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Smith, Philander (1765-1824) to Jedediah Smith

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04601.03 Author/Creator: Smith, Philander (1765-1824) Place Written: Natchez, Mississippi Type: Autograph letter signed Date: April 1807 Pagination: 3 p. : address ; 24.5 x 20.5 cm

Summary of Content: Informs his brother in Massachusetts that their brother Philetus has died of an inflammatory illness. Comments on family members and his finances. Says he has withdrawn from public life for he is tired of the ignorance of both Democrats and Federalists. Discusses Aaron Burr's conspiracy and states that General James Wilkinson has denounced Burr as a traitor. Describes in detail Burr's attempted West Florida expedition and the subsequent capture of Burr. States that most inhabitants in the area feel the victory over Burr was overblown by the government. Indicates that he was foreman of the jury for the Burr trial. They felt the prosecution did not prove their case so they acquitted Burr. "A majority of the jury looked on Burr as the murderer of Hamilton and believed him capable of something the crimes that he was accused with or greatter if it flattered his ambition but this was not suficient for them to find him guilty without proof of his guilt." Reports that the jury was disgusted by the conduct of the government and did not feel the militia should have been sent after Burr. Informs that Burr was under recognizance to appear at court but tried to escape and was captured. Replies to an earlier remark of Jedediah about slaves to say that if Jedediah lived in Mississippi, he would make use of slaves and feel the same about slavery as he does.

Background Information: Jedidiah Smith (1726/27-1776), a minister from Granville, Massachusetts, left New England in 1776 with 11of his children. They became one of the first settler families of colonial Natchez in the Mississippi ...territory. Philander Smith is one of his sons. Burr was put on trial for treason against the United States for conspiring to attempt the seccession of the Western states and the Louisiana Territory from the Union. Planning began around 1804 and ended with Burr's capture on 13 February 1807.See More

Full Transcript:
Dear Brother Natchez Aprill th 1807

I received yours of the first january with the same pleasure that I always expearance when I hear from you - it is with pain ...that I announce to you that our Brother Philetus has [inserted: paid] Natures tribute he was seized with an inflammatory complaint that resisted all medical aid and terminated his existence the Fifth day after he was taken he has left his family in easy circumstances - no other material change has taken place in our familys since I wrote you last except Courtland is lately married I have not seen his wife I am told she is a fine Girl and has
some property Courtland seems to think [inserted: her] almost a godes I told him it wis nothing extraordanry for an old [inserted: fellow] in his dotage to think a young wife perfection he says he is not so old but he thinks he can mange her fifteen years yet - my eldest Daughter is likewise married and I think well her husband is a very respectable young man with good prospects as to my self I drudg on in the old track I try to make my self as comfortable as I can my property is not large but it is such that with frugal management will keep me very much at my ease and improve some my crop the last year amounted [inserted: to] something upwards of 4000 Dollars and I live on about 2000 Some of of my Brothers makes many faster than I do we are able to live comfortably but none of us rich : I have withdrawn from all public business I am tired of contending with democratic Ignorance the Federalist are all in the same way they agreed at the last election of Representatives to let them have their own way and did not offer a candidate in oposition to them nor did they attend the election and a party use of it they made. They did Elect a holy set their ignorace exceeds all belief - however they are not so much to blame for making use of fools for their soil is so sterile that it don't produce tallents or comon honesty and I believe it is nearly the case through out the union however even Governor is an exception he is a man of great worth and our democrats are so sinsible of it that they brand him with the epithet of a Federalist - he has ben absent from the Territory for 7 or 8 months [2] he returned about two month sinc while he was gone they did
manage it eloquently but [inserted: he] seems to have got things in to a train, about the first of October last we were told of conspiracy plots and treason, but al was wraped in mistery nothing was certainly [strikeout] known but a general opinion prevailed that some great event was about to take place, and our [poinny] petitions seemed to think that nothing less than universal destruction would ensue, finally General Wilkunson denounced Col Burr and his
adherents as traitors to their [inserted: country] that Col Burr would decend the River in the month of December with ten or twelve thousand, men that Neworleans would be plundered and the western country severed from the eastern, this excited considerable alarm in the minds of the Merchants and mentioned a stagnation in business which had a very serious afect on our Commerce the mountin contained in extrum hand labour untill some time in January and then be held out except a Mouse in January Col Burr arive in the upper part of the Territory with ten boats and about 100 men nothing was now to be heard but military preparations and Military arrests the militia was ordered out and even was sent to examin Burrs position and strenth and powers given them to treat with this formidable hero with a bout 100 men and with out arms or military stores a formal argument was entered into between Burr and the Secritary, who administered the Government in the absence of the Governor, in consiquence of this agreement Burr submitted to an enquiry by the Civil Authority the Militia returned in triumph the Colonel and his democratic friends [text loss] their houses in the citty a stranger would have suposed that a victory equal to Lord Nelsons had ben obtained - however the thinking part of the Inhabitants felt indignant at the ridiculous force but they gave themselves great credit - a count was held to enquire in to the conduct of Burr and then a force was acted if I had room and patience to detail would give some Idea of our Courts I was Forman of the Grand jury the jury was sed to be a very respectable one no tesmoney was advic'd to support the changes that he stood changed with nor did the prosecuting Attorney present any Bill he was aquitted by the Jury in course of majority of the young looked on Burr as the murderer of Hamilton and believed him - [3] capable of committing the crimes that he was accused with on greatter if it flattered his ambition but this was not suficiant for them to find him guilty with out proof of his guilt - the jury were disgusted with the conduct of the officers of Government in this business they believed the militia had ben unnecessarily ordered to go against Burr with out first making an attempt with
the civil Authority they thought [inserted: the] military arrests an infringement upon the rights of the people they believed the civil Authority fully competent to su[press] any disorders that had or might arise in the Territory they looked upon the armistice as it was called entered into by Government highly derogatory under those impressions they brought in some presentments that expressed their opinions on the subject the presentiments gave high offence to the actors in this business they had recounse to their old weapons they accused us of being of Burrs party - Col Burr had ben bound in a recognizances to appear at count and when the jury found nothing against him a motion was made by his counsel to discharge the recognizance which motion the ca[text loss] did not agree to there was several gunboats stationed here at the time i[text loss]ived that they had orders to take him as soon as he was discharged by the c[text loss] but which the motion was pending Burr made his escape the Govern[text loss] immediately issued his proclamation offering a reward of two thousand dollars for his apprehention he was taken in the county of Washington in this Territory and sent on to the citty of Washington - since that everything seems calm here there is several of his friends here under a recognizance for their
appearance at court in may but they will be aquitted as nothing [inserted: can] be proved against them this subject has taken up so much of my letter that I have not room to say anything about your Levitical friend only I am glad you was too hard for him in you letter to Israel I observe you merciless upon the slaves we make use of I shall not undertake to defend the system of slavery and shall only observe that [inserted: if] you lived in this country I think you would act and think as we do on that head I am tired writin[text loss] believe you will [inserted: be] reading therefore I will subscribe myself your affectionate brother
Philander Smith
PS present to my best wishes to your
Wife and children

[address leaf]
Natchez *Apr*14 25
Jedediah Smith Esqr
Massechusetts County
of Wamshear
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People: Smith, Philander, 1765-1824
Smith, Jedediah, 1752-1816
Burr, Aaron, 1756-1836
Wilkinson, James, 1725-1825

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: Children and FamilyDeathHealth and MedicalDemocratic PartyFederalistsPoliticsFinanceTreasonVice PresidentFilibusterPrisonerGovernment and CivicsLawJudiciaryDuelMilitiaSlaveryAfrican American History

Sub Era: The Age of Jefferson & Madison

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