George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Martin, 18 January 1790

From Alexander Martin

North Carolina Jany 18th 1790


As Brigadier General Martin of Washington District in this State, Agent of Indian Affairs has been criminated as he is informed before your Excellency and Congress, by a certain Bennet Belew1 for some mal-practises in his Agency, more particularly for a Letter said Gen. Martin should have written to Alexander McGilveray one of the Chiefs of the Creek Nation, to whom some particular Resolutions of Congress were said to be improperly communicated. In justification of himself he hath had that Transaction investigated by a Committee of both Houses of the General Assembly of this State, and a Report in his Favor hath been made, and concurred with by the General Assembly. At his Request I beg Leave to present the same to your Excellency,2 he considering himself to deserve well heretofore of the public, that any unfavorable Impressions that may have been made as to his Conduct in this Business may be done away. As to any other Charges exhibited against him by Belew, they are unknown here, but when your Excellency is informed as to Belew’s Character, Genl Martin flatters himself they will have little Weight without being supported by better Authority. Brigr Genl Charles McDowel of Morgan District hath certified to me the Character of Belew which is enclosed for your Excellency’s perusal.3

Since my personal Acquaintance with Gen. Martin, which hath been for eight or nine years past, he hath been a Member of the General Assembly for Greene County in Washington District and Agent for Indian Affairs both for Virginia and North Carolina, in which Stations he hath served with Reputation, and generally conducted himself to public Satisfaction.

Should your Excellency from the above Representation, entertain with me any favorable Opinion of General Martin, he sollicits your Excellency for a Continuance of his Agency for Indian Affairs, being well versed in the same in such Departments to the Southward your Excellency will please to allot, & honour him with. I have the Honour to be with the greatest Respect your Excellencys most obedient humble Servant

Alex: Martin


For background to Joseph Martin and his controversial letter of 8 Nov. 1788 to Alexander McGillivray, see George Walton to GW, 11 Mar. 1789, Hugh Williamson to GW, 8 May 1789, and GW to Walton, 29 May 1789.

1See the Cherokee Nation to GW, 19 May 1789, n.3, Beverley Randolph to GW, 5 Aug. 1789, and Bennet Ballew to GW, 22 Aug. 1789, for conflicting opinions of Ballew and his previous contact with Joseph Martin.

2On 5 Dec. 1789 a committee of the North Carolina legislature was appointed to examine “sundry depositions relative to the conduct of General Joseph Martin, as Indian Agent.” It reported on 15 Dec. that “It appears that the said Joseph Martin was in the exercise of his duty, when he enclosed to the said McGilvray the resolutions of Congress mentioned in the first and second paragraphs of the said letter; and that the object of the said Martin in writing the third and last paragraphs, was merely to gain the good will of the said McGillivray, and to obtain a restoration of his horses, and not to injure the United States, or any of them.

“The said committee, to whom was also referred sundry depositions respecting the said Martin, report, that depositions of a similar nature have years past been laid before the general assembly, and that the committee do not find them to contain any matter sufficient to criminate the said Martin” (N.C. State Records, 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 21:659, 691; DLC:GW). Martin’s letter to McGillivray is printed in N.C. State Records, 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.

3Charles McDowell (c.1743–1815), a partisan Patriot leader on the Carolina frontier, was commissioned brigadier general by the North Carolina legislature in 1782 and was a state senator in 1778 and from 1782 to 1788. His enclosed letter of 21 Dec. 1789 to Alexander Martin reads: “At the time for raiseing the nine months Soldiers in 1778 I delivered one Bennet Below from the County of Burke as a nine month Soldier to Capt. Temple Cole, a Continental Officer and the said, Below after, receiveing a large sum of Money from the Company that hired him he deserted the service of his Country and was acused of passing Counterfeit Money, and joining the tory party and Plundering the good citisens of this State and was guilty of many acts of Vilany, that I do no think any credit ought to paid to his Information respecting Genl Joseph Martin’s Conduct that from my own Knowledge and General Information the said Below is of a Very Contempable Caracter” (DLC:GW).

Index Entries