George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Shepard, 6 November 1791

From William Shepard

Westfield [Mass.]. Novr 6th 1791

May it please your Excellency,

A cordial Friend of the Government at the Head of which you are unanimously placed by the Suffrages of our common Country, & one, too, whose Name may possibly be yet recollected by the Commander in Chief of the late Army, begs leave to approach you—& to acquaint you that, he has received Information that a Superintendant of Indian Affairs is speedily to be appointed by your Excellency. If, Sir, you can suppose me capable of serving the Public in so considerable a Station, may I be permitted to request a Remembrance with your Excellency, upon this Occasion, if that Office is not already disposed of? I can, in this Case, promise for nothing more than the same Fidelity with which I have endeavoured to perform the Duties which have fallen to my Lot in earlier Life; in the Discharge of some of which your Excellency well knows I have received but an indifferent Consideration:1 & to be afresh impressed with a Sense of the Obligation with which I have the Honor to be your Excellency’s most obedt Servt

Wm Shepard


William Shepard (1737–1817) of Westfield, Mass., a veteran of the French and Indian War, served with the Continental army in the Revolution as a lieutenant colonel from 1775 until his promotion to colonel of the 3d Continental Regiment in October 1776. He was colonel of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment from January 1777 until November 1782, when he resigned from the army, before learning of his promotion to brigadier general. In 1785 and 1786 Shepard sat in the lower house of the Massachusetts legislature, and he was serving as major general of the outnumbered Hampshire County militia in January 1787 when he successfully defended the Continental arsenal at Springfield, Mass., against insurgent forces under Daniel Shays (see General Orders, 27 May 1776, n.2, Benjamin Lincoln to GW, 4 Dec. 1786–4 Mar. 1787 [22 Feb. 1787]).

1Samuel Lyman wrote to the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Jonathan Trumbull from Springfield, Mass., on 5 Dec. that he had been informed that a superintendent of Indian affairs would soon be appointed. He described Shepard as “a man of great integrity & honor” who could be recommended to GW as a proper candidate for the office: “He was a brave Officer during the war, & at the time of the late Insurrection in this State, rendered the most essential service to the U. States, by protecting, with an handful of men, the Arsenal in this Town, untill reinforced by Genl Lincoln” (DLC:GW). Shepard did not receive the superintendency. Appointed a treaty commissioner by Massachusetts in 1796, he persuaded the Penobscot nation to surrender its claims to 200,000 acres in the Maine District for various trade goods as well as an annual stipend, in violation of sect. 4 of the federal “Act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes” of 22 July 1790 (1 Stat., description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 137–38). Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in March 1797, Shepard attended Robert Morris’s Treaty of Big Tree negotiations with the Seneca at Geneseo, N.Y., that September to oversee the interests of Massachusetts, in accordance with a state legislative resolution of 11 Mar. 1791 (ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:626–28). Shepard sat in Congress until 1803.

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