Tag Archives: Louisiana

You lessened what we did not know. Thanks!

thanks for the Chart of the coast of Florida, & mouth of the Missisipi which he has been so good as to send him. at a time when we are endeavoring to acquire exact knolege of that country, in order to make our first arrangements understandingly, so accurate a chart whose existence was not before known here, is doubly precious …
To William Marshall, December 24, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders appreciate those who make everyone smarter.
Marshall, a South Carolina lawyer, had come into possession of a map which he claimed to be an accurate chart of the coast of West Florida (the panhandle), the coast of Louisiana, and the mouth of the Mississippi River, plus river depth soundings some distance north of New Orleans. He forwarded that map to the President.

Accurate knowledge about Louisiana in 1803 was as miniscule as the territory was large. Anything that expanded its documentation was like gold to Jefferson. He contended the purchase of Louisiana, vast lands west of the Mississippi, also included some land on the east side of that river known as West Florida. That portion was the Gulf Coast east to the Perdido River, the current boundary between Alabama and Florida. This map provided additional intelligence toward that end.

“Each year we have had a guest speaker,
and none has ever been so widely praised.”
Secretary, Missouri Emergency Preparedness Association
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak.
Call 573-657-2739
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Well, you just never know. (Or, size does matter.)

I was favored … about 4 years ago, with a piece of the rock Salt of Louisiana; and judging from your communication to congress, in which mention is made of that Salt mountain, that you had never seen a specimen of the Salt, have taken the liberty of forwarding to you a piece thereof;
To Thomas Jefferson from John Bradford, November 29, 1803

Th: Jefferson presents his salutations to mr Bradford and returns him thanks for the specimen of rock-salt from the Missouri which he has been so kind as to send him, and which came safely to hand.
To John Bradford, December 24, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
We should desire leaders with curious, inquisitive minds.
The President had forwarded to Congress a quantity of mostly speculative written material about Louisiana, but he hadn’t read it and didn’t vouch for its accuracy. One account was of a great salt mountain “about 1,000 miles up the Missouri … 180 miles long and 45 miles wide.” Kentuckian John Bradford had been given a chunk of Louisiana salt from a man in St. Louis. Familiar with the salt mountain reference and Jefferson’s lack of evidence, Bradford shared a specimen. The ever-gracious Jefferson acknowledged the gesture and expressed his thanks.

The opposition Federalist press had a field day ridiculing the salt mountain! In the footnotes accompanying Bradford’s letter, that press also speculated on the existence of:
– “an immense lake of molasses”
– “an extensive vale of hasty pudding”
– “vast river of golden eagles [$10 gold pieces] ready coined”
– “immense mountain of solid refined sugar
– “a considerable lake of pure Whiskey”
– or perhaps the salt mountain was “… Lot’s wife, magnified by the process of time”

The “salt mountain” was mostly likely a salt plain along the Cimarron River in western Oklahoma.

“Thanks again for the time and energy
you give to each presentation.”
Executive Director, Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau
Mr. Jefferson will bring his A-Game to your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Two million bucks oughtta be enough.

Congress having passed the two million bill, you will recieve by this mail your last dispatches. others will follow you about the 2d. week of April … Congress has [also] given authority for exploring the Missisipi, which however is ordered to be secret. this will employ about 10. persons two years.
To James Monroe, February 25, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders know that diplomacy sometimes requires a lot of money.
Uncharacteristic for him, Jefferson had commanded Monroe to go to France to help negotiate America’s right to freely use the port of New Orleans. That was the easy part. The diplomats needed money to go where their mouths were, so he asked Congress for $2,000,000, and they approved it. The money was to buy New Orleans along with East and West Florida (our present state of Florida, the southern parts of Alabama and Mississippi, and southeastern Louisiana). This was several months before France’s bombshell offer to sell all of Louisiana.

He also informed Monroe of Congress’ authorization of a small company for “exploring the Missisipi” and $2,500 to pay for it. Both actions were being kept from public knowledge.

Jefferson may have been withholding information from Monroe, too, or protecting his mission should the letter become public. The $2,500 was not for exploring the Mississippi River but the Missouri. That river was still owned by Spain, which had already rebuffed Jefferson’s request to explore it.

“I’m sure your presentation appeals to a wide range of Americans …
I would highly recommend it …”
Executive Director, Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors
Mr. Jefferson & his compatriots, Daniel Boone and William Clark, come highly recommended.
Invite them to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Let us do this to avoid war.

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
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This is why I should not. (I am going to do it anyway.)

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

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