Speaking on leadership & wisdom
                       ... from the past ... to the present ... for your future
"Were we directed from Washington
when to plant and when to reap,
we would soon want bread."
Thomas Jefferson, 1821
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this [securing our liberty] requires two grades of education. first some institution where science in all it’s branches is taught, and in the highest degree to which the human mind has carried it … secondly such a degree of learning given to every member of the society as will enable him to read, to judge & to vote understandingly on what is passing. this would be the object of township schools. I understand from your letter that the first of these only is under present contemplation. let us recieve with contentment what the legislature is now ready to give. the other branch will be incorporated into the system at some more favorable moment.
Thomas Jefferson to Littleton W. Tazewell, January 5, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Practical leaders take what they can get gratefully and work for more later.
Responding to Tazewell’s inquiry about a university, Thomas Jefferson replied that a university alone wasn’t enough. It needed to be coupled with general education for all. Higher education in all the sciences was essential for preparing the gifted for leadership. General education was necessary, too, enabling all men “to read, to judge & to vote understandingly.”

Jefferson accepted willingly that the legislature was considering only higher education. It was an essential step in the right direction. He would welcome the addition of general education at a later time.

About 30 years before, Jefferson authored a “Bill for the General Diffusion of Knowledge” in Virginia. It proposed three years of free public education for all boys and girls, two additional levels of advanced, fee-based schooling, and a scholarship program for the brightest but poorest students. Of course, slave children were not considered, but his proposal was radical in a time when the only ones privileged to have any advanced education were those born male, white and to parents with the means to pay for it privately. His proposals were never completely adopted, but he lobbied for the cause for the remaining 50 years of his life.

“Mr. Patrick Lee did a wonderful job of portraying Thomas Jefferson…
[and]
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Executive Director, Missouri Independent Bankers Association
Mr. Jefferson will also tailor his remarks to your audience.
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Leave a comment Posted in Education, Protecting ourselves Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Finally! Our liberty will be (partially) secured! (1 of 7)

Your favor of December [24. never] came to my hands till last night. it’s importance induces me to hasten the answer. no one can be more rejoiced at the information that the legislature of Virginia are likely at length to institute an University on a liberal plan. convinced that the people are the only safe depositories of their own liberty, & that they are not safe unless enlightened to a certain degree, I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession, unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree.
Thomas Jefferson to Littleton W. Tazewell, January 5, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders understand the connection between education and freedom.
Tazewell (1774-1860), 31 years younger than Thomas Jefferson, was a Virginia lawyer, landowner and politician. He wrote that the Virginia legislature might be willing to consider some form of higher education in the state and wanted the President’s thoughts on “one great seminary of learning.”

Few things turned Jefferson’s crank in a good way more than the subject of education. He responded at length the very next day. Excerpts from his lengthy reply will comprise seven posts.

Only educated citizens who understood their liberty belonged to them as a natural right and not a privilege granted by their leaders would be able to keep that liberty secure. Otherwise, the freedom they now enjoyed would be a “short-lived possession.” A university would be an essential part of that education.

“I was especially impressed with the question and answer session …
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1 Comment Posted in Education, Independence, Protecting ourselves Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

This is my problem, not yours. Go. (Part 2 of 2)

I must now turn to the painful task of finding a successor. altho you had prepared me for this event, I am as much unprovided as if it were now for the first time mentioned. I see not who is to fill the chasm. but this labour is my lot. be yours that of domestic felicity, of health & long life: and with this wish accept my affectionate salutations & assurances of great & constant esteem & respect.
Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, December 28, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Departing trusted lieutenants are one of a leader’s greatest challenges.
In the previous post, Thomas Jefferson reluctantly but with understanding accepted the resignation of his Attorney General for family reasons. Filling the vacancy now posed a “painful task.”

In a series of recent posts, the President explained how personnel issues were the most difficult part of his job. Governing was easy. Picking the people who would govern with him was not. Although Jefferson knew this day was coming, he was still unprepared with a successor. No one could “fill the chasm.”

Stoic in this regard, Jefferson acknowledged his job was to deal with it. Lincoln’s was to enjoy family, “health & long life.” Although unspoken, Jefferson must have envied Lincoln’s escaping Washington. It would be four more years before he could enjoy what Lincoln would have immediately.

John Breckenridge and then Caesar Rodney would serve as Attorney General in the President’s second term.

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but it was technically and historically accurate.”

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Leave a comment Posted in Family matters, Presidency Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

I have been where you are. Go. (Part 1 of 2)

I recieved last night your letter of the 26th. proposing to resign your office, and I recieved it with real affliction. it would have been my greatest happiness to have kept together, to the end of my term, our executive family: for our harmony & cordiality has really made us but as one family … yet I am a father and have been a husband. I know the sacred duties which these relations impose the feelings they inspire, & that they are not to be resisted by a warm heart. I yield therefore to your will. you carry with you my entire approbation of your official conduct, my thanks for your services, my regrets on losing them, and my affectionate friendship.
Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, December 28, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders know family must come before work.
Massachusetts born Lincoln (1749-1820) was a close political ally of Thomas Jefferson. Elected to Congress in 1800, the President immediately appointed him Attorney General, instead. Lincoln intended to serve two years in Congress and return home. Instead, he had served the President almost four years. He had spoken to Jefferson of his interest in retiring, but now he put it in writing.

Jefferson’s cabinet had been with him for his first administration. He appreciated their counsel, cooperation and friendship, regarding them “as one family.” He was planning on a second term and hoped his cabinet would remain with him to enjoy the acclaim of a grateful nation four years hence.

But Lincoln said no. His family needed him. Jefferson, father and widower, understood those “sacred duties.” Though it pained him, the President acceded to Lincoln’s request, offering his highest possible professional and personal commendation.

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Leadership. Wonderful. Unique. Successful.
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Leave a comment Posted in Family matters Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Not enough paper to write to his wife!

I have the pleasure to inform you that mr Briggs & his companion were in good health at Colo. Hawkins establishment near the Talapousee river, which place they left on the 3d. of Oct. and expected to be at Fort Stoddart in a week from that time. mr Briggs having been able to procure but a single half sheet of paper, which he was obliged to fill with a report to me, had no means of writing to you. the Indians had recieved & treated him with great kindness. we may shortly expect to hear of his arrival at New Orleans.
Thomas Jefferson to Hannah Briggs, December 5, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep wives informed.
Isaac Briggs, Surveyor General of the Mississippi Territory, was traveling between Washington City and New Orleans to make astronomical observations for the development of a new southern postal road. He reported to the President on October 2 about their arduous progress.

He did not have enough paper to write both his boss and his wife. He put his job first, concluding his report with a request that the President inform his wife of his well-being.

In a reply two weeks later, Hannah Briggs thanked the President, claiming this was the first word she’d had about her husband in three months. She begged any further information he might receive,  good or bad.

On January 2, Thomas Jefferson wrote again to Mrs. Briggs about her husband’s safe arrival in New Orleans.

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Immigrants should be treated … how?

they will find a disposition in the great majority here to do whatever circumstances will admit for our new fellow citizens, to do as much for them as we do for our own brothers & children settling in new territories, & only to refuse them what the principles of our constitution & government refuse equally to all … we have no motive of action here but the combined good of the whole & all it’s parts … in a whole composed of parts, no one part must come for itself. if particular individuals … excite insurrection with you, the energies of the law must lay hold of them.
To William C. C. Claiborne, December 2, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even-handed leaders respect all law-abiding parties.
The President wrote to the Territorial Governor of Louisiana, using the arrival of two Frenchman to explain how all newcomers should be treated:
1. The “great majority” of our citizens will welcome newcomers.
2. Immigrants and Americans should receive equal treatment in the new territory.
3. The immigrant  is denied only what our Constitution denies to all.
4. America’s only motive is “the combined good of the whole & all it’s parts.”
5. It is common sense that no one part should expect favorable treatment.
6. Rebellion by anyone should be treated seriously, as provided by law.

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My idea won’t work. I am calling an audible.

The importance of appointing officers for the government of Orleans who speak both the French and English languages has produced difficulties … which have distressed me exceedingly. the French language entered so little into education in this country … it is difficult, even among those, otherwise well qualified, to find persons who can speak French. the impossibility of compleating my arrangement in the way I had first proposed has placed me under the painful, but inevitable necessity of some change in it. in fact my greatest difficulty is in finding lawyers who can speak French: and this has obliged me to make a change in your destination …
To James Brown, December 1, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders go to Plan B when their noble ideas don’t work.
In an earlier post, the President explained the importance of appointing people who spoke both English and French to the new territorial government in New Orleans. Since the majority of people there would be French speakers, bi-lingual leaders would facilitate good will. If only it were that easy …

French had not been taught enough in America to yield a sizeable pool of bi-lingual citizens. People otherwise qualified failed when it came to the second language requirement. The shortage was acute when it came to finding bi-lingual lawyers, and Brown must have been one of the few. Thus, Jefferson had to retreat from his noble idea and change Brown’s appointment. Instead of being Secretary for the new territory, Jefferson had nominated him, instead, for the Superior Court there. The pay would be the same but the perks more preferable.

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I hope you were as pleased with the turnout as I was.”
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Leave a comment Posted in Judiciary, Louisiana Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Such bickering is useless and destructive!

With respect to the late conduct of mr Lilly & Perry towards you as stated in your letter, I trust you know my line of conduct better than to suppose it could flow from any orders of mine … it is my rule never to take a side or any part in the quarrels of others, nor to enquire into them. I generally presume them to flow from the indulgence of too much passion on both sides, & always find that each party thinks all the wrong was in his adversary. these bickerings, which are always useless, embitter human life more than any other cause: and I regret that which has happened in the present case. I shall always be ready to render you any service I can …
To James Oldham, November 30, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders stay out of problems not their own.
Oldham, Jefferson’s highly regarded former joiner (skilled woodworker) at Monticello, wrote his patron about ugly accusations and death threats received from Lilly, a Monticello overseer, and his brother-in-law, Perry. The accusers claimed they were acting on information from Jefferson, himself.

Not so, wrote the President, claiming Oldham should know him well enough to know otherwise. Beyond that, Jefferson explained:
1. He took no part in such quarrels, not even asking questions about them.
2. Usually, the fault was “too much passion on both sides.”
3. Always, each side imputed all the blame to the other.
4. Always such useless bickering harmed personal relationships “more than any other cause.”

While staying out of the argument, Jefferson regretted Oldham found himself in such a predicament and affirmed his willingness to be of any assistance needed.

“Even though it has been a few months since the seminar in Boston,
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Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

I like it! I’d also like this and this. Oh, and this, too.

Passing as I do the active hours of my life in my study, I have found it essential to bring all the implements I use there within the narrowest compas possible; & in no case to lose a single inch of space which can be made to hold any thing. hence every thing is placed within my reach without getting out of my chair. on this principle I approve of the two drawers to the Polygraph proposed in your letter of the 25th … which would hold paper, pens, penknife, pencils, scissors, Etc. Etc. …
To Charles Willson Peale, November 28, 1804
P.S. Since writing my letter of this morning it has occurred to me …

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Efficient leaders appreciate advice in being even more efficient!
Previous posts detailed Jefferson’s delight in his polygraph, a personal copy machine. Philadelphia friend, artist and museum owner Peale was making two more, one ordered by the President for a friend and another for Jefferson’s use. Peale suggested the design of the polygraph case would allow for the addition of two storage drawers. Jefferson agreed!

Drawers would add to his efficiency, a matter of great interest to him. He wouldn’t have to leave his desk to get more supplies! Always the micro-manager when it came to his personal tastes, not only did he approve the drawers, but he also dictated their exact size, one “10⅜ I. square” and another “12⅜ I. by 6.” While he was at it, he suggested two other design changes.

If that weren’t enough, yet another modification came to mind later in the day. He rarely added postscripts to his letters, but he did this time. The proposed change would necessitate decreasing one dimension of each drawer “three quarters of an inch.”

“This was the third Blue & Gold Banquet I have attended,
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Business decisions are easy. Personnel ones are not. (OR: HR sucks. Part 5 of 5)

the transaction of the great interests of our country costs us little trouble or difficulty. there the line is plain to men of some experience. but the task of appointment is a heavy one indeed. he on whom it falls may envy the lot of a Sisyphus or Ixion. their agonies were of the body: this of the mind. yet, like the office of hangman, it must be executed by some one. it has been assigned to me & made my duty. I make up my mind to it therefore, & abandon all regard to consequences.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The hangman has to suck it up and do his job.
The subtitle for these five posts, “HR sucks,” is only an attention-getter, not a disparagement of the important field of human relations. Thomas Jefferson never used those words, but he might have had that thought. This series highlights the hardest part of his job, making decisions that affected people’s lives, their families and finances. He concluded with this summary.
1. Key leadership decisions were not troublesome “to men of some experience.”
2. Appointing people to offices was extremely troublesome.
3. He might envy mythological characters condemned to eternal physical punishment for their choices. His (Jefferson’s) torment was of the mind.
4. Like the hangman, this was his job, and he accepted the responsibility.
5. Having done so, he did it without “regard to the consequences,” i.e. human disappointment or collateral damage.

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