George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 14 May 1794

From Henry Knox

14 May 1794


I have the honor to submit to your consideration the draft of a letter to the Governor of Georgia modified according to the ideas suggested by the secretary of the treasury. It appears that the secretary of state is against the employment of regular troops, or of the Militia excepting in the cases pointed out by a law of Congress.1 I have the honor to be with great respect Your humble Servt

H. Knox


1Knox’s proposed letter to Georgia governor George Mathews of this date referred to reports that an expedition against Spanish territory was being organized in Georgia. Knox conveyed GW’s desire that, if necessary, Mathews should "take the most energetic and decisive measures within your power for the suppressing the said design, by calling to your aid the well affected Militia of your State, at the expence of the United States, and also by using the regular troops of the United States, which are in the State of Georgia for which purpose I have given Lieut: Col: Gaither the necessary orders herein enclosed" (DLC:GW).

Alexander Hamilton’s note on the draft suggests replacing the text between the words "by calling" and "Georgia" with the following sentence: "If the circumstances should require the employment of the Militia I am authorised to assure you that it may be done at the expence of the U. States and I am also directed to put under your direction the regular troops of the U. States," and Hamilton signed the draft "with this alteration approved."

Edmund Randolph wrote: "It is a fixed principle with me, that the regular troops cannot be legally employed, as is contemplated in this letter; and that the militia cannot be so employed, except in the form pointed out by a law of congress. Instead therefore of the words on the second page, (which, I think, ought to be struck out, as conveying an idea, to which I cannot subscribe, in the general shape given to it) I should approve of referring the governor to that law, as auxiliary to a case of necessity."

According to the copy of Knox’s letter submitted to Congress with GW’s message of 20 May, the letter was sent with Hamilton’s suggested alteration (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 , 1:460).

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