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Benjamin Hawkins

In office
November 27, 1789 – March 3, 1795
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Timothy Bloodworth

In office
1781 – 1783

In office
1778 – 1779

Born August 15, 1754
Granville County, North Carolina
Died June 6, 1816 (aged 61)
Crawford County, Georgia
Resting place Roberta, Georgia
Political party Pro-Administration (1789-1791)
Anti-Administration (1791-1795)
Alma mater College of New Jersey

Benjamin Hawkins (August 15, 1754 – June 6, 1816) was an American farmer, statesman, and Indian agent from North Carolina. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress and a United States Senator, as well as a long-term diplomat and agent to the Creek Indians.



Hawkins was born to Philemon and Delia Martin Hawkins on August 15, 1754, the third of four sons. The family farmed and operated a plantation in what was then Granville County, North Carolina, but is now Warren County. He attended the College of New Jersey, later to become Princeton, but left in his last year to join the Continental Army. He was commissioned a Colonel and served for several years on George Washington's staff as his main interpreter of French.

Hawkins was released from federal service late in 1777, as Washington learned to rely on la Fayette for dealing with the French. He returned home, where he was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1778. He served there until 1779, and again in 1784. The Carolina Assembly sent him to the Continental Congress as their delegate from 1781 to 1783, and again in 1787.

In 1789, Hawkins was a delegate to the North Carolina convention that ratified the United States Constitution. He was elected to the first U.S. Senate, where he served from 1789 to 1795. Although the Senate did not have organized political parties at the time, Hawkins' views aligned with different groups. Early in his Senate career, he was counted in the ranks of those senators viewed as pro-Administration, but by the third congress, he generally sided with senators of the Republican or Anti-Administration Party.

Indian Agent

Benjamin Hawkins, portrayed on his plantation, teaches Creek people to use European technology. Painted in 1805.

In 1785, Hawkins had served as a representative for the Congress in negotiations with the Creek Indians. He was generally successful, and convinced the tribe to lessen their raids for several years, although he could not conclude a formal treaty. The Creek wanted to deal with the 'head man'. They finally signed the Treaty of New York after Hawkins convinced George Washington to become involved.

In 1796, Washington appointed Benjamin Hawkins as General Superintendent of Indian Affairs, dealing with all tribes south of the Ohio River. As principal agent to the Creek tribe, Hawkins moved to present-day Crawford County in Georgia. After he was adopted by the Creeks, he took a common-law wife from among the women.

He began to teach agricultural practices to the tribe, and started a farm at his home on the Flint River. In time, he brought in slaves and workers, cleared several hundred acres, and established mills and a trading post, as well as his farm. Hawkins expanded his operation to include more than 1,000 head of cattle and a large number of hogs. For years, he would meet with chiefs on his porch and discuss matters while churning butter. His personal hard work and open-handed generosity won him such respect that reports say that he never lost an animal to Indian raiders.

He was responsible for 19 years of peace, the longest such period between the settlers and the tribe. When in 1806 a fort was built to protect expanding settlements, just east of modern Macon, Georgia, the government named it Fort Benjamin Hawkins in his honor.

Hawkins saw much of his work to preserve peace destroyed in 1812. A group of Creeks led by Tecumseh were encouraged by British agents to resist increasing settlement by European Americans. Although Hawkins was never attacked, he had to witness a civil war among the Creeks, with the White Sticks and Red Sticks at odds. In the end, the Creeks who were warring with the US were defeated by Andrew Jackson.

During the Creek War of 1813-1814, Hawkins organized the friendly Creeks under Major William McIntosh to aid Georgia and Tennessee militias in their forays against the Red Sticks. After the Red Stick defeat at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, activities in Georgia and Tennessee prevented Hawkins from moderating the Treaty of Fort Jackson in August 1814. Hawkins later organized friendly Creeks against a British force on the Apalachicola River that threatened to rally the scattered Red Sticks and reignite the war on the Georgia frontier. After the British withdrew in 1815, Hawkins was organizing a force to secure the area when he died from a sudden illness in June 1816.

Benjamin never recovered from the shock of the Creek civil war. He had tried to resign his post and return from the Georgia wilderness, but his resignation was refused by every president after Washington. He remained Superintendent until his death on June 6, 1816. On his death bed, he formally married his Creek wife, the woman who had given him four children over the years.

Benjamin Hawkins was buried32°40′0.61″N 84°5′45.73″W / 32.6668361°N 84.0960361°W / 32.6668361; -84.0960361 at the Creek Agency, on the Flint River near Roberta, Georgia. The modern Ocmulgee National Monument includes the site of the original Fort Hawkins.

Hawkins County in Tennessee is named in his honor.

External links

Further reading

  • C. L. Grant, editor. Benjamin Hawkins: Letters, Journals and Writings. 2 volumes. 1980, Beehive Press, volume 1: ISBN 99921-1-543-2, volume 2: ISBN 99938-28-28-9.
  • Florette Henri. The Southern Indians and Benjamin Hawkins, 1796-1816. 1986, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0-8061-1968-3.
  • Thomas Foster, editor. The Collected Works of Benjamin Hawkins, 1796-1810. 2003, University of Alabama Press, ISBN 0-8173-5040-3.
United States Senate
Preceded by
United States Senator (Class 3) from North Carolina
Served alongside: Samuel Johnston, Alexander Martin
Succeeded by
Timothy Bloodworth

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