Sovereign Nation Era Ends 1800-1827

1801

Federal policy of land acquisition through Indian debt

Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson. Image: Rembrandt Peale
Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson. Image: Rembrandt Peale

President Thomas Jefferson actively encourages territorial governors to do all they can to acquire Indian land cessions through accruing Indian debt. In a private letter to William Henry Harrison in 1803, he writes, “We shall push our trading uses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them [the Indians] run in debt…. When these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands…. In time [they will] either incorporate with us as citizens … or remove beyond the Mississippi. The former is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves; but, in the whole course of this, it is essential to cultivate their love. As to their fear … they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them, and that all our liberalities to them proceed from motives of pure humanity only … driving them across the Mississippi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation” (Jefferson, 1803).

Settler Colonial Policy