Since 1790, representatives from Georgia and the Carolinas had been pressuring the federal government to recover fugitives who had escaped to Florida. Even before George Washington became president, the Continental Congress had already arranged for the return of fugitive slaves from at least thirteen tribes. After Washington's election, efforts concentrated on the largest extant group of runaways, the Seminole maroons. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson applied himself to overturning the infamous Spanish edict that had granted freedom to runaway slaves since 1693. Meanwhile, Secretary of War Henry Knox negotiated the Treaty of New York (1790),
one of the first treaties in U.S. history, which attempted to compel Creek Indians to return fugitive slaves from the Seminole country. Describing Knox's treaty years later, the abolitionist Joshua Giddings would sardonically observe
"The first exercise of our treaty-making power under the constitution was put forth for the benefit of the Slave interests of Georgia."
The treaty failed to yield the desired results. Similar
diplomatic efforts likewise failed in 1791 and 1795.
Littlefield Seminole 5, Twyman 78-82, Giddings Exiles 12.
Part 1, Early Years: l