George Washington Papers

To George Washington from “John A. Dingwell”, 12 August 1790

From “John A. Dingwell”

Newyork 12th of Augt 1790

I take the liberty to do myself the honour to Inform your Excellency, that I have it now in my power to give you an Information Such as you Cannot Concieve the importance off—an information that I am well assured will Inable you to Save many of the lives and pounds of the United States and also put it in your power to disopoint the Enimies of america by inableing you to Counter Act their Schemes and throw them In the pit they have made for America.

But Sir I never will without you Sign and Seal the articles1 I have the honour herewith to Send you, the Information I alude to is Equally Interesting to the King of Spain and I make no doubt but his Minester here will bare his part of paying a proper Reward for the Intelligence I’ll give you.

I am poor and my poverty is the Result of my being too much atteached to a Cause whoes Rulers Rewarded me with Insult. If your Excelly thinks proper to hear and treat with me on this Subject, please to Sign and Seal the inclosed Articles and have them put into the post office directed to John A: Dingwell Newyork to lie untill Called for, that is not my name but one I will assume Untill I have the honour of giveing you my own if Ever, fill the blank for the Sum, and be assured that were I Known to you nothing in life not the greatest torture will make me discover the least Sentance of what There mention, Untill your Excellancy Signs and Seals the articles[.] if you have any objections to them or any of them please let me Know and what alterations you Chuse to have, that if I think it ought to be done I may do it[.] if your treaty with the Indians2 is going foward the Sooner you get my Information the better[.] Indeed had you it before it began it would have been better but I incline to think it will be of great Service yet nor cou’d I give the whole Sooner. I have the Honour to be with all Respect Sir your most Hume & Obt Servt

John A. Dingwell

P:S: The Sooner I have the honour of hearing from your Excellancy the better as I have not all the Coppys taken off and has better then three miles to go to where I have the originals lodged with my brother who Knows nothing of their Contents[.] if you think proper have this inserted in mortons peaper tomorrow as I need not go to take the other Coppys without this meets your approbation.3

J. A. Dingwells Seven are Come to hand and will be duely attended to by his Corispondant.4

LS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

According to information later provided by “John A. Dingwell” to Henry Knox and Tobias Lear, his real name was Smith, he had a family, and he had at least one brother who lived within three miles of New York, with whom he may have been staying at the time (see “Dingwell” to Knox or Lear, 17 Aug. 1790, Memorandum from Lear, 18 Aug. 1790).

1The enclosed articles read: “article the first That I never will make the true name of John A. Dingwell Known to any person whatsoever Except to such persons as I must advise with on the Information I am to Receive from the Said John A. Dingwell and Such persons must be Such as I am well assured are friends To our Cause and will hold it sacred from all or any of the oppisite party.

“2dly That I do hereby give and grant a full pardon to all white men and to Alexander McGillivray that may fall in my power on account of this Information and do hereby promise that there shall not be the least hurt or harm done unto them or any of them by Confinement or any other mannor whatsoever.

“3dly I do hereby promise to give the man that now assumes the name of John A. Dingwell a Reward of [ ] pounds lawfull money of the State of newyork Imeadiately on his delivering me the peapers Containing the Information aluded to in a letter Signed John A. Dingwell Sent to me dated the 12th of august 1790 ninety incloaseing these articles.

“4thly That there shall not be any force threats or Compulsive means or mannor used or taken to Compell the Said John A. Dingwell while bearing that name or any other name to Compell him Either to give the peapers of Information or in any mannor to Compell him to make the least discovery of their Contents, but on the Contrary he Shall have free and full liberty to treat agree and make bargain for the Sum he must Receive for Such peapers or Information or any other peapers that may be got by his means or instruction.

“5thly That in Case the said John A. Dingwell and me Cannot agree to the Sum Required by him for such peapers and information that he Shall not under that name or any other name be in any wise hurt molisted or in any mannor made to Suffer for his not giveing the peapers or Information neither at this time or any other time hereafter but that he shall have all the protection in all Cases as he has had heretofore.

“6thly That if it Shou’d happen that I Shoud find on Receiveing the peapers and Information that they are of more Important Service then I imagined before Receiving them I do hereby promise and on my faith and honour ingage further and full Satisfaction then agreed on according to the value of the information notwithstanding the agreement.

“7thly That I will not only allow John A. Dingwell to agree and make bargain with Such persons as he thinks will Reward him for Consealing from me the information but will give him my advise in what mannor I think most to his Interest how to proceed.

“Know all to whome these presents shall Come that I George Washington Esqr., President of the Congress of the united States of north america do hereby promise and agree to and with John A. Dingwell to perform and fulfill with the utmost faith and Sincerity all and Every of the Seven articles Contained in this peaper with out any Eavasion or Equivacation whatever Given under my hand and Seal at new york this [ ] day of august 1790” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

2Knox signed a peace treaty with Alexander McGillivray and other Creek chiefs on 7 Aug. 1790, and GW sent it to the Senate for ratification the same day. The Senate ratified it the same day that “Dingwell” sent the above letter (see Knox to GW, 7 Aug. 1790, and GW to the U.S. Senate, 7 Aug. 1790 [second letter] and note 4).

3“Mortons peaper” was William Morton’s Morning Post, and Daily Advertiser (New York; Brigham, American Newspapers, description begins Clarence S. Brigham. History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820. 2 vols. Worcester, Mass., 1947. description ends 1:668–69). GW or Lear followed “Dingwell”’s instructions and had the notice, which consisted of the postscript’s final sentence, published in the Morning Post upon receipt of “Dingwell”’s letter (see Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 16 Aug. 1790).

4GW replied to Dingwell on 15 Aug. 1790: “If you will call upon me at any time and give me any information interesting to the public, I will give you such a reward as in my conscience I think the information deserves: and in this I need not observe to you that I shall be a disinterested Judge between you & the public, as it will be their money & not mine which will be paid. I cannot agree to give any fixed sum for information described so generally in your letter that it may be of no consequence” (copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

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