Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Linn, 25 May 1797

From William Linn

New-York, May 25th. 1797.


I beg you to excuse the liberty I take in enclosing to you a list which has appeared in the newspapers of the names and numbers of the Indian tribes in North America. A circular address which accompanies it will inform you of the occasion of giving you this trouble. I have nothing to plead for interrupting your attention a moment to the affairs of the nation at this alarming and eventful period,1 but that from your researches into this and other subjects interesting to a philosophic mind, you possess the best information.

Besides the names mentioned in the Address, and which are not found in your list, there are, in the treaty concluded at Greenville, Aug. 3d. 1795, the names of Eelriver and Weeás. I find that some to give the whole number of inhabitants, multiply the number of the warriors by six. This proportion is, perhaps, too great. You incline to fix the proportion to be as 3 to 10, and which, for any thing I have yet seen, is nearer the truth.

You will easily perceive that I have not yet read or thought much on this subject. Whatever communications your leisure will permit you make, or whatever directions you will please to give as to the sources of information, will be gratefully acknowledged by Your Obedient And humble servant

Wm Linn

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The enclosed papers on the other side”; endorsed by TJ as received 27 May 1797 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not identified, but see below.

The circular address was likely the printed address of the newly established New York Missionary Society, “To all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” Linn was a director of the society, which later adopted for use by its missionaries a printed form TJ created for recording American Indian vocabularies (The Address and Constitution of the New-York Missionary Society [New York, 1796], 3–10, 19; see note to TJ to Linn, 5 Feb. 1798). Your list: TJ’s listing of Native American tribes under Query XI of the Notes on the State of Virginia (Notes, ed. Peden, 103–7). Of the tribes subscribing to the Greenville treaty, both the Weas and the people from the Eel River (in present-day Indiana) were components of the larger group often called the Miamis (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, I, 562, 582; William C. Sturtevant, gen. ed., Handbook of North American Indians, 11 vols. [Washington, 1978–98], xv, 681, 682, 689).

1Preceding six words interlined.

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