WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("Go: Washington") as President, "To the Chiefs and Warriors of the Cherokee Nation of Indians," Philadelphia, 14 June 1794 [place and date in Washington's hand]. 3 pages, 4to, very minor fold separations without loss, very light dampstainings in lower portion.
WASHINGTON APPEALS TO THE CHEROKEE: "WE NOW MEAN TO BURY DEEP AND FOREVER THE RED HATCHET OF WAR..."
During his first term as President, Washington optimistically "undertook what is probably the most extensive effort to conciliate hostile tribes ever engaged in by any United States government" (Flexner, Washington and the New Nation, p.304), even though "Washington's personally humane instincts toward the Native Americans...conflicted with his soaring vision of a continental United States" (R.N. Smith, Patriarch). The present remarkable letter is powerful testimony to Washington's continuing efforts to establish peaceful relations with the Native Americans. In his journal, Washington described the parley: "Had a meeting with the Chief of the Cherokee Indians, now in Philada., at my house. The Secretaries of State, Treasury & War, and Colo. [Timothy] Pickering were present. The great pipe was smoaked [sic] by all. Delivered a speech to them in writing [undoubtedly a reference to this very same letter]. Several of them spoke, & after having eaten and drank plentifully of Cake & wine, they departed seemingly well pleased; being referred to Genl. Knox for further communications..." (Journal of the Proceedings of the President, p.309-310).
First, Washington welcomes the Cherokee delegation, expressly summoned by Henry Knox, that had traveled to Charleston and by boat to Philadelphia. "My Children, I am glad to see you and take you by the hand after so long a journey. I rejoice that you are all in good health and I bid you heartily welcome to this city. I am made acquainted with the talks you have had with the Secretary of War [Knox], you may depend upon what he may say to you in my behalf."
"My Children, I am very sorry that since I took some of you and others of your nation by the hand about two years ago in this city that disturbances and hostilities have happened between your nation and some of the white inhabitants upon the frontiers. It is unnecessary for me to enter upon the particulars of those unhappy events, as we now mean to bury deep and forever the red hatchet of war. Let us therefore forget past events let us endeavor to find out the means by which the path between us shall be kept open and secure from all harm. You must restrain your bad young men from stealing of horses and murdering our frontier people. Unless you have force sufficient for this purpose peace will never be established. The frontier people will not suffer their property to be stolen, much less will they suffer their friends to be murdered without seeking satisfaction."
Then, Washington makes a reciprocal promise, and answers the Indians claims to lands in Kentucky and Tennessee: "We shall endeavor to keep in order the white young men and prevent their doing you any injury. The Secretary of War has spoken to you my mind about the lands upon the Cumberland. These have been confirmed by the two treaties of Hopewell in 1785 and of Holston in 1791. More than ten thousand people are seated on these lands and they cannot be removed. The treaties which have been made cannot be altered. The boundaries which have been mentioned must be marked and established so that no disputes shall happen or any white people cross over it." Washington goes on to inform the Cherokee that their annual annuity from the government will be increased from $1,500 to $5,000, "in order to convince you that the United States are desirous that you and your families should be comfortably clothed." The Secretary of War will consult you for the purpose of furnishing you with the articles which shall be most acceptable to your nation and you shall take the amount of one years allowance home with you. Besides this quantity which will be for the whole Nation, I have directed that you who are present, and your families should be well clothed and well treated in all respects."
He assures them that "this liberal allowance...will be of much greater value to the whole Nation than could possibly be obtained by hunters from off the small spots of ground upon the Cumberland or elsewhere which any of you may be desirous of having retained." More importantly, "The Secretary of War will endeavor to find an agent who shall reside among you in the heart of your nation to advise you in all cases and to protect you from all injuries." He urges them to remain in touch with Secretary Knox "in whose charge I leave you being obliged myself to go to Virginia. He will take care to have you returned to your nation with the goods which shall be provided for you."
While Washington returned to Mount Vernon a few days later, the Indians continued to meet with Knox, Pickering and others, and their discussions bore fruit with the signing, on 26 June, of a new treaty, reaffirming and implementing the Hopewell and Holsten Treaties, defining the rich lands ceded in the Cumberland region.