Thomas Jefferson Papers

Henry Dearborn’s Statement on Indian Trading Houses, 8 December 1801

Henry Dearborn’s Statement on Indian Trading Houses

The Secretary of War has the honor of submitting, for the consideration of the President of the United States, the following statement and observations on the subject of the establishment of Trading Houses with the Indians, from a careful examination of which it appears

That Congress in March 1795, appropriated 50,000 Dollars, and in April, 1796, the additional sum of 150,000 Dollars, to be applied, under the direction of the President of the United States, to the purpose of carrying on trade with the Indian Nations; and that, in consequence, one trading house was opened on the frontiers of Georgia, and another on the boundary between the State of Tennessee and the Cherokee Nation: that for these objects the sum of 90,000 Dlls. only has yet been drawn from the Treasury, and that the business of thse two houses has been so managed, as, from the best information to be obtained, not only to save the original stock from diminution, but even to encrease it, about 3 or 4 pr. cent.

As far as the system has been carried into operation, it appears to have had a very salutary effect on the minds of the Indians, and there can be little doubt remaining but that a much more extensive distribution of the fund, among the several Indian Nations, would be attended with all the good effects that were originally contemplated by the Government, and might be made without any diminution of the fund.

The several Nations of Indians appear extremely desirous of participating in the advantages, which result from their being enabled to procure supplies, made under the immediate direction of the Government, from a confidence that they will be fairly and honestly dealt with, and that they will not so frequently be subjected to the inconveniencies of travelling a great distance to an uncertain Market, and of being imposed on in their dealings.

The intercourse which grows out of such establishments, has a powerful tendency towards strengthening and confirming the friendship of the Indians to the people and Government of the United States, and towards attaching them more and more from the influence of neighboring Governments.

All which is respectfully submitted.


H. Dearborn

War Department

Dec: 8. 1801.

Tr (DNA: RG 46, LPPM, 7th Cong., 1st sess.); in a clerk’s hand; endorsed by a Senate clerk. Tr (DNA: RG 233, PM, 7th Cong., 1st sess.); in a clerk’s hand; endorsed by a House clerk. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 107, LSP); in a clerk’s hand; in margin at head of text: “The President of the United States.” Recorded in SJL as received from the War Department on 8 Dec. with notation “Indian trade.” Transmitted to Congress with TJ’s message of 27 Jan. 1802 and 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, 1:654–5.

For the financial statement that William Irvine prepared concerning the trading “factories” at Tellico and on the Georgia frontier, see TJ’s communication to Congress of 27 Jan. 1802.

The act of Congress of 3 Mch. 1795 appropriated $50,000 for goods to be used in trade with Indians during that year. The act of 18 Apr. 1796 authorized the president to establish trading houses, appropriating $150,000 plus up to $8,000 annually to pay the trading stores’ agents and clerks (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 , 1:443, 452–3).

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