Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Washington to the Cabinet, 21 March 1793

George Washington to the Cabinet

United States, March 21st: 1793


The Treaty which is agreed to be held on or about the first of June next at the Lower Sandusky of Lake Erie, being of great moment to the interests and peace of this Country; and likely to be attended with difficulties arising from circumstances (not unknown to you) of a peculiar and embarrassing nature; it is indispensably necessary that our rights under the Treaties which have been entered into with the Six Nations—the several tribes of Indians now in hostility with us—and the claims of1 others, should be carefully investigated and well ascertained, that the Commissioners who are appointed to hold it may be well informed and clearly instructed on all the points that are likely to be discussed: thereby knowing what they are to insist upon (with or without compensation, and the amount of the Compensation, if any2)—and what, for the sake of peace, they may yield.

You are not to learn from me,3 the different views which our Citizens entertain of the War we are engaged in with the Indians, and how much these different opinions4 add to the delicacy and embarrassments5 alluded to above—nor the criticisms which, more than probable, will6 be made on the subject, if the proposed Treaty should be unsuccessful.

Induced by these motives, and desireous that time may be allowed for a full and deliberate consideration of the subject before the departure of the Commissioners, it is my desire that you will, on the 25th. of this month, meet together at the War Office (or at such other time and place as you may agree upon) where the principal documents are, with whatever papers you may respectively be possessed of on the subject, and such others as I shall cause to be laid before you, and then and there decide7 on all the points which you shall conceive necessary for the information and instruction of the Commissioners. And, having drawn them into form, to revise the same and have them ready, in a finished state,8 for my perusal and consideration when I return—together with a digest of such references as shall be adjudged necessary for the Commissioners to take with them.

And, as it has been suggested to me, that the Society of Quakers are desireous of sending a deputation from their Body, to be present at the aforesaid Treaty (which, if done with pure motives, and a disposition accordant with those sentiments9 entertained by Government respecting boundary, may be a mean of facilitating the good work of peace) you will consider how far, if they are approved Characters, they ought to be recognized in the Instructions to the Commissioners10 and how proper it may be for them to participate therein or to be made acquainted therewith.

Go: Washington

RC (DLC); in the hand of Tobias Lear, signed by Washington; at head of text: “(Circular) To The Secretary of State—The Secretary of the Treasury—The Secretary of War and The Attorney General of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 22 Mch. 1793. Dft (DNA: RG 59, MLR); dated 22 Mch. 1793; in Washington’s hand except for dateline and “(Circular)” in Lear’s hand at head of text and one revision in Lear’s hand noted below; unsigned; only the most important emendations are noted below; endorsed by Lear. FC (Lb in same, SDC); dated 22 Mch. 1793; wording follows Dft. Recorded in SJPL. Washington evidently did not send this circular until 22 Mch. 1793, the date TJ received his copy (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 99). The later date on the other surviving texts suggests that Lear either misdated the text sent to TJ or prepared the texts to the recipients over a two-day period.

TJ, Alexander Hamilton, and Edmund Randolph met on the appointed date but, owing to an illness of Henry Knox, postponed discussion of the issues raised here until 2 Apr. 1793 (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 106; TJ to Knox, 26 Mch. 1793; TJ to Washington, 7 Apr. 1793). The instructions to the commissioners of 26 Apr. 1793 ultimately specified that the society of quakers could send a delegation to the Lower Sandusky conference, provided that its members discussed no matters of importance with the Western Indians without the prior approval of the commissioners (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, i, 340–2). For an account of the ensuing unsuccessful peace conference, see Reginald Horsman, “The British Indian Department and the Abortive Treaty of Lower Sandusky, 1793,” Ohio Historical Quarterly, lxx (1961), 189–213.

1Preceding three words interlined in Dft.

2Preceding eight words interlined in Dft.

3Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “at this time.”

4Preceding two words interlined in Dft, with “these” reworked from “they.”

5Preceding two words interlined in Dft.

6Remainder of sentence interlined in Dft by Lear in place of “accompany an unsuccessful Treaty.”

7In Dft Washington initially wrote “will … meet together with such papers as you may respectively possess—then and there, or at such other time or place as you may agree upon, decide,” before emending the passage to read “will…meet together at the War Office (where the documents are) with such papers as you may respectively be possessed of and which I shall cause to be laid before you then and there, or at such other time or place as you may agree upon, decide.” The FC follows this emended text almost verbatim, but the passage was revised again for the RC.

8Preceding four words interlined in Dft.

9Word interlined in Dft.

10Washington first wrote the remainder of the sentence in Dft as “—and how far they may be made participators thereof or become acquainted therewith,” and then altered it to read virtually as above.

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