Thomas Jefferson Promoted Taking Native American Land By Debt Scheme

Jefferson once secretly wrote to Congress that the US would try to drive Native Americans into debt in order to take their land.
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Thomas Jefferson once secretly wrote to Congress that the US would try to drive Native Americans into debt in order to take their land. The US president's note to lawmakers was referenced in a report from the Interior Department published Wednesday.

"In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson delivered a Confidential Message to Congress on Indian Policy explaining a strategy to dispossess Indian Tribes of their territories in part by assimilation," the report said.

According to the report, Jefferson believed "a policy of assimilation would make it easier and less costly in lives and funding for the United States to separate Indian Tribes from their territories.

"Executed alongside the assimilation policy would be a process to encourage Native Americans to make purchases with credit. The hope, according to the report, was that they would fall into debt, meaning Indian tribes would have to "cede their land" to the US.

"To promote this disposition to exchange lands which they have to spare & we want, for necessaries, which we have to spare & they want, we shall push our trading houses, and be glad to see the good & 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 th[em off] by a cession of lands," Jefferson wrote in his letter to Congress.

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