James Madison Papers

From James Madison to the House of Representatives, 1 December 1803

To the House of Representatives

Department of State 1 Decr. 1803.

The Secretary of State to whom by a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 2d. March last1 was referred a Petition of sundry inhabitants of Post St. Vincennes in the Indiana Territory: has examined the same, and thereupon makes the following report viz. The petitioners assert a right to a tract of land which they describe as extending along the Wabash River from Point Coupee to the Mouth of the White River comprizing about seventy two miles above & below Post St. Vincennes, and on both banks of the said River from the little Wabash to the Protoeas River, forming according to their computation an extent in this direction of two hundred and twenty six miles. This right they pretend to derive from an Indian grant to their predecessors as the first settlers of that District, as well as from a subsequent conformation of it by the Indians. It is on the basis of these pretentions that they express their hopes that Congress will “allow them at least a part in the grants which have lately been made by the Indians to the United States” and they add the request that a small tract of Woodland on the banks of the Wabash may be annexed to the Village Commons, which is now become destitute of Wood.

It would be unnecessary to contest the validity of this Indian grant and conformation, since the inhabitants have repeatedly and formally renounced all the right they possess’d to the tract in question, particularly in their address to the Congress of the 26 July 17872 in which they use the following words: “Reposing the most unbounded confidence in the justice, humanity and benevolence of the honorable Congress we solemnly surrender our charter whatever it is, and throw ourselves upon your mercy.” An extract from this document and others from Mr. Tardiveau’s address to Congress in their behalf dated 7th. August 1787,3 and 28th. Feby. 1788,4 and also the powers given to him by the inhabitants of St. Vincennes as their agent are annexed.5 This renunciation as far as it might be supposed by the inhabitants to relate to a valid title in themselves was doubtless one of the motives to the grant and conformations made to them by Congress in their acts of 20th. June & 29th. August 1788,6 and 3d. March 1791,7 the latter of which ought to be considered as closing the claims of the settlers of St. Vincennes.

For these reasons the Secretary of State is of opinion that the petition ought not to be granted, which is respectfully submitted.8

James Madison.

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