Normally identified as "indian agent" to the Creek, Benjamin Hawkins was actually Superintendant of Indian Affairs for the Southeast United States, which at the time included the land south of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi. He was directly responsible for the relations of the Creek Indians and the United States. Before moving to Georgia the Colonel served as congressman, U. S. Senator, and advised President Washington on a number of occasions.
While attending Princeton College Hawkins was offered a commission as a Colonel in the Continental forces, serving as aide to General George Washington. He left the armed forces in 1777 to serve as a congressman in North Carolina, becoming a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1781 and again, briefly, in 1787. He was chosen by the North Carolina legislature to become a Senator in 1789. When his term was complete in 1795, Washington asked him to supervise the other Indian Agents.
Washington had good reason for doing this. Shortly after becoming Senator, Hawkins was pivitol in negotiating the Treaty of New York, arranging the meeting in New York City between Washington and the chiefs of the Upper Creek led by Alexander McGillivray.
The Georgia Years (1796-1816)
From his agency along the Flint River (hence the name Flint Agency) Hawkins began trading with Creek and dispensed technology and advice to Creeks who farmed the land. He took a Creek woman as his common-law wife.
Working within the Creek Nation was difficult at best. The Confederacy presented an extremely complex navigation even for a long-time politician like Hawkins. Additionally, the early attempts of the federal government to get all Southeastern Indians to settle the land lessened under Thomas Jefferson and was gone when he left, replaced with attempts to push the Indians west.
Hawkins initial attempts at getting the Creek to settle the land appear to have been successful. By the start of the 19th century Creek Indians were increasing the size of individual farms and the amount of goods produced. He even seemed to have success dealing the more volitile (and distant) Upper Creek, although relations with them were strained at times.
An early incident in his career involved William Bowles
, an American Tory who joined the Creek when he missed a ship at the Florida port of Pensacola and was summarily discharged by the British. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to establish an independent Muscogee Nation, Bowles simply declared himself king of all Indians who were meeting at Tukabatchee, a Creek Indian capital located at the convergence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers. Benjamin Hawkins and the Lower Creek arrested him the following day.
Friction between the Upper and Lower Creek began to increase following the arrest of Bowles. By 1812, aroused by the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh, some members of the Upper Creek were in open revolt. This would be the source of Benjamin Hawkins greatest failure.
Among those who Hawkins regularly corresponded are: