Letter from Benjamin Harrison to Alexander Martin
Harrison, Benjamin, ca. 1726-1791
Volume 16, Pages 457-458
GOV. B. HARRISON, OF VA., TO GOV. ALEX. MARTIN.
[From Executive Letter Book.]
Virginia, In Council, Nov. 12th, 1782.
Since I did myself the honor of writing to you last I have rec’d. by Colonel Martin, our Indian Agent, a Talk from the Cherokees, a paragraph of which I enclose you.1
These poor wretches seem to be in the deepest distress from an apprehension that the people of your State mean to deprive them of their hunting grounds which have been long since saved to them by solemn Treaty. If the information is true, I doubt not but the encroachments must be made without the Privity or consent of your Excellency, or the Legislature
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of your State, and that you will give immediate orders for the Lands being evacuated. I should in no manner interest myself in the affair if I did not see clearly that the further prosecution of it will be attended with the greatest inconvenience to this State, and perhaps with the loss of the lives of very many of our back Inhabitants, the nature of Indians being such as to revenge an Injury done by one State on another, altho’ they are altogether innocent of the wrongs they receive. The friendship which subsists between this State and yours, and which I hope will ever remain inviolate, induces a wish that you would call the attention of your Assembly to the subject, and so use your endeavours that they fall on some means for settling a boundary between your State and the Indians. If this proposal meets with your Excellency’s approbation, I will immedaitely take the same steps with our Assembly, who will, no doubt, concur in any measure that shall be proposed for having their own boundaries fixed at the same time. The most proper mode that I can think of will be the appointing Commissioners (Men of Honor & disinterested) from the two Carolinas and this State to meet on the frontiers of the several States to have the boundaries of each firmly fixed, ’til the Indians shall be disposed to sell, when each State shall have the exclusive right of purchasing within its chartered bounds. This being once done, and our People forced to observe the Treaties that shall be made, there will probably be no more cause for Indian Wars—if there should, by making a common cause of it, they might soon be brought to reason.
The importance of the subject will plead my excuse for entering on it. Indians have their rights and our Justice is called on to support them. Whilst we are nobly contending for liberty, will it not be an eternal blot on our National character if we deprive others of it who ought to be as free as ourselves. The subject is copious, but I shall not enlarge on it to your Excellency, whose Justice & Humanity are too well known to me to occasion a thought of its being necessary.
I have the honor to be, &c.,