George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Livingston, 1 March 1781

From William Livingston

Trenton 1 March 1781

Dear Sir

Your Excellency will perceive that the inclosed Letters request of me a favour entirely out of my department.1 How far good policy may require the discharge of the young man, those who have authority to order that measure are doubtless proper Judges.2 Mr Foster, the writer of one of the L[e]tters, is a gentleman of considereble distinction amongst us.3 Perhaps the preserving the good humour of those Indians, (tho’ an inconsiderable tribe) may be of more importance than the detention of a single soldier in the Service. But I d⟨o⟩ not mean to obtrude my opinion on the subject4—I have the honour to be with the greatest respect Dr Sir Your most humbl. Ser.

Wil: Livingston


1Livingston enclosed three letters: Jacob Skikket and four other Munsee Indians to Livingston, 20 Feb.; Josiah Foster to Livingston, 26 Feb.; and Col. Israel Shreve to Livingston, 27 Feb. (all DLC:GW). The letter from Skikket and four others, written at Brotherton, N.J., reads: “With all Duty, Humility, and Respect we address ourselves to you in these Lines, hoping you’ll be kind enough to lend an Ear unto them, altho they be from us poor distressed Indians, & so styled accordingly—The reason why we are thus Troublesom is to get Your assistance and Advice in an Affair which seems to be a trouble unto us & that is we want at Home one Robert Skikkit who is now a Continental Soldier, & to git him discharg’d we know not which way to take nor what to do, but we thought it our Duty to acquaint his Excellency of it, & this is the method we have taken thereto, we do not want him discharg’d for any reason we have against the Countrys cause, but that as we have lost our Elder lately by Death so we want him in his place or rather in his own, for he is one of the six by whom we try to regulate small matters among ourselves, & as we have lost our Elder we have become weak & deficient in order thereto And if his Excellency should see proper to advise us we shall ever have it, in gratefull remembrance; and so with our hearty good will towards You, and good Wishes for the prosperity of Your affairs.”

The letter from Foster, written at Evesham, N.J., reads: “The Barer Jacob Skekit an Indian has been Sevral times With me to Requst my Assistance to Get his Son Discharged from the Inlistment In the Service and as I am not acquinted With the best Method for him to take, have thought best to Recommend him to You; And as the Indians are Very Uneasy as Your Execellency Will find by a petition Acompanying this, I Shold be Glad for the Satisfaction of the Indians that Your Excelency Whold Intirpose In his Behalf As they Complane and Say that the White people Make there Young Men Drunk and then Inlist them Which they Look upon Very Unjust Especily In this Unnatrel war in Which they Say thay have no Right to Meddle.”

The letter from Shreve, written at Burlington, N.J., reads: “Jacob Skiket one of the Indian Inhabitants of Edge Pilok, has been with me this day in order to git his Son Discharged from the Regt which I have had the Honor to Command, he gives Several Reasons for his comeing home, which your Excy will please to Judge of as you may think propper, as I am about to Retire from the Service cannot do any thing in the Matter, he is a Soldier Dureing the war—Enlisted about one year ago.

“those Indians Direct their matters by a Council of Six, which Seems to fall in by Sineority, on Account of the Death of one of their old men, Robert Skikit the Soldier, comes in for a Seat in the Counsil, However I Submit the whole to your Direction to Order as you may think propper.” Edgepillock was the former name of Brotherton.

2The “young man” was Robert Skikkit (Skicket), of Brotherton, who evidently enlisted in the 2d New Jersey Regiment as a private in 1780.

3Josiah Foster (1743–1820), of Burlington, had been Indian commissioner for New Jersey from 1775 to 1776. A member of the Burlington committee of observation and safety, he also served in the state legislature in 1779. In 1782, Foster became a judge of court and justice of Burlington County, an office he held until 1812.

4GW replied to Livingston on 23 March, granting Robert Skikkit’s discharge if the Munsee Indians provided a substitute to take his place in the regiment (NN: William Livingston Papers).

Index Entries