George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 1 June 1794

From Henry Knox

Sunday 1st June 1794


It is with great pain I submit the enclosed letters from Major Roberts, and Captain Freeman giving information of the recent disturbances and appearances of war which have arisen on the frontiers of Georgia.1 The protection of the frontiers by Militia, appears to be the certain mean of bringing on a war which the U.S. are desirous of avoiding. It seems however indispensible that these communications should be laid before Congress, but whether with a special message, or a simple communication by me, requires some consideration. For this purpose I shall wait upon you tomorrow Morni[n]g.2

I also submit two other letters, one from the Govr of Virginia, and the other the Governor of Maryland.3 I am Sir respectfully Your obt Servt

H. Knox


1Knox enclosed three letters to him from Constant Freeman, dated 29 April, 9 May, and 10 May, and two letters to him from Maj. Richard Brooke Roberts, both dated 10 May, "stating the critical situation of things on that frontier, impossibility of preventing hostilities between the Militia of Georgia & the Indians. Mentions some recent murders & in short a commencement of hostilities" (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 306). The original letters have not been identified, but copies of the four May letters, certified by War Department clerk John Stagg, Jr., on 2 June, were enclosed with GW’s message to Congress of that date. Roberts enclosed letters about Indian hostilities and reported two incidents in which friendly Indians were attacked by whites. His garrison of "no more than sixty nine effective" at Fort Fidius was "not able to enforce a protection to either inhabitants or themselves." Freeman reported the same incidents (DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793-95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; see also 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 , 1:482-84).

2Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., replied to Knox in a letter of this date: "By the President’s order B. Dandridge returns the papers herewith enclosed to the Secy of War. The President is of opinion that the communications from Georgia should be prepared for Congress immediately—& wishes the Secy to consult the other Gent. of Departmts with regard to a proper message to accompany them—& to communicate the result to him" (DLC:GW).

3GW’s journal of proceedings for this date records the receipt of a letter "of 20 May" from Maryland Gov. Thomas Sim Lee to Knox "on the subject of organizing the Militia of that State agreeably to Act of Congress, directing a detachment of the Militia of the U.S. and stating circumstances which will prevent it’s being carried into complete effect in that State." The original has not been identified, but a letter-book copy, dated 26 May, is in MdAA: Letterbooks of Governor and Council, 1787-1820. Lee pointed out that although the militia were required by law to arm and equip themselves at their own expense, the federal law "imposes no penalty at all for the omission," and the state law "imposes only a fine of four cents per annum." Consequently, "the number of men pointed out as the proportion of Maryland will not in all probability be armed and equipped under the militia Regulations at present subsisting." Dandridge’s letter to Knox of this date informed him that "The President query’s whether it will not be proper to communicate also the letter from the Govr of Maryland" (DLC:GW).

The letter from Virginia Gov. Henry Lee to Knox of 25 May has not been identified, but it was "relative to the progress of the fortifications at" Norfolk (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 306-7). Knox replied to Lee on 9 June: "Major Rivardi estimated that twelve hundred dollars would be required in addition to the Sum appropriated to Norfolk and he was informed that he might proceed upon the principle of that sum being added[.] Your attention to this important object is acknowledged by all to have greatly facilitated and accelerated its progress" (Vi: Governors’ Letters; see also Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 7:174).

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