Cabinet Opinion on Georgia and the Creek Indians
[Philadelphia] May 29th 1793
The President of the United States having assembled the heads of the respective departments and the attorney General, laid before them for their advice thereon, sundry communications from the Governor of Georgia, and others, relatively to the recent alarming depredations of the creek Indians upon the state of Georgia.1
Whereupon after the subject was maturely considered and discussed it was unanimously advised
That the Governor of Georgia be informed that from considerations relative to foreign powers, and the pending treaty with the Northern Indians,2 it is deemed adviseable for the present, to avoid offensive expeditions into the Indian Country. But from the nature of the late appearances, it is thought expedient to encrease the force to be kept up for defensive purposes. The President therefore authorises, the calling into, and keeping in service, in addition to the troops heretofore stationed in Georgia, one hundred horse, and one hundred infantry, to be employed in repelling inroads as circumstances shall require. As it does not yet appear that the whole nation of the creeks, is engaged in hostility, it is confided that this force will be sufficient for the object designated. The case of a serious invasion of the territory of Georgia, by large bodies of Indians must be referred to the provisions of the constitution. The proceeding with efficacy in future requires absolutely, that no unnecessary Expence should be incurred in the mean time.
The above corps of horse to be raised for any period of time not exceeding twelve Months3 as may be found most practicable, subject to be dismissed at any time sooner as the government may think fit. The infantry to be called into service according to the course of the militia Laws endevoring to secure their continuance in service for the like term.
That General Pickens be invited to repair to the seat of Government, for the purpose of information and consultation; a proper compensation for his expences, and loss of time to be allowed.4
That a further supply of one thousand arms with correspondent accoutrements be forwarded to the state of Georgia. Arms and accoutrements, for the cavalry to be also provided and forwarded.
That an agent be sent to the Creeks to endevor to adjust the surrender of those Indians who have lately committed murders on the citizens of Georgia; to conciliate, and secure such of the Indians as may be well disposed to the United States in the event of a war with the Creek nation, and if possible to prevent that extremety.5
1. For Georgia governor Edward Telfair’s complaints of Indian depredations in his state, see Lear to Knox, 21 Jan. 1793, n.1. For recent letters from Telfair, see Knox to GW, 18 April, Knox to Lear, 25 April. Knox incorporated the decisions made at this cabinet meeting in his letters to Telfair of 30 May and 10 June (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 1:364). The situation in Georgia continued to deteriorate (Knox to Lear, 30 May 1793 [first letter], n.1).
2. Although GW and his cabinet expected the treaty scheduled for June at Lower Sandusky would fail and make offensive operations in the Northwest Territory necessary, they wanted to avoid any attacks that either would end all hope of peace or would start concurrent wars with Indians in the North and South (GW to Cabinet, 21 Mar., Thomas Mifflin to GW, 25, 29 April 1793).
3. This passage initially read, “any period of time from [ ] to [ ] Months.” Tobias Lear returned this document to Jefferson on 31 May to be signed at the cabinet meeting on 1 June and for correction of this phrase, which was then changed to read as it does here.
4. Andrew Pickens visited Philadelphia in July and August 1793. He advocated a large military operation against the Creeks as the most effective means of ending the depredations on the frontiers of Georgia and South Carolina (Memorandum from Henry Knox and Andrew Pickens on the Creek and Cherokee Nations, 24 July, enclosed in Knox to GW, 25 July; GW to Knox and Pickens, 26 July; and Memorandum from Andrew Pickens on the Creek and Cherokee Nations, 26 July, enclosed in Knox to GW, 5 Aug. [second letter]). However, Pickens also believed that an emissary to the Creeks at least might delay a war (William Blount and Pickens to Knox, 6 Aug. 1793, DLC:GW).
5. Marinus Willett, who had been an agent to the Creeks briefly in 1790, was GW’s first choice to serve as a special emissary, but he declined the appointment (Knox to Lear, 31 May 1793 [second letter]). On 10 June, Knox wrote to James Seagrove, who already was in Georgia as an agent to the Creeks, and asked him to “repair into the heart of the country, as well as among the Upper as Lower Creeks” (ibid., 366; see also Knox to GW, 8 April, n.3). Concerns for Seagrove’s safety delayed his entrance into Creek territory until 5 Nov. (John Stagg, Jr., to Lear, 13 June, Knox to GW, 15 Sept.; Constant Freeman, Jr., to Knox, 5 Nov. 1793, ibid., 469).