History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Life and Times of
Sir William Johnson, Bart.,
by William L. Stone
Albany: J. Munsell, 78 State Street, 1865.
The prospect for a favorable reception of the belts summoning the Six Nations to meet their ancient enemies the Cherokees, was not flattering. The borderers, savage than the she-wolf, still shot down from ambuscades every unoffending Indian that came in their path; and when, in January, the White Mingo with eleven others was murdered, and his assassin rescued from justice by a mob of whites, the patience with which the Indians had borne taunts and insults for the past three years, began to give way. In defiance, moreover, of the king's proclamation in 1763, settlers, chiefly from Virginia, had, within the past year, crossed the Alleghenies, and begun settlements along the Monongahela, and Red Stone creek; and although General Gage, at the request of the Baronet, had ordered them to remove, yet the only notice taken of his commands had been the sowing of fresh crops, and the clearing of new fields. All the tribes, but especially the Six Nations, witnessed these proceedings with fear and anger. They had offered, they said, in the congress at the German Flats, in 1765, to give up all the land east of the Ohio to the English for a fair consideration, but their offer had never been accepted; notwithstanding which, the whites scrupled not to establish themselves upon their land. "I wish that boundary," wrote Croghan to the Baronet at this time, "had never been mentioned to them, or that his majesty had before now, ordered it confirmed. Indians cannot bear disappointments or delays, when they expect to get anything; and nothing now will, in my opinion, prevent a war, but taking a cession from them, and paying them for their lands."
The apprehensions of the deputy appeared well grounded. "Brethren," spoke the Senecas in January, with a large belt, to the Delawares and Shawanese, "those lands are yours as well as ours; God gave them to us to live upon, and before the white people shall have them for nothing, we will sprinkle the leaves with their blood, or die every man in the attempt." Secret belts and messages, borne by swift runners through the western tribes, summoned the Indians to a great congress to be held in the Shawanese country in March. In reply to Croghan's question, why the congress was called, the Delawares replied that they knew not; yet while they thus spoke, the fiery glances shot askance from their eyes, told a different story, and their preparations still went on. Several bateaux, loaded with goods for the Indian trade, were stopped on the Ohio and robbed of their ammunition; and tomahawks and scalping knives, that had long lain rusty and blunted, were now raked from among the rubbish of wigwams, and polished and sharpened with grim satisfaction. It was evident that the colonies were upon the very brink of another Indian war.
Alarmed at length at these demonstrations, the meaning of which was clear to the dullest mind, the assembly of Pennsylvania, in February, voted twenty-five hundred pounds, to be placed in the Baronet's hands for distribution, at the approaching council, among those Indians who had lost kindred along the frontiers.1 But this attempt to patch up Indian grievances did not suit the ideas of the superintendent, who was fearful that presents, like a remedy too often applied, had lost their efficacy. Accordingly on the reception of the appropriation, while he thanked the assembly for it, he wrote, that good laws vigorously enforced, would be the best guaranty against Indian resentment.2
Notwithstanding these untoward circumstances, the
1 Manuscript letter; Croghan to Johnson 17th Feb., 1768.
2 Manuscript letter; Johnson to James Galloway [speaker of the assembly of Penn.] 29th Feb., 1768.
third day of spring found, the Six Nations and their allies, to the number of seven hundred and sixty, assembled at Johnson Hall. The Indians, however, came not as of old, with shouts of glee and cheerful looks, "but dropped along one after another, with laggard steps and scowling brows. Previous to opening the council, the Baronet held several private conferences with the principal chiefs, all of whom, as he had feared, seemed so greatly incensed at the recent outrages perpetrated upon them, that he had, at first, but little hopes of mollifying their resentment. It is true that a few of the older sachems, who were warmly attached to his person, lamented the threatening rupture; but even they saw not how it could be avoided. All agreed that the late murder of the white Mingo, was a prelude to still farther hostile designs-which idea, the settlements west of the Alleghenies tended to confirm, especially as a few of those who could read, had lately seen in the newspapers discussions regarding the feasibility of settling the rich lands beyond the Ohio. "When our young men," said they, ''wish to go hunting in our country, they find it covered with fences, so that they are weary crossing them; neither can they get venison to eat, or bark to make huts, for the beasts are run away, and the trees are cut down." Their resentment was, moreover, the more difficult to overcome inasmuch as it was just. It so happened, however, that Sir William had received in February, through Governor Moore, the news-of the king's determination to have the boundary line at once settled. The intention of his majesty was, therefore, now communicated to the sachems, and with such good effect, that they soon relaxed into good humor; and laying aside their revengeful feelings, signified their willingness to enter at once upon the treaty with the Cherokees. Accordingly, the council was opened on the following morning, which, lasting for eight days, terminated in a joint treaty between the Six Nations, their allies, and the Cherokee deputies. Sir William then, with a belt, figuratively pulled up by the roots the largest pine tree he could find, under which the axe that had killed the White Mingo was thrown, and the tree replaced. The presents, voted by the assembly of Pennsylyania, were thereupon distributed among those who had lost kindred along the border, and the meeting was broken up-not, however, until the chiefs had promised to be in readiness, whenever they should be summoned, to aid in adjusting the question of the boundary.1
Thus, through the tact of the superintendent, was the war which had lately seemed so imminent once more averted. Deprived of the support of the Six Nations, and without a leader-for Pontiac, despite of the continued seductions of the French and Spaniards, remained true- the congress of the western nations came to naught; the scalping knife was sheathed; and the savages, with suppressed curses, slunk away to their wigwams.
Owing to the large number of Indians in attendance, the council had been held in the open air, and Sir William, who had consequently been obliged to remain standing in the snow for hours together, took a violent cold, which, bringing on his old complaint, confined him to his room for several weeks. As soon as he was able to travel, which was not until the close of April, he went by the advice of his physician to the sea side, where he remained nearly three months, dividing his time between New London and the eastern end of Long Island.2
1 Sir William Johnson to the minister, 14th March, 1768; Proceedings of the council, held at Johnson Hall, March 4-12, 1768.
2 The following directions for his journey to New London, which I find among his private papers, may be of interest to the curious.
"From Albany to Fitches, 8 miles.
"From Fitches to Kinderhook.
"From Kinderhook to Hogebooms.
"Lovejoys at Nobletown.
"Then over the Taconic Mountains to Captain Spencers at Egremont,but Barrington which is near it, is a better stage.
"Thence to Noble's at Sheffield.
"Lawrence at Canaan.
"The widow Segewick.
"Baldwin at Litchfield.
"Cole at Farmington."
The colonial history of New York would be imperfect, without an allusion to the controversy concerning the great patent of KAYADEROSSERAS ;-a controversy, which lasting for upward of half a century, was finally terminated, mainly through the agency of the Baronet, in July of the present year. "
In the spring of 1708, Samson Shelton Broughton, attorney general of the province, in behalf of himself and twelve others, obtained from Governor Cornbury a license to purchase the "tract of vacant and unappropriated land in the county of Albany, called or known by the Indian name of Kayaderosseras."' In pursuance of this license, Broughton, in the fall of the following year, purchased of the Mohawks for a trifling consideration sufficient land, as the Indians understood it, "to make a small farm." Having thus obtained the land, the purchasers, under semblance of their deed, procured in November, 1708, a grant from the crown of all the land lying between the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, extending from Coic falls near the junction of those streams, to the third, or as it is now called, Baker' falls, on the Hudson, and containing about seven hundred thousand acres! Owing, however, to the jealousy and watchfulness of the Indians, the original Proprietaries, having obtained their patent, had taken no farther steps for many years; and up to the year 1764, it had never been surveyed.2 From this apparent indisposition of the Proprietaries to take advantage of their purchase, the Mohawks gradually lost the solicitude with which they had at first regarded the transaction ; and although at the great congress in 1754, they had
1 The grant was "to her [Queen Ann] loving subjects, Naning Hermanse, Johannes Beekman, Rip Van Dam, Ann Bridges, Mary Bickley, Peter Fanconnier, Adrian Hogelandt, Johannes Fisher, John Tudor, Jorris Hogelandt, John Stevens, John Tatham and Samson Broughton," and was "for all that tract of land situated, lying and being, in the county of Albany, called Kayadorosseras, alias Queensborough."
2 Manuscript letter ; Sir William Johnson to Lieut., Col. Charles Lee, 26th December, 1764.
alluded to it, yet they supposed that all claim upon the land had been entirely relinquished. In 1764, however, the dispute was renewed with increased bitterness. It happened that in the spring of that year, three or four families settled at the confluence of the Kayaderosseras creek and Lake Saratoga. These squatters were discovered about a month after their settlement by a hunting party of Mohawks, who, incensed at the presumption of the whites in settling upon their best hunting ground, ordered them peremptorily to leave; and upon their return to their castles, six of the lower Mohawk chiefs, among whom was Abraham the brother of King Hendrik, waited upon the Baronet on the twentieth of September, and demanded that the settlers should be removed, and that the claim of the Proprietaries to the Kayaderosseras land be immediately relinquished.1 Convinced of the justice of their demand, Sir William immediately wrote to Lieutenant Governor Colden, giving an account of the fraudulent manner in which the patent had been obtained, and soliciting the influence of himself and his council, in procuring redress. But his exertions did not end here. In the fall session of the assembly, he endeavored to prevail on that body to vacate the patent on the ground of fraud; and a bill was accordingly introduced for that purpose. The influence however, of those members who were interested in other patents of perhaps equally equivocal origin, and who therefore dreaded its passage as a precedent, defeated the bill on several frivolous
1 Manuscript minutes of conference at Johnson Hall, 20th Sept., 1764. Manuscript letter ; Sir William Johnson to General Gage, 27th Feb., 1765. In the course of Abraham's remarks at this conference, the sachem said. "We assisted the English to conquer the French, thinking that when that people had been brought to reason, we and our young men should sit down and enjoy peace agreeably to what was told us. But, brother, to our very great concern, we understand from many people, that in a short time, some of our brethren are determined to deprive us of the chief tract of hunting land we have left, called Kayaderosseras, which we never could learn, from the most strict inquiry made several years ago, had been sold by our nation. Wherefore we must say, if that is to be the case) we are much deceived in the opinion we ever entertained of our brethren's honesty."
grounds, among which was, that to vacate it would be to impugn the character of the governor who had granted the patent.1 Disappointed in his hopes of obtaining justice from the assembly, Sir William next appealed directly to the council, who in the spring of the following year (1765) directed the attorney general, Kempe, to proceed against the Proprietaries by the writ of scire facias. This, however, was not satisfactory to the Baronet. " I must observe to you," he wrote to General Gage, "that there is little or no prospect of procuring justice by a trial on scire facias, which I consider as only proposed at New York, that in case of any bad consequences hereafter arising from that patent, the people below might affirm that they offered to inquire into the fraud, though in fact it is doing nothing at all; for they well know the little subterfuges and quirks of the lawyers in any trial at common law, they being interested in the decision, and a patent being deemed a sufficient title at common law, however it might have been obtained,"2 Meanwhile, the cause of the Mohawks was taken up by the entire Confederacy, and the dissatisfaction of the Indians became so alarming, that Sir William, in his correspondence with the board of trade, used his utmost endeavors to have the patent vacated by an act of parliament. At length, alarmed at his persistent efforts to obtain redress, and dreading lest he should succeed, the Proprietaries offered to compromise the matter by relinquishing a part of the patent, and paying to the Mohawks a certain sum of money. This proposition, however, on being submitted to that nation in full council, was declined on the
1 Amongst the little, fallacious arguments made by the house against making it is, that the reason they [the Proprietaries] assign, why it has not been settled is, that it was exposed to the excursions of the enemy. They do not choose to recollect that I settled one hundred families during the heat of that war on my estate, which lies many miles distant from that tract to the northwest, and consequently infinitely more exposed."- Manuscript letter; Johnson to Gage, 4. May, 1765.
2 Manuscript letter; Johnson to Gage, 4 May, 1765.
ground that the consideration offered was too small, and the attempt at compromise failed.
Thus the matter rested until May of this year, when the Proprietaries waited upon the governor, and gave him full power to settle the affair with the Mohawks as he should judge best. Accordingly, in June, Sir Henry Moore visited the Mohawk country, and called the Indians to a council. But when the meeting was opened, it was found that not only had the agent of the patentees forgotten to bring the original Indian deed, but that the creek to which the Proprietaries desired to extend their claim, had never been surveyed. All negotiation was therefore at an end, and after considerable altercation, the meeting was dissolved. In the meantime, by order of the governor, the patent was carefully surveyed; and toward the close of July, Sir William having returned by way of Saratoga Springs from the sea side, & conference was again held, with the Mohawks, when the results of the survey were laid before the sachems. Both parties being now able to judge with certainty what was claimed by each, an amicable adjustment was soon reached. By the conditions of the agreement, the patentees relinquished all the land westward of the kill opposite Twektonondo hill to the northwestern head of Kayadorosseras creek, and took for their north western boundary a line drawn from the head of that creek to the third falls on the Hudson river, the Mohawks, on their part, giving up all claim to the remainder of the patent, on their receiving from the Proprietaries the sum of five thousand-dollars.1
It has already been seen, that the delay in settling the boundary, which had been talked of at the treaty of the German Flats in 1765, was a continual source of irritation
1 Governor Moore to the minister, 4 July, 1768.
Governor Moore to the minister, 17 Aug. 1768.
Sir Wm., Johnson to the minister, 17 Aug. 1768.
Manuscript correspondence between Sir Wm. Johnson and Atty. Gen. Kempe for the years-1766, 1767, 1768.
to the Six Nations. In view of this, Sir William, in the autumn of that year, and also during the summer of 1766, had written to the board of trade, urging the necessity of at once adjusting the line; but his letters had been mislaid, and up to the beginning of the present year he had received no instructions regarding it.
But aside from the dissatisfaction of the Indians, there were other cogent reasons, existing in the minds of many, why the boundary question should be settled. Since the occupation of the Illinois by the English, the Indian trade had not been found as remunerative as was anticipated. French traders still retained their hold upon the tribes of the west, and all efforts, hitherto, to divert the trade into a different channel had been only partially successful. The Spaniards were more busy than ever in securing an interest with the Indians, of which they availed themselves in drawing away the trade; and it was soon evident that Fort Chartres offered but feeble opposition to New Orleans and St. Louis.l The wealthy trading companies of the eastern cities witnessed this state of affairs with alarm; and after many consultations among themselves, it was decided that the only method, by which the Indian trade could be made profitable, would be the purchase of a large tract of land south of the Ohio, upon which permanent settlements could be established. This project was first set on foot in the spring of 1766, at which time, Governor Franklin of New Jersey wrote to the Baronet, proposing, in case the land could be purchased from the Six Nations, that he, together with Governor Moore and General Gage, should enter into the proposed company as an equal partner. Although the Baronet had no intention of connecting himself with the company at this time,2 yet the project, itself, struck him favorably.
1 Manuscript letter; Croghan to Johnson, Oct. 1767.
Manuscript letter ; Johnson to Lt. Col. Massey, 20 Nov. 1768.
2 Manuscript letters; Sir William Johnson to different individuals in the company.
There is little doubt," he wrote in reply, "but that the intended settlement may be productive of a regular civil government in that valuable country, and this, too, without doing violence to, or overreaching the Indians, which from sentiments of policy as well as justice should he always cautiously avoided." On receiving this answer Governor Franklin wrote to his father, who was then in "London, requesting him to make application for a grant from the crown; and, at the same time, Sir William wrote to the ministry, warmly recommending the plan of the proposed colony. Other interests, however, were at work in high quarters. The original grant to the old Ohio company was still in dispute; and its agent, Colonel George Mercer, aided by powerful influence, was urging its settlement. The bounty lands which had been promised by Governor Dinwiddie, in 1754, were still unapportioned, and those troops who had enlisted under his proclamation, had also agents pressing vigorously their claims. The British cabinet, moreover, were divided on the policy of establishing a colony so far from the sea-board-Shelburne approving of the new colony, and Hillsborough being opposed to it.2 "Under these untoward circumstances, therefore, the project did not receive as much encouragement as it otherwise would; and although the company was actually formed under the name of the Walpole Company -after an eminent capitalist of that name-no farther steps were at that time taken.
Meanwhile, late in the winter of 1767, the letters of the superintendent were found, and, in January of this year, Shelburne authorized the Baronet to adjust the boundary with the Six rations at once. " It will also be proper," wrote the minister, "to consult with the different governors
1 Manuscript letter; Sir Wm. Johnson to Gov. Franklin, 3 May, 1768.
2 North American Review for July, 1839, p. 108.
3 In 1770 the Ohio company was merged in Walpole's, and in 1772 received the royal sanction. In consequence of the Revolution, however, both grants were forfeited.
concerning such particular points as may affect the several provinces separately, in order that the work may be carried through with cordiality and dispatch." Accordingly, Sir William appointed the twentieth of September for the meeting of the congress at Fort Stanwix, as being the most central; notice of which was immediately given to the Six Nations, their dependents, and the governors of those provinces that were more particularly interested in its result.
On the ninteenth of September, Sir William, with his three deputies, Guy Johnson, Daniel Claus, and George Croghan, accompanied by Governor Franklin of New Jersey, arrived at Fort Stanwix, bringing with him twenty large bateaux, loaded with such presents as were best suited to propitiate the Indians. On their arrival, the party found the Virginia commissioners awaiting them; and on the following day, Lieutenant Governor Penn with the commissioners from Pennsylvania also arrived. In behalf of those traders who had suffered in Pontiac's war, Messrs. Wharton and Trent were also present, clothed with a power of attorney from their principals, for the purpose of obtaining redress in lands according to the article in the treaty of 1765. The Indians were not as punctual in their attendance. The Senecas were detained by the sudden death of a sachem, and the Delawares and Shawanese were held back by belts sent among them by the French and Spaniards; so that by the first day of October, only eight-hundred had assembled. This number, however, was sufficiently large to rapidly diminish the provisions, that had been sent up from Albany for their subsistence; and fears were entertained that the larder would be emptied before the congress was concluded.1 Belts were accordingly sent out to hasten the arrival of the laggards,
1 Among the items of provisions ordered, by the Baronet, for this congress of his agent at Albany, are, sixty barrels of flour, fifty barrels of pork, six barrels of rice, and seventy barrels of provisions of various kinds. Manuscript letter; Johnson to Glen, 27 July, 1768.
and on the twenty-fourth, thirty-two hundred having arrived, the congress was opened with the usual ceremonies.1
Two days having been occupied in condoling with the Indians on the loss of those of their number who had died during the past year, rekindling the council fire and strengthening the covenant chain, Sir William, on the twenty-sixth, laid before the Indian deputies the business that had summoned them at this time. Those grievances, he said, which for so many years they had suffered through the want of a boundary, the king had resolved to have forever terminated. In accordance with this decision, he had received the royal command to call them together; and after conferring with those provinces interested in this matter, they now saw before them the Governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the commissioners from Virginia, ready to assure them, in behalf of their respective governments, that a due deference should be paid to whatever was now entered into. His majesty had also directed him to give them a handsome proof of his generosity, proportioned to the nature and extent of the lands that should fall to him; and he hoped therefore that their deliberations would be harmonious. "The importance of this affair now before us," he added, "requires the most serious attention. I will therefore not burden you with any other subject until this is settled, and we will adjourn that you may have time to think of it, and come fully prepared to give an agreeable answer."
The Baronet was answered by Sachem Abraham. The subject under discussion, he said, was weighty and required much deliberation. The Six Nations would retire and consult among themselves, and as soon as they had decided on their answer he should be duly notified. The meeting was then adjourned.
Six days were consumed by the deputies in private conferences ; which interval the Baronet employed in clothing several of the older chiefs, and in frequent informal councils
1 Manuscript letter; Johnson to Col. Massey,
20th Nov., 1768
with the influential Sachems upon the matter in hand. At length their deliberations were ended; and on the first of November, Sir William, the royal governors, and the commissioners having assembled in full council, the Indians, through their speaker, reported on the line which they had fixed upon as the boundary. It was essentially the same as the one they had proposed at the German flats. Beginning at the mouth of the Tennessee river, it followed the Ohio and Allegheny rivers to Kittaning; thence in a direct line to the nearest fork of the west branch of the Susquehanna; and thence following that stream through the Alleghenies, it passed, by way of Burnett's Hills and the eastern branch of the Susquehanna and the Delaware, into New York, having its northern terminus at the confluence of Canada and Wood creeks.
The line, thus proposed, was not in accordance with the instructions of the board of trade. Hillsborough, who had succeeded the liberal Shelburne as colonial secretary, and was bitterly opposed to any settlements in the interior, wished to have the line extended no farther than the mouth of the great Kenawha, where it would then meet the line which Stuart, at a council in South Carolina, had recently established with the Cherokees as the western boundary of Virginia. The temper, however, of the Confederate deputies at this time rendered it impossible for the Baronet to follow strictly his instructions, without defeating the very object of the congress. The Six Nations claimed the country south of the Ohio as theirs by right of conquest, and positively refused to agree upon any boundary, whatever, unless their claim was recognized. Had their minds not been so embittered by a long course of injustice, it would have been much easier to have brought them to terms ;-as it was, they knew that they had the advantage, and they kept it.1 There were other reasons,
1 "The distance of time since the first proposal of the boundary, and the artifices practiced upon them since, with a variety of other concurring circumstances, had made the boundary appear in a very different light to the Indians than before, and consequently rendered it a work of much difficulty." Manuscript letter; Johnson to Gage, 13 Nov. 1768.
"Indeed, the time clasped since they were first spoken to concerning a boundary, had made them all view it in a very indifferent and disadvantageous light." Manuscript letter ; Johnson to Wm. Allen, 20th Nov., 1768.
also, which, caused the superintendent to deviate from his instructions. The richness of the soil south of the Ohio was already well known to the enterprising inhabitants of Virginia; and knowing their adventurous spirit, the Baronet was convinced that if that region was not ceded by the Indians, settlements would soon be begun there-proclamations to the contrary notwithstanding-a proceeding which would again plunge the colonies into all the horrors of another Indian war. Presuming, therefore, upon that latitude which had always been allowed him in his dealings with the Indians; and believing that the claims of the Six Nations were just,l he took a deed, on the fifth of November, from the latter to the king, of all the land embraced in the boundary as agreed on by their chiefs.
That Sir William, in this negotiation, may have had in view the interests of the Walpole company, is very possible; but that he would, have consented to the purchase, had he not been convinced of the right of the Confederacy to the ceded territory, and that it was, moreover, the true policy of the mother country to extend the line to the Tennessee, is not to be credited. Indeed the strict
1 "I flatter myself that the proceedings which regard the continuation of the boundary to the Cherokee [Tennessee] river can have no ill effect. What I have done is only resting the claim of the northern Indians (which would always hang over that country) in the crown. THE CHEROKEES IN MY PRESENCE AND AT MY HOUSE MANY YEARS AGO, CLAIMED NO FARTHER, and all the other nations have ever considered that, as the Six Nation's bounds; but should it now be viewed otherwise, the principal claim is removed, and the crown has only to settle with the southern Indians concerning it; and should they refuse to give it up, it is in his majesty's power to prevent the colonies from availing themselves of the late session in that quarter, till it can be done with safety and the common consent of all who have just pretensions to it, which I believe will be easily obtained." Manuscript letter; Johnson Gage, 16 Dec., 1768.
integrity that ever characterized his dealings, sufficiently proves the contrary.1
Three other deeds were given during this congress. One to William Trent, of a tract between the Kenawha and Monongahela, as an indemnity to the traders; another to the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania, of the Wyoming lands; and a third to George Croghan, confirming two grants, which the Six Nations had given to the latter in 1766, of thirteen hundred acres of land on the Allegheny river. The sum of ten thousand dollars in goods and money was then paid to the Six Nations, as the consideration for the land ceded, to the crown; and the congress having been dissolved on the evening of the fifth of November, the Baronet on the following day returned home. Fort Stanwix shortly after was dismantled by order of the commander-in-chief; and amid its desolation, stood a fitting emblem of that people, who within its walls had so recently bartered away their birthright.2 .
Such was the treaty of Fort Stanwix, remarks a writer in the North American Review, "whereon rests the title by purchase to Kentucky, western Virginia, and Pennsylvania." Yet it was a vain hope, for either cabinet minister, or rude savage, to think, by a paper boundary, to alter the Divine decrees. The star of empire that guided the frail bark of Columbus to the new world, still held its western course. The beautiful valleys and rolling prairies of Kentucky and the Illinois were too tempting to be resisted. New companies, directed by the energy of Washington and Lee, sprung up to fertilize the vast expanse now opened by Daniel Boone, in the spring and summer of 1769, crossed the mountains, and explored the valleys of the west; other hardy pioneers followed; and soon the axe of the frontiersman echoed through forests beyond the Wabash.
1 Vide Bancroft, vol. vi, line 4, p. 228.
2 Sir William Johnson to Hillsborough, 28d Oct., 1768. Ibid, 18th Nov., 1767. "Proceedings of Sir William Johnson with the Indians at Fort Stanwix to settle a boundary line."
The assembly having expired by its septennial limitation on the sixth of February, writs were issued for a new election, returnable on the twenty-second, of the following month. Owing, however, to the governor having no special business to lay before the house, the new assembly was not convened until the twenty-seventh of October. The opening speech of the governor related chiefly to the Indian trade, which his majesty had been pleased henceforward to confide to the colonies. " The advantages," said the governor, "arising not only from the intercourse of trade with the Indians, but from the maintenance of that tranquility among them which subsists at present, are BO obvious as to require no arguments to enforce them. I shall, therefore, only recommend to you, that, to avoid any future cause of dissatisfaction or jealousy being given, you will, by the most effectual laws, prevent any settlements being made beyond the line, which shall be agreed on by the Indians." In their reply, on the third of November, the house expressed its willingness to cooperate with the governor in any measures for the better regulation of the Indian trade; and, indeed, for the first two weeks of the the session, nothing occurred to ruffle the general harmony of its proceedings. The critical posture of the province to the mother country, however, forbade that this state of quiescence should be lasting; and it was not long before a direct issue arose between the governor and his assembly.
The right of parliament to tax America was still discussed with great freedom in all the colonies, but in none with more vigor than in Massachusetts. In February, the assembly of that province had addressed a circular letter, drafted by Samuel Adams, to her sister colonies, in which the "great evils to which the inhabitants of America were subjected from the operation of several acts of parliament imposing taxes upon them," were set forth, and their cooperation solicited in obtaining redress. This proceeding,- as may readily be imagined, gave great offense to the ministry ; and Lord Hillsborough forthwith addressed a letter upon the subject to the several colonial governors, requesting that their assemblies should treat the circular letter with silent contempt. But the resentment of the mother country toward Massachusetts was-not satisfied. It was determined to still farther disgrace her, by detaching a strong military force to occupy her capital. The rumor that such a step was meditated by the crown caused considerable comment, and when, on the twenty-eighth of September, two British regiments, accompanied by seven men-of-war, arrived at Boston from Halifax, the indignation, not only in Massachusetts, but in those colonies that sympathized with her, became intense. In Connecticut numerous town meetings were held, in which it was resolved, first, "to seek the Lord, by general fasting, prayer and humiliation, and then to call a convention of ninety-two persons to determine what was to be done in the present difficulties and distress."l In New York city, especially, the Sons of Liberty felt deeply the indignity offered to their sister colony ; and in their first ebullition of anger, indignation meetings were held, and Governor Bernard, and his sheriff, burned in effigy.
Such was the state of public sentiment, when, on the fourteenth of November, Sir Henry Moore laid before the house the Earl of Hillsborough's letter, forbidding correspondence with Massachusetts, and called upon it to render a cheerful obedience to the wishes of the secretary. This action of the governor was met by a warm remonstrance from the assembly; and when, a few days after, the former threatened to dissolve it in case of its not complying, it unhesitatingly refused obedience. The bold stand, thus assumed, was warmly seconded by-public opinion, as appears conspicuously in the newspapers and private correspondence of the day. A series of articles, which had recently appeared under the title of "Letters from a farmer in Pennsylvania to the inhabitants of the British colonies," had paved the way for a fearless utterance
1 Manuscript, letter; J. Moffatt to Johnson,
against ministerial oppression. "Let these truths," said the leaders of the people in New York, "be indelibly impressed upon our minds, that we cannot be free without being secure in our property; that we cannot be secure in our property, if without our consent, others may, as by right, take it away; that taxes imposed by parliament do thus take it away; that duties, laid for the sole purpose of raising money, are taxes; and that attempts to lay such should be instantly and firmly opposed."
While, however, the assembly were thus firm in maintaining its constitutional rights and privileges, it evinced no disposition to countenance acts of lawless violence; and in reply to a message from the governor on the twenty-third, asking its aid in bringing to punishment the ringleaders in a recent riot, it reported a series of resolutions, which distinctly set forth, that although it felt deeply the course of parliament toward them, yet so far from approving of any violent proceedings, it would on all occasions endeavor to support the dignity and authority of government. The riot, to which allusion is here made, had occurred on the fourteenth of November, and had been the result of new exactions, by way of imposts, of the parliament upon the colonies ; and while the reply of the house, as intimated, strongly censured the rioters, yet it also condemned the new duties in terms equally severe. This address gave little satisfaction to the representative of the crown; and on the last day of the year, it was followed by a series of strong constitutional resolutions, among which was one, declaring that it was the opinion of the committee, "that the house had an undoubted right to correspond and consult with any of the neighboring colonies on any matter, subject or thing whatever, whereby they should conceive the rights and liberties of the house, to be in any way affected."1
These resolutions gave high displeasure ; and Sir Henry Moore, having convened the assembly in the City Hall on the afternoon of the third of January, dissolved it by a speech of evident irritation, yet of affected regret and sorrow at the occasion demanding the summary measure. Writs for a new election were immediately issued, returnable on the fourteenth of February. The people, however, sustained the action of their representatives; and all the former members, with the exception of six, were returned by overwhelming majorities.
Such was the result of the first direct appeal of the crown to the people, on the subject of the great constitutional principles of liberty, which were now beginning to agitate the political waters to their deepest fountains.
1 Journals of the assembly.
to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on
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