George Washington Papers

Tobias Lear to Henry Knox, 21 November 1792

Tobias Lear to Henry Knox

United States [Philadelphia] Novr 21st 1792

By the President’s command T. Lear has the honor to return to the Secretary of War the enclosed letter from the Governor of Virginia, which has been submitted to the President;1 and to transmit a letter which the President has received from the Representatives of the frontier Counties in the Gene[r]al Assembly of Virginia.2 The President requests that the Secretary will take the subject of the enclosed letters into consideration and report to him his opinion thereon.3

Tobias Lear.
Secretary to the president of the United States.

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1Knox enclosed in a brief note to Lear of 20 Nov. 1792 a letter for GW’s consideration that was “just received from the Governor of Virginia” (DLC:GW). The letter of 14 Nov. from Henry Lee has not been identified, but Knox wrote Lee on 20 Nov. 1792 that he would “lay [it] before the President” (see Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 6:154).

2The letter from the Ohio and Monongalia representatives to GW of c.15 Nov. has not been found. In a letter to Henry Lee of 15 Nov., these representatives wrote: “We have Inclos’d to your Excellency a letter to the president of the United States. If you think proper may forward the same” (see Thomas Wilson et al. to Lee, 15 Nov. 1792, ibid., 151). In a letter to Anthony Wayne of 24 Nov., Knox wrote, “The representatives of that part of Virginia which lies upon the Ohio from the Pennsylvania line to the great Kenhawa and called the Monongahela district have applied for a protection of their own Militia during the Winter” (Knopf, Wayne, description begins Richard C. Knopf, ed. Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms: Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation; The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence. Pittsburgh, 1960. description ends 141). GW assigned Knox the task of replying to the Virginia delegates, and by 24 Nov. Knox had written a letter to Thomas Wilson and the other representatives (see Lear to Knox, 24 November). Knox’s letter has not been identified.

3For Knox’s submissions to GW, see Lear to Knox, 24 Nov. 1792. Knox conveyed GW’s thoughts on the role of the federal government in protecting the Virginia frontier from hostile Indians to Lee in a letter of 24 Nov.: “It is his opinion that although small garrisons stationed in Block-Houses or other fortifications will secure probably whoever may be therein; yet they are entirely inadequate to protect a line of frontier against incursive parties of savages.” Instead GW believed that “the patrols, termed scouts, formed of the most active, bold, and experienced hunters, are of the highest service in order to discover the approach of Indians, and alarm the inhabitants.”

The cost for “a reasonable number of these scouts will be readily paid by the General Government, even at the high rate of pay hereafter allowed, which has been five-sixths of a dollar per day. . . . But if in addition to these means, one, or at most two companies of Rangers, should act upon the line of the Southwestern frontier of Virginia, it would appear to be entirely adequate to any probable demands. The pay and rations as fixed by law of such companies, the President consents shall for the present be defrayed by the United States. But, he considers that the expence of the six companies ordered out by the Executive of Virginia, in pursuance (it is supposed) of the resolves of the General Assembly of the 16th ultimo, would not form a proper charge against the general Government.

“It is, however, always to be understood upon an invasion, or an immediate threatening danger thereof, so as to render necessary the calling out the force of the country, that in such a case the United States will be responsible for the expenses, according to the nature of the circumstances. . . . The last intelligence from Governor Blount was dated on the 10th ultimo. . . . If the Chickamaygas continue their depredations, it is difficult to conceive any other mode of insuring future tranquility, but that of chastising them severely and desolating their Towns. But offensive measures must arise from such acts as the Congress may think proper to pass on the occasion.”

General Wayne’s troops, Knox wrote, will be posted “a little above the Big Beaver creek, and probably continue therein until March next. He is directed in the mean time to encrease the force at Galliopolis, below the great Kenawha, and at the Muskingum, to such a degree as to afford considerable and constant patroles along the line from Galliopolis to his Camp, and thence to Fort Franklin. These patroles it is conceived in addition to the scouts, which all the exposed Counties will be permitted to have during the winter, will prevent the necessity of ordering any of the militia of Monongahalia district into Service for the present, as suggested in your letter” (Calendar of Virginia State Papers, description begins William P. Palmer et al., eds. Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts. 11 vols. Richmond, 1875–93. description ends 6:155–57).

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