February 27, 1752 | Statute An Act for encouraging persons to settle on the waters of the Mississippi. Justified as a "means of cultivating a good correspondence with the neighbouring Indians," the provisions of this act encouraged "natural born subjects" and "foreign protestants" to settle along the waters of the Mississippi. Settlements possessed security value since they served as a means of projecting the colony's strength along the frontier. The act exempted settlers on the western slope of the Appalachian Mountains from payment of all public levies for ten years.
February 14, 1754 | Statute An Act for encouraging persons to settle on the waters of the Mississippi. Demonstrating commitment to western settlement, the Virginia Assembly sets levies and duties to offset the costs of protecting the western edges of Augusta County from the depredations of the French and their Native American allies.
May 28, 1755 | Statute An act for the encouragement and protection of the settlers upon the waters of the Mississippi, particularly in relation to taxation and duties. This law deals mainly with taxation but also continues a previous act for the encouragement of settlements "upon the waters of the Mississippi." That act limited the tax liablility of settlers along the Mississippi in order to speed settlement of that part of Albemarle county that extended farther west.
October 7, 1763 | Treaty 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.
October 3, 1778 | Statute An act for establishing the county of Illinois, and for the more effectual protection and defense thereof. This act recognized the successful effort by George Rogers Clark and his expedition to secure the western side of the Ohio for Virginia. The commonwealth incorporated the existing inhabitants into the commonwealth through oaths of fidelity and then extended institutions of governance by establishing the county of Illinois. The act provided for election of civil officials and the raising of a five hundred man force for the defense of the county.
August 14, 1779–August 7, 1780 | Journal 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.
January 24, 1780 | Letter 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.
January 29, 1780 | Letter 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.
January 29, 1780 | Letter 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.
April 19, 1780 | Letter 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.
November 29, 1782 | Letter Arthur Campbell to Thomas Jefferson, November 29, 1782 Arthur Campbell writes to Thomas Jefferson about fossil finds in the West and possible a possible western border that may result from negotiations with the British.
December 4, 1783 | Letter 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.
January 24, 1784 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Hutchins, January 24, 1784 Thomas Jefferson writes to geographer Thomas Hutchins with questions and remarks about one of Hutchins' pamphlets, "A Topographical Description of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina, Comprehending the Rivers Ohio, Kenhawa, Sioto, Cherokee, Wabash, Illinois, Mississippi, &c...With a Plan of the Rapids of the Ohio, A Plan of the Several Villages in the Illinois Country, a Table of the Distances Between Fort Pitt and the Mouth of the Ohio." In his remarks, Jefferson notes several mistakes in the work.
February 11, 1784 | Letter Thomas Hutchins to Thomas Jefferson, February 11, 1784 Thomas Hutchins responds to Thomas Jefferson's January 24, 1784 note questioning calculations made in one of Hutchins' pamphlets, "A Topographical Description of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina, Comprehending the Rivers Ohio, Kenhawa, Sioto, Cherokee, Wabash, Illinois, Mississippi, &c...With a Plan of the Rapids of the Ohio, A Plan of the Several Villages in the Illinois Country, a Table of the Distances Between Fort Pitt and the Mouth of the Ohio."
March 1, 1784 | Report Resolutions from the Committee for the Western Territory, March, 1, 1784. With Jeremiah Townley Chase and David Howell, Thomas Jefferson issues recommendations for the division and government of the western edges of United States territory. The preferred boundaries of future states are laid out and vaguely classical and Indian names are given the various regions. Congress did not adopt the Ordinance as Jefferson submitted it, primarily rejecting the abolition of slavery in the region and Jefferson's nomenclature. As passed by Congress, it became the Ordinance of 1784.
May 21, 1784 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, May 21, 1784 Thomas Jefferson worries about the evolving western borders and territory of the United States.
January 25, 1786 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, January 25, 1786 Thomas Jefferson thanks Archibald Stuart for his correspondence and worries over the United States' financial help and credit abroad. Jefferson writes that Kentucky's possible cession would be disastrous to his hopes that the new nation serve as the core of settlement for both North and South America.
July 13, 1787 | Letter Northwest Ordinance, July 13 1787. Setting the stage for western expansion, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 shaped the development of the territory north and west of the Ohio River.
July 11, 1790 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, July 11, 1790 Thomas Jefferson writes to James Monroe about paying the public debt and Congress' willingness to do so. Jefferson believes establishing the nation's credit is critical to showing its ability to go to war should England and Spain do so. Jefferson hopes to avoid conflict: "Our object is to feed & theirs to fight." Jefferson worries that English and Spanish designs on North America would leave the United States surrounded by potential aggressors.
August 2, 1790 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, August 2, 1790 The importance of the Mississippi River to American growth and economic success is uppermost in Jefferson's mind as Spain and England seem on the brink of war.
August 27, 1790 | Report George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, August 27, 1790 George Washington asks for Thomas Jefferson's opinions on a variety of security concerns on the United States' western borders, particularly given the threat of British/Spanish hostilities. Jefferson answered on August 28, 1790.
March 12, 1791 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, March 12, 1791 Tension along the Mississippi River worries Thomas Jefferson, who asks William Carmichael to clarify the position of the Spanish regarding navigation of the Mississippi below the mouth of the Ohio River.
March 12, 1791 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to William Short, March 12, 1791 Tensions with European powers create worries for Thomas Jefferson as he writes to William Short with concerns over the navigation of the Mississippi.
April 2, 1791 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, April 2, 1791 Thomas Jefferson summarizes for George Washington the diplomatic maneuvering of Spain and the United States on the subject of Florida and western settlements.
December 22, 1791 | Report Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, December 22, 1791 Thomas Jefferson advises President Washington on the prospects of negotiations with the Spanish and urges him to direct commissioners to focus on the navigation of the Mississippi.
March 18, 1792 | Report Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, March 18, 1792 A detailed examination of the current and future prospect for western expansion and the legal and political ramifications of such movement.
January 23, 1793 | Letter American Philosophical Society Members Subscribe to Andre Michaux's Expedition Thomas Jefferson's draft of the pledge of the subscribers to the Andre Michaux expedition.
January 23, 1793 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to Andre Michaux, January 23, 1793 Thomas Jefferson's instructions for Andre Michaux's proposed western expedition.
February 16, 1793 | Report Thomas Jefferson to the United States House of Representatives, February 16, 1793 In the report, Thomas Jefferson's understanding of American land policy in the west, particularly Indian treaties and possession and white claims, is clearly laid out as he reports on the land claim of a Revolutionary War veteran
April 10, 1793 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, January 22, 1793 Thomas Jefferson forwards information about subscriptions for Michaux's journey to George Washington.
June 30, 1793 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael and William Short, June 30, 1793 Thomas Jefferson writes to William Carmichael and William Short, the United States' commissioners in Spain, addressing ongoing tensions with Spain. Spanish authorities viewed American settlements in the West with great suspicion and accused the United States of encouraging Native groups to violence. Jefferson addresses both the accusations and the United States' policies towards the Chickasaw and Creek Nations.
February 12, 1799 | Letter Daniel Clark to Thomas Jefferson, February 12, 1799 Daniel Clark, of New Orleans, writes to Thomas Jefferson on behalf of Philip Nolan, promising a summary of Nolan's information and impressions about New Mexico and the Louisiana Territory. Clark also uses the letter to introduce Jefferson to the work of William Dunbar.
June 24, 1799 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to William Dunbar, June 24, 1799 Thomas Jefferson writes his first letter to William Dunbar, who had been recommended to him by Daniel Clark. Jefferson asks Dunbar for information on the land and inhabitants of the "regions beyond" the Mississippi River, making particular note of the importance of recording the languages of indigenous peoples as a means to understanding their origins.
November 12, 1799 | Letter Daniel Clark to Thomas Jefferson, November 12, 1799 Daniel Clark writes of Philip Nolan's close brush with death in New Mexico and informs Jefferson of Nolan's plan to travel to the United States. Clarks takes the liberty of sending along a box of pecans for Jefferson.
May 29, 1800 | Letter Daniel Clark to Thomas Jefferson, May 29, 1800 Daniel Clark writes to Jefferson of Philip Nolan's departure for the United States, and notes that an inhabitant of the land "West of the Mississippi" accompanies him for Jefferson's edification, so that he may be "the first to acquire particular information of a Country now almost unknown to the U.S."
June 30, 1800 | Report William Dunbar to the American Philosophical Society, via Thomas Jefferson, read January 16, 1801 This letter, with several other missives and reports written by Dunbar, were forwarded by Jefferson to the American Philosphical Society, where they were read before the Society and later published in theTransactions of the Philosophical Society of Americain 1804. Dunbar provides detailed notes on the climate in and near Natchez.
June 30, 1800 | Report William Dunbar to the American Philosophical Society, via Thomas Jefferson, read January 16, 1801. This letter, with several other missives and reports written by Dunbar, were forward by Jefferson to the American Philosphical Society, where they were read before the Society and later published in theTransactions of the Philosophical Society of Americain 1804. Dunbar describes the sign language used by Native Americans between the Mississippi River and the "Western American ocean."
March 20, 1801 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to Joseph-Mathias Gerard de Rayneval, March 20, 1801 Thomas Jefferson addresses the history and purposes of the Ohio, Wabash, and Loyal Land Companies in this letter about Conrad Alexandre Gérard de Rayneval's financial difficulties with the Wabash Company. State cession of lands to the companies are germane to the discussion.
August 22, 1801 | Report William Dunbar to the American Philosophical Society, via Thomas Jefferson, read December 18, 1801. This report, with several other missives and reports written by Dunbar, were forwarded by Jefferson to the American Philosphical Society, where they were read before the Society and later published in theTransactions of the Philosophical Society of Americain 1804. Dunbar's detailed descriptions of the weather and growing conditions in Lousiana were sure to interest Jefferson.
August 22, 1801 | Letter William Dunbar to Thomas Jefferson, August 22, 1801 William Dunbar writes to Thomas Jefferson of scientific matters, including the properties of rainbows. Dunbar anticipates fossil finds west of the Mississippi River, based on information forwarded by the late Philip Nolan. This letter, with several other missives and reports written by Dunbar, were forward by Jefferson to the American Philosphical Society, where they were read before the Society and later published in theTransactions of the Philosophical Society of Americain 1809. See the "Reports" section of this archive.
October 20, 1802 | Report John Watkins to the American Philosophical Society, via Benjamin Smith Barton, read January 1, 1803 Dr. John Watkins' letter to Benjamin Smith Barton is an interesting catalog of the flora and fauna of the northern parts of the Louisiana Territory. The inclusion of this missive in theTransactions of the American Philosophical Societydemonstrates the importance of science in the West to the members of the Society.
January 18, 1803 | Report 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.
March 3, 1803 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to William Dunbar, March 3, 1803 After thanking William Dunbar for earlier correspondence, including Martin Duralde's report to the American Philosophical Society, Thomas Jefferson expresses hopes that American rights to the Mississippi River can be maintained without war; the President also anticipates the acquisition of Native lands on the left bank of the river to "plant on the Missisipi itself the means of it's own defence."
March 14, 1803 | Letter Albert Gallatin to Thomas Jefferson, March 14, 1803 Albert Gallatin informs Thomas Jefferson of the preparations he has made for the Corps of Discovery expedition, including commissioning Nicholas King's blank projection of western North America. Gallatin demonstrates his familiarity with the work of cartographers including Arrowsmith, Delisle, and Mackenzie, assuming Jefferson has the same background knowledge.
April 3, 1803 | Letter Meriwether Lewis to Thomas Jefferson, April 3, 1803 Meriwether Lewis writes to Jefferson regarding his preparations, including his many communications with men of science. Lewis includes his plans for a collapsible boat.
April 13, 1803 | Letter Albert Gallatin to Thomas Jefferson, April 13, 1803 Albert Gallatin responds to Jefferson's planned instructions to Lewis by stressing the importance of evaluating the suitability of the parts of the trans-Missouri region not included in the Louisiana Purchase. He wonders if British appropriation of the region is a possibility.
April 22, 1803 | Letter From Thomas Jefferson to Lewis Harvie, April 22, 1803 Thomas Jefferson writes to Lewis Harvie, informing him of Meriwether Lewis' progress in preparing for his expedition. Jefferson also reassures Harvie that questions between Spain and France over the Louisiana Territory will not interfere with the United States' acquisition of the region.
April 27, 1803 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, April 27, 1803 Thomas Jefferson informs Meriwether Lewis he will be forwarding copies of his instructions for the journey into the Louisiana Territory. The instructions may be shown to members of the American Philosophical Society, in case they would make any modifications.
May 13, 1803 | Letter Bernard Lacépède to Thomas Jefferson, May 13, 1803 Bernard Lacépède applauds Jefferson's dedication to exploration and expansion, predicting success and the expansion of United States trade and communication because of it.
June 20, 1803 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803 Thomas Jefferson issues detailed instructions to Meriwether Lewis, addressing every aspect of the upcoming expedition.
August 9, 1803 | Letter 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.
October 21, 1803 | Letter William Dunbar to Thomas Jefferson, October 21, 1803 William Dunbar responds to Thomas Jefferson's September 21 letter regarding the Spanish presence in Florida and the Gulf Coast and the surveys conducted by the Spanish in that region. He also praises Daniel 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.
October 21, 1803 | Letter 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.
November 16, 1803 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, November 16, 1803 Thomas Jefferson updates Meriwether Lewis on political activity around the event of the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson includes notes from the explorer Truteau that detail population and activities of some native groups living west of the Mississippi.
January 22, 1804 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, January 22, 1804 Thomas Jefferson informs Meriwether Lewis of the steps the United States is taking to consolidate its position in the land along the Mississippi.
January 28, 1804 | Letter William Dunbar to Thomas Jefferson, January 28, 1804 William Dunbar sends notes to Jefferson concerning the Mississippi River Valley; he believes the notes could be read before the Philosphical Society; see the "Reports" section of this archive for several of Dunbar's dispatches on the Mississippi River region. Dunbar continues with a discussion of the development of Natchez and the establishment of a college there.
March 13, 1804 | Letter Thomas Jefferson to William Dunbar, March 13, 1804 Thomas Jefferson thanks William Dunbar for his letter of January 28, promising to forward his paper on the Mississippi River to the American Philosophical Society. Jefferson then writes a detailed discussion of the science of water in a river like the Mississippi. Jefferson also relates his plans for directing surveying parties to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, in addition to explorations of the Red and other more southern waterways. Jefferson concludes with speculations on the future of the Lousiana Territory.
April 6, 1804 | Report William Dunbar to the American Philosophical Society, via Thomas Jefferson, read April 6, 1804. The Mississippi River, its delta, and the surrounding region receive detailed attention from William Dunbar in this report forwarded to the APS by Thomas Jefferson.
May 13, 1804 | Letter William Dunbar to Thomas Jefferson, May 13, 1804 William Dunbar thanks Thomas Jefferson for his comments about Dunbar's notes on the Mississippi River. Spain's land sales in Western Florida draw the author's attention and Dunbar offers approval of continuing explorations on America's western rivers, while bemoaning Congress' reluctance to adequately fund such expeditions.