Tag Archives: Friendship

I do not have to hold my tongue any longer.

I have rarely written to you; never but by safe conveyances; & avoiding every thing political, lest, coming from one in the station I then held, it might be imputed injuriously to our country, or perhaps even excite jealousy of you. hence my letters were necessarily dry. retired now from public concerns, totally unconnected with them, and avoiding all curiosity about what is done or intended, what I say is from myself only, the workings of my own mind, imputable to nobody else.
To Tadeusz Kosciuszko, February 26, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise public leaders are careful about what they say and write.
The Polish-born military engineer Kosciuszko (1746-1817) distinguished himself repeatedly serving in America’s war for independence. He returned to Europe after the war, but spent several more years in America in the 1790s. He and Jefferson shared the same political philosophy and became close friends. Correspondence between the two men was scarce and straightforward during Jefferson’s Presidency, unusual for the prolific letter writer. Here he explained why to his old friend.
1. Mail was rarely confidential. He had to send personal letters by trusted couriers.
2. He could write nothing of politics. As President, those revelations could harm the country.
3. He did not want to make people jealous of his friendship with the Polish leader.

In a reply the following year, the Pole acknowledged Jefferson’s letters were “dry and short.” He quit writing for that reason but now reassured his American friend of his never-ending esteem.

Jefferson was no longer bound by the limitations of the Presidency, could speak freely on any subject, and proceeded to do just that in the remainder of the letter, which will provide material for several more posts.

“…his performances [are] most believable and intriguing.
He easily captures the audience’s interest and attention …”
Vice-President, RiverBarge Excursions, New Orleans, LA
Mr. Jefferson stands ready to capture your audience’s attention!
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Thanks for the geese. Have some cigars.

Having recieved a box of fine Havanna segars & knowing your fondness for them, I cannot make any use of them so gratifying to myself as by sending them to you. having occasion to send a cart to Washington, it will go by Fauqr C.H. [Fauquier Court House] to deposit this charge with you. it will return by Dumfries for a pair of Wild geese promised me there, as I have had the misfortune to lose the goose of the pair you were so kind as to give me. ever affectionately yours
To Doct. James W. Wallace, August 24, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders remember kindnesses shown them by others.
While Jefferson raised tobacco, the only cash crop available besides wheat, there is no record he used it other than on rare ceremonial visits from Indian chiefs. So, what to do with a box of “fine Havanna segars” that must have been a gift to him?

In other correspondence the same day, he said “Davy,” a servant (slave) would leave the next day with a horse and cart to retrieve a “big-tailed ram” promised him to replace two that died. The route would take him near Wallace’s home. Remembering his friend’s fondness for cigars, he would have Davy leave them at a convenient place for Wallace to retrieve. He was returning the kindness Wallace had shown earlier in giving him a pair of geese.

The female of Wallace’s pair died. Davy would return by another route to pick up a replacement pair offered to the former President.

“…your presentation brought to life not only the spirit of Thomas Jefferson
but also the sense of commitment to discovery and exploration …”
Executive Director, Association of Partners for Public Lands
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I am sorry, my old friend. We really tried.

It is with much concern I inform you that the Senate has negatived [vetoed] your appointment [as ambassador to Russia] … mr Madison, on his entering into office, proposed another person (John Q. Adams.) he also was negatived … our subsequent information was that, on your nomination, your long absence from this country, & their idea that you do not intend to return to it had very sensible weight … I pray you to place me rectus in curiâ [innocent] in this business …
To William Short, March 8, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes circumstances conspire to defeat a leader’s best intentions.
William Short (1759-1849) was Jefferson’s protégé and friend. He served in various diplomatic roles in Europe from 1785-1802, including five years as personal secretary to Ambassador Jefferson in France. After a few years back in America, Short returned to Europe in 1808 on a temporary assignment in Russia. Jefferson proposed to the U.S. Senate to make Short’s appointment permanent. The Senate turned him down cold. There were several reasons.
1. Short’s 17 year residency in Europe had made his allegiance suspect.
2. Elsewhere in this letter, Jefferson explained the Senate was interested both in detangling America from European matters and reducing the size of the diplomatic core.
3. While not stated, Jefferson’s influence was waning. He was a lame duck President when Short was nominated.
4. The Senate was equally independent-minded in vetoing John Quincy Adams, President Madison’s nominee for the same position.

Jefferson began this letter with, “It is with much concern I inform you …” That is probably a great understatement. Most likely, he would have been mortified that  his faithful friend and supporter for a quarter century,a well-qualified man, had been cast aside.

” …what a magnificent and delightful job you did as President Thomas Jefferson
in our substantive program…”
Substantive Program Chair, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Mr. Jefferson even impresses constitutional lawyers and judges!
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Who exactly is in charge here? Part 11 C (OR Hooray for optimistic leaders!)

 [This is the 13th post in a series abstracted from Jefferson’s famous “My Head and My Heart” dialogue written to Maria Cosway. This is part of Heart’s final reply.]

Heart: In a life where we are perpetually exposed to want & accident, yours [Head’s] is a wonderful proposition, to insulate ourselves, to retire from all aid, & to wrap ourselves in the mantle of self-sufficiency! For assuredly nobody will care for him who care for nobody. But friendship is precious, not only in the shade but in the sunshine of life; & thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine…
To Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Hooray for optimistic leaders!
Jefferson acknowledged Head’s “wonderful proposition,” striving for self-sufficiency as a means of protection from life’s difficulties. One would have to perfect that do-it-yourself mentality, because there would be no help in time of need for one who never helped others.

But friendship was more important than just giving or receiving consolation in times of trouble. Friendship was especially enjoyable “in the sunshine of life,” when there was no trouble. He affirmed, despite our difficulties and sorrows, that “the greater part of life is sunshine.”

Thomas Jefferson will bring sunshine to your audience!
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Who exactly is in charge here? Part 11 B (OR I need others to share in my sufferings.)

[This is the 12th post in a series abstracted from Jefferson’s famous “My Head and My Heart” dialogue written to Maria Cosway. This is part of Heart’s final reply.]

Heart: But let us now try the virtues of your mathematical balance, & as you have put into one scale the burthen of friendship, let me put its comforts into the other. When languishing then under disease, how grateful is the solace of our friends! How are we penetrated with their assiduities [diligence] & attentions! How much are we supported by their encouragements & kind offices! When heaven has taken from us some object of our love, how sweet is it to have a bosom whereon to recline our heads, & into which we may pour the torrent of our tears! Grief, with such a comfort, is almost a luxury!
To Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders need support when they suffer.
Jefferson’s Head advised his Heart to weigh all things, even potential friendships, in a balance of positives vs. negatives and choose only the weightier. Heart found the potential comforts in friendship always of more value than feared hurts or loss.
In the last post, Heart extolled the virtue of the comfort he could give to others in their suffering. Here he reversed it, appreciating the comfort he received from others when he suffered.
Afflictions of disease or great personal loss were easier to bear when others came alongside to console and encourage. Suffering almost (almost!) became a luxury when one had dear friends to share in the burden.

Mr. Jefferson stands ready to inspire hope in your audience.
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What would I have done without you?

… But why afflict you with these details [about my dire financial difficulties]? Indeed, I cannot tell, unless pains are lessened by communication with a friend. The friendship which has subsisted between us, now half a century, and the harmony of our political principles and pursuits, have been sources of constant happiness to me through that long period … If ever the earth has beheld a system of administration conducted with a single and steadfast eye to the general interest and happiness of those committed to it … it is that to which our lives have been devoted. To myself you have been a pillar of support through life. Take care of me when dead, and be assured that I shall leave with you my last affections.
To James Madison, February 17, 1826

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Old leaders appreciate faithful friends.
The first portion of this letter dealt with the University of Virginia, the Legislature’s refusal to provide more funds for it and the qualifications needed in the school’s professor of law. From there, Jefferson turned to a summary of his overwhelming debt, reasons for it, and his hopes that a lottery for some of his Monticello lands might eliminate that debt and spare his home. (It did not.) Otherwise, he could be homeless, maybe lacking even ground for burial. It was a sad account.

He found some solace in sharing his difficulties with James Madison, his closest political ally and perhaps his best friend. They had labored together for a half century. He thanked Madison for his faithful friendship and support of the government they helped create, with a single-minded devotion “to the general interest and happiness” of all.


Jefferson knew the end was near and told his old friend so. Death came three and a half months later.

“Your characterization of Jefferson is wonderful …
It was a delight working with you from the moment of our first phone conversation … “
Conference Coordinator, Iowa League of Cities

Mr. Jefferson will delight your audience, too!
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How would you describe a long-term friendship?

I find friendships to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.
To Dr. Benjamin Rush, August 17, 1811
Koch & Peden’s The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 563

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need good friends, old & faithful friends.
Little needed other than to point out that Rush and Jefferson had been trusted friends to each other for over 35 years. Rush was responsible in the following year for helping to restore another old friendship, one damaged by political differences. That one was between two of his good friends, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

“I personally want to thank you.
It is a delight to have speakers like yourself who make me look good.”
Meetings Administrator, Iowa State Association of Counties

Let Thomas Jefferson make you look good to your audience!
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Can anyone damage your closest friendships?

I had for some time observed, in the public papers, dark hints and mysterious innuendoes of a correspondence of yours with a friend, to whom you had opened your bosom without reserve … And now it is said to be actually published. It has not yet reached us, but extracts have been given, and such as seemed most likely to draw a curtain of separation between you and myself. ..The circumstances of the times, in which we have happened to live … placed us in a state of apparent opposition, which some might suppose to be personal also … It would be strange indeed if, at our years, we were to go an age back to hunt up imaginary, or forgotten facts, to disturb the repose of affections so sweetening to the evening of our lives … Beseeching you then not to suffer your mind to be disquieted by this wicked attempt to poison it’s peace, and praying you to throw it by, among the things which have never happened, I add sincere assurances of my unabated, and constant attachment, friendship and respect.
To John Adams, October 12, 1823

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Faithful leaders have their friends’ backs, regardless.
Apparently, a “friend” of Adams’ had published Adams’ confidential letters to him.  Adams, always outspoken, may have written about the differences that estranged Jefferson and him decades earlier. (That breach was repaired in 1812.) Brief references to that violation of Adams’ confidence had already reached Jefferson in Virginia.
Jefferson wrote to his old friend to reassure him that nothing would interfere with their lifelong friendship: “Be assured, my dear Sir, that I am incapable of recieving the slightest impression from the effort now made to plant thorns on the pillow of age, worth, and wisdom, and to sow tares between friends who have been such for near half a century.”

You were great as Thomas Jefferson …
I’ve seen a lot of historic portrayers and many of them are just actors.
You bring a background of scholarship to your portrayal.”
Interim Director, MO River Basin L&C Interpretive Trail & Visitors Center
Your audience will experience the real Thomas Jefferson, not an actor!
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Speak up, friend. It will not hurt my feelings.

No apologies for writing or speaking to me freely are necessary. On the contrary, nothing my friends can do is so dear to me, & proves to me their friendship so clearly, as the information they give me of their sentiments & those of others on interesting points where I am to act, and where information & warning is so essential to excite in me that due reflection which ought to precede action.
To Wilson Cary Nicholas, September 7, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Well-grounded leaders appreciate friends who speak to them freely.
This is the conclusion of the letter I excerpted on April 24, where Jefferson explained his thoughts on strict vs. loose interpretation of the Constitution.
I don’t have Nicholas’ letter to Jefferson, but it appears the former may have apologized in advance for, as we might say today, “getting in the President’s face.” Jefferson put his friend at ease.
Not only was there nothing to apologize for, Jefferson welcomed such input from his friends. In fact, it even proved their friendship, that they would be willing to go out on a limb to challenge him. While very sensitive to criticism he thought unfounded or mean-spirited, he invited advice from well-intentioned people while he was weighing a matter that required action.

“I commend you for these outstanding performances,
and we are very, very grateful for your contributions to The Missouri Bar.”

Executive Director, The Missouri Bar
Your audience will be grateful, too.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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A faded flower for a faithful friend!

Th: Jefferson presents his respectful salutations to mrs. Smith, and sends her the Geranium she expressed a willingness to receive. it is in very bad condition, having been neglected latterly, as not intended to be removed. he cannot give it his parting blessing more effectually than by consigning it to the nourishing hand of mrs. Smith. If plants have sensibility, as the analogy of their organisation with ours seems to indicate, it cannot but be proudly sensible of her fostering attentions. of his regrets at parting with the society of Washington, a very sensible portion attaches to mrs. Smith, whose friendship he has particularly valued. her promise to visit Monticello is some consolation; and he can assure her she will be received with open arms and hearts by the whole family.
        he prays her to accept the homage of his affectionate attachment and respect.
To mrs. Samuel H. Smith Washington, Mar. 6, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
(Re)Tired Leaders appreciate faithful friends.
A weary Thomas Jefferson had turned the Presidency over to James Madison two days earlier, ending a public career that spanned 40 years. He was packing up, more than ready to return to his beloved Monticello.
Margaret Bayard Smith, 31, and her husband, Samuel Harrison Smith, 37, were close friends. A few years earlier, with Jefferson’s support, Mr. Smith founded the republican newspaper National Intelligencer in Washington City. Mrs. Smith was a noted author in her own right.
Mrs. Smith must have asked for this flower, and Jefferson honored that request. He confessed he had no plans to take the plant with him and had neglected it. No doubt, she could revive its flowering beauty.
Jefferson’s only regret at leaving Washington was separation from friends who lived there. He attached special significance to her friendship. (He especially enjoyed the company of intellectual women.) She promised to visit him, and he pledged his entire family would welcome her “with open arms and hearts.”

“We could not have asked for a better keynote presenter
to set the tone for our conference theme, “Prepared to Lead.” ” 
Nevada Association of Counties

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