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


Place Name

Tennessee River

Treaty of Fort Stanwix After expressing their "apprehension" regarding the failure of colonists to strictly observe the 1765 boundary line between Indian Territory and the British colonies, continued negotiations produced this treaty. It describes in detail the line between the Six Nations, tribes of the Ohio, various dependent tribes, and the thirteen seaboard colonies. The agreement effectively closed off legitimate settlement of the Ohio Valley. However, it was ignored by many colonists who migrated west and squatted illegally on Indian lands. The inability of colonial authorities to effectively prevent these illegal settlements west of the boundary aggravated the situation between the various tribes of the region and white settlers along the frontier.

An act for dividing the county of Fincastle into three distinct counties, and the parish of Botetourt into four distinct parishes. As more settlers moved into Fincastle County, the demand for local institutions - courts, justices of the peace, etc. - grew. The General Assembly divided Fincastle into the counties of Kentucky, Washington, and Montgomery. This act defined the boundaries of the three counties, established courts, identified county seats, and recognized justices of the peace.

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.

An act for more effectually securing to the officers and soldiers of the Virginia line, the lands reserved to them. With significant tracts of land in the western reaches of Virginia promised to the "officers and soldiers of the Virginia line," the Assembly asserts its rights to promise lands to veterans and remove squatters. To reduce tensions along the state's border, the assembly prohibits settlement beyond the boundaries it has set.

Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, December 10, 1779 Thomas Jefferson informs George Washington of a conflict in Congress over reimbursing Colonel Theodrick Bland for expenses incurred at the Barracks at Albemarle. Jefferson encloses important extracts from an act in the Virginia Assembly that ensures land issued to officers, soldiers, and sailors will remain unsettled until the veterans, or their heirs, are able to take possession.

Report of the Virginia Commissioners, 1780 Daniel Smith and Thomas Walker report to the Virginia Assembly on their mission to establish a line between Virginia and North Carolina.

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 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.

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."

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.

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 James Monroe, May 21, 1784 Thomas Jefferson worries about the evolving western borders and territory of the United States.

Treaty of Hopewell This treaty further codified the relationship between the Cherokees and the American government

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

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.