George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Mifflin, 15 March 1790

To Thomas Mifflin

United States [New York] March 15th 1790.


I have had the honor to receive your Excellency’s letter of the 10th inst enclosing “a letter addressed to the Executive of the State of Pennsylvania by several very respectable Inhabitants of the County of Washington” representing the mischiefs which have been done for several years past in that County, by the Indians—expressing their apprehensions of further interruption—and requesting the Interposition of Council with the President of the United States in behalf of the Inhabitants of Washington County. I have already laid before Congress all such papers and official information as have come to my hands, respecting depredations which have been committed on the Southern & Western frontiers of the United States1—In a word, I have exhibited to them everything in my possession, that can bring to their view the situation of our affairs in those parts. This communication from your Excellency shall be added thereto. And when Congress have duly considered the situation of our frontier settlements, and shall make such provision for their Defence & protection as the nature of the case seems to require—and circumstances will permit; there will be no delay in carrying such measures into effect as shall operate in a general & systamatical manner. I have the Honor to be with due consideration Yr Excellency’s most Obedt Sert


Df, in writing of Tobias Lear, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

1See GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 7 Aug. and 16 Sept. 1789. Both of these letters covered reports on Indian depredations. GW had already made at least some conservative provisions for the protection of the frontier counties south of the Ohio. On 3 Mar. Henry Knox informed Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, and Brig. Gen. Josiah Harmar, commander of the U.S. Army on the frontier, that in “pursuance of powers vested in the President of the United States, by the act of Congress, passed the 29th day of September, 1789, he authorized you, by his instructions, dated the 6th of October following, in certain cases, and in the proportions therein specified, to call forth the militia of Virginia and Pennsylvania, for the protection of the frontiers against the depredations of the Indians.

“Since transmitting you the aforesaid instructions, he has received several applications for protection, from the inhabitants of the frontier counties of Virginia, lying along the south side of the Ohio. These applications are founded on the depredations of small parties of Indians during the last year, who, it seems, have murdered many of the unguarded inhabitants, stolen their horses, and burned their houses.

“Until the last year, an arrangement of the following nature existed at the expense of Virginia. The lieutenants of the exposed counties, under certain restrictions, were permitted to call forth a number of active men as patrols or scouts, as they are generally termed, and parties of rangers; but the government of that State thought proper to discontinue that arrangement of the organization of the General Government, to which the inhabitants of the said counties now apply for protection.” All such applications had been laid before Congress, but until Congress should take measures to protect the frontier, GW authorized St. Clair and Harmar to permit county lieutenants in the counties south of the Ohio to call out scouts in case of renewed Indian raids, “In proportion to the danger of the said counties, not, however, exceeding, for one county, the number of eight men” (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 1:101). GW also authorized Harry Innes, district judge of Kentucky, to order out the scouts (Knox to Innes, 13 April 1790, ibid., 101–2). Similar authority was given to the county lieutenant for Washington County on 13 April (see Knox to the County Lieutenants, 17 July 1790, ibid., 102). The authority was rescinded in July 1790 when preparations began for the Harmar expedition against the western tribes.

Index Entries