What arguments does he use to explain the Lewis & Clark expedition?, history homework help

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Read Chapters 7-8 and the
information included in Jefferson’s Message to
Congress (1803)
. Once all reading is complete,
respond to the following items:

  • Thomas Jefferson wrote this secret message to Congress
    about the Lewis & Clark expedition in 1803; what does it tell us about
    Jefferson’s views of westward expansion and Native Americans?
  • What solutions does Jefferson propose to the friction
    between the fledgling republic and the Indian tribes of the West?
  • What arguments does he use to explain the Lewis &
    Clark expedition?

Transcript of Jefferson’s Secret
Message to Congress Regarding the Lewis & Clark Expedition (1803)


of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

As the
continuance of the act for establishing trading houses with the Indian tribes
will be under the consideration of the Legislature at its present session, I
think it my duty to communicate the views which have guided me in the execution
of that act, in order that you may decide on the policy of continuing it, in
the present or any other form, or discontinue it altogether, if that shall, on
the whole, seem most for the public good.

The Indian
tribes residing within the limits of the United States, have, for a
considerable time, been growing more and more uneasy at the constant diminution
of the territory they occupy, although effected by their own voluntary sales:
and the policy has long been gaining strength with them, of refusing absolutely
all further sale, on any conditions; insomuch that, at this time, it hazards
their friendship, and excites dangerous jealousies and perturbations in their
minds to make any overture for the purchase of the smallest portions of their land.
A very few tribes only are not yet obstinately in these dispositions. In order
peaceably to counteract this policy of theirs, and to provide an extension of
territory which the rapid increase of our numbers will call for, two measures
are deemed expedient. First: to encourage them to abandon hunting, to apply to
the raising stock, to agriculture and domestic manufacture, and thereby prove
to themselves that less land and labor will maintain them in this, better than
in their former mode of living. The extensive forests necessary in the hunting
life, will then become useless, and they will see advantage in exchanging them
for the means of improving their farms, and of increasing their domestic
comforts. Secondly: to multiply trading houses among them, and place within
their reach those things which will contribute more to their domestic comfort,
than the possession of extensive, but uncultivated wilds. Experience and
reflection will develop to them the wisdom of exchanging what they can spare
and we want, for what we can spare and they want. In leading them to
agriculture, to manufactures, and civilization; in bringing together their and
our settlements, and in preparing them ultimately to participate in the
benefits of our governments, I trust and believe we are acting for their
greatest good. At these trading houses we have pursued the principles of the
act of Congress, which directs that the commerce shall be carried on liberally,
and requires only that the capital stock shall not be diminished. We consequently
undersell private traders, foreign and domestic, drive them from the
competition; and thus, with the good will of the Indians, rid ourselves of a
description of men who are constantly endeavoring to excite in the Indian mind
suspicions, fears, and irritations towards us. A letter now enclosed, shows the
effect of our competition on the operations of the traders, while the Indians,
perceiving the advantage of purchasing from us, are soliciting generally, our
establishment of trading houses among them. In one quarter this is particularly
interesting. The Legislature, reflecting on the late occurrences on the
Mississippi, must be sensible how desirable it is to possess a respectable
breadth of country on that river, from our Southern limit to the Illinois at
least; so that we may present as firm a front on that as on our Eastern border.
We possess what is below the Yazoo, and can probably acquire a certain breadth
from the Illinois and Wabash to the Ohio; but between the Ohio and Yazoo, the
country all belongs to the Chickasaws, the most friendly tribe within our
limits, but the most decided against the alienation of lands. The portion of
their country most important for us is exactly that which they do not inhabit.
Their settlements are not on the Mississippi, but in the interior country. They
have lately shown a desire to become agricultural; and this leads to the desire
of buying implements and comforts. In the strengthening and gratifying of these
wants, I see the only prospect of planting on the Mississippi itself, the means
of its own safety. Duty has required me to submit these views to the judgment
of the Legislature; but as their disclosure might embarrass and defeat their
effect, they are committed to the special confidence of the two Houses.

While the
extension of the public commerce among the Indian tribes, may deprive of that
source of profit such of our citizens as are engaged in it, it might be worthy
the attention of Congress, in their care of individual as well as of the
general interest, to point, in another direction, the enterprise of these
citizens, as profitably for themselves, and more usefully for the public. The
river Missouri, and the Indians inhabiting it, are not as well known as is
rendered desirable by their connexion with the Mississippi, and consequently
with us. It is, however, understood, that the country on that river is
inhabited by numerous tribes, who furnish great supplies of furs and peltry to
the trade of another nation, carried on in a high latitude, through an infinite
number of portages and lakes, shut up by ice through a long season. The
commerce on that line could bear no competition with that of the Missouri,
traversing a moderate climate, offering according to the best accounts, a
continued navigation from its source, and possibly with a single portage, from
the Western Ocean, and finding to the Atlantic a choice of channels through the
Illinois or Wabash, the lakes and Hudson, through the Ohio and Susquehanna, or
Potomac or James rivers, and through the Tennessee and Savannah, rivers. An
intelligent officer, with ten or twelve chosen men, fit for the enterprise, and
willing to undertake it, taken from our posts, where they may be spared without
inconvenience, might explore the whole line, even to the Western Ocean, have
conferences with the natives on the subject of commercial intercourse, get
admission among them for our traders, as others are admitted, agree on
convenient deposits for an interchange of articles, and return with the
information acquired, in the course of two summers. Their arms and
accoutrements, some instruments of observation, and light and cheap presents
for the Indians, would be all the apparatus they could carry, and with an
expectation of a soldier’s portion of land on their return, would constitute
the whole expense. Their pay would be going on, whether here or there. While
other civilized nations have encountered great expense to enlarge the
boundaries of knowledge by undertaking voyages of discovery, and for other
literary purposes, in various parts and directions, our nation seems to owe to
the same object, as well as to its own interests, to explore this, the only
line of easy communication across the continent, and so directly traversing our
own part of it. The interests of commerce place the principal object within the
constitutional powers and care of Congress, and that it should incidentally
advance the geographical knowledge of our own continent, cannot be but an
additional gratification. The nation claiming the territory, regarding this as
a literary pursuit, which is in the habit of permitting within its dominions,
would not be disposed to view it with jealousy, even if the expiring state of
its interests there did not render it a matter of indifference. The
appropriation of two thousand five hundred dollars, “for the purpose of
extending the external commerce of the United States,” while understood
and considered by the Executive as giving the legislative sanction, would cover
the undertaking from notice, and prevent the obstructions which interested
individuals might otherwise previously prepare in its way.

Jan. 18. 1803.


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