George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Walton, 11 March 1789

From George Walton

[Augusta, Ga.] 11th March 1789.


In execution of an act of the Legislature of this State, and in conformity to my own wishes, I do myself the honor to enclose a copy of the said act, together with copies of the several papers, on which it was founded, and to which it refers.1

It is needless for commentaries on transactions so extraordinary and flagitious: but I cannot forbear to observe, that, whilst proceedings of this kind are permitted, it will be wholly out of the power of this State to preserve that Peace with the Savages which, it would seem, is so much the object of the Union—It has, unfortunatly, been some time the lot of the good people of this County to be made the subject of much calumny & opprobrium abroad, when the true cause was ascribable to men invested with public trust. And who, instead of pursuing the objects of their appointment, have suffered themselves to be lured into the debauching principles of Speculation, tempted by the rich taritory, easy navigation, and salubrious climate, within the limits of our Republic: so that our advantages, afforded to us by the liberal hand of Nature, and of our exertions in the late War, have become our curse. I have no doubt, Sir, of your feeling sensibly for our situation, and that you will, by your Vigilence and Zeal for the safety and general welfare of the United States, point out effectual measures in our behalf in future—Inclosed is a Copy of my letter of this date to the Governor of North Carolina.2 I am &c.

Geo. Walton

LB, G: Executive Records, Governors’ Letter Books; LS, sold in 1908, American Book Prices Current, 14 (1908), 670.

George Walton (c.1749–1804), Revolutionary War governor of Georgia, was chief justice of the state for six years after the war, and he was a member of the Georgia Ratifying Convention. He served as presidential elector in 1789 and in the same year was again elected governor of the state.

1Walton’s enclosures concerned the activities of Joseph Martin (1740–1808). Martin, a native of Albemarle County, Va., had been a prominent figure on the southern frontier for two decades. In 1769, in partnership with Dr. Thomas Walker and members of the Loyal Company, he made an unsuccessful attempt to establish a settlement in Powell’s Valley near the Cumberland Gap, and in 1775 he reoccupied the area under the auspices of Richard Henderson’s Transylvania Company. In 1777 he became Virginia’s Indian agent to the Cherokee. For many years he was Patrick Henry’s agent on the frontier. Martin was closely involved in the 1780s in the complicated proposals for the new State of Franklin (although he later opposed it) and in the Muscle Shoals speculations. He attended the North Carolina Ratifying Convention and served intermittently in both the Virginia and North Carolina legislatures. On 8 Nov. 1788 Martin wrote a letter from Tugoloe, N.C., to the Creek chief Alexander McGillivray, enclosing several resolves of the Continental Congress concerning Indian affairs and requesting McGillivray’s permission to settle some five hundred families from the United States on Creek land (N.C. State Records, description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends 22:787–88). At the time he was serving as Indian commissioner for the Continental Congress. Martin’s messenger to McGillivray was intercepted, apparently by members of the Georgia militia under Gen. George Mathews. On 10 Jan. 1789 the Georgia general assembly ordered Mathews to submit the correpondence for its consideration “being of material consequence to this State.” On the same day that Mathews submitted the intercepted documents they were read to the assembly and a committee was appointed to consider them (MS, Journal of the General Assembly of Georgia, 21, 22, in Microfilm Collection of Early State Records description begins Microfilm Collection of Early State Records prepared by the Library of Congress in association with the University of North Carolina, 1949. description ends ). Walton’s enclosure to GW was probably the committee report of 24 Jan. 1789 which stated that whatever reason Martin had for carrying on a correspondence of a private nature with McGillivray while Georgia was at war with the Creek and Martin himself in the service of Congress, the committee found his conduct “culpable and reprehensible.” The committee recommended that the governor transmit the letters and a formal complaint to Congress and to the governor of North Carolina, “he the said Joseph Martin being an Inhabitant of that State,” to “impress them with the designs of the said Martin of removing himself and property from without the reach of the law seeking the protection of the Creek Indians and how impossible it is for the state of Georgia to expect peace whilst the very officers of the United States are treacherously leagued with the savage tribes. Your Committee cannot but further observe that this letter and the resolutions of Congress were found in the possession of men of the most infamous character living in the Creek nation and who at that time had in their possession a considerable share of Plunder, the property of Inhabitants of Georgia” (ibid., 79–80).

2Walton’s letter to Samuel Johnston, governor of North Carolina, reads: “In execution of an Act of the Legislature of this State, and in conformity to my own wishes, I do my self the honor to enclose a copy of the said act, together with copies of the several papers on which it was founded and to which it refers. A conduct so singular and offensive to the interest and dignity of this State cannot fail to be highly reprobated by the Government of Yours. We shall have no security in our territorial rights, or of duration to any system of pacification that may be established with the Indians, whilst such iniquitous practices receive the least public Countenance. I hope and request, Sir, that you will take the first occasion of laying this business before your Legislature, in order that such nefarious proceedings may be unequivocally censured. And, Sir, as a Sister State, so recently emerged from the horrors of a bloody War, and in which they were so closely United, it will be expected that the most explicit disavowal will take place, on the part of Yours. I do my self the pleasure to enclose a Copy of my letter, on this subject, to his Excellency the President of the United States; and with a perfect reliance on your endeavours to favor the object of this address” (G: Executive Records, Governors’ Letter Books). The action of the North Carolina legislature could have given Walton little satisfaction. On Dec. 15 a committee reported to the house that in their opinion Martin was in the exercise of his duty when he enclosed the resolutions of Congress to McGillivray and that the rest of his letter was intended to gain the goodwill of McGillivray “and not to injure the United States, or any of them. The said committee to whom was also referred sundry depositions respecting the said Martin, report—That depositions of a similar import have years past been laid before the General Assembly, and the committee do not find them to contain any matter sufficient to criminate said Martin” (N.C. State Records, description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends 21:691). For GW’s reply, see his letter to Walton, 29 May 1789.

Index Entries