Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Forbes, 16 November 1807

[ca. 16 Nov. 1807]

To the President of the United States.

The Memorial of John Forbes, Thomas Forbes, James Innerarity, and William Simpson, Merchants and Subjects of the King of Great Britain, residing in West Florida, by the special permission and under the protection of His Catholic Majesty, and carrying on Trade under the firm of John Forbes & Co.:

Respectfully represents.

That your Memorialists are the surviving Partners of Panton Leslie & Co., and under that firm, and their present one of John Forbes & Co. have for a period of twenty years and upwards, supplied the Choctaw Nation of Indians with articles of merchandize for the use of their families; and with powder and Ball to be employed in their hunting excursions.

That from bad success in their hunting expeditions, and other unavoidable accidents, the debts due from the said Choctaw Nation to the several Traders who furnish them with supplies, and who are supported entirely by the credit extended to them by your Memorialists; had so greatly accumulated as to render it impossible for the said Nation to discharge them, as in more favourable seasons they had been enabled to do, out of the products of the Chace; Wherefore in order to be relieved from the pressure of these pecuniary embarrassments, the said Indians towards the conclusion of the year One thousand eight hundred and two, proposed to your Memorialists to cede to them a large and valuable tract of land for the payment of their debts.

That your Memorialists having understood that the said Indians were not permitted to dispose of their lands to private individuals without the consent of the United States, also recollecting that by the second article of the “Articles of a Treaty,” concluded upon between the United States and the said Nation, on the third day of January, in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty six “The Commissioners Plenipotentiary of all the Choctaw Nation did thereby acknowledge the tribes and towns of the said Nation, and the lands with the boundary allotted to the said Indians to live and hunt on, as mentioned in the third article, to be under the protection of the United States of America, and of no other Sovereign whosoever,” and that by “a Treaty of friendship, limits, and accommodation,” made between the United States and the said Nation on the seventh day of December in the year one thousand eight hundred and one “it was agreed by the parties to those presents respectively that the Choctaw Nation, or such part of it as might reside within the limits of the United States, should be and continue under the care and protection of the said States” and it being at the same time suggested to your Memoralists by General Wilkinson, who was one of the Commissioners of the United States who signed the said Treaty, and Silas Dinsmoor Esquire that the Government of the United States had it contemplation to purchase lands from the said Nation; Your Memorialists from friendly dispositions towards the United States, as well as from a desire to promote the interests and gratify the wishes of the said Choctaw Indians, and secure the payment of the said debts; exerted their influence with the chiefs of the said Nation, and prevailed upon them to present a Memorial to the President of the United States, a copy of which marked with the letter A is hereunto annexed.

That the more successfully to prosecute the objects stated in the said Memorial, Mr. John Forbes, who is the principal partner of your Memorialists, some time in the month of April in the year one thousand eight hundred and four, had several interviews with the Honourable Henry Dearborn Esquire touching the same, and on the second day of May in the said year, Mr. John Forbes received a letter from the Honourable Secretary (a Copy of which marked with the letter B is also hereunto annexed) in which after stating that there appeared to be some misunderstanding “as to the outlines of the tract of land which the Government of the United States proposed accepting from the Choctaws as a consideration for the debts due by them to your Memoralists” the Honourable Secretary proceeds to “point out the different boundaries contemplated by Government.”

That in consequence of the said letter of the Honourable Secretary your Memoralists again exerted their influence and induced the said Nation by their Chiefs Puckshunubbee and Humastubbee to address a petition to the President of the United States (a copy of which marked with the letter C is also hereunto annexed) in which they completely remove the objections contained in the said letter, by expressing their willingness to part with the lands required by the United States and leaving the quantity to be ascertained by Commissioners to be appointed for that purpose. They also state in the said petition that “to prevent any mistake thereafter and remove any doubt respecting the amount of their debt, they only request to have paid for them the amount thereof exhibited by the said House of Panton Leslie & Co. to Silas Dinsmoor, their Father’s beloved man in their Nation, the last To fa, or summer, as every other claim against their Nation, by other Merchants and Traders had been cancelled.”

That in further prosecution of this business, Mr William Simpson, another partner of your Memorialists in the month of January in the year one thousand eight hundred and five went to the City of Washington, and on the twenty sixth day of the said month received a letter from the War Department (a copy of which marked with the letter D is also hereunto annexed) in which your Memorialists were mortified to find that after such repeated endeavours to promote the views of the United States, and that too in a transaction so little complicated as this, your Memorialists were told that they had again misunderstood the intentions of the Government of the United States, but they were encouraged to support this mortification with cheerfulness when in the subsequent parts of the said letter they were assured that “on receipt of the last petition from the Chiefs it was determined to take the necessary measures for holding a Treaty as soon as circumstances would permit” that “Mr Dinsmoor had been written to on the subject and requested to point out the most suitable time and place for the purpose” and that “As soon as a satisfactory bargain should be made, and ratified by the Senate, and Congress should make the necessary appropriations for carrying it into effect, whatever sum should be stipulated to be paid to your Memorialists as due from the Choctaws might then be settled and paid.”

That on the fourteenth day of November one thousand eight hundred and five, Mr Simpson received a letter from James Robertson and Silas Dinsmoor, Agents of the United States to the Choctaws and Commissioners Plenipotentiary of the said United States (a Copy of which marked with the letter E is also hereunto annexed) in which they inform Mr Simpson of a conference which had taken place between them and the chiefs of the said Nation and that a Treaty would probably be signed the next day, and further observe that “the Territory then obtained was much more than they asked for last summer.”

That on the sixteenth day of the said month of November a Treaty of limits between the United States of America and the said Choctaw Nation of Indians was entered into by the said James Robertson and Silas Dinsmoor, Agents, Commissioners and Plenipotentiaries of the United States as aforesaid on the one part, and the Mingoes Chiefs, and Warriors of the said Choctaw Nation of Indians in Council assembled on the other part, a Copy of which also marked with the letter E is hereunto annexed.

That the second article of the said Treaty among other things contains the following words “For and in consideration of the foregoing cession on the part of the Choctaw Nation and in full satisfaction for the same, the Commissioners of the United States do hereby covenant and agree with the said Nation in behalf of the United States, that the said States shall pay to the said Nation fifty thousand and five hundred dollars for the following purposes, to wit, forty eight thousand dollars to enable the Mingoes to discharge the debt due to the Merchants and Traders.”

That upon the signing of the said Treaty as aforesaid your Memorialists indulged a belief that at last they had overcome all the difficulties, which hitherto had retarded them in the pursuit of their claim, and conceiving that they had, as they still conceive they have, the interest, and honour, and good faith of the American Government pledged to them for the prompt fulfilment of the said assurances; your Memorialists looked forward with confidence to the speedy ratification of the said Treaty; but they have been reserved for a new and unexpected disappointment—the Treaty has not yet even been laid before the Senate, and two Sessions of Congress have passed away since the signing of the same as aforesaid.

Your Memorialists beg leave further to remark, that if for reasons inscrutable to your Memorialists, the Government of the United States, which however their respect for that Government forbids them to fear, should so far disregard the interests of the United States, as your Memorialists conceive, and the solemn assurances so given to your Memorialists as aforesaid; as to neglect and lay aside the said Treaty; they will nevertheless rely upon the justice of the United States, and ask with an honest confidence which ought not to be repressed, that since the United States is unwilling to purchase the said lands, they will in discharge of the trust and confidence reposed in them by the said Indians, permit and recommend it to the said Nation to dispose of the said lands to your Memorialists in extinguishment of the said debt, and agreeably to their own original intention, and thus promote the welfare and prosperity of the said Nation.

Wherefore your Memorialists humbly pray that the President of the United States will be graciously pleased to take the circumstances aforesaid into serious consideration, and cause the said Treaty with all convenient speed to be laid before the Senate to be ratified by the same; and at the same time provide the means of paying your Memorialists out of the consideration or purchase money to be paid for the said lands agreeably to the spirit and letter of the said Treaty; or if this cannot be, that you will at least take measures for authorizing the said Nation to dispose of its lands to your Memorialists in payment of the said debt, or devise some other mode in which they may obtain satisfaction for the same.

And as in duty bound Your Memorialists will ever pray.

John Forbes & Co

DNA: RG 11--Treaties with Indian Tribes.

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