Tag Archives: Etiquette

The “court of the US” is dead and buried! Part 2 of 2

The Washington Federalist … has published what he calls the ‘Etiquette of the court of the US.’ in his facts, as usual, truth is set at nought, & in his principles little correct to be found.

In the first place there is no ‘court of the US’ since the 4th. of Mar. 1801. that day buried levees, birthdays, royal parades, and the arrogation of precedence [an unjustified claim of superiority] in society by certain self-stiled friends of order …

In social circles all are equal, whether in, or out, of office, foreign or domestic; & the same equality exists among ladies as among gentlemen. no precedence therefore, of any one over another, exists either in right or practice, at dinners, assemblies, or on any other occasions. ‘pell-mell’ and ‘next the door’ form the basis of etiquette in the societies of this country.
Response to the Washington Federalist, February 13, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know all are created equal and should be treated that way.
The previous post referenced President Jefferson’s guidelines for etiquette in America with regard to foreign diplomats. An opposition newspaper belittled those guidelines, as if the President’s goal was to create dissension with other nations.

Jefferson very rarely responded publicly to political opponents, but the Washington Federalist must have really gotten his goat. His response was printed in the Philadelphia republican paper, the Aurora. First, he wrote there was no longer any “court of the US,” as that had ended with his inauguration on March 4, 1801. On that day, all privilege previously associated with Washington society ceased to be recognized within the government.

He concluded with a ringing affirmation of equality for all in social circles.

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NOT in America! Part 1 of 2

When brought together in society all are perfectly equal, whether foreign or domestic, titled or untitled, in or out of office…
No titles being admitted here, those of foreigners give no precedence.
Difference of grade among the diplomatic members gives no precedence…
At public ceremonies to which the government invites the presence of foreign ministers & their families, a convenient seat or station, will be provided for them with any other strangers invited, & the families of the national ministers, each taking place as they arrive, & without any precedence…
Memorandum on Official Etiquette, January 12, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders treat everyone equally.
Secretary of State Madison had asked America’s ambassador to England about the rules of etiquette that governed diplomats there. Ambassador King replied with a lengthy list, noting the many distinctions made between peoples of varying rank and the procedures governing each.

President Jefferson then drafted his own list for etiquette on this side of the pond. We allowed no titles, no special privileges. With one exception granted to foreign ministers on their first visit to America, all diplomats and their families were to be regarded equally.

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