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Special Message

August 04, 1790

Gentlemen of the Senate:

In consequence of the general principles agreed to by the Senate in August, 1789, the adjustment of the terms of a treaty is far advanced between the United States and the chiefs of the Creek Indians, now in this city, in behalf of themselves and the whole Creek Nation.

In preparing the articles of this treaty the present arrangements of the trade with the Creeks have caused much embarrassment. It seems to be well ascertained that the said trade is almost exclusively in the hands of a company of British merchants, who by agreement make their importations of goods from England into the Spanish ports.

As the trade of the Indians is a main mean of their political management, it is therefore obvious that the United States can not possess any security for the performance of treaties with the Creeks while their trade is liable to be interrupted or withheld at the caprice of two foreign powers.

Hence it becomes an object of real importance to form new channels for the commerce of the Creeks through the United States. But this operation will require time, as the present arrangements can not be suddenly broken without the greatest violation of faith and morals.

It therefore appears to be important to form a secret article of a treaty similar to the one which accompanies this message.

If the Senate should require any further explanation, the Secretary of War will attend them for that purpose.


The President of the United States states the following question for the consideration and advice of the Senate: If it should be found essential to a treaty for the firm establishment of peace with the Creek Nation of Indians that an article to the following effect should be inserted therein, will such an article be proper? viz:

Secret Article.

The commerce necessary for the Creek Nation shall be carried on through the ports and by the citizens of the United States if substantial and effectual arrangements shall be made for that purpose by the United States on or before the 1st day of August, 1792. In the meantime the said commerce may be carried on through its present channels and according to its present regulations.

And whereas the trade of the said Creek Nation is now carried on wholly or principally through the territories of Spain, and obstructions thereto may happen by war or prohibitions of the Spanish Government, it is therefore agreed between the said parties that in the event of any such obstructions happening it shall be lawful for such persons as---- ----shall designate to introduce into and transport through the territories of the United States to the country of the said Creek Nation any quantity of goods, wares, and merchandise not exceeding in value in any one year $60,000, and that free from any duties or impositions whatsoever, but subject to such regulations for guarding against abuse as the United States shall judge necessary, which privilege shall continue as long as such obstruction shall continue.


George Washington, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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