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Let the market, not government, prove the worth of your medicine.

…  physicians are as far from being agreed as to what is the yellow fever, as what is it’s cure. if the disease which you have so successfully treated [is] … the yellow fever, and your remedy so certain, I shoud imagine some of the great cities in which it has prevailed & is still prevailing, would be the best scene for exhibiting proofs of your discovery … [and] would in all probability produce satisfactory recompence … I do not think an application to Congress could be useful, because they have already as far as their constitutional powers go, done what they thought best for securing to inventors the benefits of their inventions.
Thomas Jefferson to John Allen, October 25, 1802

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some leaders respect the role of private enterprise.
John Allen, a English physician practicing in Maine, claimed he had cured nearly 60 people of the yellow fever. He asked the President’s advice about how to roll out his discovery. Should he take it to a medical society, to a warmer climate for more research or to Congress? (There was a hint in Allen’s letter that he might be looking for financial gain.)

The President cast a little doubt on Allen’s claims but declined involvement, citing the press of his official duties. Wanting to be helpful, he suggested trying it out in “some of the great cities” still afflicted, those along the Atlantic coast.

Congress, limited by the Constitution, could be of no help beyond what they’d already done, allowing “inventors the benefits of their inventions.”

Mr. Jefferson desires to be helpful to your audience, 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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What good might come from this evil epidemic?

I … congratulate you on the healthiness of your city [Philadelphia]. still Baltimore, Norfolk & Providence admonish us that we are not clear of our new scourge. when great evils happen, I am in the habit of looking out for what good may arise from them as consolations to us: and Providence has in fact so established the order of things as that most evils are the means of producing some good. the yellow fever will discourage the growth of great cities in our nation; & I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man. true, they nourish some of the elegant arts; but the useful ones can thrive elsewhere, and less perfection in the others with more health virtue & freedom would be my choice.
Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the yellow fever that ravaged coastal cities in the nation’s earliest years.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders expect good to arise from the bad.
The Vice-President was encouraged that his friend’s home town, devastated in previous years by yellow fever, had come through the dangerous months in good shape. The scourge was still a danger, as other cities were still menaced.

Jefferson was generally an optimist. When evil came, he looked for what good might result, believing  Providence generally arranged things in that way.

He believed one positive result would be less interest in large cities. He had firsthand experience, living in Paris for five years, visiting London, and serving over the years in both New York and Philadelphia. He thought cities threatened the health, morals and liberties of their inhabitants. He gave cities credit for nourishing the “elegant arts” but would sacrifice some of that for “more health virtue & freedom.”

The continued growth of cities proved Jefferson’s expectations wrong.

Mr. Jefferson is right on most things. Your audience will agree.
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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This virus is messing with business!

In consequence of your friendly letter of May 23. I wrote you on the 8th. of June that I should immediately order 10. hhds [hogheads, large wooden barrels holding 10,000 pounds] of tobo. [tobacco] from Richmond to New York, consigned to you … [I write} to enquire whether they got safe to hand and are sold or likely to be so, & what prospect there would be of selling our whole crop of the same quality? I am aware that the yellow fever may have disturbed the operations of commerce so far as to have prevented the sale. I only wish to know the fact.
Thomas Jefferson to Henry Remsen, October 14, 1799

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the yellow fever that ravaged coastal cities in the nation’s earliest years.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Extenuating circumstances leave even leaders in the dark.
Four months earlier, the Vice-President  directed his agent in Richmond, VA, to ship a quantity of tobacco to New York for Remsen to sell. Jefferson knew it had been shipped but didn’t know if it arrived or had been sold. (The value would have been from $7,000-9,000 in his time.) He asked Remsen for an update.

August and September were always the worst months for the yellow fever in coastal America. Jefferson acknowledged the illness might have delayed the shipping or sale. He just wanted to know where he stood.

Remsen replied on October 21, a letter which hasn’t been found. Jefferson wrote again in mid-January, still uncertain about the fate of his crop. Tobacco was one of only two crops farmers could raise and sell for cash. The other was wheat.

Mr. Jefferson will not be uncertain when he inspires your audience!
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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How does the epidemic affect a dirt plow?

…  you take a great interest in whatever relates to this first & most precious of all the arts [agriculture], I have packed in a small box, a model of a mouldboard of a plough …  accompanied by a block, which will shew the form in which the block is to be got for making the [it] …however as this would not explain it’s principles, alone, I accompany it … [with]a minute description of the principles & construction. the printer having (on his removal from the yellow fever) lost several of the plates …  & among them that relating to the Mouldboard, I have supplied this last by some sketches which may enable you to understand the description.
Thomas Jefferson to Robert R. Livingston, April 30, 1800

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the yellow fever that ravaged coastal cities in the nation’s earliest years.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders freely give to help others understand.
Thomas Jefferson created a new design for the moldboard, the cutting edge of a plow, making it much more efficient implement for turning the soil. In an age when most men were farmers, his invention had an immediate, practical and valuable benefit. He never patented his invention but shared it freely with others, often including instructions and drawings to illustrate its creation from a block of wood.

He did that for his good friend Livingston (1746-1813), a lifelong political ally. Livingston, served with Jefferson on the “Committee of Five” to draft the Declaration of Independence and in 1803, helped negotiate France’s sale of Louisiana to the U.S.

Jefferson wanted to include the printer’s renderings of the plow, but the printer lost the plates when he fled the yellow fever epidemic. Thus, Jefferson supplied his own sketches.

The fever will not hinder Mr. Jefferson from sharing his wisdom with you.
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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Independence launched for slaves, too, on July 4, 1776?

he [King George III of England] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people [Africans] who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium [disgrace] of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted [sacrificed for financial gain] his negative [veto] for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable [disgraceful] commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die [“lacking officialness”?], he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
Thomas Jefferson’s Draft of the Declaration of Independence,
Approved by the Committee of Five, July 2, 1776

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders stand by unpopular but necessary positions.
Much of the Declaration of Independence is a list of the many offenses suffered at the hands of the King of England. This was one of them, a no-holds-barred condemnation of the King’s protection, promotion, and expansion of the slave trade between Africa and his colonies.

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution in Congress calling for America’s independence. Four days later, Congress appointed a “Committee of Five” to draft the reasons why this radical action might be taken. Thomas Jefferson was one of the five and delegated by the other four to draft the original document. The Committee made a few changes in Jefferson’s work but left the paragraph above intact. Congress took up debate on the draft after Lee’s resolution for independence was approved on July 2.

This language is not in the Declaration of Independence adopted by the Congress on July 4, 1776. Why not? Georgia and South Carolina would not vote for independence if that language remained. It was a political decision that favored a unanimous  vote without this language, over a split vote with two colonies against independence if the language remained. Northern colonies which benefited from the slave trade were also complicit in the decision to drop the condemning words.

Jefferson was greatly distressed by this change. Benjamin Franklin, the senior and most respected member of the Committee of Five, counseled him  to hold his tongue. Jefferson did so.

This document shows the differences between the Declaration approved by the Committee of Five and the one adopted by the Congress. Note this entire paragraph was deleted.

Thomas Jefferson, a principled man despite his many uninformed detractors,
stands ready to inspire your audience.

Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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July 2, NOT the 4th, is Independence Day!

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
One leader gladly defers to another!
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution in Congress calling for independence from England. That motion was tabled while a “Committee of Five” drafted a document that would justify the colonies’ action. Congress approved Lee’s resolution on July 2, 1776, not July 4. It was on the 4th when Congress adopted the document that set forth the reasons for that action, known as our Declaration of Independence.

The original draft of the Declaration was written by Jefferson. It was amended by the drafting committee and again by the Congress before it was adopted on July 4. The final version was still essentially Jefferson’s creation.

On July 3, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, about the momentous action taken the day before. He thought July 2 would be celebrated as America’s day of independence. Regardless of the date, Adams penned a ringing affirmation about the significance of Congress’ action and how it should be celebrated throughout the land.

May your celebration of American independence be as reverent, grand, exuberant and noisy as John Adams recommended!

Mr. Jefferson has a great presentation about Independence Day!
It doesn’t have to be July 4 for you to hear it.
Call 573-657-2739 to schedule him for your audience.
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How do we respond to a troubling mystery?

The origin of the yellow fever being a vexata questio [troubling and unsolved] among the medical gentlemen, it is not for the unlearned to form an opinion on it. I believe it will be found that the close & solid method of building up cities in the cloudy climates of Europe must not be pursued under our clear sky. the quantity of our sunshine imposes a different law on us. all towns in America should be laid off on the plan of the chequer board, the white squares remaining unbuilt & in trees. every house would then front a square of trees: and the accidents of fire as well as disease better guarded against.
Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, September 12, 1799

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the yellow fever that ravaged coastal cities in the nation’s earliest years.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders anticipate and plan for unsolvable problems.

Writing to Dr. Rush in Philadelphia about recurrent yellow fever outbreaks in his city every late summer, Vice-President Jefferson made these observations:
1. If doctors don’t know the cause, uneducated people surely shouldn’t “form an opinion.”
2. Let America not adopt the European model of crowded cities.
3. America’s bountiful sunshine demands a lifestyle different from Europeans.
4. Cities should be developed on a checkerboard plan, with every other square undeveloped and covered with trees.
5. The twin dangers of disease and fire would both be “better guarded against.”

Note that Jefferson was being proactive, planning now for what might protect us later, rather than waiting until calamity struck and then reacting to it.

In a recent post titled “Social distancing, Thomas Jefferson style,” he proposed the same development plan for New Orleans in 1805.

Bring Mr. Jefferson’s wisdom and foresight to your audience.
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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Five years later, the disease returns in spades!

I am sincerely concerned at the revisitation of your city by the yellow fever. I wish you were in some of the higher streets of the city. your danger must be considerable, but I hope your prudence will be the greater.
Thomas Jefferson to John Barnes, August 31, 1798

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the yellow fever that ravaged coastal cities in the nation’s earliest years.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, leaders can do nothing.
Philadelphia merchant John Barnes was Vice-President Jefferson’s business agent, something of a personal banker, handling his client’s accounts, both receivable and payable. Barnes survived the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, which claimed 5,000 of the city’s residents. The disease returned in 1798 and claimed another 3,600 lives. Two-thirds of the city fled. Of those who remained, 20% died.

The disease was believed to result from bad air at the lowest elevations along the water front. Chances are Barnes’ shop was in that endangered area. Jefferson acknowledged the danger his friend faced, wished he was on higher ground, and hoped Barnes’ wisdom would prevail.

Mr. Jefferson’s wisdom will prevail for your audience.
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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It’s a crap shoot!

Still I have not learnt how a stranger is to know into what houses he may venture, as not having had the disease at all. In fact the members have ventured into both taverns and lodging houses, where they have had it. Francis’s hotel near the Indian Queen has never had it, therefore you may safely land there. Mrs. Trist intends to take a small house and a few of her acquaintances: but I believe she has not got a house yet. In the one she formerly occupied, a person died of the fever: but Mr. Giles and Mr. Venable are there, and Stockdon has lived in the very room where the person died for a considerable time.
Thomas Jefferson to John F. Mercer, December 7, 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,  leaders have no answers, only information.
The Virginia-born Mercer (1759-1821) was now a Maryland lawyer and member of Congress. He had asked the Secretary of State about the status of the yellow fever in Philadelphia, where Congress had been called to reconvene. He also asked about the health risk of staying at certain inns or taverns.

Jefferson knew of no way a visitor might learn what Mercer asked. He reported other members of Congress were staying in both “taverns and lodging places.” He thought Francis’ hotel should be safe as none of their boarders had had the disease. A friend, “Mrs. Trist,” was moving from a boarding house where the disease had been, but two other acquaintances were there now, one living in the same room where another had died.

Mr. Jefferson will bring a healthy perspective to your audience!
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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I was fortunate. Others were not.

I have not yet been in [to Philadelphia from Germantown, six miles northwest], not because there is a shadow of danger, but because I am afoot.—Thomas is returned into my service. His wife and child went into town the day we left them. They then had the infection of the yellow fever, were taken two or three days after, and both died. Had we staid those two or three days longer, they would have been taken at our house. I have heard nothing of Miss Cropper. Her trunk remains at our house. Mrs. Fullerton left Philadelphia. Mr. and Mrs. Rittenhouse remained there but have escaped the fever.
Thomas Jefferson to Maria Jefferson, November 18, 1793

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
President Washington had gone into Philadelphia, but Jefferson had not, for want of a coachman. Thomas Lapseley had returned to fulfill that role after the death of his wife and child. That family had lived with or near him in the city. Jefferson acknowledged had he not fled when he did, he might have perished with them.

“Miss Cropper” was Mary’s schoolmate who lived with the Jeffersons when their boarding school closed. “Mrs. Fullerton” ran that school. The Rittenhouses, from whom he asked to borrow a camera obscura for Maria ‘s education stayed in the city but “escaped the fever.”

Countless audiences have benefited from Thomas Jefferson’s experience. So will yours.
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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