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John Adams to William Stephens Smith, 22 May 1799

John Adams to William Stephens Smith

Quincy May 22d 1799


I have received your letter of the 16th & the bundle of papers inclosed with a great deal of pain. The thing has not a good appearance. Mr. Shieflin had better have addressed his letter & papers to me than to you who are not the Secretary of War. You are suspected & have been accused of improper speculations in the neighborhood of Detroit & in connection with characters whose friendship does you no honor. These Indian pretensions are suspected to have been excited by you and your associates.1

I send you back all the papers. If you will take upon yourself to send them to the Secretary at War, you may, I will not. If you desire the command of Detroit you must sollicit it of the Secretary at War, the commander in chief of the army or Major Gen. Hamilton. I will not interfere with the discipline & order of the army because you are my son in law

I am with usual affection yours.

LbC in William Smith Shaw’s hand (Adams Papers); internal address: “Col Smith.”; APM Reel 119.

1In his letter to JA of 16 May (Adams Papers), WSS enclosed a packet of documents relating to JA’s Dec. 1798 meetings with representatives of several Native American tribes, for which see William Smith Shaw to AA, 20 Dec., and note 1, above. WSS claimed that, contrary to what James McHenry told Shaw, the chiefs left Philadelphia “highly irritated” and no longer bearing a “friendly aspect” toward the United States. WSS reported that Jonathan Schieffelin (1762–1837), a land speculator and the agent of Indian affairs at Detroit, was “apprehensive” about future diplomacy unless he was “authorised to say, that Commissioners will be appointed, to hear and report fully, to Goverment the subjects of their uneasiness.” WSS informed JA, “I seriously believe, that there is an absolute necessity of holding a conference, with them or immediately reinforcing the frontier posts.” He further noted the possibility of French or Spanish interference along the Mississippi River “to take the advantage of the present dissatisfied state of the Indian mind,” which WSS alleged could be “tranquilized, by pursuing that system of benevolence, and expanded Justice, which is due from the Civilized to the savage Man” (Philadelphia Gazette of the United States, 8 May 1799; Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, eds. Hartmut Berghoff and Uwe Spiekermann,

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