George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 31 December 1794

From Henry Knox

Department of War December 31—1794


I have the honor to enclose you the opinion of James Seagrove agent for the Creek Nation upon the subject of the negroes which ought to have been returned in pursuance of the treaty of New York.1

I beg leave to add that if the United States deem it inexpedient to press for a return of the negroes that it would appear proper that the owners should be compensated conformably to some equitable principles to be devised.

If this idea should be just it would be proper for the President to present it to Congress in the just shape of which it is susceptible.2 I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your obedient servant

H. Knox
secy of war

Copy, DNA: RG 46, entry 33. The copy, which was certified by State Department clerk George Taylor, Jr., as a “True Copy,” was enclosed with GW’s message to Congress of 12 Jan. 1795 (see n.2).

1James Seagrove’s opinion, evidently an extract from a longer memorandum, reads: “It is the Agent’s opinion, that it is a thing impossible for the Indians to comply with the Treaty of New York so far as respects giving up the Negro’s, and other property taken from the Citizens of Georgia from the conclusion of the late british War until the time of forming said Treaty: and that therefore to prevent a useless and disagreeable altercation, the General Government had better make good the losses, sustained—which will not be very great—the number of Negro’s taken under these Circumstances by the Creeks cannot he thinks exceed Sixty or Seventy—The former owners of Negro’s would be pleased with this mode of Settlement” (copy, DNA: RG 46, entry 33). The third article of the Treaty of New York of 7 Aug. 1790 required the Creeks to “deliver as soon as practicable … all citizens of the United States, white inhabitants or negroes, who are now prisoners in any part of the said nation” (Kappler, Indian Treaties description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends , 2:26).

2GW submitted this letter and its enclosure to Edmund Randolph, who returned the letter on 9 Jan. 1795, with an opinion “suggesting the propriety of communicating the Extract from Seagrove’s letter in a message to congress, without intimating any particular steps; but leaving the affair to their consideration of what is best to be done” (AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State).

On 12 Jan. 1795, GW wrote Congress: “I lay before Congress for their consideration the copy of a letter from the Secretary of War, accompanied by an Extract from a memorandum of James Seagrove, Agent of Indian affairs” (LS, DNA: RG 46, entry 33; copy, DNA: RG 233, entry 19, Journals; LB, DLC:GW).

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