson held the same two posts as Gallatin and Smith.) Their differences were political and philosophical but not personal, and they respected each other as individuals. Couldn’t Gallatin and Smith reach the same accommodation?

Jefferson suggested the practice “of separate consultation” with cabinet members. Rather than having opponents in the room together, Mr. Madison could confer with each man separately. He would have the benefit of each man’s counsel while avoiding the conflict that would inevitably arise if opponents were face-to-face.

It had been 16 years since Hamilton and Jefferson had served together in Washington’s cabinet and 5 1/2 years since Hamilton’s death in a duel with Vice-President Aaron Burr. Time must have softened Jefferson’s judgment or his memories. In the early 1790s, Jefferson had nothing positive to say about Hamilton. One of the reasons Jefferson resigned from Washington’s cabinet at end of 1793 was his continual conflict with the other man.

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