Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from George Hammond, 30 January 1792

From George Hammond

Philadelphia 30th. January 1792


Since my arrival in this country, I have passed over in silent disregard many malevolent insinuations upon the subject of the Indian war, which have been repeatedly thrown out against my Country, in the public prints, and have suffered their futility and falsehood to defeat the purposes, for which they might have been fabricated. But when I learn from the papers of this morning, that, in public discussion, it has been seriously assumed as a fact—that the Indians, now engaged in war with the United States, have been plentifully supplied with arms and ammunition, and have received information and aid in their hostile operations from the forts now in the possession of his Majesty’s arms—it becomes an act of duty to my Country and myself, and of respect to every part of this government to recall to your recollection my letter of the 14th. of December (in answer to your’s relative to Bowles) in which, by direction of my superiors, “I disclaimed, in the most unequivocal manner, the imputation, that the King’s government in Canada had encouraged or supported the measures of hostility, taken by the Indians in the Western Country.”

Although I, at the time, conceived that a declaration so formal and explicit was sufficient to dispel any doubts that might have been entertained, I was still anxious to receive, from the province immediately concerned, a farther corroboration of what I had advanced. For this purpose, I informed his Majesty’s Governor of Canada, by letter, of my having disavowed any interference in favor of the Indians, on the part of his government. In the Governor’s answer (dated the 12th of this month) he assures me that I was perfectly justified in making such a declaration—that the Indians have been neither directly nor indirectly encouraged or supported in their measures of hostility—that the Officers, commanding the Upper Posts, have constantly and uniformly been instructed to observe the strictest neutrality—and that it is the wish and interest of the King’s government in Canada to see tranquillity restored between the Indians and the United States.

As an additional proof that such has been uniformly the course of proceeding pursued by the government of Canada, I can also inform you, that at a Talk held on the 15th. of August last at Quebec by Lord Dorchester with a deputation of the Indians, his Lordship acquainted the latter with his resolution not to afford them any assistance in the prosecution of hostilities and expressed his wishes that a pacification might shortly take place between them and the United States.

It would, I trust, now be superfluous for me to enlarge farther upon this subject. You will however, Sir, permit me to add that, in making to you these communications, I am impelled by no other motives than by a solicitude to remove any doubts that may still exist in any part of this government, and by the desire of preventing the public mind from being warped or prejudiced by unfounded opinions, at the very period, when those stipulations of the definitive treaty, that have not as yet been carried into effect by the two countries respectively, are likely to come into serious and temperate discussion.

While I am upon this head, I cannot avoid expressing to you, Sir, my regret that I have not hitherto been enabled to complete the abstract, which I am preparing, of such facts as appear to me contraventions of the Treaty of Peace, on the part of the United States. It is now in considerable forwardness, and I hope to present it to you in a very short time. When you consider the extensive nature of the subject and the necessity of procuring information from every part of this continent, you will, I hope, be easily persuaded, that the delay has been unavoidable.—I am, with perfect respect and esteem, Sir, Your most obedient and most humble servant,

Geo. Hammond

RC (DNA: RG 59, NL); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Hammond; endorsed by TJ as received 31 Jan. 1792 and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed as pertaining to “gazette aspersions of his nation.” Tr (DNA: RG 59, NL).

Hammond was provoked to write this letter by the publication in this day’s The Federal Gazette and Daily Advertiser of an account of a 26 Jan. 1792 debate in the House of Representatives on the failure of St. Clair’s expedition, in the course of which an unidentified speaker criticized British retention of the western posts in the following terms: “As long as Britain is suffered to retain those posts, we can never hope to succeed against the Indians; nor ought we to trace our misfortune to any other source than her still holding them in her possession: were they in our hands, the Indians could not carry on operations against us with the same degree of vigour as they now do: for it is from those forts that they obtain their supplies of arms and ammunition, with which they can be, at all times, plentifully supplied, as long as things continue on their present footing” (see also Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United StatesCompiled from Authentic Materials by Joseph Gales, Senior, Washington, Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. The edition cited here has this caption on both recto and verso pages: “History of Congress.” Another printing, with the same title-page, has “Gales & Seatons History” on verso and “of Debates in Congress” on recto pages. Those using the latter printing will need to employ the date or, where it is lacking, to add approximately 52 to the page numbers of Annals as cited in this volume. description ends , iii, 337–47). Hammond was particularly concerned about the appearance of this item in this newspaper because he believed incorrectly that its editor, Andrew Brown, was also a clerk in the Department of State, and that therefore the newspaper itself was one “over which the Secretary of State may naturally be supposed to possess no small degree of influence” (Hammond to Grenville, 2 Feb. 1792, PRO: FO 4/14, DLC photostat).

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