[F]rom the Secretary at War you recieve from time to time information and instructions as to our Indian affairs. These communications being for the public records are restrained always to particular objects and occasions. But this letter being unofficial, and private, I may with safety give you a more extensive view of our policy respecting the Indians, that you may better comprehend the parts dealt out to you in detail through the official channel, and observing the system of which they make a part, conduct yourself in unison with it in cases where you are obliged to act without instruction. [The] system is to live in perpetual peace with the Indians, to cultivate an affectionate attachment from them, by every thing just & liberal which we can [offer?] them within the bounds of reason, and by giving them effectual protection against wrongs from our own people. The decrease of game rendering their subsistence by hunting insufficient, we wish to draw them to agriculture, to spinning and weaving. The latter branches they take up with great readiness, because they fall to the women, who gain by quitting the labours of the field [for] these which are exercised within doors. When they withdraw themselves to the culture of a small piece of land, they will perceive how useless to them are their extensive forests, and will be willing to pare them off from time to time in exchange for necessaries for their farms & families. To promote this disposition to exchange lands which they have to spare and we want for necessaries, which we have to spare and they want, we shall push our trading houses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands. At our trading houses too we mean to sell so low as merely to repay cost and charges so as neither to lessen or enlarge our capital. . . . In this way our settlements will gradually circumscribe and approach the Indians, and they will in time either incorporate with us as citizens of the United States or remove beyond the Mississipi. The former is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves. But in the whole course of this, it is essential to cultivate their love. As to their fear, we presume that our strength and their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them, and that all our liberalities to them proceed from motives of pure humanity only. Should any tribe be fool-hardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the siezing the whole country of that tribe and driving them across the Missisipi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation.
. . . I have given you this view of the system which we suppose will best promote the interests of the Indians and of ourselves, and finally consolidate our whole country into one nation only, that you may be enabled the better to adapt your means to the object. For this purpose we have given you a general commission for treating. . . . I must repeat that this letter is to be considered as private and friendly, and not to controul any particular instructions which you may receive through an official channel. You will also percieve how sacredly it must be kept within your own breast, and especially how improper to be understood by the Indians. [For] their interests and their tranquility it is best they should see only the present [stat]e of their history.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Henry Harrison, Feb. 27, 1803, in Logan Esarey, ed., Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, vol. 1 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Comm'n, 1922), pp. 70-73, quoted in Steve Inskeep, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab (New York: Penguin, 2015), p. 64.