PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA: The First Congressional Investigation: Congressional Investigations are commonplace these days – but the very first Congressional Investigation was of the George Washington Administration in 1791. At that time Congress was meeting at Congress Hall in Philadelphia (pictured)
Washington’s appointed Major General St Clair had formed an Army at Washington’s behest to take modern day Fort Wayne, Indiana from the Miami nation who resided there at Kekionga. This was to make way for further settlement into the Ohio territory and to reduce British influence in the region.St Clair’s army suffered one of the worst defeats in all of American Military history at modern day Fort Recovery, Ohio. This battle is alternately known as St Clair’s Defeat or the Battle of the Wabash. Despite Washington’s strict instructions, St Clair failed to erect a fortification when his forces made camp the evening of November 3, 1791. St Clair’s position was overrun in the early morning hours of November 4th. Fully 93% of St Clair’s force was killed, captured or wounded.St Clair’s defeat led Washington to choose another Major General to complete the task both Josiah Harmar and Arthur St Clair had failed to – capture Kekionga and establish a fort at the three rivers. After considering at least 15 other officers, Washington settled on Anthony Wayne – primarily for the reason that, during the Revolution, Wayne had always followed his orders precisely.George Washington’s Administration was made to answer for the defeat at Fort Recovery in front of Congress. It was a national embarrassment and a tremendous loss of lives and financial investment. This was uncharted territory for the new Republic as the Constitution hadn’t made clear provision for Congress to investigate the executive branch, short of impeachment.
Source Papers of George Washington (PGW): Presidential Series (Pres. Ser.), edited by Ted Crackel et al., volume 10: 169; James Flexner, George Washington and the New Nation, 1783–1793 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970), 301.