Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark, [March or April 1779]

To George Rogers Clark

Williams[burg, March or April 1779]


Your letter and verba[l message] by Mr. St. Vrain was received today; your m[essage will be?] attended to. Much solicitude will be felt for the result of your expedition to the Wabash; it will at least delay their expedition to our frontier Settlements; and if Successful, have an important bearing ultimately in Establishing our North Western boundary. I am Sir your Mo. obt. […]

Th: Jefferson

Tr (WHi). In an unidentified hand but with conjectural readings supplied in the hand of Lyman C. Draper, who added this memorandum respecting date and provenance: “T Jefferson to G R Clark. Evidently Clark wrote to Jefferson just before setting out from Kaskaskia on his Vincennes Expedition, Feb. 3d 1779‥‥ This from Col. [Geo.] Hancock, Louisville, who showed me the original. L. C. D.”

Clark had written Patrick Henry on 3 Feb. 1779, the day before he left Kaskaskia on his famous march against Vincennes, determined to “Risque the whole on a Single Battle” (George Rogers Clark Papers, 1771–1781 description begins George Rogers Clark Papers, ed. James A. James, Illinois State Historical Library, Collections, VIII description ends , p. 98). Probably he wrote TJ about the same time, but his letter is missing. He was not heard from again until his letter of 29 Apr. 1779, q.v., reached Williamsburg after TJ had become governor. TJ’s reply to Clark’s missing letter, with its significant final clause, was apparently first printed in Col. George Rogers Clark’s Sketch of His Campaign in the Illinois in 1778–9, ed. Henry Pirtle (Ohio Valley Historical Series, No. 3), Cincinnati, 1869, p. 2, note, without source and with the comment that the original is mutilated. It has been quoted by several historians since, but it was omitted by James from the George Rogers Clark Papers, and there would be serious doubt of its authenticity if Draper had not authenticated the transcript from which we print.

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