George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Abraham Freeman, 5 September 1793

From Abraham Freeman

Western territory September 5th 1793

The petition of Abraham Freeman a citizen of the United States, late of the State of [N]ew1 Jersey now of the territory of the United States North West of the river Ohio most humbly sheweth

That Whereas Doctor Clarkson Freeman late of the State of New Jersey, a son of your unfortunate petitioner in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety one, was impeached for aiding and assisting, in counterfeiting the public securities of the United States. And Whereas the same Doctor Clarkson Freeman, did render himself up to the hands of justice; upon which Abraham Ogden Esquire attorney general for the New Jersey district of the supreme federal court of the United States took the Examination of the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman in writing; before a magistrate, respecting the aiding and assisting in the counterfieting of the public securities and of the several accomplices therein concerned And whereas the said attorney general for the said district, did promise to secure to the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman your Excellency’s most gracious pardon, if the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman would approve the said several accomplices; whereupon the different accomplices were apprehended, and bills of indictment prefered against them, by the Grand inquest of the district federal court at Trenton. And whereas the several accomplices were confined in different prisons to receive their respective trials when the honorable court should order them on And whereas afterwards the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman, was remanded back to the prison at Newark in New Jersey, to give testimony when the trials of the said accomplices should be ordered on. And whereas in the vacation of the sitting of the district federal court of New Jersey, the several accomplices, who were confined in prison, in manner aforementioned, effected their several escapes from the different prisons; and fled from justice to parts unknown, nevertheless the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman, was still held in confinement for upwards of six months as an approver, to give testimony against the several accomplices, who had already fled and was not to be found And the Attorney general for the New Jersey district federal court, still continued to withhold your excellencie’s pardon by the said attorney general so promised, to the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman, until he the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman, grew weary and languid, for a long time, in prison, without receiving the benefit of the said attorney general’s promised pardon. And then the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman also left his confinement, and went to canada, out of the jurisdiction of the United States; yet the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman being very desirous to return to his native home, without being in jeopardy of his life, on account of his said impeachment and become a free citizen; and subject himself to the good and wholsome laws of the United States.2 And your petitioner begs leave further to represent, to your excellency, that in the month of April, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and ninety two Isaac Freeman another of your petitioner’s sons, was commissioned and left fort Washington, on the banks of the Ohio, by the special request and direction of brigadier General James Wilkinson, and a flag of truce in the service of the United States, for the purpose of effecting a treaty of peace with the hostile tribes; and that the said Isaac Freeman, together with others, in pursuance of their directions, were murdered by the merciless savages, in attempting to bring about the said treaty.3 For the truth of this representation I beg leave to refer your excellency to the Honorable Winthrop Sargent Esquire, secretary for the territory north west of the river Ohio, who will verefy the same. Therefore the promises being considered, your petitioner doth implore your excellency, in whose breast is lodged a store of, both grace and mercy to commiserate his unfortunate situation and the loss of his two sons—he being deprived of the assistance, comfort and affection of the principal branch of his family, to grant unto the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman, the benefit of your excellencies most gracious pardon that the said Doctor Clarkson Freeman, once more, may become, a citizen and free subject of the United States, should it seem meet to your excellency: and your petitioner will ever pray &ca

Abraham Freeman

Copy, DNA: RG 59, Petitions for Pardon. A note beneath the docket reads, “inclosed in Mr Ogdon’s letter of 18 nov. 1795” (see Abraham Ogden to Timothy Pickering, 18 Nov. 1795, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

The original petition was sent to Thomas Jefferson by Ezra Fitz Freeman (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 245–46), and Jefferson transmitted it to GW with his letter of 5 November. Abraham Freeman (1743–1828) and his son Ezra Fitz Freeman (1771– 1819) resided at this time in Hamilton County, Northwest Territory, where Ezra had been appointed in July to act as an attorney for the United States. Ezra Freeman served in that post until November 1794. By 1806 the two men apparently had moved to Butler County, Ohio.

1The copyist wrote “Wew.”

2For Clarkson Freeman’s (1764–1843) counterfeiting case, jailbreak, and attempt to receive a pardon, as well as for the role of N.J. district attorney Abraham Ogden, see John Jay to GW, 11 March 1791, and notes. GW asked Thomas Jefferson to submit this petition to N.J. district judge Robert Morris. Morris opposed a pardon but nonetheless wrote Ogden and, after receiving his reply, reported back to Jefferson that “a pardon to him is already filled up, and resting in Mr Ogdens hands. The opperation of it, under all the circumstances, will necessarily become a question before the Court, if he should ever be apprehended.” Morris’s letter and enclosed materials were submitted to GW, who returned them to Jefferson on 14 Dec. (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 252, 268–69; Jefferson to Morris, 13 Nov., and Morris to Jefferson, 25 Nov. and 8 Dec., 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 , 27:355, 439–43, 495).

The petition was still unanswered in April 1794 when Winthrop Sargent wrote then Secretary of State Edmund Randolph to request a reply. At that time, Randolph reported that GW “does not think proper, under the circumstances of the case, to give any further order concerning the pardon of Freeman” (Sargent to Randolph, 19 April 1794, and Randolph to Sargent, 30 April 1794, in Carter, Territorial Papers description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends , 2:478–79). Ogden’s letter to Pickering of 18 Nov. 1795 recommended delivery of the pardon to Freeman. Whether or not the pardon was delivered, Freeman did return: first to the Northwest Territory and then, in 1802, to Lancaster, Pa., where, with the exception of a period in Ohio from 1811 to 1815, he resided until his death.

3Wilkinson had sent Isaac Freeman (1768–1792), an early settler at Cincinnati, with a message to the Miami Indians in April 1792. The manner of his death was later recounted to a survivor of another failed embassy headed by Maj. Alexander Trueman: “The Indian said they came across them about four days after they left Fort Washington; that they travelled with them about two days and a half, when they killed them in the following manner: First they tomahawked Mr. Joseph Gerrard, then shot the Frenchman, who was spreading out some things to dry; on which Mr. Freeman ran—that he himself shot at him and broke his arm—that he then came up with him and tomahawked him” (Gazette of the United States [Philadelphia], 30 March 1793).

Index Entries