Programs > Academic Programs

Academic Seminars


Words, Nations, and Race in the Era of Jefferson and Tecumseh


Sean P. Harvey

(Assistant Professor of History, Seton Hall University and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, American Antiquarian Society)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011, at 4:30 p.m.
Rare Book Room, Goddard Library
Clark University Worcester, Massachusetts

PRÉCIS: Indian languages fascinated Thomas Jefferson and many other Americans in the new nation. They could answer the question of Indian origins and they allowed citizens to contribute "American" material to European philosophy and science. Knowledge of native languages was also useful for conducting Indian affairs. As such, Jefferson mobilized federal explorers, Indian agents, and army officers to collect vocabularies and transmit information on linguistic relations in native America. Ultimately, Jefferson viewed Indian languages as hopelessly fragmented, which was a useful stance since the U.S. acquired land on a divide-and-conquer basis. Tecumseh's pan-Indian movement explicitly challenged this practice and declared all Indians to be one people. "Words, Nations, and Race in the Era of Jefferson and Tecumseh" will discuss native and Euro-American ideas about language, how the Jefferson administration attempted to apply linguistic information to Indian policy, and how Indian removal and war in 1811-14 shaped Jefferson's own ideas of language and nationhood.


Refreshments will be provided after the paper, which will be followed by a dutch-treat dinner in Worcester. If you plan to attend, please register by Monday, March 21.

For more information, please contact Paul Erickson, Director of Academic Programs, at perickson[at]

The Society regrets that it is unable to make refunds after that date.

Reservations are suggested (and deeply appreciated) by March 21 for attending the seminar. Reservations are required to attend the supper.