Tag Archives: Generosity

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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I respect you even though you disrespected me.

Th: Jefferson presents his respects to mr Adams and incloses him a letter which came to his hands last night; on reading what is written within the cover, he concluded it to be a private letter, and without opening a single paper within it he folded it up & now has the honor to inclose it to mr Adams, with the homage of his high consideration & respect.
To John Adams, March 8, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Generosity of spirit is a hallmark of a good leader.
In the four days since becoming President, Jefferson had learned of the many Federalists appointed to government positions and courts by John Adams just days before he left office. It was a deliberate and mean-spirited attempt by Adams to pack Jefferson’s administration with hostile employees. Those positions should have been Jefferson’s to fill.

Yet, three days after inauguration, a letter meant for Adams was delivered to the new President. We do not know its contents. Jefferson didn’t take the opportunity for a little payback. He simply forwarded the letter unopened, with this respectful note, curiously written in the 3rd person.

Mr. Jefferson promises the same generosity of spirit to your audience.
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Who exactly is in charge here? Part 11 E (OR Stingy people justify being stingy.)

 [This is the 15th 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: A few facts .. to prove to you that nature has not organized you [Head] for our moral direction. When the poor wearied souldier whom we overtook at Chickahomony with his pack on his back, begged us to let him get up behind our chariot, you began to calculate that the road was full of souldiers, & that if all should be taken up our horses would fail in their journey. We drove on therefore. But soon becoming sensible you had made me do wrong, that tho we cannot relieve all the distressed we should relieve as many as we can, I turned about to take up the souldier; but he had entered a bye path, & was no more to be found; & from that moment to this I could never find him out to ask his forgiveness.

Again, when the poor woman came to ask a charity in Philadelphia, you whispered that she looked like a drunkard, & that half a dollar was enough to give her for the ale-house. Those who want [lack] the dispositions to give, easily find reasons why they ought not to give. When I sought her out afterwards, & did what I should have done at first, you know that she employed the money immediately towards placing her child at school.
To Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Generous leaders listen to their hearts, not their heads.
These two examples are straightforward. In each, with a moral dilemma presented, Jefferson’s Head prevailed at first, with reasons not to help or to do so only sparingly. His Heart later asserted control and tried to rectify the wrongs. One could be corrected. For the other, the opportunity was lost.
Two observations:
1. In the first paragraph, Head reasoned that because they could not help everyone, they should help no one. Heart countered, that even though they could not help everyone, they had a moral obligation to help as many as they could.
2. In the second paragraph, Heart notes that selfish people (“who want [lack] the dispositions to give”) have no trouble justifying their actions (will “easily find reasons why they ought not to give”).

A generous Thomas Jefferson looks forward
to sharing his experiences with your audience.

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