George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 28 April 1790]

Wednesday 28th. Fixed with the Secretary of State on places & characters for the Consulate but as some of the latter were unknown to us both he was directed to make enquiry respecting them.

Sent the nominations of two Officers in the Customs of North Carolina, and one in the place of Mr. Jacob Wray of Hampton in Virginia—who has requested to resign his appointment to the Senate for their advice & consent thereon.

Received from the Secretary for the Department of War a report respecting the Sale of certain Lands by the State of Georgia; and the consequent disputes in which the United States may be involved with the Chicasaws & Choctaw Nations; part, if not the whole of whose Countries, are included within the limits of the said Sale. This report refers to the Act of the Legislature of Georgia, by which this sale is authorized and to the opinion of the Attorney General respecting the Constitutionality of the Proceeding—submitting at the same time certain opinions for the consideration of the Presidt.

Today’s consultation with Jefferson on consular appointments was in preparation for the list of nominations sent by GW to the Senate on 4 June 1790, when 14 names were submitted for confirmation (DE PAUW description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends , 1:74–78). GW’s letter to the Senate, 28 April 1790, nominated George Wray to succeed Jacob Wray as collector of the customs at Hampton, Va.; John McCullough as surveyor of Swansborough in the district of Wilmington, N.C.; and William Benson as surveyor for Winsor in the district of Edenton, N.C. (DLC:GW).

Knox’s report concerned the sale in 1789 by the state of Georgia of over 15 million acres of land in western Georgia to three land companies, the South Carolina Yazoo Company, the Virginia Yazoo Company, and the Tennessee Yazoo Company at a projected cost to the companies of approximately $200,000 (“An Act for disposing of certain vacant lands or territory within this State,” 21 Dec. 1789, ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:114). Some settlers had already moved into the area under the authority of “An Act for laying out a district of Land situated on the river Mississipi and within the Limits of this State to be called Bourbon,” 7 Feb. 1785 (MS “Journal of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia,” 212, DLC: Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). The land sold conflicted with still unsettled Indian claims in the area, involving the Creek, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw, and with treaties negotiated by the United States with the tribes during the Confederation. Although neither Knox’s nor Randolph’s opinions have been found, it is likely that Knox’s views were similar to those expressed in his report to GW, 22 Jan. 1791, that “although the right of Georgia to the preemption of said lands should be admitted in its full extent, yet, it is conceived, that, should the State, or any companies or persons, claiming under it, attempt to extinguish the Indian claims, unless authorized thereto by the United States, that the measure would be repugnant to the aforesaid treaties, to the constitution of the United States, and to the law regulating trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes” (ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:112–13). In Mar. 1790 as a result of Indian depredations caused by increasing Georgian encroachment on Indian lands, the government sent three companies of federal troops to Georgia to keep the peace (Anthony Wayne to Knox, 10 April 1790, NNGL: Knox Papers). Wayne observed that “while these troops are received with joy by part of the Citizens of Georgia, there are others who affect to believe that the troops are designed rather as a curb on Georgia, or to assist the laws of the Union, than to protect that State” (“Summary statement of the situation of the frontiers,” 27 May 1790, DLC:GW). The federal government took as strong action as possible during the summer of 1790 to prevent the companies from implementing their claims. During the negotiations for the Treaty of New York in Aug. 1790, Creek chief Alexander McGillivray “protested strongly against the behavior of the new western companies, in the terms in which Georgia has formed them, and I have the word of the government that said companies will be broken up” (McGillivray to Carlos Howard, 11 Aug. 1790, CAUGHEY description begins John Walton Caughey. McGillivray of the Creeks. Norman, Okla., 1938. description ends , 273–76). “An act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indians” (1 STAT. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 137–38 [22 July 1790]) stipulated that “no sale of land or lands made by any Indians, or any nation or tribe of Indians within the United States, shall be valid to any person or persons, or to any state, whether having the right of pre-emption to such lands or not, unless the same shall be made and duly executed at some public treaty, held under the authority of the United States.” The signing of the Treaty of New York gave GW an opportunity to issue an additional warning with two proclamations, 14 and 26 Aug., enjoining United States citizens to abide by the treaties (DLC:GW). On 10 June 1790 the legislature of Georgia struck a further blow to the companies’ plans by passing a resolution requiring that all payments to the Georgia treasury, except for taxes, be made in specie rather than paper or certificates of Georgia debt, a regulation which made it impossible for the companies to abide by the requirements of the Dec. 1789 act stipulating payments for the grants within two years (MS “Journal of the House of Representatives” [Georgia], DLC: Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). For the companies’ protests, see ASP, Public Lands, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:165–79.

Index Entries