Proficient in French, young Benjaimin Hawkins (1754-1816) was studying at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) when General George Washington recruited him to serve as an interpreter on his field staff. Thus commenced a life of public service for the native of Warren County. On adoption of the federal constitution, Hawkins became one of North Carolina’s first two U.S. Senators. A staunch Federalist, he was defeated for reelection in 1795 by Timothy Bloodworth, a Jeffersonian.
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Hawkins from an early age took an interest in the welfare of Native Americans. In 1785 he was appointed a commissioner to negotiate with Cherokees and other Southern Indians, leading to the Treaty of Hopewell. Soon thereafter followed work with Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks. His domain as Creek agent, beginning in 1796, covered an immense territory, encompassing much of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
From that point forward, Hawkins’s life was dedicated entirely to Indians affairs. The War of 1812 interrupted his efforts. British emissaries fomented discontent with Creeks and other Indians farther to the west. Hawkins recruited a regiment of friendly Creeks. Andrew Jackson had the upper hand and crushed the British and their Native allies at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Hawkins was bitterly disappointed with the war and its course. He died in Crawford County, Georgia, where he was buried.
Merritt Pound, Benjamin Hawkins: Indian Agent (1951)
Merritt Pound, “Benjamin Hawkins, North Carolinian: Benefactor of the Southern Indians,” North Carolina Historical Review (April 1942): 168-186
Florette Henri, The Southern Indians and Benjamin Hawkins, 1796-1816 (1986)
Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, V, 142-153—sketch by Stephen B. Weeks
Dumas Malone and others, ed., Dictionary of American Biography, VIII, 413-414—sketch by Robert Preston Brooks
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 72-73—sketch by Armistead Jones Maupin