Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes on Bounds of the Vicennes Tract, [on or after 26 October 1802]

Notes on Bounds of the Vincennes Tract

[on or after 26 Oct. 1802]

Convention between the Poutawatamies, Eel river Indns. Piankeshaws, Weaws, Kaskaskias & Kickapoos & Govr. Harrison for the US. at Vincennes Sep. 17. 1802.

In considn that the US. relinquish all claim to lands ‘in the nbhood of Vincennes except the following described tract’ they cede to the US. the following described tract, viz. ‘beginning at Point Coupee on the Wabash river, thence running a Westwardly line 4. leagues, thence South Westwardly1 by a line drawn parallel to the general course of the Wabash river until it will be intersected by a Westwardly line drawn from the confluence of the White river and Wabash river, thence from the point of intersection aforesd along the sd line by the confluence of the White & Wabash rivers in an Easterly direction 24 leagues, thence North westwardly2 by a line drawn parallel to the General course of the sd Wabash river until it will intersect an Easterly line drawn from Point Coupee aforesd on the Wabash river, thence by the line last mentioned to Point Coupee the place of beginning.’

also to transfer & make over to the US ‘the right & privilege of making salt for ever at the salt lick on the Saline river near the Ohio river,3 & also a tract of land 4. miles square including the Salt lick aforesaid.’

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 126:21749); undated, but see below; entirely in TJ’s hand, including one corrective note in margin (see note 2); endorsed by TJ: “Indians. Boundaries established between the US. and Indians around Vincennes.”

On 26 Oct., the War Department received a copy of the CONVENTION from which TJ made the notes printed above (William Henry Harrison to War Department, 20, 24 Sep., recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS). The document seen by TJ has not been found, but the text of the convention is in Moses Dawson, A Historical Narrative of the Civil and Military Services of Major-General William H. Harrison (Cincinnati, 1824), 27–8, and reprinted in Esarey, William Henry Harrison description begins Logan Esarey, ed., Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, Indianapolis, 1922; repr., New York, 1975, 2 vols. description ends , 1:56–7.

In June, Henry Dearborn had authorized William Henry HARRISON to negotiate the limits of the tract around VINCENNES and to investigate other possible acquisitions of territory by the United States (Dearborn to TJ, 29 July, 7 Aug.). The Vincennes tract, granted by Indians in the region to France in the colonial period, could be claimed by the United States through succession, the grant having passed from France to Great Britain, along with other French lands east of the Mississippi, by the 1763 Treaty of Paris, and similarly from Britain to the United States by the 1783 treaty that ended the Revolutionary War (Parry, Consolidated Treaty Series description begins Clive Parry, ed., The Consolidated Treaty Series, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969–81, 231 vols. description ends , 42:326; 48:491–2).

TRANSFER & MAKE OVER TO THE US: five Potawatomis, two members of the Eel River tribe, three Piankashaws, three Weas, one Kasakaskia, and two Kickapoos agreed to the convention signed on 17 Sep. In addition to setting bounds of the Vincennes tract, the instrument authorized a group of four chiefs, including Little Turtle, to conclude treaties and agreements for the formal cession to the United States of the Vincennes lands and the saline springs. Little Turtle was present during the negotiation of the convention, not as a party to the transaction, but, with his son-in-law, William Wells, to help Harrison complete the agreement (Dawson, Historical Narrative, 27–8; Owens, Jefferson’s Hammer description begins Robert M. Owens, Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy, Norman, Okla., 2007 description ends , 63–6). In his annual message on 15 Dec. 1802, TJ advised Congress that the agreement on the lines of the Vincennes tract meant the “extinction” of Native American titles to a tract 24 leagues wide running about the same distance down the Wabash River.

1Dawson, Historical Narrative, 27: “southwardly.”

2In margin, keyed to this word with a “+,” TJ wrote “Eastwardly.” Dawson, Historical Narrative, 28: “northeastwardly.”

3Preceding four words lacking in Dawson, Historical Narrative, 28.

Index Entries