Benjamin Hawkins Earns The Trust Of The Creek
Benjamin Hawkins was a Revolutionary War veteran who made a name for himself dealing with the Native Americans on behalf of the United States.
Hawkins is also known for being one of the inaugural members of the first United States Senate.
Due to the American Revolutionary War establishing fronts across New Jersey, Princeton University was forced to temporarily close its doors.
Benjamin Hawkins of North Carolina thus found his education cut short. Determined to make a name for himself, the young man signed on with the Continental Army.
Having already established himself as an expert in multiple languages, Benjamin received appointment to General Washington’s staff. He spent two years interpreting conversations between Washington and the French generals Benjamin Franklin had been signing commissions for.
By 1777 the Marquis de Lafayette had shown up and began dealing with the French on Washington’s behalf.
Benjamin Hawkins left the Continental Army as he was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives. Eventually, this body sent him to serve for three years in the Continental Congress.
Because of his master of languages, Hawkins was employed by the Congress to negotiate treaties with several Native American tribes. He spent a significant part of the 1780’s living with different Native Nations, earning their trust and solidifying peace.
As the debate on the United States Constitution raged throughout America, Hawkins was chosen to attend the North Carolina Ratification Convention where he supported the new government.
However, he quickly became associated with the Anti-Administration Party which was a forerunner to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans.
Despite this affiliation, or perhaps because of it, Benjamin was elected as an original member of the United States Senate from North Carolina.
General Superintendent for Indian Affairs
After his term in the Senate concluded, Hawkins was appointed by George Washington as General Superintendent for Indian Affairs.
In this position, Benjamin’s responsibility was to act as a Foreign Minister to all the Native American nations south of Ohio.
As the main group Hawkins was responsible for were the Creeks, he traveled to Georgia. He would remain at the plantation he built there for the remainder of his life.
Hawkins’ idea for the best way to assist the Native People was to assimilate them into American culture. He was extremely successful at this task because of the trust he earned among the Creek. Eventually, the Creek persuaded him to accept marriage to a (believed to be) Native woman. Benjamin became, by extension, an unofficial member of the tribe.
The Creek War
Hawkins remained General Superintendent for twenty years, despite several attempts to resign. Eventually, some younger members of the Creek Nation desired to practice their traditional beliefs. The disagreements which followed broke out into the Creek War. This was a civil war within the tribe that happened at the same time as the War of 1812.
Benjamin attempted to cease hostilities and, when he could not accomplish that, he raised a force of Creeks who were friendly to the United States.
Eventually, Andrew Jackson came around and halted the Creek War. Unfortunately, Hawkins did not make it to the treaty signing and the Creek lost most of their land. (Additionally, decades later, President Andrew Jackson would force these same Creeks to walk 1000 miles in the trail of tears.)
Hawkins passed away soon after this event, no doubt heartbroken to see the years of peace he kept destroyed in a flash. His legacy lives on, however, as the namesake of a garrison built in the region which was dubbed Fort Benjamin Hawkins.
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