I have now been thirty years availing myself of every possible opportunity of procuring Indian vocabularies to the same set of words … I had collected about fifty, and had digested most of them in collateral columns … The whole … were packed in a trunk of stationary, and sent round by water … and while ascending James river, this package, on account of its weight and presumed precious contents, was singled out and stolen. The thief being disappointed on opening it, threw into the river all its contents … Among these were the whole of the vocabularies.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, not even a leader’s careful planning is enough.
Jefferson had always been interested in Native American culture. Part of that interest had been to compare and contrast their languages and to look for similarities with those from Europe. To that end, he had collected their vocabularies for 30 years. He had only to incorporate those Lewis & Clark had acquired. His presidential duties were such that he lacked the time to complete the analysis. The task would have to wait for retirement. Upon leaving the presidency, these vocabularies were shipped by water toward Monticello.
Only a few scraps of his work survived, sullied by water and mud. The project was lost. He speculated he might try again, but thought he was too old to make much progress.
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The Moral Liberal Thomas Jefferson Editor, Patrick Lee, is a professional speaker, actor and writer. Since 1990, he has inspired, entertained and educated audiences from Maine to Hawaii with his authentic, first person leadership presentations as President Thomas Jefferson, Frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Lewis & Clark Co-Leader William Clark. He also appears as himself, The Hopeful Humorist™, with a program of motivational humor, patriotism and inspiration.