George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 16 July 1794

From Henry Knox

War department July 16, 1794


I have the honor to submit a letter of the 9th Instant from General Chapin, just received by express, and enclosing a Copy of the proceedings at Buffaloe Creek on the 4th Instant.1 The Secretary of State Attorney General and myself met this morning upon this business, and the Secretary of State was to draft a letter to the Governor conformably to our opinion, to be submitted for your correction or approbation.2 Therefore after you have perused the dispatches now submitted, Mr Dandridge will be so good as to transmit them to the Secretary of State. I have the honor to be Sir, with perfect respect Your obedient Servant

H. Knox


1Israel Chapin’s letter to Knox of 9 July has not been identified, but Knox quoted a passage from that letter in his letter to Pennsylvania governor Thomas Mifflin of 17 July: "Their [the Six Nations] main anxiety is at present respecting the settlement at Presqu’ Isle as they say they have not fairly sold the land, the lines I described to you last winter are strongly adhered to by them And if the party at Le Boeuff proceed to erect Garrisons at Presqu Isle it will immediately call the attention of the hostile Indians that way and would in a short time involve the Six Nations in war which they wish to avoid. They wish to continue in a state of neutrality if possible" (PHarH: Executive Correspondence, 1790-99).

The enclosed copy of the proceedings at Buffalo Creek has also not been identified. However, Knox sent a copy (certified by War Department clerk John Stagg, Jr.) with his letter to Mifflin of 17 July, and another copy was submitted to Congress on 20 Nov. in support of GW’s annual message, dated 19 Nov. (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 , 1:522-23). The proceedings consist almost entirely of a speech addressed to GW by the Seneca chief "Captain Obail" (Cornplanter): "now I call you friend.

"We the Six Nations ever since the beginning of the world have had love for one another—We have now assembled concerning the business we sent to Presqu’ isle, as we have received an answer to the Message which we sent to that place.

"The answer we had brought from the Men at Le Boeuf relates everything that has taken place since the peace—they mention every payment that has been made, and the greater part they have told us is not true.

"Genl Washington attend—What gives us room for the making of so many speeches, is because you relate all the former deceptions which have been used.

"There is but one word that was said at Le Boeuf, that makes me glad, which was that they had given me land, but to compleat my wishes, I desire that the whole Six Nations might have land given them also.

"Genl Washington, I depend upon you to grant our request, and that will make my mind easy, for sometimes I hear that I am going to flee from my seat for the injuries I have done—These reflections make me so unhappy that I am almost tempted to die with the Six Nations.

"Brother. We are as determined now as we were before, that the line shall remain—We have fully considered on the boundary we have marked out, we know all that we have received from time to time, and we think if you establish this line, it will make us about even.

"Brother. If you do not comply with our request, we shall determine on something else, as we are a free people.

"Brother. We are determined to be a free people—You know, Genl Washington, that we the Six Nations have always been able to defend ourselves, and we are still determined to maintain our freedom.

"Brother. You must not suspect that any other Nation corrupts our minds—The only thing that can corrupt our minds is not to grant our request.

"Brother. If this favor is not granted, I wish that my Son may be sent back with the answer, and tell me which side he means to join—if he wishes to join that side, he is at liberty.

"Genl Washington, I wish you would give an answer as soon as possible to this speech, and I desire that the Messengers who bring it should come to this place."

Chapin replied that GW was "a firm friend to the Six Nations" and that the speech would be forwarded to him "as soon as possible" (PHarH: Executive Correspondence, 1790-99).

2The final product of this process probably was Knox’s letter to Mifflin of 17 July, which replied to Mifflin’s letter to GW of 15 July. Knox briefly reviewed the information about the Six Nations supplied by Mifflin and the new information from Chapin and concluded, "We cannot well doubt therefore that the immediate prosecution of the establishment at Presqu Isle would call that Confederacy to Arms against the United States." Noting that Chapin had urged "the appointment of Commissioners, who may treat on behalf of the United States and Pennsylvania with the Six Nations," that Andrew Ellicott "thinks that all differences may be accomodated by treaty," and that "Such also I understood were the sentiments of your Excellency in a conversation that I had the honor of holding with you," Knox reported that GW was "ready to nominate a Commissioner for opening a treaty with the Six Nations at the Genesee River on the Fifteenth day of September next" to act in conjunction with a commissioner from Pennsylvania to "adjust all discontents against the establishment at Presqu Isle." He added that it was not GW’s "intention by this proposition to cast any doubts upon the validity of the Pennsylvania title: that must stand upon its own Ground. But under the present circumstances it must occur to you Sir that the peaceable accommodation of the heart burning of the Six Nations is an object of great importance."

Knox concluded: "It was never contemplated by the President of the United States to carry his opinions upon this subject farther than to state them as strongly as they were conceived by him. It is with your Excellency to compare them with your constitutional and legal powers. If our enemies should receive so powerful an accession as the Six Nations, the general Government cannot be reproached for inattention or neglect to make full representations of the danger to be apprehended" (PHarH: Executive Correspondence, 1790-99).

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