George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Henry Knox, 13 August 1790

To Henry Knox

United States [New York] August 13th 1790


The Session of Congress having closed, and it being my intention to go to Virginia as soon as the public business will permit; and wishing, during my absence from the Seat of Government, to have my mind as free from public cares as circumstances will allow; I am desireous of having such matters as may, by Law or otherwise, require the agency or sanction of the President of the United States, brought to view before my departure. I therefore request that you will cause such business, within your department, as may be necessary to receive the aid or approbation of the President, submitted to me as soon as its nature will permit; particularly

Regulations for trade and intercourse with the Indian Tribes, agreeably to the Act.1

And information & opinions on the following points?

Whether any other, and what steps shall be taken with them to restrain their Hostilities?

Whether the orders given, and measures adopted, are adequate to the Peace of the Western Frontiers?2 If not, what further is to be done for this purpose?

Upon the expediency and policy of a proclamation3 forbidding encroachments upon the Territory of the Indians or treating with them contrary to the Law lately passed.

Instructions for the Governor of the Ceded Territory So. of the Ohio.4 Where ought the Governor to reside?

What notice should be taken of the Insult offered to Major Doughty?5

What steps should be taken with respect to his recommendation of a Post at the mouth of the Tennessee?6

Other measures than those pursued by the present contractors for supplying the Western Posts ought to be adopted, that the Troops in that Country may be more efficiently employed on sudden emergencies and the Posts better secured.

Have any orders been given concerning the condemned Soldiers?7 I am Sir Yr most Obedt Servt



1See GW to the U.S. Senate, 4 Aug. 1790, Enclosure, source note, for the 22 July 1790 “Act to regulate trade and Intercourse with the Indian tribes.” Timothy Pickering’s copy of GW’s 28 Aug. 1790 Indian regulations reads:

“1. Two departments, northern—including all the Indians northward of the Ohio—And southern, including the residue within the limits of the U. States.

“2. Each superintendant must correspond with the Secy of the department of war.

“3. When either of the Superintendants thinks a treaty necessary, he is [to] make report of the object, & the reasons for it, & an estimate of the expence.

“4. All monies & public property coming to the hands of the superintendants, to be annually accounted for—oftener if required.

“5. Not to appoint any deputy without the permission of the President of the U.S.

“6. Superintendants to license traders in their respective districts—Unless the President shd otherwise specially direct.

“7. Only citizens of the U.S. can be licensed.

“8. Superintendants to assign the limits within which each trader shall trade.

“9. If the Conduct of the Indians requires that they should be deprived of the goods, the trader is to remove them when required by the Superintendant.

“10. Such goods only as are necessary for the comfort & convenience of the Indians to be carried to their towns and villages: Distilled Spirits to be sold only at such out military posts, as the Superintendants shall direct.

“11. Each trader to be sworn to give intelligence to Superintendant, or nearest military officer of hostile designs of the Indians

“12. Each trader to give to the superintendant the annual amount & nature of the articles of his trade.

“13. Each superintendant to make return of persons licensed to trade—their districts—and annual amo. of their trade.

“14. Superintendants, their deputies nor any persons employed by them to be engaged in the Indian trade, either directly or indirectly. Oaths to be taken by Super. & Deps. to serve faithfully—& not trade.

“15. Superintendants &c. to be governed by the act for regulating trade & intercourse with the Indians, by these rules—& such others as shall be made by the P. of the U.S.” (MHi: Pickering Papers).

2The administration authorized militia rangers to defend each frontier county at federal expense, and on 7 June 1790 Knox ordered Arthur St. Clair and Josiah Harmar to organize a punitive expedition against Indian raiders (see Beverley Randolph to GW, 29 Nov. 1790, source note; 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 1:97, 101–4; Kohn, Eagle and Sword, description begins Richard H. Kohn. Eagle and Sword: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America, 1783–1802. New York and London, 1975. description ends 100–104).

4GW appointed William Blount as governor of the newly created Territory Southwest of the River Ohio in June 1790. He was to leave for Tennessee on 24 Aug. 1790 (GW to the U.S. Senate, 7 June 1790; see also Blount to Jefferson, 20 Aug. 1790, in Carter, Territorial Papers, description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends 4:33).

5Only on 2 July 1790 did GW receive the details of the March 1790 attack on Maj. John Doughty’s peace mission to the Choctaws and Chickasaws by Cherokee, Shawnee, and Creek renegades (see GW to the Chiefs of the Choctaw Nation, 17 Dec. 1789, source note; Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:83–85).

6Doughty recommended establishing a fort at Muscle Shoals only with the consent of the Cherokee and Choctaw (see GW to the Chiefs of the Choctaw Nation, 17 Dec. 1789, source note).

7GW probably referred to the unexecuted sentences passed upon Cpl. David Core and Michael Graff for desertion and murder, respectively, by a 19 Mar. 1790 general court martial at Fort Knox. Knox wrote to General Harmar on 25 Aug. 1790 that the president “approves of the sentence of death passed upon David Core, and orders it to be executed at such time and place as you shall direct.

“But as it does not appear from the evidence produced on the trial of Michael Graff accused of killing Serjeant Albion Guest, that there were any previous circumstances [or] facts of such a nature as to constitute the action malicious and wilful murder: the President of the United States is constrained to disaprove of the sentence passed against the said Michael Graff and to order him to be released from his confinement.” The two men, however, had escaped from the Fort Knox guardhouse on 20 July 1790 and were still at large when Harmar informed their commanding officer, Maj. John Francis Hamtramck, on 15 Jan. 1791 that “The decision of the President of the United States respecting Core & Graff has at length arrived. . . . I am sorry they have both made their escape from the guard. If you should ever apprehend Core, order him to be hanged immediately” (Thornbrough, Outpost on the Wabash, description begins Gayle Thornbrough, ed. Outpost on the Wabash, 1787–1791: Letters of Brigadier General Josiah Harmar and Major John Francis Hamtramck and other letters and documents from the Harmar Papers in the William L. Clements Library. Indianapolis, 1957. In Indiana Historical Society Publications, vol.19. description ends 243, 249, 270; see also 182, 184, 207, 215, 220, 222, 230, 250, and 254).

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