… our endeavor to procure an asylum in the colony of Sierra Leone for such persons of the description composing that colony as we might find it expedient to send there [appears to be unsuccessful].
… affairs in St. Domingo has undergone important changes… may furnish that opening which the resolution desired.
The acquisition of Louisiana, may also procure the opportunity desired.
On the whole it appears probable that St. Domingo or Louisiana may open to the legislature of Virginia the recourse which their resolution contemplates.
To John Page, December 23, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Determined leaders continue to seek solutions to vexing problems.
Virginia Governor John Page (1743-1808) had sought the President’s help in carrying out a directive of the Virginia legislature. Slave uprisings in St. Domingo (present day Haiti and Dominican Republic) had spurred unrest among slaves in America. An insurrection in Virginia in 1800 was foiled, and 26 of its participants were hanged. The legislature sought an alternative, some distant place where rebellious slaves could be relocated. Jefferson also sought a refuge for freed American slaves. His hope to join an English slave resettlement effort in Sierra Leone, West Africa, was rebuffed. Now, the vast expanse of Louisiana might provide that refuge or perhaps even St. Domingo itself.
In correspondence preceding this letter, Jefferson stressed that the Virginia insurrectionists were “not felons, or common malefactors [criminals]” and a far more humane response was needed. He was never successful in his efforts to remove freed slaves from the abuses of their former masters.