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To George Washington from Arthur Campbell, 18 February 1796

From Arthur Campbell

Washington Febr. 18. 1796


Bearing in mind your polite invitation that you would consider it as a mark of personal attention to continue my communications to the Executive of the United States on subjects relating to the Western Country.1

The proceedings of the Convention lately met at Knoxville will no doubt reach you in a short time.—And it will be found of moment to the interests of the Union that Congress take sufficient time to deliberate on so important a subject.2

Objections in detail might now be put down to the Instrument called a Constitution. However it may be satisfactory for the present to hint, that there ought to be an article in the Constitution recognizing the right of the United States to dispose of the lands occupied by the Indians, and also the vacant lands within the limits prescribed by the Treaty of Holstein.3

The Convention was called in haste and sat a very short time. From the mode the people have been enumerated, it is probable that the numbers have been much exaggerated.4 A delay of one or two years more of being admited as a Member of Union, may disappoint a few aspiring Spirits; but it will be found to accord with the interest and safety of the people.

The present begining will be useful, it will arouse the Citizens to a full examination of the subject, which will add to their Stock of knowlege, a Treasure they need almost as much as that of Gold.

I am Sir with great Respect Your Obedient servant

Arthur Campbell

Carter, Territorial Papers, description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends 4:420. The editors have been unable to locate the ALS cited by Carter.

Arthur Campbell (1743–1811) represented Fincastle County in the Virginia Convention of 1776 and in the General Assembly of that year. After Washington County was formed out of Fincastle in December 1776, Campbell represented the new county in the General Assembly for five terms between 1778 and 1788. A strong supporter of the movement to create the state of Franklin, Campbell was briefly stripped of his positions in the militia and judiciary in 1785 and 1786, but he was at this time county lieutenant and a justice of the peace.

1Campbell probably is referring to GW’s letter to him of 24 Nov. 1792.

2A convention met at Knoxville from 11 Jan. to 6 Feb. and wrote a constitution for what would be the new state of Tennessee. The proceedings were printed as Journal of the Proceedings of a Convention, began and held at Knoxville, on the eleventh day of January, one thousand seven hundred and ninety six, for the purpose of forming a Constitution, or Form of Government, for the permanent government of the People [Knoxville, 1796]. William Blount, the governor of the Southwest Territory, forwarded a copy of the constitution with his letter of 9 Feb. to Secretary of State Timothy Pickering. It was received on 4 March, and GW submitted the constitution to Congress on 8 April. The Constitution of the State of Tennessee was printed at Knoxville and later at Philadelphia in 1796.

3For the 2 July 1791 Treaty of Holston, see Kappler, Indian Treaties, description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends 29–33. Article IV defined the boundaries between the Cherokee nation and the United States.

4In accordance with a territorial act of 11 July 1795, the enumeration was carried out by the county sheriffs and deputies, with the sheriffs being paid one dollar for every 200 persons returned. Those persons who lived with resident families were to be counted, even if absent at the time of enumeration, as were those “who shall be in any county in this Territory at the time of the enumeration, without a settled place of residence therein.” The enumerators were also to ask each male resident over age 21 whether the territory should be admitted as a state if the census number was sufficient and to provide a tally of their answers. The sheriffs were required to report their results on or before 30 Nov. (Acts Passed at the Second Session of the First General Assembly of the Territory of the United States of America, South of the River Ohio. Began and Held at Knoxville, on Monday the Twenty Ninth Day of June, 1795 [Knoxville, 1795], 3–7). On 28 Nov. 1795 Blount certified the results of the enumeration and issued a call for the convention, with the elections of delegates to take place in mid-December (ASP, Miscellaneous, 1:146–47).

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