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General Statement of Indian Policy

Sources & Images
Source Name Image(s)
CollectionPrinted Version only view image
PublicationLowrie, Walter and St. Clair Clarke, Matthew, eds. American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Vol. IV, Indian Affairs. 38 Vols. Washington, DC: Gales and Seaton, 1832. (no image)
Document Information
Date January 4, 1790
Author Name Henry Knox (primary) Location: War Office
Recipient Name George Washington (primary)
Summary In a comprensive statement of Indian policies, Knox discusses the cost of war and peace with the Indian Nations along the Southwestern frontier. He speculates on the size of an army necessary to engage hostile Indians along this vast expanse of territory. He concludes that peace and diplomacy are more cost effective than war. He references the practice of providing gifts to subjugated people by European nations which he believes to be the safest way to manage Indians.
Document Format Printed transcription/modern copy of Document
Document Notes An image of this document is located online at and and
Content Notes [not available]
Related Persons/Groups George Washington; Henry Knox; Indian Department; commissioners; Creek Nation of Indians; Choctaws; battalion; British; Upper and Lower Creeks; lawless whites; Cherokee nation; Governor of the Western Territory; ;
Related Places War Office; Southwestern frontier; territory; frontier; frontiers from Georgia to Lake Erie; boundary; south of the Ohio; Cumberland; Kentucky; Wabash; Morocco; Algiers; Tunis; Tripoli; Great Britain; Cumberland River; posts northwest of the Ohio; district of Kentucky; Miami village; incursions into the Wabash territory; indiscriminate; ;
Keywords artillery; supplies; provisions; gifts; hostilities; war; solemn offer of peace; land rights; boundary disputes; Indian relations; unprovoked aggressions; punishment; murder; depredations by the Creeks; ammunition; murders; friendship of Chickasaws and Choctaws; artillery; infantry; surveys; additional pay; reduction of pay; patrols; arms of the Union; ;
Key Phrases "No peace with the Indians can be preserved, unless by a military force." "...the propriety of employing the militia of the country for that purpose may be doubted." "It seems to have been the custom of barbarous nations, in all ages, to expect and receive presents from those more civilized, and custom seems confirmed by modern Europe, with respect to Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli." "A comparative view of the expenses of a hostile or conciliatory system towards the Indians, will evince the infinite economy of the latter over the former." "Is the situation of the United States such, with respect to the neighboring European colonies, as to render it good policy at this time to annihilate the Indian customs, and expectations of receiving presents, and thereby disgusting them in such a manner as to induce them to connect themselves more closely with the said colonies?" "That the Indians possess the natural rights of man, and that they ought not wantonly to be divested thereof, cannot be well denied." "Were these rights ascertained and declared by law; were it enacted that the Indians possess the right to all their territory which they have not fairly conveyed, and that they shoud not be divested thereof, but in consequence of open treaties, made under the authority of the United States, the foundation of peace and justice would be laid."

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