Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to the Senate, 7 January 1803

To the Senate

Gentlemen of the Senate

I submit for your approbation and consent a Convention entered into with the Choctaw nation of Indians, for ascertaining and marking the limits of the territory ceded to our nation, while under it’s former government, and lying between the Tombigby and Mobile rivers on the East, and the Chickasawhay river on the West.

We are now engaged in ascertaining and marking in like manner the limits of the former cessions of the Choctaws from the river Yazoo to our Southern boundary; which will be the subject of another convention; and we expect to obtain from the same nation a new cession of1 lands of considerable extent between the Tombigbee and Alabama rivers.

These several tracts of country will compose that portion of the Missisipi territory, which, so soon as certain individual claims are arranged, the United states will be free to sell & settle immediately.

Th: Jefferson
Jan. 7. 1803.

RC (DNA: RG 46, EPIR, 7th Cong., 2d sess.); endorsed by clerks. PrC (DLC). Recorded in SJL with notation “Choctaw convention.” Enclosures: (1) Convention between James Wilkinson, as commissioner on behalf of the United States, and the Choctaw nation, 17 Oct. 1802, on the Tombigbee River; agreeing that the president may appoint commissioners to resurvey the old boundary line once agreed to by the Choctaws and Great Britain (see Dearborn to TJ, 22 Aug. 1802); the Choctaws will appoint two commissioners to attend the survey at the expense of the United States; the line shall become part of the boundary between the United States and the Choctaws, and for the consideration of one dollar, the Choctaws release their claim to the tract enclosed by that boundary on the north, the Chickasawhay River on the west, the Tombigbee and Mobile Rivers on the east, and the U.S. boundary with Spain on the south; leaders of the Choctaws’ upper towns may alter the location of the line near the mouth of the Yazoo River; this convention to become effective upon ratification by the president and the Senate (printed copy in DNA: RG 46, EPIR). (2) Wilkinson to Dearborn, 17 Oct., enclosing the convention; the decision to let the chiefs of the upper towns decide about one part of the line is to correct a “defect” that Wilkinson found in the old line; believing that the cession of the tract bounded by the Chickasawhay, the Tombigbee, and the Mobile, “which includes one and an half Million of Acres, might prove interesting to Government at an early period, (it is certainly so at this moment to our Citizens settled on that tract),” Wilkinson applied his “feeble faculties” to the attainment of that goal “and with much difficulty effected it”; he thought it “essential” to distribute the Choctaws’ annuity at his conference with them, and saw that it was done, although he has been ill with a fever; more than 1,800 Indians attended the conference, yet their subsistence costs will total less than $300; in two days Wilkinson will mount his horse, “tho’ illy able to keep the seat,” and set out for the mouth of the Yazoo River (Tr in same). (3) Dearborn to Wilkinson, 7 Sep., authorizing him to reach an agreement with the Choctaws concerning the old boundary between them and the British and asking his opinion concerning the site for a trading house for the Choctaws (Tr in same; see TJ to Dearborn, 27 Aug. 1802). (4) Dearborn to Wilkinson, 14 Sep., stating that the trading house will likely be located on the Tombigbee and asking Wilkinson’s opinion about establishing a guard at the store or perhaps moving the army’s garrison there from the Mobile River; there is reason for concern about the influence of the Panton firm and others, but should they do anything “hostile to the benevolent intentions of the government, we shall have it in our power to confine their trade within the Spanish boundaries”; when Wilkinson is in New Orleans, he might be able to discuss with the government there the prospect of the trading house on the Tombigbee and the need of the United States to have passage along the Mobile River through Spanish territory; it “should be taken for granted, that those rivers which empty themselves out of the United States into the Ocean, through a small part of the Spanish territory, are common highways”; if Wilkinson finds this subject to be “delicate” he need not press it, but can communicate to Spanish officials that the United States expects no interruption in the supply of its posts and trading houses until the two governments can make an arrangement on that subject; “all that is wished at present is, that the disposition of the Spanish Officers may be so far known as to prevent any difficulties” until an agreement is reached; Dearborn also reports the news of the disaffection of the Chickasaw leader Ugulayacabe from the Spanish interest (see TJ to Dearborn, 30 Aug., and TJ to Madison, same day); it “may be proper to take advantage” of that situation in an effort to ally Ugulayacabe to the United States (Tr in DNA: RG 46, EPIR). Message and enclosures 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, 1:681–3.

approbation and consent: the Senate received the message and documents from Meriwether Lewis on 7 Jan. and unanimously approved the convention with the Choctaws on the 12th (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States…to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:430, 435–6).

1TJ here canceled “all the.”

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