George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Moultrie, 28 August 1793

To William Moultrie

Philadelphia 28th August 1793.1

Dear Sir,

I have received your letter of the 11th of the last month.

Having conceived an opinion highly favourable to General Pickens, I invited him to repair to this City in order that I might obtain from him such facts & information as would be essential to an offensive Expedition against the refractory part of the Creek nation, whenever Congress should decide that measure to be proper & necessary.2 The Constitution vests the power of declaring War with Congress, therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject, and authorised such a measure.3

It is essential (which is communicated to you in confidence) that under the present circumstances it is not improbable but that an offensive Creek War might bring on a war with an European power, whose possessions are in the neighbourhood of the Creeks.4

From recent information from Mr Seagrove it would appear that a considerable portion of the Creeks, particularly the upper Creeks, were determined to make satisfaction for the injuries which have been done by that nation, but the bea⟨rers⟩ of this message were killed by a party of Militia, the consequences of which, time will develope.5

I have had just reason to be satisfied with the informaion of Genl Pickens, and if the time shall arrive when an Expedition shall be directed, I shall be greatly gratified by his taking an eminent part therein. I have the honor to be, with respect & esteem, Dear Sir, Your Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

LS, in Tobias Lear’s writing, ScHi; LS (photocopy), ScU; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. For Henry Knox’s submission to GW of a draft of this letter, which has not been identified, and GW’s approval of it, see Knox to Tobias Lear, and Lear to Knox, both 28 Aug. 1793.

1“War Department” is struck from the dateline on the copy at DNA.

2No letter from GW inviting Andrew Pickens to Philadelphia has been found. For the decision to issue this invitation, see Cabinet Opinion, 29 May 1793.

3Article I, section 8, of the U.S. Constitution assigns the power to declare war to Congress.

4For reports submitted to GW on the feasibility of an expedition against the Creek Indians, see Memorandum from Henry Knox and Pickens of 24 July, enclosed in Knox to GW, 25 July, and Memorandum from Pickens of 26 July and Memorandum from William Blount and Pickens of 1 Aug., enclosed in Knox to GW, 5 Aug. 1793 (second letter). GW also dined at least twice with Blount, the governor of the Southwest Territory, and Pickens (GW to Alexander Hamilton, 27 Aug. 1793; JPP description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends , 208). See also GW to Knox and Pickens, 26 July 1793. On the administration’s concern about provoking a war with Spain, see Cabinet Opinion, 1–5 June 1793.

5James Seagrove’s letter to Knox of 6 July recounted the murder of David Cornell, a Creek Indian friendly to the Americans. Knox enclosed Seagrove’s letter in a letter to GW of 16 Aug. 1793. For other recent letters from Seagrove, see Knox to GW, 20 Aug., and note 1, and Thomas Jefferson to GW, 21 Aug. 1793, and note 1.

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