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.
With the opening of the year, dawned a new era in American literature. Signs of a greater appreciation of learning and a desire for literary pursuits among the colonies, are in this year too apparent not to deserve passing notice. The clang of steel and the midnight alarms had now ceased ; and in the calm thought which followed the literary seeds that had for so long a period laid dormant, found a rich soil in which to germinate and bring forth fruit. As in the age of the Reformation, and of Louis XIV, a company of stalwart literary giants sprung forth from the previous darkness, so in the period we are now upon, a score of men of power and vigorous intellect rose up in America, infusing new vigor into every department of letters with which they came in contact. The theological writings of Jonathan Edwards, with all their depth of philosophical eloquence, gave an impetus to that branch of scholarship hitherto unknown. It was in this year that Franklin electrified the savans of the Old World with his grand discovery. The universities of New England awoke to new life and activity. Schemes for the advancement of learning sprung up in the different provinces with wonderful rapidity. Libraries and philosophical societies were formed in every direction. Several men distinguished in the walks of scientific research visited America, and by their cordial sympathy encouraged greatly the enquirer after truth. The eye turns with pleasure to the names of John Winthrop, professor of mathematics at Cambridge, Thomas Godfrey, the inventor of Hadley's Quadrant, David Rittenhouse of Pennsylvania, and numerous others, whose names shine with lustre upon the page of history.(1) Confining ourselves to the province of
(1 ) Grahame.
New York, Cadwallader Golden had just completed that remarkable book-the "History of the Five Nations;" and in this year the founding of Kings College began to be seriously urged.
It is not to be supposed that with this literary zeal pervading every mind, an intelligent man like Johnson could fail to be affected by it. Although in his spare moments, heretofore, he had always manifested a great fondness for literary pursuits and had repeatedly sent out to England for books, yet having a little leisure this year by his resignation of Indian affairs, he seems to have devoted much of his time to improving his own mind, and also the moral and social condition of those around him. The manner in which a portion of his time was spent at this period, may be inferred by the following letter to his agent in London.
"MOUNT JOHNSON, August the 20th, 1752.
Having the pleasure of an intimate acquaintance with your brother, Doctor Shuckburgh of New York, whom I have a singular regard for, induced me to apply to you for what I may want in your way, although but a trifle. Having lately had a pretty large collection of books from London, shall at present only desire you will please to send me what pamphlets are new and worth reading; also the Gentleman's Magazine from Nov'br. 1750 to the last, and the Monthly Review from the same time; also the Newspapers regularly and stitched up. You have only to deliver them to Mr. John George Liberwood, merch't. there, who will forward them to me, and will pay your am't. yearly.
Having nothing farther to add at present (but beg you will send me those things regularly and punctually) I conclude sir,
Y'r very humble serv't., W.J.
To Mr. Shuckburgh, stationer, London.(1)
(1) Manuscript Letter. See also appendix No. II. of vol. I.
The intellectual culture of the Mohawks was a subject in which the colonel took special interest. The mission school at Stockbridge for Indian children, the plan of which was first projected by John Sergeant in 1741, and which after the death of the latter was carried on for a time by Jonathan Edwards, received at this time his particular attention. Sir Peter Warren in 1751 had donated for the support of this institution seven hundred pounds, and about the same time had expressed to his nephew a very favorable opinion of its purpose, requesting that he would use his influence in its favor.(1) Had Johnson previous to this request no other incentive for his interest in it, this would have been sufficient. His efforts were now unremitting to persuade the Mohawks to send their children thither; and a correspondence was kept up between himself and the committee of this school on the subject. His advice upon its management was freely asked and as freely given; and in a letter to him upon this topic, the writer says: "I can't but hope and pray for your further assistance in encouraging the Indians to send their children and continue them steadily here, and your thoughts with regard to any measures that may naturally tend to promote this affair, and be proper for us further to do or attempt, will be very acceptable.(2)
Nor were his efforts to benefit his savage neighbors confined solely to the school at Stockbridge. He was equally interested in other missions wherever located, and always used his influence for their support and encouragement. In the course of the following year (1753) Rev. Mr. Hawley was sent from Boston to establish an Indian mission school
(1) Manuscript Letter to Johnson from Joseph Dwight, one of the committee of the mission school.
(2) Extract from the same. Hon. Joseph Dwight, whose letter is here referred to, was a liberally educated man. He had been speaker of the house of Massachusetts Bay, and a counselor, and led a regiment in the successful attack on Cape Breton. He married the widow of the Rev. Mr. Sergeant, the same who is mentioned in the text as the founder of the mission school at Stockbridge.
west of Albany. On his way he stopped over night at Mount Johnson, hoping to obtain the colonel's countenance in his project. This was cheerfully granted, and the missionary sent on his way with a godspeed. The colonel was also at this time in correspondence with Doctor Eleazer Wheelock, who had recently established a school in Lebanon, Connecticut, similar in its object to the one at Stockbridge, and which afterwards grew into Dartmouth college. Several years later, the celebrated Joseph Brant, sent by the colonel, received at this school his English education. It is pleasant to dwell upon this phase of Johnson's character, showing, as it does, that his mind was not wholly engrossed-as some would have us believe in amassing a private fortune.
It will be recollected that when I last spoke of Sir Peter Warren, he had been obliged to retire through ill health to his country seat in Westbury, and had shortly afterward been elected to parliament from the city of Westminister. The capture of the French fleet of East Indiamen, of which an account has been given in a former chapter, was the last service he lived to perform; for peace being concluded in the following year, the fleet was of course dismantled. But even in his retirement honors followed him. In May, 1748, he received a distinguished mark of royal favor in being appointed vice admiral of the Red; and in the early
(1) Rev. Mr. Hawley was before this an instructor of the Iroquois children at the Stockbridge mission under Mr. Edwards. Mr. Hawley thus speaks of his visit at this time to Colonel Johnson in a letter to Rev. Dr. Thatcher, published in the Mass. His. Col. vol. iv. " On Friday we left Albany. Mr. Woodbridge and I set out for Mount Johnson, about thirty-six miles off, to pay our compliments to Colonel Johnson, and obtain his countenance in favor of our mission. * * * At sunset we were politely received at Colonel Johnson's gate by himself in person. Here we lodged. His mansion was stately, and situate a little distance from the river, on rising ground, and adjacent to a stream which turned his mill. This gentleman was well known in his civil, military and private character. He was the first civil character in the county of Albany at that day. * * * It was favorable to our mission to have his patronage, which I never lost."
By no one was the death of Admiral "Warren felt with more acuteness than the Johnson family. Sir Peter had been to them all the kindest of benefactors; and was looked up to with feelings of gratitude and affection. This is evident from the following letter, written to Colonel Johnson by his brother, a few days after his uncle's decease,
"LONDON, Aug. 4th, 1752.
" My Dear Brother ; It's with the utmost sorrow I give yon the most dismal account of the death of our most dear, dear uncle, who died in Dublin last Wednesday night, 29th July, of a most violent fever, which carried him off
(1) Biographia Navalis.--Charnock
four days. I was up day and night with him, and would to God I'd have died in his stead. Oil my dear brother, such grief as our poor family are in, is inexpressible, for we have lost our all in all. And you, I am sure, will be as much shocked as mortal living, but let me beg of you to muster up all of your resolution to bear this most dismal account. I arrived here in two days from Dublin with the melancholy news to Lady Warren, whom from my very heart I pity, and hope God will preserve her life for her poor family's sake. He made his will two days before he died, and how he has settled his affairs no one as yet knows, nor I till I return with her directions to have it opened. I set out in two hours and expect to be in Dublin the 7th. He is to be interred at Pock Mark in a private manner. His executors are Lady Warren, Captain Tyrrell, and the Chief Justice De Lancey, and be assured of a faithful account of everything as soon as his will is opened.
"I hope in God, my dear brother will endeavor to bear this shock with patience. Our loss is very, very great, and what to do now with myself I know not. I shall let you hear from me by the first opportunity after my arrival in Ireland. I shall write this miserable account to my cousin Captain Tyrrell, who will be, I am sure, greatly shocked. I have not time to add more. My love to brother Ferrall,(1) and believe me, my dear brother, ever yours,
" Most affectionately and faithfully,
To Colonel Johnson the death of his uncle must indeed have been a terrible blow. Although I have not been able to find among his papers the answer to the above letter, yet undoubtedly it was full of corresponding sympathy and affection.
As by Sir Peter's death, the council lost one of its members, William Smith, at the recommendation of Mr. Clinton,
(1) Ferrall Wade, Johnson's brother-in-law. He was killed in the action of the 8th of September, 1755, at Lake George.
(2) Manuscript letter.
was appointed, by the crown to fill the vacant seat. This gentleman was at this time a flourishing lawyer in the city of New York, and had first gained Mr. Clinton's good will, by his prosecution of Mr. Oliver DeLancey-brother of the chief justice-for his abuse of the governor. On the death of the attorney general in this year, Mr. Clinton appointed him to that office, which he filled with great credit and reputation, until the arrival from England of William Kempe, who had received the appointment from the crown, unknown to the governor.(2) The latter did not present the claims of Mr. Smith, without opposition;-- Colonel Morris, formerly a member of the council under Governor Montgomery, sending in at the same time a memorial praying for the appointment. The influence, however, of Mr. Clinton at court, was too powerful to be overcome, and Mr. Smith took his seat at the council board, upon the thirtieth of April of the following spring.
To the new assembly, which met in October, many of its former members, friends of the chief justice, were returned. Its principal feature was the absence of the long messages both from the executive and the house, which had characterized its former sessions. Both parties seemed resolved to make them models of brevity. Mr. Clinton's opening message was comprised in fifteen lines ; and the address of the house in reply, scarcely exceeded it in length. This is attributed by Mr. Smith to the fact of his own advice and that of Mr. Alexander having been taken by the governor, rather than that of Mr. Colden, "whose incautious and luxuriant compositions had so frequently kindled the party fires," which had increased the popularity of the chief justice "whom he was most anxious to pull down."(3) Be this as it may, it is certain that during the
(1) Manuscript letter.
(2) Governor Clinton to the Lords of Trade.
(3) Smith. Mr. Clinton had recently lost the support of Dr. Colden, by his having urged, in opposition to the latter's wishes, Robert Hunter Morris for lieutenant governor. Mr. Alexander was chosen by Clinton as his chief adviser in place of Colden.
present session, there was none of that bitterness which had characterized former sessions.
The most noticeable action of the present assembly, was its voting to provide, at their next sitting, for the repairing of the different fortifications along the frontier; for the rebuilding of the trading-post at Oswego, now in a ruinous condition ; and for the founding of a college for the education of the youth of the colony. A new board of commissioners was also appointed to take charge of the Indian department, which, by the resignation of Colonel Johnson, had been deprived of his services. It would appear, however, by the following extract from a letter written by Mr. Clinton to the colonel, under date of November fifth, that the former commissioners were still sore from their previous dismissal. The letter itself is addressed to the colonel, in the care of Captain Ross, New York, whither the former had come to attend the council:
"I find the assembly are determined to go upon commissioners for Indian affairs again, and as I cannot, without inconvenience, prevent it, I send for your perusal a list of persons proposed for my approbation for that commission. I cannot help observing that they are picked out of almost all your inveterate opposers; therefore should be glad of your opinion, for I can but think it justice, that I should have the nomination of one-half, at least, of them. I shall be at the fort Tuesday next, when I shall be glad if you would dine with me, and in the interim think what I can do in it."(1).
The result was a compromise-the governor rejecting six or one-half of the names sent in for his approval, and the house putting in their place, the members of the executive council, the commanding officer at Albany, the representatives of the general assembly, and the mayor and recorder of Albany ex-officio.(2) The affair of Indian
(1) Manuscript letter.
(2) Manuscript council minutes. The list for commissioners enclosed in Mr. Clinton's letter to the colonel, was Myndert Schuyler, Philip Schuyler, David Schuyler, Johannis Janse Lansingh, Hendrick Bleecker, Hans Hanson, Jacob H. Ten Eyck, Johannis Cuyler, Sybrant G. Van Schaick, Johannis Glen, Gerardus Groesbeck, and Johannis Van Rensselaer. The commissioners retained and substituted, were Myndert Schuyler, Cornelius Cuyler, Hendrick Bleecker, John Beekman, Johannis Lansingh, jr., and Jacob C. Ten Eyck.
It may at first appear singular that as Mr. Clinton had dissolved the last assembly on account of his trouble with the opposition, the tone of this new one should be so entirely different, especially since, as before observed, nearly all of the opposition had been returned. The solution of this is found in a glance at the political complexion of affairs, as they now stood. Mr. De Lancey began to fear that he had gone a little too far. He knew that Mr. Clinton held in his hands a commission for him as lieutenant governor; and his object thus far had been to render his position so uncomfortable that he would be obliged to resign and thus give him greater scope for his ambition.(1) Mr. Clinton's success, however, at court, as shown by his securing for his friends seats at the council board, caused alarm. He knew, also, from his friends in England, that the governor, who was thinking of soon leaving the province on account of ill health, had written several letters to the board of trade, requesting permission, without producing De Lancey's commission, to leave Colden, by virtue of being president of the council, in command of the colony.(2) The very idea of his most inveterate enemy, being thus placed in power, drove the chief justice well nigh distracted. Mr. Charles, moreover, had written to the speaker of the assembly, that measures were on foot to have the commission appointing De Lancey lieutenant governor revoked, and to have Robert Hunter Morris
(1) Review of military operations in America.
(2) Clinton to the board of trade.appointed, in his stead.(1) The chief justice, therefore, fearing the loss of the commission-than which nothing was farther from his thoughts-saw that he must play his cards differently if he would win. In addition to all this, the disputes between the provinces of 'Sew York and New Jersey in relation to the boundary line, were still unsettled; and it was evident that so long as the disputes between the assembly and the governor continued, they -would be as far off from an adjustment as ever. Those families of the province who held large estates, had grown weary of these continual wranglings; and now gave the chief justice pretty plainly to understand, that if he would retain his popularity, he must cease his opposition. This was touching Mr. De Lancey in a vital spot; for he could, not, for the present at least, afford to lose anything that might tend to further his ambition. He therefore became more cautious and less open in his opposition; and the remainder of Mr. Clinton's administration was passed in comparative freedom from those storms of faction, which had raged so fiercely between himself and the assembly
Serious difficulty was experienced this year in the collection of the Oswego duties. Considerable complaint had arisen of late in regard to the irregular manner in which the duties were collected; and hints of a dishonorable nature had been freely expressed against those who had them in charge. Now, however, direct charges of peculation were brought against John De Peyster and Peter Schuyler Jun., two of the commissioners; who, to say the least, had been guilty of great ill management and criminal neglect. The dissatisfaction at length grew so serious, as to lead Mr. Clinton to take the matter in hand ; and he accordingly wrote to Colonel Johnson, requesting him to ferret out the true facts. The following extract from the colonel's reply, seems to show that the charges were not ill founded.
(1) Morris was appointed governor of Pennsylvania in 1754.
"As to that affair of the Oswego duties," he -writes, "although a cursed piece of villainy, yet it is very difficult to find out. De Peyster has owned to me that he has not entered into recognizance these several years. The mayor tells me, also, that when he sent for Peter Schuyler to qualify, he then sent for De Peyster likewise, and he refused it, notwithstanding he has acted all the time. On talking to him some time ago about the yearly amount of duties, he acknowledged that they amounted to upwards of £1000, the year 1749, so that the other three years, which he mentions in his accounts delivered to the assembly, the duties are but about £145, as you'll see in the last notes, p. 32-a most damnable imposition on the public, yet I cannot sift it out, without he is to produce his books."(1)
Doubts as to the duties having been honestly collected, had arisen in the assembly the previous year, and they had at their sitting in the fall ordered "that the commissioners, for collecting the duties on goods carried to Oswego, do, with all convenient speed, lay before the house, a particular account on oath, of what the said duties have amounted to, from the delivery of the accounts, to the first of September last."(2) In accordance with this order John De Peyster sent in his accounts on oath, by which it appeared, that the duties, from June 1746 to September 1750, amounted to £1145, 17s. 8d. Thus, from the acknowledgment made to the mayor, it would appear, as Johnson observes, that only a trifle over £145 was left for the years '47, '48 and '50-a fact which fully justified the suspicion of unfair dealing. No farther action however, was taken; for although scarcely any one doubted their dishonesty, yet owing to the want of positive proof, it was difficult to fix the charges upon the parties to this transaction, and they therefore escaped. They were nevertheless more cautious in future, and De Peyster in his next accounts for the year 1751, showed the amount of
(1) Manuscript letter.
(2) Journals of the general assembly.duties received to be something over £940! Johnson interfered grievously with their knavish plans, and hence, the bitter malignity with which he was pursued by a few individuals, during the remainder of his life.
Clouds still hung along the border of the northern frontier. In the summer of this year, a scalping party of St. Francis Indians surprised four young men, who were trapping beaver along the head waters of the Connecticut river. One of these was John Stark, a native of New Hampshire, and a bold and fearless hunter. When he found himself surprised, he shouted to his brother, who was in a canoe, to gain the opposite shore. This he did and escaped, though not before a young man with him in the boat had been shot at and killed. Stark, with his companion Eastman, was carried up the Connecticut river, and down Memphremagog to the chief village of the tribe. While there, he conducted himself with so much courage and good humor, as to win the affection of his captors, who dressed him in their finest robes, and cherished him with so much kindness, as to allow him, upon receiving a ransom, to return to his friends. The lessons of woodcraft which Stark learned in this early captivity, qualified him to render efficient service in the next war, from which by his courage and energy he rose to the rank of brigadier general in the armies of the United States.(1)
The general assembly met in March, but was by successive prorogations, prevented from sitting until May. In his opening message on the thirtieth, Mr. Clinton expressed his satisfaction at the resolves passed during the last session, to take at this meeting, the state of the frontier fortifications, and the Indian affairs into consideration ; having, as he said, the fullest confidence in their honor and justice. Nor did he fail to speak in the warmest terms of their determination to advance the cause of
learning, by the founding of a college; and he hoped that the plan would receive their warmest encouragement, and be speedily carried into effect. He, also, informed them of the encroachments which had been made upon the province by the colonies of New Hampshire and Massachusetts Bay; advising, that committees from both houses should be appointed to concert the proper measures to be taken in this affair, in which, he assured them of his hearty assistance. He then alluded to the colony debts, among which was the long standing claim of Colonel Johnson; and closed with a promise to do everything in his power to promote the welfare of the colony.(1)
The assembly in its reply, two days afterward, thanked the governor in the warmest terms for his kind offer of assistance, promising to do everything in its power for the interest of the colony. Both the executive and the house seemed to be animated by the same spirit of harmony, which, indeed, continued throughout the entire session. Nor did the assembly confine itself to words. A committee, of the legislative council and the house, met on the New England encroachments, and passed a bill authorizing a committee to prepare a representation upon this grievance for the king's ministers.(2) A bill was also passed for raising a sum by lottery for the college ; the colony debt, incurred during the late war, discharged; money voted for the fortifications; and the sum of eight hundred pounds appropriated for Indian presents.(3)
While the general assembly was sitting, a letter to Colonel Johnson from Captain Stoddard, and one also from Lieutenant Holland to Mr. Clinton, both dated at Oswego, informed the executive council that the French were again active and threatened serious trouble. On the fourteenth of May, thirty French canoes, with five hundred
(1) Journals of the assembly.
(2) The committee were all members of the house, and consisted of David Jones, John Thomas, Paul Richards, William Walton, Henry Cruger, and John Watts.
(3) Smith.Indians under the command of Monsieur Marin, passed that post on their way to the Ohio River. By a Frenchman lately arrived at Oswego, it appeared that this was only the advance guard of an army of six thousand men, which the French had been concentrating, preparatory to their taking possession of the Ohio Valley. Their object was to support-by building forts along the Ohio, and if necessary, by force of arms-their claim to the lands bordering upon that river; and to eject those English traders who had already settled along its banks.
Intimation of this movement "was received by Johnson early in April. A party of the Six Nations hunting in the early part of that month near the rapids of the St. Lawrence, had descried a large company of French and Indians on their way to Ontario. Two of their swiftest of foot were immediately dispatched with the intelligence to their council fire at Onondaga. Thence the news was borne to the colonel, who was awakened at midnight, on the nineteenth of April, by terrific whoops and yells, and presented with a belt of wampum which was to urge the English to protect the Ohio and the Miami Indians.(1)
The Six Nations, especially the Mohawks, straightway took alarm, considering the Ohio as their property, and any attempt therefore to erect forts upon that river, as a direct infringement on their rights. This conduct of the French was not calculated to assuage the temper of the Mohawks, already in an alarming state, caused by their having been overreached, as they alleged, in some sales of land to the whites. Added to this, while they witnessed the active movements of the French, they saw no corresponding activity on the part of the government of; New York, either for resisting these encroachments, or for protecting them in their castles. In truth, there was cause for this feeling. The strange apathy of the parent government in thwarting the designs of the French, and the criminal neglect of the assembly to protect the frontiers,
(1) Colonel Johnson to Governor Clinton, 30th April 1763.
gave truth to the remark of King Hendrik, that the council and assembly don't take care of Albany, but leave it naked and defenceless, and don't care what becomes of our nation, but sit in peace and quietness, while we are exposed to the enemy." The Indian commissioners at Albany never had had either the confidence or the affection of the Six Nations, and since the resignation of Colonel Johnson, they had been sadly neglected. The Mohawks at length became so uneasy, that, after appealing in vain to the commissioners at Albany, they determined to apply at head quarters for the redress of their grievances; and accordingly Hendrik, accompanied by several of the Mohawk chieftains, visited Governor Clinton at New York during the session of the assembly.
The reproaches of the great Mohawk chieftain against the council and assembly, for their indifference and cruel neglect of his nation, were affecting, yet bitterly severe. The grievances, to which they had been subjected in being imposed upon in the sales of their lands, were especially dwelt upon. Reminding them of the aid which they had received from him in times past, he accused them of having embroiled his nation with the French, and then refusing to protect their castles from the revenge of their enemy; the hatchet, also, which had been placed in their hands by the government, was still there, never having been taken back.(1) Hitherto, he continued, you have desired that the paths should be kept open by us, but now, you make no effort to keep the French from closing them, but throw the whole burden upon us. If, therefore, yon do not endeavor to redress our grievances, the rest of our brethren of the Six Nations shall know of it, and all paths shall be stopped. Dreading, also, the formalities of diplomatic etiquette, which always was a terror to the Indians,
(1) It was always customary, at the close of hostilities, to make their Indian allies presents, when the hatchet was formally buried. Hendrick alludes here to this ceremony having been neglected.and recollecting the long delay in the exchange of prisoners, Hendrik, now grown desperate, could not brook any delay. He therefore closed his speech with this caustic remark: "We beg you will not be long considering it. You may, perhaps, tell us, you will write to our Father the King, but that will be too long. "We therefore desire you will do something immediately, or tell us at once, you will do nothing at all for us."
Before Mr. Clinton replied to Hendrik, the committee, to whom had been entrusted the business of investigating the complaints of the Mohawks regarding their land sales, reported, through Mr. Holland, that all the lands, in the purchase of which the Indians alleged they had been defrauded, had been patented many years before his excellency had taken the reins of government; and that it was therefore impossible, by examining the grants registered in New York, to determine whether the persons who had purchased of the Indians had imposed upon them or not. This, Mr. Clinton explained to Hendrik in his answering; speech, but stated, that a conference would be held with them at Albany during the summer; and as regarded the alleged land frauds, he would put their complaints into the hands of the Indian commissioners, who would see that justice was done them. The angry feelings, however, of Hendrik and his brother chiefs, were too deeply rooted, to be thus easily eradicated by the promise of a conference. Having but a poor idea of the justice to be obtained at Albany, they immediately retired in disgust, but not before Hendrik had delivered the following philippic:
"Brother: When we came here to relate our grievances abouat our lands, we expected to have something done for us, and we have told you that the covenant chain of our forefathers was like to be broken, and you tell us, that we shall be redressed at Albany; but we know them so well, that we will not trust to them, for they are no people, but devils, so we rather desire that you will say nothing shall be done for us. By and by, you will expect to see the nations down, which you shall not see, for as soon as we come home, we will send up a belt of wampum to our brethren the Five rations, to acquaint them the covenant chain is broken between you and us. So you are not to expect to hear of me any more, and we desire to hear no more of you. And we shall no longer acquaint you with any news or affairs as we used to do."
The alleged grievances respecting the land frauds might he redressed ; but these threats, in the present critical state of the country, and the ruinous condition of the fortifications, might not so easily be ignored or despised. Accordingly, Mr. Clinton sent down a message to the assembly, on the ninth of June, informing that body of the conference which he had just held with the Mohawk chief; urging that immediate measures should be taken to calm the temper of the Indians, and to secure their alliance. This intelligence at once aroused the assembly from its shameful apathy, and showed them the necessity of immediately providing for the interests and safety of the colony. It forthwith voted the sum of two hundred pounds, in addition to the eight hundred before voted, to be given to the Indians to assist in burying the hatchet and, on the sixteenth, it resolved, that an humble address should be presented to his excellency, praying that he would be pleased, "in this extraordinary conjunction of Indian affairs, to meet the Six Nations of Indians at Albany this summer in person, to renew the ancient alliance with them, and to bury the hatchet."
A few days afterward, Mr. Clinton sent down to the house copies of Hendrik's speech, with the suggestion, that it would be expedient to send forthwith some man of influence to the several castles of the confederacy, who should lay before it the injustice done to the Mohawk chiefs, and prevent the mischievous consequences which would arise, should the threats of Hendrik be carried into effect. In answer to this message, and in accordance with its resolve of the sixteenth, the house, on the twentieth, prepared bind sent in to the governor an elaborate address, in which t confessed that the Indian affairs were in such a critical state, that, "in their opinion, no commissioner that could be appointed would have so much weight among the Six Nations as himself." It hoped, therefore, that he would not hesitate a moment in determining to meet the Six Nations at Albany during the summer; and, at the same time, advised, that in accordance with his suggestion, two persons of weight among the Indians should be dispatched with all possible haste to the several Indian castles, to induce them to meet him at Albany, there to adjust all their difficulties and complaints.
The health of Mr. Clinton rendering it doubtful whether he should "be able to meet the Indians during the summer, he proposed to authorize such persons to attend in its place, as both branches of his legislature should agree in appointing. This suggestion was immediately acted upon by the assembly; and the man that was selected to be the sole distributor of the presents, and the confidant of both houses, was Colonel Johnson !(1) Perhaps no better proof can be adduced of the confessed ascendancy of the latter over the Indians, and of his known ability, than the joint address signed by James De Lancey and David Jones, to Mr. Clinton, requesting a treaty for " appeasing the ill temper of the Indians," and praying that Colonel Johnson might be sent to Onondaga to meet the Confederacy.(2) It is very certain, that with the known enmity with which at this time he was regarded by the chief justice, and with all the obstacles which had been continually thrown in the way of his collecting his accounts, if any other person had been capable, Johnson would have been the last one selected. But at this critical juncture, private enmity was forced to yield to the public good; and both branches of the legislature united in declaring, "that, in their opinion, Colonel Johnson was the most proper person to be appointed to do
(1) Manuscript, council minutes.
(2) De Lancey and David Jones were at this time the speakers, respectively, of the council and the assembly.
this service ; and they humbly hoped his excellency would commissionate him.
Agreeably to this request, Colonel Johnson at once set out on his mission. His journey was somewhat hastened by intelligence, received prior to his departure, that a party of the Six rations, in violation of their treaty, had recently returned, from the country of the Catawbas, bringing with them scalps and prisoners; and as serious trouble was likely to result from this, unless such conduct was speedily stopped, no time was to be lost. On his arrival at Mount Johnson, both of the Mohawk castles were summoned to meet him at his house the twenty-sixth of July. The Indians came with alacrity, delighted, as they expressed it, that he was again " raised up," and was once more to be the organ of communication between their people and the English. Weary of the frauds practised upon them, since he had resigned the charge of their affairs, the Indians came to him as to a father anxious to unbosom all their griefs; for, in the language of Hendrik on this occasion, "where should they resort to when anything laid heavy on their hearts, but where they had always found satisfaction, whatever might trouble them." Contrary to the usage of the Indians,, when called to a council, Hendrik opened the conference by speaking first. If anyone, other than Johnson, he said, had sent for them, they would not have "moved a foot;" but now they would cheerfully listen to what he had to say.
The answer of Johnson was kind, yet full of stern reproof for their past behavior. The unreasonableness of their demands and threats which they had so freely expressed in New York, was dwelt upon at length. The governor, he said, was grieved to think that they whom he had always supposed were such sincere friends, should with such loud and foul words, soil that chain, which had been made by their wise forefathers, and which had remained until now bright and unsullied; the expectation of Governor Clinton, of soon leaving the province, them at this time, hut his successor would have time to hear their complaints and to quiet their minds; hence, he was empowered to go to Onondaga, and treat with the Six Nations in the governor's name, and he now invited them all to join with him in such steps as would insure a harmonious meeting. The Indians, in their reply on the following day, said they had heard his remarks with willing ears," which would never be effaced from the minds of the youngest person present. Although sensibly affected by the neglect with which they had been treated, yet they would once more, on his solicitation, bury their animosities in a pool so deep as never to be thought of again." Thus, through the singular ascendancy of Johnson, the Mohawks, lately so fierce and implacable, once more became docile and good humored.
In September, the colonel set out for the great council fire of the Six Nations, which was ever kept burning, and arrived there on the eighth of the same month. About a mile from the town he was met by the sachems, and escorted, with all the forms of Indian ceremonial, to the shore of the lake, where he encamped. The chiefs having signified their readiness to receive him that same day he went directly to the council. As soon as he was seated, Bed Head, the chief sachem of the Onondagas, rose and presented him with a belt of wampum, requesting him to wipe away his tears, and speak freely."(1)
(1)The original wampum of the Iroquois, in which the laws of the league were recorded, was made of spiral freshwater shells, ote-ko-a, which were strung on deer skin strings, or sinew, and the strands braided into belts, or simply united into strings. Hubbard thus speaks of wampum in general: "It is of two sorts, white and purple. The white is worked out of the inside of the great conch into the form of a bead, and perforated to string on leather. The purple is worked out of the inside of the muscle shell. They are-woven broad as one's hand, and about two feet long. These they call belts, and give and receive at their treaties as the seals of their friendship." It was first known in New England as wampumpeag, and the art of making it was obtained from the Dutch, according to Hutchinson, about 1627."-Morgan's League of the Iroquois.
Having by the distribution of a few presents disposed the Indians to a favorable hearing, the colonel announced the expected arrival of a new governor, who would meet them in a short time with presents, and hear all of their grievances. Until then, he charged them to live in harmony with their English brethren. In reference to the incursions upon the Southern Indians, he was exceedingly grieved to learn that some of their people had returned with scalps and prisoners from the Catawbas, with whom, in his presence, they had made such a solemn treaty; and "that unless this affair was speedily settled, it would remain an indelible stain upon the character and faith of their nation. He therefore urged them to immediately return the prisoners, and commit no farther hostilities. In regard to the French-" are you willing," said he, "that they should dispossess you of the rich lands and fair fields along the Ohio, your ancestral inheritance! No, rather quench the fire already lighted by them, at Swegachey,(1) and call in your warriors that have wandered off, that united, you may crush them! The paths, likewise, to this place, are almost choked with weeds, and the fire that once burned so brightly, nearly extinguished." He was therefore charged by the governor, to rekindle the fire with such wood, as should never go out. "I now," he continued, " renew the fire, sweep and clean all your rooms with a new white wing, and leave it hanging near the fire place, that you may use it for cleaning all the dust and dirt, which may have been brought in by strangers, no friends to you or us." By such appeals, was there a direct road opened to the hearts of these metaphor-loving people.
Two days afterwards, Red Head thanked him for giving the Six Nations notice of the expected arrival of the new governor; adding that whenever he chose to convene them they would cheerfully attend. In the meantime, brother Warohiyatighey might rest assured that the ancient friendship for the English was undiminished. It was not
(1) La Presentation, now Ogdensburgh.
with their consent, he continued, that the French had occupied the Ohio, but really they did not know what the English and French together intended; "for they were already so hemmed in by both, that hardly a hunting place was left; so that even if they should find a bear in a tree, there would immediately appear an owner of the land, to challenge the property." Regarding the Catawbas, their answer was less satisfactory. They deplored, it is true, the violation of the treaty, but declined giving a definite answer upon this point, until the meeting with the new governor.
This conference, considering the previously excited state of the Indians, was considered by the colonel as quite successful; a full account of which was enclosed by him in a letter to Mr. Clinton upon his return home on the twenty-fourth.(1)
Mr. Clinton was at his country seat at Flushing, Long Island, when his successor, Sir Danvers Osborne, arrived. This was on Sunday, the seventh of October. The council, mayor, corporation, and the chief citizens, met the new governor on his arrival, and escorted him to the council chamber. The following day, Mr. Clinton called upon him, and they both dined with the members of the council. On Wednesday morning, Mr. Clinton administered to him
(1) For this letter, as well as for a full and detailed account of this meeting at Onondaga, the reader is referred to the Documentary History of New York, ii, 630. .
It will be noticed that nothing -was said to the Indians at this time In relation to "burying the hatchet." Shortly before the conference, Colonel Johnson wrote to Mr. Clinton that in the present state of hostilities with the French, he did not think it advisable to take the hatchet out of their hands; and by the advice of the council, to whom his letter was referred, Mr. Clinton countermanded his instruction to Johnson in this particular.-Council minutes.
(2)Mr. Clinton, whose health had been much impaired by the severity of the American winters, had often requested to be recalled, and at one-time had disposed of all his furniture preparatory to that step. It was not, however, until this year that the crown saw fit to grant the required permission and appoint a successor.
the oath of office and delivered to him the seals; at the same time delivering to James De Lancey his commission as lieutenant governor. As soon as these forma were finished, Governor Osborne, attended by the council and Mr. Clinton, set out for the town hall, where the new commission was usually read to the people. Scarcely, however, had the procession advanced a few steps, when the rabble, incited, it is said, by the De Lancey faction, insulted Mr. Clinton so grossly, as to compel him to leave the party, and retire into the fort. In the evening cannon were fired, bonfires lighted, fireworks displayed, and the whole city was given up to a delirium of joy. Amid all these rejoicings, the new governor sat in his room gloomy and sad, and seemingly averse to conversation retired early. On Thursday morning he informed the council that his strict orders were to insist upon an indefinite support for the government, and desired to have the opinion of the board upon the probabilities of its success.(1) It was universally agreed by the members present, that the assembly never would; submit to this demand, and that a permanent support could not be enforced. Turning to Mr. Smith, who had hitherto remained silent, he requested his opinion, which being to the same effect as that just expressed, Mr. Osborne sighed and leaning against the window with his face partially concealed exclaimed, in great mental distress, "Then what am I sent here for !"(2) That same evening he was so unwell that a physician was summoned, with whom he conversed for a little time, and then retired to his chamber, where he spent most of the night in arranging his private affairs. In the morning he was found suspended from the top of the garden fence, dead.(3)
Sir Danvers Osborne had lost a wife to whom he was passionately attached, shortly before coming to New York.
(1) Council minutes.
(3) Manuscript affidavits of Philip Crosby and John Milligan before the council. Sworn to, Oct. 12, 1753, and now preserved in the secretary of state's office, Albany, N. Y.
This acting upon a mind morbidly sensitive, had thrown him into a melancholy bordering upon insanity. He came to the government, charged with instructions much more stringent in their tone than those given to his predecessor; and knowing the difficulty which Mr. Clinton experienced during his administration, he saw before him only a succession of storms and tempests. Almost the first words of the city corporation in their address to him in the town hall that they would not brook any infringement of their liberties civil and religious,"-convinced Mr. Osborne of the utter impossibility of the task assigned him. All these causes working upon a morbid state of mind,-wishing to carry out his instructions on the one hand, yet seeing its utter hopelessness on the other,-produced a temporary insanity, in which state he committed the rash act. Party rage, it is true, threw out suspicions of unfair play; and the council even thought it worth while to appoint a committee to investigate more fully the circumstances of his death; but these suspicions, it was made clearly evident, were entirely without foundation.
Immediately on the death of Governor Osborne, Mr. De Lancey, by virtue of his commission as lieutenant governor, assumed the reins of government. The role which he was now to play, though difficult, was acted with his usual shrewdness and address. He had now to convince the ministry that he was zealous in the promotion of the interests of the crown ; while at the same time, if he would retain his own popularity, he must show the assembly that he was true to his former principles, and by no means required a compliance with the instructions, which, on the part of his majesty, he should present to them. Of the instructions given by the crown to Osborne, which were now to be submitted by his successor, the thirty-ninth article was the most obnoxious. The impression was prevalent that the increasing power of Mr. De Lancey, and the ferment raised against Mr. Clinton's administration,
(1) Council minutes.
was the occasion of the insertion of tins article; providing as it did, for an indefinite support, and a competent salary to all the civil officers of the colony.(1)
The lieutenant governor in his opening message to the assembly, the last day of October, with consummate tact, said: "You will perceive by the thirty-ninth article of his majesty's instructions to Sir Danvers Osborne, (copies of which I shall herewith deliver you) how highly his majesty is displeased at the neglect of and contempt shown to his royal commissions and instructions, by your passing laws of so extraordinary a nature, and by such your unwarrantable proceedings, particularly set forth in this instruction; hence also his majesty's royal pleasure as to these matters will appear, and what he expects from you. On this head, I must observe to you, that by our excellent constitution the executive power is lodged in the crown ; that all government is founded on a confidence that every person will discharge the duties of his station; and if there shall he any abuse of power that the legal and regular course is to make application to his majesty, who, having a fraternal tenderness to all his subjects, is always ready to hear and redress their grievances." To the assembly, in particular, he adds: "I must earnestly press it upon you, that in preparing your bill for the support of government and other public services, you pay a due regard to his majesty's pleasure signified in his instructions; and frame them in such a manner, as, when laid before me for my assent, I may give it consistent with my duty to his majesty." Could anything he more satisfactory to the ministry in appearance than this message? "As his majesty's representative, be was obliged to urge their compliance with seeming sincerity and warmth; but as James De Lancey, their old friend and best adviser, it was his real sentiment,
(1) Letter to a nobleman. Mass. Hist. Col., vol.
7, II series, p. 81.
The members comprising the executive council at this time, were Messrs. Colden, Alexander, Kennedy, De Lancey, Clarke, jun., Murray, Holland, Johnson, Chambers, and Smith.
that never ought they to submit. (l) The answer of the assembly was equally studied;-" On reading the thirty-ninth article of his majesty's instructions to Sir Danvers Osborne, your honor's immediate predecessor, we are extremely surprised to find that the public transactions of this colony have been so maliciously represented to our most gracious sovereign. We can, sir, with truth and justice affirm, that his majesty has not in his dominions, a people more firmly, and that from principles of real affection, devoted to his person, family and government, than the inhabitants of this colony. And we are greatly at a loss to discover in what instances the peace and tranquility of the colony have been disturbed, or wherein order and government have been subverted. If the course of justice has been obstructed, or in any case perverted, it has been by the direction or through the means of Mr. Clinton, late governor of this province, who sent peremptory orders to the judges, clerk, and sheriff of Dutchess county, to stay process, and stop the proceedings in several cases of private property depending in that court, and also did in other counties commissionate judges and justices of known ill character and extreme ignorance; and others were so shamefully ignorant and illiterate, as to be unable to write their own names, from whence we greatly fear that justice has in many cases been partially, or very unduly administered."(2) By such false charges did the assembly attempt to injure Mr. Clinton, for the sake of gratifying its personal enmity, false they undoubtedly were. The riots commenced in Dutchess county, to which allusion is here made, were brought against their captains by those who had deserted the expedition to Canada in 1746 ; and Mr. Clinton had confessed at the time to the house, that his letters to the justices had been written ignorantly and in haste, and that if any one was injured he would pay out of his own purse his damages. As to the charge of
(1) Letter to a nobleman.
(2) Council minutes.
appointing ignorant men, he was not the only governor who had erred in a similar manner; and indeed Mr. De Lancey himself was not free from the same charge.(1)
The change in the administration, was, however, productive of one good result -- that of infusing into the assembly a desire to take active measures for the defence of the province. All the wishes of the governor on this point-as indeed on every other-were promptly responded to. On his sending down to them a letter from the earl of Holdeness, urging that measures should he immediately taken to resist the incursion of the French, it was determined to assist the neighboring colonies, some of whom had written for aid, and to meet force by force. Eight hundred pounds were voted for Indian presents, and one hundred and fifty pounds for his voyage to Albany. Fifteen hundred and fifty pounds were voted for his salary,-a much larger sum than ever before given to any lieutenant governor; and also the arrearages of his pay as chief justice up to the twelfth of October.(2) Before the close of the session, an elaborate complaint to the crown, and a representation to the board of trade against Mr. Clinton were drawn up, and forwarded through Mr. De Lancey and Mr. Charles to the home government. The assembly was then prorogued to the first Tuesday of the following March,-the lieutenant governor "tenderly remarking before they parted, that they must be sensible they had not acted with his majesty's royal instructions." (3)
Upon the death of Sir Danvers Osborne, Mr. Clinton retired to the west end of Long Island, whence he embarked shortly afterward for England. Before he sailed, Mr. De Lancey, anxious to secure his influence in England, endeavored to effect a reconciliation, and doubtless would have succeeded, had not Mrs. Clinton, by her influence,
(1) Letter to a nobleman.
(2) Council minutes.
thwarted his designs.(1) On his return home, Mr. Clinton received the governorship of Greenwich hospital, a sinecure,(2) and on the death of Admiral Stewart in the month of March, 1757, became admiral of the fleet. " Having thus obtained the highest rank in the service, with unsullied reputation, and the justly acquired character of meriting, on all occasions, the good will of his countrymen, he died on the tenth of July, 1761, in the seventy-fifth year of his age."(3)
The character of Mr. Clinton has not, I think, been fairly drawn. Those, upon whose opinions his character rests, were persons living at the same day, and who, influenced by party strife, were not in a position to judge impartially. He was an uncouth and unlettered admiral, who had been, through the Newcastle interest, appointed to the chair of governor. He was evidently unsuited to his position; and his former profession, in which he had always been accustomed to command, illy fitted him to brave the rebuffs and the opposition of party faction. His manner, too, was not such as to win friends. Having to depend entirely upon the advice of those around him, he was often the dupe of those better versed in the arts of diplomacy than himself. But I look in vain for that love of ease, to the neglect of his official duties, of which he is accused by Mr. Smith. On the contrary, although he relied too much on the advice of others for his own good, yet it was caused more by a consciousness of a lack of education, than by a desire to shirk action. In the care of the Indians he was indefatigable, as appears by his large correspondence with Colonel Johnson and the officers of the different frontier posts. He labored incessantly with his assembly to make them realize the condition of the colony, and had they met his views half way, or even manifested a tythe of his energy,
(1) Letter to a nobleman.
(2) The administration of Mr. Clinton, as governor of the colony, occupied ten years, he having arrived as governor in September 1743.
(3) Biographia Navalis, by John Charnock, London, 1790.
the province of New York would not have presented, such an inviting field for the encroachments of the French. He is accused of amassing by unfair means a large fortune while governor, yet he freely advanced out of his private purse large sums for the exigencies of the Indian affairs, and many times saved the Six Nations from defection, and the province from the horrors of a predatory warfare, when it was impossible to rouse the assembly to a sense of danger. Indeed, I think it may safely be said, that had it not been for the untiring efforts of Mr. Clinton and Colonel Johnson, the Six Nations would have been completely won over by the French, and the firebrand and tomahawk carried down to the very gates of New York.
Thanks to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on the internet.
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