Tag Archives: Federalism

This father suggests letting the child win this one.

I have recieved a letter from Governor Strong on the subject of their cannon &c. which concerning the War department principally, I inclose to Genl. Dearborne, and must ask the favor of you to be referred to him for a sight of it. I think, where a state is pressing, we should yield in cases not very unreasonable, and treat them with the indulgence and liberality of a parent.
To Robert Smith, September 3, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders know when to yield, even when right is on their side.
In 1798, Massachusetts transferred ownership of a fort in the Boston harbor to the federal government. A provision in that transfer called for the state to be reimbursed for the value of armaments within the fort. Massachusetts submitted its claim, and the national government had disputed the extent and amount of that reimbursement. The state’s governor, a moderate Federalist, was pressing the Republican administration to pay the bill in full.

The President involved the Secretaries of the Navy (Smith, the recipient of this letter) and War, Henry Dearborne, in this discussion. It appears that the Federal position might have been stronger, but Jefferson asked a favor of his subordinate. Massachusetts was pressing their case strongly but not unreasonably. It would be better, the President wrote, to treat the state as a parent would their child, with “indulgence and liberality,” rather than enforcing parental authority, regardless.

“Mr. Patrick Lee did a wonderful job of portraying Thomas Jefferson …
He also tailored his presentation to fit in with our theme of “Exploring New Frontiers.” “
Executive Director, Missouri Independent Bankers Association
No cookie-cutter talks here! Mr. Jefferson tailors his remarks to your interests.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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You are barking up the wrong tree.

Th: Jefferson … acknoleges … [your letters] proposing that persons should be employed by the general government to explore mines of metal & coal, to assay ores … designate canals, roads &c but observes to him that these objects not being among the powers transferred by the States to the General government, nor among the purposes for which the latter is authorized to levy money on the people, the State governments alone are competent to the pursuits proposed.
To Benjamin Henfrey, January 5, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Constitutional leaders understand the limits of their authority.
The British scientist and businessman had written Jefferson at length recommending the hiring of a geologist/engineer to study mineral ores and design roads and canals in the various states. He also introduced a teaser, volunteering the demonstrate for the President a process of his own, capturing gas vapor from coal and using it to provide lamp lighting.

Henfrey then offered his own services for hire, to do what he proposed.

Jefferson the scientist would have loved the new information Henfrey’s proposal might provide. No doubt he was intrigued by gas lighting. Still, he shut Henfrey down cold. Why?
1. Such exploration was not a power given by the states to the national government.
2. Nor was it one of the purposes for which the government could tax its citizens.
The Constitution clearly left that authority and expense to the individual states.

“It was impressive to notice the entire banquet hall silent with everyone,
including the hotel banquet staff, paying rapt attention to your portrayal.”
Forestry Conservation Communications Association
Mr. Jefferson will hold your audience in rapt attention, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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