George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 15 February 1790]

Monday 15th. Sat between 9 and 11 for Mr. John Trumbull.

Sent to both Houses of Congress a Letter from the President of New Hampshire, enclosing the adopted articles of amendments of the Constitution of the United States proposed by the latter at its last Session, to the States individually.

Perused two letters to Colo. Hawkins of the Senate, sent to me by the Secretary of War for my information—the one from a Lardin Clark dated Nashville, Warren County the 8th. of Septr. 1789—the other from Brigr. Genl. Joseph Martin dated Smiths River Jany. 1790. The first of these letters mentions that the loose and disorderly people that first settled the District in which he is remove as government (by means of the Superior Court) is extended amongst them and supplied by persons of better character & Morals—That the Spanish Governor of Louisiana is holding out every lure to envite the Citizens of the United States to settle under that Government—That a Doctor White who has been sometime at New Orleans does not seem to like the Government and discourages our Settlers from Migrating to it till it can at least be seen what measures the Government of the Union will take respecting the Navigation of the Mississippi—That Conventions which it had been proposed to hold in Kentucky, and other Districts of the Western Country for the purpose of addressing the old Congress on this subject had been proposed for the same reason—That there was no appearance of giving up the Post of the Natches to the U. States though it was within their Territory, on the Contrary Roman Catholick Churches were built there & provision made for newly arrived Priests—That the Spanish Governor has said that it is not want of Land that make them oppose our Settlements or which causes them to withhold the Navigation of the Missisipi from us, but because they do not like our advancing in such numbers, & so fast upon them—In short, they act under the operation of fear and Jealousy, though they will not acknowledge these to be the motives for their conduct—That it had been reported through the Western Settlements that Mr. Gardoqui had invited them to put themselves under the Spanish government with assurances of Peace & Trade as consequences of it and that Governor by Proclamation had invited them to become Inhabitants of Louisiana—That any person (he is informed) may take produce to New Orleans paying 15 pr. Ct. Duty to the King—That the Force (Military) in the two Floridas consist of two Regiments of 600 Men each and he is told a third is ordered to be raised to consist entirely of Spaniards by birth—That the District in which he is populates fast and will soon make a State—And as the Navigation of the Missisipi is essential to them, it must be obtained by treaty or by force, or they must connect themselves with the Spaniards—That it is not supposed, the two Floridas & Louisiana contain more than 20,000 Souls—That the distance from Nashville to New Orleans by Land (wch. he has travelled) is abt. 450 or 500 Miles and not a Mountain and hardly a hill in the way—That this year he supposes they will make 300 Hhds. of Tobacco—for wch. 3½d. only is given when the Spaniard gets 10 dollars pr. Hd. wt.

The other letter from Genl. Martin encloses the report of a Comee. of the Assembly of No. Carolina, which had been appointed to examine into a corrispondance between him and Mr. McGillivray, by which he stands acquitted of any intention to injure the U. States or any of them. Enforms him that from tolerable good information he has just heard that the Chicasaw Nation had made a stroke at the Chicamages Indians & were driving all before them—That several women & Children of the latter had run into the Inhabitants of little river for Refuge—That he shall set out for that County in a few days and as soon as the particulars can be known will give information of them. Wishes to know whether Congress approves of this War or not—thinks he can easily stop it if it does not meet their approbation—But adds their wars with one another may be the means of Peace to our frontiers—requests a hint on the subject by way of Richmond, directed to the care of the Postmaster there.

articles of amendments: Proposals for the amendments to the Constitution that were provided for by the fifth article of the Constitution and that were to become the Bill of Rights were introduced in Congress in May 1789. By Sept. 1789, 12 amendments had been agreed upon by the House and Senate, and on 24 Sept. the House resolved that “the President of the United States be requested to transmit to the executives of the several states which have ratified the Constitution, copies of the amendments proposed by Congress to be added thereto; and like copies to the executives of the states of Rhode-Island and North-Carolina” (DE PAUW description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends , 3:84, 229). President of New Hampshire John Sullivan’s letter to GW, 29 Jan. 1790, is in DNA: RG 46, President’s Messages. Sullivan informed GW that New Hampshire had accepted all of the proposed amendments except the second, which provided that no “law vary[ing] the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened” (DUMBAULD [2] description begins Edward Dumbauld. The Bill of Rights: And What It Means Today. Norman, Okla., 1957. description ends , 220). Of the 12 amendments originally submitted to the states, this article and the first article, which increased the representation in Congress after the first census had been taken, were not ratified by the states.

The letters submitted by Knox to GW have not been found. Lardner Clark was a leading Nashville merchant. Joseph Martin (1740–1808), of Albemarle County, Va., was a well-known figure on the frontier. He tried unsuccessfully to establish a settlement in Powell’s Valley near the Cumberland Gap in 1769 and reoccupied the area in 1775. In 1777 he became Indian agent for Virginia to the Cherokee and established his headquarters on land that afterwards fell within North Carolina’s boundaries. For many years he served as Patrick Henry’s land agent on the frontier. In the mid–1780s Martin was involved in the proposals for the new State of Franklin, although he later opposed the project, and in the Muscle Shoals speculation. Martin attended the North Carolina Ratifying Convention in 1789 and served at various times in the North Carolina and Virginia legislatures. In June 1790 he became an active candidate for the post of governor of the newly created Southwest Territory (Southern History Association Publications, 4 [1900], 443–44; REDD description begins John Redd. “Reminiscences of Western Virginia, 1770–1790.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 7 (1899–1900): 1–16, 113–28. description ends , 113–18). At this time he was living in Henry County, Va., on Smith’s River (Staunton River), the section of the Roanoke River above its confluence with the Dan River.

For the attempts of Esteban Miró, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, and Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, governor of Natchez, to attract American settlers, see entry for 25 Jan. 1790. Clark’s reference to Don Diego de Gardoqui, the Spanish representative in the United States, concerns the plan devised by Gardoqui and Philadelphia speculator George Morgan (1743–1810) in 1789 to entice Americans to settle in Morgan’s new settlement, developed under Spanish auspices, at New Madrid. Although at first a few westerners showed interest in moving to Spanish territory, these colonization schemes, and another sponsored by the South Carolina Yazoo Company at Nogales, were undermined by new and stringent economic policies of the Spanish government and by the extension of Spanish military control to the new settlements.

James White (1749–1809), a native of Philadelphia, had attended a Jesuit college in St. Omer, France, and studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1785 he moved to Davidson County, N.C., and represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress 1786–88. While he was in Congress, White became deeply involved with Gardoqui in nebulous plans for persuading frontier areas to separate from the United States and accept Spanish protection. In 1786 White was chosen by Congress as Indian agent for the Southern Department and in the course of his service he traveled widely in the southwest, becoming involved in the so-called Spanish Conspiracy and in the creation of the State of Franklin.

The incident involving McGillivray referred to by Martin concerned a letter written by the latter from Tugaloe, N.C., to the Creek chief in Nov. 1788, enclosing resolves of the Continental Congress “by which you will see that Congress intends to deal out justice to the Cherokees, which gives me infinite pleasure.” At the same time Martin expressed his wish that commissioners from Congress to the Creek would soon settle their differences with the United States and asked McGillivray’s permission to lead some five hundred families from the United States to settle on Creek land (Martin to McGillivray, 8 Nov. 1788, N.C. STATE REC. description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends , 22:787–88). At the time the letter was written Martin was serving as an Indian commissioner for Congress. The letter was intercepted, apparently by members of the Georgia militia, and presented to the Georgia legislature. On 24 Jan. 1789 a committee of the legislature reported that Martin’s action in “carrying on a correspondence of a private nature with Alexander McGilvary, yet, while this State is at war with the Creek nation, and the said Joseph Martin being in the service of the United States” was highly culpable and complaints should be made to Congress and to the governor of North Carolina (N.C. STATE REC. description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends , 21:1006). The report of the committee of the North Carolina Assembly appointed to investigate the matter exonerated Martin. The report was read in the assembly 15 Dec. 1789 and was enclosed by Martin in his letter to Benjamin Hawkins (N.C. STATE REC. description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends , 21:691).

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