George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 7 August 1793

From Henry Knox

War department August 7th 1793


I have the honor to submit to your Consideration two questions relative to the preservation of the peace with the Creeks and Cherokees and the answers thereto by Governor Blount and General Pickens—the latter declines forming an estimate but the Governor will do it alone.1 I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your most obedt servant

H. Knox
secy of war

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. GW received this cover letter and its four enclosures on 7 Aug. (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 215).

1In his first letter to William Blount and Andrew Pickens on 5 Aug. 1793, Knox asked, “Can there be any practicable modes suggested which would probably postpone a Creek War?” (DLC:GW). Blount and Pickens, presently in Philadelphia, replied to this question in their first letter to Knox of 6 August: “The sending some Person of Address and knowledge of Indian Affairs into the Country and Towns of the upper Creeks in the Ostensible Character of a Trader supplied with light Articles, which he might occasionally dispose of in Presents to the Chiefs and others, or trade to keep up Appearances would very probably have the Effect to induce the Creeks to commit fewer Murders and Robberies than they otherwise would, and he might collect much Information that would be useful in the War with that Nation” (DLC:GW).

In his second letter to Blount and Pickens of 5 Aug., Knox requested that they consider “the recent depredations and murder of the friendly Cherokees by some lawless Whites and give your opinion in Writing of the most practicable and peaceable method of satisfying the Cherokees upon that subject and an estimate of the cost thereof” (DLC:GW). For the militia attack of 12 June on a village of friendly Cherokees, see Knox to GW, 13 July, and note 1. In a second letter to Knox of 6 Aug., which both men signed, Blount and Pickens wrote: “That the Whites who committed the recent Murders and Depredations on the Cherokees should be put to Death is the Satisfaction that Nation particularly the family of the Murdered, will require.

“This can be inflicted only in Consequence of a Verdict of a Jury of their fellow-citizens, finding them guilty of Murder for killing an Indian: We suspect such a Jury will hardly be found for say the Frontier People generally ‘The Indians have killed in the most cruel and inhuman manner our nearest and dearest Friends, Connexions and Neighbours and Government has made no demand of Blood in Satisfaction, then why should we by our Verdict give Blood either to satisfy the Government or the Nation.’

“Persons not acquainted with Indian Construction and Operation of the Law of Blood for Blood would readily suppose this Account of innocent Blood, shed by the lawless White People, might be settled by the much larger Quantity of the Blood of innocent White People shed by them; This however is not their Construction, for the Family or Families of the murdered or slain Indians will certainly at some time take Blood in satisfaction without regard to Age Sex or Innocence.

“If Presents were offered them they probably would accept them and acknowledge themselves satisfyed therewith and it would have the Effect to postpone Retaliation, nevertheless it would be certain at some day.

“Thus you are informed that Satisfaction will not probably be given to the Cherokees by a Verdict of a Jury and that they are not to be permanently satisfied by Presents.

“Yet to us it appears essential that something at this critical Period should be done to satisfy them temporarily, that is, until the Strong Hand of Government is exercised over the Creeks and then Fear may restrain them permanently and the only Method, we can recommend, is the inviting of the Chiefs generally and the Friends of the deceased to a Conference.

“With Respect to the Estimate, we are not able to offer one with any degree of Accuracy, therefore we decline offering any” (DLC:GW).

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