Tag Archives: Jefferson Leadership

What about America’s Aborigines? Part 7a

The Aboriginal inhabitants [native Americans] … with the faculties & the rights of men, breathing an ardent love of liberty and independance, & … [having] no desire but to be undisturbed … have been overwhelmed by the current [of immigrant Americans] … humanity enjoins us to teach them agriculture & the domestic arts; to encourage them to that industry … & to prepare them in time for that state of society, which to bodily comforts adds the improvement of the mind & morals. we have therefore liberally furnished them with the implements of husbandry & houshold use; we have placed among them instructors in the arts of first necessity; and they are covered with the Aegis [protection] of the law against aggressors from among ourselves.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Enlightened leaders seek improvement of marginalized members.
Thomas Jefferson had a lifelong interest in America’s native citizens and their improvement. He recognized they had the same rights and aspirations as all people. Although they wished to be left alone, they were being “overwhelmed” by white people pushing further and further west.

Inevitably, their prosperous future was in “agriculture & the domestic arts.” It was the white man’s responsibility to teach those arts for the natives’ improvement in body, soul and spirit. To that end, his administration had furnished both agricultural and household materials and instructors in their use. On top of this, they were protected by law from aggression by white settlers.

Jefferson believed that given enough time, the Indians could become farmers like the white men. Then they would no longer need vast expanses for hunting, and those lands could be opened for settlement. While some natives were assimilated, he greatly underestimated their attachment to their own culture and resistance to change.

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Hands off God, again. Part 6

In matters of Religion, I have considered that it’s free exercise is placed by the constitution independant of the powers of the general government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it: but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction & discipline of the state or church authorities acknoleged by the several religious societies.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Strict constructionist leaders take the Constitution at its word.
This single paragraph in its entirety sums up Thomas Jefferson’s views on the national government’s role in religion:
1. The Constitution set religion apart as independent of that government.
2. Accordingly, he authorized no national days of prayer, fasting or thanksgiving.
3. Religious observances were left to state or church authorities.

The word “again” appears in this headline, referencing a 2013 post with the same subject and title.

“You put a great amount of effort into this talk …
a lot of research into medical practice in the 18th century.”
Clinical Laboratory Management Association, Central New York Chapter
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War is only an interruption of doing good. Part 4

if injustice by ourselves or others must sometimes produce war, increased as the same revenue will be by increased population & consumption, & aided by other resources reserved for that crisis, it may meet within the year all the expences of the year, without encroaching on the rights of future generations by burthening them with the debts of the past. War will then be but a suspension of useful works; & a return to a state of peace a return to the progress of improvement.
Thomas Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know great conflicts are just around the corner.
Thomas Jefferson outlined in the previous post how peacetime taxes should be spent. In this continuation, he deals with wartime spending.

First, spending on “useful [domestic] works” must be suspended. An increasing population with increasing consumer demands should boost federal revenues. Added to those funds would be money previously set aside to be used only in a time of war. Those two sources should allow war to be conducted on a pay-as-you-go basis. Regardless, war was not to be funded with debt that would burden future generations.

When peace returned, government could once again resume spending on “useful works,” i.e. domestic improvements.

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Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, National Park Service
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Tax man? WHAT tax man? Part 2

The remaining revenue, on the consumption of foreign articles, is paid chiefly by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts. being collected on our sea-board and frontiers only, & incorporated with the transactions of our mercantile citizens, it may be the pleasure and the pride of an American to ask What farmer, what mechanic, what labourer ever sees a tax-gatherer of the US.?
Thomas Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Successful leaders should brag (a little).
This paragraph continues the theme of the previous post, the President’s elimination of unnecessary government offices, officers and the taxes to support them. Where, then, did government get the funds for necessary functions? From taxes (customs duties) imposed on imported goods.

Most customs were paid by the more affluent, those who could afford imported “foreign luxuries.” The cost of necessary services were funded for everyone by the few who could really afford it. That left the  vast majority of ordinary citizens … farmers, mechanics, laborers … free from the grasp of the tax man.

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on leadership, change and the challenges for our future.”
Communications and Education Director, Illinois Municipal League
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We cut government w-a-y back. Taxes, too. Part 1

At home, fellow-citizens …  the suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expences, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. these covering our land with officers, & opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation, which, once entered, is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of property & produce.
Thomas Jefferson’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders sometimes do LESS, not MORE.
The President reported to the Congress on progress made during his first term. After a paragraph devoted to pursuing open and friendly relations with all like-minded nations, he turned his attention to domestic affairs.

Previous administrations had expanded the role of government and the taxes necessary to support it. Jefferson took the opposite position during his first four years, cutting unnecessary offices, expenses, and taxes . No longer were there “internal taxes,” ones levied by the government on its own citizens. Gone as well were the tax collectors interfering with citizens’ personal lives, or “domiciliary vexation.”  If those practices were not curtailed, the government’s appetite would eventually tax “every article of property & produce,” i.e. everything you own and everything you make.

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Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association
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Green space urban design will lessen disease.

…the yellow fever …is generated only in low close, and ill-cleansed parts of a town, I have supposed it practicable to prevent it’s generation by building our cities on a more open plan. take for instance the chequer board for a plan. let the black squares only be building squares, and the white ones be left open, in turf & trees. every square of houses will be surrounded by four open squares, & every house will front an open square. the atmosphere of such a town would be like that of the country, insusceptible of the miasmata which produce yellow fever. I have accordingly proposed that the enlargements of the city of New Orleans … shall be on this plan.
To Constantin François Chasseboeuf Volney, February 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders promote public health.
Thomas Jefferson met the French philosopher Volney (1757-1820) during his service in France. More than half of this lengthy, wide-ranging letter dealt with the ravages of yellow fever in coastal America. Jefferson fled swampy Washington for Monticello every August and September, when the disease was prominent.

Jefferson presumed the disease flourished because of crowded, unhealthy living conditions in large cities, all in the Atlantic tidewater region. To combat this, he proposed a plan for future urban expansion that would leave half of every development in green space. Using the example of a checkerboard, he suggested all squares of one color for homes, all squares of the other color to be left natural. Every house on the block would front on open space.

It would be long after Jefferson’s death before the cause of yellow fever was discovered. It wasn’t the crowded swampy atmosphere along the coast, but the mosquitoes that thrived in that environment.

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Will slavery end by justice or violence?  2 of 2

the value of the slave is every day lessening; his burthen on his master dayly increasing. interest is therefore preparing the disposition to be just; and this will be goaded from time to time by the insurrectionary spirit of the slaves. this is easily quelled in it’s first efforts; but from being local it will become general, and whenever it does it will rise more formidable after every defeat, until we shall be forced, after dreadful scenes & sufferings to release them in their own way which, without such sufferings we might now model after our own convenience.
Thomas Jefferson to William Armistead Burwell, January 28, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders seek justice for the oppressed.
Thomas Jefferson claimed the economic value of slavery was waning and asserted a growing interest in preparing for a just end to the practice. That interest would “be goaded from time to time” by slave insurrections.

Those uprisings would be local, minor and easily dispelled at the first. Each would build on another until they became widespread, potent and violent. In time, they would force their own emancipation “after dreadful scenes & sufferings.” Any hope for a just and peaceful resolution would be lost.

Just the year before, a 13 year revolt in the Caribbean ended with the violent overthrow of slavery and the independence of Haiti. In 1800, the enslaved Gabriel attempted to mount a slave uprising in Jefferson’s own Virginia. No doubt both events influenced Jefferson’s desire for a just solution rather than a violent one.

Jefferson was mistaken in thinking emancipation would be goaded from the bottom up by growing rebellion from slaves. Through the Civil War, slavery ended from the top down through great violence between Northern and Southern white populations.

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There will be no early end to slavery.  Part 1 of 2

I have long since given up the expectation of any early provision for the extinguishment of slavery among us. there are many virtuous men who would make any sacrifices to effect it. many equally virtuous who persuade themselves either that the thing is not wrong, or that it cannot be remedied. and very many with whom interest is morality. the older we grow, the larger we are disposed to believe the last party to be. but interest is really going over to the side of morality.
Thomas Jefferson to William Armistead Burwell, January 28, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What causes a leader to give up on an essential cause?
Burwell, President Jefferson’s private secretary, wrote a thoughtful analysis of two slavery related bills in Congress. One would prohibit their importation from abroad as well as their transport from one state to another. The other bill provided for emancipation. The second had already been defeated. He feared the first would be, too.

Thomas Jefferson championed emancipation for almost 35 years since his service in the colonial House of Burgesses. Since his every effort met with defeat, Jefferson retreated, not from the cause but from the timing. The nation was not ready to accept it.

He explained there were virtuous men totally opposed to slavery and virtuous men who either justified it or resigned themselves to it. The longer people lived, the more they came to accept the second group, that slavery was either necessary or inevitable.

The President held to the first position, that it was morally wrong and public interest was slowly moving in that direction. So slowly, though, that any attempt to hurry it along would hurt the cause rather than hasten it.

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I would prefer to, but duty dictates I must not.

were I to yield to my own feelings … [or to] … so many respectable persons as have signed the petition, my path would be easy. but on mature consideration the opinion is that it would be an abusive use of the executive power, and would tend to transfer from the grand jury to the Executive the office of deciding whether a person shall be put on his trial or not. between these conflicting motives of personal feeling & of duty, the latter must be supreme.
Thomas Jefferson to John Peter Van Ness, January 9, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Must a leader sacrifice 154 opinions for the sake of a principle?
Van Ness and 153 other signatories petitioned Thomas Jefferson to pardon Robert Peacock, arrested on a credible charge of forgery. Peacock’s wife, a well-connected woman of merit with two young children, was greatly maligned by the charges against her husband. The wife promised their family would leave the country if her husband were freed.

The President had the authority to pardon and the opinion of “so many respectable persons” was significant. It would be an easy (and popular!) choice to grant their petition. Yet, doing so would undermine the judicial process while expanding executive (his) authority. He was always cautious about treading on ground occupied by the other two branches of government.

Given the choice between “personal feeling & duty,” he chose duty. It “must be supreme.”

“Those in attendance were captivated by your grasp of the subject …”
Program Committee, Rotary Club of St. Louis
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It will take HOW long to get there? (2 of 2)

Congress have not yet sanctioned the measure, but there is no doubt they will do it. we shall have to open a road from Georgia to Pearl river. but as that will take time, & we want an immediate use of that line, we propose to send immediately, a mail of letters only, excluding printed papers, on horseback, along the most practicable Indian paths. we count on getting the distance from Washington to New Orleans performed in 12. days, as soon as the riders shall have learned the best route.
Thomas Jefferson to William C.C. Claiborne, January 5, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The man wants speed now!
President Jefferson was awaiting permission to establish 70 miles of a new southern postal route from Washington to New Orleans through land Spain possessed but claimed by the U.S.  Permanent approval had to come from Spain, but he wanted Claiborne to obtain a temporary OK from Spanish officials in New Orleans. Congress had to approve the entire route, too.

Since all that would take time, and the mail had to move, Jefferson proposed allowing “a mail of letters only,  excluding printed papers [newspapers, legal documents, etc.].” Until an official road could be established, postal riders would have to pick their way west on “the most practicable Indian paths.”

Siri said the distance today from D.C. to New Orleans is 965 miles as the crow flies, 1,087 by road. Whatever the distance was then, the President hoped to get the time down to just 12 days.

“I wanted to take a moment to tell you how enthralled our attendees were
with your guest appearance as Thomas Jefferson …”
Conference Chairman, FOCUS Conferences
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