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Category Archives: Native Americans

This will help the Indians become farmers.

… of great importance, is the establishment of a strong front on our Western boundary, the Missisipi, securing us on that side, as our front on the Atlantic does towards the East. our proceedings with the Indians should tend systematically to that object … the Indians being once closed in between strong settled countries on the Missisipi & Atlantic, will, for want of game, be forced to agriculture, will find that small portions of land well improved, will be worth more to them than extensive forests unemployed, and will be continually parting with portions of them, for money to buy stock, utensils & necessaries for their farms & families.
Memorandum for Henry Dearborn on Indian Policy, December 29, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even a leader’s clear vision is no guarantee of success.
Dearborn was Jefferson’s Secretary of War. The President wisely wanted to secure America’s western boundary, the Mississippi River in 1802. Part of that strategy was to extinguish Indian claims on western lands they had hunted for centuries and encourage farmers to settle there. Hemmed in by settlements on the east and west, with the natural decrease in game for hunting, Indians would have no choice but to become farmers themselves.

Small farms “well-improved” would yield much more for the Indians than vast forests “unemployed.” In time, they would gladly part with those forests, bit by bit, for money to outfit their families and farms.

Jefferson greatly overestimated natives’ interest in becoming farmers. While some were assimilated, many resisted that change and were later relocated, sometimes by force, west of the Mississippi and later further west.

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Is this shrewd or underhanded?

the cheapest & most effectual instrument we can use for preserving the friendship of the Indians: is the establishment of trading houses among them. if we could furnish goods enough to supply all their wants, and sell them goods so cheap that no private trader could enter into competition with us, we should thus get rid of those traders who are the principal fomenters of the uneasiness of the Indians: and by being so essentially useful to the Indians we should of course become objects of affection to them. there is perhaps no method more irresistable of obtaining lands from them than by letting them get in debt, which when too heavy to be paid, they are always willing to lop off by a cession of lands.
To Henry Dearborn, August 13, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What’s a leader to do?
Dearborn (1751-1829) was Jefferson’s Secretary of War. This letter dealt with issues surrounding whites and Indians living on either side of the lower Ohio River. Whites were continually moving further west into Indian lands, and the President had to deal with the conflict that inevitably arose. He tried to do that in two ways, first to pacify the Indians and second, to encourage (or force) them to transfer ownership of some (or all) of their lands.

Here, Jefferson proposed an approach he favored for many years:
1. Establish trading stores for the Indians.
4. Drive out competition from private traders who stirred up trouble among the Indians.
2. Sell necessities at low prices, encouraging Indians to become farmers like the white men.
3. Be so helpful to the Indians they would come to like the white men.

The final sentence is uncharacteristic for this humane man. He proposed creating indebtedness in the Indians and then forgiving that debt in return for their relinquishing some of their land.

“The presentation was very educational,informative
and the details seemed to come to life …”
Director of Member Services, Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives
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Old McDonald had a farm. Part 2 of 2

… whenever the Indians come to Detroit on trade or other business, they encamp on or about this farm. this would give them opportunities of seeing their sons & daughters, & their advancement in the useful arts, of seeing & learning from example all the operations & process of a farm, and of always carrying home themselves some additional knolege of these things … & losing by degrees all other dependance for subsistence, they would deprecate [disapprove of] war with us as bringing certain destruction on their property, and would become a barrier for that distant & insulated post against the Indians beyond them.
To President James Madison, December 7, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders use every opportunity to teach.
The first post from this letter outlined Jefferson’s vision to use a government-owned farm near Detroit as a school for Indian girls and boys. The girls were to learn household arts, the boys farming. Both were to be taught to read and write.
A second purpose for this farm/school was to be an object lesson for other Indians. They were to camp on or near this farm when they came to Detroit. In doing so, they would see the advantages enjoyed by their children and take that knowledge home with them. In time, that knowledge would:
1. Help them be self-supporting on their own land
2. Lead them to give up warfare which could only end in their destruction
3. Become an object lesson themselves for tribes that lived further west and be a protective barrier for whites who lived to the east

“Your well-organized and well-researched approach
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Director, The Leadership Academy, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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Old McDonald had a farm. Part 1 of 2

On this farm we proposed to assemble the following establishments.
1. [a school for] … the care & instruction of Indian girls in carding, spinning, weaving, sewing, & the other houshold arts … [and] reading & writing … & that the benefits of the Institution should be extended to the boys also of the neighboring tribes, who were to be lodged, fed, & instructed there.
2. To establish there the farmer at present employed by the US to instruct those Indians in the use of the plough & other implements & practises of Agriculture, & in the general management of the farm … reading & writing were to be a secondary object.
3. To remove thither the Carpenter & Smith at present employed by the US. among the same Indians; with whom such of the boys as had a turn for it should work & learn their trades.
To President James Madison, December 7, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know education is the only path to lasting self-improvement.
This letter dealt with the government’s purchase of a farm just outside Detroit, a process begun at the very end of Jefferson’s Presidency, and what use should be made of it. He proposed three:
1. To educate Indian girls in “household arts” as well as reading and writing. Room, board and instruction were to be offered nearby Indian boys.
2. A U.S. employed farmer was to teach those boys farming and farm management.
3. The carpenter and blacksmith employed by the U.S. were to be removed and replaced with Indian boys who showed aptitude for those trades.

Young people learning practical arts for the household or farm, coupled with literacy, held the most promise for a different life, and a better one Jefferson believed, for native people.

“Your opening keynote presentation
had the audience spellbound …”
Program Chair, Missouri Organization for Clinical Laboratory Science
Mr. Jefferson will hold your audience spellbound.
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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
with his remarkable portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.”
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.

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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.

“Please accept our sincere appreciation for your magnificent portrayal
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!
Schedule his magnificent portrayal with Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739.

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