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From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 4 April 1791

To Thomas Jefferson

Mount-Vernon April 4 1791.

Dear Sir,

You will readily agree with me that the best interests of the United States require such an intimation to be made to the Governor of Canada, either directly or indirectly, as may produce instructions to prevent the Indians receiving military aid or supplies from the british posts or garrisons—The notoriety of this assistance has already been such as renders enquiry into particulars unnecessary.

Colonel Beckwith seems peculiarly designated to be the channel of an indirect intimation. Referring the mode and extent of communicating with him to your own discretion, I wish it may be suggested in such manner as to reach Lord Dorchester, or the Officer commanding in Canada, that certain information has been received of large supplies of ammunition being delivered to the hostile Indians, from british posts, about the commencement of last campaign1—And, as the United States have no other view in prosecuting the present war against the Indians, than, in the failure of negociation, to procure, by arms, peace and safety to the inhabitants of their frontier, they are equally surprised and disappointed at such an interference by the servants or subjects of a foreign State, as seems intended to protract the attainment of so just and reasonable an object.2

These are my sentiments on this subject at the present moment—yet so unsettled do some circumstances appear that it is possible you may see a necessity either to treat it very delicately, or to decline acting on it altogether. The option is therefore left to your judgment as events may make the one or the other the part of propriety.3 The enclosed paper is transmitted and referred to you in the state I received it.4 I am dear Sir, Your most obedient Servant

Go: Washington

ALS, DLC: Thomas Jefferson Papers; Df, in William Jackson’s hand, dated 3 April, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW. Significant variations between the draft and the source text are noted below.

1In the draft Jackson originally wrote: “I wish it may be suggested in such manner as to reach Lord Dorchester, or the Officer commanding in Canada, that the United States cannot any longer regard with indifference the aid which is afforded to the hostile tribes of indians by the british garrisons.”

2In the draft Jackson originally wrote: “as the United States have no other view in prosecuting the present war against the indians than to procure peace and safety to the inhabitants of their frontier, they must find the happiness of their citizens and the dignity of their government deeply interested in preventing such interference, by the servants or subjects of a foreign state, as may have a tendency to protract the attainment of so just and reasonable an object.” After “to the inhabitants of their frontier,” Jackson at some point wrote and then crossed out “they cannot but necessarily regard with astonishment such.”

3In accordance with GW’s circular letter to the department heads of 4 April, Jefferson chose to consult the vice-president and the secretaries of war and treasury about using George Beckwith to convey a message to Quebec. Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Knox met at Jefferson’s house on 11 April and determined to approach Dorchester through Beckwith (see Jefferson to GW, 17 April 1791). For other matters discussed on 11 April, see Hamilton to GW, 11, 14 April.

4The enclosure has not been identified.

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