George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Andrew Pickens and Henry Osborne, 30 June 1789

From Andrew Pickens and Henry Osborne

Georgia, Rock landing on the Oconee river

Sir,June 30th 1789.

Agreeably to the appointment of the Executive of North Carolina under the Act of Congress of the 27th of October 17871 we attended at the Upper Warford on French Broad river from the 25th of last month, to the 7th instant, in order to meet in Treaty the Chiefs and Head men of the Cherokee Indians, but as they did not attend on or before that day, we found it necessary to repair to this place as the Executive of the State of Georgia had appointed the 20th of this month for treating with the Creek Indians.2 A Treaty with the Creeks appearing to us to be of the greatest importance: we sent to the Cherokees a Talk No. 1–A.3

On our way to this place we met several of the Cherokee Head men at Seneca who gave us the fullest assurances that no hostilities or depredations should be committed by any of their people, against the Citizens of the United States, until a treaty should be held; and we have every reason to confide in their promises.

Some late depredations which were committed by the Creeks on the frontiers of this State, so alarmed their Chiefs, that they returned home after having been a few days on their journey to this place. The talks No. 1 and 2, Mr McGillivray’s letter No. 3, Mr George Galphin’s letter No. 4, Mr John Galphin’s letter No. 5–6 and 7, and Mr McGillivray’s letter No. 8 will explain to your Excellency their reasons.4

We have now with us Mr John Galphin, a Chief Speaker of the lower Creeks, the White bird King or the Great King, with sixteen other Indians: they will return to the Nation tomorrow with our general Talk No. 9 and our letter to Mr McGillivray No. 10.

The great scarcity of corn for upwards of eighty miles around us was our principal reason for postponing the Creek Treaty so long: by the middle of Sepr we shall be aided with the new crop.

We are happy to inform your Excellency from good authority that the Creeks are very generally disposed for peace. We are well assured that all the Head men of that nation with upwards of two thousand Indians will attend the Treaty in September, and we have the fairest prospects of establishing a permanent peace with the Creeks on such terms as will be pleasing to the Indians, satisfactory to the State of Georgia, and honorable to the Union.

In justice to the State of Georgia, we cannot conclude this letter without expressing our entire satisfaction in the conduct of her Government, they have cheerfully advanced several thousand dollars to enable us to meet so large a body of Indians in a manner suitable to the importance of the occasion. We have the honor to be Your Excellency’s most obedient and very Humble Servants.

Andrew Pickens.

H. Osborne.

Copy, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, President’s Messages, 1A-E4, Transcriptions of Reports from the Secretary of War.

For background to this document, see Hugh Williamson to GW, 21 May 1789, n.1. The letter from Pickens and Osborne, and its enclosures, were probably submitted to the Senate, 22 Aug. 1789 (DHFC, 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 2:188–199; 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 1:12–54).

1The resolution of the Continental Congress authorizing the appointment of Indian agents by North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia was passed on 26 Oct. 1787 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 33:708–11).

2Copies of all of the enclosures to this letter are in DNA: RG 46, First Congress, President’s Messages, 1A-E4, Transcriptions of Reports from the Secretary of War, and are printed in 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 1:34–38. The numbered enclosures are:

  • No. 1. A. Andrew Pickens, John Steele, and Henry Osborne to the headmen, chiefs, and warriors of the Cherokee Nation, 7 June 1789.
  • No. 1. A talk from the headmen and chiefs of the Lower Creek Nation to the commissioners of the United States in the southern department, 23 May 1789.
  • No. 2. A talk from the chiefs, headmen, and warriors of the Lower Creek Nation, 1 June 1789.
  • No. 3. Alexander McGillivray to George Galphin, 18 May 1789.
  • No. 4. George Galphin to the commissioners of the United States for the southern department, 27 May 1789.
  • No. 5. John Galphin to Henry Osborne, 23 May 1789.
  • No. 6. John Galphin to Henry Osborne, 1 June 1789.
  • No. 7. John Galphin to the commissioners of the United States, 24 June 1789.
  • No. 8. Alexander McGillivray to John Galphin, 16 June 1789.
  • No. 9. Andrew Pickens and Henry Osborne to the headmen, chiefs, and warriors of the Creek Nation, 29 June 1789.
  • No. 10. Andrew Pickens and Henry Osborne to Alexander McGillivray, 30 June 1789.

3In reply to the commissioners’ invitation to a council, the headmen and chiefs of the Lower Creek asserted in their talk of 23 May that at the “present time we were not able to give you an answer, in consequence of a great meeting and a Talk being concluded by Mr McGillivray, and the whole nation in consequence of the encroachments of the Georgians on our hunting grounds. Orders were given out for our warriors to be in readiness to turn out in respect to their lands. We then first sent runners every where to stop and turn back all parties they could come up with, until we could hear from Mr McGillivray and have his advice in the matter; there are some people we believe gone on, the consequence of which we cannot be accountable for, as they were gone before your Talk came in; but I hope there will be no blood spilt” (DNA: RG 46, First Congress, President’s Messages, 1A-E4, Transcriptions of Reports from the Secretary of War). See also note 4.

John and George Galphin were the illegitimate sons of an Indian woman and George Galphin (c.1709–1780), a prominent Georgia Indian trader. Both sons, also traders, became active in the 1780s and 1790s in Indian affairs on the southwest frontier.

4That the Creek chiefs did not share the commissioners’ optimism for a successful treaty is evidenced by McGillivray’s letter of 24 June to Esteban Rodríquez Miró y Sabater, the Spanish governor of Louisiana. “When I had last the pleasure of writing Your Excellency I was on the point of Setting off for the Cowetas in the Lower Towns on my way to meet the commissioners of Congress to treat of Peace, at their request. When I arrived at the Lower Towns I found the Chiefs assembled in meeting when they gave it as their opinion that I ought not to proceed to the appointed place of meeting the Commissioners for the reason that as in the last month we had generally resolved to recommence the War & were actually prepared to take the feild, & some partys had actually Set off to war when the Talk of Invitation arrived to us, & those partys were Just all returnd having killed several & took some prisoners, which no doubt would provoke the Georgians to offer us gross Insults if not make some hostile attempts upon our persons at the Treaty, therefore it woud be most proper to Send an express to them with our reasons for declining the proposed Treaty in the present Circumstances of things & to assure them of our Willingness to treat personally of Peace after a few Months had elapsed, giving time for our Minds to cool when we coud confer & treat in temper & moderation. . . . The above reasons only shoud not have deterrd me from proceeding to the Treaty, but the matter which weighd most in my mind was the result of a conversation which I had a little before with my friend Mr. Jas. McGy. who lately arrived here from the South of Georgia after some Negroes who had ran off & came here. He told me that the Congress had lately given Instructions to their Commissioners, that in their negotiations with us, they were to conduct themselves agreeable to the desires of the Georgians, & in the event of our refusing to accede to their decission, the whole was to be referrd to General Washington, (who is vested with nearly royal Powers,) for his Judgment the result of which woud be adopted by Congress.

“The wishes & Intention of the Georgians are well known to be these first to compel us to a concession of all the territory which they want from us, a part of which cuts deep into East Florida, their Second object is to force our trade from its present channel the Floridas into their own hands which will at once make them our dictators in all matters.

“Possessd of this Information, we coud not consistently with our prior engagements with You proceed to treat with them on terms so contradictory with those with You. Your Excellency may rest assured that it shall be my Study & endeavor to maintain good faith with you. . . .

“In the meantime as we are threatend hard by the Americans with the displeasure of their King Washington, to be prepared for every event & to be guarded against the effects of it I have despatched the Cowetas Cussitahs & Some other Towns in the Lower Nation to proceed to Pensacola to receive Your Excellencys bounty of ammunition & arms & am Sending off others from here for that purpose.

“About three weeks Since a party of our Warriors returnd from the Cherokee Nation. They being on the frontier of North Carolina fell in with a considerable party of Americans, directing their course toward the Cherokee Country & our warriors, Judging them of hostile Intentions toward that Indians attackd & routed them, as they made no resistance killed but few” (McGillivray to Miró, 24 June 1789, in Caughey, McGillivray of the Creeks, description begins John Walton Caughey. McGillivray of the Creeks. Norman, Okla., 1938. description ends 238–40).

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