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From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 21 May 1794

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States 21st May 1794.

Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives.

I lay before you, in confidence, sundry papers, by which you will perceive the state of affairs between us and the Six Nations, and the probable cause to which it is owing.1 And also certain information, whereby it would appear that some encroachment was about to be made on our territory by an officer and party of british troops.2 Proceeding upon a supposition of the authenticity of this information, although of a private nature, I have caused the representation to be made to the british minister, a copy of which accompanies this message.3

It cannot be necessary to comment upon the very serious nature of such an encroachment, nor to urge that this new state of things suggests the propriety of placing the United States in a posture of effectual preparation for an event, which, notwithstanding the endeavours making to avert it, may by circumstances beyond our controul be forced upon us.

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793-95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB, DLC:GW; Copy (extract), P.R.O.: F.O. 116/4.

The extract, sent as a postscript to British minister George Hammond’s report to Lord Grenville of 25 May, consists of the text on the British encroachment.

1GW enclosed proceedings from Indian councils at Buffalo Creek, 8 Oct. and 10 Oct. 1793 and 7 Feb. and 21 April 1794; two messages of 24 Dec. 1793 from Secretary of War Henry Knox to the sachems, chiefs, and warriors of the Six Nations; and letters of 25 Feb. and 29 April 1794 from Indian agent Israel Chapin to Knox. The enclosures are filed with the LS in DNA: RG 46 and printed 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 , 1:477-82.

At the first two councils, the Six Nations expressed their continued desire for peace and contended "that claims upon our lands always have been, and still continue to be the cause of the War." They adhered to an "agreed upon" line of demarcation between their nation and the United States at the Muskingum River. They, however, agreed to "give up such part of" the Indian lands along the Ohio River "as are actually settled, and improved, which settlements, are to be circumscribed by a line drawn round them, and no further claims are to be admitted beyond such line."

In Knox’s two messages, he replied that the proposed line was "liable to considerable objections," but he suggested a new conference be held at Venango, Pa., in the middle of May. Knox also sent clothes to be presented to the chiefs and their families as evidence of GW’s "affection" and as "a reward for your services the last summer."

Chapin’s letter of 25 Feb. transmitted the proceedings of the council of 7 Feb., at which the Indians considered the U.S. reply to their proposal but "did not give me a direct answer . . . as they wanted some time." He expected that the Indians would agree to a new meeting and promised to forward their answer as soon it was received. The agent’s letter of 29 April enclosed the proceedings of the council on 21 April and warned of the defenseless state of the New York frontier, should the Indians attack. At the council, the Indians gave their response to Knox’s message. Although they would have promptly met had the United States agreed to their proposals, "It is not now in our power to accept your invitation—provided we were to go, you would conduct the business as you might think proper." They complained bitterly about the lack of progress towards peace and again asserted that their suggested boundary was "a just one." To this, Chapin responded that he was "sorry to find that your exertions for bringing about a peace to the westward have been checked by the rumor of a British war." Asserting that he did "not believe that a war will take place," he asked why, if one did come, the Indians should "be called from your seats in order to forward the pretensions of Great Britain?"

2GW enclosed an extract of a letter from Detroit of 17 April: "We have lately had a visit from Governor Simcoe: he came from Niagara through the woods—he has gone to the foot of the Rapids and three companies of Colonel Englands regiment have followed him to assist in building a fort there" (DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793-95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages).

3Secretary of State Edmund Randolph’s letter to British minister George Hammond of 20 May alluded to a speech of 10 Feb. attributed to Lord Dorchester, governor of the British provinces (see George Clinton to GW, 20 March, n.2), and gave Hammond an opportunity to deny the authenticity of the speech. Randolph then continued: "At the very moment, when the British ministry were forwarding assurances of good-will; does Lord Dorchester foster and encourage in the Indians hostile dispositions towards the United States. If it was a part of the American character to indulge suspicion; what might not be conjectured as to the influence, by which our treaty was defeated in the last year . . . ? How nearly would that suspicion approach to proof, were we to recollect, that so high an officer, as himself, would not rashly hazard this expression: ’I should not be surprized if we are at war with the United States in the course of the present year; and if we are, a line must then be drawn by the warriors.’

"But this speech only forebodes hostility: the intelligence, which has been received this morning, is, if true, hostility itself. The President of the United States has understood thro’ channels of real confidence, that Governor Simcoe has gone to the foot of the rapids of the Miami [Maumee], followed by three companies of a British regiment, in order to build a Fort there."

Randolph noted that when Hammond had complained "of the jurisdiction, attempted to be exercised under the State of Vermont, within the districts, occupied by the troops of your King; and demanded, that our government should suppress it, from respect to the discussion, which was pending," U.S. citizens had "been forbidden to interrupt you in the occupancy" even though "the forts, garrisons and districts, to which your letters relate, are confessedly within the limits of the United States." He asked, "What return then have we a right to expect?"

Adding that Simcoe’s "possession of our acknowledged territory has no pretext of Statu quo on its side; it has no pretext at all: it is an act, the hostility of which cannot be palliated by any connection with that negociation: it is calculated to support an enemy whom we are seeking to bring to peace," Randolph informed Hammond, "that I have it in charge from the president of the United States to request and urge you to take immediate and effectual measures, as far as in you lies, to suppress these hostile movements; to call to mind that the army of the United States in their march against the enemy will not be able to distinguish between them, and any other people, associated in the war; . . . and to admonish those, who shall throw obstacles in the way of negociation and tranquility, that they will be responsible for all the unhappy consequences" (DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793-95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; see also ASP, Foreign Relations 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 , 1:461-62).

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