Cabinet Opinion on the Creek Indians and Georgia
May 29th 1793
The President of the United States having assembled the heads of the respective departments and the attorney General, laid before them for their advice thereon, sundry communications from the Governor of Georgia, and others, relatively to the recent alarming depredations of the creek Indians upon the State of Georgia.
Whereupon after the subject was maturely considered and discussed it was unanimously advised
That the Governor of Georgia be informed that from considerations relative to foreign powers, and the pending treaty with the Northern Indians, it is deemed adviseable for the present, to avoid offensive expeditions into the Indian Country. But from the nature of the late appearances, it is thought expedient to encrease the force to be kept up for defensive purposes. The President therefore authorises, the calling into, and keeping in service, in addition to the troops heretofore stationed in Georgia, one hundred horse, and one hundred infantry, to be employed in repelling inroads as circumstances shall require. As it does not yet appear that the whole nation of the creeks, is engaged in hostility, it is confided that this force will be sufficient for the object designated. The case of a serious invasion of the territory of Georgia, by large bodies of Indians must be referred to the provisions of the constitution. The proceeding with efficacy in future requires absolutely, that no unnecessary expence should be incurred in the mean time.
The above corps of horse to be raised for any period of time not exceeding twelve Months1 as may be found most practicable, subject to be dismissed at any time sooner as the government may think fit. The infantry to be called into service according to the course of the militia Laws endevoring to secure their continuance in service for the like time.
That General Pickens be invited to repair to the seat of Government, for the purpose of information and consultation; a proper compensation for his expences, and loss of time to be allowed.
That a further supply of one thousand arms with correspondent accoutrements be forwarded to the state of Georgia. Arms and accoutrements, for the cavalry to be also provided and forwarded.
That an agent be sent to the Creeks to endevor to adjust the surrender of those Indians who have lately committed murders on the citizens of Georgia; to conciliate, and secure such of the Indians as may be well disposed to the United States; in the event of a war with the Creek nation, and if possible to prevent that extremety.
MS (DLC: Washington Papers); in the hand of an unidentified War Department clerk, with signatures added by TJ, Knox, and Randolph on 1 June and by Hamilton on 3 June 1793; contains alterations made on 1 June 1793 (see note 1 below); endorsed by Tobias Lear. Enclosed in Lear to TJ, 31 May 1793, TJ to Hamilton, 1 June 1793, Hamilton to TJ, 3 June 1793, and TJ to Washington, 4 June 1793.
The Sundry Communications were: Governor Edward Telfair of Georgia to Secretary of War Knox, 22 and 29 Apr. 1793; Major John Habersham, the officer in charge of military stores at Savannah, to Knox, 23, 29 Apr., and 3 May 1793; Governor William Moultrie of South Carolina to George Washington, 11 May 1793; and documents accompanying these letters. All of this material dealt with “the alarming prospect of hostilities with the Creek & Cherokee Indians” (Washington, Journal, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends 149–50, 154; 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, 364; Telfair’s letters and their enclosures and the enclosures to Habersham’s 3 May letter are printed in same, 368–9, 389–91).
The President and the Cabinet treated these reports of Creek attacks on Georgia with gravity because they believed that the Spanish authorities had incited them as part of a general plan to create an alliance of the Southern Indians as a buffer against American expansion into disputed border areas. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton being detained in the country when the Cabinet met on 28 May 1793, it sent the documents under consideration to him for perusal and adjourned to the following day, when it agreed in substance to the above opinion. The text printed here was evidently prepared later, although the term of service of the cavalry to be raised was left unspecified (see note 1 below). On 31 May the President instructed the Secretary of State to have the blank filled in and the opinion signed at a Cabinet meeting the following day. Hamilton was not at that meeting, but he affixed his signature after receiving the document from TJ, who sent the signed opinion to the President on 4 June 1793 (Washington, Journal, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends 154, 155, 157, 159). Knox informed Telfair of the Cabinet’s decision in a letter of 30 May 1793 (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, 364).
A statute of March 1792 provided the authority for raising a corps of horse for frontier service. The Militia Laws of 2 May 1792 permitted the President to take state militia into federal service (Annals, description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The first two volumes of the set cited here have “Compiled … by Joseph Gales, Senior” on the title page and bear the caption “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. The remaining volumes bear the caption “History of Congress” on both recto and verso pages. Those using the first two volumes with the latter caption will need to employ the date of the debate or the indexes of debates and speakers. description ends iii, 1345, 1370–2).
Adroit diplomacy by James Seagrove, the United States agent to the Creeks, ultimately led to a peaceful resolution of the crisis despite the bellicose stance assumed by Georgia (Daniel M. Smith, “James Seagrove and the Mission to Tuckaubatchee, 1793,” Georgia Historical Quarterly, xliv ,47–55).
1. At this point the clerk originally wrote “from to Months,” but after the Cabinet meeting on 1 June 1793 he interlined “not exceeding” in place of “from to” and inserted “twelve” in the second blank.