George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Cherokee Nation, 29 August 1796

29 August 1796

Beloved Cherokees,

Many years have passed away since the white people first came to America. In that long space of time many good men have considered how the condition of the Indian natives of the country might be improved; and many attempts have been made to effect it. But, as we see at this day, all those attempts have been nearly fruitless. I also have thought much on this subject, & anxiously wished that the various Indian tribes, as well as their neighbours the white people, might enjoy in abundance all the good things which make life comfortable & happy. I have considered how this could be done; and have discovered but one path that can lead them to that desirable situation. In this path I wish all the Indian nations to walk. From the information received concerning you, my Beloved Cherokees, I am inclined to hope you are prepared to take this path, and disposed to pursue it. It may seem difficult to enter: but if you make the attempt, you will find every difficulty easy to be removed. Mr Dinsmoor, my beloved Agent to your nation, being here, by him I send to you this Talk. He will have it interpreted to you, and particularly explain my meaning.

Beloved Cherokees,

Instead of beginning with books, I wish you first to learn those things which will make books useful to you. When you shall have learned to till the ground, to build good houses, & to fill them with good things, as the white people do, then, like them, you will find the knowledge of books to be pleasant & useful. But first you must learn how to obtain the necessaries of life in plenty. The most essential are food and cloathing. Tolerable houses you can build already—but you may learn from the white people to make them better & more lasting.

Beloved Cherokees,

The game with which your woods once abounded, you now find to be growing scarce; & you know when you cannot meet a deer or other game to kill, that you must remain hungry: you know when you can get no skins by hunting, that the traders will give you neither powder nor cloathing: and you know, that without other instruments for tilling the ground than the hoe, you will continue to raise only scanty crops of corn. Hence you are sometimes exposed to suffer much from hunger & cold: and as the game are lessening in numbers more & more, these sufferings will encrease. And how are you to provide against them? Listen to my words, and you will know.

My Beloved Cherokees,

Some among you already experience the advantages of keeping cattle and hogs: Let all keep them, & increase their numbers, and you will ever have a plenty of meat. To them add sheep, and they will give you cloathing as well as food. Your lands are good, and of great extent. By proper management, you can raise live-stock not only for your own wants, but to sell to the white people. By using the plough, you can vastly encrease your crops of corn. You can also grow wheat, which makes the best bread, and other useful grain. To these you will easily add flax & cotton, to be sold to the neighbouring white people, or made by your own women into cloathing for yourselves. Your wives and daughters can soon learn to spin and to weave; and to make this certain I have directed Mr Dinsmoor to procure all the apparatus necessary for spinning & weaving, & to hire a woman to teach the use of them. He will also procure some ploughs and other instruments of husbandry, with which to begin the improved cultivation of the ground which I recommend, and employ a fit man to show you how to use them. I have further directed him to procure some cattle and sheep for the most prudent & industrious men who shall be willing to exert themselves in tilling the ground and raising those useful animals. He is often to talk with you on these subjects, & give you all necessary information to promote your success. I must therefore desire you to listen to him and to follow his advice. I appointed him to dwell among you as the agent of the United States, because I judged him to be a faithful man, ready to obey my instructions, and disposed to do you good. But the cares of the United States are not confined to your single nation; they extend to all the Indians dwelling on their borders. For which reason, other agents are appointed; and for the four Southern nations there will be a general agent, who will visit all of them, for the purpose of maintaining peace & friendship among them & with the U.States; to superintend all their affairs; & to assist the particular agents with each nation in doing the business assigned them. To such general agent I must desire your careful attention. He will be one of our greatly beloved men: His whole time will be employed in contriving how to do you good; and you will therefore act wisely to follow his advice. The first general agent will be Colonel Benjamin Hawkins, a man already known and respected by you. I have chosen him for this office, because he is esteemed as a good man, has a knowledge of Indian customs, & a particular love & friendship for all the Southern tribes.

Beloved Cherokees,

What I have recommended to you I am myself going to do. After a few moons are passed, I shall leave the great town, and retire to my farm. There I shall attend to the means of increasing my cattle, sheep, and other useful animals, to the growing of corn, wheat & other grain, and to the employing of women in spinning and weaving: all which I have recommended to you, that you may be as comfortable & happy as plenty of food, cloathing & other good things can make you.

Beloved Cherokees,

When I have retired to my farm, I shall hear of you; & it will give me great pleasure to know that you have taken my advice, and are walking in the path which I have now described. But before I retire, I shall speak to my beloved man, the Secretary of War, to get prepared some medals, to be given to such Cherokees as by following my advice, shall best deserve them. For this purpose, Mr Dinsmoor is from time to time to visit every town in your nation. He will give instructions to those who desire to learn what I have recommended. He will see what improvements are made; who are most industrious in raising cattle, in growing corn, wheat, cotton & flax, & in spinning and weaving: and on those who excel the rewards are to be bestowed.

Beloved Cherokees,

The advice I have given you is important as it regards your nation: but still more important as the event of the experiment made with you may determine the lot of many nations. If it succeeds, the Beloved Men of the United States will be encouraged to give the same assistance to all the Indian tribes within their boundaries. But if it should fail, they may think it vain to make any further attempts to better the condition of any Indian tribes: for the richness of the soil and the mildness of the air render your country highly favourable for the practice of what I have recommended.

Beloved Cherokees,

The wise men of the United States meet together once a year, to consider what will be for the good of all their people. The wise men of each seperate state also meet together once or twice every year, to consult and do what is good for the people of each state. I have thought that a meeting of your wise men once or twice a year would be alike useful to you. Every town might send one or two of its wisest counsellors to talk together on the affairs of your nation, and to recommend to your people whatever they should think would be useful. The beloved agent of the United States would meet with them. He would give them information of those things which are found good by the white people, and which your situation will enable you to adopt. He would explain to them the laws made by the Great Council of the U.States for the preservation of peace, for the protection of your lands, for the security of your persons, for your improvement in the arts of living, & to promote your general welfare. If it should be agreeable to you to have your wise men hold such meetings, you will speak your mind to my beloved man Mr Dinsmoor, to be communicated to the President of the U.States, who will then give such directions as shall be proper.

Beloved Chreokees,

That this Talk may be known to all your nation, & not be forgotten, I have caused it to be printed, and directed one signed with my own hand, to be lodged in each of your towns. The interpreters will on proper occasions read & interpret the same to all your people.

Beloved Cherokees,

Having been informed that some of your Chiefs wished to see me in Philadelphia, I have sent them word that I would receive a few of the most esteemed. I now repeat, that I shall be glad to see a small number of your wisest Chiefs: but I shall not expect their arrival ’till November. I shall take occasion to agree with them on the running of the boundary line between your land & ours, agreeably to the treaty of Holston. I shall expect them to inform me what Chiefs are to attend the running of this line, & I shall tell them whom I appoint to run it; and the time & place of beginning may then be fixed.

I now send my best wishes to the Cherokees, and pray the Great Spirit to preserve them. Given &c.


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