Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson referred to Indians with euphemisms such as “subjects of intellectual curiosity, enemies in war, and partners in peace.” Jefferson believed that “our system is to live in perpetual peace with the Indians, to cultivate an affectionate attachment from them by everything just and liberal which we can do for them within the bounds of reason, and by giving them effectual protection against wrongs from our own people.” He explicitly expressed this belief in his speeches, relationships, and actions in office.

On December 30, 1806, Thomas Jefferson addressed the Wolf and the people of the Mandan Nation (presidential speech). He sought to establish credibility in the beginning using god terms such as friends, children, and beloved when describing them and one of his men they had spoken to previously. He then went on to give them “advice.” He said,

“If you will cease to make war on one another, if you will live in friendship with all mankind, you can employ all your time in providing food and clothing for yourselves and your families. Your men will not be destroyed in war, and your women and children will lie down to sleep in their cabins without fear of being surprised by their enemies and killed or carried away. Your numbers will be increased instead of diminishing, and you will live in plenty and in quiet.”

In this part of his speech he painted a picture for them of what life could be like if they listened to him. He emphasized all of the positive reasons to follow his lead and made the alternative sound like an obviously bad choice. He used powerful language instead of powerless language, and frequently used the word “our” instead of your. He spoke like he was part of their group not an outsider, and he made his mental pictures stronger by using vivid language (the clouds will fly away like morning fog, and the sun of friendship appear and shine forever bright and clear between us).

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Thomas Jefferson’s speech to the Indians and I believe it had all of the necessary traits to be very effective.