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Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) to Lieutenant of Berkeley Co. re: plans to avenge murders of settlers by Indians

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05710 Author/Creator: Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) Place Written: Richmond Type: Letter signed Date: 1780/04/19 Pagination: 3 p. + addr. + docket 32.2 x 20.2 cm

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Summary of Content: Signed as governor. Planning to retaliate with militia for the murder of frontier settlers by British-backed Indians. "We have been too long diverted by humanity from enforcing good behavior by severe chastisement. Savages are to be curbed by fear only." Page three has severe losses to text at the right edge in the middle of the page.

Background Information: Prior to the American Revolution, a surprisingly large number of Native Americans lived among whites. There was a large population of people of mixed ancestry, and many lived in such ...colonial cities as Philadelphia and Charleston. At the start of the Revolution, Indians in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (Algonquins who originally came from western Long Island and eastern New Jersey), provided Minutemen to fight the British.
The Revolution marked an important watershed in the history of Native Americans east of the Mississippi River. Because of their interest in the fur trade and in avoiding costly Indian wars, the British had been eager to prevent rapid settlement of the backcountry and to guarantee Indians the integrity of their hunting grounds. Not surprisingly, Native Americans usually sided with the British during the Revolution.
The American patriots, in contrast, did not need Native Americans in the way either the French or the British had. They were much more interested in rapid western settlement, which resulted in campaigns to subdue and remove tribes on the borders of white settlement. Indeed, such campaigns of removal began during the war itself, as this letter from Thomas Jefferson, then serving as Virginia's governor, makes clear. Jefferson ultimately recommended the expulsion of all borderland Indians.
During the war, many traditional hunting grounds were devastated. British-Indian attacks in the borderlands brought retaliation from American patriots, who destroyed the crops and burnt down towns of Indians suspected of being loyal to the British. Many patriots regarded all Indians as disloyal and forced them to migrate westward. The Stockbridge Indians who had provided Minutemen were forced to move from Massachusetts to New York. The end of the war brought a westward surge of backcountry settlers onto Indian lands.
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Full Transcript: Richmond April 19. 1780
Sir,
I have heard with much concern of the many Murders committed by the Indians in the Counties of Washington, Montgomery, Green Briar, Kentucky and in the neighbourhood ...of Pittsburg. Hostilities so extensive prove a formidable combination of that kind of enemy. Propositions have been made for Particular Nations of men as a present safeguard to the Frontiers, but I own they do not appear to me adequate to the object. All experience has proved that you cannot be defended from the Savages but by carrying the War home to themselves and striking decisive Blows. It is therefore my opinion that instead of Putting our Frontier Inhabitants under that fallacious Idea of Security: an Expedition must be instantly undertaken into the Indian Country. - Want of full Information of the facts which have happened by of the Particular Nations and Numbers confederated against us put it out of my Power to direct the minute Parts of such an Expedition or to Point it to its Precise Object, Such a plan laid here would Probably be rendered abortive by difficulties in the article of Provisions ill adjusted Times and places of Rendezvouse, and unforeseen events and circumstances which if to be explained and amended here from Time to Time the kind will have had its course while we are contriving how to ward it off. I can therefore only undertake to Authorise such an Expectation and put it into a Train for Execution - for this Purpose I have desired the County Lieutenants of Washington, Montgomery, Botetourt, Rochbridge and Green Briar (the Counties Principally exposed) to meet at Botetourt Court House on the 18th Day of the ensueing month of May to concert an Expedition against The offending Tribes to be carried on by the joint Militia of their Counties: I must in like manner desire you to meet the County Lietenants of - Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Frederick & Hampshire at Shenandoah Court House on the 29th Day of May for the same Purpose. - This meeting is appointed so long after that of the Officers of the Southwestern Quarter that they may have time to send to you the result of their deliberations. Having these before you I shall not doubt but you will so concert yours as to co-operate with them in the most effectual manner. Whether that be by concurring in the same expedition or carrying on a distinct one and of your Proceedings be Pleased to return them Information. the Objects of your inquiry and Deliberation when you Assemble will be [2] First - the Particular tribes who have committed Hostilities: their Number and residence. 2dly The Proportion of your Militia Necessary to encounter them. 3dly The officers who shall take command and also proper Staff Officers. 4thly Supplies of Provision and Ammunition. 5thly Times and Places of Rendevouse, when every thing shall have been settled by your meeting be Pleased to send on by express the [struck: inclosed] letters to the County Lieutenants of Yohogania, Monongalia, and Ohio, giving them Information of the aids which you shall hope to receive from them... I hope you will see the Propriety of my setting this matter in motion in the Southwestern Quarter first. This has been occasioned by their Neighbourhood to this Scene of danger, and their opportunity of knowing the Nations and number of the enemy, and not from any want of equal confidence in your Zeal. A lively and wisdom; I am quite uncertain where Majr Staughter is. Probably he has by this time got to the Falls of Ohio. Any aid he can give, I trust he will do on your forwarding to him [struck: Indians, insert: in] Letter [insert: lodged with Colo Matthews]: It is my duty to affix some bounds to the Numbers to be embodied on this Occasion. On Considering the Strength of the Militia in the Counties before mentioned and the Probable Numbers of the enemy. I suppose it will not Cramp your efforts when I restrain your Numbers to one tenth of the Militia. Indeed I expect you will consider a much smaller number, Perhaps the half of that, Sufficient. More especially when [insert: the] difficulties of getting Provisions and the delays occasioned by increased Numbers are maturely weighed by you. The Poverty of the Treasury moreover will require in you the Strictest attention to oeconomy. This obliges me to enjoin you to rebranch every Possible article of Expence [sic] to avoid the Cumbersome Parade of regular Troops, and the long list of sinecure appointments usual in the Staff department . Consolidate together as many of those appointments as you can and put them into active hands; These are Standing Commissaries in the Southwestern and Northwestern Quarters The former [struck] is a W. Baker of Washington. [struck: and Montgomery.] The latter is in the Neighbourhood of Winchester, and so was instructed to convey his Provisions to Pittsburg. These persons are Quarter Masters at the same time, and the Provisions laid in by them will be Subject the [struck: former, insert: latter] to the order of your Commanding Officer the [struck: latter, insert: former] to that of Commanding Officer from the Southwestern Counties. Besides this at the Particular Request of Col. Donnelly of Green Briar I send [3] him seven thousand pounds to Procure Provisions in his Quarter I shall immediately order 2000lbs of Powder and 2000 Flints to Staunton for the general Service from which place you will call for what is necessary for your Corps; I inclose [sic] [struck, inserted above: to Colo. Preston] an Order for Lead. It might be Premature to speake [sic] of the Terms of Peace but if events will justify it. The only condition with the Shawenen should be their removal beyond the Mississippi or the Lakes, and with the other Tribes whatever may most effectually Secure their observation of the treaty. We have been too long [text loss] Humanity from enforceing good behavior by I were [text loss] Savages are to be Curbed by fear only: We are not [text loss] [expe]dition to repeat Expensive Expeditions against them [text loss] the Business will more be done so as not to [text loss] again and that instead of making Peace on these [text loss] Application you will only make it after such as [text loss] Shall be felt and Remembered by them as long as the [text loss] a Nation.

I am Sir
Your very humble sevt.
Th: Jefferson
[docket]
Tho Jefferson
Richmond 19th April 1789
Tho Jefferson letter
[address leaf]
The County Leiutenant of Berkeley
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People: Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: American Indian HistoryWestward ExpansionRevolutionary WarMilitary HistoryGlobal History and CivicsForeign AffairsAtrocityMilitiaDeathPresidentVice President

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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