Edmund Randolph to Virginia Delegates
Richmond April 4. 1787.
There is every reason to believe, that Genl. Washington will be present at the convention in May. Indeed he says, that the want of health alone shall prevent him. I trust that the rheumatism, with which he is afflicted severely, will be speedily baffled.
The Cherokees have begun to be troublesome in our country; and may become more so, in their expected passage thro’ Russell county, in the course of the spring.1 We have been obliged to direct some soothing steps to be taken on the part of Virginia, all of which (as you will perceive by the next mail) may not be consentaneous to the letter, but certainly is, to the spirit of the confederation, from the urgency of the danger. If we have trangressed it, we request you to excuse us to congress.2 But it is really grievous, that the continental agent for Indian affairs will not correspond with us, who are so deeply interested in the grand movement of the Cherokees.3
Colo. R. H. Lee declines his appointment as a deputy to Phila, intending to rejoin congress as soon as possible, after May. A successor is not nominated, and it may be doubtful, whether the vacancy will be supplied, as the rest of those named will probably be at Phila.4
Designing men have frequently circulated reports of the progress of law being stopped in some of the courts by malcontents. Perhaps they may have reached your ears. I [further?] am confident after every inquiry from intelligent persons, whom I have accidentally met here, that such a measure ha[s] never been submitted to, or even openly requested.5 I have the honor gentlemen to be with great esteem & respect yr. mo. ob. serv.
RC (DLC). Docketed by JM and Carrington. Words or portions of words obscured by mounting are in brackets.
1. The Cherokee had been resentful, particularly since the summer of 1786. over the encroachment of white settlers on their lands. A letter from chiefs Corntassel and Hanging Man, bearing the Indians’ complaint and threatening reprisals, was drawn up in council with agent Joseph Martin on 5 Sept. 1786 and sent to Charles Thomson (PCC). The letter was not presented to Congress until 19 Apr. 1787, when JM was appointed head of a committee to consider it. The report, delivered on 8 May, has not been located (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 216 n.).
2. See Randolph to Virginia Delegates, 27 Mar. 1787. On 9 Mar. Arthur Campbell had informed the governor of an attack on friendly Indians by a band of Kentuckians under Col. John Logan (Cal. of Va. State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , IV, 254). The Council of State accordingly directed that a “talk” be sent to the Cherokee expressing regret at the incident and promising an inquiry and punishment of the guilty (JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , IV, 71). A copy of the speech was forwarded to the delegates, apparently without a covering letter from Randolph, on 6 Apr. (PCC). The delegates turned it over to Congress along with Randolph’s letter of 27 Mar. and its enclosure. These documents were read before Congress on 18 Apr. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXII, 214 n. 3). Randolph was concerned that this unilateral action by Virginia violated the Articles of Confederation, which vested Congress with the power of managing relations with the Indians “not members of any of the States” (Art. IX). The governor nevertheless justified his action “from the urgency of the danger” and the lack of response from Congress to Virginia’s frontier problems.
3. The superintendent of Indian affairs for the Southern Department was James White (1749–1809), a delegate to Congress from North Carolina (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 747, 767 n.: Biographical Directory of Congress [1971 ed.], pp. 1910–11). Randolph had written to him on 31 Jan. 1787 requesting a regular correspondence (Executive Letter Book description begins Executive Letter Book, 1786–1788, manuscript in Virginia State Library. description ends , p. 50). White was unable to give attention to Virginia’s Indian problems, however, because he was attempting to prevent war between Georgia and the Creek Indians (Virginia Delegates to Randolph, 16 Apr. 1787; Mohr, Federal Indian Relations, 1774–1788, pp. 157–58).
5. Some of these rumors nevertheless had a substantive basis. While attending the Philadelphia convention, Randolph received an alarming report of “commotions” in Greenbrier County (now in West Virginia) and “some other important counties” (Randolph to Lt. Gov. Beverley Randolph, 2 Sept. 1787, Cal. of Va. State Papers description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts (11 vols.; Richmond, 1875–93). description ends , IV, 338). In Greenbrier a group of “malcontents” had refused to pay the certificate tax and to allow “any process to be served upon them” (JCSV description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (4 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , IV, 144).