George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Seagrove, 13 January 1795

From James Seagrove


Savannah in Georgia 13th January 1795


I hope you will pardon my presumtion in troubling you with a letter at this time, which I am necessiated to do, to guard against the effects of a most cruel and injust attack made on me as Indian Agent, by a set of Land Speculators in the Legislature of Georgia; with a view to injure me in your good opinion; and thereby to have what they conceive a very great obstacle to their schemes removed.

In order to effect their purpose with some plausable apperance, a resolution was formed by the intended purchasers and sellers of the Indian teritory; and as they had a majority in the House of representatives they did not doubt of carrying the same through however injust or unfounded.

These people knew my sentiments respecting their intended purchases; and they also knew that I should be a faithful guardian of the rights of the Indians, and of the reputation of the general Government (as far as rested with me) who had guaranteed to the Indians the peaceful enjoyment of these very lands about to be sold.

During my being in Philadelphia last summer—my name was put down in one of these land Company’s lists for Six Shares—with a view perhaps of bringing me over to their party. On my return here, I was made acquainted with this circumstance; upon which I wrote a letter to the Gentleman who put my name there; and desired it should be struck off the list—This doubtless alarmed and offended the party—who immediately pushed through the House of representatives the Resolution as contained in Constant Freemans letter of the 29th December, which I herewith enclose for your perusal.1

Another most powerful cause that actuated these worthy Speculators, as well these in the Legislature (for the majority are to a man interested in the purchase) as those out of doors, was that they should fail in their plan, unless they could bring over to their party one of the members of the Senate of this State, who had the casting vote on the bill—this they did by giving a large quantity of the lands, and pledging themselves to have me removed from office, whither right or wrong; and this worthy Senator put in my place.2 This information I have from one of the most respectable men in this Country, and who is interested in the purchase, and was on the spot at the time, and remonstrated against the measure as cruel and injust, but in vain, I must be the sacrifice it was decreed—I have not a doubt but I shall be able very soone to give you full evidence of this iniquitous business.

I am charged as you will please observe, in this Resolution with having made “uniform improper representations to the Supreme Executive of the United States; that I have put improper glosses on the Indians conduct &c.” To that Supreme Executive I chearfully submit the whole of my conduct on this and every other charge that the malice of my Enemy’s will dare bring against me.

If to tell truths, to do justice, and to risque my life to prevent an open War for three years last past, between the Georgians and the Indians, be a Crime—then I am guilty: And most true it is, that Obnoxious and guilty I appear in the Eyes of many in this Country for having done these very things—this is the sum of my offence: for the most malignant of these bad men, hath not dared to come forward with one Specifick charge against me. I therefore rest satisfyed on your goodness and justice, that the general, vague, and injust asspersions and attempts to blast my reputation, and thereby have me removed from office, will have no weight with you; And that should any specifick charge be exhibited I hope I shall have an opportunity given me of confronting the same.

So long as a person honored with my appointment, do’s his duty honestly to the United States, he must expect such attacks from these people: But whilst I am so happy as to preserve your good opinion, I care not for all such—but shall continue to go on doing my duty honestly & uprightly without courting the smiles, or dreading the frowns, of Speculators or restless Adventurers, who alone are my Enemy’s in this country; and that purely on Account of my office. The truth is Sir, these people want a creature of their own appointed, from whom they would expect no opposition, and thereby shut the door against information or truth respecting Indian affairs in this quarter. I think it very probable that a Senator of Georgia to Congress, who is the Hero and Champion of all this land business, may endeavour to injure me with you—having no friend to oppose to him, my dependance is on my conscious inocence and rectitude of conduct to my Employers and country; and a relyance upon your unerring justice.3

I must request your patience whilst I state briefly to you what has lately taken place in Georgia respecting Indian matters.

On the 7th Instant the Governor gave his assent to an act of the Legislature whereby this State sells it’s right to about Forty Millions of Acres of western teritory, to four Company’s of men, for which they receive half a Million of Dollars in Cash—One fourth paid down, and the remainder by the first of november next. Titles are executed by the State on the first payment, and the property Mortgaged for the remainder. The Lands thus sold are contained in the following boundary lines, and Comprehend the whole of the Indian Towns, settlements and hunting grounds within this vast extent of teritory—Bounded West by the Missisippi, South by the southern boundary of Georgia (or reather United States) from the Missisippi, to the bay of mobile—East by the River Tensaw to the junction of the Alabama, along that River to the junction of the Coosa and Talapoosa—along the Coosa to its’ source—and thence to the top of the lookout mountain in the Cherokee Country—thence a North course to the Northern boundary of Georgia, and West by that line to the Missisippia, and down the said River to the begining. Out of these lines, about Nine million Acres are reserved by in four Tracts particularly layed off for the use of this State to sell at a future day.4

The whole of the lands within these bounds is computed to be upwards of Forty Million of acres.

But, Sir, I have to inform you of a more immediately alarming matter, which is, that a law passed at same time, for opening a land office by this State for the sale of the Indian lands between the Rivers Oconee and Oakmulgee—this is with a condition, that leave be granted by Congress to purchase the Indians claim; for which purpose a sum of the money obtained for the sale of the Western lands is set apart; and three Commissioners are actualy appointed to treat with the Indians for the purchase—These Commissioners are, Governor Mathews, the late Judge Houstoun, and the present Judge Walton—so that you see my predictions for years past, with regard to the intentions of the Georgians is fulfilling every day.5 This last Act, tho’ it carry’s a specious apperance of purchase from the Indians do’s not realy intend it; and whatever may be said or urged by the people of this country to the contrary, it is my candid opinion that un[l]ess you prevent it; that the Creeks will be robed of the land in question, and much more. I am also certain, that as soone as the Indians hear what the Georgians have done, that they will consider themselves about to be sacrifised; and that unless powerful and persuasive arguments are used to them, that they will have recourse to Arms; in which case they will receive a chearful and ready support from the Spainards, who are ready on every occasion to widen the breach between the Americans and Indians. I shall make use of every justifyable argument in my power to keep the Indians in peace and quiet, until I can hear your determination.

As old Mr Cornell, my deputy in the Upper Creeks is now here, I shall dispatch him in a few days, with Talks from me to the Chiefs; some of whom came down with him, namely the mad Dog of Tuckabatchee, Mad Hicory & the Beau—these very good friends of America and powerful Chiefs.6

Their business was to give assurance to the Governor of Georgia of the endeavours makeing in the Nation to comply with their engagements to me; and to request that a Trade might be opened for their Nation, as it was the ardent wish of them all to brake off from the Spainards.7 I am exceeding sorry to be obliged to inform you; that a resolution was moved in the Senate of Georgia to have these Chiefs taken into Custody and imprisoned until the Treaty of New York should be fully complyd with; and all injury’s done to Georgia since that period made good—this was so public, having been debated in open Senate for some days—that the Chiefs must have heard it, as they grew uneasy and would not wait my return tho’ very anxious to see me—so went home no doubt much displeased—leaving Mr Cornell to wait my arrival and to carry the news I should bring from you home to them.

I have every reason to believe that it is determined that Clarke and his party will go out in the Spring and take posession of the Indian Country as before;8 unless a very respectable Federal force be sent to this frontier, and stationed on the Indian side of the boundary line, which I can have permission for from the Indians. Should you think of allowing the Georgians to Treat with the Creeks, I request you will give me instructions—until then I shall prevent their doing any thing in that way publicly—I believe they are tampering with the Indians, and some bad white people who live among them—The enclosed Original Letter or address from General Clarkes party to the Chief ⟨of t⟩he Creeks will serve to strengthen this opinion, as well as to let you see how little these people regard the laws of Congress.9

The Spainards continue urging the Indians all they possible can to make War on the United States: Mr Cornell declares, he heard the Spanish Agent (just before he left the Nation) tell them to go out in large body’s against the American settlements; and desired that Ten Men from each Town in the Nation should go with Horses to Pensacola, and there receive Arms & Amunition as much as they could take away.

This Land business of Georgia will be Nuts to the Spainard and they will make the most of it no doubt. The Indians have no inclination to make War on us, as a proof, they have ordered the spanish Agents out of the Nation, and they are gone—But on this News its probable they will be called back.10

I hope most sincerely, Congress will adopt your plan of furnishing the Indians with goods. I pointed out the necessity of this so very fully in my statements to the Secretary of War, just before I left Philadelphia, and which doubtless you have seen, that I shall not trouble you more with it at present.11

I have been talking with some Gentlemen of Fortune in the mercantile line—who I believe would engage to carry on this Trade without any public assistance so as to answer every purpose; provided you would assure them a constant Garrison of Four or Five hundred Men, at the place where they would fix the whole of their Trade on this frontier—I herewith enclose you Copy of a letter I wrote Governor Mathews on the 5th Instant: as yet I have no answer.12

I cannot omit ment[ion]ing as matter of absolute truth, that several parties of Armed Men from difft parts of this country, marched toward Augusta to prevent the Legislature from Selling the Western teritory: but were too late. The people of Georgia in General are much displeased at the sale, and will I think offer violence to some of the representatives. I enclose you my Letter rejecting the offer of Six shares in the Indians lands, and the Answer thereto.13

Should any bad consequences arrise to the United States from the Sale of these lands, the Georgians will not alone be to blame, as several Gentlemen in Philadelphia and other of the northren States, have advised it; and assisted with Money to carry on the scheme. One of the Associat⟨e⟩ Judges of the U.S. deposited when at Augusta (about Six weeks past) Twenty five thousand Dollars, and he is very largely interested—His example encouraged several people who would not otherwise have joined in it.14

I am informed that the sum set apart by this State, to purchase the lands between the Oconee & Oakmulgee (which is exclusive of the land in the fork granted by the Treaty of Newyork) is Forty thousand Dollars15—With all possible defference and respect, I request I may be allowed to offer an opinion on this business.

In the first place the lands between the main stream of the Oconee and the South fork, or Chulapacka16 is at this hour as much considered by the Indians as their property as if the Treaty of New York had never taken place; their reasons for this I have repeatedly communicated; an⟨d⟩ I am fully of opinion, that it will be as easy a matter, to get from them the whole of the lands from the confluence of the Oconee & Oakmulgee—establishing the latter river as the boundary, from it’s falling into the river Alatamaha to it’s source; and from thence in a direct line to the Northern boundary of Georgia & so. Carolina as it will be to get them to part with the first mentioned part.

Would it not therefore be well to try the Indians, whether they would part with the whole, and thereby satisfy them and the Georgians—I believe, Sir, that should I receive your authority for so doing—that I can bring this business about.

The mode I would propose paying the Indians for these Lands, would be, by an Anuity equal to the full Interest of the sum agreed to be paid by the State of Georgia for the purchase—As for instance—Georgia agrees to pay Forty Thousand Dollars for this additional Cession of land—this sum to be loaned by the Indians to the United States, and the Interest arrising, together with the Fifteen hundred Dollars, which Congress are bound to pay Annualy for a part of this land—would establish a yearly and permenant fund for the Nation to provide them with clothing—This would be much better then by giving a large sum at once, which would be waisted in a short time.

By adopting something of this kind, much mischief, expence, and very probably Blood may be spared.

I hope you will pardon this intrusion; and that you will believe me with unalterable attachment Your faithful Devoted Obedient Very Humble Servant

Js Seagrove Agent
Indian Affairs

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1The letter from Constant Freeman has not been identified. Seagrove probably was offered shares in the Georgia Mississippi Company, since Nathaniel Pendleton, who reserved the shares for him, was most associated with that company.

2Seagrove may have been referring to Roberts Thomas (d. 1795) of Hancock County (see depositions in ASP 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 , Public Lands, 1:146–49).

3Seagrove was referring to James Gunn, who helped to establish the Georgia Company as part of a movement among land speculators in late 1794 and early 1795 to purchase the state’s western territory, which Georgians claimed extended to the Mississippi River. Gunn and other speculators sought to obtain support in the Georgia General Assembly for a bill to sell the land to his company, the Upper Mississippi Company, the Tennessee Company, and the Georgia Mississippi Company by promising shares in their organizations to influential residents, legislators, state officials, and Georgians who held federal offices. For details of Gunn’s activities, see George R. Lamplugh, Politics on the Periphery: Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783–1806 (Newark, Del., 1986), 107–11).

4Seagrove was referring to “An Act supplementary to an act, entitled ‘An act for appropriating a part of the unlocated territory of this State for the payment of the late State troops, and for other purposes therein mentioned.’” In this law, the Georgia legislature defined the state’s western boundaries based upon statements in the 1781 Articles of Confederation; the 1783 Treaty of Paris; the Convention at Beaufort, S.C., held 28 April 1787; Georgia’s Land Act of 17 Sept. 1787; and articles IV, VI, and IX of the 1787 federal Constitution.

The Georgia law claimed that the state “hath by no act, or in any manner whatever, transferred alienated, or conveyed her right of soil or pre-emption in any part of the vacant territory within the limits of the said State, to the United States.” Georgia remained “in full possession and in the full exercise of the juris-diction and territorial right and the fee simple” of all its territory, and declared “that the right of pre-emption, to vacant and unappropriated lands lying westwardly and southwestwardly of the present Indian temporary line, and within the limits of the said State, and the fee simple thereof, together with the right of disposing thereof” existed “in the State of Georgia only.”

The law then divided and sold most of the western land claims “in fee simple” to four companies: the Georgia Company, represented by James Gunn, Matthew McAllister, and George Walker; the Georgia Mississippi Company, represented by Nicholas Long, Thomas Glascock, Ambrose Gordon, and Thomas Cumming; the Upper Mississippi Company, represented by John B. Scott, John C. Nightingale, and Wade Hampton; and the Tennessee Company, represented by Zachariah Cox and Matthias Maher.

While the above grants were considered “free from taxation until the inhabitants thereof are represented in the legislature,” the purchasers were not to encourage any hostile acts upon the Indian tribes found within the state boundaries. In addition, they must “keep this State free from all charges and expences which may attend the preserving of peace between the said Indians and the grantees, and extinguishing the Indian claims to the territory included within their respective purchases.” Once Indian claims to land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers were extinguished, the grantees of the land companies and their associates could apply to the U.S. government for its “concurrence in extinguishing the Indian claims to the different tracts … or as much thereof as to them may seem practicable, which extinguishment of claims … shall be at the proper expence of the respective companies, and within five years thereafter the said companies shall severally form settlements on the lands where the claims may be so extinguished, or forfeit the further sum of five thousand dollars for each company so failing.”

The law also stipulated that the grantees of the land companies or their associates could dispose of any part of their grants to any foreign power (DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, second session, entry 33; see also ASP 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 , Indian Affairs, 1:552–55).

5Seagrove was referring to “An Act for appropriating a part of the unlocated territory of this State for payment of the late State troops, and for other purposes therein mentioned,” 28 Dec. 1794 (ASP 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 , Indian Affairs, 1:551–52).

6The deputy agent was Joseph Cornell (died c.1795), who had been the Creek interpreter at the 1790 Treaty of New York. He was the father-in-law of Alexander McGillivray. Mad Hickory of Tuckabatchie probably was Oche Haujo (Alexander Cornell; d. 1816), a nephew of the interpreter who became a deputy agent under Benjamin Hawkins.

7In a talk of 19 Nov. 1794, Mad Dog informed the governor of Georgia: “I have always been anxious to live upon friendly terms with the Spaniards, they having advised us to make peace with the Americans; but since my taking Mr. Seagrove, the Agent of the United States by the hand, they tell me my hands stink so of the Americans that they will have nothing to say to me, or give me any assistance.

“The one of the objects of my present visit is to know if a trade can be opened with the United States, as on that measure the friendship of the red people will in a great degree depend” (Georgia Gazette [Savannah], 19 Feb. 1795).

8For the earlier attempt by Elijah Clarke and his followers to establish a settlement west of the Oconee River, see Seagrove to Henry Knox, 4 June 1794, and n.3 to that document, and Knox to GW, 28 July 1794, and n.1 to that document.

9The enclosed letter has not been identified.

10Mad Dog discussed the Spanish agents in his talk to the governor of Georgia on 19 Nov. 1794: “The Spaniards and traders in our land are the chief cause of all the disturbances which happen. … I am well assured the Governor of West Florida, at Pensacola, and Mr. Panton, send amongst us persons to disturb the peace between us and the Americans; the names of the persons thus employed are, James Burges of East Florida, James Derezeau, Daniel McGillivray, Robert Grierson, and Joseph Stiggens, who are bribed by the Governor and Panton. I must still complain of the Spaniards; when they found they could not make me subservient to their schemes they had recourse to the above named persons, who do every thing in their power to disturb the nation, and involve them in a war with the United States. I have sent three times to the Spaniards, complaining of their conduct, but received no answer” (Georgia Gazette [Savannah], 19 Feb. 1795).

11Seagrove was referring to the proposal for regulation of trade with the Indians expressed in GW’s annual messages to Congress of 3 Dec. 1793 and 19 Nov. 1794.

12In his letter to George Mathews, Seagrove requested copies of the communications that the governor had with the Indians and Seagrove’s deputies during Seagrove’s absence at Philadelphia. “My object in this,” Seagrove wrote, “is that in my communications with the Indians, I may not from ignorance of what you have done, counteract or impeed any favourable measure adopted by your Excellency.” So that Mathews could “form a just Idea of my plan with respect to Indian matters,” Seagrove enclosed copies of what he had laid before GW through the secretary of war. “How far these opinions of mine, will justify the late resolution of the House of Representatives of Georgia, I submit to your Excellency, and every unperjudeced honest man to determine: But Sir the man who in my office does his duty uprightly must lay out his accounts for having such injust attacts made on him, these things shall not alter my resolution of doing all the good I can for my Country.” He then requested Mathews submit the information to the legislature if it was in session (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

13Seagrove wrote to Nathaniel Pendleton 14 Dec. 1794: “Since my return from the Northward … I have understood that my name is put on one of the company’s lists for Six Shares in the intended Land purchase of the Western teritory from the Legislature of Georgia; and that it is in the Company of which you are one.

“I am much obliged to my friends for this mark of attention: But as I consider it altogether incompatible with my present appointment to be directly or indirectly concerned in the Sale or purchase of any Indian lands, as well as having a very unfavourable opinion of the whole of the intended land purchase I must therefore request that you will [have] my name struck off the list, as I shall not on any account be concerned therein” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

Pendleton replied on 18 Dec. 1794: “I procured the Six Shares or four hundredth parts … to be reserved for you, not supposing it incompatible with the Duties of your office to hold an interest in these Company’s. I am sorry you think otherwise, which being the case you will be no longer considered a member” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

14Justice James Wilson held ten shares in the Georgia Company, valued at £25,000 (ASP 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 , Public Lands, 1:141).

15Seagrove was referring to the land between the Apalachee and Oconee rivers. Article 4 of the 1790 Treaty of New York drew a portion of the boundary between the United States and the Creek Nation from “the head or source of the main south branch of the Oconee river, called the Appalachee; thence down the middle of the said main south branch and river Oconee, to its confluence with the Oakmulgee.” To extinguish Creek claims to “any of the land lying to the northward and eastward of the boundary herein described,” the United States promised to deliver to the Creeks “certain valuable Indian goods now in the state of Georgia” and to pay them $1,500 annually (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).

16Chulapocca is a variant name for the Apalachee River.

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