George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 21 July 1794

From Henry Knox

War department. July 21st 1794.


I have the honor to submit to your consideration, the draft of an answer to the letter from the Governor of this State, dated the 18th instant;1 and also a draft of Instructions to Col. Pickering2—The Secretary of State and the Attorney General concur in the approbation of these papers—If the outlines of the instructions should receive your approbation, arrangements and instructions, in pursuance thereto, for General Chapin, shall be prepared.3 I am, Sir, Most respectfully, Your obedt Servt

H. Knox.


1The draft has not been identified. Knox’s letter of this date to Thomas Mifflin informed the governor that it was not GW’s "intention that any personal embarrassment should be produced to you from the suspension of the establishment at Presqu’Isle. It has been uniformly avowed to your Excellency to be his Wish that it should be suspended until efforts should be made for removing the temporary obstacles. The expression of this wish was a duty; inasmuch as an harmonious cooperation of the State Governments with the general governments must always be necessary upon subjects, in which the movements of the former may essentially counteract those of the latter. Still the President does not mean to press upon your Excellency the slightest infringement of your constitutional or legal powers; for while he himself pursues the constitution and laws of the United States he shall always observe respect to those of individual States. Whatsoever responsibility therefore is attached to the communication of his desire to your Excellency he readily assumes and he deems it a fortunate circumstance that you have thought yourself hitherto at liberty to comply with it.

"How long the temporary obstacles to this settlement will continue it is impossible to determine. They will certainly last until the campaign against the Western Indians is ended unless the disposition of the Six Nations should be materially changed. Neither your Excellency nor the Attorney General have defined the period to which the suspension may under the circumstances, stated by him be legally continued. But as the enlistments of the Troops do not expire before the first of December and may be continued longer and as the period for allowing bounties for actual settlement does not close before the first of next May it is evident, that there is sufficient time for holding a treaty with the Six Nations if begun about the middle of September. A Commissioner will attend for that purpose in behalf of the United States at Canandarqua on the fifteenth day of September next, and those tribes will be invited thither. As the object will be not only to prevent them from engaging in hostility against us, but also to procure an acquiescence in the settlement proposed, it may be naturally expected that their objections to the purchase will stand very forward. It might prove beneficial if a Commissioner could be sent from Pennsylvania. But it appears from your Excellency’s last letter that this cannot be done Our Commissioner therefore will take charge of the documents, which you have promised and will use his best endeavours to quiet the discontents. He will not be authorized to make any concessions injurious to the Title nor to give expectation of any further compensation from your State. If he cannot accommodate the dispute under the influence of the United States by proper explanations he will report the result as the basis of ulterior measures" (PHarH: Executive Correspondence, 1790-99).

2The enclosed draft has not been identified. On 29 July, GW "Approved, with some alterations suggested, the Instructions from the War Departmt. to Colo. Pickering, for treating with the Six Nations at Canandogua the 8 Septemr" (JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 316).

3Knox wrote Israel Chapin on 25 July, asking him "immediately to notify the Six Nations of Indians ’that their father the President of the United States is deeply concerned to hear of any dissatisfaction existing in their minds against the United States and therefore invites them to a conference to be held at Canandaiqua the eighth day of September next ensuing for the purpose of amicably removing all causes of misunderstanding and establishing permanent peace and friendship between the United States and the Six Nations.’" Chapin was to "make arrangements for an adequate supply of provisions and suitable accommodations" for the conference, and if the Indians arrived before Pickering, Chapin was to "endeavor to render them as tranquil as possible until his arrival" (NHi: Henry O’Reilly Collection).

Index Entries