JEFFERSON, THOMAS Autograph letter signed mentioning several important Native Americans by name.
Monticello: 15 February 1821. One page autograph letter signed "Th: Jefferson" on one sheet of watermarked paper, the letter addressed to Henry Wheaton (see note). 9 3/4 x 8 inches (25 x 20.5 cm); framed with a portrait. A few splits at folds, irregular mat toning and rectangular offset in margin below letter and signature, remnants of mounting tape to verso, the text dark.
In this letter with a very rare direct comment on his opinion of Native American warriors, Jefferson concurs with the conclusions of a tract sent to him by Wheaton comparing the ancient Spartans to the Athenians, writing "how such a tribe of savages ever acquired the admiration of the world has always been beyond my comprehension." Jefferson, somewhat derisively, draws a further parallel of the Spartans: "I can view them but on a level with our American Indians, and I see in Logan, Tecumseh & the Little Turtle fair parallels for their Brasidas, Agesilaus &tc. the difficulty is to conceive that such a horde of Barbarians could so long remain unimproved, in the neighborhood of a people so polished as the Athenians; to whom they owe altogether that their name is now known to the world. All the good that can be said of them is that they were as brave as bull-dogs." We find very few Jefferson letters in the auction record with comment regarding his opinions of Native Americans and none naming these famous and diverse warriors: Logan (d. 1780) was an Iroquois leader whose revenge on colonial forces in Virginia sparked Dunmore's War; Tecumseh (d. 1812) was a Shawnee Warrior who came to lead a confederacy of tribes and was attacked by the United States in the Battle of Tippecanoe; and Little Turtle (d. 1812), a Miami Chief, is considered the greatest Native American military leader who overtook 900 of St. Clair's men in 1791.
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