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Tobias Lear to Henry Knox, 14 November 1792

Tobias Lear to Henry Knox

United States [Philadelphia] Novr 14th 1792

By the President’s command T. Lear has the honor to return to the Secretary of War the dispatches from Mr Seagrove, which were submitted to the president yesterday.

The President thinks there are some parts of these communications which should be laid before Congress, and requests that the Secretary will select such as may be proper & have them communicated accordingly.1

Tobias Lear
Secretary to the president of the United States.

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1James Seagrove wrote Knox on 28 Oct. 1792 from St. Mary’s, Ga., and enclosed a letter of 9 Oct. from Creek leader Alexander McGillivray, a letter of 15 Oct. from Indian interpreter James Durouzeaux, and a letter of 15 Oct. from John Galphin, a son of Creek native Metawney and George Galphin, trader and former Indian commissioner for the Southern District during the Revolutionary War. Based on the information contained in these enclosures, Seagrove reported that “The greatest part of the [Creek] chiefs, and many of their people” were on their way to meet with him. Seagrove was optimistic that the boundary line between the Creeks and the United States, agreed upon in the Treaty of New York on 7 Aug. 1790, could be surveyed “this winter” if the “underhand machinations” of McGillivray were not too great. Although Seagrove complained about McGillivray’s duplicitous behavior, he conceded that some of the problems with the Indians derived from “the intrusions” of white settlers on the frontier. “It is to be lamented,” Seagrove wrote, “that the insatiable rage which our frontier brethren have for extending their limits, could not be checked, and kept within the bounds set them by the General Government. The United States, like most other countries, is unfortunate in having the worst class of people on her frontiers, where there is least energy to be expected in her civil government; and where, unless supported in the early stages of settlement by military force, civil authority becomes a nullity.

“I am extremely sorry to hear that the Cherokees are likely to be hostile to the United States. I am happy to say that I cannot discover a trace of disaffection or backsliding in the Creeks, in consequence of the commotions among the Cherokees. No endeavors on my part shall be wanting to keep them apart.

“Should the Cherokees have the audacity to take up arms against the United States, I fondly hope that not a moment will be lost in chastising them in the most exemplary manner. If they are allowed to proceed any length, and are successful, the infection will unquestionably spread among the other Southern tribes, and when, or where it may end, God only knows. Permit me to suggest the idea of a spirited, powerful volunteer expedition, from the three Southern States, being immediately sent into their country, and break them up” (ASP, Indian Affairs, 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 1:320–22). Knox presented Seagrove’s letter and its enclosures to both houses of Congress on 15 Nov. 1792 (see Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., 615, 690).

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