Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Henry Dearborn, 27 August 1802

To Henry Dearborn

Monticello Aug. 27. 1802.

Dear Sir

Your’s of the 22d. was recieved last night, and I now return the papers it inclosed. the exact statement of the boundary of cession by the Choctaws to the British is indeed important. I know not the character of Purcell [. . .] writer, but the minuteness of the details call for credit. I think the [spirit] of our former instructions is to be observed, but as they looked only generally [to] the [. . .] boundary between the Choctaws & us, without designating it, [it] seems open to whatever designation is the right one. as they have [. . .] consented to this boundary, their consciousness of it’s obligation [on them] as well as the same motives of expediency, will induce their consent: after [. . .] the only question will be whether we pay them1 more or [. . .] for it. I am for holding to the boundary rather than to the sum to be paid. when we consider the importance of making the Missisipi territory [as] strong as possible, & the daily increasing reluctance of the Indians to cede lands, we should hold tenaciously whatever they have once [given] us hold of. I should therefore be for recommendg. to Genl. Wilkinson [to] ascertain & obtain the best terms on which we can get their [consent?] to the running of this boundary, but rather leaving every thing open [. . .] unfinished than to irritate the Indians on one side or cede our [. . .] on the other.—I have read Chapin’s speech through the mouth [of Red] Jacket. so much of it as relates to the punishment of the murder [. . .] but his [. . .] to the [. . .] [of what we have] [. . .] nor rely [. . .] any confidence on my memory, I must refer to [. . .] to originals [. . .] [you may think right,] which I shall [. . .]dy to confirm. if I recollect rightly, Chapin was removed because he [did] not reside [conveniently to the Indians.] if so, Red Jacket should be [told so] and that [. . .] a pretense of Chapin’s that he was removed for a difference of politics.—I have signed two commissions to be filled up with the names of Wm Cleveland &  Killam. I am glad to learn you have removed [in to] hilly country. Accept assurances of my sincere & respectful esteem & respect

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); faint; at foot of text: “The Secretary at War.” Recorded in SJL with notation “Indn. affrs.”

On 7 Sep., Dearborn wrote to James WILKINSON to convey “the opinion of the President” that Wilkinson should be given discretion to resolve the boundary issues with the Choctaws and the Creeks. Wilkinson, who could call on the assistance of Benjamin Hawkins, was to allow no compensation to the Choctaws for agreeing to the running of the old British boundary except “the usual presents.” If the Choctaws did want something more, Wilkinson should “ascertain their lowest terms” and, “if the sum should be small,” attempt to gain consent for the running of the line while making clear that any payment would be subject to the approval of Congress and the president (Lb in DNA: RG 75, LSIA). See TJ to the Senate, 7 Jan. 1803.

IF I RECOLLECT: “From your conversation when last at this place,” Dearborn wrote to Israel Chapin on 7 July, “I presume that you will be pleased with being releived from the duties of Indian Agent; had your residence been at a more convenient distance from the principal settlements of the Indians the duties would have been performed with more convenience to yourself and perhaps with more extensive usefulness to the Indians” (same).

1TJ here canceled “fully for.”

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