Thomas Jefferson Papers

Hugh Nelson to Thomas Jefferson, 9 June 1816

From Hugh Nelson

June 9th 1816. Belvoir


This will be presented to you by Mr Kingsberry who is about entering on the laudable pursuit of imparting to our Indian Brethren, such portion of civilized improvement as he may find them calculated to receive, and circumstances may enable him to bestow—To you it is only necessary to communicate his object, to ensure your aid and advice—Nothing can hereafter, in the page of the Historian, throw more light on a life devoted to the Good of your Country, than the undeviating and philanthropic zeal which has ever distinguished your course towards the untutored Man of the Wilderness

With high Consideration I am yr hule st

Hugh Nelson

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 10 June 1816 and so recorded in SJL, which adds that it was delivered “by mr Kingsberry.”

Cyrus Kingsbury (1786–1870), Congregational clergyman and missionary, was born in Alstead, New Hampshire. After graduating from Brown University in 1812, he entered Andover Theological Seminary that same year. On 29 Sept. 1815 Kingsbury was ordained at Ipswich, Massachusetts, and shortly thereafter he was commissioned to serve as a missionary in Tennessee. Early in 1816 he spent time in Washington, where he conferred with Secretary of War William H. Crawford and obtained a commitment of federal support for missionary efforts to convert and “civilize” Native Americans. By 3 Aug. Kingsbury was in Tennessee arranging to set up a mission station among the Cherokee Indians, and early the following year he opened the Brainerd School near Chattanooga. In 1818 he was sent to work with the Choctaw Nation in western Mississippi. When the administration of President Andrew Jackson had many Native Americans expelled from the eastern United States, Kingsbury followed the Choctaw westward and eventually established a new mission in 1836 at Pine Ridge in present-day Oklahoma, where he remained until his death (Arminta Scott Spalding, “Cyrus Kingsbury: Missionary to the Choctaws” [Ph.D. diss., University of Oklahoma, 1974]; William G. McLoughlin, Cherokees and Missionaries, 1789–1839 [1984]; Clara Sue Kidwell, Choctaws and Missionaries in Mississippi, 1818–1918 [1995]; Andover Theological Seminary, Society of Inquiry Respecting Missions, Memoirs of American Missionaries [1833], 41, 164–6; Arthur H. DeRosier Jr., “Cyrus Kingsbury—Missionary to the Choctaws,” Journal of Presbyterian History 50 [1972]: 267–87; Historical Catalogue of Brown University, 1764–1904 [1905], 109; ASP, Indian Affairs, 2:477–8; Boston Recorder, 24 Sept. 1816).

In a memoir dated 4 May 1869, Kingsbury recalled that during his 1816 visit to Monticello he discussed the “condition and prospect of the colored people” in a “brief conversation” with TJ, whom he quoted as saying that “I had hoped the present Generation would take some measures in relation to this Subject, but I now despair of it untill they are compelled to do Something” (MS in OkHi: Sue L. McBeth Collection; in an unidentified hand).

Index Entries

  • Indians, American; missionaries to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; slavery search
  • Kingsbury, Cyrus; identified search
  • Kingsbury, Cyrus; quotes TJ search
  • Kingsbury, Cyrus; visits Monticello search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Kingsbury, Cyrus search
  • Nelson, Hugh; introduces C. Kingsbury search
  • Nelson, Hugh; letters from search
  • slavery; and emancipation proposals search
  • slavery; TJ on search