George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 14 November 1791

From Henry Knox

War-department [Philadelphia], Nov: 14th 1791.

Sir,

Lieutenant John Heth having arrived from the Creek country, I have the honor to submit his report relative to his mission and also, three letters from Brigadier General McGillivray of the 15th and 25th of September and the 4th of October; and also a letter from Edward White, dated the 7th of October.1 I have the honor to be with great respect Sir, Your most obedient Servt

H.Knox

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

On 31 May Henry Knox instructed Lt. John Heth to proceed to the Creek country to deliver to chief Alexander McGillivray the sum of $2,900, the remainder of the annuity and McGillivray’s salary as agent promised in the treaty that the administration signed with Alexander McGillivray and other chiefs of the Creek nation in New York in August 1790 (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 1:125–26, 127). Heth also was to give to McGillivray a letter from Knox, dated 31 May 1791, urging him to prevent further revenge killings by the Cussetah, to ensure that all prisoners held by the Indians were released by the date specified by the treaty, and to have three chiefs present on 1 Oct. to meet with surveyor Andrew Ellicott and the three Georgia commissioners to run the treaty line (ibid., 126–27). Joseph Ellicott went to Georgia to assume his brother’s duties in September, as Andrew could not be spared from his work laying out the Federal City (see Tobias Lear to Knox, 1 Sept., n.2). He wrote to Knox on 7 or 10 Dec., which letter Knox asked Lear on 4 Jan. 1792 to submit to the president (DLC:GW). On 27 Mar. 1792 Ellicott apparently requested a leave of absence, which the secretary of war refused a month later (Knox to Ellicott, 29 April 1792, 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 1:255).

1None of the enclosures has been identified but Knox’s reply to McGillivray of 17 Feb. 1792 indicates that the letter of 15 Sept. intimated a desire to deviate from the line agreed to at the treaty (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 1:246-47). On 25 Nov. Knox sent to Lear for submittal to GW important additional documents just received by post from Georgia, consisting of papers “from the Commissioner in Georgia for runng the line between the U.S. & the Creeks—a letter from Genl McGillivary—one from Major [Richard] Call—and one from Mr [William Augustus] Bowles” (DLC:GW). Knox sent Lear on 4 Jan. 1792 another letter from Call, of 7 or 10 Dec. 1791, to be submitted to the president (DLC:GW). After reading the letter from Call, the commanding officer of the federal troops in Georgia, Thomas Jefferson felt compelled to ask the British minister if Bowles was an official agent of Great Britain (see Jefferson to George Hammond, 12 Dec. 1791, and enclosure, and Hammond to Jefferson, 14 Dec. [second letter], Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 22:394–95, 403–4). Call’s later letter to Knox has not been identified. The letter from Bowles might have enclosed the proclamation he issued at Usachees, 26 Oct., as self-proclaimed director of affairs of the Creek nation, demanding suppression of the Yazoo land speculators, relinquishment of the attempt to run the Creek boundary line, and withdrawal of all Americans to east of the Oconee River (Wright, Bowles description begins J. Leitch Wright, Jr. William Augustus Bowles: Director General of the Creek Nation. Athens, Ga., 1967. description ends , 62, 184 n.23). For background on Bowles, who had recently returned from Britain to the Creek country, where he planned to set himself up in opposition to McGillivray among the Creek, Seminole, Chickamauga, and Cherokee, see Secret Article of the Treaty with the Creeks, 4 Aug. 1790, source note, enclosed in GW to the U.S. Senate, 4 Aug. 1790, “John A. Dingwell” to GW, 12, 16 Aug. 1790, to Knox or Lear, 17 Aug. 1790, and enclosures to Memorandum from Lear, 18 Aug. 1790. McGillivray wrote to his business partner on 28 Oct. that Heth had left Little Tallassie for Philadelphia sometime before with an account of the intrigues of Bowles and predicted that the adventurer would lose his influence with the Creeks as soon as his supply of trade goods ran out (McGillivray to William Panton, 28 Oct., in Caughey, McGillivray of the Creeks, description begins John Walton Caughey. McGillivray of the Creeks. Norman, Okla., 1938. description ends 298–301). Although Bowles did prevent the running of the boundary line between the United States and the Creek nation in 1791, his seizure by Spanish authorities in New Orleans in late February 1792 kept him from further disturbing Creek-American relations (see GW to Pierre L’Enfant, 28 November).

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