Envisaging the West: Thomas Jefferson and the Roots of Lewis and Clark



Thomas Walker's Journal (1750) In March 1750 (1749 under the Julian Calendar), Thomas Walker and several companions set off through western Virginia into modern-day Kentucky. His journal documents some of the earliest Euro-American impressions of the Cumberland region.

Instructions for the Treaty of Logstown Instructions given Christopher Gist, Gentleman, by the Ohio company, April 28, 1752. Christopher Gist served as representative for the Ohio Company of Associates at the Logstown treaty meeting in the colony of Pennsylvania held in May 1752. Gist's instructions directed him to inform the several tribes of Indians expected at the meeting, including the Six Nations, the extensive grant of land on the Ohio to the Ohio Company for establishing colonial settlements and increase of trade in the region. The point of the meeting was to create a stable frontier environment for extension of commerce and settlement along the Ohio. For Gist's part, he was to emphasize the benefits to the Indians of expanded trade and increased white settlement.

Proclimation [sic] of 1754 In response to the perceived threat of French incursions into the Ohio valley, Governor Dinwiddie issued this proclamation offering bounty lands to "all who should voluntarily enter into ... service" for the establishment of a fort on the Ohio where it met the Mohongahela. The bounty lands included two hundred thousand acres near the fort and along the river. Each enlistee would receive land "in a proportion due to their respective merit."

An act preventing and repelling the hostile incursions of the Indians, at enmity with the inhabitants of this colony. The law addresses ongoing violence between Virginians and native groups "supposed to be in the interest of the French." Bounty is offered to Virginians for the capture and killing of any enemy male over the age of twelve. To safeguard relationships with allies, the Assembly decrees that anyone who "knowingly and wilfully" kills any Native male "in alliance, peace and friendship with his majesty and his subjects in this colony" will be prosecuted as a felon.

An act for preventing and repelling the hostile incursions of the Indians, at enmity with the inhabitants of this colony. The law of August 29, 1755, which offered bounty for the "killing or destruction" of French-allied Native American males is expanded to offer like rewards to Virginia's Native American allies.

An Act for the more effectual preventing and repelling the hostile incursions of the Indians at enmity with the inhabitants of this colony. Further suggestions for the suppression of Native American violence through the offer of bounties. In order to maintain peaceful relationships with Indian allies, Virginians who kill or seize allied Native Americans will be prosecuted as felons.

Proclamation of 1763. In the aftermath of the French and Indian War, the British crown issued this proclamation, which severely limited colonists' access to land west of an imaginary line running down the crest of the Appalachain Mountains. With this attempt to reorganize British control in North America and maintain orderly relations with Native peoples, George III further alienated colonists who saw western expansion as an inevitable process. Many provisions in the Proclamation remained intact until 1776, although incursions by colonists into land west of the Proclamation Line were common.

An act for establishing a trade with the Indian allies of his majesty, and to amend another act directing the trustees of the Indian Factory of Virginia. In an effort to regulate and control trade with Cherokee allies, conditions for trade are laid out in detail. The trustees of the Indian Factory are instructed to limit the types of goods sold and the manner in which they deal with established allies and new consumers.

An act for declaring and asserting the rights of this commonwealth, concerning purchasing lands from Indian natives. Virginia's revolutionary government claimed an "exclusive right of preemption" over all lands within the bounds of its "chartered territory," including the lands north and west of the Ohio River. Moreover, the act made null and void every land transaction between individuals and the various tribes of Indians, or grants from English crown to any individual within the commonwealth, transferring control of all such lands into the hands of the commonwealth.

An act for establishing a Land office, and ascertaining the terms and manner of granting waste and unappropriated lands. Concerned about the disposal of "waste and unappropriated lands," the General Assembly created a land office to deal with the sale and distribution of these lands. The lands would be used to encourage immigration, increasing public revenue, and paying off the commonwealth's debt. The office's administrative role would be essential to managing records of land patents, grants, veterans' land warrants, and purchases of waste and unappropriated lands sold at forty pounds per hundred acres. Managing Virginias lands, and later the public lands of the United States, was a central concern throughout the dcades of the early republic.

Daniel Smith's Journal (1779-1780) In 1779, with other surveyors and adventurers from Virginia and North Carolina, Daniel Smith and Thomas Walker set out to extend the Virginia-North Carolina boundary line far beyond the Cumberland Gap. From August 1779 until August 1780, the men traveled from southern Virginia, to the Falls of the Ohio River, and back to Virginia. In addition to their survey duties, the men worked secretly for Thomas Jefferson, meeting with George Rogers Clark at the Falls of the Ohio River to scout locations for the planned Fort Jefferson.

Ezra Stiles to Thomas Jefferson, May 8, 1786 Ezra Stiles pens a note to Thomas Jefferson, introducing Samuel Wales of Yale University. Stiles also prefaces the enclosed letter from Samuel Parsons (see Samuel Parsons to Ezra Stiles, April 27, 1786.)

Thomas Jefferson to Henry Innes, March 7, 1791 Thomas Jefferson continues correspondence with Henry Innes about native history in the western regions of the United States. Jefferson also laments the problems George Rogers Clark is having, likely as a result of ongoing financial and health issues.

David Campbell to Thomas Jefferson, February 25, 1792 David Campbell writes to Thomas Jefferson, outlining the difficulties in establishing federal authority in the newly organized Southwest Territory. Significantly, Campbell argues for the supremacy of the Constitution over North Carolina state law in the region and asserts that the land and property of Native groups should be left unmolested.

Thomas Jefferson to United States Congress, January 18, 1803 Thomas Jefferson's confidential report to Congress planned westward expansion and the United States' relationship with Native Americans.

Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, April 30, 1803 Thomas Jefferson encourages Meriwether Lewis to follow Andrew Ellicott's advice on scientific matters involving astronomical measurements.

Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803 Thomas Jefferson issues detailed instructions to Meriwether Lewis, addressing every aspect of the upcoming expedition.

Thomas Jefferson to John Dickinson, August 9, 1803 Thomas Jefferson expresses his pleasure at the Louisiana Purchase, and explains the importance of the territory as a buffer against Spanish expansion.