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Jefferson And The Indians : The Tragic Fate Of The First Americans

Wallace , Anthony F. C.

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ISBN 10: 0674000668 / ISBN 13: 9780674000667
Published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1999
Condition: Near Fine Hardcover
From The History Place (Farmington, AR, U.S.A.)

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Jefferson And The Indians : The Tragic Fate ...

Publisher: Harvard University Press, Cambridge

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Qr. Cloth, Paper Covered Board

Book Condition:Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Edition: First Edition.

About this title


In Thomas Jefferson's time, white Americans were bedeviled by a moral dilemma unyielding to reason and sentiment: what to do about the presence of black slaves and free Indians. That Jefferson himself was caught between his own soaring rhetoric and private behavior toward blacks has long been known. But the tortured duality of his attitude toward Indians is only now being unearthed.

In this landmark history, Anthony Wallace takes us on a tour of discovery to unexplored regions of Jefferson's mind. There, the bookish Enlightenment scholar--collector of Indian vocabularies, excavator of ancient burial mounds, chronicler of the eloquence of America's native peoples, and mourner of their tragic fate--sits uncomfortably close to Jefferson the imperialist and architect of Indian removal. Impelled by the necessity of expanding his agrarian republic, he became adept at putting a philosophical gloss on his policy of encroachment, threats of war, and forced land cessions--a policy that led, eventually, to cultural genocide.

In this compelling narrative, we see how Jefferson's close relationships with frontier fighters and Indian agents, land speculators and intrepid explorers, European travelers, missionary scholars, and the chiefs of many Indian nations all complicated his views of the rights and claims of the first Americans. Lavishly illustrated with scenes and portraits from the period, Jefferson and the Indians adds a troubled dimension to one of the most enigmatic figures of American history, and to one of its most shameful legacies.


Thomas Jefferson's complex attitudes about race have been dissected for nearly two centuries, but the greatest focus, for obvious reasons, has always been on Jefferson's attitudes toward blacks. In this study by historical anthropologist Anthony F.C. Wallace, the way Jefferson the scholar, plantation owner, politician, and president viewed Native Americans is examined in illuminating detail. Wallace, a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, is sensitive to the paradoxes in Jefferson's observations of and dealings with the Indians. On the one hand, Jefferson seemed to revere native culture, devoting considerable time to studying it, to the extent of compiling extensive documentation of native languages. Yet Jefferson--the son of a land speculator, and a lawyer himself--had few compunctions about expelling native inhabitants from their lands so the United States could expand westward. Professor Wallace presents a very readable chronological narrative, and while he offers what is essentially an intellectual study of Jefferson, he dutifully notes that Jefferson's ideas were not always rarefied. The Virginia of Jefferson's day was a raucous frontier, and the third president's ideas of how to deal with the Indians were based on what he'd heard in rural taverns as well as in the halls of the American Philosophical Society. This is a fascinating, comprehensive, and lively look at how Jefferson's lifelong observations of Native Americans affected his thoughts and deeds. --Robert J. McNamara

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