George Washington Papers

Enclosure: Extract of A Letter from Kentucky, 25 January 1794


Extract of A Letter from Kentucky

Lexington Jany 25th 1794.

I suppose the Voice of fame has apprized you of the attempts which are mediated by some of the Inhabitants of this Country against the Spanish Dominions in Louisiana. General Logan has, I am told, embarked in the enterprize as second in command, and will unless prevented by the Federal Arm, proceed down the River before the last of February, at the head of two thousand men. Clark it is said has resumed his sobriety, and attention, & yet promises to renew his fame.1 Colo. Montgomery of Cumberland at the head of two hundred men has stationed himself at the mouth of Cumberland River with a view of interupting any Boats which might carry information to the Spainards of their designs.2 When you hear that Logan is among the adventurers you will easily conceive that a number of very influential old Buffaloe Hunters are engaged in it.3 Colo. Hall, Majr Lanier of Bourbon & some others of that County have nearly compleated the enlistment of a Regiment, & procure men with more ease than when the late Campaign was the object.4 So popular is the undertaking here that I fear Government will want power, either to prevent it, or to punish the adventurers.5 Besides an Attorney is wanted in the federal Court, & the Excise is so very odious that No Lawyer who has a reputation to loose will accept that Office. Perhaps H. Marshall, or W.C. might but what would be the consequence? They are fully as odious to the People as the Excise, & wou’d probably be mobb’d if the attempted to discharge the functions of that Office.6 The Governor I am persuaded will use his best efforts to put a Stop to so unlicenced an undertaking, but I fear his endeavours will only tend to render him unpopular.7

Recd Feby 26th by J⟨o⟩: Brown

DS (in John Brown’s handwriting), DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Benjamin Logan, a delegate in the Kentucky House of Representatives and a major general in the state militia, offered his services for the planned expedition against Louisiana in a letter to George Rogers Clark of 31 Dec. 1793, in which he noted that he was “at liberty to go to any foreign country I pleas” (“Selections from the Draper Collection,” 1026). In order to ensure his freedom to join Clark’s expedition, Logan resigned his commission in the Kentucky militia. See Charles Gano Talbert, Benjamin Logan: Kentucky Frontiersman (Lexington, Ky., 1962), 274.

2Virginia native John Montgomery (c.1748–1794) served under Clark during the Revolutionary War. For Montgomery’s solicitation of a position in the Louisiana expedition and his subsequent preparations for advancing his troops down the Mississippi River, see his letters to Clark of 26 Oct. 1793 and 12 Jan. 1794 (“Selections from the Draper Collection,” description begins “Selections from the Draper Collection in the Possession of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, to Elucidate the Proposed French Expedition under George Rogers Clark Against Louisiana, in the Years 1793-94.” In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1896, vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1897, pages 930-1107. description ends 1018–19, 1034).

3Montgomery informed Clark in his letter of 26 Oct. 1793 that there were “several old veteran officers” who were “very willing to Serve in your Command under me provided you should think proper to leave it in my power to favour them, they may be exceedingly Serviceable in raising and Dessiplening troops.” In an attempt to recruit troops, Clark, who identified himself as “Major General in the armies of France, and Commander in Chief of the French revolutionary Legions on the Missisippi River,” advertised for “Volunteers for the reduction of the Spanish posts on the Missisippi, for opening the trade of the said river, and giving freedom to its inhabitants &c. All persons serving the expedition, to be entitled to one thousand acres of Land—those that engage for one year, will be entitled to two thousand acres, if they serve two years or during the present war with France, they will have three thousand acres of any unappropriated Land that may be conquered—The officers in proportion pay &c. as other French troops.—All lawful Plunder to be equally divided agreeable to the custom of War. All necessaries will be provided for the interpize, and every precaution taken to cause the return of those who wish to quit the service, as comfortable as possible, and a reasonable number of days allowed them to return; at the expiration of which time their pay will cease. All persons will be commissioned agreeable to the number of men they bring into the field.—Those that serve the expedition, will have their choice of receiving their Lands or one Dollar per day” (Centinel of the North-western Territory [Cincinnati, Ohio], 25 January 1794).

4Horatio Hall, while a major in Kentucky militia, had served in the ill-fated expeditions of generals Josiah Harmar and Arthur St. Clair against hostile Indians in the Northwest Territory in 1790 and 1791, respectively. In July 1793, Hall was commissioned lieutenant colonel of a regiment of mounted volunteers in Maj. Gen. Charles Scott’s division of Kentucky militia. Hall later would serve as adjutant general in this same division in 1794. Capt. James Lanier was appointed commander of a company of volunteers in Hall’s regiment on 15 July 1793 and subsequently was commissioned as regimental paymaster on 20 Sept. 1793 (Clark, American Militia description begins Murtie June Clark. American Militia in the Frontier Wars, 1790-1796. Baltimore, 1990. description ends , 12–24, 68, 89–91).

5The expedition did not succeed, in part because Fauchet, the new French minister to the United States, issued a repudiation on 6 March, in which he declared that “Every Frenchman is forbid to violate the Neutrality of the United States. All commissions or authorizations tending to infringe that neutrality are revoked and are to be returned to the agents of the French Republic” (General Advertiser [Philadelphia], 7 March). On the administration’s efforts to thwart this expedition, see Cabinet Opinion on Expeditions Against Spanish Territory, 10 March; and GW’s Proclamation of 24 March. See also “An Act in addition to the act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States,” 5 June, which states that “if any citizen of the United States shall, within the territory or jurisdiction of the same, accept and exercise a commission to serve a foreign prince or state in war by land or sea, the person so offending shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and shall be fined not more than two thousand dollars, and shall be imprisoned not exceeding three years” (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:381–84).

6GW’s attempt in February 1793 to fill the position of U.S. district attorney for Kentucky failed when the nominee declined the office specifically because of difficulties in enforcing the collection of the federal excise tax on whiskey (Thomas Jefferson to GW, 19 June 1793 [first letter], n.3). An attempt in December 1793 to fill the vacancy also failed (GW to U.S. Senate, 27 Dec. 1793, and n.4 to that document). For the successful appointment of William McClung, see GW to U.S. Senate, 31 May.

Humphrey Marshall (1760–1841) was a native of Virginia and a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He moved to Kentucky in 1782, studied law, and began his practice in Fayette County. An ardent Federalist, he served in the Kentucky legislature, 1793–94 and 1807–9, and in the U.S. Senate, 1795–1801. The History of Kentucky (Frankfort, Ky., 1812) is among his published works.

7Contrary to the opinion of the letter’s author, Gov. Isaac Shelby was reluctant to interfere with Clark’s expedition, as seen in his letter to Jefferson of 13 Jan. 1794 (ASP, Foreign Relations 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 , 1:455–56).

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