Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Rogers Clark, 4 March 1784

To George Rogers Clark

Annapolis Mar. 4. 1784.

Dr Sir

Congress having determined to open treaties with the several nations of Indians North of the Ohio within our boundaries, for the purpose of concluding peace and buying lands, they proceeded to-day to chuse five Commissioners. We took the liberty of nominating you, and had the gratification of succeeding in our recommendations. Genl. Greene, Mr. Wolcott, Colo. Butler, and Mr. Higginson are your collegues. The allowance is not yet fixed and as the post will probably be gone before it is fixed, I thought it best to notify you of your appointment that it may reach you before you set out Westwardly. I think you will be desired to meet in N. York about the 10th. of April but only mention this that it may be a guide to your arrangements and not as a thing yet decided on. I am in hopes it will be convenient to you to act in this appointment, because you can render essential service in it, and because too it will bring you forward on the Continental stage. Being extremely hurried I can only add that you may expect more particular information immediately & that I am with sincere esteem Dr Sir Your friend & servt.,

Th: Jefferson

RC (WHi); addressed: “Genl. George Rogers Clarke Caroline.” Entry in SJL reads: “Genl. Clarke. His appointment as Indian Commissioner—put it under cover to E.P. to send by express.” Though not separated by punctuation, the last four words in the SJL entry were doubtless added later. Both the present letter and TJ’s letter to Pendleton of 29 Feb. 1784 show that the letter to Clark was intended to go by regular post as an enclosure in that to Pendleton, but was removed (after both had been sealed) and sent by express instead.

The other four commissioners were Oliver Wolcott, Richard Butler, Nathanael Greene, and Stephen Higginson. On 6 Apr. Congress added Philip Schuyler to the commission; Greene and Higginson declined and Benjamin Lincoln and Arthur Lee were chosen instead (Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , vii, No. 533, note 2). On 4 Mch. TJ, Howell, and Lee were appointed a committee “to consider and report what further arrangements are necessary to carry into effect the proposed treaty with the Indians” (Committee Book, PCC: No. 186; no mention of this committee, which was separate from that which reported on instructions to the Indian commissioners on 4 Mch., q.v., appears in the Journals for 4 Mch.). They reported 5 Mch. and recommended that the president notify the commissioners immediately of their appointment; that the negotiations should begin as soon as possible; that the commissioners should meet at New York on 10 Apr. 1784 “to fix upon the times and places of holding the treaties with the different nations and tribes of Indians, and give them respectively the speediest information of the time and place determined on”; that all appointments of persons for negotiating with the Indians made prior to 4 Mch. 1784 be revoked; that the secretary be directed to prepare the form of a commission for those appointed to negotiate, making any three competent to do business; and that commissioners “attending the Treaty … be allowed——dollars a day” exclusive of expences (the report is in PCC: No. 30 and is in the hand of Arthur Lee; JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, ed. W. C. Ford and others, Washington, 1904–1937 description ends , xxvi, 124–5). No less than ten motions concerning the per diem allowance to commissioners were introduced—one to postpone, one to commit, and eight others providing for 4, 5, 6, 6 ½, 6 ⅔, 7, 7½, and 8 dollars; all were defeated (same, xxvi, 125, note). Roger Sherman offered the motions calling for 6 and 6½ dollars; when the compensation was finally fixed at the latter figure on 19 Mch., it was Sherman who made the motion (same, xxvi, 154).

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