Tag Archives: France

This single act changes FRIEND to FOE!

The cession of Louisiana & the Floridas by Spain to France works most sorely on the US … of all nations of any consideration France is the one which hitherto has offered the fewest points on which we could have any conflict of right, and the most points of a communion of interests … our natural friend … [yet] there is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural & habitual enemy. it is New Orleans, through which the produce of three eighths of our territory must pass to market … France placing herself in that door assumes to us the attitude of defiance.
To Robert Livingston, April 18, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders expect the unexpected.
Jefferson, a lover of most-things-French, was dealt a serious blow upon confirming that sleepy Spain was returning its holdings west of the Mississippi River (Louisiana) along with the Port of New Orleans to France. He foresaw the time when expansionist France could use its control of that port to strangle the sale of American goods from its western lands. Those goods had to pass down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers through New Orleans on their way to the east coast and Europe.

Livingstone was an American minister to France. Secretary of State Madison had already written him on this matter, the proper chain of command. So concerned was Jefferson about this matter that he wrote his own very long letter on the same subject.

France’s new ownership of New Orleans and Louisiana, coupled with other unforeseen events, soon led her to offer all of her new acquisition for sale to the United States. Thus, was the size of the new nation doubled. Lewis & Clark’s expedition two years later set the wheels in motion the for U.S. to extend its ownership to the Pacific Ocean.

“It felt like we were transported back in time,
and we came away with a much better understanding …”
Program Manager, Council of State Governments-West, Vancouver, WA
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Louisiana, here we come. Do-da. Do-da.

With respect to Spain our dispositions are sincerely amicable & even affectionate. we consider her possession of the adjacent country [Louisiana, the land west of the Mississippi River] as most favorable to our interests, & should see, with extreme pain any other nation substituted for them: in all communications therefore with their officers, conciliation and mutual accomodation are to be duly attended to, every thing irritating to be avoided, every thing friendly to be done for them … temper & justice will be the best guides through those intricacies. Should France get possession of that country it will be more to be lamented than remedied by us, and will furnish ground for profound consideration on our part how best to conduct ourselves in that case …
To William C. C. Claiborne, July 13, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Far-sighted leaders begin signaling their intentions well in advance.
Claiborne was to be appointed governor of the Mississippi Territory, bordering Spanish-held Louisiana just across the river. Jefferson was insistent on maintaining the best possible terms with Spain, who was not a threat to American interests. France was a threat, and her possession of Louisiana would provoke a profoundly different response.

Jefferson knew of rumors that Spain had already ceded Louisiana to France. That was not common knowledge at this point. Chances are Claiborne didn’t know that, either. So, Jefferson, who was shrewd in his diplomacy, was starting to build his case for not wanting France as our next door neighbor, able to control traffic on the Mississippi River.

Jefferson’s guidelines for getting along with the Spanish could be his guidelines for getting along with anyone:
1. Be conciliatory
2. Look for areas of agreement
3. Avoid irritation
4. Be as friendly as possible
5. Hold your temper
6. Be just

“Your ability to work on your own, to generate different ideas,
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Executive Director, Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau
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If you couldn’t live in America, your 2nd choice?

A more benevolent people, I have never known … Their kindness and accommodation to strangers is unparalleled … Their eminence too in science … the politeness of the general manners, the ease and vivacity of their conversation, give a charm to their society to be found nowhere else … ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, In what country on earth would you rather live? — Certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest & sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice? France.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders esteem kind, friendly, helpful people.
In 1789, after five years in France, Jefferson made plans to return home. His thought was to enroll his daughters in school and return for a time. President Washington had other ideas, and Jefferson remained in America as his Secretary of State.

Jefferson’s fondness for France and its people was probably magnified by two things not mentioned here:
1. France’s aid in America’s revolutionary war, with money and men, both essential to its success
2. A movement toward the republican rights of man that began during his time there. He thought America’s independence and the coming French abolition of the monarchy would fan the flames of republican government throughout the world.

He was wrong about the course France would take, and the effect it would have. Yet, 30 years later as he wrote this account, he still harbored the fondest thoughts toward his second home. Nor did he waver in his belief that ultimately, the freedom America had achieved and that France hoped for would be models for the world.

“Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging words
on leadership, change and he challenges for our future.”
Director of Education, Illinois Municipal League
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Slippery & double-faced or The Golden Rule?

The Count de Vergennes had the reputation with the diplomatic corps of being wary & slippery in his diplomatic intercourse; and so he might be with those whom he knew to be slippery and double-faced themselves. As he saw that I had no indirect views, practised no subtleties, meddled in no intrigues, pursued no concealed object, I found him as frank, as honorable, as easy of access to reason as any man with whom I had ever done business …
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Servant leaders treat others the way they would like to be treated.
Charles Graves, Count de Vergennes, 1717-1787, was Frances’s Foreign Minister and an early advocate of French support for the American Revolution. He had been a French diplomat throughout Europe for over 40 years. As America’s Ambassador to France, Jefferson and the Count had regular contact.

Other nations’ diplomats found the Count “wary & slippery.” No doubt Jefferson knew about the French Minister’s reputation before they met. Jefferson could have approached him on that basis but chose to have an open mind, instead. In time, he suggested those nations’ diplomats were “slippery and double-faced” themselves and thus received like treatment in return.

Jefferson had no such difficulties with the Count. Why? Jefferson was straightforward with the French minister, had no hidden agendas and stayed out of matters that didn’t concern him. He was both honest and forthright with the Count, and received the same respectful treatment in response.

“One of our municipal officials even remarked he like Thomas Jefferson
better than
David Broder, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
who spoke on the following day.”

Director of Education, Illinois Municipal League
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Travel is not what it used to be!

On the 7th. of May Congress resolved that a Minister Plenipotentiary [Webster’s 7th New Collegiate: “a diplomatic agent invested with full power to transact any business”] should be appointed in addition to Mr. [John] Adams & Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin for negotiating treaties of commerce with foreign nations, and I was elected to that duty. I accordingly left Annapolis on the 11th … proceeded to Boston in quest of a passage. While passing thro’ the different states, I made a point of informing myself of the state of the commerce of each, went on to New Hampshire with the same view and returned to Boston. I sailed on the 5th. of July … after a pleasant voyage of 19. days from land to land, we arrived at Cowes on the 26th … On the 30th. we embarked for Havre, arrived there on the 31st. left it on the 3d. of August, and arrived at Paris on the 6th.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Jefferson was recalled to Congress in late 1782, an attempt by his friends to draw him out of his depression following the death of his wife in September. A year and a half later, he was appointed as a minister to France, to help negotiate commercial treaties. He used his travels from Annapolis to Boston to gain first hand information on the commerce of the states.

His journey to France required these times:
– 19 days from Boston to Cowes, on the Isle of Wright, off England’s south coast
– An overnight to sail 100 miles from Cowes to Havre, on France’s north coast
– Four days coach ride for the 100 miles from Havre to Paris

He spent five years in France, greatly broadening his leadership experience. He would return from that assignment to a much larger stage, Secretary of State for President Washington.

 

“The presentation as Thomas Jefferson was by far the most original,
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Oklahoma Society of Land Surveyors
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What work do the women do?

The people here [Champagne, France] were ill clothed, and looked ill, and I observed the women performing the heavy labours of husbandry; an unequivocal proof of extreme poverty. In Burgundy and Beaujolois they do only light work in the feilds, being principally occupied within doors. In these counties they were well clothed and appeared to be well fed.
To William Short, March 15, 1787

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sensitive leaders look for clues to people’s well-being.
Jefferson was reporting to his personal secretary in Paris. He was two weeks into a three month tour that would take him through France and parts of Italy. The surface reason may have been to visit the healing hot water springs at Aix, to soothe the broken and poorly set wrist he suffered a few months earlier. The water’s healing effects availed little, yet Jefferson inquired about everything as he went.

Here, he contrasted two regions of France, one poor and one prosperous.
– In Champagne, people were “ill clothed and looked ill,” obvious malnutrition. Women did heavy, outdoor work, probably the same farm work as men. That was an undeniable sign of “extreme poverty” that afflicted all but the privileged classes
– In Burgandy and Beaujolois, however, people were “well clothed and appeared to be well fed,” presumably healthy. Women’s work was mostly indoors, domestic tasks, with “only light work in the fields.” Economic prosperity required heavy physical work from the men only while protecting the women from that fate.

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Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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Should facts or fears govern us?

For observe, it is not the possibility of danger, which absolves a party from his contract: for that possibility always exists, & in every case. It existed in the present one at the moment of making the contract. If possibilities would avoid contracts, there never could be a valid contract. For possibilities hang over everything.
Opinion on the French Treaties, April 28, 1793

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders should govern by what is, not what might be.
President Washington asked Secretary of State Jefferson and Secretary of Treasury Hamilton to submit opinions on whether the United States was still obligated by its treaties with France. Those treaties were made when France was a monarchy, and the king had since been beheaded. In fact, it wasn’t clear what kind of government would result from all of France’s internal turmoil.

Hamilton’s opinion was that the U.S. made treaties with a government that no longer existed. Either we were not bound by them, or we had a right to suspend them until the issue of their government was settled. He raised a lot of “what ifs” and speculated what future danger those treaties might pose to America.

Jefferson didn’t buy it. He described the “what ifs” as possibilities of danger, not danger itself. Those possibilities existed when they treaties were made. They still existed. He said we should governed by the facts and the commitments we had made (the treaties), not by fears of what might happen.

In a larger sphere, Jefferson would advise one to be governed by what is, not what might be. Very late in life (1825, age 81) he would write as #8 in his Decalogue of Canons, “How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.”

“… your command of Mr. Jefferson’s persona and mind
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Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Three Flags Festival, St. Louis
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Sorry, but the snuff is stuffed.

I have duly received your favor accompanying that of Mr. Van bram Houckgeete on the subject of a cask of snuff sent by him to Bordeaux. The importation of that article is prohibited by the laws of France on pain of fine and forfeiture of the article to the Farmers general. His snuff was seized and condemned on due process of law. He sais [says] he was ignorant of the law, and I believe it: his captain having reported the article on his entry is a proof. But ignorance of the law is a plea in no country and in no case.
To David Ramsey, August 8, 1787

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Much of leadership is simply routine and being responsive.
Mr. Ramsey had written Jefferson on behalf of someone whose shipment of snuff into France had been seized. Even though there was no dishonesty on the shipper’s part, there was nothing Jefferson could do. France’s law was clear, and the legal process had been followed.
Much of Jefferson’s correspondence covered such routine matters. This letter is one of eight he wrote on the same day. Most were his responses to others’ inquiries. The other seven letters dealt with:

1. Non-payment of a debt & denial of more credit
2. Modifications to navigation equipment
3. Recruiting tenant farmers for the American west
4. Inquiring about a hostage kept in Dunkirk
5. The pending arrival of a harpsichord he ordered from England
6. Acknowledging another’s correspondence
7. A request for France’s compensation for a boat seized in Guadeloupe

Five of these eight letters were personal requests made of him in his official role as America’s Ambassador to France. In none of those five could he give the writer what he asked. All he could do is thank them for writing, explain why the matter was out of his hands, or write another letter to someone who was in a position to act. Not Declaration-of-Independence-type-stuff but essential to being a servant leader and a good steward.

All were impressed with your ability … to actually assume the role of President Jefferson.”
President, Arkansas Bar Foundation

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What qualities make a nation admirable?

So, ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, in what country on earth would you rather live? – Certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice? France.
Autobiography, 1821
From Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 101

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders appreciate kind people.
Thirty two years after Jefferson left France as ambassador, never to return, he still retained his great fondness for that land and its people. While his unquestionable loyalty was to his own country, he stated the reasons for his French affections in the text that precedes this excerpt, summarized here:

– The people were kind.
– They were warm and devoted in their close friendships.
– They were accommodating to strangers.
– The hospitality of Paris was beyond imagining.
– They were eminent in science.
– Their scientific men were well-mannered, comfortable and animated in conversation, and gave “a charm to their society.”

Those qualities would make any nation admirable.

“… what a magnificent and delightful job you did as Thomas Jefferson
in our substantive program …”
Chairman, Substantive Program for the Judicial Conference, U. S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit, Point Clear, AL

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Why can’t they be happy?

Indeed, it is difficult to conceive how so good a people [the French], with so good a King, so well-disposed rulers in general, so genial a climate, so fertile a soil, should be rendered so ineffectual for producing human happiness by one single curse, — that of a bad form of government. But it is a fact, in spite of the mildness of their governors, the people are ground to powder by the vices of the form of government. Of twenty millions of people supposed to be in France, I am of opinion there are nineteen millions more wretched, more accursed in every circumstance of human existence than the most conspicuously wretched individual of the whole United States.
To Mrs. Trist, August 18, 1785

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders know oppressive government destroys happiness.
As a new minister to their country, Jefferson’s love affair with most-things-French had begun. He praised the people, the King, and the governors. He acknowledged a mild climate and fertile soil.

Yet none of that could make its people happy. Why? Because its system of government, based on heredity, privilege and wealth…so non-republican…ground its citizens “to powder.” He estimated that 95% of French citizens, 19 million out of 20, lived lives that were worse off than the most destitute person in America.

In the paragraph preceding this excerpt, Jefferson observed the lack of marital faithfulness among the French. “The domestic bonds here are absolutely done away…” He speculated that sexual promiscuity served as a temporary diversion from “the hardness of their government.”

“Chris, you are a genius for including Thomas Jefferson in your opening presentation.
They called me a genius – thank you.”
Owner, Lanit Consulting

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