From John Shee
[before 28 Oct. 1803]
This copy of a memorial to the Senate of the Union, is, with the utmost respect laid before the President of the United States.
RC (DLC); undated, unsigned; written on verso of final page of first enclosure; endorsed by TJ as received from John Shee on 28 Oct. 1803 and so recorded in SJL with notation “a memorial to Congress on the Kaskaskia purchase.” Enclosures: (1) Copy of a Memorial and Petition of the Illinois and Wabash (“Ouabache”) Land Company to the Senate, dated Philadelphia, 17 Oct. 1803, stating they have learned that their memorial presented at the last session of Congress had been dismissed by the Senate on the grounds that a decision regarding its merits had already been made; the memorialists are unaware of any such decision and again address Congress on the subject with even greater urgency upon learning that the United States has recently acquired a considerable tract of land from the Kaskaskia Indians; the memorialists have repeatedly informed Congress that they made a similar purchase many years ago not only from the Kaskaskias, but also from the Illinois and other Indian tribes possessing lands on and near the Wabash River; should the land purchase recently undertaken by the United States interfere with the previous purchases by the memorialists, “they must ascribe it to a benevolent and liberal policy extended towards an indigent and helpless Race, rather than to any doubts entertained of the aforementioned Indians having alienated the therein described property; or of the validity of the title of your memorialists”; the memorialists are still willing to cede their land to the United States under the terms of an earlier proposal, which the House of Representatives recommended accepting since it deemed the memorialists’ title to the land valid; therefore the memorialists pray the Senate will reconsider their petition from the last session of Congress (Tr in same; signed “John Shee; sole survivor of the Committee appointed and authorised to solicit and negociate the affairs of the Company with Congress”). (2) Copy of a Memorial and Petition of the Illinois and Wabash Land Company to the House of Representatives, dated Philadelphia, 17 Oct. 1803, similar in wording and content to the memorial and petition sent to the Senate, and likewise asking that the House of Representatives reconsider the memorial and accompanying papers presented at the last session of Congress (Tr in same; signed “John Shee, sole survivor of the Committee appointed and Authorised to Solicit and negociate the affairs of the Company with Congress”).
John Shee (d. 1808) was born in Ireland and emigrated to America with his family in the 1740s. A veteran of the American Revolution and an influential Republican in Philadelphia, Shee was commandant of the Philadelphia Militia Legion and a major general in the state militia. TJ appointed him collector of Philadelphia in 1807 (PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877- description ends , 49 , 184-6; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 2:56; Vol. 33:246n; Vol. 37:6n).
Shee’s memorial was the most recent attempt by the Illinois and Wabash Land Company to secure legal ownership of western lands it claimed to have acquired from various Indian nations in 1773 and 1775. These efforts, which commenced in the late 1770s, had recently taken on greater urgency since much of the land in question had just been acquired by the United States through treaties with the Kaskaskias and other western Indians. The Senate and House of Representatives received Shee’s memorials on 27 Oct. The Senate took no action, but on 14 Feb. 1804 a House committee reported that legal title to the land had not been established by the petitioners, and therefore their prayer should not be granted (Lindsay G. Robertson, Conquest by Law: How the Discovery of America Dispossessed Indigenous Peoples of Their Lands [New York, 2005], 3-27; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820-21, 5 vols. description ends , 3:303; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:421, 465, 577; 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 , Public Lands, 1:27, 72-3, 74-5, 160-1, 189; TJ to the Senate, 31 Oct. 1803).