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Benjamin Hawkins

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Sen. Benjamin Hawkins
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Sen. Benjamin Hawkins

Benjamin Hawkins (15 August 1754 - 6 June 1818), usually known as Colonel Hawkins, 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 County in Tennessee is named in his honor.

Benjamin 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 Princeton in New Jersey 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 for French.

Hawkins was released from federal service late in 1777 as Washington learned to rely on Lafayettte for dealing with the French. He returned home, and 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 he was a delegate in the North Carolina convention that ratified the United States Constitution. He was then elected to the first U.S. Senate, and served from 1789 to 1795. Although the Senate did not have organized political parties at the time, his views shifted during his term. 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

In 1785 Hawkins had served as a representative for the Congress in negotiations with the Creek Indians. He was generally successful, and convinced that tribe to lessen their raids for several years, although he couldn't conclude a formal treaty. The Creek wanted to deal with the head man, and finally signed the Treaty of New York after Hawkins convinced 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. He personally assumed the role of principle agent to the Creek tribe. He moved to the area that is now Crawford County in Georgia. He was adopted by the Creeks, and took one of their women as his common-law wife.

He began to teach agricultural practices to the tribe, starting 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. His operation expanded until he had over 1,000 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 the longest period of peace between the settlers and the tribe, overseeing 19 years of peace. When a fort was built in 1806 to protect expanding settlements, just west of modern Macon, Georgia, it was named Fort Benjamin Hawkins.

Hawkins saw much of his work toward building a peace destroyed in 1812. A group of Creeks, led by Tecumseh were encouraged by British agents to resistance against increasing settlement by whites. Although he personally was never attacked, he was forced to watch an internal civil war among the Creeks, the war with a faction known as the Red Sticks, and their eventual defeat by Andrew Jackson.

Benjamin never recovered from this shock. 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, 1818. On his death bed he married the women who had given him four children over the years. Benjamin Hawkins was buried at the Creek Agency, on the Flint River near Roberta, Georgia. The modern Ocmulgee National Monument includes the site of the original Fort Hawkins.

External links

Benjamin Hawkins (http://ngeorgia.com/people/hawkins.html) Biography of first "Indian Agent" in the Southeast United States

Further reading

  • C. L. Grant (editor); "Benjamin Hawkins: Letters, Journals and Writings" (2 volumes); 1980, Beehive Press, volume 1: ISBN 9992115432, volume 2: ISBN 9993828289.
  • Florette Henri; "The Southern Indians and Benjamin Hawkins, 1796-1816"; 1986, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0806119683.
  • Thomas Foster (editor); "The Collected Works of Benjamin Hawkins, 1796-1810"; 2003, University of Alabama Press, ISBN 0817350403.


Preceded by:
none
Senators from North Carolina Succeeded by:
Timothy Bloodworth
Served alongside: Samuel Johnston, Alexander Martin
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