Tag Archives: Writer

Everyone else is gone. SOMEONE needs to stay in town.

The Presidt. [Washington] goes off the day after tomorrow as he had always intended. Knox [Secretary of War] then takes flight. Hamilton [Secretary of Treasury] is ill of the fever … I would really go away, because I think there is rational danger, but that I had before announced that I should not go till the beginning of October, & I do not like to exhibit the appearance of panic. Besides that I think there might serious ills proceed from there being not a single member of the administration in place.
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, September 8, 1793

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, the nation’s capital at the time, which killed 5,000 of the city’s 50,000 residents.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Responsible leaders put themselves at risk for the cause.
Secretary of State Jefferson wrote his friend Madison that Hamilton was ill and other senior government officers were leaving Philadelphia to escape the yellow fever epidemic. (There is no mention of the whereabouts of VP John Adams and Attorney General Edmund Pendleton.) He preferred to leave himself in the face of “rational danger.”

However, he had previously made it known he would stay in Philadelphia until October. If he left, too, it might “exhibit the appearance of panic” to a city already engulfed in panic. Also, he thought it unsafe to leave the nation’s capital with “not a single member of the administration in place.” For reasons both domestic and foreign, he would leave himself at risk.

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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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What to do when no one knows what to do?

The yellow fever increases. The week before last about 3. a day died. This last week about 11. a day have died; consequently from known data about 33. a day are taken, and there are about 330. patients under it. They are much scattered through the town, and it is the opinion of the physicians that there is no possibility of stopping it. They agree it is a non-descript disease [without distinctive features or characteristics], and no two agree in any one part of their process of cure.
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, September 8, 1793

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, the nation’s capital at the time, which killed 5,000 of the city’s 50,000 residents.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes there are no answers.
Secretary of State Jefferson reported to friend and Congressman Madison at home in Virginia on the yellow fever devastating Philadelphia. Evidence-based medical practice was in its infancy, yet all doctors, college trained or self-taught, agreed on two things:
1. There was no uniform description of the disease.
2. There was no way to stop it.

NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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In a crisis, panic makes reality worse.

A malignant fever [in] Philadelphia … has given great alarm. It is considerably infectious … Tho there is some degree of danger, yet, as is usual, there is much more alarm than danger; and knowing it to be usual also to magnify these accounts in proportion to distance, I have given you the particulars, that you may know exactly what the case is.
Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., September 2, 1793

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, which killed 5,000 of the city’s 50,000 residents.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders also address the alarm that arises in crises.
Jefferson wrote his son-in-law, Martha’s husband, about the fierce yellow fever plague attacking Philadelphia. Although Randolph was inland, several hundred miles away and safe from the scourge of disease, he could not escape the alarm spread by newspaper accounts and gossip.

Jefferson believed there was “more alarm than danger,” and the alarm was magnified the further it traveled. Thus, he reported accurately the situation in Philadelphia to his family, that the alarm might not exceed the reality.

“If I didn’t know any better,
I would swear I just spent an hour with President Thomas Jefferson.”
Executive Director, Wisconsin Agri-Business Association
Spend an hour with President Jefferson.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.

 

 

 

https://founders.archives.gov/?q=%22yellow%20fever%22%20Author%3A%22Jefferson%2C%20Thomas%22&s=1111311113&r=6

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Everyone who can flee the disease is doing so.

A malignant fever … in the filth of Water street which gives great alarm. About 70. people had died of it two days ago, & as many more were ill of it… now got into most parts of the city & is considerably infectious. At first 3. out of 4. died. Now about 1. out of 3. It comes on with a pain in the head, sick stomach, then a little chill, fever, black vomiting & stools, & death from the 2d. to the 8th. day. Every body, who can, is flying from the city, and the panic of the country people is likely to add famine to disease. Tho becoming less mortal, it is still spreading, and the heat of the weather is very unpropitious. I have withdrawn my daughter from the city, but am obliged to go to it every day myself.
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, September 1, 1793

For several years, I have been excerpting Thomas Jefferson’s letters sequentially during his presidency. In light of the coronavirus, I am reverting to much earlier letters that address the plague of yellow fever along the Atlantic coast.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know plagues attack every generation.
Jefferson was President Washington’s Secretary of State in 1793 when the nation’s capitol was in Philadelphia. It was a tidewater city, meaning Delaware River levels rose and fell with the Atlantic tides, creating swampy areas in the city. One of those, “in the filth of Water street,” had given rise to the yellow fever, which attacked all tidewater areas every August and September.

Jefferson wrote the disease was “considerably infectious” and had spread to most of the city of 50,000. Three-fourths of its earliest victims died, but that level had dropped to one-third. “About 70. people” had died on a single day two days before. Everyone who could flee the city was doing so. He feared panic would spread to the farmers who would refuse to bring their produce to the city’s markets, adding famine to the scourge of disease.

The disease was still expanding. He had sent his 15 year old daughter, Maria, away from the city, but his duties required him to be there every day.

The 1793 plague would kill 5,000, 10% of the city’s population.

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An extraordinary presentation awaits your audience!
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Social distancing, Thomas Jefferson style

…the yellow fever …is generated only in low close, and ill-cleansed parts of a town, I have supposed it practicable to prevent it’s generation by building our cities on a more open plan. take for instance the chequer board for a plan. let the black squares only be building squares, and the white ones be left open, in turf & trees. every square of houses will be surrounded by four open squares, & every house will front an open square. the atmosphere of such a town would be like that of the country, insusceptible of the miasmata which produce yellow fever. I have accordingly proposed that the enlargements of the city of New Orleans … shall be on this plan.
To Constantin François Chasseboeuf Volney, February 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders plan with public health in mind.
This excerpt is a duplicate, from September 10, 2019, but with a twist, in light of the coronavirus.

Jefferson addressed the scourge of yellow fever, which ravaged coastal and tidewater cities in August and September each year. (In 1793, it killed 5,000 in Philadelphia, a city of 45-50,000.) He believed the cause was “miasma,” an unhealthy vapor arising in crowded, dirty cities, suffering from a shortage of fresh air.

Since New Orleans, also on the tidewater, had recently been added to the U.S., he proposed future expansions of that city be made on a checkerboard plan. All development would be on squares of one color only. All squares of the other color were to be left open. Thus, every populated block would have blocks of green space on all four sides. This would provide for less disease through social distancing, as a matter of urban design.

It would be nearly a century before the cause of yellow fever was discovered, not miasma but mosquitoes that thrived in the the swampy, tidewater environment.

“…regarding Patrick…our Education Program received glowing reports
from every attendee – over 200 total.”
Executive Director, Florida Surveying and Mapping Society
Mr. Jefferson’s presentation will result in glowing reports from your conference attendees, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Risk 38 years of esteem? No way! Part 2

and with respect to myself particularly, after eight & thirty years of uniform action in harmony with those now constituting the republican party, without one single instant of alienation from them, it cannot but be my most earnest desire to carry into retirement with me their undivided approbation [approval] & esteem. I retain therefore a cordial friendship for both the sections now so unhappily dividing your state.
Thomas Jefferson to Michael Leib, August 11, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders near retirement safeguard their legacy.
In the previous post, Jefferson wrote as matter of policy and as a federal official, he must take no side in state political quarrels. Here, he went from the philosophical to the personal.

For almost four decades, he had allied himself consistently with the republican (small r) cause. No person of that persuasion had ever distanced themselves from him over intra-party differences. He was nearing the end of his public life and wished to carry with him into retirement “their undivided approbation & esteem.” Thus, he would remain friends with both sides, regardless of the damage they were doing to the republican cause in Pennsylvania.

“The Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Inc. highly recommends Mr. Lee
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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I am staying out of this mess! Always have. Part 1

You must be persuaded that great sensibility would be excited in this State, could it be believed that the President of the United States would interfere in our elections; and without any other authority than my confidence in you, I have flatly denied any such interference.
Michael Leib to Thomas Jefferson, July 22, 1805

I see with extreme concern the acrimonious dissensions into which our friends in Pensylvania have fallen, but have long since made up my mind on the propriety of the general [national] government’s taking no side in state quarrels…
Thomas Jefferson to Michael Leib, August 12, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep their noses out of other people’s disagreements.
The Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Robert McKean, was being challenged for that office by another Republican, Simon Snyder. Michael Leib reported that Jefferson had been represented as favoring McKean over Snyder. Leib alerted the President to the danger of such action and to local disputants, denied Jefferson’s involvement.

The President hated controversy and confrontation, particularly between friends or political allies. He would try to defuse such feelings if possible and take no side, regardless. State quarrels were not his to mediate, no matter how much they troubled him.

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Executive Director, League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Mr. Jefferson will contribute greatly to the success of your meeting!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.

 

 

 

 

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Get these nutjob women off my back!

I have for some time been pestered with letters & packages from two women of the name of Bampfield whom I never saw or heard of & must suppose to be mad. I have just recieved the inclosed packet. from the daughter … the mother [may be] in Baltimore, I wish to return to her, without looking into it’s contents, in order to put an end to the correspondence. perhaps the letter carriers of your office may be able to find her. if not the letters may take the usual course of unclaimed letters. I have left the packet open to give you an idea of the writer …
From Thomas Jefferson to Charles Burrall, August 9, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
No leader likes being stalked.
Burrall was Postmaster of Baltimore. The President had “been pestered” by repeated unwanted correspondence from a mother and daughter, one of whom might live in Baltimore. He didn’t know the women but from their writings thought they must “be mad.” He asked Burrall’s help in returning the letters to their source, hoping to end the nuisance.

He invited Burrall to review the letters and form his own opinion.

“Your presentation as Thomas Jefferson of the
“Seven Reasons Why Revolutions Succeed”

was very well received.”
EVP, American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
Mr. Jefferson has relevant wisdom for your audience.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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I need everyone’s opinions!

General Dearborne has seen all the papers. I will ask the favor of you to communicate them to mr Gallatin & mr Smith—from mr Gallatin I shall ask his first opinions, preparatory to the stating formal questions for our ultimate decision.
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, August 7, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders know five heads are better than one.
The President was circulating a packet of correspondence and papers regarding a failed diplomatic effort toward Spain. He needed to formulate a new policy toward that nation that also considered U.S. relations with England and the rest of Europe.

Jefferson suggested what he thought that policy might be. He wanted the opinions of all his cabinet: Madison, Secretary of State; Dearborne, Secretary of War; Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury; and Smith, Secretary of the Navy. (The Attorney General’s office was vacant.)

With their opinions in hand, he would formulate a final list of questions they would all consider before he drafted the nation’s position. Even that summation would be subject to their review and comment. He wanted his administration to speak with a single, unified voice.

“Patrick was a pleasure to work with … professional, timely, and accurate …”
Conference and Travel Manager, Kansas City Life Insurance Company
Thomas Jefferson will be a pleasure to work with, too.
Invite him to speak to your audience. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Patrick Henry, good and bad

were I to give his character in general terms, it would be of mixed aspect. I think he was the best humored man in society I almost ever knew, and the greatest orator that ever lived. he had a consummate knolege of the human heart, which directing the efforts of his eloquence enabled him to attain a degree of popularity with the people at large never perhaps equalled. his judgment in other matters was inaccurate in matters of law it was not worth a copper: he was avaritious & rotten hearted. his two great passions were the love of money & of fame: but when these came into competition the former predominated.
Thomas Jefferson to William Wirt, August 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even-handed leaders acknowledge both virtues and faults.
Wirt (1772-1834) was a lawyer, writer and public official. He was collecting memories of the late Patrick Henry, who died in 1799.  Wirt knew of the lengthy, contentious relationship between Henry and Jefferson and asked the latter’s opinion, “His faults, as well as his virtues.”

Jefferson began with Henry’s virtues. He
1. Was a very social man.
2. Was the greatest orator in history.
3. Understood the human heart very well.
4. Coupled that understanding with his eloquence to achieve a very high level of popularity.

And then his faults:
1. He lacked good judgment.
2. His legal knowledge was worthless.
3. He was greedy and mean-spirited.
4. He loved both money and fame.
5. When he could not have both, he chose money.

Jefferson offered this candid assessment only because the trustworthy Wirt asked for it, promised no one would read it but himself, and the letter would be returned to its author.

Two years later, the President appointed Wirt to be the prosecutor in Aaron Burr’s treason trial. President Monroe would appoint Wirt to be Attorney General in 1817, a position he would hold for a dozen years.

“Your presentation, particularly your response to questions, was most impressive.”
Member, Program Committee, American College of Real Estate Lawyers
Mr. Jefferson enjoys a rousing Q&A session after his remarks!
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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