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Category Archives: Native Americans

I have 30 years invested in that missing trunk!

On the subject of the trunk No 28. I am not without a hope [you] may yet discover it’s fate … containing principally writing paper of various qualities, but also some other articles of stationary, a pocket telescope with a brass case, a Dynamometer… a collection of vocabularies of the Indian languages … the value was probably about 150. Dollars exclusive of the Vocabularies, which had been the labour of 30 years in collection for publication.
To George Jefferson, May 18, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, things just go wrong despite your best efforts.
When Jefferson left Washington City to retire to Monticello, he carefully inventoried his possessions and packed them for shipment home. This is the 2nd or 3rd letter he had written on this subject. One of his trunks was missing! He wrote to his business agent and distant cousin for help. George Jefferson would have been the one to accept the trunks off the ship in Richmond, for transport by land to Monticello.

It would appear he was primarily interested in the dynamometer, explained in an earlier post. His real concern, however, may have been his “collection of vocabularies of the Indian languages.” He was always interested in languages in general and those of native Americans inparticular. It was a subject he wanted to study in depth but the time required to do so meant postponing the project until his retirement. To that end, he had collected material on that subject for three decades. Now it was missing.

He told his cousin to offer a reward of $20-30 for its return.

“Patrick Lee was our first guest speaker, and he set the bar very high
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Sedalia Heritage Foundation
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This is very practical help we can give.

These people are becoming very sensible of the baneful effects produced on their morals, their health & existence by the abuse of ardent spirits: and some of them earnestly desire a prohibition of that article from being carried among them. the legislature will consider whether the effectuating that desire would not be in the spirit of benevolence & liberality which they have hitherto practised towards these our neighbors, and which has had so happy an effect towards conciliating their friendship.
To the Senate and House of Representatives, January 27, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Benevolent leaders are sensitive to the concerns of the less powerful.
In this report, the President recommended a number of actions on behalf of the Indians. Here he asks Congress to extend the “benevolence & liberality” already demonstrated toward the tribes and prohibit the sale of alcohol among them. Natives themselves recognized that liquor harmed “their morals, their health & existence.” A month later, Congress granted the President the authority to limit or prevent its sale.

In another part of this report, Jefferson suggested changing capital punishment from hanging to firing squad. Indians found hanging so repugnant they were reluctant to turn accused persons over for trial.

“I have been very privileged to see Mr. Boone and Mr. Clark …
I can’t wait to hear Mr. Jefferson.”
Vice-President, Site Development Engineering, St. Louis
Your audience can’t wait to hear Mr. Jefferson, either!
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30 years of planning down the drain

I have now been thirty years availing myself of every possible opportunity of procuring Indian vocabularies to the same set of words … I had collected about fifty, and had digested most of them in collateral columns … The whole … were packed in a trunk of stationary, and sent round by water … and while ascending James river, this package, on account of its weight and presumed precious contents, was singled out and stolen. The thief being disappointed on opening it, threw into the river all its contents … Among these were the whole of the vocabularies.
To Dr. Benjamin S. Barton, September 21, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, not even a leader’s careful planning is enough.

Jefferson had always been interested in Native American culture. Part of that interest had been to compare and contrast their languages and to look for similarities with those from Europe. To that end, he had collected their vocabularies for 30 years. He had only to incorporate those Lewis & Clark had acquired. His presidential duties were such that he lacked the time to complete the analysis. The task would have to wait for retirement. Upon leaving the presidency, these vocabularies were shipped by water toward Monticello.

Only a few scraps of his work survived, sullied by water and mud. The project was lost. He speculated he might try again, but thought he was too old to make much progress.

 “The presentation as Thomas Jefferson was by far the most original,
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Oklahoma Society of Land Surveyors
Thomas Jefferson stands ready to inspire your audience, too.
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Are you “savage” or “civilized”?

… were it made a question whether no law, as among the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans, submits man to the greatest evil, one who has seen both conditions of existence would pronounce it to be the last; and that the sheep are happier of themselves, than under the care of the wolves. It will be said that great societies cannot exist without government. The savages, therefore, break them into small ones. Notes on Virginia, Query XI, 1782

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Non-grasping leaders seek to diffuse government’s power.
Jefferson addressed an age-old question. Which is worse: No government or too much? He compared native Americans, whose governance was distributed among many, with Europeans, where it was concentrated among just a few. He favored the Indians’ way.

He compared the people to sheep. They were happier when left to themselves, as the natives did, then when protected by wolves, which he likened to European nobility.

What about the claim that people can’t have a great society without some kind of government? By implication, Jefferson accepted that claim. By necessity, then, government should not be concentrated in the hands of a privileged few but delegated very broadly into small units close to the people. Consolidated power held the seeds for the destruction of society.

Note that Jefferson regarded the American “savage” as more protective of people’s rights than the “civilized” Europeans.

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Executive Director, Greater St. Louis Federal Executive Board.

Mr. Jefferson, too, is the consummate professional for your audience.
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If I was wrong, I’ll make it right.

My Dear Page
You have probably seen or heard of some very abusive letters addressed to me in the publick papers by a mr [Luther] Martin of Baltimore, on the subject of Logan’s speech, cited in the Notes on Virginia. I do not mean to notice mr Martin, or go into the newspapers on the subject. but I am still anxious to enquire into the foundation of that story, & if I find any thing wrong in it it shall be corrected, & what is right supported either in some new edition of that work or in an Appendix to it.
To John Page, January 1, 1798

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders will investigate charges of their own wrong-doing.
Luther Martin was Maryland’s Attorney General, a strong Federalist foe, and son-in-law of the long-deceased Michael Cresap. Martin accused Jefferson of defaming his father-in-law in his 1784 book, Notes on Virginia. The issue arose from the Indian wars of the early 1770s, the slaughter of Chief Logan’s entire family, and Cresap’s involvement in that slaughter. While Martin claimed to defend family honor, he was more politically motivated to damage Jefferson’s.
Jefferson wrote to an old friend (note the rare greeting, “My Dear Page”) who might have knowledge of what happened a quarter century before. Jefferson would not debate Martin’s accusations, either with him or in the newspapers. Yet, if he had been in error in the Logan/Cresap account, he wanted to correct it and make that correction public. His subsequent investigation didn’t exonerate Cresap but laid less blame at his feet than Jefferson had originally, Cresap being involved in some of the slaughter but not all of it. Jefferson published this new information in an appendix to Notes.
Luther Martin would go on to involve himself in the defense of Aaron Burr on charges of treason, another opportunity to attack and embarrass Jefferson.

“Your presentation kept everyone’s undivided attention …
amazing since it had been a long day and … people were tired.”
North Carolina Agribusiness Council, Executive Vice-President

Mr. Jefferson will keep your audience focused and undivided.
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Can a warrior change his stripes?

… I see with my own eyes … You are becoming farmers … employing that labor in their cultivation which you formerly employed in hunting and in war; and I see handsome specimens of cotton cloth raised, spun and wove by yourselves. You are also raising cattle and hogs for your food, and horses to assist your labors …  your next want to be mills to grind your corn, which by relieving your women from the loss of time in beating it into meal, will enable them to spin and weave more. When a man has enclosed and improved his farm, builds a good house on it … he will wish when he dies that these things shall go to his wife and children … You will, therefore, find it necessary to establish laws for this … You will find it necessary then to appoint good men, as judges, to decide contests between man and man …
My children, this is what I wished to say to you. To go on in learning to cultivate the earth and to avoid war …
My children, I thank you for your visit and pray to the Great Spirit who made us all and planted us all in this land to live together like brothers …
To the Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation, January 10, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders want to see their followers improve their station in life.
These Chiefs had just visited the President. He complimented them on their progress in turning from war to farming. He believed that if the natives could make that transition, they’d no longer need the vast expanses of land they’d hunted on for generations. That land could become available for settlement … by more farmers. Jefferson loved farmers!

They would need more labor-saving devices to relieve their women of drudgery. They would need laws to protect their property and judges to help them through conflicts.


He warned about the young men in their midst who still pursued a warrior lifestyle, of its “folly and iniquity.”


For sure, Jefferson’s attitude was paternalistic, repeatedly referring to the chiefs as “my children.” And he was naive in his expectations about warriors turning themselves into farmers. Still, his motivation was for their peace and progress, and he saw agriculture as the means to that end.

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of Thomas Jefferson
to our worldwide guests during the Caterpillar ThinkBIG Global Conference.”
President, Linn State Technical College

Whether global or local, Mr. Jefferson stands ready to inspire your audience!
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Jefferson’s “State of the Union” in 1805? Part 2

Turning from these unpleasant views of violence and wrong, I congratulate you on the liberation of our fellow-citizens who were stranded on the coast of Tripoli and made prisoners of war …
With Tunis some misunderstandings have arisen not yet sufficiently explained …
The law providing for a naval peace establishment … Congress will perhaps consider whether the best limitation on the Executive [President’s] discretion [is to limit the number of seamen or the number of vessels] …
Our Indian neighbors are advancing, many of them with spirit, and others beginning to engage in the pursuits of agriculture and household manufacture … from time to time to dispose of parts of their surplus and waste lands …
The receipts at the Treasury during the year … which , with [the surplus] … have enabled us after meeting other demands to pay nearly two millions of the debt contracted under the British treaty  … upward of four millions of principle of the public debt and four millions of interest. These payments, with those which had been made in three years and a half preceding, have extinguished of the funded debt nearly eighteen millions of principle.
Fifth Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1805

 Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep everyone informed.
These excerpts summarize the second half of Jefferson’s fifth “State of the Union” report, the one corresponding to President Obama’s address in January.
1. There’s good news to report from north Africa. Tripoli pirates have been dealt with, and those in Tunis appear to be moving toward settlement. (Terrorists in north Africa. Sound familiar?)
2. He asked clarification from Congress on his authority for ships vs. sailors. (The President is asking, rather than assuming or taking.)
3. Some Indians were actively oppositional while others were coming to an agricultural life and making portions of their lands available for settlement.
4. The government was continuing to run a surplus, reducing the national debt by $18 million in 3 ½ years. (Imagine that!)
He concluded by noting his re-election and pledging his best efforts for the nation and every possible cooperation with the Congress. (He enjoyed an enviable Presidential position of having his party control sizable majorities in both houses.)

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County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
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Which lifestyle promotes health, happiness & increase?

Among our Indian neighbors, also, a spirit of peace and friendship generally prevails; and I am happy to inform you that the continued efforts to introduce among them the implements and the practice of husbandry, and of the household arts, have not been without success; that they are becoming more and more sensible of the superiority of this dependence for clothing and subsistence over the precarious resources of hunting and fishing; and already we are able to announce, that instead of that constant diminution of their numbers, produced by their wars and their wants, some of them begin to experience an increase of population.
First Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 8, 1801
Full text

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
This message is what we now call the “State of the Union” address, delivered by modern Presidents each January. Article II, Sect. 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires the President to make such a report “from time to time.” Presidents Washington and Adams gave their addresses in person, amidst great fanfare. Jefferson thought that was too much like a king addressing his subjects and chose to deliver his message in writing.
Jefferson had a lifelong interest in native people. His vision was to “convert” them from hunters and gatherers to farmers. Usually the optimist, he already saw progress toward this end. Time would show that while some Indians made that transition from hunter to farmer, many were very resistant to changing a way of life they’d practiced for centuries.
His observations:
1. Constant conflict between tribes battling for hunting grounds reduced native populations.
2. An undependable food supply had the same effect. (Read Lewis & Clark’s reports about pervasive hunger among some tribes, including a particularly gruesome account among the Snake Indians of Montana.)
3. The natives themselves were realizing that “husbandry” (agriculture) and “the household arts” (home-making) reversed both trends, promoted health and caused their populations to increase.

Thomas Jefferson has wisdom to promote your health, happiness & increase!
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