Jefferson answered that "one who has seen both conditions of existence would pronounce" that too much law as among the civilized Europeans submits man to the greatest evil: "and that the sheep are happier of themselves, than under the care of wolves." It is because large societies cannot exist without government, said Jefferson, that the Native societies "break themselves into small ones."
What I believe Jefferson was noticing is the North American Indian tradition of liberty: a truly free way of life, without monarchs or despotic leaders who could dictate their will. Such societies were regulated from within; not by written laws, but a code of honor, respect, honesty, and an abiding appreciation of the sacred web of life. The result was a sense of liberty in the beauty of a natural setting that is now difficult for many of us to comprehend let alone imagine being able to live as a way of life.
Writerfella here --
Is there an object lesson here? Did Jefferson's words and writings possibly mean there was cultural envy generated? That the Great White Father realized many failings of his own society by observing those of the Natives? Sort of finding himself given a new set of appreciations from his 'alien point of view'? And so, since he couldn't join them, he had to beat them? And does that mean that philosophically-based wars worldwide also are based on that same proviso? Oooh, that strikes a chord I've never considered before. There's a story (science fiction, of course) in there somewhere!
From what I've read, Jefferson was ambivalent about Indians at best. In one letter, he wondered whether the US would have to remove or eliminate them.
But this could be the basis for a good "what if?" story. Suppose he had a pang of conscience and decided not to send the Lewis and Clark expedition. Or suppose he decided that executing the Louisiana Purchase was beyond his constitutional power.
Result: The Indians would've had a decade or two to plan for the inevitable tide of Americans. Maybe Tecumseh would've been able to forge a confederacy strong enough to repel the invaders. Maybe Tippecanoe wouldn't have happened and the Americans would've been forced to leave the Ohio Valley.
I've been to the Tippecanoe battlefield. Filled with buzzards.
Writerfella here --
What I meant was that perhaps there was a lost chapter to NOTES FROM VIRGINIA, only to be found later in the National Archives. Jefferson was one of the American Manicheists who played both sides of the deer run, as Manes would be surprised to find as the result of his philosophy. Remember that movie about a 'treasure map' on the back of the Declaration of Independence (and it now has a sequel set for 2007)? That sort of idea. Beyond that, it still is percolating. Say no more, say no more, nudge, nudge...
Okay, you could write the story that way. A researcher finds a lost document in which Jefferson speculates on how things might have been different if he had made different choices. And maybe it has consequences for the present. Maybe Jefferson signed a secret treaty with the Indians that the courts decide is still valid.
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