… while I was Secretary of State … I saw the importance of [taking notes] … in aid of my memory. Very often, therefore, I made memorandums on loose scraps of paper, taken out of my pocket in the moment, and laid by to be copied fair [recopied neatly] at leisure, which, however, they hardly ever were.
These scraps, therefore, ragged, rubbed, and scribbled as they were, I had bound with the others by a binder who came into my cabinet, did it under my own eye, and without the opportunity of reading a single paper. At this day, after the lapse of twenty-five years, or more, from their dates, I have given to the whole a calm revisal, when the passions of the time are passed away… Some of the informations I had recorded, are now cut out from the rest, because I have seen that they were incorrect, or doubtful, or merely personal or private …
Source: Introduction to The Anas, February 4, 1818
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Careful leaders keep records for posterity (& recognize their errors).
In 1821, at age 78, Jefferson wrote a partial autobiography, from birth until 1790. But several years before, he took on the task organizing the post-1790 portion of his copious notes. The result was three private volumes known as The Anas, covering from 1791 until the end of his Presidency in1809.
Some interesting things to note from his introduction:
1. His memory wasn’t perfect, even as young man. He needed to take notes.
2. The note-taking was methodical but casual, done on “loose scraps of paper.”
3. His intention was to recopy these notes, but that hardly ever happened. (Sound familiar?)
4. Now, 25 years later, he hired a bookbinder to work directly under his supervision to bind these “loose scraps of paper” into book form.
5. Upon reflection years later, “when the passions of the time are passed away,” he recognized some of his observations were wrong, without foundation or nobody else’s business. These he deleted from his “official” record.
The title to this post, “Now, where did I put that …?,” is almost a joke. It may be a question Jefferson rarely if ever asked himself. His ability to organize and retrieve material was phenomenal.
Mr. Jefferson’s recollections have value for your audience today!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
The Moral Liberal Thomas Jefferson Editor, Patrick Lee, is a professional speaker, actor and writer. Since 1990, he has inspired, entertained and educated audiences from Maine to Hawaii with his authentic, first person leadership presentations as President Thomas Jefferson, Frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Lewis & Clark Co-Leader William Clark. He also appears as himself, The Hopeful Humorist™, with a program of motivational humor, patriotism and inspiration.