From Edmund Randolph
July 17. 1794.
The Secretary of State has the honor of reporting to the President of the United States, upon the letter of James Seagrove, bearing date the 4th of June 1794,1 as follows:
1. The first point of his information is, that "a very considerable body of people in the upper part of Georgia have associated for the purpose of setting up an independent government for themselves."
New States may be formed with the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned and of Congress.2 But To begin a plan for a new state, is probably contrary to the laws of that state.
However unless the State chooses to resort to the general government for aid in subduing it, the general government cannot of its own accord interfere in a case of domestic violence. For this is to be done, "on application of the legislature or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened)."3
The same restriction is imposed by the law for calling out the militia, in case of an insurrection.
Even in combinations against judicial process, the militia cannot be drawn forth, but upon a notification of the President by an associate or the district Judge.
When too it is considered, how delicate and uncertain it would be to array one part of the militia of a state against another; that the militia of other states cannot be summoned, but on the application of the legislature or executive of the State, an associate or the district Judge;4 that for the mere act of attempting an independent government, without something else being done against the United States, the regular force of the United States cannot be used, it appears adviseable to take, as yet, no strong compulsory steps upon that ground only.
To make a settlement on lands belonging to any Indian Tribe, is punishable by fine and imprisonment; and it is lawful for the President to take such measures, as he may judge necessary, to remove from lands belonging to any Indian Tribe, any citizens or inhabitants of the United States, who may make or attempt to make a settlement thereon.5
Hence so far as mere power is concerned, it is presumed that the President may call forth the militia of Georgia or of any other State, or the regular force, which may be spared from other duty, and which are not by law directed to special purposes.
3. The plan is said to be to erect six strong forts from the Oconee to the Oahmulgee.
The mere erection of a fort is not treason, though it is probably an offence of a lesser nature.
To keep actual possession of a fort by force against the public troops is levying war.
But if a fort be erected with a direct purpose against the United States, this may be a levying of war. What the purpose is, however, must depend upon evidence.
4. What is to be done? The Secretary of State takes the liberty of suggesting the following measures:
1. To inform the Governor of Georgia, that the President will give aid to the State, against those, who attempt a new government, if applied for, according to the constitution or law.
2. To urge him to discourage the attempt without delay by proclamation and every other means in his power, if the allegations be true.
3. To request information whether they be true, in order that the President may adopt the measures, which shall be found necessary.
4. To ascertain by previous inquiry from the Governor of Georgia, whether the militia of his state, or of the neighbouring state be sufficient and convenient for removing the offenders from the Indian territory; or whether the regular military force must be resorted to.
The letter which shall be written to the Governor deserves great care, not only from its matter, but also with a view to its publication to the world.6
The Secretary of State thinking, that the allusion, in Seagrove’s letter, to Spain, deserves to be incorporated in an answer, now in hand, to the Spanish commissioners, upon a similar subject, has written to the Secretary of war for copies of the papers.7
The answer of the Governor of Georgia will be the best guide as to a proclamation from the President, and other steps; and therefore the consideration of them seems proper to be postponed at present.
LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress. On the LS the date, which is below Randolph’s signature, is in his writing.
2. See Article IV, section 3, of the Constitution.
3. The quoted phrase appears in Article IV, section 4, of the Constitution and in section 1 of "An Act to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions," 2 May 1792 (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 . 1:264-65).
4. Randolph is referencing the provisions of section 2 of "An Act to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions," 2 May 1792 (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 . 1:264-65).
5. Randolph here is relying on section 5 of "An Act to regulate Trade and Intercourse with the Indian Tribes," 1 March 1793 (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 . 1:329-32).
7. Randolph’s note to Knox of 16 July requested "a copy of the communications made to the Secretary by Mr Seagrove in his letter of the 4th relative to the views of Spain as to the Indians" (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters). The material was wanted for a reply to the letter from Spanish commissioners José Ignacio de Viar and José de Jaudenes to Randolph of 11 June, which complained about the activities of Seagrove, in particular his speeches to the Indians of 13-16 March, contending that Seagrove had "treated ignominiously the Spanish Government and some of its Officers; he has endeavored to separate from Spain the Indian Nations which he knew were under the protection of the King, fomenting enmity and discord against our Nation; has denied the palpable truth of the Armaments against our possessions from the territory of the U.S. and has contradicted openly the good disposition that your Government has assured us of" (translation and LS, DNA: RG 59, Notes from the Spanish Legation). In the end, Randolph did not reply to that letter until 12 Aug., after Seagrove had come to Philadelphia and been asked to respond to the commissioners’ allegations (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).