Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Tench Coxe, [8 November 1792]

From Tench Coxe1

[Philadelphia, November 8, 1792]

Dear Sir

I consider it as a duty to communicate the substance of a conversation, which I had this Evening with a intelligent citizen of Philada. on whose veracity I rely, and who, in common affairs is far from inaccurate. He informed me that his Catholic Majestys Commissioners2 were lately sitting with him, when a gazette was brought in; which contained the accot. of the Indian Movements in the Southern quarter, to which account a suggestion was added that the Governor of New Orleans, and an Indian Trader in the Spanish territory, were the causes of those hostile movements by their Instigations & Supplies.3 Having been unaccustomed to the restraints and reserves of political life he did not hesitate to ask Mr. Jaudines, whether he thought the suggestion founded, and he pursued a conversation on the subject with him for some time in the Presence of Mr. Viar. In the Course of the Conversation Mr. Jaudines took occasion to observe, that the U. S., in all their treaties with the indians, had introduced clauses by which the tribes had been made to submit themselves to the U. S and that a consequent protection of them had been held up and promised on our part—that similar engagements had subsisted between Spain and the Southern Indians (parties to the Treaty made at New York with Mr. McGilivray) prior to that Treaty—that he would not say the Governor of New Orleans had supplied them with Arms and stores, but that it would be best that the U. S. should not attempt to run the line contemplated in the Treaty of New York, for, that if they did, Spain would support the Indians in preventing it.4 The Citizen remarked that such a procedure would, as it appeared to him, produce a disagreement and probably a rupture between the U. S. and Spain; to which Mr. Jaudenes answered in terms implying, that such a circumstance would be very disagreeable, but that such interposition would in the event mentioned, certainly take place.

There was present at the conversation a Mr. Bryan of Georgia (who, I understand, is a Student in the Office of the Attorney Genl.)5 between whom & Mr. Jaudines some warm discussion took place. It is probable therefore, that he may remember the precise language of the Commissioner of Spain. Should you think it well to ask Mr. Randolph to converse wtih him, I wish, that the young Gentleman may be cautioned not to mention the Enquiry, as the citizen is desirous from personal reasons, that a guarded use may be made of the information. He is not unwilling however, if it be desired that his name be known to you, and in any other place where you may think it necessary.

I have the honor to be,   your respectful humble Servant

Tench Coxe

ALS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.

1Coxe was commissioner of the revenue.

Although this letter is unaddressed, the cover is directed to H and is endorsed in Thomas Jefferson’s handwriting “Coxe Tenche to mr Hamilton.”

2The Spanish commissioners to the United States were Josef de Viar and Josef de Jaudenes.

3On November 3, 1792, both the [Philadelphia] National Gazette and the [Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States printed excerpts from an article that had appeared in the Knoxville Gazette concerning an attack on “John Buchanan’s station, four miles south of Nashville … by a party of Creeks and Lower Cherokees.” The newspaper article stated: “It is an undoubted Truth … that the Baron D’Corrondolet, governor of Louisiana … [has] opened the stores of the king of Spain, in West Florida, to the Creeks and Cherokees, and delivered them arms and ammunition in abundance, advising and stimulating them to go to war against the frontier inhabitants of the United States.… These are the fruits of the advice of the Baron D’Corrondolet … and it is due to Mr [William] Panton, their chief instrument, to add, he has well acted his part” (Knoxville Gazette, October 6–10, 1792).

Francisco Louis Hector, Baron de Carondelet, succeeded Esteban Miró as governor and intendant of Louisiana and West Florida on December 30, 1791. Panton had been a member of a British trading firm in the Floridas before the American Revolution. Through his friendship with the Creek chief, Alexander McGillivray, and with the aid of the Spanish before 1795, he developed a monopoly of the Indian trade in the Spanish possessions east of the Mississippi.

4The Spanish had objected to Article 2 of the Treaty of New York signed in 1790 with the United States by Alexander McGillivray. This article acknowledged the sovereignty of the United States Government over those territories in which Creeks resided and which were within the boundaries of the United States. In order to settle the question of the disputed boundary between Georgia and Creek territory, Article 5 of the treaty provided for a survey by a surveyor appointed by the United States and assisted by a group of Creeks (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, 81–82). The Spanish authorities insisted that these articles were in violation of a treaty signed by the Creeks with the Spanish at Pensacola in 1784, and in 1792 Carondelet sent an agent, Pedro Olivier, to the Creek Nation with instructions to prevent the running of the boundary and to induce McGillivray to repudiate the Treaty of New York. As a result of Olivier’s activities, McGillivray signed a treaty on July 6, 1792, with the Spanish at New Orleans which virtually abrogated the Treaty of New York (John Walton Caughey, McGillivray of the Creeks [Norman, Oklahoma, 1939], 285–86, 329–30). The Spanish made similar objections to a treaty which the United States signed with the Cherokee in 1791.

5John Bryan was one of three young men who studied law under Edmund Randolph at Philadelphia. The other two students were Lawrence Washington, the President’s nephew, and John Randolph of Roanoke.

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