George Washington Papers

Henry Knox to Tobias Lear, 24 February 1793

Henry Knox to Tobias Lear

[Philadelphia] 24 Feby 1793

Dear Sir

I will wait upon the President as directed.1 I now enclose a letter and its enclosure, from Genl Wayne dated the 16th instant, which has been just received.2 Yours sincerely

H. Knox


1Knox is probably referring to GW’s request for a cabinet meeting on 25 Feb. (Lear to Cabinet, 24 Feb. 1793).

2For the text of Gen. Anthony Wayne’s letter to Knox, see Knopf, Wayne, description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends 190–91. The letter also enclosed a statement from Joseph E. Collins, a New Jersey native sent by Gen. James Wilkinson to collect intelligence about the Northwest Territory and the Indians living there. Collins posed as a British trader in order to pass through British territory, but Lt. Col. Richard England, the British commandant at Detroit, suspecting Collins’s true identity, detained him and then shipped him to the governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe (England to Simcoe, 29 Dec. 1792, in Cruikshank, Simcoe Papers, description begins E. A. Cruikshank, ed. The Correspondence of Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe, with Allied Documents Relating to His Administration of the Government of Upper Canada. 5 vols. Toronto, 1923–31. description ends 1:271–72). However, Simcoe permitted Collins to trade with British outposts on the Great Lakes and to travel between Fort Niagara and Buffalo Creek, thus allowing the American agent to report on Indian activities (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 66–67).

Collins stated that he had commenced in July 1792 by accompanying Rufus Putnam to the treaty held at Post Vincennes with the Wabash and Illinois Indians, then proceeded up the Illinois River to the Chicago River, across to the St. Joseph River, and from thence to Detroit, Niagara, and Joseph Brant’s settlement on Lake Erie before returning to Legionville, Pa., where he reported to Wayne. He found that the Indians who had attended the treaty said that they would “adhere to the Articles,” but that “at the principal towns of the Patawatimes & Kickapoo’s the head Chiefs & Warriors ridiculed the conduct of some of their people who had imposed themselves upon Genl Putnam at the treaty of Vincennes as Chiefs; when in fact they were nothing but common Men, or rather blackguards.” Nonetheless, Collins believed that that those Indians on the Chicago River “by a little management might be induced to remain quiet.” The Indians on St. Joseph River, however, “appeared to be disposed for War; and had about 30 American Prisoners . . . taken at different periods from off the frontiers of Kentucky & Virginia.” Collins had planned to visit the Indian villages on the “Miami” (Maumee) River, “but was prevented by a Chief called the white Pidgeon of Miamis who threatened to kill him.” During his travel to and while at Detroit, Collins “found that the Indians were unanimously determined for War unless every American withdrew to the South side of the Ohio, and that River was made the boundary.” On Christmas “180 Warriors were to set off from Au Glaize to strike at some of the Posts, or Escorts” and “they do not hold themselves bound to remain peaceable by any proposition for a treaty to be held at sandusky, until the time of holding it—and then, if the Ohio is not made the boundary they will continue the war as long as an American remains on the north side of it.” At Niagara, Collins met with Governor Simcoe, who “conceived a very extensive and advantageous trade might be opened to Europe by the way of the Lakes & the Illinois River,” inquired about American posts north of the Ohio, and observed that in Kentucky there might be “many loyal subjects to his Brittannic Majesty.” The Indians at Brant’s settlement “seemed to possess the idea of Neutrality,” but “In case the Ohio was not agreed to as a boundary, there was a determination among the Indians to form a General confederacy against the Americans,” which would “in all probability” lead to “a general War in the course of the summer” (NHi: Jay Papers).

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