EXCERPTS FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON’S WRITINGS ON AMERICAN INDIANS

- By Thomas Jefferson
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Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743[a] – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, musician,[1] philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He had previously served as the second vice president of the United States under John Adams between 1797 and 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national levels. During the American Revolution, Jefferson represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration of Independence. As a Virginia legislator, he drafted a state law for religious freedom. He served as the second Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, during the American Revolutionary War. In 1785, Jefferson was appointed the United States Minister to France, and subsequently, the nation's first Secretary of State under President George Washington from 1790 to 1793. Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of the First Party System. With Madison, he anonymously wrote the provocative Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 and 1799, which sought to strengthen states' rights by nullifying the federal Alien and Sedition Acts.

EXCERPTS FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON’S WRITINGS ON AMERICAN INDIANS

"Official Presidential Portrait of Thomas Jefferson" by Rembrandt Peale is in the public domain.

EXCERPT FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON'S NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, QUERY VI

1781

This passage is a response to the French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (called Monsieur de Buffon by Jefferson). Buffon argued that the animals of the New World were weaker than those of the Old World, and that the indigenous peoples of North and South America were equally weak and inferior to Europeans.

The Indian of North America being more within our reach, I can speak of him somewhat from my own knowledge, but more from the information of others better acquainted with him, and on whose truth and judgment I can rely. From these sources I am able to say, in contradiction to this representation, that he is neither more defective in ardor, nor more impotent with his female, than the white reduced to the same diet and exercise: that he is brave, when an enterprize depends on bravery; education with him making the point of honor consist in the destruction of an enemy by stratagem, and in the preservation of his own person free from injury; or perhaps this is nature; while it is education which teaches us to honor force more than finesse: that he will defend himself against an host of enemies, always chusing to be killed, rather than to surrender, though it be to the whites, who he knows will treat him well: that in other situations also he meets death with more deliberation, and endures tortures with a firmness unknown almost to religious enthusiasm with us: that he is affectionate to his children, careful of them, and indulgent in the extreme… To judge of the truth of this, to form a just estimate of their genius and mental powers, more facts are wanting, and great allowance to be made for those circumstances of their situation which call for a display of particular talents only. This done, we shall probably find that they are formed in mind as well as in body, on the same module with the `Homo sapiens Europaeus.' The principles of their society forbidding all compulsion,they are to be led to duty and to enterprize by personal influence and persuasion. Hence eloquence in council, bravery and address in war, become the foundations of all consequence with them.

EXCERPT FROM PRESIDENT THOMAS JEFFERSON'S LETTER TO BENJAMIN HAWKINS, PRINCIPLE AGENT TO THE CREEK INDIANS

February 18, 1803

Benjamin Hawkins was an American statesman and U.S. Indian agent responsible for tribes south of the Ohio Valley. He was the principle agent to the Creek Indians and established the Creek agency on his plantation in Georgia. He learned the Muscogee (Creek) language and married and fathered seven children to Lavinia Downs, who people believe was a Creek woman.

Altho' you will receive, thro' the official channel of the War Office, every communication necessary to develop to you our views respecting the Indians, and to direct your conduct, yet, supposing it will be satisfactory to you, and to those with whom you are placed, to understand my personal dispositions and opinions in this particular, I shall avail myself of this private letter to state them generally. I consider the business of hunting as already become insufficient to furnish clothing and subsistence to the Indians. The promotion of agriculture, therefore, and household manufacture, are essential in their preservation, and I am disposed to aid and encourage it liberally. This will enable them to live on much smaller portions of land, and indeed will render their vast forests useless but for the range of cattle; for which purpose, also, as they become better farmers, they will be found useless, and even disadvantageous. While they are learning to do better on less land, our increasing numbers will be calling for more land, and thus a coincidence of interests will be produced between those who have lands to spare, and want other necessaries, and those who have such necessaries to spare, and want lands. This commerce, then, will be for the good of both, and those who are friends to both ought to encourage it. You are in the station peculiarly charged with this interchange, and who have it peculiarly in your power to promote among the Indians a sense of the superior value of a little land, well cultivated, over a great deal, unimproved, and to encourage them to make this estimate truly. The wisdom of the animal which amputates & abandons to the hunter the parts for which he is pursued should be theirs, with this difference, that the former sacrifices what is useful, the latter what is not. In truth, the ultimate point of rest & happiness for them is to let our settlements and theirs meet and blend together, to intermix, and become one people. Incorporating themselves with us as citizens of the U.S., this is what the natural progress of things will of course bring on, and it will be better to promote than to retard it. Surely it will be better for them to be identified with us, and preserved in the occupation of their lands, than be exposed to the many casualties which may endanger them while a separate people. I have little doubt but that your reflections must have led you to view the various ways in which their history may terminate, and to see that this is the one most for their happiness. And we have already had an application from a settlement of Indians to become citizens of the U.S. It is possible, perhaps probable, that this idea may be so novel as that it might shock the Indians, were it even hinted to them. Of course, you will keep it for your own reflection; but, convinced of its soundness, I feel it consistent with pure morality to lead them towards it, to familiarize them to the idea that it is for their interest to cede lands at times to the U S, and for us thus to procure gratifications to our citizens, from time to time, by new acquisitions of land. From no quarter is there at present so strong a pressure on this subject as from Georgia for the residue of the fork of Oconee & Ockmulgee; and indeed I believe it will be difficult to resist it. As it has been mentioned that the Creeks had at one time made up their minds to sell this, and were only checked in it by some indiscretions of an individual, I am in hopes you will be able to bring them to it again. I beseech you to use your most earnest endeavors; for it will relieve us here from a great pressure, and yourself from the unreasonable suspicions of the Georgians which you notice, that you are more attached to the interests of the Indians than of the U.S., and throw cold water on their willingness to part with lands. It is so easy to excite suspicion, that none are to be wondered at; but I am in hopes it will be in your power to quash them by effecting the object.

EXCERPT FROM PRESIDENT JEFFERSON'S PRIVATE LETTER TO WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, GOVERNOR OF THE INDIANA TERRITORY

February 27, 1803

William Henry Harrison was governor of the Indiana Territory from 1801-1812 and would go on to become the President of the United States from his inauguration on March 4, 1841 until he died of pneumonia 32 days later.

But this letter being unofficial, and private, I may with safety give you a more extensive view of our policy respecting the Indians, that you may better comprehend the parts dealt out to you in detail through the official channel, and observing the system of which they make a part, conduct yourself in unison with it in cases where you are obliged to act without instruction. [The] system is to live in perpetual peace with the Indians, to cultivate an affectionate attachment from them, by every thing just & liberal which we can [offer] them within the bounds of reason, and by giving them effectual protection against wrongs from our own people. The decrease of game rendering their subsistence by hunting insufficient, we wish to draw them to agriculture, to spinning and weaving. The latter branches they take up with great readiness, because they fall to the women, who gain by quitting the labours of the field [for] these which are exercised within doors. When they withdraw themselves to the culture of a small piece of land, they will perceive how useless to them are their extensive forests, and will be willing to pare them off from time to time in exchange for necessaries for their farms & families. To promote this disposition to exchange lands which they have to spare and we want for necessaries, which have to spare and they want, we shall push our trading houses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands. At our trading houses too we mean to sell so low as merely to repay cost and charges so as neither to lessen or enlarge our capital. This is what private traders cannot do, for they must gain; they will consequently retire from the competition, and we shall thus get clear of this pest without giving offence or umbrage to the Indians. In this way our settlements will gradually circumscribe and approach the Indians, and they will in time either incorporate with us as citizens of the United States or remove beyond the Missisipi. The former is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves. But in the whole course of this, it is essential to cultivate their love. As to their fear, we presume that our strength and their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them, and that all our liberalities to them proceed from motives of pure humanity only. Should any tribe be fool-hardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the seizing the whole country of that tribe and driving them across the Missisipi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation.

EXCERPT OF LETTER FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON TO DAVID BAILIE WARDEN, AMERICAN CONSUL AT PARIS,

December 29, 1813

David Bailie Warden was an Irish-born, American citizen and diplomat who served in the American Consul in Paris during the War of 1812. In this letter, President Jefferson discusses Britain's Native American allies who are fighting against the United States in the war.

[M]uch however has been effected by our insulating the British from their savage allies, to whom alone, and not at all to themselves they are indebted for every success they have obtained. this unfortunate race, whom we had been taking so much pains to save and to civilize, have by their unexpected desertion and ferocious barbarities justified extermination, and now await our decision on their fate. the Creeks too on our Southern border, for whom we had done more than for any other tribe, have acted the same part (tho' not the whole of them) and have already paid their defection with the flower of their warriors. they will probably submit on the condition of removing to such new settlements beyond the Missisipi as we shall assign them.

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Unique Words : 695

Sentences : 56

Reading Time : 8:31

Noun : 530

Conjunction : 185

Adverb : 76

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