Alexander Hamilton Papers

Conversation with George Hammond, [28–29 May 1792]

Conversation with George Hammond1

[Philadelphia, May 28–29, 1792]

Accordingly within two or three days after the receipt of your Lordship’s dispatch,2 I waited upon Mr Hamilton. After some conversation upon other topics, I adverted to the sentiments expressed by the deputies of the six nations in their conferences with the President3 (as mentioned in my dispatch No 21) relative to the neglect of them at the conclusion of the peace between Great Britain and the United States.4 Mr Hamilton replied that he had not seen all the communications which had passed between the President and the Indians, but it was possible that the latter might have employed the kind of arguments to which I alluded. Upon this I said that this language and complaint of the Indian deputies had impressed me with an opinion that the present was a moment peculiarly favorable not only to the immediate restoration of peace, but to the future establishment of tranquillity in the northern part of this continent on a permanent basis. I added (as a sentiment of my own) that I thought a project might be devised which would conciliate all the clashing interests of the Indians, the United States, and the King’s government of Canada, and bind them in one common system of harmony and reciprocal benefit. I then stretched out loosely the general outline of the proposition contained in your Lordship’s dispatch, and enforced the numerous advantages that would arise from the adoption of it—the security that it would afford to the Indians by the removal of future grounds of complaint—the final arrangement of the subjects at present in discussion between our two countries—and the future prevention of any collision of interest between the subjects of the crown and the citizens of the United States, who would be thus separated from each other by the interposition of an intermediate territory, on which neither party would be allowed to form settlements.

Mr. Hamilton having heard me with great attention, did not attempt to enter into any discussion of the arguments I had alledged, but replied briefly and coldly, that he wished me to understand that any plan, which comprehended any thing like a cession of territory or right or the allowance of any other power to interfere in the disputes with the Indians, would be considered by this government as absolutely impracticable and inadmissible.5

D, PRO: F.O. description begins Transcripts or photostats from the Public Record Office of Great Britain deposited in the Library of Congress. description ends , Series 4, Vol. 15.

1This conversation has been taken from Hammond to Lord Grenville, June 8, 1792, Dispatch No. 23.

2The dispatch from Lord Grenville, the British Foreign Secretary, which was numbered “8” and dated March 17, 1792, was received by Hammond on May 26, 1792. In it Grenville renewed the offer of the British to mediate between the Americans and the Indians, an offer which Hammond had suggested to H in a conversation of December 15–16, 1791. Grenville also proposed that Hammond suggest to the Americans the desirability of creating a buffer state, occupied exclusively by the Indians, along the American-Canadian border. “The time and mode of bringing forward this particular Proposition,” Grenville instructed the British Minister, “whether as part of your original Proposal, or in the course of any subsequent Discussions to which it may lead, must be left to your Discretion, guided by Circumstances on the Spot” (Mayo, Instructions to British Ministers description begins Bernard Mayo, ed., “Instructions to the British Ministers to the United States,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1936 (Washington, 1941), III. description ends , 25). In his letter to Grenville of June 8, 1792 (the same letter in which the above conversation with H was reported), Hammond discussed the reasons why the suggestion of the British Ministry for mediation and the creation of an Indian buffer state could not succeed. The United States Government, he said, was unalterably opposed to any such solution. Rather than formally propose Grenville’s plan to the United States Government, Hammond reported that he had decided to discuss the plan with H unofficially. It was with this in mind that Hammond “waited upon Mr Hamilton,” and the above conversation ensued.

3On March 13, 1792, a deputation of the Five Nations visited Philadelphia “for the purpose of attaching them to, and convincing them of, the justice and humanity of the United States; and also, to influence them to repair to the hostile tribes, in order to use their efforts to bring about peace. These objects appeared to be effected, and they departed to carry them into execution. Besides abundant presents, fifteen hundred dollars, annually, were stipulated to these Indians by the President and Senate of the United States for the purpose of attempting to civilize them” (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Indian Affairs, I, 229). See also Timothy Pickering to H, May 8, 1792.

4Hammond in his Dispatch No. 21 to Grenville, dated June 8, 1792, stated: “The deputation of the Warriors of the Six Nations (whose arrival I announced in my dispatch No. 16) left this city about a month ago. I learn from good authority that, in some of their latest conferences with the President they regretted very feelingly the total inattention which had been manifested to their interests and preservation, in arranging the terms of the definitive treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States. They said that so long as the Colonies remained under the dominion of Great Britain, the Indian Nations could always address themselves to the officers of that power for the explanation and redress of their grievances. But that since the establishment of the independence of the United States, they were now placed between two distinct and powerful Nations, neither of which seemed to take any decided interest in their protection or information: And that, thus situated, it was not surprising, that they should be exposed to the intrigues of artful individuals of both countries, who availed themselves of the passions or the ignorance of their Indian neighbors, to promote their own views of mischief or emolument. To these causes they principally attributed the present unfortunate hostilities between the Western Indians and the United States. They added that the continuance of the war was to them an object of serious concern, and that if the United States thought their services could be usefully employed for the purpose, they would readily exert their good offices with their Indian Brethren to effect the restoration of tranquility.

“I have been assured that these offers were accepted by this Government, and that, at the last conference, it was determined that some of the Chiefs should repair to the principal residences of the tribes now engaged in war, and communicate the terms upon which the United States would consent to a pacification. In consequence of this determination, four or five chiefs, selected for this object set off, about the beginning of last month, for Pittsburgh in order to prosecute their journey from that place, while the other members of the deputation proceeded on their return homeward.

“A short time after their departure, a Stockbridge Indian arrived here from Canada, who brought information that a general meeting of chiefs deputed from all the tribes of hostile Indians, was speedily to be held at French Creek for the purpose of consulting on their general interests, and of concerting the means of accommodating their disputes with the United States.

“Since that time information has been received from Major Hamtramck commanding at Post Vincennes on the river Wabash, dated the 30th of March last, and stating that he had concluded a pacific agreement with three of the principal divisions of the tribe of Wabash Indians, who have hitherto formed a very considerable branch of the Indian confederacy.

“The concurrence of these circumstances justifies in a great measure the public expectation that the disputes with all the Indian tribes may be amicably adjusted in the course of the ensuing summer. I learn from both Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Jefferson that the Government entertains the same opinion, which may perhaps be founded upon other corroborating facts that are not generally known.” (MS Division, New York Public Library.)

5On June 13, 1792, in Dispatch No. 25, Hammond wrote to Grenville: “The acceptance of the King’s good offices in accommodating the disputes with the Indians is the sole ground on which such a negociation could be commenced, as would lead to the acquisition and establishment of the other objects proposed. But my own personal conviction, the general (apparently well-founded) expectation of obtaining peace by other means, and the sentiments of Mr. Hamilton, all concur in influencing my belief, that a formal offer of the King’s good offices, would, in the present moment, not only be instantly rejected, but would also excite considerable jealousy of the real views and wishes of his Majesty’s government” (MS Division, New York Public Library).

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