The Manuscript Division holds the papers of 23 presidents of the United States, from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. While every president in United States history has dealt with Native American policy, the ten collections below are highlighted for the extent of relevant material documenting each president's political and personal interests in Native Americans.
Of these collections, the Thomas Jefferson papers stand out for their size and extent, documenting Jefferson's private interests in Native American cultures as well as his actions as president. The collection includes notes on accounts of Native American tribes, correspondence with military leaders and statesmen concerning Native affairs, and drafts of speeches to both Native leaders and Congress. Emerging through Jefferson's own words, this collection demonstrates the president's view that Native peoples should be "civilized" through assimilation into Euro-American traditions of agriculture and market economics. The image featured on the right shows a draft copy of a speech Jefferson gave to tribal leaders from the Great Lakes region in 1809, where he wrote:
"It has been our endeavor therefore like your true fathers and brothers to withold strong liquors from you, to keep you in peace with one another, & to encourage, & aid you in the culture of the earth, & raising domestic Animals, to take place of the wild ones. This we have done, my Children, because we are your friends, & wish you well."
Other notable collections include the Theodore Roosevelt papers, which document the impact of Roosevelt's conservationist agenda on Native land sovereignty, and the papers of William Henry Harrison and of Zachary Taylor, which focus on military campaigns against Native groups. The papers of Andrew Jackson document Indian wars, treaty negotiations, the promotion of Euro-American settler and investment capital advantage over Native rights, the expansion of the institution of slavery and Indian Removal policies. Presidential papers also contain record of some Native voices, Tribal leaders and representatives, and elements of Native resistance.
All of the presidential collections highlighted below are digitized and available online, and some have partial transcriptions which allow for keyword searching within the digital collection. Additionally, all the collections below are accompanied by an index, which can be found under the "Expert Resources" tab on the digital collections page. For information on how to use these indexes, consult the following link.
The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.
The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections and digital collections, are included when available. Collections not available online are available on microfilm. Many institutions own copies of the microfilm collections, and copies are also available for use in the Manuscript Reading Room. The papers of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Warren G. Harding are not in the custody of the Manuscript Division, but microfilm editions of these collections are available in the Manuscript Reading Room. All collections of presidential papers after Coolidge are held at the National Archives and Records Administration as part of their presidential libraries programExternal.
Most presidential collections include an index to correspondence, which may be found under "Expert Resources" on the digital collections and in the bibliographic description for those collections not yet available online.