Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Andrew Jackson, 18 August 1802

From Andrew Jackson

Nashville August 18th. 1802


A late attempt at a monopoly of Salt in this Western Country—occasions me to trouble you with this letter—To counteract the banefull effects of this monopoly a company has formed with a determination to lower the price of this necessary of life—This will be effected provided they can procure a lick either by purchase or on Lease, that will answer the purpose the company has in View—but it is to be lamented, that all the Valuable licks that have been discovered within our boundery, are either in the hands [of] the monopolisers or those that combind with them in raising the price of salt—one of immense worth, within the Indian boundery near to the wabash river, would answer the purpose provided a lease could be procured for it from the Indians—This lick, would aford abundant supply for all the western world on lower terms, perhaps than at any yet known off—and the rent would yield to the Indians an annual Supply of this necessary of life—and tend much to the benefit of the publick—I am not informed whether the Indian agent is possessed with powers to lease such property for the Indians—or whether the Executive is cloathed with such authority to cause it to be done (if the interest of the Indians require it) without Legislative sanction—If the President is invested with the power, and the thing tend both to the benefit of the indians and the western citizens—would the President at the Expense of the company appoint an agent, to procure a lease from the Indians, for and on behalf of the company—If a lease can be obtained, the company (who I represent) wishes it to include five thousand acres—for which they are willing to pay to the Indians anual rent in Salt, to give bond and Security not to Tresspass on the Indian boundery beyond those limits, and come under obligations not to sell to the citizens at a higher than a certain stipulated price, which shall be as low as it can be made for, to sink the expence in the profits—keeping in View the different places of delivery and deposit—the real object of the company, is to counteract the attempt not to monopolise this article—to benefit our country and not self agrandizement—Indian property has been leased by an agent under the direction of the Secretary at war—I will name one case—The Ferry at South west Point—which brings to the Indians a handsome anual stipend—The lick Spoke off, in its present situation is unproductive to the Indians, and will continue so to be, untill it is [placed in] a state of cultivation, when the anual profits [will give] them an anual supply of that necessary they so [much] stand in need off, and will benefit the whole western world—Its local situation not more than Eight miles from the ohio, still nearer to the wabash—will supply all the western world with half the expence in portage that it can be done from any lick I know of—

Will you Sir when disengaged from objects of greater national concern, be good enough to answer this letter, and inform whether such power (to lease) is invested in the Executive, or the Indian agent—If the Executive, whether it is an object of such publick utility, as would induce you to exercise the power—If the President is not cloathed with the power, could the Legislative by law give the power of doing the thing, without the expence of a general treaty—

Publick good being the only object the writer has in View, the president will excuse the freedom he has taken—with the highest sentiments of Esteem & respect, I am Sir

yr mo, ob, Serv,

Andrew Jackson

RC (DLC); torn; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States of america Federal City”; franked; postmarked Jonesborough, 19 Aug.; endorsed by TJ as received 9 Sep. and so recorded in SJL.

MONOPOLY: one company controlled production at Bullitt’s Lick, Kentucky, the largest salt works in the western United States, and at other salt works in the vicinity. In 1802, after stockpiling salt in its warehouses, the firm stopped production at Bullitt’s Lick to drive the price of salt sharply upward (John A. Jakle, “Salt on the Ohio Valley Frontier, 1770–1820,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 59 [1969], 697–700; Robert E. McDowell, “Bullitt’s Lick: The Related Saltworks and Settlements,” Filson Club History Quarterly, 30 [1956], 259–60).

COMPANY HAS FORMED: Jackson, his friend George Michael Deaderick, and Deaderick’s banking and mercantile partner, Howell Tatum, were seeking to invest in salt manufacturing (Harold D. Moser and others, eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 8 vols. [Knoxville, 1980– ], 1:222n, 271n, 307, 310–13, 349).

Black Hoof, on his visit to Washington in February 1802, had called attention to a salt spring on INDIAN lands near the Ohio River several miles below the mouth of the WABASH. Henry Dearborn asked William Henry Harrison to look into arranging a lease for the Indians’ benefit. Harrison recommended instead that the United States obtain title to the locale, which he believed was the best source of salt between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River. In September, when Harrison met with Potawatomis and other Indians concerning the Vincennes tract, he obtained perpetual rights for the United States to the salt from the spring, along with title to a plot of surrounding land four miles square. Harrison did not consider Black Hoof’s Shawnees to have any claim to the spring, and they were not represented at the conference in September. Soon, Harrison led an effort to have control over the Saline, as the salt spring was called, given to the legislature of Indiana Territory, but the initial response from Congress was unfavorable. Jackson and his associates lobbied for the privilege of extracting salt from the site. In May 1803, Jackson wrote to his wife: “I can only say and when I do say it, it is only for your eye alone, that we will I believe get the Wabash Saline. If we do, my hope is that it will place me above the frowns or smiles of fortune.” Jackson tried with limited success to focus TJ’s attention on the topic during a conversation they had in Washington later that year (same, 307, 317, 331, 361, 399; Esarey, William Henry Harrison description begins Logan Esarey, ed., Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, Indianapolis, 1922; repr., New York, 1975, 2 vols. description ends , 1:47, 56–7, 65, 75; Vol. 36:517, 524, 525; note to Dearborn to TJ, 29 July).

The site of a FERRY over the Clinch River at Southwest Point, Tennessee, was rented from the Cherokees (Vol. 34:315).

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