Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Wilkinson and Benjamin Hawkins, 1 September 1801

From James Wilkinson and Benjamin Hawkins

South West point September 1st. 1801

Understanding from the public prints, that you are at Monticello, we avail ourselves of the direct conveyance to intrude on you our communications of the 25th ult, and of this day, to the secretary of War; and we hope you may approve of this deviation from the regular course of our correspondence, which we hazard, with the intent to secure time, for the seasonable arrival of any order you may think proper to issue, respecting the place for holding the proposed conference with the Choctaws.

Our letter of the 25th. was intended to be sent on the day it was written by a Mr. Watson of Alexandria who informed us, of his being on the road and that he should pass near your residence, but as we found afterwards that he would be detained we took it back and send it by the mail.—Our colleague General Pickins arrived last evening.

With the highest consideration and most respectful attachment we have the honour to be sir, Your most obedient servants.

Ja Wilkinson

Benjamin Hawkins

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; in Hawkins’s hand, signed by him and Wilkinson; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Sep. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: see below.

Communications of the 25th ult: Wilkinson and Hawkins were at Southwest Point as commissioners for talks with the Cherokees. Writing to the secretary of war on 25 Aug., they enclosed a copy of a message they had received from The Glass, who with some other Cherokee chiefs wanted to move the conference to Tellico. Wilkinson and Hawkins refused the request, saying that the meeting site could not be changed in time. The Cherokees were also upset about the recent murder of a Cherokee woman by a white man, and the commissioners reported to Dearborn that the killer had probably “escaped from the country.” Hawkins and Wilkinson expected to meet with at least two prominent Cherokee chiefs at Southwest Point and then proceed to Chickasaw Bluffs, where, according to Dearborn’s instructions of 24 June, they were to confer with the Chickasaws. The commissioners asked that the third stop on their tour of negotiations, at Natchez to meet with the Choctaws, be changed, since holding the conference at Natchez would “expose the inhabitants to much unavoidable vexation and abuse of property, and the Indians to the debauchery inseperable from our frontier villages.” And of this day: in their letter of 1 Sep. to Dearborn, Wilkinson and Hawkins related that the Cherokees seemed “indisposed to any conference at this time,” from a fear of more encroachment on their lands and the failure of the United States to capture the murderer. The commissioners also informed Dearborn that “The Glass has illy requited the courtesies he experienced at the seat of government,” having instigated “several violent propositions” in the Cherokees’ councils. Hawkins and Wilkinson, if unable to complete a negotiation with the Cherokees, expected to go immediately to Chickasaw Bluffs. In their communication of 1 Sep. to Dearborn they enclosed a copy of their letter to TJ printed above (Foster, Hawkins description begins Thomas Foster, ed., The Collected Works of Benjamin Hawkins, 1796–1810, Tuscaloosa, Ala., 2003 description ends , 371–7; the War Department’s correspondence registers in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS, record the commissioners’ letters to Dearborn as received 15 Sep. 1801; 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, 1:649–50; Editorial Note to Reply to a Cherokee Delegation, printed at 3 July 1801).

General Pickins: Andrew Pickens replaced William R. Davie, who declined to serve as one of the commissioners for the talks with the Indian tribes (TJ to Abraham Baldwin, 13 July).

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