George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 5 January 1791

From Henry Knox

War department 5th January 1791.


I have the honor to submit to you three reports upon the following subjects.

No: 1. Is a report upon the address of the representatives of the counties of Kentuckey and the other counties of Virginia bordering upon and contiguous to the Ohio as transmitted by general Charles Scott, in his letter of the fourth of December last.1

No. 2. Is a report upon the letter of his excellency the governor of Virginia dated the 29th of November last, containing a letter from the representatives of Russell county in the said state relative to its exposed situation to indian incursions, and also two letters from general Joseph Martin, one upon the subject of indian affairs, and the other relative to certain former complaints against himself.2

No: 3. Is a report upon a letter of his excellency the governor of Virginia, dated the 10th of December last, enclosing a joint memorial addressed to him of the Delegates of Ohio, Monongahalia, Harrison, Randolph, Kenhawa, Greenb[r]ier, Montgomery & Russell, counties on the Ohio.3 I have the honor to be Sir with the most perfect respect Your obedient humble servant,

H. Knox
Secy of War


1Charles Scott’s letter of 4 Dec. 1790, apparently addressed to GW, and the enclosed memorial from residents of Kentucky and other parts of western Virginia have not been found. In the enclosed report, dated 5 Jan. 1791, Knox wrote: “The Secretary of War, to whom the President of the United States was pleased to refer the address of the representatives of the Counties of Kentucky, and the other counties of Virginia bordering upon and contiguous to the Ohio, as transmitted by General Charles Scott⟨,⟩ in his letter dated the 4th of December last—


“That the said representatives state in a respectful manner their opinion upon indian affairs—That in indian warfare, offensive or defensive, regular officers and regular soldiers do not answer the desired effect—That an intermixture of them with militia promises nothing better.

“That militia officers and privates having their all at stake, and well accustomed to rifles, and the indian mode of warfare are preferable to the best regular troops, armed with muskets.

“Their wish is therefore to be commanded by their own officers, and they pray that the President of the United States would appoint such of them as he may think fit, to take the command and that they may as soon as possible march out and check the triumphing enemy.

“That they take the freedom to mention, that for the appointment of a Major General and two Brigadiers, Charles Scott, Benjamin Logan and Isaac Shelby would be highly pleasing.

“The Secretary of War, observes⟨,⟩ that as the signers to the address seem to constitute almost if not entirely the whole of the representatives of Kentucky and the counties of Virginia lying upon and contiguous to the river Ohio, that it would be proper to give it an answer, and therefore he submits the following draft—


“‘The President of the United States has directed me to inform you, that he has received your address, as transmitted by General Scott in his letter of the 4th of last month, and to assure you that it affords him great satisfaction, to receive the undisguised sentiments of any parts of the community, upon the subject of public affairs⟨,⟩ more especially in cases in which they are deeply interested.

“‘Without deciding at present upon the principles you suggest, he will keep the protection of the frontiers steadily in his view, and use the means in his power according to his best judgement—And, in any arrangements which may be ultimately decided upon, he promises himself the fullest support from the good people of Kentucky and the counties of Virginia lying along the Ohio’” (DLC:GW).

2For the background to this report, see Beverley Randolph to GW, 29 Nov. 1790. The enclosed report on Randolph’s letter of 29 Nov. 1790 has not been found.

3For the undated petition of the delegates from the frontier counties of Virginia, see Beverley Randolph to GW, 10 Dec. 1790. In his report Knox summarized the petition and commented that “on the 26th of February 1790, a report upon the subject of Scouts, and an estimate thereof, was submitted to the President of the United States, who was pleased to lay the same before the Congress,” a copy of which report Knox enclosed. In response to the petition Knox wrote: “It is to be observed that no partial measures can be adopted by the Government—That any arrangement for the eight Counties to which the Memorialists belong, must also comprehend the County of Washington in Pennsylvania—eight Counties in Kentucky—the exposed parts of Cumberland settlements, and the settlements lying upon and between the Holstein and French Broad Rivers making in all, districts or division, equal to twenty two Counties. That it is to be observed, that the Scouts so called are the most active hunters or woodsmen, well acquainted with the paths by which Indians enter the Country—That experience of their utility seems to have stamped an extraordinary value upon their services in the opinion of the frontier people. They seem however from information, to have received an exceeding high pay, and greatly disproportioned to any known compensation for military services. But considering the confidence of the frontier people in the said Scouts, the Secretary of War is inclined to the opinion, that it might be proper to indulge them therein—provided their services could be obtained for a reasonable pay, and regulated in such manner as to prevent abuse. They pay allowed by Virginia was five sixths of a dollar pr day for each person or Scout, but no rations. The Secretary of War is of opinion, that pay at the rate often or twelve dollars per month, and one ration per day, to be given for each person acting as a Scout, would be as high a sum as ought to be given for any Military service—that no greater number than six or eight should be allowed to any county. And in no instance a greater number, than have heretofore been allowed by Virginia.” Knox advised that “this measure be adopted only as a temporary expedient.” He admitted that paying scouts at a higher rate than regular army troops might discourage recruiting for the regular establishment and cause discontent among men already enlisted, but he contended that this should not “prevent the adoption of such reasonable measures, as may conciliate and attach the people of the frontiers to the General Government.” He added that if GW approved of the plan, “it will be necessary to lay the subject before the Congress for their consideration and approbation. For if a species of troops are to be adopted at a higher rate of pay than the rate established by law, it will be necessary to make the provision for that purpose by a special Act” (copy, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, 1789–1791, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages).

Tobias Lear wrote to Knox on 11 Jan. 1791 that “the President has not yet been able fully to consider all the Reports submitted to him by the Secretary of War on the 5th Instant. The Report No. 1 upon the address transmitted by Genl Charles Scott has been duly considered by the President, and he approves of the draft of the letter subjoined to the said report, in answer to the Address, and directs the Secretary of War to send it accordingly” (DLC:GW).

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