U.S. Senator Benjamin Hawkins, Later Emissary to American Indians in the Southeast

Image from the N.C. Museum of History.On August 15, 1754, Benjamin Hawkins, politician and agent for Indian affairs south of the Ohio River, was born in Warren County.

Proficient in French, the young Hawkins was studying at what’s now Princeton University when General George Washington recruited him to serve as an interpreter on his field staff. Hawkins served in the Continental Congress in the years between the Revolutionary War and the adoption of the federal constitution. After ratification, Hawkins became one of North Carolina’s first two U.S. Senators.

From an early age Hawkins was interested in the welfare of American Indians. In 1785, he was appointed a commissioner to negotiate with Cherokees and other Southern Indians, leading to the Treaty of Hopewell. Soon thereafter he worked with the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks.

In 1796, President Washington appointed Hawkins Principal Temporary Agent for Indian Affairs South of the Ohio River. He chose to live among the Creek Indians in central Georgia. From that point forward, Hawkins’s life was dedicated entirely to Indian affairs, though the War of 1812 interrupted his efforts. British emissaries provoked discontent with Creeks and other Indians farther to the west, leaving Hawkins bitterly disappointed with the war and its course.

He died in Crawford County, Georgia in 1816.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.