James Madison Papers

To James Madison from a Committee of Citizens of Muscle Shoals, ca. 15 November 1810 (Abstract)

§ From a Committee of Citizens of Muscle Shoals

Ca. 15 November 1810. Petitions JM on the article of the treaty between the U.S. and the Cherokee Nation1 reserving “a certain Tract of Land, including the western Banks of the Muscle Shoals, on the Tennessee River, in favour of John D. Chism,2 and sundry Indian, and White Families, at that Time, then and there residing,” which stipulated that the U.S. would extinguish the Chickasaw claims to the tract, if any, in favor of those mentioned.3 “A great Number of good Citizens, who have large Families,” have given “almost their all for a small Tract of Land within the said Reserve, and only taken quit-claim Titles”; they will be left with the “disagreeable alternative, of returning to the miserable State of Tenants, so oppressive … and hostile to the Rights, and Liberties of Mankind.” Petitioners further state that they have organized courts, laws, and a militia. They urge JM not to regard them as intruders or cut them off “as an insignificant Fraction of the Community” but to protect them and ignore “false and incorrect Representations” coming from “malicious Persons” residing among the Chickasaw.

RC (DNA: RG 75, LRIA). 2 pp. Signed by David Hudspeth, chairman, Stephen Duncan, clerk, and eight members of the committee. Undated. Enclosed in Return J. Meigs to William Eustis, 28 Nov. 1810 (ibid.). Docketed by Meigs, “Muscle Shoal’s / a Memorial to the President of the U. S. left at my Office 17th. November 1810, for the Post office.” Docketed by a War Department clerk as received 17 Dec. 1810.

1In a treaty signed at Washington on 7 Jan. 1806 by Secretary of War Henry Dearborn and seventeen chiefs and headmen of the Cherokee Nation, the latter had ceded to the U.S. a substantial part of their southwestern hunting grounds, including an area in dispute between the Cherokee and the Chickasaw (see ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:704; Charles H. Fairbanks and John H. Goff, Cherokee and Creek Indians: Ethnographic Report on Royce Area 79 [New York, 1974], pp. 425–37).

2John D. Chisholm, a Loyalist who had married into the Cherokee Nation, had been actively involved in William Blount’s conspiracy in 1796. He exercised considerable influence in Indian affairs by virtue of his alliances with such Lower Town Cherokee leaders as Double-head, and he was one of a group of large Tennessee landowners whose properties were set aside as reservations in the land cessions between the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. Following the division of the Cherokee Nation in 1808 over the issue of land sales, he moved in the summer of 1809 to Arkansas where he remained prominent as a leader of the western branch of the Cherokee (McLoughlin, Cherokee Renascence, pp. 42, 60, 95, 99, 102–5, 120–22, 145, 152, 217, 220).

3JM received a very similar petition, undated and bearing 108 signatures, including those of some of the members of the Muscle Shoals committee (4 pp.; docketed as received December 1810), from the settlers on the tract known as Doublehead’s Reserve (see Eli Townsend and others to JM, ca. 15 Nov. 1810 [DNA: RG 107, LRRS, D-56:5]).

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