Tag Archives: Louisiana
I think therefore, that while we do nothing which the first nation on earth [France] would deem crouching, we had better give to all our communications with them a very mild, complaisant, and even friendly complection, but always independant. ask no favors, leave small & irritating things to be conducted by the individuals interested in them, interfere ourselves but in the greatest cases, & then not push them to irritation. no matter at present existing between them & us is important enough to risk a breach of peace; peace being indeed the most important of all things to us, except the preserving an erect & independant attitude.
To Robert Livingston, October 10, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders take pains to avoid giving offense to one’s adversaries.
While France had not yet taken possession of Louisiana, it was only a matter of time before she would influence shipping on the Mississippi River and control all goods flowing through the port of New Orleans. Jefferson foresaw the potential for great conflict with France and very likely, war.
While diplomatic efforts proceeded to eliminate that conflict, the President gave these pointers to his ambassador in France to minimize unnecessary aggravation:
1. While not acting in any way subservient, the U.S. should be calm, agreeable and friendly, but always independent.
2. Don’t put us in their debt by asking any favors.
3. Leave minor disputes to be worked out by those affected by them.
4. Concern yourself only with the largest disputes or issues.
5. Be diplomatic even in those great issues, giving no cause for irritation.
6. Nothing should jeopardize our greatest goal of peace, except this one thing, maintaining America’s unflinching independence.
Jefferson’s skilled diplomatic dance resulted the following year in acquiring Louisiana from France and eliminating the conflict that could have resulted in war.
“… many participants remarked on the value of Lee’s presentation.
A number had seen his [earlier] performance …
and expressed that it was equally compelling.”
Executive Director, Greater St. Louis Federal Executive Board
Mr. Jefferson’s wisdom and compelling presentation will bring value to your meeting!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
When an instrument [the Constitution] admits two constructions [interpretations], the one safe, the other dangerous, the one precise, the other indefinite, I prefer that which is safe & precise. I had rather ask an enlargement of power from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless. Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.
To Wilson Cary Nicholas, September 7, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders support clear limits on their authority.
Nicholas was a close friend, political supporter and U.S. Senator from Virginia. The subject at hand was whether the Constitution gave the U.S. the right to add new land to the nation, in this case, Louisiana. Jefferson thought not and wanted to amend the Constitution. His friends talked him out of it.
Here, Jefferson argued his ideal position, going no further than what the Constitution clearly allowed and staying away from what it might imply. Amend it if necessary but don’t make it “a blank paper,” i.e. meaningless and toothless by teasing out whatever meaning one wanted at the time.
Jefferson still takes a lot of heat for espousing “strict construction” of the Constitution yet deliberately going beyond its authority to purchase Louisiana. That will probably be the subject of another post.
“I would highly recommend your organization consider Mr. Lee for an event
and assure you it will be memorable for years to come.”
President, Nevada Association of Land Surveyors
Invite Thomas Jefferson to make your meeting memorable.
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739