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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Hugh Williamson to Samuel Johnston
Williamson, Hugh, 1735-1819
September 06, 1788
Volume 21, Page 497

[From Executive Letter Book.]

New York, 6th Sept., 1788.


Inclosed is a proclamation with sundry resolves of Congress respecting the Indians on our Frontiers. You will received from the Secretary of Congress the Copy of papers that have been received from different quarters respecting the barbarities that have been practised against the Cherokees, by people who do not profess themselves Amenable to the Laws of our State. You know that a Treaty is now pending with the Southern Indians and Georgia which has been long suffering under the knife, begins to hope for a general peace. In such a conjuncture the conduct of Mr. Sevier was not only fatal to their hopes, but perfectly alarming to the States of South Carolina and Virginia, each of them might suffer by a general Indian War and the delegates from these States earnestly request that preventive measures may be taken. While this question was agitated in Congress you may believe that the Delegates from North Carolina found themselves in a very delicate & critical situation. The Treaty of Hopewell had given much offence to many good Citizens in our State because it was supposed to have surrendered Lands to the Indians which they had formerly sold or exceeded to the State; but this Treaty was now to be quoted and it had been already entered on the Journals of Congress April the 17th, 1786, which is considered as a Ratification. The Delegates were fully persuaded that a great Majority of the people who inhabit the Counties of Washington, Lincoln, Green, and Franklin are peaceable, good Citizens, and they knew that the Inhabitants of Davidson and Sumner Counties had ever claimed and been entitled to the protection of the State. We resolved that nothing in our power should be unattempted to preserve peace in those several counties and to save the unoffending women and children from the hand of the savage. This could not be done

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without taking notice of the Treaty, but the Delegates attempted such amendments as seem to render the Treaty very harmless.

After causing several things to be struck out which had been reported by the Committee we moved the final proviso which is inserted in the Proclamation. This proviso as we conceive, leaves by implication every Claim of the State in its useful force. Whenever the present Settlements shall have acquired sufficient strength and the State shall be desirous to extend her Settlements she has only to buy a farther claim of Soil from the Indians or show that she has penitent claims of a greater extent. The Treaty of Hopewell will never operate against the Territorial Claims of the State whenever she thinks fit to make them. The Proviso respecting the settlers near the fork of the French Broad river is professedly made a negative one. The Delegates could not agree to confirm them in their possessions because we have been told that they have no titles from the State; we only propose for the information of the Indians, that they should not be removed by the Operation of the Treaty.

On the whole our object and desire in the first place was to save the State if Possible from the heavy expences of an Indian War and to preserve the weak & scattered settlers in our Western Counties in safety and Peace, on the other hand we wished not to give additional force to any act by which the rights of the State might be impaired. In such apparent opposition of Interest it may be impossible to give universal satisfaction & it may at the same time be criminal to refuse an opinion; in whatever light the subject may be viewed by our Constituents, the Delegates have the Satisafaction to be conscious that their object was to save the lives of many Innocent & helpless fellow Citizens.

I have the Honor, &c.,