Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Sergeant of New Stockbridge, 25 June 1803

From John Sergeant of New Stockbridge

New Stockbridge in the vicinity
of Oneida June 25th. 1803.

Honourable Sir.

Mr Parish Subagent for Indian affairs of the six nations informes me that Mr Irvine the Superintendant having had no instructions from the war office to pay over to me the proportion of the Annuity coming to the Stockbridge Indians, he therefore don’t feel himself authorised to do it untill further orders. By looking at Col: Pickerings Treaty with the six nations, your Excellency will find the Stockbridge Indians being in close connection with them. ever since that Treaty have always received their proportion which has hitherto been $354 a year but as their numbers have of late been increased to about 600 by the removal of a Tribe of Delawares from New Jersey in strick propriety the sum might also be increased. The above sum of $354 by a particular agreement between our Cheifs and the Secretary at War as I have also understood during the good pleasure of the President of the United States about five years since was agreed to be sent in money and paid to me to be laid out for the general publick benefit of the Tribe, since which it has always been done by the former Superintendant and generally been paid in Feb: every year.

I have been in advance between two and three hundred hundred dollars to promote their publick Intrest and am now suffering for want of my money.

Mr Parish is here and has satisfied himself with regard to expending the publick money. proposes to write immediately to the Secretary of War on the subject. This is therefore to request your Excellencys friendship to confer with Mr Darborn that the necessary orders and instructions be immediately forwarded whereby myself and Indians might obtain relief.

I have not received any communications from my people who are gone on the western Mission since the 10th. Jany. as they are not returned and from slight information believe they are visiting the Tribes on the Waters of the Missisipi. hope they will do much publick good. with due respect remain your Excellencys most humble servant

John Sergeant.

RC (PHi); addressed: “To His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Esqr President Washington”; franked; postmarked Utica, N.Y., 29 June; endorsed by TJ as received 6 July and so recorded in SJL with notation “W.”; also endorsed by TJ: “refd. to Secretary at War Th: Jefferson.”

John Sergeant died in 1824 at the age of 77. He resided with the Stockbridge Mohicans on six square miles of land, called New Stockbridge, that adjoined the Oneida reservation in central New York. He and members of his family had gone there with the Mohicans in the 1780s, when the Indians moved from Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where Sergeant’s father had been a missionary among them some years earlier. Sergeant was not an ordained minister, but was fluent in the Mohicans’ language. He became the mission’s schoolteacher at the age of 19 and later assumed his deceased father’s role as missionary. After the American Revolution, when he could no longer rely on support from the British proselytizing society that had backed the mission, he sought aid for the Stockbridge Mohicans from other sources, including state governments and Congress (Patrick Frazier, The Mohicans of Stockbridge [Lincoln, Neb., 1992], 99–100, 190, 194–5, 205–6, 237–8; David J. Silverman, Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America [Ithaca, N.Y., 2010], 120–4; Jeremy Belknap and Jedidiah Morse, Report on the Oneida, Stockbridge and Brotherton Indians, 1796, Museum of the American Indian Indian Notes and Monographs, 54 [New York, 1955], 5–7; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Stockbridge, Mass., Berkshire Star, 7 Oct. 1824).

In 1792, the U.S. government coupled the Stockbridge Mohicans with the Oneidas for annuity payments. Two years later, after he negotiated a treaty with the Six Nations, Timothy Pickering signed a treaty that included some “very meritorious persons of the Stockbridge Indians” in a payment to the Oneidas and the Tuscaroras in recognition of their support for the United States during the Revolutionary War. Probably to support the argument that the people of New Stockbridge were to share in the Oneidas’ annuities, when Sergeant corresponded with Dearborn about the issue early in 1804, he sent a copy of an address from James McHenry to the Mohicans (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, 1:232; Charles J. Kappler, comp. and ed., Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, 5 vols. [Washington, D.C., 1975], 2:34–9; Sergeant to Dearborn, received 10 Feb. 1804, recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS).

numbers have of late been increased: according to a 1796 report on the missionary activity among the Stockbridge Mohicans and the Oneidas, the New Stockbridge group then numbered about 300. Another 150 individuals made up the nearby Brothertown Indians, who, like the Stockbridge people, had relocated from the east to live on lands offered them by the Oneidas. Before they left Massachusetts, the Stockbridge Mohicans had invited a group of delawares from new jersey to join them. In 1802, the New Jersey group moved to the Brothertown-New Stockbridge area (Belknap and Morse, Report, 6–7; Silverman, Red Brethren, 1, 76, 100, 159).

On 7 July 1803, the secretary of war wrote to Jasper Parrish, the recently appointed assistant agent for the Stockbridge Mohicans, the Oneidas, and some other groups in New York. Responding to a letter from Parrish dated 23 June and without mentioning Sergeant’s letter to the president, Dearborn informed the agent that there should be no change to the customary payments to the Oneidas and the New Stockbridge community. Early in 1804, Sergeant advised the government that the New Stockbridge group had received only part of its annuity for 1803. Informing Parrish that a complaint had been received, Dearborn instructed the agent to pay the balance of the annuity “without delay” (Parrish to War Department, 23 June 1803, and Sergeant to the War Department, received 10 Feb., recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; Dearborn to Parrish, 7 July 1803, 11 Feb. 1804, and Dearborn to Sergeant, 11 Feb. 1804, in DNA: RG 75, LSIA; TJ to Farmer’s Brother and Others, 14 Feb. 1803).

gone on the western mission: in the spring of 1802, in response to a letter that Sergeant had written to Aaron Burr, Dearborn sent a blank pass to allow a few of the Stockbridge Mohicans to visit Indian nations in the Northwest Territory and Indiana Territory to promote the introduction of “the arts of civilization, the principles of morality and the cultivation of the social and friendly affections.” The secretary of war also instructed commandants of western military posts to aid the travelers and furnish them with provisions. Hendrick Aupaumut led a group that visited settlements of the Miami and Delaware Indians on the White River in 1803. For the Mohicans, the trip was a means of exploring prospects of once again relocating farther westward. Sergeant wrote to TJ in January 1804, enclosing an address from Aupaumut about the visit to the western tribes. TJ passed Sergeant’s letter along to the War Department with instructions to make “reasonable compensation” to the Indians of New Stockbridge for their efforts to reach out to other Indian nations. Dearborn authorized payment, through Sergeant, of $200 to the community and $50 to Aupaumut (Sergeant to TJ, 20 Jan. 1804, not found, recorded in SJL as received 9 Feb.; Dearborn to Sergeant, 20 Apr. 1802, 13 Feb. 1804, in DNA: RG 75, LSIA; Sergeant to the War Department, 16 Apr. 1804, recorded in DNA: RG 107, RLRMS; Silverman, Red Brethren, 151–2, 157–9).

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