Tag Archives: State of the Union

I’ve shown you mine. Show me yours. (Part 3 of 3)

Whether the great interests of agriculture, manufactures, commerce or navigation, can, within the pale of your constitutional powers be aided in any of their relations? whether laws are provided in all cases where they are wanting? whether those provided are exactly what they should be? whether any abuses take place in their administration or in that of the public revenues? whether the organisation of the public agents, or of the public force is perfect in all it’s parts? in fine, Whether any thing can be done to advance the general good? are questions within the limits of your functions
To United States Congress, November 8, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders respect jurisdictional lines.
In the first post from Jefferson’s fourth annual message, he reported on 10 areas under his authority. In only two of those did he invite Congress’ input. The second post summarized income, expense and debt. This excerpt suggested areas where Congress might act:
1. Within constitutional limits, could they aid agriculture, business and navigation?
2. What new laws are needed?
3. What existing laws need improving?
4. Are the laws or public finances being abused?
5. Is the federal government and its workforce “perfect in all it’s parts”?
6. In summary, what could they do, constitutionally, to advance the public good?

Jefferson understood that the legislature’s role was to make the laws. His role, as head of the Executive Branch, was merely to carry them out while he saw to the nation’s defense and foreign relations.

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Do THIS only, and the vast majority will support us.

… that all should be satisfied with any one order of things is not to be expected: but I indulge the pleasing persuasion that the great body of our citizens will cordially concur in honest and disinterested [objective, lacking a personal agenda] efforts, which have for their object to preserve the general & state governments in their constitutional form & equilibrium; to maintain peace abroad, & order & obedience to the laws at home; to establish principles & practices of administration favorable to the security of liberty & property; & to reduce expences to what is necessary for the useful purposes of government.
First Annual Message, November 27, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders limit and define their goals, and make them very clear to all.
This ends President Jefferson’s first annual address, known now as the State of the Union Address, from which the last few posts have been taken. Such a report is required by the Constitution, Article II, Section 3. (This requirement is not an annual one. The Constitution says only the President shall do so “from time to time.” I suppose President Washington established the precedent of a yearly address, and his successors continued it.)

Just preceding this exceprt, Jefferson praised Congress for its “collected wisdom … prudence & temperance” as they worked for the good of their citizens. He concludes with these observations:
1. Not everyone will be pleased with each of their actions.
2. Yet, if they are honest and objective, they will enjoy great public favor, so long as they remember their limited responsibilities to:
– Preserve the national and state governments as outlined in the Constitution
– Maintain peaceful relations with other countries
– Maintain order and respect for the law within the nation
– Continue to establish and secure the rights of personal liberty and property
– Reduce the cost of the national government, limiting it to its Constitutional principles

“Thank you so much for your enormous contribution
to the success of our recent workshop …”

The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D.C.
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Don’t blow this golden opportunity!

Separated by a wide ocean from the nations of Europe, and from the political interests which entangle them together … We should be most unwise, indeed, were we to cast away the singular blessings of the position in which nature has placed us, the opportunity she has endowed us with of pursuing, at a distance from foreign contentions, the paths of industry, peace, and happiness; of cultivating general friendship, and of bringing collisions of interest to the umpirage of reason rather than of force.
Third Annual Message, October 17, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders frame bold risks in compelling advantages.
This was Jefferson’s third “State of the Union Address.” While it covered a number of topics, the overriding one was the United States’ opportunity to purchase Louisiana from France. That tract, roughly defined as the watershed of the Missouri River, would more than double the size of the nation. Among other benefits, It would guarantee uninterrupted shipping on the Mississippi and through New Orleans

He closed his remarks with a common theme. America was uniquely blessed to be separated from Europe’s political intrigues and wars by an ocean. This treaty, subject to approval by the Senate and payment by the Congress, would keep France in Europe and off America’s western border. Surely, the United States would not “be most unwise” and cast away the twin blessings of a separating ocean and the Louisiana treaty.

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Jefferson’s “State of the Union” in 1805? Part 2

Turning from these unpleasant views of violence and wrong, I congratulate you on the liberation of our fellow-citizens who were stranded on the coast of Tripoli and made prisoners of war …
With Tunis some misunderstandings have arisen not yet sufficiently explained …
The law providing for a naval peace establishment … Congress will perhaps consider whether the best limitation on the Executive [President’s] discretion [is to limit the number of seamen or the number of vessels] …
Our Indian neighbors are advancing, many of them with spirit, and others beginning to engage in the pursuits of agriculture and household manufacture … from time to time to dispose of parts of their surplus and waste lands …
The receipts at the Treasury during the year … which , with [the surplus] … have enabled us after meeting other demands to pay nearly two millions of the debt contracted under the British treaty  … upward of four millions of principle of the public debt and four millions of interest. These payments, with those which had been made in three years and a half preceding, have extinguished of the funded debt nearly eighteen millions of principle.
Fifth Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1805

 Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep everyone informed.
These excerpts summarize the second half of Jefferson’s fifth “State of the Union” report, the one corresponding to President Obama’s address in January.
1. There’s good news to report from north Africa. Tripoli pirates have been dealt with, and those in Tunis appear to be moving toward settlement. (Terrorists in north Africa. Sound familiar?)
2. He asked clarification from Congress on his authority for ships vs. sailors. (The President is asking, rather than assuming or taking.)
3. Some Indians were actively oppositional while others were coming to an agricultural life and making portions of their lands available for settlement.
4. The government was continuing to run a surplus, reducing the national debt by $18 million in 3 ½ years. (Imagine that!)
He concluded by noting his re-election and pledging his best efforts for the nation and every possible cooperation with the Congress. (He enjoyed an enviable Presidential position of having his party control sizable majorities in both houses.)

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County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
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Jefferson’s “State of the Union” in 1805? Part 1

…  when the nations of Europe are in commotion and arming against each other … a meeting of the representatives of the nation in both Houses of Congress has become more than usually desirable…
we in the first place notice the late affliction of two of our cities under the fatal fever which in latter times has occasionally visited our shores. Providence in His goodness gave it an early termination on this occasion and lessened the number of victims which have usually fallen before it …
Our coasts have been infested and our harbors watched by private armed vessels …
The same system of hovering on our coasts and harbors … has been also carried on by public armed ships to the great annoyance and oppression of our commerce …
With Spain our negotiations for a settlement of differences have not had a satisfactory issue…
In reviewing these injuries from some of the belligerent powers … you will consider whether … to organize or class the militia as would enable us on any sudden emergency …
Considerable provision has been made…for the construction of ships of war of 74 guns …
Fifth Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
(My apologies! I’ve had major problems with my email notifications. This was supposed to go out right after President Obama’s State of the Union address. It did go out, many times, but you never got it. Maybe this time …? )
Effective leaders keep their partners in leadership well-informed.
President Obama recently delivered his State of the Union address, as required by the Constitution. It was his 5th annual message, and the first after his re-election. Here are excerpts from Jefferson’s corresponding message, delivered in writing to Congress, not as an address.
I’ve excerpted his 2,900 word message into less than 400 words, divided into two posts. I’ve included each of the major issues he addressed.
Several notes:
1. He welcomed Congress’ return, because world events were troublesome.
2. His first concern was public health, thanking “Providence in His goodness” for sparing them a worse plague.
3. His major concerns were national defense and foreign relations, two of the few responsibilities of the national government.
4. He wanted a more effective militia and a stronger navy to deal with foreign threats.
The 9th U.S. Congress convened for one day for Jefferson’s inauguration, March 4, 1805, and then adjourned until December 2. That explains why his Annual Message came at the end of the year, when Congress first met to take up its business.

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