George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Beverley Randolph, 30 September 1793

From Beverley Randolph

Chatham1 [Va.] Sepr 30. 1793.

Dear Sir

When I had the Pleasure to see you at Mount Vernon, you express’d a wish to be furnishd, with the Information received, by the Commissrs for treating with the western Indians, from Capt. Wellbank; I therefore inclose you an Extract from my private Journal, which I believe contains the whole of the communication of any Importance made by that gentleman.2

Supposing that the present occlusion of the Public offices in consequence of the dreadful malady which afflicts Philadelphia, would probably prevent your receiving a copy of the Commiss⟨rs⟩ Report. I have also extracted for your Perusal the substance of what pass’d between the Indians & the Commissrs from the 29th of July to the 16th of August. together with a full copy of the message received on that Day and the Commissrs Reply thereto.3 with Sentiments of real Respect I am Dr Sir Yr most obdt Servt

Beverley Randolph


1Chatham, near Fredericksburg, was the home of William Fitzhugh (1741–1809), whose wife, Anne Randolph Fitzhugh, was Randolph’s sister.

2George Welbank (Wellbank; d. 1794) served during the Revolutionary War as a lieutenant in the Loyalist corps of chasseurs commanded by Andreas Emmerich. An associate of William Augustus Bowles, he had resided among the Lower Cherokees since about 1788, and he supported the Shawnee efforts to unite the Southern and Northern Indians. For the enclosed extract, see below.

3The “Extract from the private Journal of one of the Commissioners for treating with the Western Indians,” thirteen pages in Randolph’s writing, is in DLC:GW (filed at 14 Aug.). The Indians’ speech, dated 13 Aug. but given to the commissioners on 16 Aug., and the commissioners’ reply of 16 Aug., are on pages 7 through 13. For those speeches, see 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 , 1:356–57. The rest of the extract reads: “Mouth of Detroit

“July 29th. arrived a second Deputation from the Indian nations assembled at the Rapids of the Miami; with them came Capt Elliot Mr Thos McKee son to Colo: McKee & a Mr [Thomas] Smith. The Indians encamped on an Island call’d Bois blanc opposite to Capt. Elliots House occupied by the comissrs

“30th. The Indians came over to the commissrs told them that they were deputed by the nations assembled at the Rapids of the Miami to inform them that the Deputies who met them at Niagara had not explain’d the meaning of the Indians neither had the commissrs been fully explicit with them; they therefore thought it best to put what they had to say into writing. Then handing a Paper said here is the meaning of our Hearts. This Paper was address’d to the Commissrs & was to this Effect.

“ ‘The Deputies formerly sent to you did not fully explain our meaning we have therefore sent others that you may fully understand the great Question we have to ask you. You know that the Boundary Line which was run between the white People & us at the Treaty at Fort Stanwix was the River Ohio. If you seriously design to make Peace you will immediately remove all your People from our side of the River. We therefore ask you. Are you fully authorized to continue & firmly fix the Ohio River as the Boundary between your People & ours?’ This Paper was declared to be signed by the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanese, Miamis, Mingoes, Patiwatimies, Ottawas, Connoys, Chippeways, & Muncees in behalf of themselves & the whole confederacy & agreed to in full council.

“31st. To the above mention’d Paper the commissrs returned an answer in substance as follows. That they were surprized at the suggestion that in the conference at niagara the Parties did not come to a right understanding—that the Deputies appear’d to be men of sense sober & proper in their conduct, that the commissrs were certainly sufficiently explicit as they had declared in plain words that concessions were necessary on both sides what those concessions should be would be fix’d when they could meet face to face in Council. that they were certain this would be the best way to remove all Difficulties but as the nations had adopted another mode of doing Business & had demanded answers to certain Questions previous to their meeting they would give an explicit answer to the great Question now propo[sed.] It would however be necessary first to look back to some former transactions. The Commissrs then proceeded, acknowleging that the ohio had been fixd on as the boundary by the Treaty at Fort Stanwix in 1768. They then stated the war between Great Britain & america with the subsequent Peace in which the Indian Nations who had taken Part with the King of England not being comprehended it remain’d to establish Peace between them & the United States & that Commissrs had been accordingly appointed to effect this Purpose; after mentioning the Treaty of 1784 at Fort Stanwix with the six nations, that of Fort McIntosh with the Wyandot Delaware Ottawa & Chippewa nations as also that with the Shawanese at the mouth of the great miami the commissrs went on to say, that the commissrs who had conducted their several Treaties had sent the Papers containing them to the great Council of the United States who supposing them satisfactory to the nations treated with had sold large Tracts of the Land thereby ceded & that a great many Families as well French as Americans were now settled on them. But it appearing after some Time that a number of Indians were dissatisfied with the Treaties of Fort McIntosh & Miami governour St Clair was appointed with full Powers to regulate Trade & settle Boundaries between the Indians & the United States in the Northern Department That he accordingly sent messages inviting all the nations concerned to meet him at a council Fire which he had kindled at the mouth of Muskingum but that mischief happening at Place the Fire was put out he therefore kindled another at Fort Harmar where near six hundred Indians of different nations attended; that the six nations then confirmd the Treaty of Fort Stanwix the Wyandots & Delawares that of Fort McIntosh & that some Ottawas Chippewa’s Patawatimies & Sacs were Parties to the Treaty at Fort Harmar. The Commissrs then said they had with them all these Treaties as well as the speeches of many chiefs who attended them & who voluntarily express’d themselves satisfied with the Terms; they therefore explicitly declared that it is now impossible to make the River Ohio the boundary. They then endeavoured to show the impracticability of removing People from Lands which had become dear to them in consequence of the Improvements which they had made they also mention’d, as an additional Reason why the Ohio could not now be the Boundary, a sale made by the Wyandots & Delawares to the State of Pennsylvania of a tract of Land lying east of a Line drawn from the mouth of big Beaver Creek on the Ohio due north to Lake Erie & that of this Sale no Complaint had been made. After having thus given a decisive answer to the Question proposed to them; the commissrs stated that the united states wish’d to have confirmed to them all the Lands ceded by the Treaty of Fort Harmar as also a small Tract claim’d by General Clarke for the use of himself & his warriors & that in Consideration thereof the united states would give a larger Sum than was ever given at one Time for any Quantity of Indian Lands since the white People first set their feet on this Island & would moreover give every year a large Quantity of such goods as are best suited to Indian wants. But if the wishes of the united states could not be gratified in their full extent that then the commissioners desired to treat with the Indians for a new Boundary & that for the Quantity of Land which should be ceded they would stipulate a generous compensation not only for a large Sum to be paid at once but for a yearly Rent for the Benefit of themselves & their Children forever. The Commissrs then proceeded, after some general observations on the subject of the right of preemption claimd by the United States as it had formerly been by the King of Great Britain, to declare that by express Authority of the United States they acknowledged the Property or right of soil to be in the Indian nations so long as they desire to occupy the same the united States only claiming particular Tracts of Land as above mention’d & the general Right well known both to the English & americans & call’d the right of Preemption or the Right of Purchasing Lands of the Indian nations disposed to sell to the exclusion of all other white People. The speech of the commissrs was then concluded by a Declaration that they had fully opened their Hearts & by expressing their Hope that another Deputation would shortly lead them by Hand to the Place of Treaty whereby a free intercourse any Difficulties which came in the way of Peace might more easily be removed. The Indians then said they would say a few words in the morning it being now too late.

“August 1st. The Indians & commissrs having met a Wyandot chief said it had been now three years since the united States wanted to speak to them. They heard us yesterday & understood us well. you mentiond the Treaties of Fort Stanwix Beaver Creek & others. Those Treaties were not compleat there were but few chiefs who treated with you. you have not bought our Lands, it belongs to us. you tried to draw off some of us. You mention General Washington. He & you know you have Houses & People on our Lands. you say you cannot move them off & we cannot give up our Land. We are sorry we can’t agree. The Line has been fixed long ago. there has been much mischeif done on both Sides. We came here upon Peace & thought you did the same. We shall talk to our Head Warriors. you may return whence you came & tell Washington. The council here broke up, when Capt. Elliot Colo: McKees assistant went to Kakeapalathy a Shawanoe chief & told him the last Part of the speech was wrong, Simon Girtie the Interpreter asserted that he ha[d] given a true Interpretation of what the Wyandot chief said, an explanation took place & Girtie added as follows. Brothers Instead of going Home we wish you to remain here for an answer from us. We have your speech in our Breasts & shall consult our Head warriors The Commissrs then said they would wait to hear again from the council at the Rapids but desired their answer might be without Delay

“August 12th. No official Information being yet received from the Indian council the Commissrs thought it proper for the Purpose of more easy & expeditious communication with the Indian to proceed immediately to the Miami Bay or River. They accordingly wrote to Capt. Ford commanding the Dunmore, the vessel assignd by governour Simcoe for their accommodation, desiring him to be prepared to sail on the next morning. Capt. Ford informd the commissrs that he was instructed to attend them but was to receive his orders from Capt. Bunbury & desired us to speak to him. Capt. Bunbury was immediately applied to & told that gr Simcoe had assigned the Dunmore to our use & that from what the gr & his Secretary had repeatedly said we had a right to conclude she was under our Direction to go when & where we thought proper for the Purpose of the Treaty except to Detroit. He answered he had his orders from governour Simcoe & that from these orders he could not consent that the commissrs or any Deputation from them should go to the Miami Bay or River untill Colo: McKee should give notice that the Indians were ready to receive them but that if the commissrs chose to go to Sandusky he would order the Dunmore to proceed thither. He then read a Passage from gr Simcoe’s Letter to him. He was asked if he would give an extract of the Letter containing his orders, he answer’d Mr Storer might take an extract from it. They retired Capt. Bunbury read & Mr Storer wrote down the following words ‘The directing the King’s vessel to carry them (the commissioners) thither (meaning the mouth of Detroit) she will anchor therefore as conveniently as possible to the Northern shore of the River on the Banks of which they purpose to remain untill they hear from Colo: McKee, the Indians do not wish they should visit the opposite shore.[‘] Capt. Bunbury although desird by Mr Storer refused his signature to the above extract.

“Augt 13. Being thus prevented from proceeding to the miami Bay the commissrs determined to send a message to the Indians & a Letter to Colo: McKee. In the message to the Indians they complain’d of the great Delays they had met with express’d their sincere Desire for Peace upon just Principles but that if no Treaty was to be held if Peace was not to be obtain’d they desired immediately to know it that they might return Home. In the Letter to McKee after complaining of the unusual Delays which had taken Place the commissrs inform’d him that they had sent runners with a speech to the Indians manifesting their wishes to begin the Treaty immediately expressd their belief that it was in his Power to forward the Business & that his aid therein would be gratefully acknowleged. They then complaind of the improper manner in which the negotiation had been hither to conducted declaring that they must soon close the Business unless substantial Reasons demanded Procrastination & concluded with again requesting his assistance in expediting the Treaty.”

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