Tag Archives: President

Everyday stuff in the life of a leader

Harrassed with interruptions & worn down with fatigue; I take up my pen at midnight to scribble you a line …  your clover seed has been forwarded to Richmond some time ago … I still hope to get away in a fortnight or thereabouts. by the next post I shall probably desire that Davy Bowles may be got to bring my chair [carriage?] & two horses as far as Herring’s a quarter of a mile this side of Strode’s & there wait for me. I shall go on horseback that far … my tenderest love to my dearest Martha & the little ones …
To Thomas Mann Randolph, March 6, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need to squeeze personal time into the professional.
The previous post was written two days before Jefferson left the Presidency. This one is eight years earlier, just two days into that office. Late at night and exhausted from his official duties, he wrote briefly to his son-in-law, Martha’s husband.

In addition to the mundane, reporting on the location of clover seed he had ordered, he said a neighbor was bringing a report on Washington and included another’s account of both armistice and conflict in Europe.

Jefferson had been in Washington over three months, since November 27, sharing a boarding house with many others. He hoped to return to Monticello soon. He would arrange with Davy Bowles to bring his horses and carriage to a rendezvous at a certain tavern, Herring’s in Culpepper County, halfway between Washington and home.

His elder daughter Martha already had four children, ages two to 10, and was pregnant with another. (A sixth born in 1794 had died in infancy.) By 1818, the Randolphs would have 12 children, 11 surviving.

“… thinking that having Mr. Jefferson as our conference keynote to be held
in Richmond [VA] at The Hotel Jefferson would be ideal, and it was!”

Carolina-Virginias Telephone Membership Association
Mr. Jefferson would be the ideal keynote speaker at your conference!
(It needn’t be at The Hotel Jefferson … but it is a nice place!)
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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John Adams, please don’t die!

… no one more sincerely prays that no accident may call me to the higher and more important functions which the constitution eventually devolves on this office. These have been justly confided to the eminent character which has preceded me here, whose talents and integrity have been known and revered by me thro’ a long course of years; have been the foundation of a7 cordial and uninterrupted friendship between us; and I devoutly pray he may be long preserved for the government, the happiness, and prosperity of our common country.
Address to the Senate, March 4, 1797

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Servant leaders don’t seek power. It seeks them.
This was the conclusion of Jefferson’s address to the Senate when he was inaugurated as Vice-President. He lauded President Adams’ character and prayed that he would suffer “no accident” and “be long preserved for the government,” because Jefferson didn’t want the Constitutional succession to the Presidency.

There is debate whether Jefferson sought power, or whether power sought him.  Jon Meacham, in his 2012 biography, Thomas Jefferson – The Art of Power, asserts that Jefferson actively sought control, not only in the political world but in his personal life. I am more persuaded that political power found Jefferson, rather than the other way around.
Once found, he was willing to use it, but it was not his nature to go after it.

Regardless, three and a half years later, Jefferson again stood as the leader of those opposed to the Federalist policies of Hamilton and Adams in the Presidential election of 1800. That time he bested Adams for the job he said he didn’t want.

Jefferson did get an answered prayer for Adams’ good health. Both men lived another 29 years.

“We heard nothing but praise from audience members.”
Policy Director, Washington State Association of Counties

Mr. Jefferson will prove himself praiseworthy with your audience, as well.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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Do pain and ingratitude appeal to you? If so, be President.

I leave to others the sublime delights of riding in the storm, better pleased with sound sleep and a warm birth [berth] below, with the society of neighbors, friends and fellow laborers of the earth, than of spies and sycophants [yes men]. No one then will congratulate you with purer disinterestedness than myself … I have no ambition to govern men. It is a painful and thankless office.
To John Adams, December 28, 1796

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders understand the drawbacks to high-profile leadership.
Jefferson wrote to Adams, congratulating him on his election as President. In that same election, Jefferson stood as the leader of the opposition. With the 2nd highest number of electoral votes, Jefferson became Vice-President. He was delighted to let Adams have the top spot, among the “spies and sycophants.” He would enjoy the quiets of home, family, friends and his fellow farmers.
The closing statement, “I have no ambition to govern men. It is a painful and thankless office,” is an interesting one. Four years later, Jefferson would defeat Adams’ re-election bid and would govern men for the eight years to come. Jefferson would say it was the times that forced that role upon him. His detractors offer it as an example of ambition or hypocrisy.

“You were remarkable and I highly recommend you… “
Chair, Seattle Federal Executive Board

Thomas Jefferson’s example of leadership will inspire your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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Will you serve where you are needed most?

…  I received a letter from the President, Genl. Washington … to be Secretary of State … with real regret. My wish had been to return to Paris … to see the end of the Revolution …   to return home, to withdraw from Political life …
In my answer of Dec. 15. I expressed these dispositions candidly to the President … but assured him that if it was believed I could be more useful in the administration of the government, I would sacrifice my own inclinations without hesitation … this I left to his decision.
I arrived at Monticello on the 23d. of Dec. where I received a second letter from the President, expressing his continued wish that I should take my station there, but leaving me still at liberty to continue in my former office, if I could not reconcile myself to that now proposed. This silenced my reluctance, and I accepted the new appointment.

Autobiography, 1821

Patrick Lee’s Explanation

Servant leaders lead where they are needed most.


In late 1789, Jefferson temporarily returned home from France, where he served as ambassador. Within days, President Washington’s letter reached him, asking him join the new government as Secretary of State. Jefferson didn’t want the job. He preferred to return to France, witness the peaceful end of their revolution within a year, come home and retire to private life.


He told Washington exactly how he felt, but offered willingly to set his desires aside if the President thought his services would be more helpful at the State Department. Washington reaffirmed his position in a second letter but respected Jefferson’s judgment, to serve in either capacity. With this affirmation from a man he respected greatly, Jefferson agreed to join the new government in New York City.


Had he made the other choice, he would have waited a long time for peace in Paris! The rebellion he thought would end within a year dragged on for many years, with great bloodshed and destruction.

“The positive comments from our staff and members continued
long after the conclusion of Thomas Jefferson’s remarks.”
Executive Director, Maine Municipal Association
Thomas Jefferson’s influence on your audience will endure!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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