George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Pinckney, 8 January 1792

From Charles Pinckney


Dear SirCharleston [S.C.] January 8: 1792

I am to lament that my absence from this place for nearly two months in attending the Legislature & other Business in the Country deprived me of the pleasure of seeing & shewing every civility in my power to Lord Wycombe during his short stay in Charleston. I am told his Lordship is now on a visit to the Floridas & that it is probable he will return & spend the remainder of the Winter among us—if so I shall have much pleasure in endeavouring to render this place as agreeable to him as the Season will permit.1

Our Legislature among other questions agitated the one respecting the future importation of Slaves, as the prohibition expires in March 1793—great pains were used to effect a total prohibition, but upon the question being taken in the Senate it was lost by so decided a majority that I think we may consider it as certain this State will after March 1793 import as largely as they ever did—it is a decision upon the policy of which I confess I have my doubts.2

We have been much concerned at the intelligence lately received respecting the defeat of the army by the northern & western Indians—the Gentlemen on our frontiers now think that it is fortunate the Chiefs of the Cherokee nation are absent, as from their disturbed situation & the successes of their neighbours it might not have been a difficult thing to have renderd them hostile. I must take the liberty to mention to you that if our affairs should Still remain in the same unsettled State with the Indians, or their combinations extend to our frontiers & render a defence there necessary, I know no man whom I ought to recommend to you so soon to be employed as General Pickens3—A Man at least as well qualified to manage a contest with the Indians as any in the Union.—I consider it as I observed a Duty to mention this Gentleman to you in case it should be necessary to employ any person from this State in the event of the Indian War extending to the Southward, because we are acquainted with his influence among the Indians & his knowledge of their affairs & know that his modesty is so great that he rather wishes to retire from the public view, than court its favours or employments—as he will therefore never solicit or offer himself—it is a duty in us who know his consequence among the southern Indians to bring him forward to your view should his services be necessary, which I hope will not be the Case. I must request my best respects to Mrs Washington & remain with Esteem & Attachment dear Sir Yours Truly

Charles Pinckney

I have directed a box of Seeds of such trees as are not y⟨et⟩ in Virginia to be sent you by the Delaware when she sails The selection of which I have given to one of our best Gardeners who has promised to send as many as he can get.4

ALS, DLC:GW; ALS (duplicate), DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1For the visit of the earl of Wycombe to the United States, see GW to Lansdowne, 7 Nov. 1791, n.2. GW wrote a letter introducing him to Charles Pinckney on 8 November.

2Although South Carolina’s delegates to the Federal Convention of 1787 insisted on keeping the international slave trade open for twenty years, the state legislature that same year banned the international and interstate slave trade for the next two years, primarily to force up the value of slaves and facilitate the discharge of debts by low-country planters. Up-country planters, whose labor needs were greater, opposed the two-year ban. In 1791 the legislature renewed the ban on the international slave trade for another two years but permitted the ban on the domestic slave trade to expire. The following year it voted to close the domestic trade “ever hereafter.” The ban on the international slave trade, to which Pinckney refers, was renewed in 1793, and it was not permitted to expire until 1803 (Patrick S. Brady, “The Slave Trade and Sectionalism in South Carolina, 1787–1808,” Journal of Southern History, 38 [1972], 601–20). For GW’s response to Pinckney, expressing concern that the ban might be lifted in 1793, see his letter to Pinckney of 17 Mar. 1792.

3A delegation of Cherokee Indians had passed through Charleston on their way to treat with the federal government in Philadelphia. For the Cherokee mission to Philadelphia, see Henry Knox to GW, 17 Jan. 1792. Andrew Pickens apparently “endeavored to prevent their journey, but in vain” (Knox to William Blount, 31 Jan. 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 1:245). Andrew Pickens (1739–1817) was born in Pennsylvania and settled in the South Carolina backcountry before the Revolutionary War. He served in James Grant’s expedition against the Cherokee in 1761. Pickens distinguished himself as an officer in the southern campaigns of the Revolutionary War and capped his military career by defeating the Cherokee on the backcountry border between South Carolina and Georgia. He was elected to represent Ninety Six in the South Carolina legislature in 1782 and served in that body until elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1792. In 1785 he was sent by the Continental Congress to treat with the southern tribes that had been at war with the United States and was repeatedly employed as a commissioner to the southern Indians.

4In his letter of 18 Aug. 1791, Pinckney mentioned GW’s “request respecting the plants & seeds you wish sent from hence at the proper season,” which was probably made in person while GW was in Charleston on 2–9 May during his Southern Tour. On 17 Mar. 1792 GW acknowledged receipt of the seeds.

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