Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Hammond, 14 December 1791

From George Hammond

Philadelphia 14th December 1791


I have the honor of acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 12th of this month, which did not reach me until yesterday evening.

With respect to Bowles, I have no knowledge of any circumstance whatever relative to him, except that of his actual visit to England. His name was never mentioned to me in any manner, directly or indirectly by any of his Majesty’s ministers: And I therefore cannot easily believe, if it were their intention to afford him support and countenance, in commencing or prosecuting hostilities against the United States, that I should be left in total ignorance of such an intention.

Upon another subject however of this nature, I have it in express command from my superiors, to disclaim, in the most unequivocal manner, the imputation that the King’s government in Canada has encouraged or supported the measures of hostility, taken by the Indians in the Western Country.

From analogy therefore I infer that as the King’s government has not countenanced the hostile measures of those Indians, in whose existence and preservation, his Majesty might naturally be supposed to take some degree of interest, from considerations of commerce as well as of local vicinity to his province of Canada, the same motives, which prevented interference in that instance, would more forcibly induce his government not to encourage the hostile views of other Indian tribes, greatly remote in regard, to situation, and to any objects of common interest.

For these reasons I can feel no hesitation in expressing to you, Sir, the strongest personal conviction, that Bowles has no kind of authority for asserting, that he is either employed or countenanced, by the government of England, in inciting the Indians to war against the United States.

Before I conclude, you will I trust permit me to add, that the extract of the private letter, which you have done me the honor of communicating to me, exhibits pretty clear internal evidence of prejudice and prepossession, existing in the writer of it; and consequently it is presumable that the accounts, he has received, are not a little exaggerated.—I have the honor to be, with great respect, Sir, your most obedient, humble Servant,

Geo. Hammond.

RC (DNA: RG 59, NL); at foot of text: “Mr. Jefferson &c. &c. &c.”; endorsed by TJ as received 14 Dec. 1791 and so recorded in SJL; also docketed by him: “Hammond George … Disavowal of aid to Indians.” Tr (same).

In an obvious effort to allay southern apprehensions about William Augustus Bowles’ machinations, TJ made the contents of Hammond’s letter known to James Madison, who immediately passed the information on to Gov. Henry Lee of Virginia and Edmund Pendleton (Madison to Lee and to Pendleton, 18 Dec. 1791, Rutland, Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M.E. Rachal, Robert A. Rutland and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962—, 14 vols. description ends , xiv, 154–7).

Hammond correctly surmised that Bowles was not an agent of the British government. In response to an earlier letter from Hammond on this subject, Lord Grenville made the following observations: “I think it highly necessary to lose no time in informing You, in Answer to what is mentioned respecting Mr. Bowles in your Letter No. 7 and its Inclosure, and also in a letter from Lieut. Colonel Beckwith, which I have received from Lord Dorchester, that the Assertions said to have been made by Mr. Bowles, of his having received Powers from the British Government, to conclude a Treaty with the Creeks, of his having received Encouragement to take Measures for a Revocation of the late Treaty with the United States, or of his having been furnished by this Government, with Arms, Ammunition or Cannon, are entirely without Foundation. The Particulars of his having any Sort of Commission from this Government, either as Agent or Superintendent of Indians, or in any other Character, or of his having been authorized to promise to the Creeks on the Part of this Country, the Re-establishment of their old Boundary with Georgia, or to hold out to them any Expectation of an English Reinforcement in the Spring, are also wholly groundless” (Hammond to Grenville, 6 Dec. 1791, PRO: FO 4/11, f. 207–8; Grenville to Hammond, 3 Jan. 1792, Mayo, British Ministers description begins Bernard Mayo, ed., “Instructions to the British Ministers to the United States 1791–1812,” American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1936 description ends , p. 20–1; see also George Beckwith to Lord Dorchester, 2 Dec. 1791, PRO: FO 4/11, f. 181–2). Hammond promptly conveyed the substance of Grenville’s reassurances to TJ (Hammond to TJ, 30 Mch. 1792).

Index Entries