Correspondence from James McHenry to Rufus King (Ambassador to Britain), regarding the creation of medals for American Indians. From the Arthur G. Mitten Collection at the Indiana Historical Society Library. Courtesy of Roger W. Burdette. Transcription follows.
The President has lately given activity to certain measures calculated to introduce among some of the Indian Nations, South of the Ohio, a more improved state of agriculture, a greater attention to cattle raising, and by means of their women, the art of spinning and weaving.
To favor this plan I have been directed to have medals struck emblematic of these objects and the end in view, to be bestowed, instead of war medals, upon such as may appear to deserve them.
It was my intention to have had these medals struck at our own mint; but upon enquire I am induced to prefer having them done in England, as well on account of the workmanship as cheapness, and have therefore taken the liberty to request your kind offices on the occasion.
I believe it would be some satisfaction to the President, were the assemblage of figures for the medal to be formed by Mr. Trumbul, and were the workmanship to correspond with the design. Will you therefore be so kind, at a moment of leisure to mention the things to that gentleman, and the ideas to be presented by the medals, or in case he should be absent, to some artist in his walk of genius. I should wish to have the legend, or on some part of the medal, the words,
“Presidency Geo. Washington…1796….”
As these medals may be used for the Chiefs of all the Indians in friendship with the United States, you will oblige me by ordering several hundred to be struck by Bolton of Birmingham who has a reputation in that line; five hundred of which to be of silver, somewhat larger than a
dollar in circumference and about the thickness of half a dollar, the remainder to be of copper and, if it will add to their beauty, thicker.
You will be pleased to direct them to be shipped to the Secretary of War and draw upon him for the amount, and to believe me to be very sincerely,
Your obedient servant,