George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate, 22 February 1791

To the United States Senate

United States February 22nd 1791

Gentlemen of the Senate,

I lay before you a Report of the Secretary of War relative to the Appointment of two Brigadier Generals of Militia in the Territory of the United States South of the Ohio.1 And I nominate

John Sevier to be Brigadier General of the Militia of Washington District—and James Robertson to be Brigadier General of the Militia of Miro District; both within the said Territory.2

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, 1789–1791, Records of Executive Proceedings, President’s Messages—Executive Nominations; LB, DLC:GW.

1On 26 Nov. 1790 William Blount, governor of the Southwest Territory, wrote to Thomas Jefferson, reminding him that “By the eighth article of the act of cession of the state of North Carolina the laws in force and use at the time of passing that act are to continue so until they are repealed or altered by the legislative authority of the territory; and by the militia law of North Carolina there is a brigadier general to each district. At the time that act passed John Sevier was the brigadier for the district of Washington and Daniel Smith for Mero. By the ordinance for the government of the territory the appointment of all officers above the rank of field officers is in Congress. It is my duty to inform you that in my opinion John Sevier is the most proper man again to fill that station in the district of Washington, he has spirit judgment, experience and as a general the confidence of the people in general, and James Robertson now the Colonel of Davidson county is the most proper for the district of Mero; he is cool, brave and prudent and has the confidence of the people. Daniel Smith is now secretary and if there was a propriety in again appointing him, I know he would not accept” (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 2:476). On 5 Feb. 1791 Hugh Williamson wrote to Henry Knox, also urging the appointment of Sevier and Robertson (ibid., 477).

In the enclosed report to GW, dated 22 Feb. 1791, Knox advised GW that, having taken into consideration the letters of Blount and Williamson, he was “of opinion, That in conformity to the usage before established by the laws of North-Carolina, with respect to a Brigadier of Militia for each of the said districts of Washington and Miro, as well as in regard to the propriety of the measure, that it would be highly necessary for the general Government, to appoint a Brigadier for each of the said districts. That from the Letters of the said Governor Blount and Hugh Williamson, and other information, it would appear, that the following Characters would be proper for the said Offices, to wit: John Sevier, Brigadier General of Militia for Washington District James Robertson, Brigadier General of Militia for Miro District. All of which is humbly submitted to the President of the United States” (the report, in the writing of Benjamin Bankson, a War Department clerk, was signed by Knox; extracts from the letters of Blount and Williamson, in the writing of GW’s secretary William Jackson, were included with the report when it was presented to the Senate; the report and the extracts are in DNA: RG 46, First Congress, 1789–1791, Records of Executive Proceedings, President’s Messages—Executive Nominations, and are printed in 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 2:475–77).

2This message and the related report were laid before the Senate on 22 Feb. 1791. The appointments were approved the next day (ibid., 119–20).

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