George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Arthur Campbell, 20 October 1792

From Arthur Campbell

Washington [County] V[a]. Octo. 20th 1792


An unexpected and important event has taken place, the late agression of the Creek and Cherokee Indians.1

Notwithstanding all that has happened, I cannot subscribe to the Plan, of immediately dispossessing them of their Country, and making sale of their lands. This may accord with the views of Georgia Purchasers; and their friends, but promises but little towards restoring peace, and a future good understanding: It would tend to affirm the declarations of Spanish Agents to the Indians.

The better way seems to be, for to religiously adhere to the stipulations of the Treatys of New-York and Holstein: and that the hostile acts of the Indians, be considered as an insurrection, and as much as possible, that the punishment fall on the leaders, and guilty individuals. To effect this, a force will be necessary, to move into the Indian Country, the ensuing Winter or early in the Spring. The Militia may do this service; but their leader ought to be a Man, whom the Indians already venerate that they may more readily submit, after receiving chastisement. This idea naturally leads me to think of General Pickens, as the most proper Man.2

To reap the fruits of victory, it will be necessary to establish two or more Posts, on the banks of the Tennesee, below the Cumberland Mounta⟨ins.⟩ The mouth of Duck-river, and near Nicojac seems the most eligible spots, the first to be convenient to keep up an intercourse with the Chickasaws, and the other to awe the lower Cherokees, and upper Creek Towns.3

Regular Troops will be necessary to Garrison these Forts.

You will excuse, Sir, my thus offering sentiments when assured, that it proceeds from an ardent desire, to promote the welfare of the United-States.4 I have the honor to be, with the greatest resp⟨ect,⟩ Sir, Your most Obedient servant

Arthur Campbell

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1For accounts of recent Creek and Cherokee aggression, see the report on “the attack . . . upon Buchanan’s Station,” Ky., of 30 Sept., the account of “Indian depredations in the district of Miro, and on the Kentucky road, from the 3d to the 14th of October, 1792,” and the return of the number of “persons killed, wounded, and taken prisoners” in the Southwest Territory since 1 Jan. 1791, in 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 1:294–95, 329–32. GW enclosed these reports in his letter to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives of 7 Dec. 1792.

2The Treaty of New York, signed on 7 Aug. 1790, and the Treaty of Holston, signed on 2 July 1791, obtained land cessions from the Indians and established new boundaries between the United States and the Creek and Cherokee Indians, respectively, but violations of these borders threatened to incite a general Indian war in the Southwest (Kappler, Indian Treaties, description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends 2:25–32). Particularly troublesome for federal officials were the activities of speculators and expansionists involved in the Yazoo Land Companies, to which Georgia, in 1789, had granted extensive lands in present-day Alabama and Mississippi that fell within Indian territory as defined in these treaties. For earlier efforts to curtail white encroachments on Indian lands and thus prevent an Indian war, see GW’s proclamations of 14 and 26 Aug. 1790 and 19 Mar. 1791.

Andrew Pickens, a veteran of punitive military expeditions against hostile Cherokees during the Revolutionary War and an experienced negotiator with the Indians, accompanied Gov. William Blount to a conference at Nashville on 7–11 Aug. with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians (see Council Proceedings, 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 1:284–88).

3Henry Knox already had dismissed the idea of establishing a post on the Duck River, a tributary of the Tennessee River approximately sixty miles southwest of Nashville, in his letter to Blount of 22 April 1792, because “it is to be apprehended that starting a new object at the mouth of Duck river, would have the effect to excite suspicions and jealousies” among the Indians and “the risque of injury would far over balance any advantages, and therefore the attempt ought not to be made” (see Knox to GW, 21 April 1792, note 1).

Nickajack refers to a region along the Tennessee River near the Tennessee-Alabama border, west of present-day Chattanooga, where the major north-south trails used by Indians and traders intersected. The name of one of the Lower Towns of the Cherokee in that region, it was also the name of a large cave from which various bandits, both Indian and white, sometimes surprised travelers on the river.

4From Philadelphia, GW replied on 24 Nov. to Campbell: “While I acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 20th Ultimo, on the subject of Indian Affairs in your quarter, and thank you for the information it contains; let me assure you that I am always ready to receive any information that relates to the public welfare; and as my sole view is to promote thus to the utmost of my power and ability—I am ever open to the opinions of well informed persons in those matters with which their situation or circumstances may have given them an opporty of being well acquainted—and I shall consider such information & sentiments you may think proper to communicate on the occurrences which may take place in your quarter as a mark of attention” (Df, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; copy, MHi: Pickering Papers; LB DLC:GW).

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