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    Secretary of War Henry Knox gives orders regarding the Creek Treaty of 1790

    Henry Knox Group of Two Letters Signed and Two Secretarial Retained Copies, all regarding the 1790 treaty between the Creek Nation and the United States. In that treaty, known as the Treaty of New York, the U.S. agreed to recognize the Creek as sovereign outside of the borders of the U.S., while the Creek granted the U.S. disputed land in Georgia.

    Captain Henry Burbeck, the recipient of Knox's two signed letters and a Revolutionary War veteran, had been sent to Georgia in 1789 to assist with the treaty negotiations, which were finally agreed upon after President Washington invited Creek Chief Alexander McGillivray, along with other chiefs, to deal directly with Henry Knox in New York City. Captain Burbeck was then assigned to build a U.S. fort on St. Mary's River, the southern boundary of the lands granted to the U.S. in the treaty (also the boundary between Georgia and Spanish Florida). Burbeck remained at his post on the border until 1792. Both of the included signed letters were written in August 1790 to "Captain Henry Burbeck Or. Officer Commanding the Troops of the United States at the St. Mary's [River fort]", shortly after the treaty was signed; the letters offer information on the treaty, as well as orders and information about Captain Burbeck's river fort construction. In the first letter (two pages, 8" x 12.75", August 16, 1790, "War Department", boldly signed "Knox/ Secy of War"), Henry Knox, acting as President Washington's secretary of war, notifies Captain Burbeck that he will soon receive copies of the treaty from Chief McGillivray himself: "This letter will be handed to you by Brigadier General McGillivray the Chief of the Creek Nation of Indians. This gentleman and the other Chiefs who accompany him hence in behalf of themselves and the whole Creek nation have entered into a treaty of peace and Strict friendship with the United States." Knox emphasizes the importance of the treaty because the "interests of the United States and the Creeks henceforward are proposed to be the same." He then ordered Burbeck to "receive Brigadier General McGillivray with all the respect due his rank, and you will assist him and the Creeks with him to the utmost of your power in ascending the river St. Marys and transporting their goods and baggage."

    In the second signed letter (two and one-quarter pages, 8" x 12.75", August 17, 1790, "War Department", boldly signed "Knox/ Secy of War"), Knox gives instructions to Burbeck about the fort he was constructing along the St. Mary's River: "The post you have taken according to your description meets my approbation. In case however any considerable number of your men fall sickly you will remove them to Cumberland Island. From your description of the navigation of the St. Marys I hope the vessels on board which brigadier general McGillivray, and the other Creek chiefs are will be able to ascend it with convenience but you will in all events, send an officer and party up the river with them. The fortifications and mode of encamping your men also meets my approbation, and I am persuaded that you will continue to conduct yourself in such a manner as to merit a continuance of the same." When this letter was sent to Burbeck, Knox had enclosed a separate "articles of war" (not included in this lot) which contained "a new establishment for the troops in the service of the United States." Knox charged Burbeck with endeavoring to "reinlist as many of your men as possible under the said new establishment, and inform me of the number in order that arrangements may be made to forward to you as many recruits as shall be necessary to complete your company."

    The two secretarially signed letters (one dated March 17 [with additions added on May 25 and July 13], 1792, and the other dated September 27, 1791) contain directions from Secretary of War Knox to Major Richard Call to perform duties "mentioned in the Creek Treaty", such as "marking the line" while being accompanied by a "detachment of savages." Major Call was ordered to "take command of them and will be considered responsible for further discipline and good conduct" because, according to a July 13 addition to the letter, "It is a circumstance of great importance that the force of the United States in Georgia should be directed with the highest prudence and circumspection. . . . to preserve the peace." In these two letters, Knox also gives direction concerning "supplies required for the troops in Georgia", with special instructions for the large number of Creek who "may attend at the running of the line. . . . The chiefs and those whom immediate duty it will be to attend running the line ought to be supported by the United States. But idle people or hunters who have assembled by curiosity may hunt for their food."

    All letters included in this lot are toned with folds. The ink remains bold and very clear. The March 1791 letter contains an addition that has been pinned to page two; page three of that letter has a tear along the top edge with possibly the loss of one word. Overall, these letters are in fine condition. From the Papers of General Henry Burbeck.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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