Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to James Jay, 7 April 1809

To James Jay

Monticello Apr. 7. 09.

Dear Sir

Your favor of Feb. 27. came to hand on the 3d of March. the occupations of the moment & of those which have followed must be my apology for this late acknolegement. the plan of civilising the Indians is undoubtedly a great improvement on the antient & totally ineffectual one of beginning with religious missionaries. our experience has shewn that this must be the last step of the process. the following is what has been succesful. 1. to raise cattle Etc & thereby acquire a knolege of the value of property 2. arithmetic to calculate that value. 3. writing, to keep accounts and here they begin to inclose farms, & the men to labor, the women to spin & weave. 4. to read. Aesop’s fables & Robinson Crusoe are their first delight. the Creeks & Cherokees are advanced thus far, & the Cherokees are now instituting a regular government.

An equilibrium of agriculture, manufactures & commerce is certainly become essential to our independance. manufactures sufficient for our own consumption of what we raise the raw material (and no more). commerce sufficient to carry the surplus produce of agriculture, beyond our own consumption, to a market for exchanging it for articles we cannot raise (and no more.) these are the true limits of manufactures & commerce. to go beyond them is to increase our dependance on foreign nations, and our liability to war. these three important branches of human industry will then grow together, & be really handmaids to each other. I salute you with great respect & esteem.

Th: Jefferson

P.S. Lady Huntington’s address & your circular are enclosed.

PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “Sr James Jay.” Enclosures not found.

Sir James Jay (1732–1815), physician, was born in New York, the brother of John Jay, the American statesman. Jay received a medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1753. He spent the years 1762–78 in Great Britain, where he was knighted in 1763. During the American Revolution he used an invisible ink of his own invention to pass on intelligence about British activities, but late in the war he undertook a personal peace mission that left his loyalties in dispute. Jay corresponded with TJ about his plans for manufacturing and naval warfare and his attempts to obtain reimbursement for his $20,000 loan to the United States in 1778 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Jay to TJ, 14 Apr. 1806 [DLC]; New-York Evening Post, 2 Nov. 1815).

In his favor of feb. 27 (DLC), Jay wrote of his interest in establishing American manufactures and enclosed two papers, an address autographed by Selina Hastings, countess of Huntingdon, the patroness of early Methodism, and a circular that evidently detailed Jay’s plan to civilize the Indians through Christianity and the development of manufacturing.

Index Entries

  • Aesop’s Fables; advocated for Indians search
  • agriculture; TJ on search
  • cattle; raised by Indians search
  • Cherokee Indians; TJ on government of search
  • Creek Indians; TJ on government of search
  • Defoe, Daniel; Robinson Crusoe search
  • Huntingdon, Selina Hastings, countess of; address of search
  • Indians; cattle raised by search
  • Indians; Cherokee search
  • Indians; Creek search
  • Indians; plans for civilizing search
  • Indians; recommended readings for search
  • inventions; invisible ink search
  • Jay, John; family of search
  • Jay, Sir James; and domestic manufactures search
  • Jay, Sir James; and Indian civilization search
  • Jay, Sir James; identified search
  • Jay, Sir James; letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; civilizing the Indians search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; domestic manufacturing search
  • Robinson Crusoe (D. Defoe); advocated for Indians search