Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Levi Hollingsworth, 12 February 1818

To Levi Hollingsworth

Monticello Feb. 12. 18.


Your letter of Jan. 31. did not come to hand till yesterday evening. I think it was in 1799. or 1800. that the government ordered enquiries after the Copper mines of Lake Superior, with a view to the working them themselves, and particularly for guns for the Navy. I came to the administration the year following, and the order not having been proceeded on I suppressed it, from a confidence that it was not advantageous for the public to undertake such works, being of opinion they could buy silver guns at the common market for less than Copper ones would cost them if produced from the digging of the ore to the completion of the gun by works carried on by the public. I think the execution of the order was com[mi]tted to the Navy office, not that of War. no doubt existed [of the?] [a]bundance of those mines. this is all I recollect on [th]e subject, which accept with the assurance of my respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover to TJ; damaged at seal; at foot of text: “Mr Hollingsworth”; endorsed by TJ.

copper mines: by a joint resolution of 16 Apr. 1800, Congress authorized President John Adams “to employ an agent, who shall be instructed to collect all material information relative to the copper mines on the south side of Lake Superior, and to ascertain whether the Indian title to such lands … be yet subsisting,” and “to make report to the President in such time, as the information he may collect may be laid before Congress at their next session” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 2:87). For the activities of the appointed agent, Richard Cooper, and TJ’s decision to end the investigation, see PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 41 vols. description ends , 37:135–6, 150.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and copper mines search
  • cannon search
  • Congress, U.S.; and copper mines search
  • Cooper, Richard; and copper mines search
  • copper; for naval ordnance search
  • copper; mines search
  • firearms; cannon search
  • Hollingsworth, Levi; and copper mines search
  • Hollingsworth, Levi; letter to search
  • Lake Superior; copper mines along search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; and copper mines search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; ordnance for search
  • silver; for firearms search
  • War Department, U.S.; and copper mines search