George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Adlum, 3 January 1791

From John Adlum

Philadelphia January 3rd 1791

The Memorial and Petition of John Adlum Most Respectfully Sheweth,

That your Memorialist stands informed that an appointment of Agent for Indian affairs for the Northern department, is about to be made—And your Memorialist being well acquainted with the greatest part of the Country inhabited by the six nations, and personally known to many of the Chiefs of that people—and acustomed to their manners, Concieves himself qualified to act in that office—Your Memorialist craves leave to refer your Excellency to the Honourable Robert Morris, William Maclay, George Clymer, and James Wilson for his Character—Conscious of a disposition to exert his best endeavours to fulfil such trust as may be committed to his care—He begs leave to offer his Petition That he may be appointed Agent of Indian affairs for the Northern department—And he as in duty bound will Pray.

John Adlum


John Adlum (1759–1836) was born in York, Pa., and served briefly in the Revolution. He was captured at Fort Washington in November 1776 and paroled in January 1777, when he returned to York. In 1781 he moved to Frederick, Md., where he learned surveying. In 1784 he settled near Sunbury, Pa., and worked as a private surveyor. Between 1787 and 1790 he surveyed the northern boundary of Pennsylvania and the reserved tracts in the Erie Triangle. He undoubtedly acquired his knowledge of the Six Nations and their leaders while making these surveys. Morris, Clymer, and Wilson all speculated in land in this area of Pennsylvania and employed Adlum as a surveyor (Susquehannah Company Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd and Robert J. Taylor, eds. The Susquehannah Company Papers. 11 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., and London, 1930–71. description ends vols. 9–10). William Maclay, who had previously recommended Adlum for state employment, presented Adlum’s application to GW’s secretary William Jackson at GW’s levee on 4 Jan. 1791 (Bowling and Veit, Diary of William Maclay, description begins Kenneth R. Bowling and Helen E. Veit, eds. The Diary of William Maclay and Other Notes on Senate Debates. Baltimore, 1988. description ends 355). Adlum did not receive the appointment as Indian agent for the Northern Department. In 1796 he received a state appointment as associate judge of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Adlum later moved to Maryland, where he experimented with grapes and wine making and established himself as an authority on viniculture (Howard H. Peckham, ed., Memoirs of the Life of John Adlum in the Revolutionary War [Chicago, 1968], vii-xi).

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