Tag Archives: Political opposition

I will deal with the devil if I have to.

you mentioned that the receipt of the 400. D. in March would be quite sufficient, or even later if it should be inconvenient to me. I am not yet certain how that will be; but either then, if I have it not in hand, or at any other moment when your calls require it, I can get it from the bank here; but that being in the hands of federalists, I am not fond of asking favors of them. however I have done it once or twice when my own resources have failed, and can do it at all times.
To John Wayles Eppes, February 21, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Indebted leaders are humbled by their financial insecurity.
Eppes was married Maria Jefferson, the President’s younger daughter. Always solicitous of his two daughters and their families, Jefferson was quick to come to their financial aid, even when his own resources were lacking.

There was little cash in circulation. Financing was most often by credit – personal loans, advances on future tobacco and wheat crops, and mortgages on property, plus the buying and selling of the “paper” created by those advances. Borrowing money from one source to pay another was a common practice, one Jefferson had been forced into since his ambassadorship to France in the late 1780s. Only those prudent enough to buy only with cash, or “ready money,” had control over their financial health. Jefferson was rarely in that category.

Eppes had $400 coming due in March and had asked his father-in-law for help in meeting those “calls.” Jefferson didn’t have the cash and didn’t know if he would when the time came. If so, he would go to the bank for another advance. He hated that last resort, as the bank was controlled by his political opponents. Whether they charged him harsher terms or simply exulted in humbling the President or both is unknown, but his liberal personal spending, coupled with political and economic reverses he had no control over, left him at their mercy.

“Your presentation as Thomas Jefferson was a definite highlight
of our meeting
and enjoyed by all.”
Associate Executive Director, Arkansas Bar Association
Mr. Jefferson will be a definite highlight of your meeting!
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Your idea is good, but my name will hurt your cause.

… nobody wishes it [your proposal] more success than I do, and, if it succeeds, it will certainly be of proportionable public utility. but I have thought it my duty to the public, as well as to myself, never to bring myself forward in any matter where it is not necessary. the cases in which my name has been used by private individuals … becomes the occasion of indecent scurrilities … I ought to avoid giving occasion to when not necessary, wishing every success therefore to your enterprise …
To Leroy Anderson, September 7, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders reserve their clout for the big issues.
Anderson had sent the President a draft of a prospectus on a “public utility,” one designed for both public good and business success. He asked Jefferson’s endorsement. The prospectus was being held at the printers, awaiting a response.

The President declined his endorsement, although he recognized the public value of Anderson’s proposal. Why?
1. He kept his name away from issues that did not require it.
2. His name associated with any cause became a lightning rod for his political opposition.
3. There was no point in giving offense when it was not necessary.

Although he would not endorse the project, Jefferson closed by wishing Anderson “every success.”

“Thanks to you, our Institute Planning Committee
was showered with accolades …”
Executive Director, Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors
Your audience will praise you for bringing Mr. Jefferson to them.
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Do not encourage the cockroaches.

as long as the criticisms on it [a Jefferson appointment] were confined to Jackson’s paper, I did not think it ought to be answered; because papers which are in the habit of condemning every measure, ought not to be answered on any one, lest it should give force to their unanswered criticisms.
To Henry Dearborn, August 22, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The wise leader ignores those who are always opposed.
The opposition press was critical of Jefferson’s appointment of a certain businessman to provide supplies for the Indians in the West. Jefferson didn’t respond, because that paper opposed everything he did. If he responded to an attack on one issue, it could give credibility to other issues not responded to. Better to ignore them completely.

This letter went on to address criticism of this appointment by a friendly newspaper. That was much more of a concern to Jefferson, and he explained to Dearborn his reasoning in selecting that individual.

“Our profession faces difficult challenges, and we needed and “upbeat” kind of talk.
That’s exactly what you gave us.”
Clinical Laboratory Management Association, Central New York Chapter.
Mr. Jefferson will encourage your audience.
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Yes. No. Absolutely not.

[You requested] letters of introduction to England & France for your son, & a passport. the passport is now inclosed… [As to] my furnishing such letters on any occasion. it was decided to be unadviseable & improper, & I have adhered rigorously to the rule then laid down … with respect to the pecuniary [financial] aid desired in the contingency of his wanting it, this could not possibly be taken from any public funds … prudent precautions taken by your son would prevent his having occasion for this recurrence …
To Robert Gamble, June 15, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders are often imposed upon with impossible requests.
For his 23 year old son, Gamble asked Jefferson for a passport and letters of introduction to government officials in England and France. The passport was simple and granted. The letters were not. Jefferson cited experience learned early in office that it simply wasn’t approrpiate for the President to write such letters. Wanting to be helpful, he did agree to mention the son in his private correspondence.

Presumptuously, Gamble also asked if up to $500 could be made available from some government official should his son have need of it. Jefferson turned him down cold and suggested Gamble’s son should conduct himself in such a manner that he wouldn’t need financial help.

In subsequent correspondence on the same subject, Jefferson revealed that Gamble was a Federalist (a political opponent), had been bankrupt twice, and had two sisters “married to two most estimable republicans.” This request was a mixed-bag for the President!

Gamble’s letter  was written June 11, saying his son’s ship was sailing in 10 days. Jefferson received the request on the 14th and responded the next day. When he could, Jefferson was diligent to help.

“Mr. Lee’s re-enactment of Thomas Jefferson is educational, informative,
thought-provoking and entertaining …”
The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D.C.
Let Thomas Jefferson inspire and teach your audience.
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Some are so jaded they gripe about everything.

[Some news] papers will make a noise about it [replacing federalist appointees with republicans]. but we see they are determined to blame every thing … & therefore consider their clamours … consequently not to be regarded.
To Benjamin Hitchborn, July 29, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know some will always stand in opposition.
Jefferson wrote of his plans to remove certain office-holders whose views were openly antagonistic to his administration. He knew some newspapers would oppose him, no matter the issue. Since they would not give him the time of day, regardless of his actions, he had no regard for their criticism.

“The decision to bring Patrick Lee was a wise one … “
Schoor-Depalma, Engineers & Consultants, Manalapan, NJ
Your audience will think your decision to bring Mr. Jefferson was a wise one.
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What if political leaders thought this way today?

I certainly wish the prosecutions you allude to should be put an end to … I have never considered the political hatreds and slanders pointed at me, as meant against me personally, but rather as the representative of the party, the real object of hatred. for what could there be personal between that gentleman & myself? I am sure I wish him no injury, and if he intended one to me, I know it must have been from false impressions made on him. peace therefore be with him.
Thomas Jefferson To Gideon Granger, January 22, 1808

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders don’t take harsh opposition personally.
Jefferson supporters in Connecticut were suing his opponents for libel, the printing of disparaging (and perhaps untrue) information. The President wanted those prosecutions stopped.

Here are six great for guidelines for civility between those of opposing views:
1. However mean-spirited, he didn’t take political attacks personally.
2. They were really directed at the party he represented, which they hated.
3. He knew of no personal difference between himself and his attackers.
4. He was confident of wishing them no harm.
5. If they meant to harm him, it was for false impressions given by others.
6. Jefferson answered cursing with blessing: “peace therefore be with him.”

“Your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson was very enjoyable and …
made a significant contribution … “
Executive Director, Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio, Inc.

Mr. Jefferson stands ready to make a significant contribution to your meeting.
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