Tag Archives: Portrayer

Demeaning prisoners is not rehabilitative.

With respect of the plan of a Prison …I had heard of a benevolent society in England which had been indulged by the government in an experiment of the effect of labor in _solitary confinement_ on some of their criminals, which experiment had succeeded beyond expectation …This I sent to the Directors instead of a plan of a common prison, in the hope that it would suggest the idea of labor in solitary confinement instead of that on the public works … In 1796 … They adopted solitary, instead of public labor, established a gradation in the duration of the confinement … Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders seek rehabilitation in punishment.
Jefferson’s original revision of the criminal code reduced the number of capital offenses from several dozen to just two, for murder and treason. Lesser crimes received hard labor, often on public works building roads and canals. Experience, though, showed that prisoners being “exhibited as a public spectacle, with shaved heads and mean clothing, working on the high roads” didn’t rehabilitate. Instead, it produced the “most desperate & hardened depravity of morals and character.” It made men worse, not better.

Borrowing from successful experiments in Europe, he proposed “labor in … solitary confinement.” (This must mean labor within the prison complex rather than in public, and not solitary confinement as we understand it today.) Virginia built a “Penitentiary” instead of “a common prison” with this idea in mind. Fifteen years later, Virginia abandoned hard public labor for prisoners.

The last line in this excerpt implies a gradual improvement in an inmate’s work status through the course of his confinement.

“ …our Institute Planning Committee was showered with accolades for its wisdom
and good judgment in inviting William Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark team…”
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Is Jesus Christ the author of our holy religion?

The bill for establishing religious freedom … was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.” The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Faithful leaders do not fear dissenting opinions.
The high water mark of Jefferson’s work revising Virginia’s statutes was his bill for religion freedom. Drafted by him and shephered through the legislature in 1786 by James Madison, it ended Anglican status as the “official” tax-supported church.

Virginia was settled by Englishmen loyal to the king and the Church of England. Several pages before this excerpt are these words, “ … the grant to Sr. Walter Raleigh contained an express Proviso that their laws “should not be against the true Christian faith, now professed in the church of England.” “ The state established Anglican parishes and provided support for their ministers.

Although 100% Anglican at its founding, by the time of the Revolution, “dissenters” (i.e. non-Anglicans, primarily Presbyterians) formed the majority of Virginia’s faith community. Even so, all residents were still taxed to support the Anglican cause.

In dis-establishing the official church, some sought to preserve the idea that religious freedom was extended to all Christians, rather than just those of Anglican persuasion. “A great majority” rejected that restriction, proof that the bill’s protection extended to all. Each person was free to worship however he saw fit, or not worship any deity at all, with neither help nor hindrance by the state.

Section 1 of this bill states “Almighty God hath created the mind free … [and did not force acceptance on his creation.]” If God did not require religious obedience, neither should the state.

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Keep nibbling away at evil institutions

The first establishment in Virginia which became permanent was made in 1607. I have found no mention of negroes in the colony until about 1650. The first brought here as slaves were by a Dutch ship; after which the English commenced the trade and continued it until the revolutionary war. That suspended, ipso facto, their further importation for the present, and the business of the war pressing constantly on the legislature, this subject was not acted on finally until the year 78. when I brought in a bill to prevent their further importation. This passed without opposition, and stopped the increase of the evil by importation, leaving to future efforts its final eradication.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Determined leaders remain committed to their causes over time.
In 1769, Jefferson had been on the losing side of a slavery-limiting issue in the Virginia House of Burgesses. In 1778, he was the successful author of a bill to prohibit further importation of slaves into the state. He recognized this was not the ultimate goal but rather a step in that direction.

“One of our municipal officials even remarked he liked Thomas Jefferson
better than David Broder,
the Pultizer Prize-winning columnist who spoke the following day.”

Illinois Municipal League
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What kind of aristocracy would you prefer?

I obtained leave to bring in a bill declaring tenants in tail to hold their lands in fee simple … To annul this privilege, and instead of an aristocracy of wealth, of more harm and danger, than benefit, to society, to make an opening for the aristocracy of virtue and talent, which nature has wisely provided for the direction of the interests of society, & scattered with equal hand through all it’s conditions, was deemed essential to a well ordered republic. To effect it no violence was necessary, no deprivation of natural right, but rather an enlargement of it by a repeal of the law.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Democratic leaders seek equality of opportunity.
Colonial law in Virginia provided for lands to be inherited only by the eldest male child. Privileged individuals had long before obtained large grants of land from the king. The law allowed families to keep those vast holdings in very few hands as the generations passed. Those few hands achieved even greater wealth and power, eventually controlling much of the Colony. This resulted in “an aristocracy of wealth, of more harm and danger, than benefit, to society …”

Jefferson’s bill would end that practice and allow lands to be inherited by all heirs, not just one. This action would “make an opening for the aristocracy of virtue and talent.”

This contrast between aristocracies was a lifelong theme for Jefferson. It was not the wealthy and well-born who were to be favored but rather those in whom nature had broadly distributed talent and integrity. Those qualities were “essential to a well ordered republic.”

No revolution was needed for this revolutionary change. No one’s natural rights would be limited. Rather, those natural rights for all would be enlarged by the abolition of unnatural rights for a few.

Jefferson’s bill was adopted by the Virginia legislature.

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Would you exchange a high position for a low one?

… I had been elected a member [of the VA House of Burgesses] by my county. I knew that our [state’s] legislation under the regal government had many very vicious points which urgently required reformation, and I thought I could be of more use in forwarding that work. I therefore retired from my seat in Congress on the 2d. of Sep. resigned it, and took my place in the legislature of my state, on the 7th. of October.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders should lead where they’re most useful, regardless of status.
Virginia renewed Jefferson’s status as a delegate to the Continental Congress a month after its adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s home county of Albemarle also elected him to his previous position as a member of the new state legislature, formerly the House of Burgesses.

Virginia’s laws were those of a English colony, reflecting the mother country’s values. Jefferson saw “many very vicious points” in those laws which needed revision. He thought he could be of more value there than continuing in the Congress. He resigned his position in the national legislature to take his place in the state one.

This move would also allow him to be much closer to home, where he could attend to his wife’s frail health and their two very young daughters.

As the war for independence continued, he devoted considerable time over the next three years to re-writing Virginia’s statutes. One of the three life accomplishments that adorn his tombstone came from this work.

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What do you oppose? What does that say about you?

As the sentiments of men are known not only by what they receive, but what they reject also, I will state the form of the declaration as originally reported. The parts struck out by Congress shall be distinguished by a black line drawn under them; & those inserted by them shall be placed in the margin or in a concurrent column.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders have long memories!

The previous post gave two major changes the Continental Congress made in Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence. Those changes eliminated a condemnation of England’s slave trade and lessened criticism of the English people themselves. But there were many other changes, too, about 25.

Late in life, when Jefferson’s authorship was well known, he also wanted it well known which ideas were his, and which were not. Whether from personal irritation or for historical accuracy is not clear. Jefferson was quite miffed in July 1776 at all the changes and thought they weakened the document. Forty-five years later, the tone of this excerpt might indicate he still held a grudge over those changes. He included the full text of his draft plus all the changes.

To categorize the changes other than the two above:
– Most would be stylistic, eliminating or changing a word or phrase.
– Some toned down his harsher criticism of King George III.
– In the conclusion, Jefferson’s draft had no reference to any authority other than their own as individuals, as representatives of states and of the United States. As amended, two references to divine authority were added.

 *This link is to the entire volume. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.
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Two Declaration of Independence rejects

The pusillanimous [timid, cowardly] idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many. For this reason those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offence. The clause too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in complaisance [willingness to please] to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender under those censures; for tho’ their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.
Autobiography, 1821 *

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The 1776 Continental Congress appointed Jefferson to a committee of five to draft a declaration of independence. Jefferson was the primary author. His work, reviewed and amended by the committee, was further amended by the Congress as a whole before it was adopted on July 4.

Only two Congressional revisions were singled out for specific mention in this work:
-Accusations toward the English people themselves (as opposed to the King only) were eliminated or softened considerably.
– Language condemning the slave trade was eliminated altogether. From other sources, we know that Georgia and South Carolina would not vote for independence had that language remained. The northern states supported this change. While their slave population was very small, they were slave traders themselves.

 *This link is to the entire volume. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.
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California Land Surveyors Association
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Can you fight social evil at an early age?

In 1769, I became a member of the legislature by the choice of the county in which I live, & continued in that until it was closed by the revolution. I made one effort in that body for the permission of the emancipation of slaves, which was rejected: and indeed, during the regal government, nothing liberal could expect success.
Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Jefferson’s life as a public man began at age 26. He was elected from his native Albemarle County to the colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses.

Other than matters leading to independence a few years hence, this may be the only early legislative position expressed in his autobiography. He supported easing the law for freeing slaves, but the effort was defeated. He thought a majority of the Burgesses might eventually be convinced to support the cause, but the King’s Council held veto power over the legislature. Even if the Burgesses would approve, the Council would not. The slave trade was firmly entrenched in England and would not end for another four decades.

Historians (and others) have their opinions on Jefferson and slavery. It is worth noting his opposition began early. Though he never took the lead in that fight, he never wavered from his opinion that slavery was wrong and must one day be abolished.

 *This link is to the entire volume. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.
”City officials are a “tough crowd”
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How else can mentors help?

He [William Small] returned to Europe in 1762, having previously filled up the measure of his goodness to me, by procuring for me, from his most intimate friend G. Wythe, a reception as a student of law, under his direction, and introduced me to the acquaintance and familiar table of Governor Fauquier, the ablest man who had ever filled that office. With him, and at his table, Dr. Small & Mr. Wythe, his amici omnium horarum [Latin: friends all hours], & myself, formed a partie quarree, & to the habitual conversations on these occasions I owed much instruction. Mr. Wythe continued to be my faithful and beloved Mentor in youth, and my most affectionate friend through life.
Autobiography, 1821*

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise mentors bring in more mentors.
The previous post listed the qualities Jefferson attributed to his revered college professor, Dr. William Small. His instructor didn’t keep his student to himself but introduced him to others who could guide him, as well.

First among those was lawyer George Wythe, who directed Jefferson’s five-year study of the law. Wythe moved from mentor to “my most affectionate friend through life.” Next was Lieutenant Governor Francis Fauquier, the King’s representative in colonial Virginia.

Together, Small, Wythe and Fauquier, ages 36, 44 and 56, took the 17-year-old Jefferson into their company. The impressionable teenager learned much by observing these men, listening to and participating in their conversations.

Fauquier died in 1768 at age 65, Small in 1775 at age 41. Wythe lived until age 80, believed to be poisoned by a mulatto grandnephew in 1806. The relative was charged with the crime but not convicted. Courts did not accept the testimony of blacks, the only witnesses to the crime.

*This link is to the entire autography. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.
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What qualities make a good mentor?

[I] then went to Wm. and Mary college, to wit in the spring of 1760, where I continued 2. years. It was my great good fortune, and what probably fixed the destinies of my life that Dr. Wm. Small of Scotland was then professor of Mathematics, a man profound in most of the useful branches of science, with a happy talent of communication, correct and gentlemanly manners, & an enlarged & liberal mind. He, most happily for me, became soon attached to me & made me his daily companion when not engaged in the school; and from his conversation I got my first views of the expansion of science & of the system of things in which we are placed.
Autobiography, 1821*

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders-to-be need skilled mentors.
Jefferson was almost 17 when he continued his education in college at Williamsburg. He came into the orbit of Dr. William Small, the only faculty member who was not an Anglican clergyman. Because of upheaval within the school, Small became Jefferson’s only professor, teaching all of his classes.

Sixty years later, Jefferson would cite the qualities that made Small extraordinary:

  1. “Profound,” which Webster’s 7th New Collegiate defines as “intellectual depth and insight”
  2. Devoted to the “useful branches of science,” wisdom relevant to everyday life
  3. “a happy talent for communication,” an engaging and effective classroom teacher
  4. “correct and gentlemanly manners,” proper and polite
  5. “an enlarged and liberal mind,” willing to consider all the possibilities
  6. “made me his daily companion,” taking young Jefferson under his wing
  7. “from his conversation,” verbal interaction with a high purpose

I’ve begun re-reading Jefferson’s Autobiography. I may take posts from it for some time.

*This link is to the entire autobiography. To find this passage, open the link, type Ctrl F (for find) and type several words from the text into the box. Those words will be highlighted wherever they appear within the work.
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