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To George Washington from Henry Knox, 2 January 1794

From Henry Knox

War Department, Jan. 2d 1794

Sir,

Most of the principal Chiefs of the Wabash Indians who visited this City having died with the smallpox, it would have been improper & nugatory to have attempted with the remainder any explanation of the fourth article of the treaty of Post Vincennes the 7th day of Septr 1792.1

It was presumed that at the intended treaty to be held with the North Western Indians that the Wabash tribes would have been represented. With a view therefore to this subject generally the following article was inserted in the instructions of the Commissioners.2

“You will in all your negotiations carefully guard the general rights of preemption of the United States to the Indian Country against all other nations of individuals, as established by the treaty of 1783 with Great Britain. But in describing these rights to the Indians, you will impress them with the idea that we concede to them fully the right and possession of the soil as long as they desire to occupy the same; but when they choose to sell any portion of the Country, it must be sold only to the United States who will protect the Indians against all imposition.”

But the expectation of the treaty having been frustrated, nothing has been effected upon the subject.3 I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your Obedt Servant

H. Knox Secy of War.

LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, Senate Records of Executive Proceedings, President’s Messages—Indian Relations. Knox wrote this letter in response to one from GW of 1 Jan. and enclosed it in his letter to GW of 4 January. A copy of this letter was enclosed in GW’s letter of 6 Jan. to the U.S. Senate.

1At the conclusion of the peace treaty of 27 Sept. 1792 with the Wabash and Illinois Indians, which Rufus Putnam negotiated at Post Vincennes in the Northwest Territory, a delegation of fifteen men and three women was escorted to Philadelphia to meet with GW and other government officials. During the first month of their visit, two of the men died of smallpox and five died from being inoculated against the disease, while at least one more died of pleurisy (Knox to GW, 7 Nov. 1792, and notes 1 and 2; Knox to Tobias Lear, 25 Dec. 1792; Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser [Boston], 24 Jan. 1793; National Gazette [Philadelphia], 12 Jan. 1793). For the submission of this treaty to the Senate and the Senate’s objections to the controversial fourth article, which guaranteed the Indians a right to their land, see GW to U.S. Senate, 13 Feb. 1793, and notes. For the text of the entire treaty, see 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 , 1:338.

2Indian commissioners Benjamin Lincoln, Timothy Pickering, and Beverley Randolph had been charged with negotiating a peace treaty with the hostile Indians of the Northwest Territory. For their instructions, see 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 , 1:340–42.

3On the failure of the negotiations, see Indian Commissioners to Knox, 21 Aug. 1793, in 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 , 1:359.

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