Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Cherokee Nation, 10 January 1806

Jan. 10. 1806.

My friends & children, chiefs of the Cherokee nation

Having now finished our business, & finished it I hope to mutual satisfaction, I cannot take leave of you without expressing the satisfaction I have recieved from your visit. I see, with my own eyes, that the endeavors we have been making to encourage and lead you on in the way of improving your situation have not been unsuccesful. it has been like grain sown in good ground, producing abundantly. you are becoming farmers, learning the use of the plough & the hoe, inclosing your grounds, and employing that labour in their cultivation which you formerly employed in hunting & in war; and I see handsome specimens of cotton cloth, raised, spun & wove by yourselves. you are also raising cattle & hogs for your food & horses to assist your labours. go on, my children in the same way, and be assured the further you advance in it the happier & more respectable you will be. our brethren whom you have happened to meet here from the West & the North West, have enabled you to compare your situation now with what it was formerly. they also make the comparison. they see how far you are ahead of them, and by seeing what you are they are encouraged to do as you have done. you will find your next want to be mills to grind your corn, which by relieving your women from the loss of time in beating it into meal, will enable them to spin & weave more. when a man has inclosed & improved his farm built a good house on it & raised plentiful stocks of animals, he will wish when he dies, that these things should go to his wife & children, whom he loves more than he does his other relations, & for whom he will work with pleasure during his life. you will therefore find it necessary to establish laws for this. when a man has property earned by his own labour, he will not like to see another come & take it from him because he happens to be stronger, or else to defend it by spilling blood. you will find it necessary then to appoint good men, as judges, to decide contests between man & man, according to reason, & to the rules you shall establish. if you wish to be aided by our counsel & experience in these things, we shall always be ready to assist you with our advice.

My children.

It is unnecessary for me to advise you against spending all your time & labor in warring with & destroying your fellow-men, & wasting your own numbers. you already see the folly & the iniquity of it. your young men however are not yet sufficiently sensible of it. some of them cross the Missisipi to go & destroy people who never did them an injury. my children, this is wrong, & must not be. if we permit them to cross the Missisipi to war with the Indians on the other side of that river, we must let those Indians cross the river to take revenge on you. I say again, this must not be. the Missipi now belongs to us. it must not be a river of blood. it is now the water-path along which all our people of Natchez, St. Louis, Indiana, Ohio, Tennissee, Kentucky, and the Western parts of Pennsylva. & Virginia are constantly passing with their property to & from N. Orleans. young men going to war are not easily restrained. finding our people on the river, they will rob them, perhaps kill them. this would bring on a war between us and you. it is better to stop this in time, by forbidding your young people to go across the river to make war. if they go to visit, or to live with the Cherokees on the other side of the river, we shall not object to that. that country is ours. we will permit them to live in it.

My children.

This is what I wished to say to you. to go on in learning to cultivate the earth, and to avoid war. if any of your neighbors injure you, our beloved men whom we place with you, will endeavor to obtain justice for you, & we will support them in it. if any of your bad people injure your neighbors, be ready to acknolege it, & to do them justice. it is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it. tell all your chiefs, your men, women & children, that I take them by the hand & hold it fast, that I am their father, wish their happiness & well-being, and am always ready to promote their good.

My children. I thank you for your visit, and pray to the great spirit who made us all, & planted us all in this land to live together like brothers, that he will conduct you safely to your homes, and grant you to find your families & your friends in good health.

Th: Jefferson

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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