Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, 13 July 1794

To George Washington

Treasury Department July
13th 1794


I have considered the two subjects upon which you desired my opinion as maturely as my situation has permitted.1

With regard to the proceedings in Kentuke,2 I perceive nothing that can with propriety or utility be done; unless the Attorney General on full and careful examination should be of opinion that they furnish indictable matter, in which case I should think it very material that prosecutions against the ostensible & leading characters should be instituted.

With regard to the affair in Georgia3 the following course presents itself as eligible.

1   To urge the Governor of Georgia to employ effecaciously all the means in his power (that of military coertion if necessary not excepted) to prevent the establishment supposed to be meditated,4 referring him to the late Act of Congress5 & informing him that the expence will be borne by The UStates. The Commanding officer of the Troops of the UStates6 to be directed to cooperate.

2   To apprise the Creek Nation of the information which has been received, and to assure them, that the UStates will cooperate with them to prevent the intrusion in the first instance & afterwards to dispossess the Intruders. It may perhaps be made a consideration for urging them to run the line of the last Treaty.7

3   To mention the matter informally to the Spanish Commissioners8 expressing the disapprobation of the Government and its intention to exert all the means in its power to frustrate the enterprise.

I have the honor to be with the highest respect Sir   Your most Obedient & humble servant

A Hamilton

The President of The UStates

ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.

4Knox wrote to George Mathews on July 28, 1794: “It is with great regret that the President of the United States has been lately informed, that a considerable body of people, in the upper part of Georgia, have associated themselves for the purpose of setting up an independent government.… We only understand, in general, here, that such a movement, without the sanction of your Government; is contrary to the laws, without being informed, at the same time, of the name and degree of offence in your criminal code.

“Notwithstanding the formation of a new State cannot take place without the consent of Congress, as well as the State concerned … it might, perhaps, be proper to leave this attempt, under its present circumstances, to the management of your own State, if it were not that the laws of the United States are infringed thereby. And yet, sir, so serious a struggle as this against the authority of the State, and the erection of forts, (both of which steps may be so easily turned against the United States) would be sufficient in themselves to call forth precautions on the part of the General Government.…” Knox then pointed out that the President was obligated by law to remove individuals who had settled illegally on Indian lands and requested Mathews to issue a proclamation against the settlements and if necessary to use both militia and Federal troops stationed in Georgia to effect the settlers’ removal from the Indian territory (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, 501–02).

In a letter to Knox, dated September 29, 1794, Constant Freeman, agent for the War Department in Georgia, described the outcome of this episode: “I have the pleasure to inform you, that the post opposite to us, on the south side of the Oconee, has been taken and destroyed by the militia, and that General [Elijah] Clarke and his adherents have been removed. Soon after the Governor’s proclamation was issued against General Clarke, he delivered himself up to the superior court in the county of Wilkes, who dismissed him, because it was their opinion that he had not violated the laws of the State. This decision greatly encouraged his party. and the settlements were pushed with vigor. The measure had also become very popular, and it was believed by him and his adherents, that the militia would never march against them. Under these flattering circumstances, his works were completed; houses were erected within his forts, a town was laid off at fort Advance, the post opposite to us; General Clarke was chosen Major General, and placed at the head of the enterprise; the members were elected for the general committee, or committee of safety, and every thing bore the appearance of a permanent settlement.… about this time the Governor received his orders from the President of the United States. His Excellency directed one third of the militia to hold themselves in readiness to march. In the mean time, he sent Generals [John] Twiggs and [Jared] Irwin to General Clarke, to induce him to remove.… General Irwin promised General Clarke that, if he would evacuate the post, himself and his men should be protected in their persons and property. Accordingly, next morning, the baggage was removed, and. in the evening, a party of the militia took possession of the works. Yesterday morning the fort was set on fire, and destroyed.… The militia have shown great zeal to support the laws.… They all returned to their homes yesterday.… Colonel [Henry] Gaither proposes, as soon as he can procure a proper person, to send a message to the Indians, to inform them that the Government has removed all encroachments from their lands” (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, 500).

5H is referring to “An Act directing a Detachment from the Militia of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 367–68 [May 9, 1794]. Section 4 of this act states that when the militia was on active service, the cost of its allowances would be borne by the United States.

6Lieutenant Colonel Henry Gaither.

7This treaty, which was signed in New York City on August 7, 1790, is printed in 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, 81–82. See also the introductory note to “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on the Depradations of the Creek Indians Upon the State of Georgia,” May 29, 1793.

8Josef de Viar and Josef de Jaudenes.

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