Tag Archives: U.S. Constitution

Thanks, Mr. Jefferson, for writing the Constitution! (WRONG!)

… one passage, in the paper you inclosed me, must be corrected. it is the following. ‘and all say that it was yourself more than any other individual, that planned & established it.’ i.e. the constitution. I was in Europe when the constitution was planned & established, and never saw it till after it was established. on receiving it I wrote strongly to mr Madison urging … [a bill of rights] … he accordingly moved in the first session of Congress for these Amendments which were agreed to & ratified by the states as they now stand. this is all the hand I had in what related to the Constitution.
To Joseph Priestly, June 19, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders don’t take credit for others’ work.
English-born philosopher and scientist Priestly (1733-1804) was one of Jefferson’s closest confidantes. Yet, when Priestly credited Jefferson with being the moving force behind America’s Constitution, he denied it for the simple reason he was in France when it was written!

James Madison, often referred to as the father of the Constitution, sent a copy of it to Jefferson in Paris. Jefferson liked much of it but complained that it guaranteed no rights for individuals nor did it term-limit the President. At his urging, Congress added the Bill of Rights but set no restriction on the President’s length of service.

Mr. Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He had no role in drafting the Constitution in 1787.

“It was again a pleasure to host your performance …
Thank you for sharing your unique gift with us.”
Nature Center Manager, Missouri Department of Conservation
Let Mr. Jefferson share his unique gift with your audience!
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I would LOVE to, but …

no person on earth can entertain a higher idea than I do of the value of your collection … and I very much wish it could be made public property … you know that one of the great questions which has divided political opinion in this country is Whether Congress are authorised by the constitution to apply the public money to any but the purposes specially enumerated [listed] in the Constitution? those who hold them to the enumeration, have always denied that Congress have any power to establish a National academy …
To Charles Willson Peale, January 16, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Constitutional leaders limit their authority, emotion notwithstanding.
Peale (1741-1827), noted artist and friend of Jefferson’s, established Peale’s American Museum in Philadelphia, to chronicle the nation’s natural (scientific) history. Peale asked his friend if the nation might purchase his museum and move it to Washington to become a national academy.

Jefferson the scientist would have jumped on such an offer but for the Constitution. Instead, he referred to the debate in Congress whether the national government was limited in spending money only on the purposes listed in that document. His opinion was that the majority of Congress agreed with a very limited role.

Though Jefferson loved the idea of acquiring Peale’s museum for the national capital, he held the same opinion as Congress, expressed in a recent post. Perhaps it was his friendship with Peale that kept him from declining the offer personally, as he did in that post, laying the responsibility with the Congress.

Peale’s museum did become the nation’s premier repository of natural history specimens, though it remained a private endeavor. Many plant and animal specimens collected by Lewis & Clark found their permanent home there. Some years later, one of Peale’s sons moved the museum to Baltimore.

“You are an amazingly talent man.
What an incredible portrayal you gave us … in Washington, D.C.”

President, National Speakers Association
Would incredible appeal to your audience?
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Originally posted at http://ThomasJeffersonLeadership.com/blog/

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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.
Let Mr. Jefferson contribute to the success of your meeting!
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Does government help or hurt?

when we consider that this government is charged with the external & mutual relations only of these states, that the states themselves have principal care of our persons, our property, & our reputation, constituting the great field of human concerns, we may well doubt whether our organisation is not too complicated, too expensive; whether offices & officers have not been multiplied unnecessarily, & sometimes injuriously to the service they were meant to promote.
First Annual (State of the Union) Address, November 27, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders understand the limits of their responsibility.
Jefferson’s understanding of the U.S. Constitution was that the job of the federal government was two-fold:
1. Foreign relations and national defense (“external …relations”)
2. Promoting commercial relationships and mediating issues between the states (“mutual relations”)

Instead, he saw a national government, desiring to do all manner of good for its citizens, that had expanded its reach far beyond those limited Constitutional responsibilities. The result was a government that was:
1. Too complicated
2. Too expensive
3. Had too many offices and too many employees
4. Sometimes hurt the very causes they intended to help

Jefferson went on in his State of the Union message to explain what he was doing to limit Washington’s overreach.

“The presentation as Thomas Jefferson was by far
the most original, educational and interesting program
I have seen in many years involved with OSLS.”

Executive Director, Oklahoma Society of Land Surveyors
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Got something to hide? Muzzle the press!

… I may err in my measures, but never shall deflect from the intention to fortify the public liberty by every possible means, and to put it out of the power of the few to riot on the labors of the many. No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions…
To John Tyler, June 18, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders with nothing to hide love a free press!
John Tyler, 1747-1813, was a friend and contemporary, a fellow Virginian, lawyer, planter and patriot. He was also the father of John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States.

Expanding and strengthening public liberty was a life-long goal for Jefferson. America was an “experiment” in that goal, toward a government based on “reason and truth.” To achieve that end, “all the avenues to the truth” must be left open.


The first and most effective avenue for liberty, truth and reason was a free press. That same free press was the first victim of those who had something to hide.

Organizations of lawyers rarely agree on many things,
but I received unanimous praise for your presentation.”
Programs Committee Chair, ACREL, (American Council of Real Estate Lawyers)

If lawyers can agree that Thomas Jefferson makes an exceptional presentation,
how much more will your audience appreciate his inspirational and challenging message!
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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This is why I should not. (I am going to do it anyway.)

When an instrument [the Constitution] admits two constructions [interpretations], the one safe, the other dangerous, the one precise, the other indefinite, I prefer that which is safe & precise. I had rather ask an enlargement of power from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless. Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.
To Wilson Cary Nicholas, September 7, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders support clear limits on their authority.
Nicholas was a close friend, political supporter and U.S. Senator from Virginia. The subject at hand was whether the Constitution gave the U.S. the right to add new land to the nation, in this case, Louisiana. Jefferson thought not and wanted to amend the Constitution. His friends talked him out of it.
Here, Jefferson argued his ideal position, going no further than what the Constitution clearly allowed and staying away from what it might imply. Amend it if necessary but don’t make it “a blank paper,” i.e. meaningless and toothless by teasing out whatever meaning one wanted at the time.
Jefferson still takes a lot of heat for espousing “strict construction” of the Constitution yet deliberately going beyond its authority to purchase Louisiana. That will probably be the subject of another post.

“I would highly recommend your organization consider Mr. Lee for an event
and assure you it will be memorable for years to come.”

President, Nevada Association of Land Surveyors
Invite Thomas Jefferson to make your meeting memorable.
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