Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Dr. J. Frederick Fausz


Steven W. Rowan, Ph.D.

Peter J. Kastor, Ph.D.


During George Washington's first presidential term, Federal authorities faced the challenging task of defining what the new republic meant to themselves, their constituents and diverse populations on both sides of the United States's border with the Indian nations. The Constitution of 1787 had created a plan for government; the task of Federal officials was to make that plan a concrete reality, in the face of opposition from entrenched political and economic interests that neither trusted nor favored the new government in New York City. The most pressing domestic task facing the new government was to define the relationship between the Federal union and the several states, who had yielded their sovereignty only grudgingly. The process of defining federalism involved both internal and external facets, as the United States interacted with nations beyond its borders, as well as the Indian tribes within the borders as defined by the Treaty of Paris (1783). The internal facet involved the exercise of diplomacy toward the Indians in the same manner that U.S. diplomats exercised their mission toward European powers. One notable incident in the diplomatic effort to assert Federal control over Americans's relations with the Indians involved the United States's involvement in an intractable dispute between the Creek Nation and the State of Georgia. This dispute, which revolved around the validity of cessions of land that the Georgians claimed the Creeks had made in the mid-1780s, would create the Federal govenment's role as the hegemon of peace and stability on the southwestern borderland in the early 1790s. The ultimate failure of the United States to impose a stable peace in Georgia and Alabama laid the foundations for the dominant role that the Federal government would play in white Americans's relations with their Indian neighbors. This study relies heavily on primary sources, including reports and correspondence of U.S. and Georgia state officials, to define the processes by which the Creeks and Georgians futilely tried to resolve their dispute by their own efforts, and how the U.S. became embroiled in that dispute.

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