Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Henry Dearborn, 29 July 1802

From Henry Dearborn

Washington July 29th: 1802


I have the honour of enclosing a letter from Govr. Harrison, and one which accompanied it, by which it appears that measures have been taken by the british traders or others, for the purpose of inducing the Indians generally, to suspect the sincerity and good faith of Our Government, and for encouraging a hostile disposition towards this country, but in general, there is but little confidence to be placed in stories which are in circulation among the indians.—Govr. Harrison had not received my letters, which when received will satisfy all his queries & authorise him to take all necessary measures relative to boundaries, as well as for holding a conference with the Chiefs of the several Nations on whatever subjects may be proper to discuss.—I shall write him by the next post, requesting him to make every exartion in his power for convincing the Indians, of the real friendly dispositions of Our Government towards them, and for removing the impressions which may have been made by the falshoods & misrepresentation, put in circulation among them,—and in the mean time, to ascertain by every means in his power, the origin & progress of the stories refered to in his letter, together with the extent of any defection which may appear to have taken place with any of the Indian Nations, and their ultimate views & intentions. I also enclose a scetch or copy of the Treaty concluded on, with the Creeks, the Treaty in form, has not yet arrived.

with the most respectfull concideration I am Sir Your Humbe. Servt.—

H. Dearborn

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 31 July from the War Department and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not found.

According to Dearborn’s reply to it, the LETTER from William Henry HARRISON, the governor of Indiana Territory, concerned “the apparent hostile disposition of the Indians, and the falshoods and misrepresentations which have been put in circulation” among them. One of those false reports was “respecting sales of land made by Little Turtle” (Dearborn to Harrison, 29 July, in DNA: RG 75, LSIA).

The correspondence from Dearborn that Harrison had NOT RECEIVED yet included three detailed letters dated 17 June, a briefer communication of the 18th, and another letter on 3 July. In one of the letters of the 17th, Dearborn, who had consulted with the attorney general, asked Harrison “to exert every means in your power” to apprehend fugitives charged with murdering Indians. Another letter of that date empowered Harrison to complete the laying out of two tracts that were ceded to the United States by the 1795 treaty of Greenville. Little Turtle and “two or three other Chiefs should be present and be consulted on the manner of fixing the boundaries.” Dearborn instructed Harrison to ensure that the tracts included navigable portions of the Miami and Wabash rivers, a mill seat, and “as large a share of the most valuable lands for cultivation as circumstances will admit.” Harrison’s role as agent of the United States in this transaction was, Dearborn indicated, at the request of the president. In the third letter of the 17th, Dearborn requested that Harrison “sound the Piankishaws, and Kickapoos on the subject of their sale to the company (usually styled the Illinois and Wabash company) in the year 1795, and to know whether they consider that sale as valid,” as well as “whether they would consent to the United States’ assuming the right, which by their sale they intended to vest in the company on receiving an adequate compensation.” If the Indians were not inclined to agree to the latter provision, Harrison should “explain to them the limits of the Territory granted by them to the French Government at Vincennes” and take steps to have that tract surveyed for the United States, ensuring that the tract was as large as the terms of the cession from the Indians to the French would allow. Should evidence indicate that some Delaware Indians had occupied a part of that land at the time the cession was made to the French, then “we might from motives of humanity allow them to remain in possession on condition of Good behaviour.” Dearborn deemed it “very desirable” that the government acquire sole rights to a tract on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers between the mouth of the Wabash and the lower Kaskaskias settlements. “Further information will be necessary,” Dearborn added, “relative to the extent of the claims of the White Inhabitants at the mouth of the Illinois and Kaskaskias.” Dearborn’s note of the 18th set Harrison’s compensation as agent of the U.S. at three dollars a day plus expenses. On 3 July, responding to four letters from Harrison received on 24 June, Dearborn urged him, at the president’s request, to continue to try to apprehend people accused of the murder of Indians, to furnish information regarding the potential lease of a salt spring on Native American land that Dearborn had written to Harrison about in February, to arrange for presents for chiefs with whom Harrison expected to negotiate in August, and to try to induce the Piankashaws, the Kickapoos, and the Kaskaskias to contribute portions of their annuities to make up, with U.S. funds as necessary, a $500 annuity for the Sac Indians. Dearborn also acknowledged Harrison’s appointment of Benjamin Parke as an agent to investigate threats to the Kaskaskia Indians from some of the Potawatomi tribe (Dearborn to Harrison, 17, 18 June, 3 July, in DNA: RG 75, LSIA; Harrison to Dearborn, 26 Feb., 27 May, 1, 3 June, recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 7:53–6; Owens, Jefferson’s Hammer description begins Robert M. Owens, Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy, Norman, Okla., 2007 description ends , 62–3, 71, 80, 93, 262–3n; Vol. 36:525n).

I SHALL WRITE HIM: on 29 July, Dearborn wrote Harrison that there “can be no doubt but some evil minded person or persons have been attempting to deceive and mislead the Indians by fals representations relative to the views and intentions of our Government towards them.” The letters that Dearborn had already sent would give Harrison “full information” upon which to act, and “every exertion in your power should be made to counteract the views and intentions of those who have been endeavouring to encourage hostile dispositions among the Indians, by the most explicit assurances of the real friendship and good will of the Government towards the Indian Nations generally, within the jurisdiction of the U. States.” Harrison should attempt to trace the origins of the rumors that had made the Indians uneasy. The report of land sales by Little Turtle “is without the least foundation; there has been no such thing in contemplation, nor any proposition made on the part of Government or by the Little Turtle or any other Person for purchasing any land in that Quarter.” The government, Dearborn noted, was establishing trading houses at Detroit and Fort Wayne, was “disposed to afford the Indians every aid in its power,” and was ready “to consider them as friends and Brothers.” Should all measures “for cultivating friendship and harmony with our Indian neighbours” prove fruitless, however—if “a few artful and designing men” subverted the government’s intentions “and the Indians are to be made the dupes of their wicked and mischevious Acts,” with war as the result—then “the Indians must not in future expect any favour from the U. States” (DNA: RG 75, LSIA).

SCETCH OR COPY OF THE TREATY: on 16 July, Dearborn received a letter dated 17 June from James Wilkinson, Benjamin Hawkins, and Andrew Pickens, who wrote from near the Oconee River to announce that on the previous day they had concluded a treaty with the Creek Indians. The agreement, which involved the purchase by the United States of a large tract of land, was intended to resolve a claim by the state of Georgia for territory ceded to the Creeks by an earlier treaty. The commissioners informed the secretary of war that they would send the signed treaty and details of the negotiation to Washington. TJ submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification in December (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:668–9, 680; DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; Vol. 36:191–2n).

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