Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Stanley Griswold, 30 January 1807

Michigan Territory, Detroit 30. January 1807.


From a Thorough acquaintance with the situation of this country and its inhabitants, give me leave to assure you, That it is a matter of considerable importance That the titles to land should be settled without delay, and on principles at least equally liberal as Those which have been extended to the other Territories of the united States.—The necessity of such a Measure may be enforced both on The ground of individual Justice and public policy.

1st. Of individual Justice. It is not pretended, that the claimants of large, uncultivated tracts, purchased for a song or a bottle of whisky, should be confirmed in their claims: on The contrary, it is universally agreed, That claims of This description ought not to be confirmed. But it should be recollected, that this is an ancient Settlement, That The farms are cultivated, that the occupants are natives, born on the soil which they now claim, feeling That soil to be their home, as it is indeed the only home they have on earth, and the only source of their subsistance. Most have had their farms handed down from their forefathers as a sacred legacy; others have bought and sold, exactly as has been practised in The States, giving and receiving valuable bona fide considerations, not suspecting but That They were perfectly Safe in so doing; and indeed The ordinary course of trade and deal has rendered This absolutely necessary in order to realize the fruits of honest industry and secure Just debts. Hence it has arisen That several individuals are possessed of more farms Than one, acquired in a righteous way, by Their own industry, (or that of Their fathers,) and their case differs in no respect from That of men of business, or The heirs of men of business in The united States.—If there be such a Thing as natural Justice in matters of this sort, it surely may be claimed by individuals in the Territory of Michigan, as well as in the states which have been more fortunate in possessing early regulations and a Stable government. Or shall industry be frustrated, and its earnings witheld from The Canadian shall legacies be violated, possessions ripped up, hopes blasted, prospects defeated, all the endearments of home destroyed, and the Sources of life taken away, from The meritorious people of this Country?

2nd. Public policy requires, That the claims should be speedily Settled, and on the Just and liberal principles indicated above.—What should be expected to prevent The canadians, uneducated in the principles of The American government, accustomed indeed to governments of an opposite stamp, (under which They experienced plenty and quiet,) if They Should meet with difficulties or disappointment in what they conceive and feel to be Their best claims, and what They know to be The only means of their subsistance,—what, I say, could be expected to prevent them from listening to any ambitious and desperate traitor, who should promise Them all They ask, and more,—and placing Themselves under his Standard, assured that their condition cannot be made worse, but hoping that it might be rendered infinitely better?—But establish these people in their reasonable claims,—and they will be the most satisfied and quiet citizens in The Union,—no mad adventurer could move Them,—they would be grateful to The government, their benefactor, and would repel every proposition and every attempt to Throw them again into an unsettled condition. All the public lands in The western world, and all the ores of Mexico, would be insufficient to draw them into rebellion.—They would, besides, form an invaluable barrier for the united States on this northwest frontier against the savages, with whom they are on the most intimate and friendly terms, and whom they can influence more than any other people or nation on earth. Their friendship is to be highly valued on this account,—and their chagrine and enmity are to be as greatly dreaded.—I should consider every Canadian, truly attached to the United States, better than a regular soldier supported at the public expence, to protect this frontier.

I have the honor to be, Sir, with great respect, Your most obedient and very humble Servent,

Stanley Griswold.

[Note in Gallatin’s hand on verso]:

Had this letter come Sooner it might have thrown some light on the bill which has now I believe past both houses. But it would have been desirable also that Mr G. had stated with precision the provisions which he thought necessary

—A. G.

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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