Tag Archives: Honesty

How do you assess the motives of another?

Our winter campaign has opened with more good humor than I expected … bitter men are not pleased with the suppression of taxes. not daring to condemn the measure, they attack the motive … but every honest man will suppose honest acts to flow from honest principles; & the rogues may rail without interruption.
To Benjamin Rush, December 20, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders know they cannot please rogues and bitter people.
The President could write freely to Philadelphia physician Rush (1745-1813), an old and dear friend and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson’s “winter campaign” was his state of the union report with its recommendations to Congress. Both House and Senate were controlled by Republicans, allies who shared his vision. The hard core Federalist opposition in Congress, the “bitter men,” opposed Jefferson’s desire to decrease taxes and make the federal government smaller. Instead of condemning the action on its merits, they accused the President of simply currying favor with the masses.

Jefferson said honest people would give him the benefit of the doubt, and bitter people, “the rogues,” never would.

“Thank you for hanging on to and presenting the truths this great nation was founded on.”
North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association Annual Conference
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Is being honest all that is needed in a judge?

It is not enough that honest men are appointed judges. All know the influence of [special] interest [s] on the mind of man, and how unconsciously his judgment is warped by that influence. To this bias add that of the esprit de corps, of their peculiar maxim and creed that “it is the office of a good judge to enlarge his jurisdiction,” and the absence of responsibility, and how can we expect impartial decision between the General government, of which they are themselves so eminent a part, and an individual state from which they have nothing to hope or fear.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even honest leaders must be held accountable.
Jefferson continued his thoughts on federal judges who held a lifetime appointment:
1. Even honest judges could be led astray, without knowing it, as special interests influenced them.
2. By their very nature of setting precedent in their rulings, judges sought to expand their authority. Since they were federal judges, any expansion would be of national power.
3. If federal judges were not answerable to anyone, how can they rightly judge issues between the national government, which gave them the office of judge, and a state, which gave them nothing?

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Clinical Laboratory Management Association, Central NY Chapter
Mr. Jefferson brings both motivation & practical help to your audience.
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Can stupid people write wise laws?

… it is generally true that that people will be happiest whose laws are best, and are best administered, and that laws will be wisely formed, and honestly administered, in proportion as those who form and administer them are wise and honest …
Preamble, A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, 1778

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise and honest laws require a well-educated citizenry.
During America’s war for independence, Jefferson devoted much of his time to re-writing Virginia’s laws. This is one of his most famous, providing for publicly-funded education for boys AND girls. It called for a system of primary and grammar schools throughout the state, plus scholarships for advanced education for the best but most impoverished students.

What was the connection between education and wise laws with honest administrators? Elsewhere in the Preamble Jefferson asserts that the only way to have these kinds of laws, honestly and wisely administered, was to have a well-educated citizenry.

Jefferson promoted this cause for the rest of his life, almost half a century. He never saw it implemented to the degree he proposed in 1778.

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Director of Member Services & Education, Minnesota Rural Electric Association

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How do you keep an honest man honest?

It is not enough that honest men are appointed Judges. All know the influence of interest on the mind of man, and how unconsciously his judgment is warped by that influence. To this bias, we add that of esprit de corps, of their peculiar maxim and creed that “it is the office of a good Judge to enlarge his jurisdiction” … I repeat that I do not charge the Judges with wilful and ill-intentioned error, but honest error must be arrested, where its toleration leads to public ruin … so judges should be removed from their bench, whose erroneous biases are leading us to dissolution.
Autobiography, 1821
Taken from Koch & Peden’s Life & Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 78-79

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know that even honest people must be held accountable.
Jefferson had been concerned for years that federal judges had no check on their authority. They were appointed for life. Even honest men could be drawn astray. Unlike members of Congress and the President who were accountable to the voters, judges had no such limitation on their authority. They could be impeached, but several instances had convinced Jefferson that impeachment provisions were toothless.

In order to keep an honest man honest (a judge or any other person), he must be held accountable in a realistic and practical manner. While affirming the judiciary and its practitioners in general, he wanted a way to remove judges who got carried away with personal or political interests that threatened the republic.

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Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Director of Entertainment

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