George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Knox, 25 February 1792

To Henry Knox

Saturday Afternn 25th Feby 1792


I have given the enclosed draught of a letter to Captn Brandt a careful perusal. Such additions as are made with a pencil may be advisable—but, after you have given them an attentive consideration, they may stand or fall as you shall think best.1 Yours &ca

Go: Washington

ALS, PHi: Society Collection; Df, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW; copy, NNGL: Henry Knox Papers.

Timothy Pickering invited Joseph Brant and other chiefs of the Six Nations on 19 Dec. 1791 to journey to Philadelphia to meet with GW and Knox, and he instructed the Indians to meet Samuel Kirkland and two interpreters at Geneseo, New York. Kirkland repeated the administration’s invitation in a personal letter to Brant dated 3 Jan. 1792. When Kirkland arrived at the appointed meeting place at the end of January, however, he found that Brant had not come. Brant later explained that he required a personal invitation from the American government and resented being accompanied by lesser chiefs on the trip. Kirkland replied to Brant’s letter on 16 Feb. that “it was not in my idea, that you should be crowded into the company of all the old Chiefs & dragged along with them promiscuously thro’ the proposed tour to Philadelphia” (Kelsay, Brant description begins Isabel Thompson Kelsay. Joseph Brant, 1743–1807: Man of Two Worlds. Syracuse, N.Y., 1984. description ends , 459–63, 705 n.12).

1Knox earlier this day sent GW “a draft of a letter to Captn Brandt,” which has not been found, perhaps after meeting with GW and the other department secretaries to discuss inviting Brant and other leaders of the Six Nations to Philadelphia (DLC:GW; see also GW to Thomas Jefferson, 24 Feb. 1792). In the final version of Knox’s letter to Brant, dated 25 Feb., the secretary of war renewed earlier invitations for Brant to visit Philadelphia and informed him that “The President of the United States is conscious of the purest dispositions to promote generally the welfare of the Indians, and he flatters himself that proper occasions only are wanting to impress them with the truth of this assertion. He considers your mind more enlightened than theirs, and he has hopes that your heart is filled with a true desire to serve the essential interests of your countrymen. The United States, much against the inclination of the Government, are engaged in hostilities with some of the Western Indians. We, on our parts, have entered into it with reluctance, and consider it as a war of necessity; and not, as is supposed and industriously propagated by many, for the purpose of accumulating more land than has been ceded by the treaty with the Indians, since the peace with Great Britain. We are desirous of bringing it to a conclusion, not from any apprehension as to a favorable result, because, by a comparison of forces and resources, however troublesome a perseverance therein may be to us, it must be utter destruction to the hostile Indians. We are desirous, for the sake of humanity, of avoiding such a catastrophe. This is the main business which will be mentioned to you on the part of the United States; and it is an object worthy of the best cultivated head and heart. If you should enter into this view, Mr. Kirkland has directions to concert with you the most satisfactory mode of your performing the journey. The nature of the case will show the necessity of your coming without delay, if you incline to accept this invitation” (ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:228). Knox transmitted the letter to Kirkland, who sent it to the British commander at Niagara, Col. Andrew Gordon, for forwarding to Brant at Grand River. Suspecting its contents Gordon wrote to Brant in an attempt to discourage the chief from traveling to Philadelphia. Brant replied to Knox on 27 Mar. 1792 that he would not visit the capital until after undertaking a journey to the western Indians first (ibid., 244–45).

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