… your position has already probably proved to you that while the real business of conducting the affairs of our constituents is plain & easy, that of deciding by whom they shall be conducted is most painful & perplexing. it is the case of one loaf and ten men wanting bread: and we have not the gift of multiplying them.
To Joseph Bloomfield, December 5, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders are vexed by personnel issues.
Bloomfield, the new Republican governor of New Jersey, asked a favor of the President, the subject of the next post. Jefferson began his reply affirming his high regard for anything Bloomfield would send his way. Then he had a little “shop talk” with his fellow office-holder.
Bloomfield’s letter was about someone seeking a government job. Jefferson commiserated with his fellow office-holder with two observations they both knew:
1. WHAT should be done to aid their constituents was “plain & easy.”
2. Choosing WHO should do that work was “most painful & perplexing.”
Jefferson likened it to having 10 hungry men and only enough food for one. Drawing on a Biblical parallel, he admitted he lacked the miraculous means to turn one person’s food into a feast for 10.
Jefferson always found that deciding the personnel issues of governing was far more stressing than the problems to be solved.