Tag Archives: Native American
I am happy to learn you have been so far favored by the divine spirit as to be made sensible of those things which are for your good & that of your people, & of those which are hurtful to you: & particularly that you & they see the ruinous effects which the abuse of spirituous liquors have produced upon them … Spirituous liquors are not in themselves bad … it is the improper & intemperate use of them, by those in health, which makes them injurious. but as you find that your people cannot refrain from an ill use of them, I greatly applaud your resolution not to use them at all …
To Handsome Lake, November 3, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders applaud the wise choices of other leaders.
Lake was a spiritual leader among the Seneca Indians of New York. After a lifetime of abusing alcohol, he had been delivered of that curse and now actively promoted wellness among his people. That included a campaign against all alcohol use.
Jefferson, who loved wine but drank no hard liquor, appreciated Lake’s efforts. He distinguished between the use of alcohol for social enjoyment or medicinal purposes, a common practice, and alcohol abuse by healthy people. Since Lake’s people could not refrain from abusing alcohol, Jefferson applauded the leader’s choice to have it banned completely.
This letter was the source for a similar post in March, 2012.
“The content of your presentation, medicine during your time, was also, of course,
particularly fascinating to our health care provider attendees.”
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Mr. Jefferson’s 19th century wisdom will be relevant for your 21st century audience!
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… were it made a question whether no law, as among the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans, submits man to the greatest evil, one who has seen both conditions of existence would pronounce it to be the last; and that the sheep are happier of themselves, than under the care of the wolves. It will be said that great societies cannot exist without government. The savages, therefore, break them into small ones. Notes on Virginia, Query XI, 1782
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Non-grasping leaders seek to diffuse government’s power.
Jefferson addressed an age-old question. Which is worse: No government or too much? He compared native Americans, whose governance was distributed among many, with Europeans, where it was concentrated among just a few. He favored the Indians’ way.
He compared the people to sheep. They were happier when left to themselves, as the natives did, then when protected by wolves, which he likened to European nobility.
What about the claim that people can’t have a great society without some kind of government? By implication, Jefferson accepted that claim. By necessity, then, government should not be concentrated in the hands of a privileged few but delegated very broadly into small units close to the people. Consolidated power held the seeds for the destruction of society.
Note that Jefferson regarded the American “savage” as more protective of people’s rights than the “civilized” Europeans.
“Mr. Lee is the consummate professional, both on the stage and behind the scenes.”
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Mr. Jefferson, too, is the consummate professional for your audience.
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