Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Rhea to Thomas Jefferson, 9 March 1819

From John Rhea

Washington 9th March 1819


with the assurance of my sincere esteem please to accept the inclosed copy of a speech and of a circulor letter from

Your Hble servt

John Rhea

RC (MHi); written on a small scrap; endorsed by TJ as a letter from “Rhea Wm” received 30 Mar. 1819. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Julius B. Dandridge, 3 Nov. 1819, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Late President of the United States Milton Virginia”; franked; postmarked Washington, 19 Mar. Enclosures: (1) Rhea’s speech to the United States House of Representatives on the “Seminole War,” 27 Jan. 1819, detailing the contentious United States–Indian relations since the Revolutionary War; describing native Americans as “rude, wild, and savage—ignorant of the principles of morality” and “prone to superstition, to fanaticism” (p. 3); crediting foreign emissaries with inciting Indians to violence against Americans; hailing General Andrew Jackson’s campaign against the Creeks during the War of 1812; criticizing Spain for its failure to restrain the Indians and “Negro brigands” residing in its territories (p. 9); defending the decision to send an American force to chastise the Seminoles even without a declaration of war; stating that Jackson “was authorised by the supreme law of nature and nations, the law of self-defence … to enter the Spanish territory of Florida in pursuit of, and to destroy, hostile, murdering savages” (p. 10); arguing that Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot had by their actions “denationalized themselves” and, thereby, placed themselves outside the protection of the British government (p. 11); and supporting President James Monroe’s call for Spain to punish any of its officers who were guilty of misconduct and pay the United States a “just and reasonable indemnity” to offset the expenses from its incursion into Florida (p. 12) (TJ’s copy of printed speech and following enclosure published as a single, continuously paginated pamphlet and later bound by TJ with similar works in a volume entitled “Historical Collection, 1818–20” [Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 5 (no. 165)], is in ViCMRL, on deposit ViU; speech also printed in Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. (All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers.) description ends , 15th Cong., 2d sess., 855–70). (2) Rhea to his constituents, Washington, 1 Mar. 1819, giving figures for federal revenue and expenditures, the size of the national debt, and the value of American exports; communicating information about recently concluded treaties with various Indian nations, with Great Britain respecting fisheries, and with Spain, by which “Florida, including all the claims of Spain to territory east of the Mississippi, is ceded in full sovereignty to the United States” (p. 15); specifying the boundaries of the United States; anticipating the admission of new western states; commenting that, with an estimated population of ten million, the United States has one million militia, “the greatest part of which is armed, and measures taken to arm them all. This is an armed nation, here are not any laws prohibiting the use of fire arms” (p. 16); and concluding that, because of its great size, diverse climate, fertile soil, industrious workers, “mild and benevolent” government, and civil and religious liberties, “We are an happy and highly favored people” (p. 16).

On this date Rhea sent a similar letter and enclosures to John Quincy Adams (DNA: RG 59, MLR).

No covering letter has been found, but given his otherwise unbroken record of transmitting to TJ copies of his letters to his constituents, Rhea probably later sent him his similar letter of 8 May 1820, for which see Noble E. Cunningham Jr., ed., Circular Letters of Congressmen to Their Constituents, 1789–1829 (1978), 3:1115–22.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John Quincy; circulars and speeches sent to search
  • Ambrister, Robert search
  • Arbuthnot, Alexander search
  • Creek Indians; and War of1812 search
  • debt, public; size of search
  • firearms; ownership of in U.S. search
  • Florida; acquisition of by U.S. search
  • Great Britain; and U.S. search
  • Indians, American; Creek search
  • Indians, American; J. Rhea on search
  • Indians, American; Seminole search
  • Indians, American; treaties with search
  • Jackson, Andrew; W. Fla. campaign of search
  • Jackson, Andrew; War of1812service of search
  • Monroe, James; and U.S. foreign relations search
  • Rhea, John; letters from search
  • Rhea, John; sends constituent circulars to J. Q. Adams search
  • Rhea, John; sends constituent circulars to TJ search
  • Rhea, John; speeches of search
  • Seminole Indians search
  • Spain; and U.S. search
  • United States; and Great Britain search
  • United States; and Spain search
  • United States; military preparedness search
  • United States; national debt search
  • United States; population of search
  • War of1812; and Indians search
  • West Florida; A. Jackson’s campaign in search