George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Timothy Pickering, 1 July 1796

To Timothy Pickering

Mount Vernon 1st July 1796


Your letter of the 27th ulto is received. I am sorry Mr De Witt, from the competency of his abilities to discharge the duties of the Office of Surveyor General, declines accepting it.

Colo. Tinsley’s recommendations, go more to the respectability of his character, than to his scientific knowledge. The first is essential, but not sufficient without the other. I will obtain the best information I can respecting the latter; but would not have you discourage any other eligable applications, on his account.

From the representation of Mr Dinsmore, it appears to be indispensable that the line between the United States and the Cherokees should be run, and distinctly marked, as soon as possible. The Indians urge this; the Law requires it; and it ought to be done; but I believe scarcely any thing short of a Chinese Wall,1 or a line of Troops will restrain Land Jobbers, and the Incroachment of Settlers, upon the Indian Territory—I request that you, and the other two Secretaries, would take this matter into consideration, and report to me how soon and in what manner, this work should commence. Ascertaining the boundary removes the pretext of ignorance, and may with other applications check, if it does not effectually cure an evil, which is pregnant of serious consequences.2

G. Washington

P.S. The Spanish Minister is this moment, (as I was closing my letters) arrived here.3

ALS, MHi: Pickering Papers; LS (retained copy), DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, GW’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State. Pickering acknowledged GW’s letter on 8 July.

1GW presumably is referring to the Great Wall of China, which he may have read about in a multi-volume travel work that he purchased around 1783: “The WORLD displayed; or A curious collection of voyages and travels, selected from the writers of all nations. 20 vols.” (Griffin, Catalogue of the Washington Collection, description begins Appleton P. C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 507; see also Hayes, Washington, description begins Kevin J. Hayes. George Washington: A Life in Books. New York, 2017. description ends 194–95). GW apparently owned the fourth edition, but for remarks on the Great Wall of China, see The World Displayed … (3d ed. corrected; London, 1777), 16:147–48.

2Cherokee agent Silas Dinsmoor’s representation has not been identified. Article IV of the Treaty of Holston, ratified on 2 July 1791, had described the boundary between Cherokee and U.S. lands and required its marking “to preclude forever all disputes relative to the said boundary” (Kappler, Indian Treaties, description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends 2:29–30). Article II of the Treaty of Holston, ratified on 26 June 1794, indicated that the boundary remained unmarked (see Kappler, Indian Treaties, description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends 2:33).

3The postcript does not appear on the LS or the letter-book copy.

For Spanish minister Yrujo, see GW to Pickering, 29 June, and n.4.

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