Henry Knox

portrait by Gilbert Stuart

The Indians being the prior occupants possess the right to the soil. It cannot be taken from them unless by their free consent, or by the right of conquest in the case of a just war.

(1750 - 1806)

The first Secretary of War and President Washington's closest friend and most trusted advisor,  Henry Knox.


          Knox, a man who came to government from the military with the utmost respect for Indian tribes, believed (as Washington did) that the sovereign status of Indian nations was long-settled business, and that the Indian's inherent title to their homelands wasinviolate in the eyes of the new government.  At Washington's urging, Knox wrote the famous Northwest Ordinance, which states that "the utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken from them without their consent."   Click here for more on this little known warrior and politician

          Congress approved the Ordinance, and soon after, also approved the Indian Non-Intercourse Act, also written by Knox, which made business dealings with the Indian tribes the exclusive privilege of the federal government.