Is Washington “rigorously frugal & simple”?



I am for a government rigorously frugal & simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers & salaries …

Source: To Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799

Patrick Lee’s Explanation

Realistic leaders reign in bureaucracies.
Massachusetts-born in 1744, Gerry was a businessman, politician and diplomat. In early 1799, Gerry was in France, embroiled in the aftermath of the XYZ Affair, where France tried to extort large amounts from American diplomats as a pre-condition to negotiations. In this lengthy letter, Vice-President Jefferson took great pains to assure Gerry of his unfailing confidence and support.

A portion of this letter is a summary of Jefferson’s views about the rights of citizens and their states, and the need to resist the growth in the national government. Any excess revenue should be for one purpose only, paying off the nation’s debt. Surpluses should not be used to increase government employment, which would simply swell the ranks of those devoted to (and dependent upon) that government.

Jefferson said he would send this letter by a trusted private courier, because mail from him sent through regular public channels could be opened. He expressed his confidence that Gerry would never let the letter “go out of your hand.” He asked Gerry to read it as many times as he wanted, preserve the first page which contains this excerpt, and burn the rest, where, “I have unbosomed myself fully,” with strong partisan opinions. Even with these precautions, the letter ended, “I need not add my signature.” And he did not.

Elbridge Gerry is most noted for an act as governor of Massachusetts in 1812, approving legislative districts that favored the Democrat-Republicans. One of the districts was said to resemble a salamander. From that came the phrase, gerrymander, popularized by a cartoon in a Boston newspaper.

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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.

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