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


Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, March 11, 1793
Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson writes to Henry Lee about extending the Virginia/Kentucky line and the prospects for settlement. Regarding Virginia's unsettled boundary with the southwestern territory, Thomas Jefferson anticipates population growth and formal organization in that region.

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Philadelphia, March 11, 1793.


On receipt of the letter with which you were pleased to honor me on the subject of the unsettled boundary between Virginia and the Southwestern territory, I laid it before the President, who communicated it to Congress. A committee was thereupon appointed by the house of representatives who reposed a proposition for authorizing the President with the concurrence of the States of Virginia and Kentucky, to have the line extended, which proposition was passed by that house, but rejected by the Senate. Their motives for the rejection not being expressed, I can only add from private information that it was observed that the South western territory would be shortly entitled to a legislature of its own, & that it would be more just to give them an opportunity of acting for themselves, and also to leave the expence of the settlement to be borne by the states interested.

I inclose you a copy of the bill passed by the Representatives, and have the honor to be
with great esteem and respect, your Excellency's, most obedient & most humble sev't.
Th: Jefferson.
Gov. Lee of Virginia