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



Clark, George Rogers

An act concerning officers, soldiers, sailors, and marines. This act guaranteed bounties of land and money to officers, soldiers, sailors, and marines who enlisted, or re-enlisted in some circumstances, in the forces of the commonwealth or the continental army. The bounties included $750 and "a grant of one hundred acres of any unappropriated land within" the commonwealth of Virginia for soldiers and for officers a "like quantity of lands as is allowed to officers of the same rank in the Virginia regiments on continental establishment." Other provisions of the act included tax exemption during time of service, pensions for soldiers' widows, prices for essentials through commissaries, and a grant of two hundred acres for volunteers under the command of George Rogers Clarke in defense of "the Illinois Country." Additional bounties of one hundred acres of land and $750 for special solicitations for troops to defend Illinois county and "four troops of horse" for the defense of Virginia's "eastern quarter."

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.

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Martin, January 24, 1780 Thomas Jefferson instructs Joseph Martin, agent to the Cherokee, to purchase or trade for land for Fort Jefferson, currently being plotted by George Rogers Clark.

Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark, January 29, 1780 Thomas Jefferson issues instructions for the construction of a fort on the Falls of the Ohio, offering the services of surveyors Thomas Walker and Daniel Smith, who are in the field plotting a line between North Carolina and Virginia. Addressing the need to defend the western frontier from British advances, Jefferson authorizes Clark's recruitment of a battalion of soldiers, with land warrants issued as payment. Jefferson also expresses concern over the establishment of peaceful relations with French settlers and Native groups already in the region.

Thomas Jefferson To Thomas Walker and Daniel Smith, January 29, 1780 In this secret communique, Thomas Jefferson instructs the surveyors to assist George Rogers Clark in selecting a spot for the fort to be constructed at the falls of the Ohio River.

Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark, April 19, 1780 Thomas Jefferson writes to George Rogers Clark with concerns about the planned fortifications at the mouth of the Ohio River.

George Rogers Clark to Thomas Jefferson, February 20, 1782 George Rogers Clark writes of western fossils and "Curious work of Antiquity."

Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark, November 26, 1782 Responding to George Rogers Clark's February 20 missive, Thomas Jefferson encourages him to send fossil and "notes as to the Indians, information of the country between the Missisipi and waters of the South sea &c."

Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark, December 4, 1783 Thomas Jefferson expresses concern over supposed British plans to explore North America from the Mississippi River to California and asks Clark if he would be willing to undertake such an exploration on behalf of the United States. Jefferson also addresses the ongoing Congressional debate over the location of the new capitol, believing a site on the Potomac River would be amenable to western states as they form.

George Rogers Clark to Thomas Jefferson, February 8, 1784 Responding to Thomas Jefferson's December 4, 1783, missive, George Rogers Clark regretfully opts out of any future U.S. expedition to the West. Clark does suggest that such an expedition be undertaken by a small group of men schooled in Native languages and traditions.

Virginia's delegates cede western counties to the nation. The wrangling between Virginia, Maryland, and other "landed" states and the Congress over the use and distribution of western territory was a long and contentious process. With this document, Virginia's delegates cede land northwest of the Ohio River to the nation.

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.

Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, March 10, 1793 In his official capacity as Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson writes to George Washington, reiterating the boundaries of the western frontiers of the United States, particularly as they apply to treaties with Native groups.

William Dunbar to Thomas Jefferson, October 21, 1803 William Dunbar writes to Thomas Jefferson regarding the Spanish presence in Florida and the Gulf Coast and the surveys conducted by the Spanish in that region. He also praises George Rogers Clark's summation of the population of the Lousiana Territory and suggests a representative from that region appear before Congress, but notes that the Spanish government is unlikely to allow such a measure to take place as long as the territory is in their hands.