Tag Archives: Louisiana Purchase

Death. Diversion. Duty.

I have heard of your misfortune and lament it, but will say nothing, ha[ving] learnt from experience that time, silence, & occupation are the only medicines… I should have regretted the necessity of writing to you on a subject of business, did I not believe it useful to withdraw the mind from what it is too apt to brood over, to other objects.
You know the importance of our being enabled to announce in the message that the interest of the Louisiana purchase (800,000. D) can be paid without a new tax … to be quite secure. the [budget] estimate recieved from your office, which I inclose you, amounts probably to 770, or 780. & were it possible to reduce it to 600. it would place us at ease.
To Robert Smith, October 10, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders know life goes on even when it does not.
In a recent post, the President encouraged Secretary of the Navy Smith’s attendance at an important Cabinet meeting about the purchase of Louisiana and its funding, but acknowledged the illness in Smith’s family demanded his attention. Shortly after that request, Smith’s youngest daughter died.

Jefferson had experienced the death of four of his six children. (A fifth would die six months hence.) He knew from experience there was nothing he could say to his friend that would help. He would have preferred not to write at all, except that there was important business at hand, and he knew a diversion from tragedy was sometimes helpful.

The United States had only half of the $800,000 interest payment required by the new debt for the purchase of Louisiana. Asking Congress for a new tax would probably scuttle the sale. Thus, the President asked each of his department secretaries to tighten their belts to free up the needed cash. Other secretaries had done so. Jefferson asked Smith to cut $180,000 from his budget.

Not only did the President eventually get the funds he needed, he gave his friend a difficult task to distract his mind.

“…our Education Department received glowing reports for every attendee ..
Our members were thrilled.”
Executive Director, Florida Surveying and Mapping
Mr. Jefferson will impress your audience, too.
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Family & health come first, before leadership!

Having understood that you have been unwell, & that your family is still so, I have not asked your attendance here, lest these circumstances should stand in the way. Mr. Madison, Dearborne & Gallatin are here & mr Lincoln expected tomorrow … should your own health or that of your family not render it inconvenient we should be very happy to see you on Monday & to recieve your aid at a meeting which I propose for Tuesday next. but this is not meant to be pressed against considerations of health or of family distress.
To Robert Smith, September 30, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders are sensitive to the difficulties of their associates.
Smith (1757-1842) was Jefferson’s Secretary of the Navy. As a member of the Cabinet, his attendance was needed very soon. All the other cabinet members would arrive in Washington City the following day. In addition to other business to bring before Congress, they faced the critical issue of the constitutional amendment needed to authorize the purchase of Louisiana. Prompt action from a united front was critical.

Yet, both Smith and his family were ill. While the President greatly hoped for his Secretary’s attendance and help at the Cabinet meeting four days hence, he stressed that Smith’s health and family came first.

“Mr. Lee has the ability to successfully BE
the personage he is impersonating.”
Director of Entertainment, Delta Queen Steamboat Company
Patrick Lee will BECOME Thomas Jefferson for your audience.
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What I wrote 6 days ago? Fuhgeddabout it!

On the 10th. inst. I wrote you on the subject of Louisiana, and mentioned the question of a supplement to the constitution on that account. a letter recieved yesterday renders it prudent to say nothing on that subject, but to do sub silentio [in silence] what shall be found necessary. that part of my letter therefore be so good as to consider as confidential.
To Thomas Paine, August 16, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Practical leaders know when to walk back their previous positions.
Six days earlier, the President had written Paine about Louisiana and how Congress would need to pass an authorizing constitutional amendment at the same time they ratified the treaties. The day before, Jefferson received a letter from his Ambassador Livingston in France, saying Napoleon was looking for any excuse to cancel the sale.

The President updated his friend in this letter, but only to this extent: Make no mention of a constitutional amendment. The President and Congress would do whatever they had to do to complete the deal, but they would do it quietly. Thus, he warned his friend not to reveal that portion of his August 10 letter, lest his political opponents use it to scuttle the purchase of Louisiana.

“…how excellent it was having Mr. Jefferson
be our conference keynote speaker … Thank you, greatly.”
Deputy Executive Director, Missouri Rural Water Association
Mr. Jefferson will be excellent for your audience, too.
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Read my lips. NO new taxes!

[There was a hiccup in cyberspace, or in my brain, because this notice didn’t go out as it should have. Maybe this time?]

… the purchase of Louisiana will require the aid of all our resources to pay the interest of the additional debt without laying a new tax, and of course call for the adoption of every possible economy.
To Tobias Lear, July 14, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Bold initiatives don’t always require tax increases.
Lear (1762-1816) was best known as George Washington’s personal secretary for the last 15 years of Washington’s life. Lear’s reputation was a checkered one, but he also served President Jefferson as commercial agent in St. Domingo and then as Consul General to several North African city-states. Lear’s duties in Algiers and Tripoli included ongoing negotiations to protect American shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. That protection was secured, in part, by annual payments to those nations. The President was intent on holding the line on, if not decreasing, those payments.

Why? In part, because he wanted to pay the interest on new debt for the purchase of Louisiana without a new tax. To do so would obviously require “every possible economy.”

“Again, it was a delight working with you,
and I wish you much continued success!”
Executive Vice President, Carolina-Virginias Telephone Membership Association
Mr. Jefferson will delight your audience!
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Haters gonna hate. *

I find our opposition is very willing to pluck feathers from Munroe [James Monroe], although not fond of sticking them into Livingston’s coat. the truth is, both have a just portion of merit, & were it necessary or proper it could be shewn that each has rendered peculiar services, & of important value. these grumblers too are very uneasy lest the administration should share some little credit for the acquisition, the whole of which they ascribe to the accident of war. they would be cruelly mortified could they see our files from May 1801, the first organisation of the administration, but more especially from April 1802.
To Horatio Gates, July 11, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Like the tortoise, smart leaders know the value of slow and steady.
Gates (1727-1806), a controversial Revolutionary War general, wrote an effusive letter praising the President’s acquisition of Louisiana. He also made a strong recommendation for William Smith, son-in-law of former President John Adams, to be named as head of a new government to be formed in New Orleans.

Jefferson acknowldeged Gates’ praise, and in turn, gave credit to both of his ambassadors, Robert Livingston and James Monroe, for their essential roles in securing Louisiana. He noted the Federalist opponents not only criticized both men but were also unwilling to give his administration any credit for the happy result. They claimed it had come about as an accident, a by-product of pending war between France and England. What the detractors didn’t know was that for the previous two years, Jefferson’s administration had actively pursued every possible diplomatic effort to secure New Orleans and avoid war with France over use of the Mississippi River.

Jefferson did not comment on Gates’ recommendation of Smith, nor did he appoint him to the position.

“… should you wish to use us as a reference, feel free to do so.”
President, Linn State Technical College
College Presidents recommend Thomas Jefferson!
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*Songwriters: Taylor Swift / Max Martin / Karl Johan Schuster
Shake It Off lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
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Ooops! We cannot do this unless …

Amendment to the Constitution to be added to Art. IV. section III.
The Province of Louisiana is incorporated with the US. and made part thereof …
Revised Amendment to the Constitution, July 9, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders respect the limits on their authority.
Six days prior to this draft, Jefferson received word that France would sell its North American holdings known as Louisiana to the United States. He was delighted! He also knew the Constitution did not provide full authority for this action.

Jefferson always maintained the national government had only those limited powers specifically granted by the Constitution. Adding Louisiana to the United States was not one of those powers. The solution was obvious, an amendment to that founding document that would grant that authority.

The President’s proposed amendment went on to provide all the necessary authorization to explore, police, develop and defend the new land, as well as to maintain “peace and good understanding with the Indians residing there.”

The amendment would go nowhere.

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A birthday pig in a poke, with benefits!

On the evening of the 3d inst. [July] we recieved a letter from … Livingston & Monroe [America’s ambassadors to France on the subject of purchasing New Orleans and maintaining open Mississippi River navigation] … that on the 30th. of April they signed a treaty with France, ceding to us the island of N. Orleans and all Louisiana as it had been held by Spain. the price is not mentioned. we are in hourly expectation of the treaty by a special messenger … it is something larger than the whole US. probably containing 500 millions of acres, the US. containing 434. millions. this removes from us the greatest source of danger to our peace.
To Thomas Mann Randolph, July 5, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Happy birthday, Mr. President!
Jefferson concealed his own birth date, so people couldn’t celebrate him. He believed July 4 was the only date worthy of national celebration. Just hours before America’s 27th birthday, he’d received word that his spirited diplomatic efforts had yielded an unimaginable result: France would sell not only New Orleans but ALL of Louisiana! That would more than double the size of the nation and make the Mississippi River a totally American waterway.

Jefferson’s tactical goal had been met, securing duty-free shipping on all goods produced for export west of the Appalachian mountains. His strategic goal was met, too, eliminating what otherwise was inevitable, war with France over control of the Mississippi.

The President didn’t know the price! (A “pig in a poke” refers to a purchase where the buyer doesn’t really know the extent of the purchase or the price paid.) He expected to find out soon. He had authorized $10M for New Orleans and West Florida. He would soon be delighted to learn that the whole deal was signed for just $15M. Settlement of old shipping claims against France would significantly lower the purchase price to $11.25M.

This purchase would completely change the complexion of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, from a small company exploring foreign land to a large military company laying further claim to American land.

“… as Thomas Jefferson … His audiences have included … students, constitutional scholars,
lawyers and judges. He was very well received by these diverse groups.”

Director of Law-Related Education, The Missouri Bar
Mr. Jefferson will please your audience, whatever they are!
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I am the boss. America needs you. You do not have a choice.

… the fever into which the Western mind is thrown by the affair at N. Orleans …threatens to overbear our peace. in this situation we are obliged to call on you for a temporary sacrifice of yourself … I shall tomorrow nominate you to the Senate for an extraordinary mission to France, & the circumstances are such as to render it impossible to decline; because the whole public hope will be rested on you … in the mean time pray work night & day to arrange your affairs for a temporary absence; perhaps for a long one.
To James Monroe, January 10, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, leaders have to demand sacrifices of trusted lieutenants.
“.. the affair at N. Orleans” concerning the “Western mind” was customs-free shipping through the port of New Orleans and open traffic on the Mississippi River. The first had been withdrawn by Spain; the second faced a threat from France’s pending takeover of Louisiana, giving her partial control over the river and full control of the port.

American Ambassador Robert Livingston had been in France for some time, hoping to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans or some other land at the mouth of the Mississippi for duty-free shipping. Under the best circumstances, round trip communication between the U.S. and Paris took two months. The President thought Livingston might need help and dispatched a trusted protege.

Jefferson usually left the decision whether to take an offered job up to the individual. Not this time! He called on Monroe “for a temporary sacrifice of yourself.” The importance of the task made it “impossible to decline.” Success might rest on him. He was to get his affairs in order and depart immediately. He might be gone a short time, maybe a long time.

Monroe sailed for France on March 9, but the day before he arrived in Paris, Napoleon’s government offered all of Louisiana to Ambassador Livingston. Monroe’s purpose in going was now moot, but the two ambassadors negotiated the terms of the massive land deal.

“…our sincere appreciation for your excellent portrayal of Thomas Jefferson …”
Superintendent, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior
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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
Mr. Jefferson’s past will help your audience better understand their future.
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You gotta start somewhere.

… The work we are now doing, is, I trust, done for posterity, in such a way that they need not repeate it. for this we are much indebted to you not only for the labour & time you have devoted to it, but for the excellent method of which you have set the example, and which I hope will be the model to be followed by others. we shall delineate with correctness the great arteries of this great country: those who come after us will extend the ramifications as they become acquainted with them, and fill up the canvas we begin…
To William Dunbar, May 25, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders pioneer so others can follow.
This excerpt came the end of a long, technical letter about Dunbar’s commission to explore Red River from its mouth on the Mississippi between Natchez and Baton Rouge. It flows from the northwest, forms much of the southern border between Oklahoma and Texas, and has its source in the Texas Panhandle near Amarillo. Jefferson considered its exploration second only to the one Lewis & Clark had begun of the Missouri River a year before.

This would be the first investigation of the Red River. Jefferson wanted it done in such a manner that it provided an accurate foundation for future explorations. He commended Dunbar for his labor, time, and skill and the excellence of his example. It was for Jefferson’s generation to begin documenting the great rivers, so subsequent generations could “fill up the canvas we begin.”

“The address was fascinating history and presented with a flair
that kept the audience spellbound.”
Conference Chair, National Academic Advising Association, Region 7
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