James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Sevier, 26 March 1814

From John Sevier

Washington 26 March 1814.


I have lately understood that the present superintendant of the chocktaws is about to be superceeded and some other person appointed to that Agency. I beg leave to inform the president that so well as I now recollect mr. Dinsmore was engaged in that Service about Six years during the time I was in the Executive of Tennessee. I had at various times through the nature of my public functions occasions to transact and correspond with the agent on differant kinds of business, all of which appeared to be very faithfully and uprightly conducted by that officer. I have had an opportunity of conversing frequently with officers of respectability belonging to the Army, who uniformly spoke in a respectfull manner of Mr. Dinsmore; also many of the Citizens of Tennessee who had occasions to pass through the Chocktaw Country, and frequently to call on him, spoke in like good terms. Within the last two years I have heard it asserted that he had been strenious in requiring of some travelers, pasports, and had occasioned some inconveniency to them on their Journey; but of the particular facts I have not been made acquainted, but it is to be remembered that the agent ought to be vigilent especially as there is no road perhaps on which more suspicious characters travel, or where more murders and roberies have been committed.1 I am informed that a certain Wingfeild King is now making application for to obtain the Agency.2 I deem it a duty I owe the public to state that Mr. King (as I am informed and I believe correctly) is but recently from Ireland, and of my own knowledge it cannot be long since he in any manner could become acquainted with those Indians, as it is not long since he removed out of my own Vicinity, therefore I am induced to believe his knowledge of Indian matters, must be very limitted and Superficial. Being thus acquainted and knowing the great importance of a suitable character to be appointed to Supertend the great concerns of such a numerous and extensive nation, which is laying contiguous and bordering on several of the settlements in the West, and how essential it will be, to keep those Indian Neibors in peace and friendship, I have thus taken the liberty of troubling you with the foregoing hasty made up detail. I am have the honor to be sir, with great respect & esteem Your most ob. & very Hbl, servt.

John Sevier

RC (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, S-440:7). In a clerk’s hand, signed by Sevier. Docketed as received in the War Department in March 1814.

1Silas Dinsmoor (1766–1847), U.S. agent to the Choctaw Nation since 1802, resided and maintained his agency on the Natchez Trace. In 1811 and 1812 he angered a number of travelers through the Choctaw territory, among them Andrew Jackson, by his enforcement of “An Act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers,” 30 Mar. 1802, which required that U.S. citizens obtain passports before entering Indian lands. Controversy arose when Dinsmoor detained slaves traveling with persons who claimed to be their owners but could produce no passports for them. He asserted that through such efforts he had stopped both runaways and stolen slaves, but Jackson and others who attempted to pass through the Choctaw territory without passports for their lawfully owned slaves resented his interference. Mississippi Territory congressional delegate William Lattimore and other leading citizens supported Dinsmoor, but Jackson campaigned vigorously for his removal. In April 1814, John Armstrong replaced him with his predecessor in the position, John McKee (Carter, Territorial Papers description begins Clarence Carter et al., eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States (28 vols.; Washington, 1934–75). description ends , Mississippi, 5:146–47, 6:424–25; U.S. Statutes at Large, description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends 2:139, 141; Niles’ Weekly Register 34 [1828]: 110–13; Smith et al., eds., Papers of Andrew Jackson, 2:261–62, 277–79, 334–36; PJM-PS, description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 2:247 n. 1; Armstrong to McKee, 30 Apr. 1814, DNA: RG 75, LSIA).

2Sevier referred to Wigton King, who applied for the Choctaw agency on 3 Mar. 1814, and the same month delivered to the War Department transcripts of talks purportedly given at the Choctaw councils of 16 June and 31 Dec. 1813, signed by the chiefs Pushmataha and Mushulatubbee and certified by John Pitchlynn, U.S. interpreter. The talks complained that Dinsmoor spent very little time in the nation and requested that King be appointed in his place. Pitchlynn and the chiefs later disavowed the transcripts as forgeries (Carter, Territorial Papers description begins Clarence Carter et al., eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States (28 vols.; Washington, 1934–75). description ends , Mississippi, 6:440–44; Pitchlynn to Armstrong, 25 Apr. 1814, DNA: RG 107, LRRS, P-472:7). King’s letter of application has not been found but is summarized in DNA: RG 107, Registers of Letters Received by the Secretary of War.

Index Entries