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Special Message

January 27, 1802

Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

I lay before you the accounts of our Indian trading houses, as rendered up to the 1st day of January, 1801, with a report of the Secretary of War thereon, explaining the effects and the situation of that commerce and the reasons in favor of its further extension. But it is believed that the act authorizing this trade expired so long ago as the 3d of March, 1799. Its revival, therefore, as well as its extension, is submitted to the consideration of the Legislature.

The act regulating trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes will also expire on the 3d day of March next. While on the subject of its continuance it will be worthy the consideration of the Legislature whether the provisions of the law inflicting on Indians, in certain cases, the punishment of death by hanging might not permit its commutation into death by military execution, the form of the punishment in the former way being peculiarly repugnant to their ideas and increasing the obstacles to the surrender of the criminal.

These people are becoming very sensible of the baneful effects produced on their morals, their health, and existence by the abuse of ardent spirits, and some of them earnestly desire a prohibition of that article from being carried among them. The Legislature will consider whether the effectuating that desire would not be in the spirit of benevolence and liberality which they have hitherto practiced toward these our neighbors, and which has had so happy an effect toward conciliating their friendship. It has been found, too, in experience that the same abuse gives frequent rise to incidents tending much to commit our peace with the Indians.

It is now become necessary to run and mark the boundaries between them and us in various parts. The law last mentioned has authorized this to be done, but no existing appropriation meets the expense.

Certain papers explanatory of the grounds of this communication are herewith inclosed.


Thomas Jefferson, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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