Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Henry Dearborn, 22 August 1802

From Henry Dearborn

Washington August 22d. 1802


I have been honoured with your letters of the 14th, & 16th, an ill state of health for a few days, prevented an earlier answer, in a letter lately received from Mr. Crowninshield he mentions a Mr. William Cleveland of Salem who he conciders as well qualified in all respects for a Commissioner of Bankruptcies, and who is a sound Republican I have therefore taken the liberty of having a commission made out for him & for Killam,—Mr. Gallatin shew me your letter respecting the arrangement in the Customs which we concidered necessary to be carried into effect immediately including the case of Tuck of Cape Ann—I herewith enclose a paper relative to the Choctaw bounderies &c received from Genl. Wilkinson, which appears to be an important document, it may be proper to give additional instructions to Wilkinson on the subject, but I concieve that we cannot materially alter the principels proposed in the former instruction rilative to the Chocktaw bounderies, which were, that he should ascertain the best terms on which the Indians would agree to establish the lines formerly agreed to between them & the British Government, and report the same, for the concideration of Congress. from the enclosed statement it appears that the Indians actualy received the stipulated sums from the British Govt, for all the Cessions made, and of course ought not to demand any farther concideration, but it never the less may be adviseable to make them a present, if by that means we can establish the lines as deliniated in the enclosed paper, and if such necessary present should not amount to more than one or two thousand dollars it may be a question whether we can with propriety authorise Genl. Wilkinson to stipulate for the payment of such sum, on having the lines ascertained & remarked. I will thank you Sir for any remarks you may think proper to make to me on the subject, I shall write to Genl. Wilkinson by the way of Natchez as soon as I receive your opinnion on the subject—I do not see that any thing can at present be done on the subject of the Petition &c enclosed with Govr. Tatnals letter.

I shall set out on a trip into the Country to morrow morning, but shall be back in a few days, I intend taking a stand somewhere in the Country within eight or ten miles of the City for a few weeks, but shall be at the Office once a week.

with respectful concideration I am Sir Your Hume Servt,

H, Dearborn

P,S, having received the Senecas, I enclose them for your perusal,—the one made at Connadaeque, appears evidently to have been dictated by Chapin who is very angry at being removed,—the Talk of Cornplanter & others is good evidence of the artfull part which Chapin must have taken in procuring such a Talk at Connadaeque, I shall let him know that his conduct required a thicker cloak than he has given it, to prevent its being well understood.

H. Dearborn

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received from the War Department on 26 Aug. and “Indn. affrs.” and “Commrs. bkrptcy Salem” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Statement of Joseph Purcell regarding the boundary of Choctaw lands surveyed in 1779, not found, but recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS as received by the War Department from James Wilkinson at Savannah, Georgia, on 19 Aug. Other enclosures not found.

TJ signed commissions for WILLIAM CLEVELAND and Daniel Kilham as bankruptcy commissioners for Salem, Massachusetts, on 27 Aug. 1802 (list of commissions in Lb in DNA: RG 59, MPTPC; TJ to Dearborn, 27 Aug.).

YOUR LETTER: TJ to Gallatin, 14 Aug. (second letter).

CHOCTAW BOUNDERIES: in the 1760s and 1770s, the Choctaws had agreed to the delineation of a boundary between their lands and British settlements. By December 1801, when Wilkinson, Benjamin Hawkins, and Andrew Pickens negotiated a treaty with the Choctaws, the location of that line was largely forgotten. According to an article of the 1801 treaty, however, “the old line of demarcation, theretofore established by and between the officers of his Britannic Majesty and the Choctaw nation,” would be the border between Mississippi Territory and the Choctaws’ lands. For Dearborn’s FORMER INSTRUCTION TO WILKINSON concerning preliminary steps for having the boundary marked again, see TJ to Samuel Smith, 24 June. Wilkinson had gotten access to the detailed field notes of Purcell, the surveyor and mapmaker who had marked the Choctaw boundary line for Great Britain in 1779 (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, 1:658–9, 661–2; Louis De Vorsey, Jr., The Indian Boundary in the Southern Colonies, 1763–1775 [Chapel Hill, 1966], 208, 210, 225–7; 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 , 5:175, 213, 237, 331; Wilkinson to Dearborn, 6, 9 Aug., recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS).

GOVR. TATNALS LETTER: Josiah Tattnall, Jr., to TJ, 20 July; see TJ to Dearborn, 16 Aug.

Chiefs of the SENECAS, Onondagas, and Cayugas who were on their way to Albany attended a public meeting at the courthouse in Canandaigua, New York, on 3 Aug. The gathering was in response to the arrest of a Seneca man, called Stiff-Armed George, who had fatally stabbed a white man during a melee near Buffalo Creek. Red Jacket, the primary speaker for the Senecas’ national council and a leader of the Senecas at Buffalo Creek, made the principal address at Canandaigua and asked that his remarks be conveyed to the president. The speech appeared in newspapers by 12 Aug. and received wide circulation thereafter. Declaring that the Senecas had no treaty with the state of New York that covered punishments for killings and that whites were not punished for the deaths of Indians, Red Jacket protested the state’s intention to prosecute Stiff-Armed George for murder. Red Jacket hoped that the president would intervene to allow the Senecas to deal with the offender, for Seneca punishment, unlike the state’s law, would take the man’s intoxication at the time of the incident into account and would not execute him for an act done in the heat of a moment. In his address at Canandaigua, Red Jacket made several references to the recent replacement of Israel CHAPIN with Callender Irvine as the U.S. government’s agent to the Six Nations tribes. Chapin lived at Canandaigua, and Seneca leaders conferred with him about Stiff-Armed George’s case. Chapin mediated between the Senecas and local authorities, arranging for the chiefs to see Stiff-Armed George and for him to be returned to the sheriff’s custody after their visit. Irvine, whom the Senecas did not know, had not yet taken up his post, and Red Jacket in his speech depicted a situation in which the Indians, without Chapin as agent, had “no Guardian” and no means by which problems with the United States could be resolved. The president, Red Jacket asserted, “is called a Great Man, possessing great power—he may do what he pleases.” Alluding to Chapin’s removal, the orator said that TJ “may turn men out of office; men who held their offices long before he held his.” Chapin had lost his job, Red Jacket asserted, “because he differs from the President in his sentiments on government matters.” Some Republican newspapers decried the address at Canandaigua as a “fabrication,” the work of “some intriguing busy body” falsely presented as “a real bona fide speech of Red Jacket.” Federalist editors, in response, endorsed the oration as a genuine expression of its speaker’s sentiments. Red Jacket brought up Stiff-Armed George’s case again when Seneca chiefs met with Governor George Clinton at Albany on 18–20 Aug. to negotiate land sales. As George’s trial by a state court was pending in February 1803, Dearborn wrote Clinton to say that it was “the desire of the President of the United States that I should suggest to your Excellency’s consideration the propriety of taking such measures as your own judgement may dictate for procuring a pardon, in case of conviction, of the Seneca Indian.” Dearborn explained that the head of Stiff-Armed George’s family had been “killed a few years since in time of peace by white men,” and no one had been convicted of that crime even though the Senecas believed there was sufficient evidence against at least one individual. “The Indians complain loudly of the partiality in our Courts in cases of this kind,” Dearborn wrote, “and we cannot but admit that their complaints are too well founded.” A pardon in George’s case “would undoubtedly have a good effect on the minds of the Indian Nations generally.” The court found Stiff-Armed George guilty, after which Clinton, who had also received a letter from Brockholst Livingston in favor of clemency, pardoned him (Granville Ganter, ed., The Collected Speeches of Sagoyewatha, or Red Jacket [Syracuse, N.Y., 2006], 118–28; Dearborn to Irvine, 14 Aug. 1802, to Chapin, same date, and to Clinton, 14 Feb. 1803, in DNA: RG 75, LSIA; Chapin to Dearborn, 25 July, 1 Aug., recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; 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, 1:667–8; Albany Centinel, 20 Aug.; New York Daily Advertiser, 27 Aug.; Windham Herald, 23 Sep. 1802; Hudson, N.Y., Bee, 28 Sep.; Providence Phoenix, 28 Sep.; Green Mountain Patriot, 6 Oct. 1802; Christopher Densmore, Red Jacket: Iroquois Diplomat and Orator [Syracuse, N.Y., 1999], 61–2; Vol 37:31, 32–3, 35, 36n, 39n.

The accounts that circulated of the meeting at Canandaigua did not mention CORNPLANTER, who was in opposition to Red Jacket, his nephew, on several significant issues of Seneca politics. Dearborn was perhaps disposed to find fault with the Senecas in general, and with Red Jacket in particular, in August 1802, due to an incident earlier in the year when Red Jacket and two other Senecas broke into a storehouse, removed merchandise that had been seized for customs violations, and returned the goods to their owner. Dearborn deemed the episode a “glaring outrage” on U.S. authority and a “very disagreeable business.” Through Chapin, Red Jacket and the others apologized and averred that they had not understood the government’s laws (Dearborn to Chapin, 14 June, in DNA: RG 75, LSIA; Densmore, Red Jacket, 60; Thomas S. Abler, Cornplanter: Chief Warrior of the Allegany Senecas [Syracuse, N.Y., 2007], 150–1; Vol. 37:33).

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