James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Benjamin Drake, 6 November 1821

From Benjamin Drake

Cincinnati Nov. 6. 1821.


Having recently embarked in the collection of materials for a Biographical Sketch of the celebrated Tecumseh,1 I am induced to take the liberty of addressing you upon the Subject.

I am solicitous to ascertain the nature of Tecumseh’s alliance with the Brittish army and the tenor of his Commission as a Brigadier General in the service of England during the late war; and I have supposed that during your Presidency, official information touching these subjects might have come to your Knowledge.

Any information Sir which you may be enabled to communicate concerning the points alluded to, or connected in any manner with the “King of the Woods” as he was emphatically styled by Genl. Proctor,2 will be highly acceptable and tend materially to the advancement of a feeble effort of mine, to rescue from oblivion the history of one of our distinguished aboriginal chiefs.

Excuse Sir, the freedom which I have taken in addressing you and accept the assurance of my high consideration and esteem.

Benjamin Drake3

RC (DLC). Addressed by Drake to JM, and franked. Docketed by JM.

1Tecumseh (1768–1813), of Creek and Shawnee heritage, fought U.S. forces in the Ohio country during the 1790s. During the War of 1812, Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet, projected an Indian confederacy, allied their forces with the British, and participated in a number of battles. Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 2:523 n. 1; John Sugden, Tecumseh: A Life [New York, 1997], 15, 22, 63, 79–93, 203–14, 280–93, 329–38, 368, 372–75).

2Henry Procter (1763–1822), an Irish-born career British army officer, commanded British forces on the Detroit and Niagara frontiers until after the Battle of the Thames in 1813, for which defeat he was publicly reprimanded and suspended from command (Halpenny, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 6:616–18).

3Benjamin Drake (1794–1841), editor of the literary weekly Cincinnati Chronicle, wrote Life of Tecumseh, and of His Brother the Prophet; With a Historical Sketch of the Shawanoe Indians (1841), as well as biographies of Black Hawk and William Henry Harrison (Evert A. Duyckinck and George L. Duyckinck, Cyclopaedia of American Literature … [2 vols.; New York, 1856], 2:79). Drake’s “collection of materials” on Tecumseh are now in the Draper Collection at the Wisconsin State Historical Society.

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