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Depart from dogma; governing and philosophical purity are incompatible. Jefferson was realistic. He wrote that 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 the wisdom of Solon's remark that no more good must be attempted than the nation can bear." To purchase Louisiana, for example, he put aside his strict constructionist, small-government ideology to exert broad presidential power to double the size of the country. The philosophical Jefferson would have gone to the nation for a constitutional amendment to authorize the purchase; the pragmatic Jefferson, realizing Napoleon might change his mind, acted unilaterally--and fast.
4. KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Dine with friend and foe alike. When Congress was in session, Jefferson entertained constantly. It tends to be more difficult to oppose--or at least to vilify--someone with whom you have broken bread and drunk wine.
Jefferson was ruthless about the use of his limited time in power. To create an ethos of suprapartisan civility would have required bringing politicians of opposing views together under his aegis. He disliked confrontation so much, however, that he forwent inviting Republicans and Federalists to dine with each other. The possibilities of conflict in a setting designed to promote harmony and comity were too great. He chose, then, to use dinner at the President's house partly as a means of weaving attachments to him. As at Monticello, it was his stage and his production.
Close, bitter elections are an American tradition, yet the Jeffersonian example shows us that shrewd Presidents can lead the country--or a substantial portion of it--out of the chaos in order to do big things for the nation that Jefferson believed to be the "world's best hope."
Adapted from Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham, published by Random House