George Washington Papers

To George Washington from David Henley, 11 June 1797

From David Henley

Knoxville State of Tennessee
June 11—1797


After the arduous task of presiding over the government of the United States, you are I trust and hope returned to the bosom of your ancient seat, there to solace yourself upon the noblest of reflections, of having snatched America from the tyranny and oppression of the Brittish sceptre, raising her to empire, establishing her government, and afterwards shielding it from foreign and domestick violence.

These mighty deeds has filled me with respect and reverence towards you, the lustre thereof however does not so far dazzel my mind, as to loose sight of your friendship and notice to me, and I request you will deign to accept of my sincere thanks of the attention shewn me in the early part of life. And in offering them I would be mindfull also of the kindness and civilities of your Lady, to whom I must request you will also be pleased to tender them, and be assured that whilst memory lasts I shall ever hold you both in reverence and gratitude.

The politicks of this State seem to be as yet unsettled, the runing of the boundary line creates much uneasiness, which I hope will be got over by the wise and judicious conduct of the Commissioners the honorable Mr Hawkins and General Pickens. These gentlemen are now upon the Cumberland upon that duty.1

A few days since Mr Byers factor for the United States, intercepted an extraordinary letter of Governor Blounts to Cary one of the interpreters, as I am sensible you are informed of the proceedings of that gentleman in the administration of the government of this Country, and as you are pointed out in the letter, and as the family I am informed have been violent in their speeches against Your administration I have inclosed a Copy of the letter for your perusal.2 Tho I am sensible you take no pleasure in the misfortunes of your enemies, Yet it gives me satisfaction in detecting those vices, which your virtues have exposed. I am Dear Sir with great respect Your Hum. Servt

David Henley


David Henley (1748–1823), whose Boston firm supplied clothing for the Continental army during the Revolution, in 1785 was made a commissioner for settling Virginia’s claims in the western territory that had been ceded by the state to the United States. In 1797 Henley was the agent for the U.S. War Department in the Southwest Territory. Henley visited Mount Vernon a number of times in 1785.

1After Benjamin Hawkins (1754–1818) was not reelected to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina in 1795, GW made him, Andrew Pickens (1739–1817) of South Carolina, and George Clymer (1739–1813) of Philadelphia commissioners to treat with the Creek Nation. Hawkins and Pickens at this time were attempting to determine the Creek boundary line as set by the Treaty of Colerain negotiated by them in the summer of 1796. In 1796 Hawkins succeeded William Blount as the U.S. superintendent of Indian affairs in the Southwest Territory.

2William Blount (1749–1800), a paymaster in the North Carolina forces during the American Revolution, served in the 1780s in the North Carolina legislature, the Congress of the Confederation, and the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. In 1790 he became the first governor of the Tennessee territory after its cession to the Union by North Carolina and, simultaneously, the U.S. superintendent of Indian affairs for the southern department. In 1796, he presided over the Tennessee constitutional convention and was elected to the U.S. Senate by the new legislature of the state. Blount had speculated in western lands and was in bad financial shape when in late 1796 he began plotting to have the Creeks and Cherokee attack Spanish Florida and Louisiana, with the support of British ships. Blount sent a letter on 21 April 1797 to James Carey in which he alludes to these plans. Carey had served Blount as an Indian agent while Blount was governor and Indian superintendent. James Byers who intercepted the letter was U.S. factor at Tellico in the Cherokee country. GW on 3 July 1797 sent to Secretary of State Timothy Pickering the enclosed copy of the letter from Blount to Carey. On the same day Secretary of War James McHenry sent to GW a copy of the Blount-Carey letter, which Henley had sent to McHenry in Phildelphia, saying to GW that the letter was “to be laid before Congress to-day.” McHenry wrote again on 9 July to report that Blount had been expelled from the Senate the day before. For comments by GW on the charges against Blount, see GW to Henley, 3 July, and to McHenry, 7 July 1797; see also John Marshall to GW, 7 July 1797. The enclosed letter, William Blount to James Carey, 21 April 1797 (DLC:GW), is in CD-ROM:GW.

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