Decision Activity: George Morgan White Eyes, Princeton, NJ, 1778-1790

Decision Activity: George Morgan White Eyes

Princeton, Mercer County


Koquethagechton, also known as White Eyes, was a Lenape chief living in Ohio Country. He married Rachel Doddridge, a white woman who had been taken captive by the Lenape at age 5 and had become fully assimilated to Lenape life. As an adult, Doddridge chose to remain an adopted Lenape.

When the American Revolution began, Koquethagechton initially tried to remain neutral, but before long it became evident that he would have to take sides. In 1777, Koquethagechton addressed the Continental Congress, and the following year negotiated a peace treaty with American representatives.

Which of the following provisions should Koquethagechton have sought in a peace treaty?

Select one option and explain your answer in 3 to 5 sentences.

  • A new state shall be created for the Lenape, incorporating the nation into the United States with representation in Congress.
  • The United States must build a fort in Lenape territory to help protect the Lenape from attacks by other Native American nations or from the British.
  • The United States shall provide the Lenape with clothing, utensils, and weapons as needed.

Amazingly, the Treaty of Fort Pitt, signed September 17, 1778, included all of these provisions. The promise of a 14th state along with Congressional representation is something that was never promised to any other Native American group, but relied upon the further approval of Congress. Unfortunately, the treaty never received the support of Congress and was ultimately rendered meaningless.

Later that year, while accompanying American soldiers in Ohio Country, Koquethagechton died at the age of 48. Initially the cause of death was reported as smallpox, but eventually it was revealed he had been murdered by the American militia. Nearly ten years later (circa 1788), Rachel Doddridge was murdered in the course of a robbery by white men disguised as Native Americans. Both of their stories are compelling and worthy of more examination, but our focus here turns to their son, George Morgan White Eyes, partly named for Koquethagechton’s American friend, who would become the boy’s guardian.

White Eyes was seven years old when his father died. The Continental Congress assumed financial responsibility for the upbringing of the chief’s son. White Eyes was likely the first recipient of government-based student financial aid from the U.S. government. After completing grammar school, he was enrolled at the College of New Jersey in Princeton in 1785.

In December 1787, he and three other students were summoned before a disciplinary committee for insolence towards a tutor. Apparently, it wasn’t the only time he’d gotten in trouble at school. His guardian decided to remove him from Princeton and sent him to New York City to temporarily be under the care of a merchant tailor while awaiting instructions from Congress on what to do with young White Eyes. His guardian explained in a letter to Congress that White Eyes’ misbehavior may have had to do with his learning the news of his mother’s recent death and the long-concealed truth about his father’s murder. Morgan suggested that instead of sending him back to Princeton – or back to his nation – that White Eyes be sent to a different institution of higher learning, like Yale.

Which of the following choices do you think 18-year-old George Morgan White Eyes would make?

Select one option and explain your answer in 3 to 5 sentences.

  • Go back to Ohio Country to live among his own people.
  • Let his future be decided by George Morgan and the decision of Congress.
  • Strike out on his own in the New York to find a job and be independent.
  • Appeal directly to someone in power, explaining his desire to either be given a job or further education.

On June 2, 1789, George Morgan White Eyes wrote to President George Washington:

“[N]ot the severest Want shall make me return to my native Country—Tis thought from the Behaviour of my Colleagues while at Princeton that I will follow their Example—but never—I shall say but little but I trust my heart is fixed, & the time may come that this now feeble Arm, may be stretched out in the Service of America; & render the United or Individual States essential Service.

My humble request is & has this some Months past, that if the Burthen (sic) is too great on the United States that some kind of Employment may be pointed in order that I thereby may obtain a Living a[long] the Line that Congress probably first intended—That is agreeably to the Education they have been pleased to bestow upon me—I care not what [it] is I am willing to do what I am able, & you should think necessary to my future Welfare—[E]ntreating your Excellency’s kind Patronage on this Occasion I have the Honor to remain With the most perfect Respect, Sir, Your most Obedient & most devoted Servant”

Congress did not act quickly, and as the weeks went by, ‘the severest want” apparently changed White Eyes’ mind. He wrote President Washington again:

“The treatment I met with at Princeton & the Character I bear (which I know I am innocent of) here, are great Grievances to me, especially as I have undergone a great many Difficulties, I shall stear (sic) my Course towards my native [country] let the Consequence be what it will.

For it is better for me to live in Contentment & Quietude, than a life Contempt & Ignominy.1 I have not had any thing this while past & I am almost naked, thro’ some guile or other, for what I know. I believe they are tired of doing any thing for me & I am tired waiting for their duty which is incumbent on them by a resolve of Congress.

I am now to look out for myself since I cannot behave myself, better than I have done; for all that I do is in vain, yet all these things are not discourages of my staying here any longer, but I am [anxious] to return & see my Mother & Friends, as it ought to become every person who has a regard for their Nation. I beg you would assist me in my return as I have no other person to apply to; but if not I must do as well as I can.” Source

In March of 1790, George Morgan White Eyes returned to his nation in Ohio Country.

Sadly, his story has an ignominious ending. Eight years later (1798) in West Point, Ohio, an intoxicated White Eyes ran at 17-year-old William Carpenter Jr. with a tomahawk. Fearing for his life, Carpenter shot White Eyes, killing him instantly. Initially the boy and his father were charged with murder and aiding and abetting, but the case never came to trial.

To GEORGE MORGAN Mount Vernon, August 25, 1788.

Sir: The letter which you did me the favor of writing to me the 31st. of last month, with a Postscript to it on the 5th. of this, came duly to hand; as did a small parcel of wheat, forwarded some time before, by the Post Master General from New York. For your polite attention to me in these instances I pray you to accept my best acknowledgments and Thanks. With much concern I have heard of the ravages of the Hessian fly on the wheaten Crops in the States East of the Delaware and of the progress of this distructive (sic) insect Southerly; but I congratulate with you sincerely on your successful endeavors in the management of your measures &c. to counteract them. If the yellow bearded wheat from a continuation of experiments is found no matter from what cause, to be obnoxious to and able to withstand this all devouring insect [it] must indeed be valuable; but I have paid too little attention to the growth of this particular kind hitherto, to inform you in what degree of cultivation it is in this State, I may venture, at a hazard, however, to add that it is rare: because it is unusual to see fields of bearded wheat of any kind growing with us, particularly in the Western parts of the State, which falls more immediately under my observation. I will distribute the Seed which you have sent me; make enquiry into this matter and communicate the result, begging in the meantime, if any further observations on this insect, and the means of guarding against him should be made by you that you will have the goodness to communicate them to. 67 Source

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