Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 27 January 1802

To the Senate and the House of Representatives

Gentlemen of the Senate & of the House of Representatives

I lay before you the accounts of our Indian trading houses, as rendered up to the 1st. day of January 1801. with a report of the Secretary at War thereon, explaining the effects and the situation of that commerce, and the reasons in favor of it’s further extension. but it is believed that the act authorising this trade expired so long ago as the 3d of March 1799. it’s revival therefore as well as it’s extension, is submitted to the consideration of the legislature.

The act regulating trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes will also expire on the 3d. day of March next. while on the subject of it’s continuance, it will be worthy the consideration of the legislature whether the provisions of the law inflicting on Indians, in certain cases, the punishment of death by hanging, might not permit it’s commutation into death by military execution; the form of the punishment, in the former way, being peculiarly repugnant to their1 ideas, and increasing the obstacles to the surrender of the criminal.

These people are becoming very sensible of the baneful effects produced2 on their morals, their health & existence by the abuse of ardent spirits: and some of them earnestly desire a prohibition of that article from being carried among them. the legislature will consider whether the effectuating that desire would not be in the spirit of benevolence & liberality which they have hitherto practised towards these our neighbors, and which has had so happy an effect towards conciliating their friendship. it has been found too in experience that the same abuse gives frequent rise to incidents tending much to commit our peace with the Indians.

It is now become necessary to run and mark the boundaries between them & us in various parts. the law last mentioned has authorised this to be done; but no existing appropriation meets the expence.

Certain papers explanatory of the grounds of this communication are herewith inclosed.

Th: Jefferson

Jan. 27. 1802.

RC (DNA: RG 233, PM, 7th Cong., 1st sess.); in the salutation, TJ interlined “Senate & of the”; for other emendations, see notes 1–2 below. RC (DNA: RG 46, LPPM, 7th Cong., 1st sess.); endorsed by a Senate clerk. PrC (DLC). Enclosures: (1) William Irvine to the secretary of war, 11 Nov. 1801, reporting on trade through the Indian “factories” or trading stores at Tellico and on the Georgia frontier, enclosing a statement of expenditures and receipts for each store to 1 Jan. 1801, showing a net gain of $309.53 for the Tellico factory and a net gain of $15,740.83 for the Georgia factory (Tr in DNA: RG 233, PM, in a clerk’s hand; Tr in DNA: RG 46, LPPM, in hand of Joshua Wingate, Jr., chief clerk of the War Department). (2) Henry Dearborn to TJ, 8 Dec. 1801. (3) Extract of John Edgar to the secretary of war, Kaskaskia, 20 Nov. 1801, stating that about 50 Delaware Indians who assembled on the Mississippi River declared that if the Delaware man convicted of murder should be executed by hanging, “they would kill every white man they met with,” and that even “our own Indians” expressed dissatisfaction with “the mode of execution” (Tr in DNA: RG 233, PM, in Wingate’s hand and attested by him as a true copy, 26 Jan. 1802, endorsed by a House clerk; Tr in DNA: RG 46, LPPM, misdated 1802, in Wingate’s hand and attested by him, endorsed by a Senate clerk); see William Henry Harrison to TJ, 30 Dec. 1801; Edgar, a militia commander in the Kaskaskia area, also stated in his letter, which has not been found, that he had ordered a party of militia to be present at the execution (record in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; 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 , 2:626–7). (4) Extract of the address of Little Turtle to TJ, 4 Jan. 1802, consisting of four paragraphs beginning “Father, Should this request be granted nothing shall be wanting” and running through “we have become less numerous and happy” (Tr in DNA: RG 233, PM, in Wingate’s hand and attested by him as a true copy, 26 Jan. 1802, endorsed by a House clerk; Tr in DNA: RG 46, LPPM, in Wingate’s hand and attested by him as a true copy, 26 Jan., endorsed by a Senate clerk). Message and enclosures printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:653–5.

Meriwether Lewis delivered this message and the accompanying copies of documents to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, 27 Jan., and to the Senate on Thursday, the 28th. The Senate, after the papers were read, ordered them to lie for consideration. The House referred the message and enclosures to a committee formed on 7 Jan. to consider the memorial from Evan Thomas and other members of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends that enclosed a speech made at their meeting by Little Turtle (see Editorial Note, Conference with Little Turtle, 4 Jan.). The memorial asked “the attention and interference of Congress to prevent the supply of spiritous liquors to the Indian tribes residing in the Territory of the United States Northwest of the river Ohio, by traders and settlers on the frontiers, and to introduce among the said Indian tribes the most simple and useful arts of civil life.” The House committee consisted of Samuel Smith and four others (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:34, 72; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 3:174).

Indian Trading Houses: the “Act for establishing Trading Houses with the Indian Tribes,” approved 18 Apr. 1796, was in effect “for the term of two years, and to the end of the next session of Congress thereafter” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:452–3). Gallatin wrote a brief communication to TJ on 25 Jan.: “It is suggested that the law authorizing Indian trading houses has expired. If, upon examination it should appear to be so, it will be necessary to lay the subject before Congress. I have taken the liberty to mention this, because under existing laws, the Secretary of the War Department should cause the original stocks, advanced out of the Treasury, to be realized, and repaid in the Treasury. I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir Your most obedt. Servt.” (RC in DLC; at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received from the Treasury Department on 25 Jan. and “Indian trading houses” and so recorded in SJL). Gallatin’s reference to “original stocks” apparently meant the funds used to supply the trading stores with inventories of merchandise. Gallatin evidently gave TJ an “Abstract Statement” of expenditures and receipts of the trading houses as accounted for by John Harris, the military storekeeper at Philadelphia, to 4 June 1801 (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 119:20528, in a clerk’s hand; for Harris, see Vol. 34:69). Gallatin received that statement with a covering letter of 7 Dec. 1801 from Richard Harrison, the auditor. In Harrison’s opinion, the brief abstract, “unaccompanied by the semi-annual Statements” that the 1796 law required the trading houses’ agents to submit, would not be sufficient for the “regular adjustment” of the accounts. There should be a comprehensive accounting, Harrison stated, “by whoever had the general Superintendance of the Trade.” Gallatin passed Harrison’s letter along to TJ, probably at the same time he gave TJ the “Abstract Statement” (RC in DLC; at foot of text: “The Secretary of the Treasury”; endorsed by TJ with notation “Indian trade”).

In the House of Representatives on 27 Apr. 1802, the committee of Smith and others appointed on 7 Jan. reported a bill for the revival and continuation of the 1796 act that established the trading houses. The bill became law on 30 Apr. 1802. It made no change to the provisions of the earlier act, but put it back into force until 4 Mch. 1803 (JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:224; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:173).

The most recent act regulating trade and intercourse with Indian tribes, approved 3 Mch. 1799, had a limit of three years. A bill for a new act with the same title, “An act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers,” originated in the Senate and became law on 30 Mch. 1802. Both the new law and its predecessor gave United States courts jurisdiction in cases of crimes committed against or by Indians. Neither law specified the form that punishment of death should take in capital cases, but an act passed by the First Congress in 1790 stated that the infliction of death for federal crimes should be by hanging (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:119, 743–9; 2:139–46; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , 3:179, 180, 191).

Abuse Of Ardent Spirits: the 30 Mch. 1802 act contained a section authorizing the president “to take such measures, from time to time, as to him may appear expedient to prevent or restrain the vending or distributing of spirituous liquors among all or any” Indian tribes (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:146).

According to the 1799 “Act to regulate trade and intercourse,” the boundaries between Native American tribal lands and U.S. territory formed a continuous line that followed rivers, ridges, and the borders of existing land grants to run from Lake Erie to Spanish Florida. The act of 30 Mch. 1802 repeated the boundary’s specifications. Both acts authorized the president to have the line “clearly ascertained and distinctly marked” wherever he thought necessary. Congress included an appropriation of five thousand dollars for “running certain boundary lines between the Indians and white inhabitants of the United States” in a military appropriations act that became law on 1 May 1802. The marking off of reserved tracts in Indiana Territory and the Northwest Territory would also fall under the appropriation for surveying the Indian boundary (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 1:743–4; 2:139–41, 183).

1TJ here canceled “feelings.”

2TJ here canceled “by.”

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