From George Washington
Mount Vernon, August 1st. 1792
I learn with pleasure from the War Office, by the Secretary’s last dispatches, 1 that our Northwestern frontier is in a state of tranquility: it may be construed into an indication that some of the messages which have been sent by Government have reached the hostile Tribes, 2 and have occasioned them to deliberate thereon. Devoutly is it to be wished that the result may be favorable, both for themselves and the Ud. States.
No expectation of this, however, ought to suspend, or in the smallest degree relax the preparations for War; but as War under any circumstances is expensive, and with such a long & rugged land transportation as the one by which we have to convey the supplies for the Army must, for the quantum of them, be extremely so. It behoves us to be as precise in all our arrangements—as œconomical in our provisions—as strict in our issues, and as correct in accounting for them to the War or Treasury Departments (as the case may happen to be) as possible.3 That I may know under what regulations these matters are, I have, by this days post, written to the Secretary of War desiring him to report to me the mode which is pursued by his direction from thence, for providing, transporting, issueing & accounting for them.4 If the Treasury Department has an agency in any of these matters, I require a similar report from thence also.
Mr. Kean by a Letter which I have received from him, accepts his renewed Commission for settling the Accounts between the United States, & the individual States;5 which, please to say to him, gives me pleasure—and add, that any efforts he can make to bring this business to a speedy & happy issue, I shall consider as rendering an important service to the Union; because I view the closing of these Accots. speedily as extremely essential to it’s interest & tranquility. Let me know if Mr. Langdon (the Commissioner)6 is returned to his duty? and, in that case, when?
I am &c.
LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
1. Washington wrote to Henry Knox as well as to H on this date and acknowledged receipt of Knox’s letters of July 14 and 21, 1792. Knox’s letter to Washington of July 14 begins as follows: “The last post which left Pittsburgh on the 6th instant, brings information of entire tranquility on the frontiers” (LS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). Knox’s letter to Washington of July 21 reads in part as follows: “I have the honor to inform you that General [Anthony] Wayne in his letter of the 13th instant from Pittsburg says. ‘There are no traces of hostile Indians to be discovered upon the boarders of the frontiers—all is quiet—and the farmers are assiduously employed in harvesting their hay and grain which I hope they will effect in safety’” (LS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). In his letter of July 21 Knox also enclosed an extract of a letter which Brigadier General James Wilkinson had written to him on June 12, 1792. Wilkinson’s letter reads in part as follows: “The savages have committed no act of hostilities since my last, other than pursuing … a scout.… I have not heard one word of or from my messengers first dispatched … with public overtures, although they have been out more than seventy days,… and I remain in the same state of ignorance with respect to ye issue of Colo. [John] Hardin & Major [Alexander] Truemans mission. My anxiety impresses my mind with apprehension for their safety, and tho’ the event be doubtless equivocal, yet all my reasoning upon the subject justifies the conclusion, that the enemy have actually been in deliberation upon the propositions for peace” (copy, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress)
2. The messages concerned an invitation to the northwestern Indian tribes to form a council in order to make peace. On September 27, 1792, Brigadier General Rufus Putnam was able to conclude a treaty with the Wabash and Illinois tribes at Post Vincennes (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Indian Affairs, I, 231, 242, 338–40).
4. In his letter to Knox on August 1, 1792, Washington expressed satisfaction with the tranquillity on the northwestern frontiers, and at the same time directed Knox: “Proceed as if war was inevitable; but do it, I entreat you, with all the œconomy which can result from system and good regulations. Our finances call for it, and if these did not, our reputation does.… I desire you would report to me the regulations which you have adopted for providing, forwarding, and issuing of them, and the mode of having them accounted for to the departt. of War” (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXII, 104).
5. In a letter to Washington on July 7, 1792, John Kean accepted his renewed commission, noting that, although his position as cashier of the Bank of the United States was demanding, he would give all the time which he could to the settlement of the accounts between the states and the Federal Government (ALS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives).