United States

Was George Washington a Terrorist?

Have you ever wondered if the founding father of our country George Washington was a Terrorist? We celebrate his glory by creating monument and memorials in his name, displacing his face on money and stamps, naming places after him, and giving him a national holiday. We also learn fictional stories about how much of a role model citizen he was. In today’s world we never discuss any of the wrongdoing that he committed. We tend to just look past it all, to somehow justify his wrongs through his greatness and legacy.

George Washington was the commander of the American forces during the American Revolutionary war. He led the less powerful American army to victory when defeating the all mighty British. He is most recognized for being the first President of the United States. Due to his central role in the founding of the United States, he is called the “Father of his County”. As the first President, he set many precedents that later Presidents would follow. He established a Cabinet, a two term Presidency, and a Presidential farewell address. From a Native American perspective, his Presidency also established the basis for political relation towards Native Americans. Like many whites from the time, he viewed Natives as barbaric people. He describes Native Americans as being the “Wild Beast of the Forest” and relating them to the “Wolf” because he viewed them as beasts of prey. George Washington was a terrorist to Native Americans though his political policies and by terrorizing and destroying their towns and civilizations.

During George Washington’s first term he declared that policies regarding Native American were one of  his highest priorities. As Washington stated “The Government of the United States are determined that their Administration of Indian Affairs shall be directed entirely by the great principles of Justice and humanity”. Secretary of War Henry Knox recognized that war with the Natives would be too costly and without a proper reason would be unjust, so he began a policy of negotiation. In earlier years the Confederation Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance which opened the Ohio Valley to new settlements. This would pose a problem the Washington’s policies. Washington’s initial policy toward Native Americans was declared in 1789. In which, Washington created treaties that would serve as a basis for conducting relation with Native Americans. The treaties were made with seven northern tribes: the Shawnee, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, Iroquois, Sauk, and Fox. This treaty granted protection to the seven tribes. To the tribes the treaty soon became ineffective in stopping the movement of settlers and showed how much control the American government had with its people. The members of the tribes believed that force was necessary to prevent further settlement. Washington didn’t take kindly to this. In 1790 and 1791 he sent armed forces to fight Native troops. His troops lost during both encounters. Congress responded to these setbacks and sent a five thousand men army that would to later defect the Natives in the Summer of 1794. After the conflict the Treaty of Greenville was passed some peace was brought to the Northwest by 1795. Simultaneously, Washington was also faced with the challenge to form peace with the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and the Creeks. The Creeks gave Washington the most worry due to their disagreement with the  interpretation of three treaties that had been negotiated by the state of Georgia during the 1780s. These treaties included the Creeks giving up a significant portion of land that the Creeks’ leader Alexander McGillivray did not recognize. In the summer of 1790 the leader of the Creeks tribe traveled to New York the negotiate a new treaty. The outcome was the Treaty of New York, which gave back most of the land that was taken away from the treaties with Georgia and granted federal protection to the tribe. In August of 1790 the treaty was expected by the Chief Alexander McGillivray, but later failed due to the rise of settlers into the Native’s land. The surge of America’s to the western frontier impacted the national agenda regarding Native Americans. This caused Washington to write “I believe scarcely anything short of a Chinese wall, or a line troops, will restrain Land jobbers, and the encroachment of settlers upon the Indian territory”.

As the massive surge of Americans started to move west Washington had to choose whether he would support his nation’s move west or continue to enforce his policies. He chose the well being of the nation and its people over his Native foreign policy. In doing so started the struggles that would face Native Americans in the next 100 years. The massive surge started conflicts with the Natives that led to violent wars. Washington’s focus of peace turned to one of war. He used his strong and ruthless combat tactics to kill and push back the Natives west. He was soon given the name “The Town Destroyer”.

1796 Engraving of Iroquois (usnews.com)

George Washington was given the name “The Town Destroyer” for one reason only. He destroyed many Native towns and conquered many different tribes. One ruthless acted that George Washington committed was when he met with the chiefs of the Seneca tribe to negotiate under the flag of peace, but ended up slathering most of the tribe. The leader of the Seneca tribe Tanacharison give him the nickname of “The Town Destroyer”. George Washington wrote an order to General John Sullivan saying “The immediate objectives are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops in the ground and prevent their planting more”. This letter shows the tactics that he used to conquer and destroy the tribes. A letter from Washington saying that the burning of the towns and the killing of the natives was “villainy” and “mischief”. This letter showed where Washington stood on the subject of Native Americans and how he felt about them. In the letter, he writes to John Armstrong explaining the killing of the three Native Americans in the South Bank of the Potomac River, and how he wants to declare justice. How can he declare justice when he has killed three innocent Natives and destroyed hundreds of towns? But ten years later he changed his viewpoints on the Natives. First Washington had ordered his generals to attack the tribes because he thought they were weak. Washington’s orders were “lay waste all the settlements around… that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.” Everything that is heard at school about Washington is always about his glory because he was the “father of our country”. But no one ever talks about the horrendous things he has done to build the backbones of the county. This is why he is looked at as a hero and a savior.

As a President Washington was a terrorist to many Native American tribes. His shortcoming and unwillingness to stick to his agenda led him to invade, kill, and conquer once allied States. In which he set the path for the cruel treatment and almost extermination of Native Americans. Now knowing all the information about George Washington think twice when you celebrate Presidents Day.

Article by Paul Hissen and Anthony Verandes

Works Cited

Ojibwa. “George Washington and the Indians.” Native American Netroots, 22 Sept.

     2011, nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/1077.

Harless, Richard. “Native American Policy.” George Washington’s Mount Vernon,

     HOMEDIGITAL ENCYCLOPEDIA, www.mountvernon.org/digital-

     encyclopedia/article/native-american-policy/.

ICMN Staff. “George Washington Letter Describes Killing of Natives as ‘Villainy’.”

     Indian Country Media Network, Indian Country Today, 6 June 2013,

     indiancountrymedianetwork.com/history/events/george-washington-letter-

     describes-killing-of-natives-as-villainy/.

Landry, Alysa. “George Washington: First Author of Federal Indian Policy.” Indian

     Country Media Network, Indian Country Today, 5 Jan. 2016,

     indiancountrymedianetwork.com/history/events/george-washington-first-author-of-

     federal-indian-policy/.

Cornblatt, Johannah. “‘Town Destroyer’ Versus the Iroquois Indians.” Usnews, 28 June

     2008, www.usnews.com/news/national/articles/2008/06/27/town-destroyer-versus-

     the-iroquois-indians.

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