Thomas Jefferson Papers

IV. Address of Cornplanter, [15 March 1802]

IV. Address of Cornplanter

[15 Mch. 1802]


Strongly impressed with the sentiment that the Great Spirit is displeased with his red children for the little attention which they have paid to the preservation of their lands And having received reiterated assurances from the Government of the United States, that every injury on representation should be redressed, I beg leave to state to our good father the President, that Mr Morris in purchasing the lands of your red children on the Allegany secured to them by contract certain reservations, and promised with the consent of his father, to give a deed of ten miles square for the exclusive use, benefit, and comfort of myself, of which a written memorandom was made and delivered to Captain Chapin, but nothing has since been done on the subject. No Deed has been given of the reservation, nor any security for the possession of the ten Miles square. It is hoped this matter may be enquired into—

FC (Lb in DNA: RG 75, LSIA); in a clerk’s hand; date supplied from notation at foot of Document VI; at head of text: “Captain Cornplanter.”

Cornplanter (1740?–1836) or Gyantwakia was also known as John O’Bail from the name of his father, John Abeel, a Dutch trader from Albany. Siding with the British during the American Revolution, Cornplanter fought against Continental forces and attacked American frontier settlements. After the war, he dropped his resistance to the United States and was present at the succession of treaties that left the Senecas with a fraction of the territory they had possessed earlier. Beginning in 1791, he lived on a grant of land he had received on the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania. Although Cornplanter was initially the energetic advocate of Handsome Lake’s revelations, within a few years the half-brothers came to disagree. Later, Cornplanter successfully resisted attempts to tax his land, and had a revelatory vision of his own that led him to refute his earlier service for the United States (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Abler, Cornplanter description begins Thomas S. Abler, Cornplanter: Chief Warrior of the Allegany Senecas, Syracuse, N.Y., 2007 description ends , 72–4, 79–84, 133–4, 165).

Thomas MORRIS handled the negotiations at Big Tree in 1797 on behalf of HIS FATHER, Robert Morris. The Morrises, who used gifts of money to induce Seneca leaders to go along with the deal, gave particular attention to influencing Cornplanter beforehand. When Red Jacket attempted to break off the talks at Big Tree late in the negotiation, Cornplanter played a key role in persuading Seneca leaders to support the land sale (Wallace, Death and Rebirth description begins Anthony F. C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca, New York, 1969 description ends , 180–3; Vol. 20:126–7; Memorandum on the Seneca Annuity, at 19 Nov. 1801).

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