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Boone Society

Finding the Real Daniel Boone – Part II -, The Jefferson Letter
A Paper Related to the Factual History of Daniel Boone
Interpretation of letter by Ken Kamper
Copyright© August 2011

On September 26, 1807, President Thomas Jefferson, wrote the following letter to William Thomson:

Monticello Sep. 26, 1807

Sir,–Your favor of July 10, came safely to hand and with that the first 7? pages of your view of Burr’s trial. I have read this with great satisfaction, and shall be happy to see the wh’ole subject as well digested. From this specimen of your writing I have no doubt you will do justice to any subject you undertake, and think you cannot find a better subject than the one you have fixed on, the history of the Western country. We have been too long permitting its’ facts to go into oblivion. Colonel Boon, the first immigrant to it, is I believe is still living on the Missouri.

The scenes which have been acting at Richmond are sufficient to fill us with alarm. We had supposed we possessed fixed laws to guard against treason & oppression. But it now appears we have no law but the will of the judge. Never will chicanery have a more difficult task than has been now accomplished to warp the text of the law to the will of him who is to construe it. Our case too is the more desperate as to attempt to make the law plainer by amendment is only throwing out new materials for sophistry.

I salute you with great esteem & respect. Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson’s letter in the Library of Congress: The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes.
Collected and Edited by Paul Leicester Ford.

Thomas Jefferson’s mention of Daniel Boone as the first to settle in the “Western country” may first appear of little significance. Jefferson’s statement does, however, document how highly regarded Daniel was by the leading figures of his time. Jefferson’s statement offers a glimpse of how persons perceived Daniel’s role in American historical events related to the historic events within which they themselves had played a part. It also offers a view of how our country’s early history has been rrisunderstood and poorly represented by our historians, who many years after the fact interpreted those san ,e events with only partial facts as their source. No matter how many documents the historian might search through, it is near impossible to grasp the fullness of the conditions and events some two or three hundred years previous to the historian’s time. Thomas Jefferson had firsthand knowledge of those conditions and events. He not only knew Daniel Boone personally, he also knew about the events and the role Daniel had in shaping them.

It seems that for most persons during Daniel Boone’s time, and for some time thereafter, Daniel Boone was perceived as the main leader of America’s westward movement. Why? Perhaps because Daniel Boone was there from the start to the finish, from the marking of the first trail that settlers followed from North Carolina to what is now Tennessee in 1769, and the marking of the Boone Trace or Wilderness Trail from the Cumberland Gap to Fort Boonesborough in 1775, to the later trans-Mississippi trails, with each subsequent trail opening up the next segment of the way west. Along the way the name of Daniel Boone surfaced over and over again with stories of his being captured by Indians and his escapes, his leading of the rescue of his daughter and two other girls after Indians had captured them, and his efforts during the successful defense of Fort Boonesborough. In the latter case, people in Boone’s time knew that if the Indians had succeeded in capturing Fort Boonesborough, all of what was Kentucky would have been taken over by the Indians.

Then too, some like Jefferson knew about Daniel’s many civil appointments and service in the Virginia legislature, and his years as an active military officer during the Indian confrontations on the frontier. As the west in everyone’s mind became the Mississippi River and beyond, Jefferson and the others knew that Daniel always led the way, had moved on to the Spanish territory of Upper Louisiana, and was soon followed by many others as Americans migrated west across the Mississippi River. In 1800, Daniel became one of the seven Spanish Commandants, and as such was in charge of a Spanish district. His major role in America’s westward movement, as it moved from east of the Appalachian Mountains to west of the Mississippi River, but those persons were there for a relatively short time, and then they were gone, while Daniel Boone had marked trails and established the western settlements from the beginning to end.