Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to Henry Dearborn, 6 November 1802

To Henry Dearborn

Th:J. to the Secretary at War.

In the case of Crutchelow & John Williams, two of the murderers of the Indians who have fled, had the case happened in any of the states which proceed according to the forms of the English law, an indictment would be preferred to a grand jury, the witnesses called to appear, and on it’s being found a true bill, a capias issues, which being returned non est inventus, an Exigent goes out, on the return of which the party stands outlawed, convicted & attainted, his blood corrupted; & all his lands and goods forfeited. I presume the Indiana territory has made analogous provisions by it’s laws. if so, would it not be well to suggest to the Governor or district attorney of the territory, to set that proceeding on foot, and on the indictment being found by the grand jury, authorize them to offer a reward of  Dollars for each of the offenders on their safe delivery to any prison in any part of the US.? this reward may be operating while the process of outlawry is going on.

PrC (DLC). Recorded in SJL as a letter to the War Department with notation “Crutchelow & Williams.”

CASE OF CRUTCHELOW & JOHN WILLIAMS: in his correspondence with Dearborn, Governor William Henry Harrison had forwarded complaints from Indian leaders about several unpunished murders committed by whites against Indians in the western territories. In a 22 Dec. 1801 reply, Dearborn wrote that in cases where a murderer was still at large, the president requested that Harrison “issue proclamations offering a handsome reward for the apprehension of the offender, and use every means in your power for apprehending and bringing him to justice, and particularly that you will not lose sight of the case of Williams.” This case involved the 1797 murder of a Delaware Indian hunting party, consisting of two men and one woman, by brothers John and Martin Williams and John Crutchelow. Learning that the three men were now residing in Kentucky, in February 1802 Harrison sent a territorial representative to secure their extradition. Only John Williams was apprehended and carried to Indiana, where he was placed in the Knox County jail. On 4 May, however, Williams escaped and Harrison subsequently issued a proclamation offering a $300 reward for his recapture, as well as $100 for information regarding any accomplices in the jailbreak. Writing Harrison in June and July 1802, Dearborn reemphasized the president’s “earnest wish” that Harrison “exert every means” in his power to apprehend the guilty parties, and also assured the governor that “all reasonable expences” incurred in bringing the offenders to justice would be paid by the United States. Martin Williams voluntarily surrendered to U.S. district judge Harry Innes at Frankfort on 12 July and was released on bail to appear at the November term of the court. Neither John Williams nor Crutchelow surrendered, however, and on 23 Aug. Innes issued warrants against both men and subpoenas for witnesses. John Williams was arrested and held briefly in the Breckinridge County court house, but a mob led by prominent local resident William Hardin freed him and he eluded subsequent efforts by a federal posse to recapture him. The U.S. district court discharged Martin Williams in March 1803 and none of the three accused were ever brought to trial (Owens, Jefferson’s Hammer description begins Robert M. Owens, Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy, Norman, Okla., 2007 description ends , 61–2; Esarey, William Henry Harrison description begins Logan Esarey, ed., Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, Indianapolis, 1922; repr., New York, 1975, 2 vols. description ends , 1:25–6, 48–9; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 7:37, 55; Mary K. Bonsteel Tachau, Federal Courts in the Early Republic: Kentucky, 1789–1816 [Princeton, 1978], 129–33; Harry Innes to Dearborn, 14 Oct. 1802, in DLC: Harry Innes Papers; Dearborn to Harrison, 17 June, 3 July 1802, in DNA: RG 75, LSIA).

SUGGEST TO THE GOVERNOR: Writing to Harrison on 11 Nov., Dearborn stated that although the apprehension of Williams and Crutchelow appeared doubtful, justice and “good policy” required that the government undertake “every reasonable exertion” to secure their capture. “I am directed by the President of the U. States,” Dearborn continued, to suggest that Harrison call proper witnesses before a grand jury. If an indictment is thereafter issued, then Harrison should undertake the “usual proceedings” that would bring the fugitives to trial or declare them outlawed. Dearborn suggested that a reward of $500 be offered for each and that, once apprehended, they be committed to a public jail or delivered to the nearest military post in the territory. “I presume the common Law of England as adopted by many of the States has been adopted in the Territory,” Dearborn concluded, “the foregoing proceeding can only be had under that Law unless a statute Law of some State to that effect has been adopted” (DNA: RG 75, LSIA).

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