Rivers, Edens, Empires: Lewis & Clark and the Revealing of America
Transcript: Jefferson's Speech to a Delegation of Indian Chiefs
Transcription from: Donald Jackson, editor. Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents 1783-1854. Volume 1. Urbana, Chicago, London: University of Illinois Press, 1978.
[4 January 1806]
My friends & children, Chiefs of the Osages, Missouris, Kanzas, Ottos, Panis, Ayowas, & Sioux.
I take you by the hand of friendship and give you a hearty welcome to the seat of the govmt. of the U.S. The journey which you have taken to visit your fathers on this side of our island is a long one, and your having undertaken it is a proof that you desired to become acquainted with us. I thank the great spirit that he has protected you though the journey and brought you safely to the residence of your friends, and I hope he will have you constantly in his safekeeping and restore you in good health to your nations and families.
My friends & children. We are descended from the old nations which live beyond the great water: but we & our forefathers have been so long here that we seem like you to have grown out of this land: we consider ourselves no longer as of the old nations beyond the great water, but as united in one family with our red brethren here. The French, the English, the Spaniards, have now agreed with us to retire from all the country which you & we hold between Canada & Mexico, and never more to return to it. And remember the words I now speak to you my children, they are never to return again. We are become as numerous as the leaves of the trees, and, tho' we do not boast, we do not fear any nation. We are now your fathers; and you shall not lose by the change. As soon as Spain had agreed to withdraw from all the waters of the Missouri & Missisipi, I felt the desire of becoming acquainted with all my red children beyond the Missipi, and of uniting them with us, as we have done those on this side of that river in the bonds of peace & friendship. I wished to learn what we could do to benefit them by furnishing them the necessaries they want in ex-change for their furs & peltries. I therefore sent our beloved man Capt. Lewis one of my own family, to go up the Missouri river, to get acquainted with all the Indian nations in it's neighborhood, to take them by the hand, deliver my talks to them, and to inform us in what way we could be useful to them. Some of you who are here have seen him & heard his words. You have taken him by the hand, and been friendly to him. My children I thank you for the services you rendered him, and for your attention to his words. When he returns he will tell us where we should establish factories to be convenient to you all, and what we must send to them. In establishing a trade with you we desire to make no profit. We shall ask form you only what every thing costs us, and give you for your furs & pelts whatever we can get for them again. Be assured you shall find your advantage in this change of your friends. It will take us some time to be in readiness to supply your wants, but in the mean while & till Capt. Lewis returns, the traders who have heretofore furnished you will continue to do so.
My friends & children. I have now an important advice to give you. I have already told you that you are all my children, and I wish you to live in peace & friendship with one another as brethren of the same family ought to do. How much better is it for neighbors to help than to hurt one another, how much happier must it make them. If you will cease to make war on one another, if you will live in friendship with all mankind, you can employ all of your time in providing food & clothing for yourselves and you families. Your men will not be destroyed in war and your women & children will lie down to sleep in their cabins without fear of being surprised by their enemies & killed or carried away. Your numbers will be increased, instead of diminishing, and you will live in plenty & in quiet. My children, I have given this advice to all your red brethren on this side of the Missipi, they are following it, they are increasing in their numbers, are learning to clothe & provide for their families as we do, and you see the proofs of it in such of them as you happened to find here. My children, we are strong, we are numerous as the stars in the heavens, & we are all gun-men. Yet we live in peace with all nations; and all nations esteem & honour us because we are peaceable & just. Then let my red children then be peaceable & just also; take each other by the hand, and hold it fast. If ever bad men among your neighbors should do you wrong, and their nation refuse you justice, apply to the beloved man whom we shall place nearest to you; he will go to the offending nation, & endeavor to obtain right, & preserve peace. If ever bad men among yourselves injure you neighbors, be always ready to do justice. It is always honorable in those who have done wrong to acknolege & make amends for it; and it is the only way in which peace can be maintained among men. Remember then my advice, my children, carry it home to your people, and tell them that from the day that they have become all the same family, from the day that we become father to them all, we wish as a true father should do, that we may all live together as one house hold, and that before they strike one another, they should come to their father & let him endeavor to make up the quarrel.
My children. You are come from the other side of our great island, from where the sun sets to see your new friends at the sun rising. You have now arrived where the waters are constantly rising & falling every day, but you are still distant from the sea. I very much desire that you should not stop here, but go on and see your brethren as far as the edge of the great water. I am persuaded you have so far seen that every man by the way has received you as his brothers, and has been ready to do you all the kindnesses in his power. You will see the same thing quite to the sea shore; and I wish you therefore to go and visit our great cities in that quarter, & to see how many friends & brothers you have here. You will then have travelled a long line from West to East, and if you had time to go form North to South, from Canada to Florida, you would find it as long in that direction, & all the people as since sincerely your friends. I wish you, my children to see all you can and to tell your people all you see; because I am sure the more they know of us, the more they will be our hearty friends. I invite you therefore to pay a visit to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, & the cities still beyond that if you should be willing to go further. We will provide carriages to convey you, & a person to go with you to see that you want for nothing. By the time you come back, the snows will be melted on the mountains, ice in the rivers broken up and you will be wishing to set out on your return home.
My children, I have long desired to see you. I have now opened my heart to you; let my words sink into you hearts & never be forgotten. If ever lying people or bad spirits should raise up clouds between us: let us come together as friends & explain to each other what is misrepresented or misunderstood. The clouds will fly away like the morning fog and the sun of friendship appear, & shine for ever bright & clear between us.
My children, it may happen that while you are here, occasion may arise to talk about many things which I do not now particulary mention. The Secretary at War will always be ready to talk with you: and You are to consider whatever he says as said by myself. He will also take care of you & see that you are furnished with all comforts here.
Jan. 4. 1806