George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 8 September 1790

From Henry Knox

War-department—New York—September 8th 1790.


I have the honor to transmit to you, a letter from Governor Telfair of the 20th of July,1 containing enclosures relative to the murder of a Creek Indian.

The measures which he has taken to discover the murderer and his abettor and bring them to punishment, seem to be satisfactory and to preclude the necessity of any thing further being done on the part of the general government.

As to the questions of rank to which the Governor alludes, there can be but one rule founded on the invariable usage of the late war—to wit—That in combined operations, continental officers command all militia officers of the same grade, the dates of commissions notwithstanding—that militia officers of superior grades command all continental officers of inferior grades.

I shall take this liberty to give this opinion to the Governor on both of the above points, and I have conceived it proper to submit these papers to you.2 I have the honor to be Sir, with the greatest respect, Your most obedient—and very humble Servant

H. Knox


1See enclosure.

2GW replied to Knox from Mount Vernon on 20 Sept. 1790: “I have received your letter of the 8th instant together with its enclosures.

“A similiar outrage to that stated in Governor Telfair’s proclamation was sometime since committed on two Indians of the Seneca tribe—the representation of which being before the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania when I arrived in Philada the papers thereon were laid before me.

“Finding an interference on the part of the general government essential to prevent a threatened hostility I appointed Colonel Pickering on the part of the U.S. to meet the Chiefs and Warriors of the Seneca nation for the purpose of assuring them that the outrage complained of was not only unauthorised on the part of Government, but a flagrant violation of its laws, for which the Offenders, when taken, (and a reward was offered for apprehending them) would be brought to condign punishment—and likewise to offer compensation to the relations of the deceased.

“I have reason to hope that the measures taken to prevent farther mischief, and to satisfy the Seneca tribe will prove successful.

“Your opinion on the relative rank of the regular and militia officers, as communicated to Governor Telfair, accords with the usage of the army, and meets my approbation” (Df, DLC:GW).

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