Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Griffin to Thomas Jefferson, 11 September 1822

From William Griffin

Septr 11th1–1822—

To the Right Honourable Jefferson

Worthy Sr for these two Reasons to wit I was lately at the agency in the Chicksaw Nation & as Mr R. C. Nichols knew I was about Erecting or trying so to Do an Establishment in that Nation he askd Me if I ever had Read the acts of Congress Concerning of Any ones A Comeing into any of the Indian Nations for any persons who had it under Contemplation of comeing in or Haveing any thing To Do with any of the Nations I Replyd I had Not I askd him if he had Such A law I askd him to let me see it he let me have it I Read It all over found it of A Date Somewhat older than the present plan Calld the Missionary Sistem also Ratifyed by your Honour is the first Reason the Second is I Saw in the first of March A paper from Boston At Mr Cyrus Kigsburys Mahew establishment Choctaw Nation which Informd me of A formedable Board of Our Most Respectablest Charactors in the United States of Haveing formd A Board for Civilizeing of all the Indian Tribes in the United States also has seen another at the Rev; Thos C. Stewarts Est; Chicksaw Nation (S.C. Int) gave Me the Same account it rejoiesd My Soul to find out that god has said in his gospel that it should be Preachd to all Nations2 then the end of this world Should Come Mathew 24 & 14 also glory be to Him who liveth for ever & ever he is Now about to bless the poor Chidren of Abraham that thro the lines of Ishmael Descending thro Hagar the egyptian Woman Genesis 12 & 2 they are Now about to obtain the blessing of Abram gensis 28 & 4 Chapt 21 & 13 again 1 epistle peter 2 Ch 10 which in time past were not A People but are Now become the people of god I see Now that the prayers of My brethren The Baptist that were Made & put up to god forty years ago is Now about to be Answerd which was for his word to Run & be gloryfyd & let his truth spread From Sea to Sea & from the Rivers to the end of the earth yes Honourd Sr I say those great & precious promises are Now about to be fullfilld also thoese prayers Heard altho Made & prayd so long ago Many of those My Dear brethren has fell asleep & some others have Run into the Melstrum and errors of predistination whose Lamps have No oil & Snuffs are burnt up I always Did oppose & trust I Shall always oppose that Soul Killing God Dishonouring Damnable Heritickcal Doctrine of particler Election in A word May it please your Honnour I always did Believe ever since I had A Knowledge of what believeing was that the gifts & callings Of god was freely Communicated by the Holy Spirit to all individuals without their Repentance according as its laid Down by our lord in St Johns Gospe1 1 Chapt 4 & 9 verses in him was life & that life was the light of Men That was the true light which lighteth every Man that cometh into the world that Christ Came not for our sins to die for A part3 only but also for the Sins of the whole world 1 epist of John 2 & 2 And he is not4 the propition for our sin only but For the sins of the whole world 3 & 16 for god so loved the world that he gave his Only begotten son &c 17 for god Sent Not his son into the world to condem the world but that the world thro him Might be saved 18 & he that believeth &c St John 16 Chapt begining at the 7 verse Down &c for if I go not5 away the Comforter will Not come but if I go away I will send him &c & on the Day of penticost that Holy & Heavenly Moniter & comforter enterd on the work of his office in fine I believe that Jesus Dyed for all & that every son & Daughter born from Adam Has all got A Day of visitation that the Holy Spirit will lead guide all that will Repent by forsakeing all Sin Loathing of it in thought word & action, that in their accepted time can turn from sin but if they turn not that God Will take his Spirit from them & they are given up to a hard heart & Reprobate Mind & as the wicked is the Sword of God he lets them live here to fill Up the Measure of their iniquity & goes on like paul lays them Down in 1 Chapt Of his epistle to the Romans 28 verse Down please worthy Sir to excuse me For troubleing thy attention with A scitch of my faith as I Do not believe that the Complyance of any external act can Justify any Man or Mortal But only faith that works by love I have left what I have in view by this Communication & must Return while I Relate some of My late impressessions to your Honour I enterd the Cherokee Nation on the 12 Day of June 1820 without Makeing any applycation for any assistance to any Source or power only what I was Moved by the Holy Spirit as I sot out from within ½ Mile of the salt seas to preach to those people of the forrest for whose Salvation my Bowels have often yearnd & got about half way before I knew that there was A Missioner teacher or preacher amongst any of them & since I have been A travailing amongst them I have My Compassions enlarged For their Salvation I have travailed thro & thro the Cherokees Choctaw & the Chicksaws A Studying over those poor Children of the forrest State & have Concluded the Method of Civilizeing of them would be Much to the glory Of god also conducive to their Salvation for I Never saw any poor creature As Hungry for Religion learning & Civilization as they are for they have Got to see already how much better they would be off if Rightly taught In those great Matters I on last evening Crossd over tombeckbee at the Cotton ginn town it being the third time Iv travaild over & over their land A Studying over the best plan to begin on the Civilization of them I travaild in too Days about 65 Miles thro the excellentest large leavols Of the Richest Land I ever saw & the onliest Range that Rich land can Produce I Rode A Creature Iv Rode 8 years Next December Near 16 hands High & the grass in Many places was higher than it & so thick that I Could Scarcely See A Spot of the earth as big as my hand unless I was in A trace & it appeard to be Richer than any soil I ever saw & in the Rout I only saw 7 Settlements & how far across I cant so well tell but expects It the Same & in all that expanded Glory of land6 but little water for Man or beast there Can Never be water Mills erected nor yet water to Supply the Nessary uses of the Husband Man what little water I Saw I tasted of it & it Seemd to look like Chalk & water I allowd the fiftieth part was silt [. . .] Mud or Chalk Iv Concluded the best Method to Civilize them to send for the Indian Cheifes to Congress & See if they will be wiling to have their lands laid out into Range lines & then Divided into Section & for every 16 Sext to be for Schools & at the Corner where 4 Range lines Meet, to have thro their expence horse Mills Erected which will be Sufficient for 4 townships & Men of ingenious talents To attend on teaching & Makeing the Indian Men Laibour in the farms And the females to Spin weave & Cook &c they Seem very ingenious & Atentive to Learn I have talked with Several of their Head Men & They Seem to approve of the plan Id beg that government would Take My Case into consideration & grant me the Reliefe I have sent On for to the presbiterean Board of Missions at Boston the which applecation was Made to Mr Jerimiah Evarts No 22 pinkney street Boston Also to Mr Samuel T. Armstrong Cornhill No 50 Boston but Have found out as Im Not of their order Ill not probably Succeed I am Sr in all Humble Submission your Most obedient And very Humble Servt &c—

William Griffin

Iv A very great Desire to be Adopted one of the Civilizers &c Also all kinds of Mechanical Business as Iv A Set of the best men Selected for the Purpose with Husbandry—

RC (MHi); mutilated at seal; postscript on address leaf; addressed (one word editorially corrected from “Uninited”): “To the Right Honourable Thomas Jefferson Former President of the United States Of America”; franked; postmarked Columbus, Miss., 2 Oct.; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Oct. 1822 with the notation “postmark Columbus” and so recorded in SJL.

r. c. nichols: Robert Carter Nicholas (ca. 1788–1856). cyrus kigsburys mahew establishment: Cyrus Kingsbury’s Mayhew mission in present-day Oktibbeha County, Mississippi. The board for civilizeing of all the indian tribes in the united states, referred to later in this letter as the “presbiterian Board of Missions,” was probably the American Society for promoting the civilization and general improvement of the Indian Tribes within the United States.

The passages from genesis are “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you” (12.2); “May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham” (28.4); and “I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring” (21.13). Variants of the phrase from sea to sea … to the end of the earth appear in the Bible (Zechariah 9.10; Psalms 72.8).

3 & 16: John 3.16. Paul’s epistle to the romans, 1.28, reads “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”

As part of its effort to civilize the Indians, the United States government had built during TJ’s presidency a cotton gin on the east bank of the Tombigbee (tombeckbee) River near present-day Amery, Mississippi. The site was known as Cotton Gin Port (cotton ginn town) (Dunbar Rowland, Mississippi [1907], 1:575–6). horse mills are “driven by a horse; usually, by one walking in a circle or in a wheel” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

1Reworked from “Feby 14th.”

2Preceding three words interlined.

3Preceding five words interlined.

4Word interlined.

5Word interlined.

6Preceding two words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Abraham (Old Testament patriarch) search
  • Adam (Old Testament figure) search
  • American Society for promoting the civilization and general improvement of the Indian Tribes within the United States; mentioned search
  • Armstrong, Samuel T. search
  • Bible; 1 John referenced search
  • Bible; 1 Peter referenced search
  • Bible; Genesis referenced search
  • Bible; John referenced search
  • Bible; Matthew referenced search
  • Bible; Psalms referenced search
  • Bible; Romans referenced search
  • Bible; Zechariah referenced search
  • Cherokee Indians; missionaries to search
  • Chickasaw Indians; missionaries to search
  • Choctaw Indians search
  • Congress, U.S.; and Christian missionaries search
  • Congress, U.S.; mentioned search
  • education; of Indians search
  • Evarts, Jeremiah search
  • Griffin, William; as missionary to Indians search
  • Griffin, William; letter from search
  • Hagar (Old Testament figure) search
  • horses; mentioned search
  • Indians, American; Cherokee search
  • Indians, American; Chickasaw search
  • Indians, American; Choctaw search
  • Indians, American; education of search
  • Indians, American; missionaries to search
  • Indians, American; plans for civilizing search
  • Ishmael (Old Testament figure) search
  • Jesus; mentioned search
  • Kingsbury, Cyrus; as missionary to Indians search
  • mills; horse search
  • Nicholas, Robert Carter (ca.1788–1856); and missionaries to Indians search
  • Paul, Saint search
  • Presbyterians; missions to Indians search
  • religion; Presbyterianism search
  • Stewart, Thomas C. search