George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Gunn and Thomas P. Carnes, c.2 March 1795

From James Gunn and Thomas P. Carnes

[c.2 March 1795]


In obedience to the will of the General Assembly of the State, we have the honour to represent. We beg leave to lay before the President of the United States, an Act passed by the Legislature of the State of Georgia, on the 28th day of December last.1 By a reference to the seventh section of the aforementioned Act, it will be perceived, that it is the duty of the senators, and Representatives of that State, in the Congress of the United States, to apply without loss of time, for a treaty to be held with the tribes, or Nations of Indians, claiming the right of soil to certain lands, as described in the said Act, lying beyond the present temporary boundary line. The General Assembly, at the time they passed this law, appear to have had in view, the operation of an Act of the General Government, entitled “An Act to regulate trade, and intercourse, with the Indian Tribes”—and in conformity thereto, they have appointed three respectable Citizens, to attend as Agents, on the part of the state, and appropriated the sum of thirty thousand dollars, for the purpose of defraying the expence of a treaty, and extinguishing the claims of Indians, if any there be, to lands lying within the boundaries, described in the said Act. And to the end that the said treaty may be held, conducted, and concluded, in a fair, open, and honourable manner, and agreeable to the principles contained in the eighth section of the above recited Act of the United States—We have to request on the part of the state of Georgia, that a Commissioner, or Commissioners be immediately appointed, and the time, and place fixed on, for holding a treaty, with the aforesaid Indian tribes.2 It cannot have escaped the observation of the Executive, that a number of the frontier Citizens of the state of Georgia, have for several years past remained Captives, to a cruel, and barbarous enemy, and that many of those who have been so fortunate, as to avoid captivity, and preserve their lives, are reduced to extreme indigence, from the continued predatory war carried on against them by Indian tribes.

We anticipate with confidence, that an early period will be fixed on, for holding a treaty, and hope that it may eventuate in a restoration of all the unfortunate sufferers, to their distressed families, and effectually secure the peace, and happiness of those, whose lot it is to reside on a frontier.

Copy, DNA: RG 46, entry 52. The letter has been dated in accordance with the statement in Timothy Pickering’s letter to Gov. George Mathews of 20 March that GW had received the letter from Gunn and Carnes “on the 2d instant” (ASP 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 , Indian Affairs, 1:561). The copy was inclosed with GW’s message to the Senate of 25 June 1795.

1The first section of “An Act for appropriating a part of the unlocated territory of this State, for payment of the late State troops, and for other purposes therein mentioned,” of 28 Dec. 1794, declared “That on the expiration of two months after the Indian claims shall be extinguished to the territory herein described, it shall be lawful for any person or persons to obtain a warrant of survey from his excellency the governor for the time being, under the regulations and restrictions herein after mentioned.” The next six paragraphs discussed the survey of lands south of the Oconee River and the rights of state troops to receive warrants therein. The seventh paragraph appropriated $20,000 (not $30,000) “for the purpose of extinguishing the Indian claims to such territory, (should any there be:)” and “required” that the senators and representatives of Georgia make the application of this letter. Remaining paragraphs provided for surveys in “that tract of country called and known by Tallisee, lying between the rivers Alatamaha and St. Mary’s,” where Indian title had, it was claimed, been previously extinguished, and the territory “lying between the rivers Oconee, the branch thereof called the Appalachee, and the Oakmulgee” (Acts of the State of Georgia. Passed at Augusta, December 1794, and January 1795 [n.p., n.d.], 18–19).

2Section 8 of “An Act to regulate Trade and Intercourse with the Indian Tribes,” 1 March 1793, stated that no purchase of lands from Indians “within the bounds of the United States” would be valid unless “made by a treaty or convention entered into pursuant to the constitution” but “That it shall be lawful for the agent or agents of any state, who may be present at any treaty, held with Indians under the authority of the United States, in the presence, and with the approbation of the commissioners of the United States appointed to hold the same, to propose to, and adjust with the Indians, the compensation to be made for their claims to lands within such state, which shall be extinguished by the treaty” (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 329–32).

Pickering’s letter to Mathews of 20 March replied that the request “demanded, and has received, much consideration. The crisis at which it has been made, has occasioned no small embarrassment to the Executive of the United States. The Creeks have been, with difficulty, restrained from open war; any movement which may hazard that event, must be cautiously made; and it is well known, that no measures excite so much jealousy among them, as those which affect their lands, unless they are previously disposed to grant them. . . . many inquiries and arrangements must precede the treaty requested, and, as time is requisite for these, no definitive answer can at present be given.” The decision would be postponed until after the executive session of the Senate in June.

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