George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 4 October 1791

From Henry Knox

War department [Philadelphia], October 4th 1791.


I had the honor, on the first instant, to submit to you, the general substance of the late communications from Major General St Clair. I now take the liberty to enclose, the copy of a letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, with the copy of a letter to him from Lieut: Colonel Beckwith, and the copy of speeches made by Lord Dorchester, to Brant, and the Western indians.1 I have the honor to be, Sir, with the highest respect, Your most obedt humble servt



1British army major George Beckwith, the agent of Canadian governor Guy Carleton, first Baron Dorchester, moved to Philadelphia from New York to maintain contact with members of the administration (see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 8 July 1790, source note, GW to Thomas Jefferson, 4 April, n.3, Jefferson to GW, 24 April 1791, n.6). Joseph Brant accompanied representatives of the Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Huron, Shawnee, Delaware, Tustur (Twit-wis), and Iroquois nations who were sent to Quebec by an Indian council held at the Maumee Rapids in June 1791 (see Knox to GW, 8 June, n.2). The enclosed copy of Alexander Hamilton’s letter of 3 Oct. to Henry Knox reads: “I transmit you, as relating to your department, a letter just received by me from Lieutenant Colonel Beckwith forwarding a copy of a paper purporting to be a speech of Lord Dorchester in answer to an address of the deputies of certain indian tribes. You will observe that the object of this communication is stated to be ‘the information of the executive government’—In conversation, a reliance on the candor of all comprehended in that description has been expressed, that no use will be made of it which might be disagreeable to Lord Dorchester; and it has been particularly intimated, that any promulgation of it in the papers, or the furnishing of any copy to any officer in the western country would be undesireable. I consider myself as having received the paper with these qualifications, and generally under the idea of a discreet and delicate use of it” (DLC:GW). The letter that it covered, Beckwith to Hamilton, 2 Oct., reads: “Having received from Lord Dorchester a copy of his Lordships answer to a late address from deputies of the confederated western nations of indians, I am induced to transmit to you herewith an authenticated copy of that paper for the information of the Executive Government, in the hope that it may have a tendency to dispel the remaining prejudices of individuals, and to promote the peace of the frontiers” (DLC:GW). The enclosed copy of Dorchester’s reply of 15 Aug. to the Indians’ address of the preceding day was not found with the other enclosures despite a notation on the letter-book copy that “The Copies of the letters and Speeches mentioned above, are filed with the Original letter.” In his speech Dorchester told the Indians he would be happy to use his best endeavors to assist them in procuring a solid peace with the United States and that he would represent their wishes to the king when he arrived in England. He suggested that the Americans might have recently attacked the Wabash villages unaware that Indian leaders were then in council deliberating the means of peace. To the protests of the chiefs that the British gave away Indian lands in the Treaty of Paris, Dorchester replied that the peace treaty in no way prejudiced Indian rights, as it ceded no Indian lands but merely marked out a boundary line beyond which the king’s interference would no longer extend. In reviewing British policies regarding the Indians and his own execution of those policies, Dorchester stressed the continuing friendship of the British administration and informed them he had no power to begin a war and could act militarily only in a defensive capacity. The copy of the speech that Dorchester sent to British foreign secretary Baron Grenville on 17 Aug. is in the British Public Records Office, and a retained copy is in the National Archives of Canada, Ottawa. See also Brymner, Report on Canadian Archives, 1890, description begins Douglas Brymner. Report on Canadian Archives . . . 1890. (Being an Appendix to Report of the Minister of Agriculture.). Ottawa, 1891. description ends 302.

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