Tag Archives: Native Americans

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.

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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.

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Program Chair, Missouri Organization for Clinical Laboratory Science
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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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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,
educational and interesting program I have seen in many years …”

Oklahoma Society of Land Surveyors
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Which is better: None … or too much?

… 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 care of the wolves. It will be said, the great societies cannot exist without government. The savages, therefore, break them into small ones.
Notes on Virginia, 1782
Taken from Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 207

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leading by consensus can be better than leading by law.
A Frenchman posed 23 questions to Jefferson about his native state. The combined answers became Notes on Virginia, the only book he completed. This excerpt is taken from his reply to “Query XI –  “A description of the Indians established in that State?”

He observed that Indians had long before separated themselves “into so many little societies … [the result of their not being] submitted to any laws, any coercive power, any shadow of government.” These small societies functioned by consensus. “Crimes are very rare among them,” he wrote, and consequences were primarily contempt or exclusion. Serious offenses such as murder were punished by those affected.

Jefferson favored small government, local government, and as little as needed, primarily to restrain people from injuring one another. He believed the natives had accomplished that purpose without laws. “Civilized” Europe was just the opposite, with too many laws. Far better the sheep govern themselves than have wolves do it for them.

Jefferson knew that the United States could not break itself into thousands of small, self-governing societies. His answer to the wolf problem, then, would become a constitution, a “super” law, adopted by a super-majority, jealously protected and strictly interpreted.

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President, Indiana Telecommunications Association

Humor! Common sense! Understanding!
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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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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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