George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 7 December 1792

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States [Philadelphia] December 7th 1792

Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives.1

I lay before you two letters with their enclosures, from the Governor of the south western territory, and an extract of a letter to him from the department of War.2

These, and a letter of the ninth of October last, which has been already communicated to you from the same department, to the Governor,3 will shew, in what manner, the first section of the Act of the last Session, which provides for the calling out the militia, for the repelling of Indian invasions, has been executed.4 It remains to be considered by Congress, whether, in the present situation of the United States, it be adviseable, or not, to pursue any farther or other measures, than those which have already been adopted. The nature of the subject does, of itself, call for your immediate attention to it; and I must add, that, upon the result of your deliberations, the future conduct of the Executive will, on this occasion, materially depend.

Go: Washington

Copy, DNA: RG 233, Second Congress, 1791–93, House Records of Legislative Proceedings, Journals; LB, DLC:GW.

1Compare this letter with the memorandum of 28 Nov. that Thomas Jefferson prepared on the subject of Indian hostilities in the Southwest Territory for GW to send to Congress.

2The following memorandum appears at the end of the letter-book copy in DLC:GW: “The letters &c. alluded to [in] the foregoing Message were copied at the War-Office, where the Originals are deposited and are as follows.

“A letter from Govr Blount, dated, Novr 12th 1792. giving an account of an attack made by the Indians on an house within 8 miles of Knoxville, where they were repulsed.

“A letter from ditto—dated Novr 8th 1792. stating the causes of the hostility of the Cherokees & Creeks against the U.S. and enclosing—No: 1—Minutes of Information given to Governor Blount, by James Cary, one of the Interpreters of the U.S. in the Cherokee Nation—dated Novr 3d 1792. No: 2. A Return of the persons killed, wounded, or made Captives in the Territory of the U.S. south of the Ohio since the first day of January 1791—No. 3—Governor Blounts Account of the number of Indians who made the attack upon Buchanans Station, their loss & particulars. No: 4—An Account of Indian Depredations in the District of Mero, and on the Kentuckey Road from the 3d to the 14th of October 1792. and No. 5—Governor Blount’s instructions of the 7th of October to David Campbell, Chs MClury and John McKee, Commissioners &c.” William Blount’s letters to Henry Knox of 8 and 12 Nov. and the five enclosures described above are in 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 1:325–32.

The enclosed extract may have been taken from Knox’s letter to Blount of 26 Nov., in which he wrote: “All your letters have been submitted to the President of the United States. Whatever may be his impression relatively to the proper steps to be adopted, he does not conceive himself authorized to direct offensive operations against the Chickamaggas. If such measures are to be pursued they must result from the decisions of Congress who solely are vested with the powers of War.” GW’s address of 6 Nov., Knox reported, has brought “this subject . . . fully . . . to the view of Congress and the two Houses have been much occupied in reading the various communications relatively to the Indian department, what result the business will have it is not proper or possible for me to conjecture.

“I can however with great truth assure you that the extension of the Northern Indian War to the Southern Tribes would be a measure into which the Country would enter with extreme reluctance. They view an Indian War in any event of it as unproductive either of profit or honor, and therefore to be avoided if possible. . . . In this event Sir, you could not do a more acceptable service to the Government or more enhance your own reputation than by terminating the affair with the said Chickamaggas without further conflict. . . . The number of Militia which you appear to have called into service might probably at the moment of danger have appeared to be necessary and justifiable by the occasion—But Sir it is of the highest importance that they should not have been retained in service any longer than circumstances rendered indispensible. The great expence to the public attending so considerable a body of Militia together with the extreme injury to Individuals so called out will render the measure intolerable unless supported by the most conspicuous emergency and necessity—This is a point to which I am directed to request your serious attention.” Knox concluded his letter with a review of the strategy, troops, and military supplies approved for the defense of the Southwest Territory (Carter, Territorial Papers, description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends 4:220–26).

3For Knox’s letter to Blount of 9 Oct., see Knox to GW, 9 Oct., n.3. GW submitted a copy of this letter to Congress on 7 Nov. (see GW’s Address to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 6 Nov., n.2).

4See “An Act more effectually to provide for the National Defence by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the United States,” 8 May 1792 (1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 271–74).

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