James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Joseph Anderson, 7 March 1811

From Joseph Anderson

Washington City March 7th 1811.

Dear Sir

I do myself the honor to inclose you a letter which has been Signd by four of the delegation from Tennessee. In explanation of the introductory part of the letter, it may perhaps be necessary to inform you—that Under the two preceeding Administrations—I had Several Occasions in Conjunction with my Colleagues—to adress the Presidents, Under instructions, from the State Legislature of Tennessee, and in every instance—answers were given in Writeing, either by the Presidents themselves—or by One of the Departments, which Seemd to have the most immediate connection with the business, upon which the adress to the President was predicated. I therefore (for reasons Which will readily present themselves) have thought proper to explain the ground of the introductory part of the letter.

The answers which were recd. from the Presidents or the Departments, were regularly reported to the Legislature of our State. And upon the present Occasion It woud certainly be highly gratifying to the Undersignd—and not less Satisfactory to our State—to Observe that the adress presented in March last1—had recd. that mark’d attention from the Executive which our Legislature expect, and which its importance in our Judgment requires. Far be it from me, to presume to Suggest to you, the Course which it wou’d be proper to pursue. But impress’d as I am, with the deep interest all my fellow Citizens take in the Object to be Obtaind—I am Sure you will duely appreciate the motives that actuate me, in thus presumeing to adress you. Th⟨erefore⟩ permit me to assure you, of the most friendly Character—relying on your disposition to afford us, every benefit, which your Executive functions will authorise—I beg you to accept—assurance of my most Sincere Esteem and high respect—

Jos: Anderson

§ From Joseph Anderson and Others

1 March 1811. “The undersignd not haveing received any answer either from yourself, or from either of the departments, to the adress presented to you in the course of the last Session of Congress … feel themselves impell’d again to adress you.” They will not make a detailed statement of the objects of that address but only note that “one of the difficulties … in relation to the communication by the way of Mobile, and which they had understood, had measureably impeded the other Objects, in relation to that communication, has been so far removed as to afford a free passage to our vessels.”2 They request that JM review the representation they had made in conformity with the instructions they had received from the state legislature, which they now enclose.3 “You will please to Observe, that the Resolutions of our Legislature … have been passed Unanimously, and may be truely said, to be only a faithful expression of the Voice of the Whole people. We are unwilling to be thought importunate. But … we must be excused, for earnestly pressing the Several matters of our former adress upon your most Serious and deliberate consideration.”4 They request that JM communicate the results of his deliberations to the governor of Tennessee “in order that he may be enabled to lay before our Legislature, at their next meeting in September—the result of our application.”

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, A-110:5). RC docketed by a War Department clerk as received on 9 Mar. 1811 and marked “file.” Enclosure 3 pp.; signed by Anderson, John Rhea, Robert Weakley, and Jenkin Whiteside.

1The March 1810 address to the president resulted from a resolution passed by the Tennessee General Assembly on 20 Oct. 1809, which noted the importance of the navigation of the Tombigbee River to Mobile for the citizens of the state and urged the U.S. government to facilitate access to the area by persuading the local Indians (mainly Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians) to exchange their title for lands farther west. The thirteen-page address, signed by the members of the Tennessee congressional delegation (PHi: Daniel Parker Papers), justified these requests at some length and argued that the extent of the lands within Tennessee that were claimed, but not actually occupied, by the Indians served to discourage migration to the state. Access to the waters of the Mobile, the delegation maintained, was necessary for trade with the Atlantic and to “enable our Citizens to carry their produce to Market, upon Such terms as wou’d afford them a reasonable profit upon their industry.” If the administration was unable to comply with these requests to the fullest extent, the delegation sought at the least such an extension of the existing roads throughout the region “as will enable Settlements to be formd along those roads—for the convenience and accomodation of our Citizens, who may from time to time pass from the Waters of Tennessee to the Waters of the Mobile.” They also suggested to the president that powers conferred on him by section 15 of the act of 26 Mar. 1804 were adequate for the accomplishment of these goals.

In addition to these matters the delegation desired the opening of a road from Tellico Blockhouse to Tellico Plains and “thence to the Cowee Towns, and thence to Petersburgh in Georgia” in order to shorten communications with that state. The delegation also pointed to defects in the existing treaties with the Indians with respect to the difficulties settlers experienced in obtaining the return of slaves “who have been carried into the Indian nations—by unprincipled Whitemen—and there sold to Indians—who after the purchase thus made refuse to give them up.” The delegation suggested the establishment of a tribunal to which the Indians “wou’d be bound to Submit” in order to determine “the right of the property in Such cases.” Finally, the delegation sought a road through Chickasaw territory from Clarksville “in Such direction as wou’d pass Tennessee River below the Mouth of Duck River to intersect the present Natchez Road at Some point in the Chickasaw Nation.” Observing that the requests contained in the address would require a treaty, the delegation concluded by requesting that the president make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible and that the treaty commissioners be given instructions “commensurate to the Objects contemplated.” The executive, they added, should “speak in a language that cannot be misunderstood by the Indians, as to the nature and extent of our claim and demand—and we pronounce that the Voice will be heard, and regarded” (printed in Journal of the House of Representatives at the First Session of the Eighth General Assembly [Knoxville, 1809; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols. to date; New York, 1958—). description ends 18739], pp. 98–100).

2Anderson referred to JM’s annexation of Spanish West Florida in October 1810.

3The enclosed instructions have not been found, but filed with the delegation’s letter are copies of the following documents: John Brown to Willie Blount, 4 Oct. 1809, requesting that the Tennessee General Assembly petition Congress to pass legislation enabling citizens to recover slaves who had been purchased by Indians from “a man who had no legal or lawful right to said Negroes” (2 pp.); a communication from Willie Blount to the Tennessee General Assembly, 11 Oct. 1809, suggesting that its members urge Congress to establish a tribunal to deal with the grievance described by John Brown (2 pp.); and John Strother to Willie Blount, 15 Oct. 1809 (with a postscript dated 21 Oct.), discussing the extent of Cherokee and Chickasaw land holdings within and beyond Tennessee to which the Indian title had yet to be extinguished (3 pp.).

4According to a circular letter written by Representative Pleasant M. Miller, a member of the Tennessee delegation, JM had already met with the delegation (probably sometime in April 1810) and informed them that while he accepted their claim that Americans had a right to navigate the Tombigbee River, he declined to act on their requests because of the complications that would ensue in U.S. relations with the Creeks and the Spaniards (National Intelligencer, 20 June 1810; see also Cherokee National Council to Return J. Meigs, 11 Apr. 1810, PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (3 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 2:297–98 and n. 3; and Madison and the Collapse of the Spanish-American Empire: The West Florida Crisis of 1810, 20 Apr. 1810, PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (3 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 2:308).

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