Tag Archives: Politics

What I have is the opposite of what I wanted.

my strongest predilections are for study, rural occupations, & retirement within a small but cherished society. born, as I unfortunately was, in an age of revolution, my life has been wasted on the billows of revolutionary storm. the sweet sensations & affections of domestic society have been exchanged with me for the bitter & deadly feuds of party: encircled with political enemies & spies, instead of my children & friends. time however & the decay of years is now fast advancing that season when it will be seen that I can no longer be of use, even in the eyes of those partial to me: and I shall be permitted to pass through the pains & infirmities of age in the shades of Monticello.
To Madame De Corny, April 23, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Committed leaders play the hand dealt to them.
De Corny was one of a small number of cultured, educated women Jefferson came to admire during his ambassadorship to France, 1784-89. They resumed a correspondence in 1801 after a decade of self-imposed silence, though he had periodically inquired about her and sent regards to her through others. Her letter to him a year before was full of sadness over a lack of communication from him and her greatly diminished existence in post-revolutuionary France.

Prehaps Jefferson wanted to commiserate with De Corny by contrasting the life he would have preferred with the one thrust on him by events. He had to forego the joys of home, family, friendship, farming and books for the thankless task of politics, governing, and enemies at every turn.

Not 14 months into his Presidency that would consume seven more years, he was already looking forward to retirement, when through time and decrepitude, “I can no longer be of use.” Only then could he enjoy what was left of his life at Monticello, where he would have preferred to spend all of it.

“I have now hired you three times to present your characters to my annual conference…
Each brought value and a unique, inspiring message to our group.”
Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association
Thomas Jefferson and his compatriots, Daniel Boone & William Clark,
will bring unique, valuable and inspiring messages to your audience.
Invite them to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Why focus on the ONLY area where you disagree?

I consider it a great felicity [happiness], through a long and trying course of life, to have retained the esteem of my early friends unabated. I find in old age that the impressions of youth are the deepest & most indelible. some friends indeed have left me by the way, seeking, by a different political path, the same object, their country’s good, which I pursued, with the crowd, along the common highway. it is a satisfaction to me that I was not the first to leave them. I have never thought that a difference in political, any more than in religious opinions should disturb the friendly intercourse of society. there are so many other topics on which friends may converse & be happy, that it is wonderful [astonishing, in this context] they should select of preference the only one on which they cannot agree.
To David Campbell, January 28, 1810

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders maintain friendships with those who disagree.
Jefferson appreciated friends who stuck with him over the decades. He acknowledged that philosophical differences inspired some to seek the country’s good “by a different political path” than his, and that cost him some friendships. He took satisfaction that any loss of friendship over political differences was not his doing but the choice of others.

Why should political or religious differences separate people? Why pick the one area of disagreement and make that the deciding factor in what could be an otherwise cordial relationship? Such choices astonished Jefferson when there was so much common ground where “friends may converse & be happy.”

“We are always on the lookout for programs that reach all ages …
Your presentation was entertaining as well as enlightening.”
Daniel Boone Regional Library
Thomas Jefferson will enlighten your audience and entertain them in the process!
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A common foe keeps friends united.

the annihilation of federal opposition has given opportunity to our friends to divide in various parts. a want of concert [unity] here threatens divisions at the fountain head [source]. nor is it on principle, but on measures that the division shews itself. but I fear it will produce separations which will be as prejudicial as they are painful.
To John Minor, March 2, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders appreciate the unifying effect of a strong opposition.
John Minor (1761-1816) was 18 years younger than Jefferson, a Virginia lawyer and Republican. The Federalist majority in Washington had been reversed by the election of 1800 and reduced to an empty shell in 1804. Jefferson lamented an unfortunate result of the Republican ascendency.

Since there was no political opposition to unite against, Republicans were splintering into factions and turning on one another. They weren’t disagreeing on key principles but on “measures,” how to implement those ideas. Not only would friendships be sacrificed over those differences, but prejudices would arise as factions accused one another of bad faith.

“I would like to compliment you and thank you for your masterful performance
of Thomas Jefferson at our 2016 Annual Conference …”
Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Mr. Jefferson will be masterful for your audience, too!
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Can we all just get along?

… most of all I lament the appearance of a division arising among the friends of republican government in a state where they have no force to spare … still I have so much confidence in the sincerity of their attachment to principles, as to hope & believe they will not suffer themselves to be divided by personal attachments or antipathies. it is not possible for every one to have his own way in all things; & without mutual & just sacrifices of opinion to one another, men cannot act together. these sacrifices will give much less pain than a continuance under the tyrannies of the last three years.
To Dr. John Vaughn, July 17, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders must encourage people of similar principle to compromise.
Republicans in Delaware, already in the minority, disagreed over who should be appointed marshal for the district. Marshals picked juries for federal trials, and the position had been abused under the Adams administration. Jefferson was determined to set it right but was dismayed to see his republican allies squabbling among themselves.

Perhaps expressing more confidence than he really felt, he appealed to his fellow republicans to set aside personal likes and dislikes and be willing to compromise. Governing was impossible without it. Sacrificing now would be much less painful than reverting to the political abuses they’d suffered from the Federalists.

“Working with Patrick was wonderful. He was very flexible …”
Executive Director, Fort Mandan Foundation, Washburn, ND
Mr. Jefferson will be wonderful to work with, too … and flexible!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Fuhgeddaboudit!

be advised then; erase it even from your memory, and stand erect before the world on the high ground of your own merits, without stooping to what is unworthy either of your or their notice. remember that we often repent of what we have said, but never of that which we have not.
Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, March 9, 1814

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wounded leaders do well to hold their tongues.
Granger had written Jefferson three weeks earlier, asking his recollections in matters where Granger was now accused of acting improperly. He was preparing to make a written defense to the nation. In this lengthy reply, Jefferson offered as much background as he could remember but cited “the decay of memory consequent on advancing years.”
He concluded his letter with this advice:
1. Forget about defending yourself. (It will work against you, he wrote earlier.)
2. Forget the accusations. They deserve neither your attention nor others’.
3. Stand tall on what you know to be true.
4. We are responsible for what we do say. We do not have to answer for what we don’t say.

Many years before, George Washington had advised his young protege Jefferson to remain silent when attacked. In the time it took to answer one accusation, 10 more would spring forth. He couldn’t win at that game. Better not to play at all. It’s the same advice he was now giving Granger.

Politics can be a blood-sport. It is surprising the thin-skinned Jefferson lasted as long as he did. Granger’s 12-year tenure as Postmaster General ended a week after this letter was written. He retired to New York to manage his business interests and pursue state politics. He died in 1822, at age 57.

“I don’t believe anyone left the room once you started talking
because everyone was so captivated …”
Executive Vice-President, North Carolina Agribusiness Council
Mr. Jefferson will captivate your audience, too.
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Heard the one about two men in a lighthouse?

 
… speaking with Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin of this singular disposition of men to quarrel and divide into parties, he gave his sentiments, as usual, by way of apologue [a story with a moral]. He mentioned the Eddystone lighthouse in the British channel, as being built on a rock in the mid-channel, totally inaccessible in winter from the boisterous character of that sea, in that season; that, therefore, for the two keepers, employed to keep up the lights, all provisions for the winter were necessarily carried to them in autumn, as they could never be visited again till the return of the milder season; that, on the first practicable day in the spring a boat put off to them with fresh supplies. The boatmen met at the door one of the keepers and accosted him with a “How goes it, friend”? “Very well”. “How is your companion”? “I do not know”. “Don’t know? Is he not here”? “I can’t tell”. “Have not you seen him to-day”? “No”. “When did you see him”? “Not since last fall”. “You have killed him”? “Not I, indeed”. They were about to lay hold of him, as having certainly murdered his companion: but he desired them to go upstairs and examine for themselves. They went up, and there found the other keeper. They had quarreled, it seems, soon after being left there, had divided into two parties, assigned the cares below to one, and those above to the other, and had never spoken to, or seen one another since.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders recognize factions are just a way of life.
Since I’m excerpting Jefferson’s autobiography, this is the next noteworthy passage, even though it was a post more than three years ago.
The Continental Congress was having difficulty governing. Men divided into factions and refused to cooperate. As minister to France, Jefferson witnessed the same problem there. He used Franklin’s story to illustrate “this singular disposition of men to quarrel and divide into parties.”
If we bemoan how our political leaders now seem to divide into separate camps and refuse to talk with one another, this story reminds us it was that way in the late 1700s, too. The light keepers in Franklin’s story had an advantage, though. They didn’t have to cooperate to get the job done.
Benjamin Franklin often told a story to make a point, the meaning of “apologue,” the word Jefferson used in the first sentence above.

“The Missouri Bar will undoubtedly invite Mr. Lee to future functions
and we highly recommend him.”
Director of Law-Related Education, The Missouri Bar
No one tell stories like Benjamin Franklin,
but Thomas Jefferson will inspire and entertain your audience!

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Now, THIS is the life! Part 2

I talk … with my neighbors  …  of politics too, if they choose, with as little reserve as the rest of my fellow citizens, and feel, at length, the blessing of being free to say and do what I please, without being responsible for it to any mortal.
To Thaddeus Koscuisko, February 26, 1810

Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 352

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retired leaders can finally do and say what they want!
This is the last of three posts (for now) on Jefferson’s activities soon after he retired from public life. The previous two were on April 5 and 9.
His preferred conversation with others was on his favorite topic of agriculture. Yet, he would talk about politics if they chose. As a public man from the early 1770’s into 1809, diplomacy was a controlling factor in all of his action and conversation. How delightful it now was to do what he wanted or express an opinion just like anybody else, and not be concerned how others might respond!

“I have now hired you three times to present your characters …
Thanks for your outstanding contributions to the success of our conferences!”
Executive Director, National Coal Transportation Association, Littleton, CO
  Thomas Jefferson will make an outstanding contribution to your conference!
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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