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Andrew Jackson Dockets Letter from His Nephew – Including Report on Slaves at the Hermitage
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“Your negroes are healthy and in good spirits, well enough pleased with their overseer. I expect he is as humane and kind to them as the nature of slavery will admit.” (Donelson to Jackson)

ANDREW JACKSON. Two Autograph Endorsements Signed with Initials, May 28, 1833. On JOHN DONELSON JR, Autograph Letter Signed, to Andrew Jackson, Hermitage, May 8, 1833. 4 pp., 8 x 10 in.

Inventory #24588.01       Price: $1,950

Complete Transcript

[Jackson’s Endorsement:]

J. Donelson Jnr with a duplicate recpt to be handed to the Dept of war.

A. J

[Jackson’s Endorsement:]

The duplicate recpt. handed to the Secy of War May 28th 1833.

A. J


                                                                        Hermitage / May 8th 1833

My Dr Uncle,

            I have the pleasure of acknowledging the receipt of yours of the 22d April last, in which you notify me of a remittance of the amount due me from the Government for surveying Indian lands west of Mississippi.

            I have received the draft and the money and I assure you it was with gladness it came to hand. Andrew has perhaps informed you how much disappointment I have had by not gitting this money sooner; but perhaps all is for the best. I enclose you by request a duplicate of the receipt for the money.

            Upon a settlement with Mr McCoy before leaving Arkansaw there remained due me a balance of only $958.05. Unless therefore there are some extra allowances or increase of wages, I have received more <2> than my due from Mr McCoy, by about seventy five dollars. Upon information on this subject the mistake, if any, can be rectified. I shall write to Mr McCoy immediately on the subject.

            Your plantation looks very well. Cotton has come up most of it finely  Some of it, from the badness of the seed not quite so good, but with a good season may turn out well. Your negroes are healthy and in good spirits, well enough pleased with their overseer. I expect he is as humane and kind to them as the nature of slavery will admit. You never can expect to have your place and negroes attended to as it and they would be were you yourself present, but I believe Mr Holtsclaw does about as well as any you could get. There will always be complaints. The sugar trees are most of them striped by the worms. The woods look naked. <3> Hutchings is here, but speaks of leaving for Alabama in a few days, is well and sends his love. I have seen the Surveyor Genl of the Chickisaw land, and am looking for a letter from him  He has promised to give me work and the earliest information when my services will or shall be required. I am waiting in idleness and with impatience. All here are well. Accept for your health and happiness the best wishes affectionate nephew

                                                                        Jno. Donelson jnr.

A. Jackson / Pres. U.S.

Historical Background

Burnard W. Holtzclaw became overseer at the Hermitage, Jackson’s plantation near Nashville, Tennessee, in 1833. Within a year, Jackson fired him for failing to take proper care of Jackson’s slaves and livestock.

In March 1831, Secretary of War John H. Eaton appointed Baptist missionary Isaac McCoy to survey the boundaries of the Cherokee nation. He traveled to the southwest corner of Missouri with two Cherokee representatives and two surveyors, his son Dr. Rice McCoy and John Donelson Jr., nephew by marriage of President Andrew Jackson. From August 1831 to January 1832, they surveyed and corrected the “Cherokee Line” from the southwest corner of Missouri to Fort Smith, Arkansas.

In August 1830, the Chickasaw sent representatives to meet with U.S. delegates, including President Andrew Jackson, at Franklin, Tennessee. They signed a treaty by which the Chickasaw agreed to cede their lands east of the Mississippi River in exchange for an equal amount of land in the West. When a suitable area could not be found, this treaty became void, and new negotiations took place in 1832. In October 1832, Chickasaw representatives signed a new treaty ceding their land in Mississippi to the U.S. government in return for cash payments. The Government Land Office appointed John Bell to survey the ceded lands, which included most of northern Mississippi, and the survey was well underway by 1833. John Donelson Jr. assisted Bell in surveying the ceded Chickasaw lands; he received $1,034 for his services in the second quarter of 1833. Bell himself purchased much of the land, working in partnership with southern investors. Each adult Chickasaw received a temporary allotment that when sold would cover the costs of removal. Most of the remaining Chickasaw migrated to western Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in 1837. In 1838, the U.S. army forcibly removed the remaining Cherokee east of the Mississippi over the “Trail of Tears” to Indian territory, after years of appeals to Congress, the Supreme Court, and President Jackson failed.

John Donelson Jr. (1787-1840) was the son of John Donelson and Mary Purnell. His aunt Rachel Donelson (1767-1828) married Andrew Jackson in 1794 and died just days after Jackson’s election as President. His parents were among the first settlers of middle Tennessee, and the younger John became a surveyor like his father. 

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was born in Waxhaw, South Carolina, and trained as a lawyer. Elected to Congress in 1796, and to the U.S. Senate in 1797, representing Tennessee, Jackson later served as a judge on the Tennessee Supreme Court (1798-1804).  During the war of 1812, he served as Commander of the South and secured his military fame through campaigns against the Creek Indians and a victory over the British at New Orleans (1815).  Elected to the Presidency in 1828, he served two terms as the seventh President of the U.S. (1829-1837). Jackson’s politics split the Republican party during his first term, resulting in the formation of the Democratic Republicans, or Democrats, of which Jackson was a member and the National Republicans, or Whigs. Jackson’s election in 1828 was the first in which a great number of people had become involved in electoral politics, and his supporters demanded a share of the spoils.  His administration satisfied them by removing government employees wholesale and replacing them with its friends. This practice would come to dominate American politics for the rest of the century. Jackson relied heavily on the use of his veto and party leadership to assume command rather than defer to Congress in policy-making. His failure to re-charter the Second Bank of the United States, a federally sponsored private corporation, caused its collapse but ultimately won the approval of much of the American public.

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