James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 22 November 1822

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello Nov. 22. 22.

Dear Sir

The person who hands you this letter is an interesting subject of curiosity.1 He was taken prisoner by the Kickapoos when he supposes he must have been about 3. or 4. years of age, knows not whence taken nor who were his parents. He escaped from the Indians at about 19. as he supposes, & about 7. years ago. He has applied himself to education, is a student of Medecine, & has assumed the name of Hunter as the translation of that given him by the Indians. To a good degree of genius he adds great observation and correct character. He has been recieved with great courtesy at N. York & Philade. by the literati especially and also by the gens du monde. He has been long enough in this neighborhood to be much esteemed. He is setting out for the Medical lectures of Philade. & asked me to give him a letter to you which I do, satisfied that the enquiries you will make of him, and to which he will answer with great willingness will gratify you to the full worth of the intrusion. He has prepared a very interesting book for publication.

Ten days ago I incurred the accident of breaking the small bone of the left fore-arm, & some disturbance of the small bones of the wrist. Dr. Watkins attended promptly, set them well and all is doing well. He tells me I must submit to confinement till Christmas day. I had intended a visit to you shortly, but this disappoints it. Dawson2 has finished the account books very ably. Genl. Cocke has been 3. days examining them. The vouchers wanting are reduced to about 4000. D. which can be got immediately the persons being in the neighborhood. He thinks there will be scarcely a dollar unvouched. I salute mrs. Madison and yourself with constant affection and respect.

Th: Jefferson


1John Dunn Hunter (ca. 1797–1827) published the story of his life as Manners and Customs of Several Indian Tribes Located West of the Mississippi … (Philadelphia, 1823; Shoemaker 12897). Soon thereafter he visited England, where he was lionized and his book published as Memoirs of a Captivity Among the Indians of North America … (London, 1823). Though celebrated in Europe, Hunter was described as a fraud by fellow Americans Lewis Cass, Henry R. Schoolcraft, Thomas L. McKenney, and Peter Stephen Du Ponceau. On his return to the United States in 1824, Hunter exchanged letters with JM (15 Oct. 1824, and JM’s reply of 20 Oct. 1824 [DLC]), and went to the Southwest, where he and others attempted to establish the independent Republic of Fredonia, a union of Indians and whites centered at Nacogdoches. As the experiment came to a violent end, Hunter was killed by a paid assassin (Richard Drinnon, White Savage: The Case of John Dunn Hunter [New York, 1972], 3–10, 15–21, 27–29, 56, 61–67, 121–24, 201–11, 216–22).

2Martin Dawson (ca. 1772–1835), was a merchant of Milton, Virginia, who as commissioner of accounts for the University of Virginia, annually examined the accounts of the bursar and proctor from 1822 to 1834 (Bruce, History of the University of Virginia, 2:389–95).

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