Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2013

Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Fenn


In this thesis I attempt to bridge the gap between discussions of Thomas Jefferson’s diplomatic policy and his interactions with the Native Americans. I argue that his idealism as well as his coercive tactics in foreign affairs heavily influenced his conduct with neighboring Indian tribes. With European nations, Jefferson articulated his goals in terms of natural rights of states and an idea of universal morality. At the same time, he often used seemingly Machiavellian tactics, like coercion, and threats of war to pursue these ends. Jefferson’s goals in Indian affairs were very similar to those in the international arena. He wanted to promote peaceful trade, and prevent war, but above all, acquire as much land as possible. He pursued these aims with the same blend of moral justification and cunning tactics. I will demonstrate this through analysis of Jefferson’s philosophical views regarding diplomacy, his ideas about Native Americans, and his role as president in carrying out both of these things in the real world. This will include examining Jefferson’s writing about both foreign and Indian affairs, comparing treaties and negotiations Jefferson conducted with Europe as well as with the Native Americans, and his instructions to subordinates on these matters. This thesis will contribute to the discussion of the presidency of Thomas Jefferson as well as the treatment of Native Americans in the early American Republic.