George Washington Papers

Tobias Lear to Thomas Jefferson, 17 February 1793

Tobias Lear to Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Sunday February 17t: 1793

The President of the United States requests that the Secretary of State will write to the Governor of New York, by the post of tomorrow, for authenticated Copies, under Seal, of the several treaties between the Six Nations and the Governors of New York from the year 1683; and especially those with Colo. Dongan.1 They were preserved under the old Government of New York, in the Office of the Secretary for Indian Affairs.

The Attorney General of the United States having been directed by the President to go into an examination of the several treaties which have been made with the Northern & Western Indians, from the earliest period that they can be obtained, has desired that the foregoing application may be made to obtain a copy of those which are preserved in New York2—and the President conceiving it proper that the application should be made through the Secretary of State, has therefore sent him this request; and wishes that the Copies may be had as early as possible, that all arrangements necessary for the Commissioners should be made, if possible, before the Close of the present Session of Congress.3

If, in the Secretary’s opinion, the expense of taking said Copies should be paid in the U.S. he will let the Governor know that it will be done by them, that no delay or difficulty may arise from that source.

L, in Benjamin Bankson’s writing, DLC: Jefferson Papers; copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW. Jefferson docketed this letter as received on 17 Feb. from Tobias Lear.

1Thomas Donagan (1634–1715) served as the governor of colonial New York 1683–88.

2Jefferson wrote Gov. George Clinton later this day to request copies of the desired treaties (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 25:215–16). These treaties were intended for use by U.S. Indian commissioners at a proposed treaty at Lower Sandusky (GW to Edmund Randolph, 12 Feb. 1793).

3Clinton did not respond to Jefferson’s letter until 5 March. He reported that his search for the colonial treaties had been “unsuccessful,” but that he had written to the clerk’s office in Albany County for copies of any that might exist there (ibid., 317). By the time Jefferson received this letter on 9 Mar., Congress already had adjourned the second session (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., 668, 966). Nevertheless, Jefferson wrote Clinton on 13 Mar. to request “transcripts of the Indian treaties made under the state of New York” (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 25:373). Clinton enclosed in his letter to Jefferson of 19 April certified copies of five treaties concluded between New York State and the Iroquois dated 28 June 1785, 12, 22 Sept. 1788, 25 Feb. 1789, and 30 June 1790. Clinton’s letter, which Jefferson received on 22 April, has not been identified, but a letterpress copy of the enclosed treaties, dated 11 April, is in DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers (Jefferson to Clinton, 27 April, and note, ibid., 592).

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