James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Ninian Edwards, 16 October 1811

From Ninian Edwards

Elvirade Randolph County
Illinois Territory

Octr 16. 1811


I have the honor to enclose you the proceedings of a meeting of the citizens of St Clair county and their address to you. All of which I am convinced is the result of apprehensions of danger, entertained not merely by timid minds but by men well acquainted with the geographical situation habits and disposition of the Indians alluded to—Experienced in Indian warfare and as much distinguished by their valour as any other citizens in the Western country.1

The principle facts stated in the address I have already had the honor to communicate to the war department.2

The Indians residing about Lake Michagan and on the Illinois river and its waters are those who have committed the depredations which have so much alarmed and agitated this territory, the Northwestern parts of which are very much exposed to their attacks. Whether those Indians visit our frontiers by land or water they pass thro Peoria or its immediate vicinity both in coming and returning. A garrison therefore at that place would in my opinion hold in check all those from whom we have most danger to apprehend and in several respects be attended with very benificial consequences.

Believing the proposed measures to be expedient and necessary to the safety of the territory I have thought it my duty thus far to support the prayer of the enclosed petition, but I had no knowledge that any such was even contemplated till I received the enclosed papers. I have the honor to be With the highest respect Sr Yr Mo Obdt St

Ninian Edwards.

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, E-3:6). Docketed by a War Department clerk as received 12 Nov. 1811. For enclosures, see n. 1.

1Edwards enclosed the proceedings of a meeting of the militia officers and other inhabitants of St. Clair County, Illinois Territory (2 pp.), requesting Edwards to forward a memorial addressed to the president (5 pp.). The memorial complained of Indian attacks in the area of the Illinois River over a period of five or six years; mentioned that the settlers had restrained their desire to retaliate for fear of punishing the innocent “for the transgressions of the Guilty”; but also complained of horse thefts and murders during the previous spring. The settlers declared they were “no intruders but living on their own farms” on the frontier, and they beseeched JM to establish a garrison at the village of Opea on the Illinois River and another on the eastern bank of the Mississippi, six or eight miles below the mouth of the Illinois River. The memorial concluded by referring JM to the governor for a statement of the urgency of the matter (printed in Ninian Edwards, History of Illinois, from 1778–1833: And Life and Times of Ninian Edwards [Springfield, Ill., 1870], pp. 288–91). Edwards was to forward another copy of the RC and enclosures in his 15 Feb. 1812 letter to William Eustis (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, E-37:6; docketed as received 10 Mar. 1812).

2Edwards had repeatedly complained to the War Department about Indian hostilities on the frontier; see his letters to Eustis of 7, 20, and 22 June 1811 (Edwards, History of Illinois, pp. 285–87).

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