Tag Archives: Disagreement

I am staying out of this mess! Always have. Part 1

You must be persuaded that great sensibility would be excited in this State, could it be believed that the President of the United States would interfere in our elections; and without any other authority than my confidence in you, I have flatly denied any such interference.
Michael Leib to Thomas Jefferson, July 22, 1805

I see with extreme concern the acrimonious dissensions into which our friends in Pensylvania have fallen, but have long since made up my mind on the propriety of the general [national] government’s taking no side in state quarrels…
Thomas Jefferson to Michael Leib, August 12, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep their noses out of other people’s disagreements.
The Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Robert McKean, was being challenged for that office by another Republican, Simon Snyder. Michael Leib reported that Jefferson had been represented as favoring McKean over Snyder. Leib alerted the President to the danger of such action and to local disputants, denied Jefferson’s involvement.

The President hated controversy and confrontation, particularly between friends or political allies. He would try to defuse such feelings if possible and take no side, regardless. State quarrels were not his to mediate, no matter how much they troubled him.

“Thank you for playing a key role
in making our 118th Annual Conference such a great success.”
Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Mr. Jefferson will contribute greatly to the success of your meeting!
Invite him 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.





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How to bring unity out of conflict, Part 1 of 3

I received one day a note from the Marquis de la Fayette, informing me that he should bring a party of six or eight friends to ask a dinner of me the next day … These were leading patriots, of honest but differing opinions sensible of the necessity of effecting a coalition by mutual sacrifices, knowing each other, and not afraid therefore to unbosom themselves mutually. This last was a material principle in the selection …
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need privacy, trust and encouragement to speak openly.
The French national assembly needed to make a proposal to the King regarding future governance. With too many competing interests, they were unable to reach an agreement. This post and the next two will highlight essential principles in bringing unity out of conflict.
1. One person took the lead.
2. A neutral meeting place was chosen by the leader.
3. An uninvolved individual facilitated the gathering.
4. The meeting began with a meal.
5. The attendees were all influential leaders.
6. They were honest patriots committed to a common cause.
7. Although they differed, they understood a unified coalition was essential.
8. Each man would have to give up something to create that coalition.
9. They knew one another well enough to be able to speak freely.

Others might have been invited except for # 9: Familiarity with one another, and the resulting trust that came with it, allowed the risk-taking necessary to speak honestly. This was essential if there was to be any chance of success.

“The manner in which you tailored your comments …
made your presentation all the more meaningful.”
Executive Director, Indiana Association of Counties
Mr. Jefferson will tailor his remarks to the interests of your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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I will shut up, and here’s why.

… in cases of doubt it is better to say too little than too much.
To President Washington, July 30, 1791

… on the principle that where there is a difference of opinion it is better to say too little than too much.
To Albert Gallatin, November 23, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Diplomatic leaders know when to keep their mouths shut.
These two letters presented different issues but the same philosophy.

The first regarded a diplomatic communication Jefferson proposed making to one of America’s ministers in France. Jefferson wanted to put certain information in the diplomat’s hands and trust his judgment whether to use it or not. Yet, he yielded to President Washington on the issue. If the potential harm from that information outweighed the good, it was better not to send it, because “in cases of doubt …”

The second letter to his Secretary of the Treasury concerned changes in the wording of a document Jefferson had forwarded the day before. Something in that wording must have been contentious, because Jefferson omitted it in the re-write, because “…where there is a difference of opinion … “

Jefferson did not want to give offense unnecessarily. If that meant holding his tongue, or his pen, when there was doubt (the first letter) or disagreement (the second letter), that was the wiser course. He was willing to say less if it meant he might accomplish more.

“Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging words on leadership,
change and the challenges for our future.”

Director of Communications and Education, Illinois Municipal League

Thomas Jefferson has thoughtful and encouraging words for your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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