George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Edmund Pendleton, 22 January 1795

To Edmund Pendleton

Philadelphia Jany 22d 1795.

Dear Sir,

From a long acquaintance with, and a sincere regard for you, I always feel pleasure in hearing from you—and of you—consequently, your letter of the 30th ult. was an acceptable annuity.

Notwithstanding you have passed your 73 year, whilst you enjoy tolerable health, and retain your faculties in the vigor they are, I wish as well on public, as on private account, that length of days may be added to those which you have already numbered. A month from this day, if I live to see the completion of it, will place me on the wrong (perhaps it would be better to say, on the advanced) side of my grand climacteric;1 and altho’ I have no cause to complain of the want of health, I can religiously aver that no man was ever more tired of public life, or more devoutly wished for retirement, than I do.

I hope, and believe, that the spirit of anarchy in the western counties of this State (to quell which the force of the Union was called for) is entirely subdued; and altho’ to effect it, the community has been saddled with a considerable expence, yet I trust no money could have been more advantageously expended; both as it respects the internal peace & welfare of this country, and the impression it will make on others. The spirit with which the Militia turned out, in support of the Constitution, and the laws of our country—at the sametime that it does them immortal honor—is the most conclusive refutation that could have been given to the assertions of Lord Sheffield, and the predictions of others of his cast2—that without the protection of G. Britain, we should be unable to govern ourselves; and would soon be involved in anarchy & confusion. They will see that republicanism is not the phantom of a deluded imagination: on the contrary, that under no form of government, will laws be better supported—liberty and property better secured—or happiness be more effectually dispensed to mankind.

The successes of our Army to the westward has, already, been productive of good consequences. They have dispelled a cloud which lowered very heavily in the northern hemisphere (six nations)—and tho’ we have received no direct advices from General Wayne since November,3 there is reason to believe that the Indians with whom we are, or were, at war in that quarter—together with their abetters—begin to see things in a different point of view; but what effect these favorable changes may have on the Southern Indians, is not easy, at this moment, to decide.

I accord fully in opinion with you, that the plan of annual presents in an abstract view, unaccompanied with other measures, is not the best mode of treating ignorant Savages, from whose hostile conduct we experience much distress; but it is not to be overlooked, that they, in turn, are not without serious causes of complaint, from the encroachments which are made on their lands by our people; who are not to be restrained by any law now in being, or likely to be enacted. They, poor wretches, have no Press thro’ which their grievances are related; and it is well known, that when one side only of a Story is heard, and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it, insensibly—The annual presents however, which you allude to, are not given so much with a view to purchase peace, as by way of retribution4 for injuries, not otherwise to be redressed. These people are very much irritated by the continual pressure of land Speculators & settlers on one hand; & by the impositions of unauthorised, & unprincipled traders (who rob them in a manner of their hunting) on the other. Nothing but the strong arm of the Union—or in other words—energetic laws,5 can correct these abuses—but here! jealousies, & prejudices (from which I apprehend more fatal consequences to this government than from any other source) aided by local situations—& perhaps by interested considerations, always oppose themselves to efficient measures.

My communications to Congress at the last and present Session, have proceeded upon similar ideas with those expressed in your letter—namely—to make fair treaties with the Savage tribes—(by this I mean that they shall perfectly understand every article & clause of them from correct & repeated interpretations)—that these treaties shall be held sacred, & the infractors on either side punished exemplarily; and to furnish them plentifully with goods under wholesome regulations, without aiming at higher prices than is adequate to cover the cost, & charges.6 If measures like these were adopted, we might hope to live in peace & amity with these borderers; but not whilst our citizens, in violation of law and justice, are guilty of the offences I have mentioned, & are carrying on unauthorised expeditions against them—and when, for the most attrocious murders, even of those of whom we have the least cause of complaint, a Jury on the frontiers, can hardly be got to listen to a charge, much less to convict a culprit.

The madness of European powers, and the calamitous situation into which all of them are thrown by the present ruinous War, ought to be a serious warning to us, to avoid a similar catastrophe as long as we can with honor & justice to our national character. What will be the result of Mr Jay’s mission, is more than I am able, at this moment, to disclose. Charged as he has been with all matters in dispute between the two countries (not, as has been insinuated in some of the Gazettes, merely to that of spoliation) it may easily be conceived that there would be a large field of discussion; but upon what principle (except that of piracy) to account for the conduct of the Bermudian privateers, at this stage of the negotiation, is beyond my comprehension on any fair ground of conjecture; as it must swell the bill.7 With very great esteem & regard I am—Dear Sir Your affecte Hble Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, MHi: Washburn Papers; ALS (letterpress copy), DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

1The grand climacteric is the sixty-third year of human life.

2A member of Parliament, John Baker Holroyd (1735–1821), Baron Sheffield of Dunamore and later Earl of Sheffield, wrote Observations on the Commerce of the American States (London, 1783) to express his opposition to a proposed bill to relax England’s navigation laws in favor of the United States. In a “New Edition, Much Enlarged,” published at Dublin and London in 1784, Sheffield offered the following observation: “some may doubt what turn the American States will take, and with many it may reasonably be a question, whether the trade ever will be again in so prosperous a state for America. Confusion and anarchy are likely to prevail for some time. Our descendants, the New Englanders, apt to be troublesome to themselves, as well as to others … may assume a tone, which, however, will now avail them little in Europe. Their natural disposition will be heightened by finding they have lost the principal market for their shipping, lumber, the produce of the whale fishery, and much of the carrying trade. They will machinate, and must attempt to manage. The weakness of the Southern States has not a little to fear from their interference. It remains to be seen, whether the southern will become the puppets of the northern, whether the Middle Colonies will be the dupes to the northern, or a barrier to the Southern States. … Nothing is more uncertain than political speculation. … but it is certain, that the confusion of the American States can now only hurt themselves” (pp. 275–76).

The phrase “and the predictions of others of his cast” does not appear in the letter-book copy.

3The news of Anthony Wayne’s victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on 20 Aug. 1794 reached Philadelphia on 30 September. Wayne’s letter to Henry Knox of 12 Nov. (number 86) was received in mid-December (Knox to Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., 16 Dec.). Wayne’s letter to Knox of 23 Dec. (number 89) was received on 28 Jan. 1795 (Timothy Pickering to John Adams, 30 Jan., 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, 1:547). Presumably, Wayne wrote two additional letters during that interval: one of 14 Dec. (see Wayne to Knox, 13 Feb., Knopf, Wayne description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends , 385–86) and one of unknown date.

4The letter-book copy has “contribution.”

5The letter-book copy has “adequate laws.”

6GW offered a proposal to create Indian trading houses in his messages to Congress of 3 Dec. 1793 and urged it again in his message of 19 Nov. 1794.

7For discussion of the capture of American ships by Bermudan privateers, see George Clinton to GW, 9 Sept. 1794, and n.1 to that document, and Edmund Randolph to GW, 29 Sept. 1794, and notes 4 and 5 to that document.

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