Thomas Jefferson Papers

Petition from the Inhabitants of Kaskaskia, 4 May 1781

Petition from the Inhabitants of Kaskaskia

Kaskaskias, 4 May 1781. Humbly profess their loyalty and services to George Rogers Clark, against whom they have no complaint, though the paper money with which he paid them has been found valueless. But Col. John Montgomery, who succeeded him, was not satisfied with the 60,000 lbs. of flour furnished by the inhabitants for his 38 troops between the fall of 1779 and May 1780, ordered his men to seize more by force, and even caused the inhabitants’ stock in their own yards to be killed. To protests and even a court summons, he replied only with insults and threats of more force. Upon Montgomery’s departure Col. John Rogers assumed command and, in concert with Mr. Dodge, has reduced the inhabitants to a worse condition, killing their animals, burning their fences (pieux), and throwing some of them into jail without cause. He also protected Thomas Bentley from prosecution by the court; this Bentley has refused to take the oath of loyalty to the state. Rogers and Dodge have accused the Kaskaskians of a crime for writing to the French minister in Philadelphia to solicit his interest with Congress in order to put a stop to the wrongs they endure from the Virginia troops. These acts of tyranny have caused many of the best inhabitants to take refuge in the Spanish settlements, since they prefer Spanish law to American despotism. The petitioners request that their unhappy condition be looked into and that justice be done them for the wrongs they have suffered. Petition is signed by 58 residents of Kaskaskia and certified as “Enregistré au greffe du district des Kaskaskias en la comtée des Illinois dependance a la province de la virginie,” 4 May 1781, by Carbonneaux, clerk.

MS (IHi); 7 p.; in French; in an unidentified hand, signed by the petitioners; printed in Kaskaskia Records (Ill. Hist. Colls., v), p. 233–240, accompanied with an English translation and with signatures in facsimile. In DLC: PCC, No. 48 (Memorials from Inhabitants of Illinois, Kaskaskia, and Kentucky), are two transcripts of this Petition: (1) located at p. 1–4, captioned “Copie d’une Requeste Enregistrée au folio 49 du Registre de KasKaKias en forme de plainte être addressée au Gouvr. de Virginie en 1781,” certified at Kaskaskia, 3 Sep. 1787, by P. Langlois “Nt. [Notaire] Etgreffier de Comté”; (2) located at p. 5–8, captioned “Extrait du Registre de KasKaKias folio 59” and certified by the same, 28 Aug. 1787. Both transcripts, which differ with one another only in punctuation and spelling, contain additional matter relating to the arrest at Kaskaskia of Richard Winston by John Dodge in Apr. 1782; these added copies of documents are printed from this source by Alvord in Kaskaskia Records, p. 272–4. According to Alvord, who discusses at length the background of the Kaskaskians’ complaints’ against the American officers and agents (Montgomery, Rogers, Dodge, and Bentley) in his Introduction to the Cahokia Records (Ill. Hist. Colls., ii), p. xcv–ciii, the present petition never reached Virginia. (In any event it would have arrived too late for TJ’s consideration as governor.) Undoubtedly the transcripts now in DLC: PCC were transmitted to Congress by Bathélemi Tardiveau, who in 1787 became the Kaskaskians agent to Congress; see Kaskaskia Records, p. 440ff., and Howard C. Rice, Jr., Barthélemi Tardiveau, A French Trader in the West, Baltimore, 1938, p. 7ff.

A similar petition was sent to the Virginia government by the inhabitants of Vincennes, 30 June 1781 (printed in CVSP description begins Calendar of Virginia State Papers … Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond description ends , ii, 192–3). See also John Rogers’ letter to TJ, 29 Apr. 1781.

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