George Washington Papers

Tobias Lear to Thomas Jefferson, 31 March 1792

Tobias Lear to Thomas Jefferson

United States [Philadelphia] 31st March 1792.

By the President’s command T. Lear has the honor to transmit to the Secretary of State, letters from Mr Seagrove, that the Secretary may take extracts therefrom for the purpose mentioned this day.1

The President wishes to know if the Copies of Mr Hammond’s letter2 which have been sent to the President were intended to be put into the hands of the Secretary of War to be transmitted by him to Mr Seagrove.3

Tobias Lear.
Secretary to the President of the United States.

ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers; ALS (retained copy), DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW.

1The enclosed “letters from Mr [James] Seagrove” have not been identified, but they probably included Seagrove’s letter to Henry Knox of 14 Jan., which Jefferson extracted and sent to José de Viar and José de Jaudenes on 17 May 1792 (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 23:523; see also Knox to Tobias Lear, 29 Mar., DLC:GW).

2“Mr Hammond’s letter” was probably that which the British minister had sent to the secretary of state on 30 March. Having just received a communication from the British government, Hammond could assure the administration that Britain in no way encouraged or countenanced the operations of the adventurer William Bowles in the Creek country (see Hammond to Jefferson, 30 Mar., Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 23:354). Jefferson replied to Hammond on 31 Mar. that he immediately had laid Hammond’s letter before the president “and I have it in charge from him to express to you the perfect satisfaction which these assurances on the part of your court have given him that Bowles, who is the subject of them, is an unauthorised impostor. The promptitude of their disavowal of what their candour had forbidden him to credit, is a new proof of their friendly dispositions, and a fresh incitement to us to cherish corresponding sentiments. To those we are led both by interest and inclination, and I am authorised to assure you that no occasion will be omitted on our part of manifesting their sincerity” (ibid., 357–58). For the background information concerning William Augustus Bowles and his intrigues against Alexander McGillivray in the Creek country from the summer of 1791 until Bowles’s seizure by Spanish authorities in New Orleans in late February 1792, see the Secret Article of the Treaty with the Creeks, 4 Aug. 1790, source note, enclosed in GW to the U.S. Senate, 4 Aug. 1790, “John A. Dingwell” to GW, 12, 16 Aug. 1790, “Dingwell” to Knox or Lear, 17 Aug. 1790, the enclosures to Memorandum from Lear, 18 Aug. 1790, Knox to GW, 14 Nov. 1791, note 1, 26 Dec. 1791, note 1, and to Lear, 30 Nov. 1791, note 1.

3Jefferson must have answered this query positively, as Lear later this day sent Knox two authenticated copies of Hammond’s letter to Jefferson of 30 Mar., “one of which the President desires may be transmitted to Mr Seagrove and the other to Genl McGillivray, by the first opportunity” (DLC:GW).

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