Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Indiana Territory Citizens, 28 December 1802

From Indiana Territory Citizens

The Memorial and Petition of the Citizens of the Indiana Territory, by their Representatives in general Convention assembled,

Respectfully sheweth

That your memorialists scattered over a remote and extensive Territory, have for a considerable time struggled with all those Difficulties and Dangers incident to a frontier Situation and a sparce population

Unrepresented and almost unknown in the national Councils, it was as much impossible that they should lay their Grievances before the Government, as it was for the Government to redress, without knowing the Causes which produced them.—Untill the formation of the Indiana Territory in the year 1800 not a Gleam of hope broke in upon their distressed situation—This measure, however, promised, and indeed produced much Relief to your memorialists—but from the Combination of a variety of Causes, the great object of our hopes, and to which our strongest solicitudes, are directed—self government, seems removed to a period so distant as to cause the most painful Reflections in the Breast of your memorialists.—The obstacles which have retarded the Improvement and population of this Country are detailed in the memorial to the Congress of the United States, a Duplicate of which is herewith transmitted to your Excellency.

In the Solicitude which you have always discovered, Sir, for the prosperity and happiness of our common Country and of the western parts of it in particular, your memorialists have a certain pledge that their Grievances, as far as they depend upon you will be amply redressed—As coming particularly under this Description, they take the liberty to mention the ascertaining and marking the Indian boundary Lines as a matter of much Importance—This Business, it is understood is progressing in the Neighbourhood of Vincennes, but in the other parts of the Territory, nothing of the kind has been attempted.

Accept the Thanks of the People of this Territory Sir, for the Attention with which you have pleased to honour their former Petitions—And their wishes that your life may be long, happy and prosperous.

Done in Convention at Vincennes in the Indiana Territory the twenty Eighth Day of December in the Year of our lord one thousand Eight hundred and two and of the Independence of the United States the twenty seventh.

By the unanimous order of the Convention,

Willm Henry Harrison. President
& Delegate from the County of Knox


Jno Rice Jones


RC (PHi: Daniel Parker Papers); in hand of John Rice Jones, signed by Harrison; at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Feb. and “Indiana Memorl & petn” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: “The Memorial and Petition of the Inhabitants of the Indiana Territory” to the Senate and House of Representatives, Vincennes, 28 Dec. 1802, stating that “nine tenths of your Memorialists” believe that the sixth section of the Northwest Ordinance, which prohibits slavery in the territory, has been “extremely prejudicial to their Interest and Welfare”; they therefore asked the governor to call a general convention at Vincennes to take measures to secure the repeal or suspension of the article by Congress, as well as the passage of “such other laws, as would in the opinion of the Convention, be conducive to the general welfare, population and happiness of this distant and unrepresented portion of the United States”; the convention claims that the sixth article has driven many citizens owning slaves to settle on the Spanish side of the Mississippi River; keeping the prohibition on slaves in force would oblige other potential immigrants “to seek an Asylum in that Country, where they can be permitted to enjoy their property”; the convention requests a ten-year suspension of article six, during which time slaves brought into the Indiana Territory, and their progeny, would continue in the same state of servitude as other parts of the country where slavery is permitted; the convention also requests that title to the Indian lands lying between the Illinois country, Clark’s grant, and the Ohio and Wabash Rivers be extinguished, which would encourage “a speedy population of the Country,” and that said lands be sold in smaller tracts and at less cost than allowed under existing laws; a preemption for those already settled on public lands is requested, along with a proviso that a portion of the public lands should be set aside for those who will actually settle and cultivate it; the convention also seeks land grants for schools and for persons willing to open good wagon roads and establish houses of entertainment, the vesting of the Wabash saline in the territorial government, alterations to the location and distribution of donation lands in the Illinois country, repeal of the property requirements for suffrage, and increased compensation for the attorney general of the territory; the memorialists hope that Congress will consider the “neglected and orphan like situation” of their territory and grant them “all the Indulgence and Attention necessary to secure to them the relief which is so essential to their welfare and happiness” (MS in same; in Jones’s hand, signed by Harrison; attested by Jones).

On 22 and 24 Nov. 1802, William Henry Harrison, acting on petitions received from “a Considerable number” of Indiana Territory citizens, issued proclamations calling a general convention “for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of repealing the sixth article of Compact between the United States and the people of the Territory, and for other purposes.” Convening at Vincennes on 20 Dec., the convention adopted a resolution on 25 Dec. calling for a ten-year suspension of article six of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in the territory, and prepared a memorial to the congress of the united states on 28 Dec. The House of Representatives received the resolution and memorial on 8 Feb. 1803 and referred them to a committee consisting of John Randolph, Roger Griswold, Robert Williams, Lewis R. Morris, and William Hoge. Reporting on 2 Mch., the committee deemed it “inexpedient” to suspend the ban on slavery in the territory, stating their opinion that “the labor of slaves is not necessary to promote the growth and settlement of colonies in that region.” The committee also denied the requests regarding land grants to encourage the establishment of roads and public houses, the vesting of the Wabash saline in the territorial government, and altering the existing rights of suffrage. The committee recommended that up to one thirty-sixth part of the public lands be set aside for the support of schools in the territory, that the right of preemption be granted to current settlers on public lands, and that compensation be made to the attorney general of the territory for services rendered on behalf of the United States. Recommendations were also made to clarify and make more equitable the location of donation lands in the Illinois country. The committee also noted that the authority to extinguish Indian land titles in the United States rested with the president, not Congress (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 , 1:60–7; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:326, 381; 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 , Public Lands, 1:160).

For the previous efforts to fix the indian boundary lines and extinguish Indian land titles in the Indiana Territory, see TJ’s Annual Message to Congress, 15 Dec. 1802.

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