Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Anderson and William Cocke, 26 February 1801

From Joseph Anderson and William Cocke

Feby 26th 1801


In bringing, thus early, to your View, a Subject deeply interesting to the Citizens of Tennessee, we hope we Shall not be considered, as tresspassing upon the rules of propriety—If however it Shou’d be thought, in any degree improper, thus to Obtrude, upon the first Majistrate of the Union, previous to his Official inauguration—we trust that the Consideration of the Short time, the Senate may probably be continued together (after the close of the Session) will plead our apology—

At the last Session of Congress, a law was pass’d Authoriseing the President of the United States to hold a treaty with the Indians, South of the River Ohio—and the Sum of fifteen thousand dollars, was appropriated for that purpose—The late President, hath never yet, thought proper to take any Step, to Carry the law into operation—The Object of this law, was to Obtain, from the Cherokee Indians, all the Tract of land (claim’d by them) north of the Tennessee River—or so much thereof, as they cou’d be prevail’d upon, to part with—The Tract of Country in Tennessee called the Wilderness (and which divides the Holston, from the Cumberland Settlements) is about One hundred Miles in length and perhaps fifty, in breadth—The Indian claim to this Tract, never haveing been regularly extinguish’d (by the United States) proves a Source of Very great inconvenience to the Communication, between the Eastern, and Western parts of the State—and Matter of great greviance to those Citizens, who honestly possess’d themselves of titles therein, under the State of North Carolina,—Previous to the Treaty of Holston

If however the Indians Shou’d not be disposed to Make Sale of the Whole Tract, or even of any part thereof—it wou’d prove a Very great accomodation, to Obtain from them, the Previlege of Establishing Stations or houses, along the road, at proper distances for the Shelter and protection, of our Citizens who are repeatedly Necessitated, to pass the Wilderness—

We are Sir With Sentiments of the highest Consideration—most respectfully your Very Obt Servts

Jos: Anderson
Wm Cocke

RC (DLC); in Anderson’s hand, signed by him and Cocke; at foot of text: “The President Elect”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 Feb. and so recorded in SJL. FC (T); with some variations in wording.

Anderson and Cocke were the U.S. senators from Tennessee; for their political careers, see Vol. 19:381–408 and Vol. 29:169–70n, respectively. The LAW appropriating funds for a treaty with Indians south of the Ohio River was approved 13 May 1800. The United States had negotiated the Treaty of Holston with the Cherokees in 1791. In June 1801 TJ’s administration initiated negotiations for new land cessions from the Cherokees and other Indians in the Southwest. TJ and Dearborn instructed the government’s commissioners, James Wilkinson, Benjamin Hawkins, and Andrew Pickens, to obtain, among other objects, right of way for a road from the Tennessee settlements to Natchez (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States… 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:82; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. Bear, Family Letters Edwin M. Betts and James A. Bear, Jr., eds., Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, Columbia, Mo., 1966 description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:648–50; Anthony F. C. Wallace, Jefferson and the Indians: The Tragic Fate of the First Americans [Cambridge, Mass., 1999], 218–19, 286).

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