Thomas Jefferson: Letter to Indiana Territory Governor William H. Harrison

(1803)

Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to Indiana Territory Governor William H. Harrison of February 27, 1803, was sent with the purpose of giving Harrison (who would become America’s ninth president) a broad picture of the administration's policies with regard to Indian tribes in the West. This “unofficial and private” letter of Jefferson’s outlines an Indian policy that has an odd ring to modern ears.


On the one hand, Jefferson consistently stressed that he wanted to live in peace with the Indians. He never engaged in rhetoric that suggested that he wanted to see the tribes eradicated, and he always emphasized that he wanted the U.S. government to contribute to what he regarded as the Indians' well-being. At the same time, Jefferson clearly held the attitude that Indians were culturally inferior and that the disappearance of their ways of life would be no great loss, either to the nation or to the Indians themselves. This attitude was on display in a secret message he delivered to...

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Thomas Jefferson (Library of Congress)

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