GW: Life & Times

Questions — Pushing the Boundaries: Address to the Senate on Native Americans

Read the transcript of To the United States Senate below to answer these questions.
1. Why are representatives from the tribes of the Five Nations at the Capitol?
2. GW supports giving the Indians "annual presents." What is the money to be spent on and why?
3. If you've also read GW's Journal of his trip to the French Commandant (slide 3), how does the tone when he discusses the Native Americans here compare to that document from his younger days?

To the United States Senate

United States [Philadelphia] March 23d 1792.

Gentlemen of the Senate.

At the conferrences which Colonel Pickering had with the five Nations at the painted post, the last year, ideas were then held out of introducing among them some of the primary principles of civilization. [1] In consequence of which, as well as more firmly to attach them to the interests of the United States, they have been invited to the seat of the general government.

As the representation now here, is respectable for its characters and influence, it is of some importance that the chiefs should be well satisfied of the entire good faith and liberality of the United States.

In managing the affairs of the indian tribes, generally, it appears proper to teach them to expect annual presents, conditioned on the evidence of their attachment to the interests of the United States--The situation of the five nations, and the present crisis of affairs would seem to render the extension of this measure to them highly judicious--I therefore request the advice of the Senate, whether an Article shall be stipulated, with the five nations, to the following purport.

To wit:

"The United States, in order to promote the happiness of the five nations of indians, will cause to be expended ann[u]ally the amount of one thousand five hundred dollars, in purchasing for them clothing, domestic animals and implements of husbandry, and for encouraging useful artificers to reside in their Villages." [2]

Go: Washington


1. For Pickering's negotiations with the Five Nations in July 1791, which were moved from Painted Post, N.Y., to Tioga, Pa., see Henry Knox to GW, 17 Aug., nn.1-2, and Pickering to GW, 27 Aug. 1791.

2. After Tobias Lear delivered this message this day, the Senate ordered it to lie on the table. On 26 Mar., when the message was read, "It was thereupon Resolved, (two thirds of the Senate concurring) that they advise & consent to the Stipulation above recited," as an unidentified person wrote at the bottom of the receiver's copy. The secretary of the Senate, Samuel A. Otis, was then ordered to lay this resolution before the president (Executive Journal, 1:116-17). GW and Thomas Jefferson signed and sealed the ratification of this article on 23 April (copy, DNA: RG 11, U.S. Government Documents Having Legal Effect, Ratified Indian Treaties, 1722-1883).

DS, DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791-1793, Records of Executive Proceedings, President's Messages--Indian Relations; LB, DLC:GW. For the background to this document, see Timothy Pickering to GW, 21 Mar., source note, and GW to the Five Nations, 23 March.