George Washington to Alexander Hamilton,
Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox,
and Edmund Randolph
United States, March 21st [–22]1 1793
To The Secretary of State—The Secretary of the Treasury—The Secretary of War and The Attorney General of the United States.
The Treaty which is agreed to be held on or about the first of June next at the Lower Sandusky of Lake Erie,2 being of great moment to the interests and peace of this Country; and likely to be attended with difficulties arising from circumstances (not unknown to you) of a peculiar and embarrassing nature; it is indispensably necessary that our rights under the Treaties which have been entered into with the Six Nations—the several tribes of Indians now in hostility with us—and the claims of others, should be carefully investigated and well ascertained, that the Commissioners who are appointed to hold it3 may be well informed and clearly instructed on all the points that are likely to be discussed: thereby knowing what they are to insist upon (with or without compensation, and the amount of the Compensation, if any) and what, for the sake of peace, they may yield.
You are not to learn from me, the different views which our Citizens entertain of the War we are engaged in with the Indians, and how much these different opinions add to the delicacy and embarrassments alluded to above—nor the criticisms which, more than probably, will be made on the subject, if the proposed Treaty should be unsuccessful.
Induced by these motives, and desireous that time may be allowed for a full and deliberate consideration of the subject before the departure of the Commissioners, it is my desire that you will, on the 25th of this month, meet together at the War Office (or at such other time and place as you may agree upon) where the principal documents are, with whatever papers you may respectively be possessed of on the subject, and such others as I shall cause to be laid before you, and then and there decide on all the points which you shall conceive necessary for the information and instruction of the Commissioners.4 And, having drawn them into form, to revise the same and have them ready, in a finished State, for my perusal and consideration when I return5—together with a digest of such references as shall be adjudged necessary for the Commissioners to take with them.
And, as it has been suggested to me, that the Society of Quakers are desireous of sending a deputation from their Body, to be present at the aforesaid Treaty6 (which, if done with pure motives, and a disposition accordant with those sentiments entertained by Government respecting boundary, may be a mean of facilitating the good work of peace) you will consider how far, if they are approved Characters, they ought to be recognized in the Instructions to the Commissioners,7 and how proper it may be for them to participate therein or to be made acquainted therewith.
LS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress; ADf, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1790–1799, National Archives; copy, RG 59, State Department Correspondence, 1791–1796, National Archives.
1. The letter in the Thomas Jefferson Papers is dated March 21; the draft and the copy in the National Archives are dated March 22.
2. For information concerning the proposed treaty with the western Indians, see “Conversation with George Hammond,” November 22, December 15–28, 1792, February 24–March 7, 1793; H to Hammond, December 29, 1792; “Draft of Instructions for William Hull,” January 14, 1793; Hull to H, February 6, 1793; Washington to H, February 17, 1793; “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion Respecting the Proposed Treaty with the Indians Northwest of the Ohio,” February 25, 1793.
3. The commissioners appointed to meet with the western tribes were Beverley Randolph, Benjamin Lincoln, and Timothy Pickering.
4. A cabinet meeting was held on March 25 on “the subject of the proposed Treaty with the Indians” (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 90).
5. Washington was going to Mt. Vernon. See Washington to H, Jefferson, and Knox, March 9, 1793.
6. On March 12, 1793, Knox wrote to Washington reporting that “the request made by the Indians of having some of ‘the friends’ called Quakers to attend the treaty at Sandusky seems to deserve consideration. I presume that some of those Citizens would chearfully accompany the Commissioners.… It might also conduce considerably to the success of the treaty were Mr. John Heckewelder to accompany the Commissioners. This amiable and intelligent Man is a teacher of the sect called Moravians, and for several Years resided with the Indians belonging to that sect of the Wyandot and Delaware Tribes, who inhabited the Waters of Muskingum—he well understanding their language. The influence he will have with the said Tribes may be expected to be very considerable …” (LS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). On the same day Washington informed Knox “that it would be well at all events to have the sd. Hackewelder to attend on acct. of his knowledge of the language & Customs of the Indians, altho he declines acting as an Interpreter. And that some of the Quakers should also be allowed to go—and if any could be found who were able & willing to act as Clerks or Secretaries they might go in that capacity.… Their exps. to be borne by the public as their attendg is for the public good & by the desire of the Indians” (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 74–75).
7. In the instructions sent to the commissioners Knox stated: “The society of Friends have, with the approbation of the President of the United States, decided to send some of their respectable members, in order to contribute their influence to induce the hostile Indians to a peace. They are not, however, to confer with the Indians upon any subject of importance, until they shall have previously communicated the same, and received your approbation” (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, 341).