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Foreign Affairs in a Native Context: The Significance of Foreign Relations on Thomas Jefferson's Native American Views

There has been considerable research into Native American history in recent times, with much analysis of what transpired in the early years of the United States, and how events from the late 18th and early 19th centuries have impacted on the Native Americans. As a prominent figure, Thomas Jefferson made decisions that undoubtedly affected the Native tribes, yet his Native American ideas have not received as much attention from scholars as his thinking about most other topics. Most literature that has been produced which relates to Jefferson’s attitudes about Native Americans, has not considered adequately the importance that foreign relations played in shaping his thinking. The purpose of this study is to examine the significance of foreign affairs on Jefferson’s views about Native Americans, and to determine whether foreign affairs was a critical factor in influencing his plans for the Native Americans. To ascertain the importance of foreign relations in shaping Jefferson’s thinking about the Native Americans, an exploration of his writing was conducted, in which all documents that fell within the scope of this research project were analysed, and all relevant material used in this thesis. The documents used for this study were found online in the Jefferson Papers at the United States National Archives. Findings from this study clearly show that foreign relations had a major impact on Jefferson’s thinking about the Native Americans. The two predominant themes that emerged from his writing were conflict and land; foreign affairs primarily influenced Jefferson’s views in relation to these topics. Because of the prominence of these themes, they were chosen as the focus of the two chapters for this thesis. Within the themes of conflict and land, the affect that foreign relations had on Jefferson’s thinking is evident on a number of issues. He believed that most of the conflict with the Native Americans occurred because of the interference of foreign agents. The impact of foreign affairs can be seen in Jefferson’s views about trade with the Native Americans, and his thoughts on agriculture were clearly shaped by concerns about other nations. The influence of foreign relations is unmistakeable in Jefferson’s thoughts about national security, and its effect can also be seen in the development of his ideas about Native American removal. Findings from this thesis add depth to an important factor that shaped Jefferson’s thinking, and help in gaining an understanding of his decision making regarding the Native American.
Type of thesis
Berry, S. (2016). Foreign Affairs in a Native Context: The Significance of Foreign Relations on Thomas Jefferson’s Native American Views (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11011
University of Waikato
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