Tag Archives: Navy

Don’t tell me your secret. Tell him.

Being unwilling to become the depository of secrets valuable to their author I will not give you the trouble of a meeting proposed in your letter of Aug. 23. nevertheless as I should not be justifiable in shutting the door to any benefit which your patriotism might intend for your country, I will observe to you that the Secretary of the Navy, mr Robert Smith is the person to whom such a communication as you propose would belong officially. as the members of the Executive will reassemble at Washington about the last of this month, mr Smith may be conferred with on the subject there at any time after that date…
To Abraham Husted, Jr., September 10, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders delegate!
Husted wrote to the President from Richmond, VA, offering secret plans for an underwater bomb. It could be manuevered under foreign ships harrassing our coastline and could render much of the American navy unnecessary. Husted claimed the French government had offered him a great deal of money for his plans, but he wanted them to be in American hands.

The President said thanks but no thanks. He didn’t care to hold another person’s secrets. Yet, if Husted’s plan might benefit their country, he should make them known to the appropriate person, Robert Smith, Secretary of the Navy. Jefferson went so far as to say Mr. Smith would be back in Washington at the end of September, and Husted could make arrangements to meet with him them.

Apparently, nothing came of Husted’s plans. These two letters are the only ones recorded between him and Jefferson. Monticello.org has no information on Husted. A Wikipedia search for the inventor yielded only this correspondence.

“Everyone, to a person, commented on how thorough you were
and how every detail that was possible to recreate was covered.”
President, Cole County Historical Society
That’s Thomas Jefferson! Detailed and thorough. And captivating in the process, too!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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This is better, smarter and cheaper!

… forts and shipyards are mere contrivances to sink the first expences, and entail everlasting expence afterwards. with a dry dock here in which our ships, kept dry & under cover, will be as sound at the beginning of a 2d. war as they were at the end of a 1st …
To Nathaniel Macon, July 17, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Self-governing leaders must limit government’s reach.
Jefferson opposed a standing army and a seaborne navy in peacetime for two reasons. First, having them would lead to using them, putting America unnecessarily into conflict with other nations. Second would be the cost to the public treasury of maintaining those military services year round.

Much of this letter dealt with a pet project of his, dry docks for maintaining ships. Leaving the nation’s small navy in the water year round brought the continual expense of maintaining their wooden hulls against the ravages of salt water and sea creatures. Far better would be to lift them out of the water using high tide on the Potomac River, a lock, and the water flow from the Tyber River. They could be put under roof and maintained for practically no cost. They could remain there, in perfect condition, until needed for the next war.

Congress never approved the President’s plan to dry dock the navy.

“My members raved about this presentation
for the remainder of the conference.”
Executive Director, Missouri Society of Professional Surveyors
Mr. Jefferson will impress your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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You cannot turn me down now!

I now learn that it is thought possible you might be induced to relieve our distress by undertaking it [the job of Navy Secretary]. the residence here is very pleasant indeed. a charming society, & not too much of it, all living on affectionate & unceremonious terms. it is impossible to be associated with more agreeable collegues. I hope therefore that you will undertake the office, & so say by return of post … and we shall entertain the hope of seeing mrs Langdon & yourself as soon after as your convenience will admit. accept assurances of my constant esteem & high consideration.
To John Langdon, May 23, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, leaders can plead and still get turned down. Even the President.
Jefferson had great difficulty recruiting a Secretary of the Navy. He was downsizing that department, and it was not an appealing position.

Langdon (1741-1819), was a wealthy New Hampshire republican businessman from a ship-building family. He had already turned the job down once. Then, Capt. Jones declined to serve. A third person was filling the office on a temporary basis only. Jefferson offered it to again Jones, who turned him down a second time.

Now, he turned to Langdon again. Hoping to change his mind, he painted a rosy picture of Washington City: Charming people but not too many of them, friendly, unpretentious, pleasant to work with.

None of it worked. Langdon turned him down again.

“I especially was impressed how well you tied our meeting topics into your speech.”
Mailboxes, Etc.
Mr. Jefferson will reinforce the themes of your meeting.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Is a bully ever satisfied?

What are the delays in the performance of our stipulations of which the Bey of Tunis, & Eaton complain? I thought we had not only complied with the treaty, but were doing considerably more … I know that nothing will stop the eternal increase of demand from these pirates but the presence of an armed force, and it will be more economical & more honorable to use the same means at once for suppressing their insolencies.
To James Madison, August 28, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders call bullies’ bluffs.
Madison was Secretary State, Eaton was American Consul in North Africa, and the Bey of Tunis was one of the provisional rulers of the Barbary States on the North African coast. The predatory actions of the Barbary States, capturing foreign ships on the Mediterranean Sea for ransom, had gone on for decades. Jefferson had been vexed by their behavior since his time as Ambassador to France 15 years earlier.

Jefferson thought the U.S. had gone above and beyond their obligations to Tunis, and he was clearly exasperated. The pirates were bullies and would never be satisfied. The only answer to their increasing demands was a strong naval presence in the Mediterranean. It would cost less and be more honorable than continuing to pay bribes to “protect” American shipping.

No bullies and no bluffs with Thomas Jefferson and your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Will someone help me, PLEASE?

Stoddart also accomodated me by staying till I could provide a successor. this I find next to impossible. R.R.L. [Robert Livingston] first refused. then Genl. Smith refused. next Langdon. I am now returning on Genl. Smith, but with little confidence of success. if he will undertake 6. months or even 12. months hence, I will appoint Lear in the mean time. he promised, if Langdon would take it for 6. months, he would in that time so dispose of his business as to come in. this makes me hope he may now accept in that way
To James Madison, March 12, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even Presidents can have trouble finding help!
Jefferson had been President just eight days and was having difficulty finding someone to serve as Secretary of the Navy. Benjamin Stoddert had filled that role for President Adams and was willing to stay until a replacement could be found.

Three people had already turned him down. Perhaps there was no number four, as he was going back to “Genl. Smith,” a political ally from Maryland. Smith did serve for several months and was succeeded by his brother Robert, who held the post through the remainder of Jefferson’s Presidency.

Cutbacks in the Navy budget made the head job less than desirable. Jefferson biographer Dumas Malone wrote, in Jefferson the President, First Term, page 59, “Jefferson had been in office more than four months before he acquired a secretary of the navy. He said privately with grim humor that he would probably have to advertise for one.”

The next post will feature a significant admission to his Navy Secretary Morris in 1805, relating to allegations Jefferson had a sexual relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings.

Your choice of Mr. Jefferson will be of great benefit to your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739



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Thanks for giving them a black eye!

… I do myself the pleasure … of expressing to you on behalf of your country, the high satisfaction inspired by your conduct in the late engagement with the Tripolitan cruiser captured by you. too long, for the honour of nations, have those barbarians been suffered to trample on the sacred faith of treaties, on the rights & laws of human nature. you have shewn to your countrymen that that enemy cannot meet bravery & skill united … proving to them that our past condescensions were from a love of peace, not a dread of them…
To Andrew Sterett, December 1, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Forceful leaders defend the honor of their organization.
The pasha (leader) of Tripoli declared war on the U.S. in May 1801, part of a years-long conflict with the pirate Barbary nations of North Africa. Three months later, 23 year old Navy Lieutenant Sterett commanded the American schooner Enterprize and defeated the pasha’s ship, Tripoli.
President Jefferson commended Sterett for these benefits:
1. Great satisfaction given to his countrymen
2. A rebuke to nations that trampled treaties, human rights and natural law
3. Proof that America’s enemies were no match for “bravery & skill united”
4. Affirmation that our previous restraint came “from a love of peace,” not fear

“I have now hired you three times …
[you] brought value and a unique, inspiring message …”
Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association

For value and inspiration, in a unique way,
invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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Jefferson’s “State of the Union” in 1805? Part 2

Turning from these unpleasant views of violence and wrong, I congratulate you on the liberation of our fellow-citizens who were stranded on the coast of Tripoli and made prisoners of war …
With Tunis some misunderstandings have arisen not yet sufficiently explained …
The law providing for a naval peace establishment … Congress will perhaps consider whether the best limitation on the Executive [President’s] discretion [is to limit the number of seamen or the number of vessels] …
Our Indian neighbors are advancing, many of them with spirit, and others beginning to engage in the pursuits of agriculture and household manufacture … from time to time to dispose of parts of their surplus and waste lands …
The receipts at the Treasury during the year … which , with [the surplus] … have enabled us after meeting other demands to pay nearly two millions of the debt contracted under the British treaty  … upward of four millions of principle of the public debt and four millions of interest. These payments, with those which had been made in three years and a half preceding, have extinguished of the funded debt nearly eighteen millions of principle.
Fifth Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1805

 Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep everyone informed.
These excerpts summarize the second half of Jefferson’s fifth “State of the Union” report, the one corresponding to President Obama’s address in January.
1. There’s good news to report from north Africa. Tripoli pirates have been dealt with, and those in Tunis appear to be moving toward settlement. (Terrorists in north Africa. Sound familiar?)
2. He asked clarification from Congress on his authority for ships vs. sailors. (The President is asking, rather than assuming or taking.)
3. Some Indians were actively oppositional while others were coming to an agricultural life and making portions of their lands available for settlement.
4. The government was continuing to run a surplus, reducing the national debt by $18 million in 3 ½ years. (Imagine that!)
He concluded by noting his re-election and pledging his best efforts for the nation and every possible cooperation with the Congress. (He enjoyed an enviable Presidential position of having his party control sizable majorities in both houses.)

“Our attendees raved about Mr. Jefferson and the words of wisdom he had to offer them.”
County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
Mr. Jefferson has words of wisdom for your audience, too! Call 573-657-2739

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