Tag Archives: Republicans

Does the victor get the spoils now … or later?

… the monopoly of all the offices of the US. by [one party, the Federalists] … we have ourselves condemned as unjust & tyrannical. we cannot then either in morality or decency imitate it. a fair & proportionate participation however ought to be aimed at. as to the mode of obtaining this I know there is great difference of opinion; some thinking it should be done at a single stroke; others that it would conduce more to the tranquility of the country to do the thing by degrees, filling with republicans the vacancies occurring by deaths, resignations & delinquencies, and using the power of removal only in the cases of persons who continue to distinguish themselves by a malignant activity & opposition to that republican order of things which it is their duty to cooperate in, or at least to be silent.
To Nicholas Norris, October 14, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders keep an even-handed approach to the opposition.
When Jefferson came into the Presidency in 1801, every executive and judicial office was held by appointees of Presidents Washington and Adams. Indeed, Adams made a number of “midnight appointments” just before leaving office, to saddle the man who defeated him with even more opposition. (The famous Marbury v. Madison case arose from one of these last-minute appointments.)

Jefferson had strong views on the subject:
1. One party control of all offices was unjust and would lead to tyranny.
2. Republicans would be just as wrong to claim all offices for themselves.
3. “Proportionate participation” from each party should be the goal.
4. Republicans disagreed how that proportion was to be gained.
– Some wanted it done immediately.
– Others thought it better for the country to do it gradually as vacancies occurred. (Jefferson’s position)
5. He would dismiss only those in active opposition to his administration.

“On a personal level, Mr. Lee was very knowledgeable,
interesting to talk with and easy to work with.”
Ass’t. Executive Director, Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors
I am low maintenance. So is Mr. Jefferson.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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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!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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We are NOT that different from one another.

… the greatest good we can do our country is to heal it’s party divisions & make them one people. I do not speak of their [Federalist] leaders who are incurables, but of the honest & well-intentioned body of the people. I consider the pure federalist as a republican who would prefer a somewhat stronger executive; & the republican as one more willing to trust the legislature as a broader representation of the people, & a safer deposit of power for many reasons. but both sects are republican, entitled to the confidence of their fellow citizens …
To John Dickinson, July 23, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Unifying leaders look for common ground with their opponents.
Jefferson wrote to Dickinson (of Pennsylvania and Delaware, 1732-1808), a life-long friend and ally, about the division within the republicans in Delaware. The President was trying bridge the divide between the two major political camps. He didn’t want his own people squabbling among themselves.

In trying to bridge the political divide, Jefferson maintained there was not a great distance between the republicans and the vast majority of “pure federalist[s]”. He cast them all as republicans, devoted to the principles of 1776, but making this distinction:
– republicans gave more authority to the legislature, the peoples’ representatives.
– federalists preferred more authority in a “somewhat stronger executive” (President).

Most of Jefferson’s letters began with just the recipient’s name, and then he began writing. Sometimes, he added a “Dear Sir.” As a measure of his opinion of Dickinson, this letter opened with, “My Dear & Respected Friend.”

“Thanks for your enlightening presentation for the Leadership Academy.”
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mr. Jefferson will enlighten (and entertain!) your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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