Alexander Hamilton Papers

Conversation with George Hammond, [15–28 December 1792]

Conversation with George Hammond1

[Philadelphia, December 15–28, 1792]

Since this conversation with Mr. Jefferson2 I have had one with Mr. Hamilton upon the same subject, to whom I expressed similar sentiments, and from whom I have received a letter,3 of which I have the honor of inclosing a copy, as being explanatory of the actual views of this Government upon this particular point, as far as they can now be defined.

Transcript, MS Division, New York Public Library.

1This conversation has been taken from Hammond to Lord Grenville, January 1, 1793, Dispatch No. 2.

2In the same letter to Grenville, Hammond described this conversation as follows:

“… I … had a long conversation with Mr. Jefferson on the subject of the disposition manifested by the hostile Indians to enter into a negotiation with the United States for the restoration of peace. The Secretary of State began by observing that as my communication to him of the result of the Council at the Miamis Rapids had been merely informal, he requested me to consider the present exposition of his sentiments upon that communication, in a similar point of view. He then informed me that he was authorized by the President to express to me the sense which the members of this government entertained of the candour that I had manifested on this occasion, which they could not but esteem as an additional proof of the sincere solicitude of His Majesty’s government to contribute their endeavours towards the effecting of a general pacification between the United States and the Indians now at war with them. From this he proceeded to advert to the solitication, on the part of the Indians of his Majesty’s mediation in promoting this desirable object. His general reasoning upon this point was pretty nearly the same as that which Mr. Hamilton has employed upon former occasions. With this addition that he conceived it to be by no means advisable for His Majesty’s Ministers to afford their support to the Indian proposition, as in any future misunderstanding that might arise between the government of Canada and any nations of Indians, the latter might deem themselves fully justified from this precedent in requesting the interposition of the American Government in accommodating the dispute. Such a course of proceeding, he imagined, might be a never failing source of disquietude to both governments, the interests of which, according to his opinion, would be best consulted in not regarding the Indians living on their respective frontiers or within their respective territory, as possessing that sort of independent sovereignty which would intitle them to a claim on the intervention of a third power in terminating any differences in which they might be involved. After this general reasoning he noticed the formal application which had been made to Governor [John Graves] Simcoe to attend at the Council to be held early in the Spring at the Glaize. He said that though the members of the American administration reposed the most implicit confidence in the sincerity of that Gentleman’s good intentions towards the United States, yet as they had resolved to decline the interposition of Great Britain, his presence at the Council could be viewed in no other light than that of a Spectator. How far his appearance in that character would be compatible with his dignified Station, Governor Simcoe would be best qualified to determine. They should however regret such a circumstance, for if the result of the Council should be unfavorable to a pacification, it would be a very difficult matter for this government, convinced as it might be of the injustice of such a suspicion, to prevent the great mass of the American people, already entertaining prejudices upon this point, from ascribing the ill success of this measure to the interference of the Governor of Upper Canada.

“To these observations I briefly replyed that I considered the solicitation of the King’s good offices on the part of the Indians as perfectly natural and just, but as this government did not deem it expedient to concur with them in an application to his Majesty for this purpose, it did not become me to enter into a discussion of the motives which might actuate its conduct. I should however take the liberty of remarking that according to my judgement it would be incumbent upon the government of Canada to state to the Indians explicitly in answer to their formal application, that a compliance with their request had been rendered impracticable, not by any inattention to their interests on the part of His Majesty’s government, but by the unwillingness of the United States to admit our interference. In regard to Governor Simcoe’s personal attendance, I was persuaded that, even if his other avocations allowed him the opportunity, no considerations could induce him to be present at the Council after the explanations I should give him of the sentiments of the American Government, but that I was too well acquainted with the general disposition of the Indians not to know that they would not be satisfied unless Colonel [Alexander] McKee, Colonel [John] Butler, or some other British Agent, in whom they could confide, should be present to explain to them faithfully the nature and tendency of the American offers.

“I therefore thought it my duty, in order to obviate any surmises or suspicions which might otherwise arise, not to conceal my expectation that the presence of some person of the above description would be required for the object I have mentioned. Mr. Jefferson said he conceived such a desire in the Indians to be extremely proper, and that the propositions of the American Government would be so equitable as to make him regardless of the channels, through which the explanations of them might be conveyed.

“Mr. Jefferson concluded the conversation by saying that there was one object, connected with the foregoing circumstances, with respect to the attainment of which he was directed to request my opinion, and, if practicable, my co-operation in accomplishing it. He then stated that the Indians having agreed to meet deputies from the United States at the Glaize early in the Spring, it would be necessary for this government, [to] collect, at their expence, a quantity of provisions sufficient for the support of the Indians during the sitting of the Council. But the winter being so far advanced, and the time of the meeting so near, it would be … almost impracticable to obtain and transport through the American territory alone the quantity of provisions, which might be required. The attention of this Government was consequently directed to the Lakes of Upper Canada, as offering the most facile means of communication with the place fixed upon by the Indians for the Council. He therefore desired me to inform him whether I imagined that Governor Simcoe would not afford some friendly assistance upon this occasion, by allowing this Government to form, a contract, for the furnishing of the necessary supplies, with any individuals residing under his jurisdiction, who might be competent to the fulfillment of any engagement of that nature. In that case it was the intention of this government to send a person immediately to Niagara, fully authorized to arrange definitively with any responsible merchants in that quarter all the conditions of any contract into which they might enter—as well with relation to the quantum of provisions requisite, as to the price of them, and the means of transporting them across Lake Erie to the Glaize, which could be affected solely in vessels belonging to his Majesty’s Subjects. In my answer to Mr. Jefferson I assured him—that his Majesty had seen with the greatest concern the progress and extension of hostilities on the frontiers of his American possessions—that the Governors of Canada in conformity to their instructions, had invariably exerted their best endeavors with the Indians to promote the restoration of tranquility, and that under the influence of these considerations I entertained no doubt, that if the measure at present in contemplation was feasible, Governor Simcoe would most readily concur in granting it his aid and encouragement—and that as to myself, I should, as soon as the American Ministers had come to some final decision upon this matter, lose no time in communicating their wishes to the Governor of Upper and Lower Canada through the medium of a confidential person.”

Index Entries