11. Report of Henry Knox on the Northwestern Indians, June 15, 1789
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12 lands unless the same shall have been fairly purchased of the said indians shall be warned at their peril to depart previously to a day to be affixed. That in order to carry efficiently into effect the determinations of Congress the commanding officer of the troops on the Ohio should be directed to make himself acquainted of the best routes by which a body of three hundred men could be transported most easily and expeditiously to Chota on the Tenessee river, and report the same to the secretary at war. That in case the Proclamation of Congress should be attended with no effect that the said commanding officer should be directed to move as early in the spring of the next year as the season should admit with a body of three hundred troops to Chota and there to act according to the special instructions he shall receive from the Secretary at War. . . . Your Secretary begs leave to observe that he is utterly at a loss to devise any other mode of correcting effectually the evils speci fied than the one herein proposed. That he conceives it of the highest importance to the peace of the frontiers that all the indian tribes should rely with security on the treaties they have made or shall make with the United States. That unless this shall be the case the powerful tribes of the Creeks Choctaws and Chickesaws will be able to keep the frontiers of the southern states constantly embroiled with hostilities, and that all the other tribes will have good grounds not only according to their own opinions but according to the impartial judgements of the civilized part of the human race for waging perpetual war against the citizens of the United States. . . . [ Journals of the Continental Congress, 34:342–44.] 11. Report of Henry Knox on the Northwestern Indians June 15, 1789 The disturbances between whites and Indians along the Wabash River created a crisis in Indian affairs. Secretary of War Henry Knox urged a just and humane policy which would recognize Indian rights to the soil, reject the principle of conquest, and compensate the Indians for lands ceded by them. . . . . In examining the question how the disturbances on the frontiers are to be quieted , two modes present themselves, by which the object might perhaps be effected; the first of which is by raising an army, and extirpating the refractory tribes entirely, or 2dly by forming treaties of peace with them, in which their rights and limits should be explicitly defined, and the treaties observed on the part of the United States with the most rigid justice, by punishing the whites, who should violate the same. In considering the first mode, an inquiry would arise, whether, under the existing circumstances of affairs, the United States have a clear right, consistently with the principles of justice and the laws of nature, to proceed to the destruction or expulsion of the savages, on the Wabash, supposing the force for that object easily attainable. It is presumable, that a nation solicitous of establishing its character on the broad basis of justice, would not only hesitate at, but reject every proposition to benefit itself, by the injury of any neighboring community, however contemptible and weak it might be, either with respect to its manners or power. . . . The Indians being the prior occupants, possess the right of the soil. It cannot be taken from them unless by their free consent, or by the right of conquest in case of a just war. To dispossess them on any other principle, would be a gross violation of the fundamental laws of nature, and of that distributive justice which is the glory of a nation. But if it should be decided, on an abstract view of the question, to be just, to remove by force the Wabash Indians from the territory they occupy, the finances of the United States would not at present admit of the operation. By the best and latest information, it appears that, on the Wabash and its communications , there are from 1500 to 2000 warriors. An expedition against them, with the view of extirpating them, or destroying their towns, 13 could not be undertaken with a probability of success, with less then an army of 2,500 men. The regular troops of the United States on the frontiers, are less than six hundred; of that number, not more than four hundred could be collected from the posts...