George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Morgan White Eyes, 2 June 1789

From George Morgan White Eyes

New York June 2d 1789.


I am reduced at last to the disagreeable Necessity of applying for relief to your Excellency, my Situation at present being painful to the greatest Degree, better had Congress a Body for whom I have the highest Veneration left me to wander in the Wilds of my native Country than I to experience the heart breaking Sensations I now feel—Without Friends, without one I dare unbosom myself to, am I left, & in this Situation throw myself at the Feet of your well known Goodness & beg leave to relate all the Circumstances that lead to my present Situation.

Circumstances relative to the Murder of a tender Parent & Friend to his Country induced Congress to condescend to take me as their own, & from the Age of seven Years have I been under their Protection, but this ’till now I never knew—I was placed at Princeton under the Care of Colonel Morgan & continued until last September—I never knew who maintained me & was taught to look upon myself as a poor Outcast, & depending for Food & Raiment &c. on the Goodness of that Gentleman.

Tis true I was kept at College & there were my happiest moments spent, but when at his House the severest reflection & often cruel Usage have I experienced. Of this enough—I was not without Faults I acknowledge, but they were in my boyish days, & they not greater than what I see committed by Children of many Parents—In me they could not be overlooked—Many a time I reflect on the happy Situation of Children who have Parents tenderly to advise them—I was deprived of that Blessing. I do not murmur but submit to the divine Will—the almighty Protector of the Fatherless I trust will not let me suffer long.

Colonel Morgan having Business in the Western Country sent me to this City in September last & gave me a Letter to the Commissioners recommending me to their Care until Congress should be pleas’d to give further directions, & under whose Care I now am.1

When I came I expected to have gone to College in this City & finished my Education agreeably to an Act of my kind Protectors dated the 21 September 1787, but I remained at Board, without even a sufficient Change of Cloaths, having left the chief at Mrs Morgan I applied to the Board who gave me a very few Articles not half enough to keep me comfortable throughout the Winter—After repeated applications I found it vain to attempt any more, so proceded on Foot to Princeton in hopes of getting those left behind, but Mrs Morgan denied them & I am informed her Son a Lad about my Age had worn them out—but that is nothing new for he always wore my Cloaths when he thought proper—I do not mention this from any Animosity or pique against Mr or Mrs Morgan but only answer to their Charge against me, Vizt that I had sold them, which is altogether erroneous.

The Error I committed in going to Princeton witho⟨ut⟩ Permission of the Board, I will always blame myself, but still, when I came to acknowledge my Faults, & promised faithfully to submit to their Will—they would not hear me—but I deserved it.

However nothing that can happen, not the severest Want shall make me return to my native Country—Tis thought from the Behaviour of my Colleagues while at Princeton that I will follow their Example—but never—I shall say but little but I trust my heart is fixed, & the time may come that this now feeble Arm, may be stretched out in the Service of America; & render the United or Individual States essential Service.

My humble request is & has this some Months past, that if the Burthen is too great on the United States that some kind of Employment may be pointed in order that I thereby may obtain a Living a⟨long⟩ the Line that Congress probably first intended—That is agreeably to the Education they have been pleased to bestow upon me—I care not what [it] is I am willing to do what I am able, & you should think necessary to my future Welfare2—Intreating your Excellency’s kind Patronage on this Occasion I have the Honor to remain With the most perfect Respect, Sir, Your most Obedient & most devoted Servant

George M: White Eyes

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 78.

George Morgan White Eyes (c.1772–1798) was the son of White Eyes, a Delaware chief who had become a Moravian and an ally of the United States during the Revolution. His father died in 1779, supposedly of smallpox while accompanying Lachlan Mcintosh into the Ohio country, although George Morgan later reported that he was killed by American militia. As early as 1779 the commissioners of Indian affairs for the Continental Congress had solicited the Indians to send some of their children to be educated in the white settlements, and George White Eyes, together with two other young Delawares, was placed under the tutelage of George Morgan in appreciation of the Delaware’s services during the Revolution. An additional motive for Congress’s interest was Morgan’s report that if the United States should be successful in separating from Britain the “Delawares would cede a portion of their country to the United States as a compensation for the expence they already had or should incur on their and their childrens account” (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 25:660–61). In 1785 Congress authorized Morgan to continue his support of young White Eyes (ibid., 28:411, 468). In August 1787 Ebenezer Hazard, postmaster general, pointed out to Congress that the provision made for White Eyes’s support had long since expired and that, although in the absence of further authorization from Congress, the Board of Treasury could not continue payments for his support, “at the same Time Col. Morgan does not conceive himself at Liberty to send White Eyes home, without the Orders of Congress for that Purpose” (ibid., 33:513). Morgan continued to oversee George’s education at Princeton for some time. White Eyes supposedly came into considerable property from his father’s estate but squandered it. In 1798 he was living, with other Delaware, near West Point in what is now Columbiana County, Ohio, when he was killed in a brawl with a 17–year-old boy. According to the court records of the case, “White-Eyes was intoxicated and ran at the boy with an uplifted tomahawk, giving the boy the impression that he was going to assault him. The boy ran, but the Indian pursued him, and gaining upon him so rapidly that young [William] Carpenter felt that he was in real danger, turned and shot him” (“Jefferson County Pathfinders,” description begins W. H. Hunter, comp. “The Pathfinders of Jefferson County.” Ohio Archæological and Historical Publications 6 (1898): 95–313. description ends 227–31).

1Writing to the Board of Treasury, 25 Sept. 1788, Morgan announced that he would be absent from New Jersey for two or three months and requested the board, in gratitude for White Eyes’s father’s services, to assume responsibility of George while he was away, “notwithstanding he has lately been much deranged in his Studies & Conduct, which I impute to my Absence & to the News of the Murder of his Mother, said to be by a party of White men painted like Indians for the Sake of Peltries she was bringing to Market; which some officious person has told her son of. He has neglected his studies several Months past, & associated with other Lads in College, who have been expelled; & has been induced to sell all his Cloths, Books, Maps, Instruments with an Intention to go off to the Western Country” (DNA:PCC, item 78).

2For White Eyes’s further complaints, see his letters to GW, 8 July and 8 Aug. 1789.

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