Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

Give him freedom and watch him closely!

J. Randolph now proceeds to Richmond in order to enter at mr Girardin’s academy … through a course of mathematics & Natural philosophy. the annual charges … 67. D. [$67] … [pay from] my account, & also for his board. I … have desired him to decide where he would rather [live] … I must pray you also to furnish Jefferson his other proper expences. he has been so correct in them heretofore as to give me strong confidence they will be reasonable with you. were any contrary indications to arise, I would sollicit your confidential communication of it to me that I may take such measures for his good as may in no wise commit you with him or any body.
To George Jefferson, October 31, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Clear-eyed leaders trust their proteges yet monitor their progress.
Thomas Jefferson Randolph (1792-1875), former President’s eldest grandson known as Jeff, had pursued his advanced education in Philadelphia and then Richmond. There, the grandfather enlisted his cousin and business agent to cover the 18 year-old’s tuition, room and board. The elder Jefferson had a preference for living quarters but left the choice to his grandson.

He also authorized funds for “his other proper expences,” i.e. spending money. The young man had been wise in handling money, and Grandfather had confidence that would continue. Yet, if his agent learned otherwise, Jefferson wanted to know confidentially. He would handle it with his grandson in such a manner that Jeff would not know the source of the report.

“Your presentation … your Jefferson presence … your smooth ability …
was just uncanny.”
President, Centralia Historical Society
Mr. Jefferson will impress your audience!
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We must subdue the debt, or it will subdue us!

I consider the fortunes of our republic as depending, in an eminent degree, on the extinguishment of the public debt, before we engage in any war. because, that done, we shall have revenue enough to improve our country in peace, & defend it in war, without recurring either to new1 taxes or loans, but if the debt shall2 once more be swelled to a formidable size, it’s entire discharge will be despaired of, and we shall be committed to the English career of debt, corruption & rottenness, closing with revolution.
To Albert Gallatin, October 11, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Far-sighted leaders know growing debt is a ticking time bomb.
Swiss-born Gallatin (1761-1849) was Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury for eight years, and he was filling the same role for President Madison. Jefferson had utmost confidence in Gallatin’s skill, crediting him with bringing the nation’s indecipherable financing from opaque under Presidents Washington and Adams to transparent in his administration.

The former President thought America would stand or fall according to its national debt. If it were paid off, the resulting surplus could be used for internal improvements in peace time or defense if war came, without more borrowing or increased taxes. However, if the debt were allowed to grow to the point where paying it off was impossible, we would become like the British. There, perpetual debt led to “corruption & rottenness,” and the inevitable result would be “revolution.”

Curiously, Jefferson didn’t apply the same rigor to his own finances. His personal debt grew throughout his life to the point where it was unmanageable.

“Your portrayal … was captivating in every respect…
The feedback from our conferees has been overwhelmingly favorable …”
Executive Director, Missouri Safety Council
Mr. Jefferson will captivate your audience!
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Let us remain where all religions agree.

at an earlier period of life I pursued enquiries of that kind with industry & care. reading, reflection & time have convinced me that the interests of society require the observation of those moral precepts only in which all religions agree, (for all forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, or bear false witness.) and that we should not intermeddle with the particular dogmas in which all religions differ, and which are totally unconnected with morality.
To James Fishback, September 27, 1809

April 13 is Mr. Jefferson’s 274th Birthday!

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders seek common ground between opponents.
Fishback (1776-1845) was a Kentucky lawyer, physician, editor, active Presbyterian and later a Baptist minister. The 30 page pamphlet he sent Jefferson was entitled, in part, “The Philosophy of the Human Mind in Respect to Religion … Also, an Inquiry Into the Production, Nature, and Effects of the Christian Faith, According to the Expositions of Christ …”

Jefferson’s lifelong study of religion had convinced him that people of varying faiths, in their public engagements, should restrict their interaction to areas where all religions agreed, primarily regarding moral conduct. Where those faiths disagreed (and where their proponents liked to argue!) involved their “particular dogmas” which had nothing to morality.

Jefferson regarded Jesus as the world’s greatest teacher, though not divine. Here he could find common ground with the evangelical Fishback, whose basis for analyzing Christianity was “According to the Expositions of Christ.” Both men could look at Jesus’ own words and regard them (and him) as extraordinary, even if they disagreed on his divine nature.

“Each year we have a guest speaker,
and none has ever been so widely praised.”
Secretary, Missouri Emergency Preparedness Association
Mr. Jefferson will earn the praise of your members.
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Who is more useful in old age and why, doctor, farmer or politician?

I am become sensible of a great advantage your profession has over most others, that, to the close of your life, you can be always doing good to mankind: whereas a retired politician is like a broken down courser [a swift horse], unfit for the turf, and good for little else. I am endeavoring to recover the little I once knew of farming, gardening Etc. and would gladly now exchange any branch of science I possess for the knolege of a common farmer. too old to learn, I must be contented with the occupation & amusement of the art.
To Benjamin Rush, September 22, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some old leaders are far more valuable than others.
Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) was a Philadelphia physician, life-long friend of Jefferson’s and co-signer of the Declaration of Independence. His medical views were controversial. He favored bloodletting and purging. He sent 600 of “Dr. Rush’s Bilious Pills” with Lewis and Clark. Also known as “Rush’s Thunderclappers,” this mercury and chlorine laxative of his own creation had an explosive effect on the human bowel.

But Rush also opposed capital punishment, favored education for women, actively promoted Christianity and pioneered more humane treatment of the mentally ill. He is regarded as the father of American psychiatry.

Here, Jefferson praises the value of the doctor, who can “be always good to mankind,” even to the end of his life. He likened himself, a retired politician, to a former race horse, once fast but now broken down and worthless. In between was the farmer, the identity he always preferred, who also could be useful for a lifetime. Public service drew him away from the land, and he regretted it. He would trade any of his vast scientific understanding “for the knoledge of a common farmer.” He thought himself too old to learning farming once again and amused himself by puttering around his lands.

“I have been told by both the principal and a fourth grade teacher …
that you were the best speaker

they had seen at the school, and the teacher had been in the classroom for 25 years …”
Jefferson Dinner Chair, Hannah Cole Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution
Mr. Jefferson excels at inspiring both children and adults!
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Serve not at my command but only as you see fit.

If I can at any time be of any Service to you, I hope you will command me, and permit me to assure you, it will give me unmixed pleasure to Serve you at any time
William Clark, Louisville, to Thomas Jefferson, June 8, 1808

… the world has, of right, no further claims on yourself & Govr Lewis, but such as you may voluntarily render according to your convenience or as they may make it your interest.
To William Clark, September 10, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Extraordinary leadership earns one the right to say no.
In 1803, President Jefferson commissioned his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to lead an expedition of discovery though Louisiana and on to the western sea. Lewis wanted a co-commander, and he chose a close friend from army days, William Clark of Kentucky. Together, the two men successfully completed Jefferson’s assignment, leading a company of about 30 in a danger-filled 2 1/2 year journey through the wilderness to the Pacific Ocean and back.

After their return, the President named Clark Brigadier General of the militia and principal Indian agent for northern Louisiana. In his 1808 letter, Clark told the President he was about to leave for St. Louis to take up his new duties. He offered, with “unmixed pleasure,” to be at Jefferson’s command for any future service.

Clark’s letter was delayed 13 months in its delivery, and it was three more months before the retired President could respond. He turned aside Clark’s offer to serve wherever commanded. The service he had already given his country earned Clark the unqualified right to say no, unless it was convenient or personally desirable for him to say yes.

“Your talent and creativity have truly been assets in our marketing efforts.”
Executive Director, Jefferson City Convention & Visitors Bureau
Mr. Jefferson will be an asset to your meeting!
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Does a family compromise your value to society?

You mention in your letter that you are proceeding with your family to Fort Massac. this informs me that you have a family, & I sincerely congratulate you on it. while some may think it will render you less active in the service of the world, those who take a sincere interest in your personal happiness, and who know that by a law of our nature we cannot be happy without the endearing connections of a family, will rejoice for your sake as I do.
To William Clark, September 10, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders with strong family connections make for happy leaders.
Clark wrote Jefferson in June, 1808, but the letter took 13 months to reach its destination. That letter mentioned the skin of a Rocky mountain sheep and a blanket manufactured by the Indians that he had already sent to Jefferson and three boxes of bones yet to come. The latter he would deliver to Fort Massac, Illinois country, on the Ohio River, for shipment through New Orleans and on to Virginia, when he moved his family from Louisville to St. Louis. Two months later, the former President wrote his thanks for the sheep skin and blanket he had received and the bones that had not yet arrived. (See “Enclosure” for a description of the bones.)

The last Jefferson knew, William Clark was single. Now he learned that Clark would be traveling with his family to St. Louis to take up his new duties there. Jefferson was delighted to learn that his accomplished explorer was now a family man! (The 37 year-old Clark had married 17 year-old Julia Hancock in January, 1808. A year later, they named their firstborn son, Meriwether Lewis Clark.)

Jefferson disagreed with those who claimed family responsibilities made one less capable of public service. Citing his desire for Clark’s “personal happiness” coupled with “a law of our nature” that family connections were essential to that happiness, he congratulated the new husband and father. Those connections would make him a happier … and better … leader.

“…your command of Mr. Jefferson’s persona and mind,
and your facility
in answering complex questions were impressive.”
Chairman, Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Committee, St. Louis
Mr. Jefferson will impress and inspire your audience, too.
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We do not want those immigrants, but we cannot refuse them!

I lament the misfortunes of the persons who have been driven from Cuba to seek Asylum with you. this it is impossible to refuse them, or to withold any relief they can need. we should be monsters to shut the door against such sufferers. true, it is not a population we can desire, at that place, because it retards the desired epoch of it’s becoming entirely American in spirit. no people on earth retain their national adherence longer or more warmly than the French. but such considerations are not to prevent us from taking up human beings from a wreck at sea. gratitude will doubtless secure their fidelity to the country which has recieved them into it’s bosom.
To William C.C. Claiborne, September 10, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Humane leaders recognize the need to help the helpless.
Claiborne, territorial governor of New Orleans, reported the arrival of about 1,000 poverty-stricken French immigrants, whom Spain had banished from their homes in Cuba.

Jefferson didn’t regard the French as desirable subjects, because they above all other immigrants clung to their native culture. It would take them much longer to assimilate and become “entirely American in spirit.” Regardless, they could not be allowed to perish on the open sea. Only “monsters” would refuse them refuge and relief.

He hoped they would be grateful for the kindness shown and become loyal to their new land.

“I would like to thank you for your wonderfully entertaining speech …”
President, Missouri City Clerks and Finance Officers Association
Mr. Jefferson will entertain your audience … wonderfully!
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Do you want change back from your $90?

I recieved … [your letter that] you had … 90.D. [$90] recieved for me as rent for the salt-petre cave at the Natural bridge, and asking it as a donation for the female academy of that neighborhood. I have ever believed that the duty of contribution to charitable institutions would produce the greatest sum of good by every one’s devoting what they can spare to the institutions of their neighborhood, or in the vicinity of their property; because under the eye of their patrons they would be more faithfully conducted than at a distance from them … the applications to me from every part of the union being more than any income but that of the union, could supply. on this principle I am persuaded you will think twenty five Dollars a donation fully proportioned to my property in that quarter, giving this sum therefore to the institution there, I will thank you to remit the balance …
To William Carothers, September 7, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Charitable leaders give to charities wisely.
Caruthers, Jefferson’s agent in a western Virginia county where he owned property, held $90 rent owed to him. Caruthers asked if Jefferson would like to donate it to support a local school for girls. Jefferson’s reply:
1. Everyone had a duty to support charitable institutions to produce the greatest good for all.
2. Donations were best made to charities where donors lived or owned property, so they could carefully monitor its use.
3. He received more requests for donations than he could ever honor.
4. He would donate $25 to the school and wanted the remaining $65 sent to him.

He might have used his reasoning in #2 to decline any donation, because he lived 100 miles away, beyond any possible oversight. Yet he did own real estate in the vicinity, though he visited it rarely. He thought it more important to give than decline.

“The decision to bring Patrick Lee was a wise one.
His presentation was both credible and enlightening.”
CEO, Schoor DePalma Engineers and Consultants, Manalapan, NJ
Both credible and enlightening!
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Immigration can be criminal, yet moral.

I did not mean to suggest that I thought the object, even as I supposed it, to be in any degree immoral, that it could be criminal to counteract an immoral law. if ever there was a case where a law could impose no other obligation than the risque of the arbitrary penalty it is that which makes the country in which a man happens to be born his perpetual prison, obliging him to starve in that rather than seek another where he can find the means of subsistence.
To Alexander McRae, August 27, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders understand that immigration can be wrong … and right.
Through previous imprecise communication, each man misunderstood the other regarding McRae’s effort to recruit skilled workmen from England to America. England’s laws criminalized that activity, punishing both the recruiters and the immigrants who took tools of their trade with them when left.

The men cleared the air, and Jefferson expressed interesting thoughts about immigration, morality and criminality.
1. It was not immoral to break an immoral law, even thought it might subject one to criminal penalty.
2. A law that tied a man forever to the land of his birth, making it his prison, was immoral.
3. Natural law allowed a man to feed himself, and if he could not do that in one country, he had a moral right to go to another where he could.

“You were a “HIT.”
…thank you for such an excellent presentation …”
University of Missouri College of Business and Public Administration
Institute for Executive Development
Mr. Jefferson will be a HIT for your audience!
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Thanks for the geese. Have some cigars.

Having recieved a box of fine Havanna segars & knowing your fondness for them, I cannot make any use of them so gratifying to myself as by sending them to you. having occasion to send a cart to Washington, it will go by Fauqr C.H. [Fauquier Court House] to deposit this charge with you. it will return by Dumfries for a pair of Wild geese promised me there, as I have had the misfortune to lose the goose of the pair you were so kind as to give me. ever affectionately yours
To Doct. James W. Wallace, August 24, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thoughtful leaders remember kindnesses shown them by others.
While Jefferson raised tobacco, the only cash crop available besides wheat, there is no record he used it other than on rare ceremonial visits from Indian chiefs. So, what to do with a box of “fine Havanna segars” that must have been a gift to him?

In other correspondence the same day, he said “Davy,” a servant (slave) would leave the next day with a horse and cart to retrieve a “big-tailed ram” promised him to replace two that died. The route would take him near Wallace’s home. Remembering his friend’s fondness for cigars, he would have Davy leave them at a convenient place for Wallace to retrieve. He was returning the kindness Wallace had shown earlier in giving him a pair of geese.

The female of Wallace’s pair died. Davy would return by another route to pick up a replacement pair offered to the former President.

“…your presentation brought to life not only the spirit of Thomas Jefferson
but also the sense of commitment to discovery and exploration …”
Executive Director, Association of Partners for Public Lands
Would spirit, commitment, discovery and exploration appeal to your audience?
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