Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Henry Knox, [12 August 1790]

To Henry Knox

Thursday eveng. [12 Aug. 1790]

Dear Sir

May I invite the three Chargés des affaires to attend the ceremony? May they be permitted to bring respectable strangers of their nation with or without limitation of numbers? Do ladies go? If they do, Mrs. Otto must be named in the invitation to Mr. Otto. I will beg the favor of your answer to these queries and govern myself accordingly. Only be so good as have reserved for them a seat in a respectable position. Yours affectionately & respectfully,

Th: Jefferson

RC (MHi: Knox Papers); addressed: “The Secretary at War”; endorsed: “A Note from Mr. Jefferson.” Not recorded in SJL.

The above was in response to one from Knox written the same evening: “The President of the US proposes to ratify the treaty with the Creeks in the representatives chamber tomorrow at 12 oClock” (Dft in MHi: Knox Papers; not recorded in SJL). Knox’ answer to TJ’s inquiry reads: “I imagine that the … charges des affaires might be permitted to bring any number of their nation without limitation. Respectable seats shall certainly be assigned the princapals. The ladies by all means.—The president proposes to have it informally notified to the Senators and representatives in Town and who may find it convenient to attend.—Will you suffer me to call upon you at ½ past seven in the morning to decide upon the particular arrangements?” (Dft in MHi: Knox Papers; not recorded in SJL). the three chargés: Louis Guillaume Otto, who served as French chargé from the time De Moustier left until the arrival of Ternant in the summer of 1791; José Ignacio de Viar, secretary of Spanish legation, acting as chargé; and Franco Petrus van Berckel, minister resident for the United Netherlands.

The ceremony was the formal occasion on 13 Aug. 1790 in Federal Hall when “the President, in behalf of the people of the United States, and the Kings, Chiefs, and Warriors of the Creek Nations” solemnly ratified the treaty.” Among the witnesses to the instrument were TJ’s young friends Thomas Lee Shippen and John Rutledge, Jr. ([N.Y.] Daily Advertiser, 14 Aug. 1790). A fortnight earlier when the Indians were received by the Society of St. Tammany with speeches, songs, and toasts, TJ was also present, smoked the calumet of peace, and joined in the “shake-hands… obtained from all the head men, in the Creek fashion by the whole society passing their line in Indian file” (same, 4 Aug. 1790).

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