George Washington Papers

Henry Knox’s Minutes for the President’s Speech, 18 October 1791

Henry Knox’s Minutes for the President’s Speech

[Philadelphia, c.18 Oct. 1791]1

In pursuance of the powers vested in me by law, I have directed such measures for re-establishing the tranquillity of the western frontiers, as appeared adequate and proper for that purpose.

At the same time that treaties were held, and other just means used, to attach the wavering, and to confirm the well disposed tribes of Indians in their friendship to the United States, offers of pacification were held forth to the hostile tribes upon terms of moderation and Justice.

But these offers, having had no effect, it became necessary to convince the refractory, of the power of the United States to restrain and punish their depredations[.] Accordingly offensive operations were directed,2 to be conducted, however, as consistently as possible with humanity. Some of these operations have been crownd with full success,3 and the others are yet undecided.

The offers of peace are still continued to the deluded tribes, and [a]4 considerable number of individuals belonging to them, have lately renounced all5 further opposition, removed from their former situations, and placed themselves under the protection of the United States.

It is sincerely to be desired that in future Coercion may not be necssary and6 that an intimate intercourse may be effected, tending to advance the happiness of the Indians, and to attach them firmly to the United States.

To effect these desireable objects it seems necessary that the Indians should experience the benefits of an impartial administration of Justice.7

That the mode of alienating their lands, the main source of discontent and war, should be defined and regulated by such principles, as to prevent all controversy.

That the advantages of commerce should be extended to them, and such rational experiments made8 for imparting to them the blessings of civilization, as may from time to time be suitable to their conditions.

And that proper penalties should be provided for such lawless persons as shall violate the treaties which9 have [been] m[ade] in g[ood] faith with the indian tribes.

A system producing the free operatn of the mild principles of religion and benevolence towards an unenlightned race of men10 whose happiness materially depends on the conduct of the U.S., would at once be highly oeconomical, and honorable to the national character.

The importance of the subject will justify me in recommending [to] your serious considerat⟨ion⟩ the necessity and propriety of establishg a system for the National defense—A system to11 embrace the organizatn of a general militia [and] The establishing of magaznes and arsenals.12

It would be more consonant to the wisdom and dignity of the United Staes that our national security shoud rest under the protection of divine providene upon the basis of solid arrangemts than on a fortuitous assemblage of circumstans.

ADf, NNGL: Henry Knox Papers. Knox noted at the top of the first page, “Minutes for the President’s speech.”

1The date 24 Oct. 1791 was added later to the top of the first page and appears in Knox’s docket on the cover: “Private[.] Minutes for the Presidents speech for the 24th Octr 1791—relative to the objects within the War departmnt.” Knox added: “Copy dd to the secrey of the treasury th[i]s 18 Octr 1791.” Alexander Hamilton had written to Knox on 17 Oct.: “The following are the particulars in the Presidents Letter which he expects you to prepare—Expeditions against the Indians Every pacific measure was previously tried to produce accommodation & avoid expence. More pointed laws with penalties to rest⟨r⟩ain our own people—This & good faith may produce tranquillity. Treaties with Cherokees & six Nations & reasons I annex to the first the hints in the Presidents letter You will of course add any other things that occur on any point” (ALS, NNGL: Knox Papers).

2Knox originally wrote “military operations have been directed.”

3Knox originally wrote “have amply succeeded.”

4Knox crossed out this indefinite article but did not make the noun plural.

5Knox first wrote “any” for “all.”

6Knox originally wrote “that future coercion may be unnecessary, and” before replacing the clause with “all hostility may cease,” which he also crossed out.

7This paragraph originally read: “To effect these desireable objects it seems necessary that the laws should establish an impartial administration of justice for the In.”

8Knox crossed out “towards civi” and replaced it with “made.”

9Knox crossed out “the U.S.” after this word.

10Knox first wrote “race of men,” which he crossed out and replaced with “part of Ma,” before crossing out that unfinished thought and inserting “race of men” above the line.

11Knox originally wrote “Such a system would.”

12Knox deleted “in the several parts of the Union” from the end of this sentence. For GW’s incorporation of many of Knox’s expressions in his address to Congress, see GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 25 October.

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