Opinion on Sending an Agent to the Choctaw
[Philadelphia] June 1. [–5]1 1793
That an Agent be sent to the Choctaw nation to endeavor secretly to engage them to support the Chickasaws in their present war with the Creeks,2 giving them for that purpose arms and ammunition sufficient: and that it be kept in view that if we settle our differences amicably with the Creeks, we at the same time mediate effectually the peace of the Chickasaws & Choctaws, so as to rescue the former from the difficulties in which they are engaged, and the latter from those into which we may have been instrumental in engaging them.
Altho’ I approve of the general policy of employing Indians against Indians; yet I doubt greatly, whether it ought to be exercised under the particular existing circumstances with Spain; who may hold herself bound to take the part of the Creeks, and criminate the U. S. for some degree of insincerity.
My judgment ballanced a considerable time on the proposed measure; but it has at length decided against it, and very materially on this ground that I do not think the UStates can honorably or morally or with good policy embark the Chocktaws in the War, without a determination to extricate them from the consequences even by force. Accordingly it is proposed that in settling our differences with the Creeks “we mediate effectually the peace of the Chickesaws and Choctaws” which I understand to mean, that we are to insist with the Creeks on such terms of peace for them as shall appear to us equitable, and if refused will exert ourselves to procure them by arms. I am unwilling, all circumstances foreign and domestic considered, to embarrass the Government with such an obligation.
DS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. The first paragraph of this document is in the handwriting of Jefferson, the second in the handwriting of Randolph, and the third in the handwriting of H.
1. According to an entry in JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , a cabinet meeting was held on June 1, 1793, but H did not attend. As Washington noted in an entry of June 5 that he “Recd. the Opinions of the Heads of Depts. & Atty Genl. on sending an Agent among the Choctaws &c.” on that day, it can be assumed that H added his opinion sometime between June 1 and June 5 (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 137, 140).
2. Hostilities had broken out between the Creeks and the Chickasaw early in 1793. On February 13, 1793, a group of Chickasaw chiefs wrote to James Robertson, a brigadier general in the militia of the Southwest Territory and a United States agent to the Chickasaw, announcing the outbreak of the new Indian war and requesting aid for themselves and the Choctaw (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, 442–43).