George Washington Papers

Enclosure II: Draft Authorization to Henry Knox, 14 March 1791

Enclosure II

Draft Authorization to Henry Knox

[14 March 1791]


Being about to make a journey to the Southern States, in which I shall be absent for some time, it has become necessary, for the public service, that I should give you authority in the cases herein after named.

Firstly. I approve the general principles of your report of the 22nd February last for the operations of the proposed campaign north west of the Ohio, and I authorize you to instruct the commanding officer accordingly.

Secondly. I approve of the instructions you have given to Brigadier General Charles Scott of the district of Kentucky, relative to a desultory operation against the indians, and of the authority vested by the said instructions in the said Charles Scott, Harry Innes, John Brown, Benjamin Logan, and Isaac Shelby.1

Thirdly. I approve of your sending Colonel Thomas Procter, and Captain Michael Gabriel Houdin, with the messages submitted to me, to the Senekas, Wyandots, Delawares, Miami, and Wabash indians, and of the rewards you have promised the said Colonel Procter and Captain Houdin.2

Fourthly. I approve the plan of raising the levies submitted to me on the 14th instant, and I hereby authorize you to carry it into execution, and to take measures for appointing such of the officers thereof, as I myself have not appointed, in the manner mentioned in the said report.3

Fifthly—I approve of the plan you have submitted to me in your report of the 22’nd of February last, for recruiting in the States East of Maryland for completing the troops on the establishment, according to the Acts of Congress, and you will march the said troops by companies to Fort-Pitt, as fast as they shall be raised.

Sixthly. I approve the draft of a letter to the Governor of Georgia, dated the 14th instant, and do hereby direct you to forward the same.4

Seventhly. In the instructions to be given to Governor Blount, in addition to the former instructions of the 27th of August last, little river, and thence extending to the Iron Mountain, between French Broad, and the Tenessee is to be attempted to be fixed as the boundary on that quarter, and the people who have settled to the southward of the said little river be warned to depart.5

The other parts of the boundary are to be attempted agreeably to his general ideas, excepting that the boundary ought not to approach, if it can be avoided the Kentucky road.

But in all attempts to modify the boundary different from the treaty of Hopewell is to be done under the restrictions and limitations contained in your instructions of the 27th August 179[0].

I authorize you to take the proper arrangements for furnishing the goods and money for the treaty to be held with the Cherokees on [ ] next, by Governor Blount, agreeably to his estimates for that purpose.

Eightly. In case of non-acceptances of any of the officers lately appointed with the concurrence of the Senate, I hereby authorize you to fill them up agreeably to the lists you have submitted to me, and upon the special condition of my approbation of them hereafter.6

Ninthly. I authorize you to take arrangements for the payment of the invalids of the United States, in half yearly payments instead of yearly payments.

Tenthly. I authorize you to have equipped, one hundred cavalry, for the purpose of the expedition under Major General St Clair—The horses of the said cavalry to be sold at the termination of the said expedition, excepting such a small number as shall be considered as indispensable for the communication of the posts.

Eleventhly. And I hereby authorize you to take all and every effectual arrangement to obtain the supplies of all sorts necessary for the entire equipment of the proposed expedition against the indians north west of the Ohio, the expences for which are provided for, and the appropriations made by law.

Twelfthly. I authorize you to send a suitable person to the Creeks, for the purpose of inducing them to comply with the treaty relative to the prisoners and negroes, to induce them to send the persons to mark the boundaries on the first day of October next, according to the treaty, and for further conciliating and rendering the benefits of the said treaty extensively beneficial—The said person to be allowed a reasonable compensation for his trouble [ ] dollars.

Thirteenthly. I authorize you to take the necessary arrangements to draw the companies which are in Georgia to the frontiers, for the purpose of marking the boundary mentioned in the treaty with the Creeks.

I shall appoint Andrew Ellicot to ascertain the said boundary; and if it should be necessary for him to set out upon the business, previously to my return, I hereby authorise you to give him suitable instructions, and to make him such advances as may be necessary to enable him to perform the duty.7

Fourteenthly. I approve of the letter which you sent to the lieutenants of the frontier counties of Pennsylvania and Virginia, on the 10th instant, authorizing them to call into service, rangers for the temporary defensive protection of the said counties under the restrictions and circumstances therein mentioned.

Fifteenthly. I authorize you to take arrangements for furnishing such indian goods as shall be necessary for a treaty with the indians north-west of the Ohio. A treaty upon proper principles would be a desireable circumstance to take place immediately, in order to prevent the expences of the proposed campaign: But, if it should take place upon the invitations already made, it may perhaps take place in the issue of the expedition, and therefore ought to be seasonably provided for.8

Sixteenthly. And, I hereby authorize you to take all other necessary arrangements belonging to your department, in my absence, and which shall be sanctioned by law. I am persuaded that you will use, with all due discretion and wisdom, the powers herein vested in you as Secretary of the department of war, and that I shall have good and sufficient cause to approve your conduct.

Copy, InHi; copy, NNGL: Knox Papers.

Neither of these copies bears GW’s signature or any explicit indication of his approval, but he undoubtedly assented to the actions Knox proposed, many of which Knox carried out in GW’s absence.

3See Enclosure I.

4Knox wrote GW on 13 Mar. 1791, transmitting a draft of a letter to Gov. Edward Telfair of Georgia “relative to the murder of James Rorie. And in order that you may judge of the propriety of the Answer, I resubmit the letters of the said Governor upon the subject” (DLC:GW). Telfair had sent Knox two letters regarding the affair, one dated in November and the other 14 Dec. 1790. Knox transmitted these to Tobias Lear for GW’s consideration on 2 Feb. 1791 (DLC:GW). Lear returned these with GW’s request for a report on the matter on 4 Feb. 1791 (DLC:GW). The letter sent by Knox to Telfair, 14 Mar. 1791, probably does not differ substantially from the draft submitted to GW. It reads: “I have the honor to inform your Excellency that your letter of november last containing a number of enclosures relative to Some recent conduct of the Creeks and your letter of the 14th december, enclosing a provisional arrangement for the militia of Georgia, were both received at this office on the 2d ultimo.

“These papers have been Submitted to the President of the united States, who has directed me to transmit you the following answer thereto.

“The evidence transmitted would prove fully, that James Rorie was killed by the Creeks were they disposed to deny the fact, But they acknowledge it—Mr McGillivray in a letter dated the 10th of december last, and which has been just received, States the affair in the following words.

’“In my passing through the middle towns the Mico & principal Wariors of the Cusetahs with some chiefs of the towns met me at the Oussichi town, from then I learned that they had promised the Governor of the State of Georgia to wait four moons for the Satisfaction which the Cusetahs had demanded from the State for the murder committed on one of that Town, and that the time was elapsed, and nothing done toward Satisfying the relations, of the deceased—on the contrary it appeared from good information, that the murderers were at large and protected by an armed banditti in the upper country, and could not be apprehended⟨.⟩ The Fushatchie Mico, being head of the family consented to wait a fortnight longer, at the expiration of that time, if the murderers were not brought to Justice, he would appoint a few young wariors, to take it in the upper Country. This he observed would be better than to Suffer a numerous clan to turn out, who would not fail to do great mischief, and I am lately informed that the Cussitahs has killed a young lad on the frontiers and are now fully Satisfied.’

“Although the Said murder is altogether injustifiable, according to the Usages and laws of civilized Societies, yet it is highly propable, the cruel event would not have taken place, had your Excellency’s endeavours been successfull, to bring the atrocious murderer of the Cussitah Indian to Justice, agreably to Your proclamation of the 19th of July last.

“The passion for revenge implanted in the earliest infancy of a Savage mind, and cherished by the force of habit, is almost uncontroulable, The new made Treaty, the terms of which were neither published or understood, was too feeble to restrain the operation of so powerfull a principle.

“A Strong remonstrance will however be made to the Creeks, relative to the said murder, and the fatal consequences displayed which must ensue, on their assuming or indulging a right of avenging themselves for the real or Supposed injuries.

“But it is to be observed that the chiefs of the Creeks, at the time of forming the treaty mentioned, that the actual, circumstances of the Nation, would not admit its full execution, until after the next general busk or dedication of the first fruits, at that Solemn festival a general assembly of all the divisions of the Creek nation would take place and the Treaty would then be promulgated discussed and ratified.

“The settlements of the Creeks are too dispersed, and their mode of communication too imperfect to admit its publication at an earlier period.

“It might be safely affirmed, that the due execution of the Treaty with the Creeks, is of considerable national importance—Their Situation—their numbers—and the influence of their Superior policy over the neighbouring Indian Nations, render it a matter of great moment, whether they are to be regarded as the friends or ennemies of the United States.

“fourteen or fifteen thousand Indians Warriors, especially when combined with other possible arrangements, form a force far from being contemptible even to the United States. And the warriors of the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Cherokees are estimated at that number.

“The rude temper and State of manners among the Creeks, require time and management, to render them cordial to a treaty by which they cede Such great portions of fertile country, possessed by them at the Commencement of the late war.

“A Spirit of moderation and conciliation must be excersised on the part of the white-frontier people, in order to render the treaty of any advantage.

“If violence and outrage take place, on our parts, Such conduct will be followed, by blind and indiscriminate Revenge on the part of the Indians.

“As the Creeks profess they are now Satisfied for the murder of the Cussitah Indian⟨,⟩ on the 4th of July last, it is not probable they will commit any further mischief on that account.

“It will be the full expectation of the United States, by whose treasures generally the expenses of a war must be borne, that no irregular or unjustifiable conduct of any of the citizens or members of the Union should create an Indian war⟨;⟩ But if not withstanding the desire to avoid such an event, it should be brought on by the Indians themselves, the United States would undoubtedly meet it with a proper degree of fortitude, and prosecute it vigourously, until it should be terminated.

“The United States are involved in a contest with several Indian tribes north west of the ohio, and the issue of the last expedition, has constrained the government to take more extensive arrangements—But an Indian war under any circumstances is considered as an unfortunate event, and ought to be avoided if possible consistently with National justice and dignity.

“The provisional arrangement which You have been pleased to direct of the militia for the Support of the posts upon the frontiers, must be presumed to be well calculated for the end, but it is devoutly to be hoped that no occasion will occur for calling it into activity” (InHi).

7Knox presented GW with a letter, dated 14 Mar. 1791, which reads: “I beg leave to suggest the appointment of a Surveyor of Abilities, to repair to the Rock landing on the Oconee river, on the 1st day of, October next, in order to ascertain accurately, the boundary mentioned in the treaty with the Creeks” (DLC:GW). See also Andrew Ellicott to GW, 1 Feb. 1791.

8For the delivery of trade goods and gifts for the Indians, see Knox to GW, 30 May 1791.

Index Entries