James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Law, 15 July 1804

From Thomas Law

Washington July 15 1804


As the present Administration takes every opportunity to promote the happiness of those around them, I am induced to submit to your perusal imaginary Speeches to the Indians now here which I wrote on Saturday for my amusement, but which (as my mind tells me I ought not to suppress them) I now trouble you with.1

Mr Dunn a very sensible Irish Gentleman who visited the Indians informed me, that the bar to their advancement was their maxim to despise property & to live as hunters without a division of their lands; a system encouraged by the whites who bought their skins.

If the President could appoint a person to form a written character for their Letters, & a Vocabulary & to establish a school, ideas could soon be communicated to them through the press.

It is pitiable to see them fast tending to annihilation—with apologies for this intrusion I remain with esteem Yr Mt Obt H St

Thomas Law.

RC and enclosure (DLC).

1In the enclosed “imaginary Speeches” (15 pp.), inspired by the visit to Washington of a group of Great Osage Indians in July 1804, Law expounded on the advantage of private property, from which, he wrote, spring all the blessings of civilization—a law code, a written language, a strong government, prosperity, power, and a growing population (National Intelligencer, 20 July 1804; Ellen G. Miles, Saint-Mémin and the Neoclassical Profile Portrait in America [Washington, D.C., 1994], 142–43).

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