… with a heart disposed to do whatever is honest and honorable, and a head able to decide by calculation that what is not right can under no possible circumstances be useful … that by going strait forward and doing exactly what is just and moral, the way will open before you, and the mountains of difficulty subside: when by resorting to head-work and contrivence, one only gets more & more entangled in the mazes of their own cunning, and finally enveloped in a self-woven web of disgrace. but I catch myself sermonizing again, & have again to seek my apology …
To Lewis Harvie, January 25, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know intellectual cleverness alone is never enough.
The 21 year old Harvie (1782-1807) was the son of Jefferson’s childhood friend and grandson of his guardian upon the death of his own father in 1757. The young man requested an appointment as secretary to James Monroe during the latter’s service in Europe negotiating the future of American shipping on the Mississippi River.
Jefferson declined the appointment, not because Harvie was unqualified, but because Monroe would probably want to choose his own secretary. The President then outlined a deliberate and lengthy course of action for a young man who wanted a career in public service, similar to one Jefferson himself began 40 years earlier.
The President concluded with this advice for Harvie:
1. He should have the heart always to do what was “honest and honorable.”
2. His mind should be clear enough to warn him away from dubious enterprises.
3. Governed by sound mind and heart, the right course would become clear.
4. If he abandoned the moral compass of his heart and relied only on his mind, he would come to ruin and disgrace of his own making.
He then admitted he was preaching to the young man and apologized.
Later in 1803 Jefferson appointed Harvie to replace Meriwether Lewis as his personal secretary when Lewis left to lead the exploration up the Missouri River. Harvie took ill in 1805 and died two years later at the age of 25.