Synopses & Reviews
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.
"There [are] hundreds of studies on Thomas Jefferson...Many make valuable contributions to our understanding of the subject in question, and none more than Anthony Wallace's excellent new book on Jefferson and the Indians...Shifting our attention to the Native Americans whose lands Jefferson so coveted, Wallace's book nicely complements the extensive critical literature on Jefferson and slavery...Richly complex." Daniel D. Liestman - Library Journal
Jefferson and the Indians shows how his romantic fascination with Native American cultures, traditions, and languages went hand in hand with energetic designs to resettle their lands, his firm belief that settlers would eventually 'cover the whole northern, if not southern continent,' and his determination that there should not be 'either blot or mixture on that surface. Elliott West - Washington Times
A good, thorough, fair, balanced, detailed, illuminating, clearly written, eminently sensible book. How to appraise Thomas Jefferson--especially how to reconcile his soul-stirring rhetoric with his less soul-stirring actions--is a subject of constant, if sometimes fevered, interest. The interpretive talents of Anthony F. C. Wallace give us every good reason to rejoice in the publication of this book. Peter S. Onuf - H-Net Reviews
Whatever Wallace writes is worth reading...Wallace's analysis borrows from other works, but much of it is also new, shrewd, and useful...Wallace is attracted to interesting and complicated historical characters in whose lives culture and society sometimes seem to reduce to manifestations of individual traits and individual crises. And true to form, Wallace finds the key to Jefferson's paradoxical attitudes toward Indian peoples--and, more generally, to a contradictory and tangled history of American policies toward Indians--in his 'deeply controlling temperament.' Jefferson confused himself with the people, Wallace contends, and projected onto them his own desire for control and (they always go together) his own fear of control. Richard White
Mr. Wallace is a rare and respected scholar, a cultural anthropologist who has written masterful works of American history...No one...has focused so sharply and has brought together the scattered pieces of Jefferson's changing thoughts so lucidly. That intense reconstruction produces some surprises, some of them sure to be controversial...In this finely written and richly detailed study, Mr. Wallace raises unsettling questions about the deep roots, not only of Indian mistreatment, but more broadly of official intolerance toward cultural variety and conflict in all their forms. New Republic
[An] outstanding scholarly investigation of the dichotomy between Jefferson the visionary philosopher and Jefferson the practical politician. New Yorker
Bancroft Prize-winning historian Wallace gives us a book that immediately becomes the best among very few other studies of its subject...[The book] makes clear the complexities of native-European interaction in the post-Revolutionary era...[and is] a searching scholarly study of one of the great American dilemmas. Margaret Flanagan - Booklist
A probing intellectual history of Jefferson himself. Jefferson's attitude toward Native Americans reflects his overall complexity as a thinker; he was fascinated by the first Americans but at the same time engaged in 'civilizing' them. Wallace traces the context in which Jefferson existed and then examines his political rhetoric; considerable attention is also given to his studies of Indians and his presidential policies toward them...This fascinating account of an unexplored topic is highly recommended. Kirkus Reviews
Many have written ably on Thomas Jefferson and the Indians, but none has succeeded in bringing together as thoroughly and effectively as this book so many different, relevant dimensions of that topic. This is a rich, multidimensional book that offers a complex and utterly convincing interpretation of Jefferson and the first Americans. Anthony Wallace has succeeded in taking a fresh and engaging look at the subject. His approach and perspective are unique. Patricia Nelson Limerick, University of Colorado, Boulder
Wallace's study of the always enigmatic Jefferson will shock many but enlighten all. This masterful account of how the admirer and student of Indian languages and character was also the architect of removal policy and the grand rationalizer of cultural genocide is a must-read for all who teach American history. The master lesson of this absorbing book is how Jefferson's love of minimal government and maximal individual freedom, combined with his insatiable appetite for land, became the perfect formula for seizing Indian land and rationalizing the frontiersmen's ethnic cleansing. Drew McCoy, Clark University
Anthony F. C. Wallace, one of our premier historical anthropologists, has written a sober and troubling reassessment of Thomas Jefferson and the American Indian. Only a scholar as alive to paradox and tragedy as Wallace is could have written such a fine book on such a difficult subject. Gary B. Nash, University of California, Los Angeles
[This is] a rich, full exposure of Jefferson's lack of interest in living Indians' communities and his inability to comprehend the actual cultural changes the tribes with whom he dealt were experiencing. Sean Wilentz, Dayton-Stockton Professor of History, Princeton University
Wallace focuses more closely on Jefferson himself. He argues convincingly that Jefferson and his cohort embodied not so much good intentions gone awry as deep and abiding cultural contradictions
Wallace has much to tell us about Jeffersonian Indian policy, particularly in the context of Jefferson himself. Mary Young - Journal of American Ethnic History
Wallace's book demonstrates, in rich archival detail, that slaves were only one non-European race-perhaps not even the most significant one-over whom Jefferson agonized
The strength of this book and its importance to historians in a variety of fields is its insistent focus on Jefferson himself, his intellectual milieu, and his public policies
Wallace should therefore be credited both with writing a splendid book and with filling an historical lacuna, an oversight that seems even more remarkable now that Wallace has corrected it. Philip Deloria - William and Mary Quarterly
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.< p="">
American history, and to one of its most shameful legacies.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -373) and index.
About the Author
Anthony F. C. Wallaceis University Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at the <>University of Pennsylvania, winner of the Bancroft Prize in American history for his book Rockdale, and the author of The Death and Rebirth of the Senecaand The Long, Bitter Trail.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Logan's Mourner
The Land Companies
The Indian Wars
Notes on the Vanishing Aborigines
Native Americans through European Eyes
In Search of Ancient Americans
Civilizing the Uncivilized Frontier
President Jefferson's Indian Policy
The Louisiana Territory
Confrontation with the Old Way
Return to Philosophical Hall
Conclusion: Jefferson's Troubled Legacy
List of Illustrations
List of Documents