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Smoking

Despite claims to the contrary, no evidence has yet been found to suggest that Thomas Jefferson habitually smoked tobacco, hemp, or any other substance. None of his own papers make any reference to a smoking habit, nor do any known family letters, visitor accounts, or early biographies.

The only known references to Jefferson smoking at all are in the context of diplomatic meetings with representatives of American Indian tribes. In 1793, Jefferson recorded the proceedings of a conference with leaders of the Wabash and Illinois tribes: "Three-legs, a Piankishaw chief, came forward and carried round a white pipe from which every one smoked."1 

Jefferson was also reported to be present at other ceremonies where calumet pipes were smoked.2 In 1796, Jefferson wrote to Jean Baptiste Ducoigne, a chief of the Kaskaskia tribe, "Perhaps I may come some day yet and smoke the pipe of friendship with you and your friends."3

- Anna Berkes, 7/23/10

Further Sources

  • 1. Minutes of a Conference with the Illinois and Wabash Indians, [February 1-4, 1793], in PTJ, 25:112. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 2. See, e.g., New York Daily Advertiser, August 4, 1790. See Jefferson to Henry Knox, [August 12, 1790], in PTJ, 17:340-41 n. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 3. Jefferson to Ducoigne, [June 21, 1796], in PTJ, 29:131. Transcription available at Founders Online.

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