… when we reflect how difficult it is to move or inflect the great machine of society, how impossible to advance the notions of a whole people suddenly to ideal right, we see … that no more good must be attempted than the nation can bear, and that will be chiefly to reform the waste of public money, & thus drive away the vultures who prey on it, and improve some little on old routines. some new fences for securing constitutional rights may, with the aid of a good legislature, perhaps be attainable.
Source: To Walter Jones, March 31, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know how little influence they really have over major issues.
Jefferson thanked another congratulatory writer and acknowledged “how difficult it is” to make great changes, no matter how obvious or necessary. Given that limitation, what could he do? Only what people would accept:
– End “the waste of public money”
– Deprive “the vultures” who fed on that waste
– Make minor improvements to things they were already doing
– Strengthen constitutional rights if the legislature would be so inclined
To address the question in the title: Jefferson had a vast vision for America’s future, but that potential rested with its citizens, not its government. His limited plans didn’t indicate a small vision but the opposite. He recognized where the responsibility lay, and it wasn’t with him or the government.
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Originally posted at http://ThomasJeffersonLeadership.com
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.