Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to William Blount, 12 August 1791

To William Blount

Philadelphia Aug. 12. 1791.


Your letter of July 17. to General Knox, having been referred to me by the president, as relating to a subject merely civil, I have the pleasure to inform you of his consent to the absence you therein ask from the 15th. of September to the 20th. of November. As it imports highly to the people within your government to conform to the articles of the treaty against hunting or settling on the Indian lands, I have no doubt you will see the necessity of duly promulgating before your departure these and such other parts of the treaty as are immediately interesting to them.

I avail myself of this occasion of acknoleging the reciept of your favor of July 17. addressed to myself, and of expressing my anxiety to recieve the ulterior information on the subject of the lands of the United States which you are so good as to promise me. Among other things it will be interesting to know whereabouts the Southern boundary of N. Carolina will be intersected by the North line of the Cherokees which is to go on till it meets the line crossing Houlston. Also to know what and where is Campbell’s line spoken of in the treaties of Houlston and Hopewell, so that they may be delineated on the map.—I inclose you a paragraph from a newspaper on the subject of a Zachariah Coxe and others, which we hope to be without foundation. I have the honour to be with great esteem & respect Sir Your most obedt. humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC). FC (DNA: RG 360, DL).

Blount’s 17 July 1791 letter to Secretary of War Knox is printed in Carter, Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter, ed., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, 1934–1962, 26 vols. description ends , iv, 70–1. Articles 8 and 9 of the 2 July 1791 Treaty of Holston between the United States and the Cherokee nation forebade American citizens from hunting or settling on Cherokee land (same, p. 63). Blount left the task of providing TJ with the information on public lands he requested to acting Governor Daniel Smith (Smith to TJ, 4 Oct. 1791).

Zachariah Cox, as head of the Tennessee Company, was the recipient of one of the notorious Yazoo land grants from the state of Georgia in 1789. Cox came into conflict with the federal government when he announced plans in September 1790 to settle the Muscle Shoals area, which was recognized as Cherokee land by the Treaties of Hopewell and Holston. In order to preserve good relations with the Cherokees, Secretary of War Knox instructed Governor Blount to prevent this settlement. Blount had Cox and his associates indicted before the superior court of Washington District in the summer of 1791, but the grand jury, which was allegedly made up of settlers equally covetous of Cherokee lands, refrained from returning a true bill against them. Cox thereupon reiterated his plan to form a settlement at Muscle Shoals. But this plan, which seems to have been the source of TJ’s concern, was frustrated by the opposition of the Creek chieftain, Alexander McGillivray, secretly aided and abetted by Blount (Isaac J. Cox, ed., “Documents Relating to Zachariah Cox,” Quarterly Publication of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, viii [1913], 31–4; Arthur P. Whitaker, “The Muscle Shoals Speculation, 1783–1789,” MVHR description begins Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 1914–64 description ends , xiii [1926], 385 n. 47).

Index Entries