Thomas Jefferson was elected on a strict Constitutionalist platform. He was committed to do only what the Constitution allowed him to do.
When Napoleon offered the Jefferson administration the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the President was in a bind.
The Constitution said nothing about buying more territory. Talk around Washington was that the U.S. would offer $15 million for just New Orleans. The offer traveled through “unofficial” sources to sound out the emperor. Napoleon rejected it but feelers said he would part with the whole “Louisiana Purchase” for $18 million. Jefferson was ecstatic! But he was in a bind more than ever. He wanted the land, but to buy it would violate his announced philosophy of governing.
That’s the nature of leadership – it takes one into situations one never anticipates.
Jefferson swallowed his principles and bought the territory. And we are all glad. $18 million – what a pittance!
When Nikita Khrushchev arrived in America in 1959, most Americans assumed he held absolute power in the Soviet Union. Few realized what a gamble it was for him to come. If he brought home concrete rewards, he would be celebrated as a leading statesman and hard-liner rivals would have to knuckle under. But if he appeared to be a lackey of the West, opposition leaders would be encouraged to rally against him. Leadership can often be described as a gamble. And — like in court – every time a verdict was rendered, half the people don’t like the decision. Pray for leaders.