James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Adam Stephen, 25 November 1787

From Adam Stephen

Martinburg Berkely County Novr 25h. 1787


It appears that the Wild men of Franklin State have an intention to drive the Cherokees out of their Country.

They are a well behaved people. I carryd on an Expedition against them in —61 made a treaty with them at the long Island in Holston, kept the principals of the Nation with me untill such reputable person among them as I named carryd the Treaty to Charleston & Confirmed it There. This Treaty they faithfully Observed untill our People broke it, by wantonly killing Some their Hunters. Should these ill advisd people force them into a War, we shall have all the Southern Indians against us—and among other Evills they will infect the Navigation of the Mississippi, which would greatly distress our people settled on the Waters of the Ohio. If Mr Sevier has not authority to reclaim these intruders, which by the by he should be Strictly enjoind to do—perhaps it would be Adviseable to Post a hundred Rangers under a discreet Officer of insinuating Manners and Address, at some Convenient place between the Inhabitants and Indians—to see that the people of Franklin behaved According to treaty.1 When treaties are made and promises given without seeing them fullfilld—It naturally gives the Savages an unfavourable Opinion of us and our Government.

The Cherokee Nation have conceived a good Opinion of Major Drumgoole,2 and I am confident he will not deceive them, but as there is little or no government in Franklin I question if he can alone withstand the Torrent. The Banditti will probably get him knockd in the head.

The Western Territory belonging to N Carolina is extensive and Valuable, and well disposed of, may help the U States to discharge their debts. It merits attention as well as the Country N W of Ohio—from the head Wate[r] of Holston to their lower Settlements on Cumberland is at least 300 miles; and I do not imagine that there are abo[ve] 3500 Gunmen in that great distance.

The General Convention exceeded my Expectation. I hope the plan will be adopted as it is. When the defecets appear they can be mended. When America is so happy as to have it established, Congress Will have as many Ambassadors, as Augustus Cæsar had, when he first came to the imperial throne—and if we are happy to have men of Abilities and patriotism at the head of Affairs for one twenty years—Few States in Europe will command equall Respect. I have the honour to be sr your most hule. Sr.

Adam Stephen3

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM. Brackets enclose letters obscured by mounting.

1The Treaty of Hopewell of 1785, which established a boundary between Cherokee hunting grounds and the area open to white settlement, had been repeatedly violated by the frontier inhabitants of North Carolina. Although Secretary at War Knox favored sending troops to expel white intruders on Indian lands, Congress during the Confederation period took little action to enforce the treaty (Horsman, Expansion and American Indian Policy, pp. 24–30, 50–52).

2Alexander Dromgoole. See Gates to JM, 26 Nov. 1787 and n. 2.

3A veteran of the French and Indian War, Adam Stephen (ca. 1730–1791) rose to the rank of major general in the Continental army during the Revolution. He served with Washington at the battles of Trenton, Princeton, and the Brandywine, but was dismissed on charges of drunkenness following Washington’s defeat at Germantown. Stephen nevertheless made a successful transition to civilian life, representing Berkeley County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1780 to 1785. As one of that county’s delegates to the convention of 1788 he supported the new Constitution (F. Vernon Aler, Aler’s History of Martinsburg and Berkeley County, West Virginia [Hagerstown, Md., 1888], pp. 149–58; VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. description ends , XVI [1908], 136–37 n. 7; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , p. 432; Grigsby, Virginia Convention of 1788, I, 300–302, 301 n. 227, 336–37; II, 368).

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