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From George Washington to the U.S. Senate, 25 June 1795

To the United States Senate

United States, June the 25th 1795.

Gentlemen of the Senate,

Just at the close of the last session of Congress,1 I received from one of the Senators and one of the Representatives of the State of Georgia, an application for a treaty to be held with the tribes or nations of Indians claiming the right of soil to certain lands lying beyond the present temporary boundary line of that State, and which were described in an Act of the Legislature of Georgia passed on the 28th of December last, which has already been laid before the Senate. This application, & the subsequent correspondence with the Governor of Georgia, are herewith transmitted.2 The subject being very important, I thought proper to postpone a decision upon that application. The views I have since taken of the matter, with the information received of a more pacific disposition on the part of the Creeks3 have induced me now, to accede to the request; but with this explicit declaration: That neither my assent, nor the treaty which may be made, shall be considered as affecting any question which may arise upon the supplementary act, passed by the legislature of the State of Georgia, on the 7th of January last, upon which inquiries have been instituted, in pursuance of a Resolution of the Senate & House of Representatives:4 and that any session or relinquishment of the Indian claims, shall be made in the general terms of the treaty of New York;5 which are contemplated as the form proper to be generally used on such occasions; and on the condition that one half of the expense of the supplies of provisions for the Indians assembled at the treaty, be borne by the State of Georgia.

Having concluded to hold the treaty requested by that State, I was willing to embrace the opportunity it would present, of enquiring into the causes of the dissatisfaction of the Creeks, which has been manifested, since the treaty of New York, by their numerous and distressing depredations on our south western frontiers. Their depredations on the Cumberland have been so frequent, and so peculiarly destructive, as to lead me to think they must originate in some claim to the lands upon that river. But whatever may have been the cause, it is important to trace it to its source: for independent of the destruction of lives and property, it occasions a very serious annual expense to the United States. The Commissioners for holding the proposed treaty will therefore be instructed to enquire into the causes of the hostilities to which I have referred, and to enter into such reasonable stipulations as will remove them, & give permanent peace to those parts of the United States.

I now nominate,

Benjamin Hawkins, of North Carolina,

George Clymer, of Pennsylvania, &

Andrew Pickens, of South Carolina,

to be Commissioners to hold a treaty with the Creek nation of Indians, for the purposes herein before expressed.6

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, Fourth Congress, Records of Executive Proceedings, President’s Messages—Executive Nominations; LB, DLC:GW. See also ASP 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 , Indian Affairs, 1:560.

On 26 June, GW received a notice from Samuel A. Otis that U.S. senators George Cabot and John Brown waited to inform him that “the Senate have finished the business before them, and are ready to adjourn unless he has any further communications to make” (LS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW). The letter-book copy of this message reports that GW informed the two senators “that he had no further communications to make to the Senate; & they adjourned without day.”

On 23 June, Timothy Pickering wrote to Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., and requested notification of “which draught of a message to the Senate on the Georgia treaty the President has chosen; and to be favoured with it, to make the entry in the books of the war office conform to it, and to make out a copy for the President, if not already done. The draught is also necessary for the Secretary, to enable him to finish the letter to the Governor of Georgia, which must conform to the message.” Pickering reminded Dandridge that the “draught can be returned to the President immediately” (AL, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW). No drafts have been found.

1The second session of the Third Congress met from 3 Nov. 1794 to 3 March 1795.

2GW referred to a letter from U.S. Sen. James Gunn and U.S. Rep. Thomas P. Carnes of Georgia, c.2 March 1795. The Georgia law of 28 Dec. 1794 is summarized in n.1 to that document and also in n.1 to the letter in which GW submitted the act to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 17 February.

GW submitted a letter from Pickering to Georgia governor George Mathews dated 20 March 1795 (see Gunn and Carnes to GW, c.2 March, n.2). The president also included Mathews’s response to Pickering, 16 April (see Pickering to Dandridge, 15 May, n.2).

3See Pickering to Dandridge, 20 June, and n.2 to that letter.

4For a summary of the Georgia act of 7 Jan., see James Seagrove to GW, 13 Jan., n.4. For the extent of the land covered by the act, see Figure 3. See Edmund Randolph to GW, 2 March (first letter), n.1, and 9 March, n.13, for the Senate and House resolutions.

5For the Treaty of New York, 1790, see Kappler, Indian Treaties, description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends 2:25–29. In addition, GW included a copy of a letter dated 20 Aug. 1790 from former secretary of war Henry Knox to an earlier Georgia governor, Edward Telfair. Discussing the successful negotiation of the 1790 Treaty of New York between the United States and the Creek Indians, Knox wrote: “It would have been a desirable circumstance to have obtained an entire confirmation of all the territory claimed by Georgia and every argument was used to effect this object. But the Chiefs who were present decidedly refused at the hazard of all events, any confirmation of the land lying to the eastward of the temporary line mentioned in the treaty of Galphinton to be drawn from the forks of the Oconee and Oakmulgie to the St Mary’s and between the said temporary line and the old line from the Altamaha to the St Mary’s.

“This land has been represented to be generally barren, sunken and unfit for cultivation, except in some instances on the Margin of its rivers, and that its chief value depends on its lumber.” The Creeks, however, held the area “to be of the highest importance to them as constituting some of their most valuable winter hunting Grounds.” That being the case, the land, Knox explained, was “not considered of such importance, or under such circumstances as to be a sufficient cause for breaking off a treaty by which the valuable Oconee lands are effectually ceded and secured, peace established, and the Creek Nation attached to the interests of the United States” (DNA: RG 46, Fourth Congress, Records of Executive Proceedings, President’s Messages—Executive Nominations; see also ASP 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 , Indian Affairs, 1:560–61).

6The Senate approved the nominations on 26 June (see Senate Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 192). In June 1796, Benjamin Hawkins, George Clymer, and Andrew Pickens negotiated the Treaty of Colerain with the Creeks.

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