Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Henry Dearborn, 30 August 1802

To Henry Dearborn

Monticello Aug. 30. 1802.

Dear Sir

I inclose for your consideration & to take order, a petition from the inhabitants of Cahokia, a letter from I. Darneille on behalf of those of Pioria, and a letter inclosing them from Govr. Harrison. the Poutawatamies have killed two Americans on their farms about 5. leagues above Cahokia; and altho’ the inhabitants of that place call it a declaration of war, yet from the amount of the aid they ask, it would seem as if they, as well as Govr. Harrison in his letter, viewed it rather as a breach of the peace than an act of war. the dispositions however shewn by this tribe for some time past give it a very serious aspect. the fact should be first ascertained, and the murderers peremptorily demanded, and a firm declaration made to them that unless delivered up or put to death by themselves, we shall deem it war and send a force into their country, as will be done also on any repetition of these enormities. they should be made sensible that we will do them every act of justice & friendship while they remain friends, but that if they once force us to draw the sword, exemplary vengeance will be taken. in fact, should they force us to war, it is to be considered whether we should ever cease it till the tribe be driven beyond the Missisipi as an example. these first ideas are submitted for your consideration. the whole business I presume must be committed very much to the discretion of Govr. Harrison. Can the troops they ask be furnished them? will it be a proper disposition of them? if we are forced to strike a blow what militia could be taken to our aid? can we so separate the Poutawatamies for punishment as to avoid the danger of other tribes involving themselves & us in a more general war? while such preliminary measures are taking as our present information orders proper, we should be making these enquiries in the event of more serious operations becoming necessary. every thing satisfies me that the Traders are the people who disturb our peace with the Indians, & that we can exclude them peaceably no otherwise than by an extension of our trade & underselling them. in the mean time the agents might withdraw their licenses from such individuals as are most mischievous. while we are taking measures of satisfaction against the Poutawatamies, we should repeat assurances of friendship to the other tribes.

Mr. Clarke gives us information that the Spanish Governor of N. Orleans has given mortal offence to the great Chickasaw chief at the head of the Spanish interests & of opposition to us in that tribe: and that he resigned a pension of 500. d. & came away declaring he would now become an American. I will desire the Secretary of state to have an extract from the letter sent you, as it will be proper we should avail ourselves of the incident to cultivate the friendship of that chief.

I send you two letters from mr Story for perusal, & to be returned. Accept my affectionate esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of first page: “The Secretary at War.” Enclosures: (1) Petition of inhabitants of Cahokia, date unknown, not found, recorded in SJL as “Cahokias. inhab. of. Petition” received 29 Aug. (2) Isaac Darneille to TJ, 27 July, not found, recorded in SJL as received from Cahokia on 29 Aug. (3) William Henry Harrison to TJ, 8 Aug., not found, recorded in SJL as received from Vincennes on 29 Aug. (4) Isaac Story to TJ, 18 Aug. (5) Story to TJ, 20 Aug.

KILLED TWO AMERICANS: Alexander Dennis and John Vanmeter were clearing land on the east side of the Mississippi River above St. Louis when they were killed by a group of Potawatomi Indians. A chief named Turkey Foot, who was defiantly opposed to accommodation with the United States, led the attackers. The killers were never DELIVERED UP to U.S. authorities (R. David Edmunds, The Potawatomis: Keepers of the Fire [Norman, Okla., 1978], 154–5; Vol. 36:276). William Henry Harrison reported the killing of the two men in a letter to Dearborn of 22 July, which arrived at the War Department on 12 Aug. but has not been found (DNA: RG 107, RLRMS).

MR. CLARKE GIVES US INFORMATION: after the American Revolution, the Chickasaws were divided on questions of diplomacy, with one group favoring the United States and another group preferring Spain. The pro-Spanish faction, initially very influential, lost much of its power by the late 1790s. After pro-American chiefs, in the treaty of October 1801, gave the United States permission to open a road through Chickasaw territory, Ugulayacabe, or Wolf’s Friend, a leader of the Spanish-allied Chickasaws, went to New Orleans for aid in opposing the road. As Daniel Clark informed Madison in a letter written at New York on 16 Aug., Ugulayacabe was taken aback when Governor Manuel de Salcedo, “in a fit of impatience,” treated the Chickasaw badly “& scarce listened to him.” In response to that snub, Ugulayacabe renounced a $500 annual stipend that the Spanish had paid him since the mid-1790s—”saying that as he was to become an American he would do so in earnest.” The chief’s new preference for the United States “ought perhaps to be encouraged at this juncture,” advised Clark. “The ignorance, incapacity, & dotage of the old Spanish Governor have thus effected a Breach with those Indians whom his Predecessors have so long courted & which his successor will make the greatest efforts to repair.” Almost a decade earlier, when TJ was secretary of state, Spanish officials had complained that William Blount, as governor of the territory south of the Ohio River, tried to turn Ugulayacabe from the Spanish to the American side. Several years after that, Ugulayacabe journeyed to Philadelphia and met President John Adams; TJ was home at Monticello when the chief made that visit to the capital in October 1798 (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:488, 489n; Duane Champagne, Social Order and Political Change: Constitutional Governments among the Cherokee, the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, and the Creek [Stanford, Calif., 1992], 79; James R. Atkinson, Splendid Land, Splendid People: The Chickasaw Indians to Removal [Tuscaloosa, Ala., 2004], 124–5, 127–8, 173, 178, 181–2; Arrell M. Gibson, The Chickasaws [Norman, Okla., 1971], 80–90; Vol. 26:119, 263, 265–6; Vol. 30:437n, 603n; Vol. 35:518n).

On Madison’s instructions, Daniel Brent sent Dearborn the EXTRACT from Clark’s letter (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:555).

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