Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Henry Dearborn, 3 September 1802

From Henry Dearborn

War Department September 3d. 1802


Yesterday on my return from the Highlands I was honored with your favors of the 27th. and 30th. Ulto. with the enclosures accompanying them—I have written to Governor Harrison, on the subject of the several communications from him and others, A copy of which I herewith enclose you—If any thing farther is necessary to be said to him on the subject, or if any part of what I have written should not meet your approbation, I will thank you Sir for your directions—I conceived it of importance that the outlines at least, of what might be considered necessary to communicate to the Governor should be forwarded as soon as possible, which is my apology for not submitting it to your inspection previous to its being forwarded to the Governor—It appears evident that one or more companies will be necessary on the waters of the Illinois, but I doubt whether the necessary orders can be received in time to remove a company from Detroit before the season will be too far advanced—I am of opinion that a company may be Spared from Boston and one from Philadelphia if necessary, there being two compys. at each of those places—Enclosed you will receive a letter from Governor Clinton, One from Mr. Taylor and a Treaty with the Senecas, by which they have ceeded the strip of land on Niagara River, including what is called Black rock, the proposed site for a Military Post, and also a letter from Paul Busti Agent of the Holland Company, accompanyed with a Treaty with the Senecas—The exparson appears very accommodating, and there can I presume be no risk in agreeing to notice his request for some appointment, when he shall produce the recommendations of the Gentlemen he mentions; but at all events if sincere in his professions, he will acquiesce in whatever may happen—

I have the honor to be with respectful consideration Your Hume. Servt.

H. Dearborn

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Dearborn; at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received from the War Department on 5 Sep. and so recorded in SJL with notation “Poutewattms.—Senecas—treaties N.Y.”; also endorsed by TJ:
“murders by Poutewattamies
     by a Seneca Indn.
Treaty between Senecas & N.York
        do. & Holland land co. fort at Black rock.” FC (Lb in DNA: RG 107, LSP). Enclosures: (1) Dearborn to William Henry Harrison, 3 Sep., stating that “although the Government of the U. States would not willingly appeal to arms except from necessity” and after “every other means of redress” had failed, the “unjustifiable act of violence” by the Potawatomis “demands immediate satisfaction”; the Potawatomis must “without delay” hand the murderers over to Harrison “or punish them with death, (and promptly)”; if they fail to do this, the Potawatomis will have violated their treaty with the United States and “measures will be taken for obtaining such redress as justice and policy shall dictate”; the Potawatomis’ annuities for the present year should not be paid until they comply; should they “prefer war to peace” they can “never expect to have peace again upon any other condition than that of their Nations quiting the Territory of the U. States, for no confidence will again be placed in a Nation which will be guilty of such base conduct after the experience they have had of the friendship and liberality of the Government of the U. States towards them”; Harrison should use all means in his power “to convince the Chiefs of the other nations, of the impropriety of the conduct of the Pottawattamas, and of the necessity of their using their influnce for bringing their deluded neighbours to a just sense of their duty”; Dearborn states also that traders who have done anything “to disturb the peace and harmony, which has subsisted between the white people and the Indians,” should have their licenses revoked, and traders should not be allowed “to supply the Indians with spiritous liquors, on any pretext whatever”; it is too late in the season to send new troops to Cahokia, but the company of soldiers at Kaskaskia can be moved closer to the mouth of the Illinois River if Harrison thinks it would be helpful to do so; Dearborn believes that more troops will be required in that region; it might be “improper” to post troops within the “immediate vicinity” of the Potawatomis until it is known if they are actually at war with the U.S.; a post at Peoria or on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, or both, may be required, along with one at the mouth of the Illinois River, and one or more companies may have to be taken from the seaboard to garrison those new posts; meanwhile Harrison should use his “best endeavours for keeping the Indians and the Citizens quiet” and should assure Isaac Darneille and the people who sent the petition from Cahokia that the president has seen their appeals for aid “and that measures will be taken for the more effectual protection of that part of our frontier” (Lb in DNA: RG 75, LSIA). (2) George Clinton to Dearborn, 21 Aug., from Albany, reporting that he “yesterday effected the purchase of the Lands on the Niagara River including Black Rock from the Seneca Nation of Indians,” and he is ready to cede a portion of the land to the United States for the establishment of a military post; encloses an act of the New York legislature on this subject (see Enclosure No. 3, below); Clinton’s personal involvement in the negotiation helped reconcile the Senecas to the use of the land for a military post; regarding the case of the Seneca man arrested for murder, Clinton informed the chiefs that under state law an accused murderer cannot be released on bail and can only be pardoned by the legislature; Clinton promised them that the prisoner will be treated well, and if the court finds him guilty during the legislative recess, Clinton will have the man’s execution postponed until the legislature meets and can consider granting a pardon; Clinton explained to the Senecas the “propriety” of reaching this understanding about the murder case prior to “the completion of the Treaty for the purchase of the Lands, lest their deliberations might be influenced by expectations that I could not realize”; he encloses (not found) some documents he received from western New York relative to the murder and the “Turbulent conduct of the Indians” (RC in DNA: RG 46, EPIR, 7th Cong., 2d sess.; in a clerk’s hand, signed by Clinton). (3) Act of the legislature of the state of New York, 19 Mch. 1802, authorizing the governor or his agents to hold a treaty with the Seneca Indians to extinguish their claim to a one-mile-wide strip of land along the Niagara River including Black Rock and “so much land adjoining as shall be sufficient for establishing a Military Post”; further authorizing the governor to convey the land to the United States, provided that the United States pays the expense of holding the treaty negotiation or such part of it as the governor “shall judge reasonable” and provided that the people of the state retain access to the land for portage, a road, and a ferry; authorizing the governor also to purchase reservation lands of the Cayuga and Onondaga nations; and authorizing grants of land to Jasper Parrish and Horatio Jones, within the tract along the Niagara, of no more than one square mile each (Tr in same, enclosed in Enclosure No. 2). (4) John Tayler to Dearborn, Albany, 23 Aug., transmitting the treaty for the sale of the land on the Niagara River with assurance “that the business was conducted with the greatest fairness and Cordiality” (RC in same; endorsed by Dearborn: “to be transmitted to the President”). (5) Treaty agreed to at Albany on 20 Aug. by Tayler, Clinton, and “sachems, chiefs and warriors” of the Seneca Indians, who give up their claim to a one-mile-wide strip of land along the river; the Senecas retain their right to camp on the river for fishing and to travel on ferries free of toll; the state of New York pays the Senecas $200 now and will pay an additional $5,300 in money and $500 value in “chintz, callico, and other goods suitable for their women”; plots will be set aside for Parrish and Jones (printed copy in same). (6) Paul Busti, general agent of the Holland Land Company, to Dearborn, from Philadelphia, 9 Aug., concerning an exchange of land tracts between the company and the Senecas, who have long been unhappy with the location of a parcel of land granted to them in 1797; Joseph Ellicott, for the company, took advantage of Tayler’s presence at Buffalo Creek as U.S. commissioner for other negotiations to conclude an agreement with the Senecas; as the terms of a deed of cession from Massachusetts to New York require that a superintendent from the former state must be present for any purchase from the Indians, and a law of the state of New York forbids the disposition of lands “without the authority and Consent of the Legislature,” Ellicott’s transaction would appear to have “no binding force” without the approval of the two states’ legislatures; the Holland Land Company prefers to avoid the expense of a new negotiation with the Senecas, and it is important “to every other person who may be Interested in the Success of future Negociations with these Indians” to prevent any “loss of Confidence” in transactions that are “solemnly made under the authority of the General Government” through its commissioner; Busti suggests that the government consider “the propriety of Submitting this Instrument” to the two legislatures “for their approbation” (RC in same; endorsed by Dearborn: “to be transmitted to the President”). (7) Indenture, 30 June, between “sachems, chiefs and warriors” of the Seneca nation and the Holland Land Company (Wilhem Willink and others, all of Amsterdam), the result of a treaty held at Buffalo Creek; Ellicott representing the company as agent and attorney, Tayler representing the United States; the Senecas exchanging two tracts, located in lands reserved by them in 1797, for a tract owned by the company (printed copy in same). Enclosures Nos. 2–7 enclosed in TJ to the Senate, 27 Dec., transmitting Oneida and Seneca treaties.

In November 1801, Red Jacket, as chief speaker for the Senecas, had expressed a willingness to sell the STRIP OF LAND along the Niagara River that included the site called BLACK ROCK. TJ in March 1802 named John Tayler as the commissioner for the United States in the talks between the Senecas and the State of New York. Opposition to the sale by a number of Senecas, including Handsome Lake, undermined a first attempt by New York commissioners to negotiate the transaction. Only after “several councils” among the Senecas, according to Red Jacket, could talks resume. This time Clinton held the conference at Albany and took a direct role (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, 1:663, 666; Granville Ganter, ed., The Collected Speeches of Sagoyewatha, or Red Jacket [Syracuse, N.Y., 2006], 123–8; Vol. 36:633–4).

EXPARSON: Isaac Story (see Enclosure No. 2 listed at Gallatin to TJ, 9 Aug., and TJ to Dearborn, 30 Aug.).

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