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.
While Washington was engaged in erecting his rude little fortress at the Great Meadows, an event of far greater moment was occurring at Albany. This was no less than a congress of commissioners from seven of the colonies, for the purpose of treating with the Six Nations, and uniting upon a plan of union for resisting the common enemy.
The letter from the earl of Holdernesse, advising that the colonies should "repel force by force," had first directed attention to the importance of concerted action in resisting French aggressions ; and the reception, in the spring of this year, of letters from the lords of trade, to the different colonial governors, directing that commissioners should be appointed to assemble at Albany--thereto devise concerted action against the French-hastened, the carrying out of this project. The object of this congress had been at first, nothing more than to conciliate the Six Nations, and prevent them from going over to the interest, of the French.(1) Governor Shirley, however, had conceived, early, in this year, a general union; of all the colonies for mutual protection, and had taken the opportunity presented by, this meeting, to suggest to the different governors that the delegates to the convention should be instructed by their constituents to mature a plan for a general union.(2)
The day appointed for the meeting of the commissioners was the fourteenth day of June, but they did not all arrive until the nineteenth.(3) The colonies of New Hampshire,
(1) Sparks. Governor De Lancey to the lords of trade.
(2) Holmes. Grahame. Shirley to Holdernesse January 7, 1754.
(3) The commissioners from the several colonies were James De Lancey, Joseph Murray, William Johnson, John Chambers and William Smith -- New York. Samuel Welles, John Chandler, Thomas Hutchinson, Oliver Patridge, John Worthington-Massachusetts. Theodore Atkinson, Richard Wibird, Meshech Weare, Henry Sherburhe-New Hampshire. William Pitkin, Roger Wolcott, Elisha Williams-Connecticut. Stephen Hopkins, Martin Howard-Rhode Island. John Penn, Benjamin Franklin, Richard Peters, Isaac Norris-Pennsylvania. Benjamin Tasker, Benjamin Barnes -Maryland.
Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania, were all represented, making the whole number of delegates present twenty-five. Early in March, the governor of Virginia had written Mr. De Lancey that he was too much engaged in the military preparations necessary to repel encroachments along his own frontier,(1) to be present at this time; and the Carolinas were also too much occupied in treating with their own southern tribes, to give the treaty at Albany their attention. The sachems of the Six Nations, were still more backward, not making their appearance till the latter part of the month. The Mohawks were the last to arrive, and, indeed, the entire number of Indians present during the whole of the treaty did not exceed one hundred and fifty. There were those who did not scruple to attribute their delay to the influence of Johnson, who, they said, wishing to magnify his influence over the Indians, purposely held them back; and writers, who should have been better informed, have not failed to give countenance to this report.(2) The truth is, that the Indian commissioners felt piqued at the contrast presented between the reluctance shown by the Indians in coming to this council, and the alacrity with which they had attended the one held in 1748 when Johnson had the charge of their affairs, and prompted by jealousy, threw out these insinuations, as false as they were malicious. Hendrik explained the delay, so far as the Mohawks were concerned, by stating that the speech of Colonel Johnson at the Onondaga castle the preceding summer, had been attributed by the Six
(1) Manuscript council minutes.
(2) Messrs. Livingston and Smith.
Nations to the Mohawks; and therefore lest they should be accused of the same in relation to the governor's speech, they tarried until the other castles should have arrived before them. The true cause, however, of the reluctance displayed by the Indians in coming to this treaty, and the fewness of their number was, that the continual rebuffs which they had met with in their endeavors to obtain assistance from the colony for the defence of their castles, discouraged them from any farther effort to obtain redress. The council, held at Onondaga the previous year by Colonel Johnson, although it had quieted, had not satisfied them. They still felt sore from the imposition to which they had been subjected in the sales of their land. Many of them,-especially the Senecas-were absolutely in a starving condition, caused by their having abstained, at the request of the English, from their annual hunts ;(1) and numbers of the Onondagas and Cayugas had already gone to Oswegatchie and taken up their abode at that mission, finding there plenty to eat and ample protection under the guns of the fort for themselves and families. Indeed, the wonder is, considering these untoward circumstances, that so many of the Confederates were present; and had it not been for the influence of Hendrik -still, through his affection for Colonel Johnson, the fast friend of the English,-scarcely any castle of the Six Nations would have been represented.
The first few days were occupied by the commissioners in consulting upon the principal topics to be presented to the Indians, and in listening, to several chiefs of the lesser castles in relation to the fraudulent surveys of their land. On the twenty-ninth, Mr. DeLancey,-who being the only governor present had been called to the chair- opened the treaty with a general speech which was interpreted to the Indians by Myndert Schuyler. In his speech, the lieutenant governor stated to the Confederates, that they had been invited hither to receive the presents sent by
(1) Manuscript council minutes.
the king, their father, and renew the ancient treaty made between all the colonies and their own nation; and that all the colonies had united in sending commissioners for this purpose except Virginia and the Carolinas, who though detained by the importance of their own affairs at home, nevertheless wished to be considered by them as present. "We come," he said "to strengthen and brighten the chain of friendship," and, continued he, at the same time handing Hendrik the chain belt, "this chain hath remained firm and unbroken from the beginning. This belt will represent to you our disposition to preserve it strong and bright, so long as the sun and moon shall endure; and in the name of the great king our father, and in behalf of all his majesty's colonies, we now solemnly renew, brighten, and strengthen the ancient covenant chain, and promise to keep the same inviolable and free from rust; and we expect the like confirmation and assurance on your part." The scattered manner, in which departing from their ancient custom, the Confederates for the last few years had lived, was then adverted to; and they were specially urged to live together in their castles, and to call back those of their Onondaga and Cayuga brethren who had removed to Oswegatchie in defiance of the ancient covenant. "The French profess to be in perfect friendship with us as well as you. Notwithstanding this they are making continual encroachments upon us both. They have lately done so in the most insulting manner, both to the northward and westward. Your fathers, by their valor above one hundred years ago, gained a considerable country which they afterwards, of their own accord, put under the protection of the kings of Great Britain. The French are endeavoring to possess themselves of the whole country, although they have made the moat express treaties with the English to the contrary. It appears to us that these measures of the French must necessarily soon interrupt and destroy all trade and intercourse between the English and the several Indian nations on the continent, and will block up and obstruct the great roads, which have hitherto been open, between you and your allies and friends who live at a distance. We want, therefore, to know whether these things appear to you in the same light as they do to us, or whether the French, taking possession of the lands in your country, and building forts between the lake Erie and the river Ohio, be done with your consent or approbation." "Therefore," he concluded, "open your hearts to us, and deal with us as brethren.
Three days afterward, the lieutenant governor attended by all the commissioners, in behalf of his majesty and the several colonies, met the Indians in the court house to hear their reply. As soon as they were seated, the sachems of the Six Nations, glittering with ornaments and clothed in their richest robes and feathers, came in and seated themselves with all the pomp of Indian ceremonial. Then amid a deep silence, Abraham, a sachem of the upper castle of the Mohawks and a brother of King Hendrik, rose and said:-" Brethren, you the governor of New York, and the commissioners of the other-governments, are you ready to hear us?" The governor having replied in the affirmative, King Hendrik, venerable in years, rose and with all the dignity which his white hairs and majestic mien gave him, holding up the chain belt to the gaze of all, advanced a few steps, and thus spoke:
"Brethren : We return you all our grateful acknowledgements for renewing and brightening the covenant chain. This chain belt is of very great importance to our united nations, and all our allies. We will therefore take it to Onondaga, where our council fire always burns, and keep it-so securely, that neither thunder nor lightning shall break it. There will we consult over it; and as we have already added two links to it, so we will use our endeavors to add as many more links to it as lies in our power ;(1) * * In the meantime we desire that you will
(1) The allusion is to two small Indian tribes which the Six Nations had lately taken into the Confederation.
strengthen yourselves, and bring as many into this covenant chain as you possibly can.
"Brethren: As to the accounts you have heard of our living dispersed from each other, 'tis very true. We have several times endeavored to draw off these our brethren who were settled at Oswegatchie; but in vain, for the governor of Canada is like a wicked deluding spirit. However, as you desire, we shall persist in, our endeavors. Then burning with indignation, as he recalled the long neglect with which his services had been rewarded by the English-his eyes flashing, and his whole frame quivering with the honest anger, which had so long been pent up within him-he exclaimed "You have asked us the reason of our living in this dispersed manner. The reason is your neglecting us for three years past." Then taking a stick and throwing it behind him-" you have thus thrown us behind your backs and disregarded us; whereas the French are a subtle and vigilant people, ever using their utmost endeavors to reduce and bring our people over to them. * * *
"This is the ancient place of treaty, where the fire of friendship always used to burn; and 'tis now three years since we have been called to any public treaty here. 'Tis true there are commissioners here, but they have never invited us to smoke with them.(1) But the Indians of Canada come frequently and smoke here, which is for the sake of their beaver. But we hate them. We have not as yet confirmed the peace with them. 'Tis your fault, brethren, that we are not strengthened by conquest; for we would have gone and taken Crown Point, but you hindered us. We had concluded to go and take it, but we were told that it was too late and that the ice would not bear us. Instead of this, you burnt your own fort at Saratoga, and ran away from it, which was a shame and a scandal to you!" Then again kindling as he thought of the shameful remissness, which had left their own castles
(1) That is-have never invited us to any conference.
defenceless, he concluded in the same scathing language. "Look about your country, and see, you have no fortifications about you; no, not even to this city ! Look at the French; they are men; they are fortifying, every where! But, we are ashamed to say it, you are all like women, bare and open, without any fortifications!"
Thus closed one of the most eloquent Indian speeches ever uttered. A speech, which for its truth, vigor, and biting sarcasm, has never been equaled by any Indian orator-scarcely excelled by one of any other race-and which, "containing strains of eloquence which might have done honor to Tully or Demosthenes,"(1) will ever stand among the finest passages of rhetoric in either ancient or modern history.(2)
As soon as Hendrik had ended, his brother Abraham, rising up, spoke:
"Brethren: 'We would let you know what was our desire three years ago, when Colonel Johnson laid down the management of Indian affairs, which gave us great uneasiness. The governor then told us, it was not in his power to continue, him but that he would consult the council at New York; that he was going over to England, and promised to recommend our desire, that Colonel Johnson should have the management of Indian affairs, to the king, that the governor might have power to reinstate him. We long waited in the expectation of this being done; but hearing no more of it, we embrace this opportunity of laying this belt before all our brethren here present, and desire them, that Colonel Johnson may be reinstated and have the management of Indian affairs ; for we all
(1) Gentleman's Magazine; referring to this speech.
(2) This is not empty panegyric. In a manuscript letter before me written by Governor Shiriey to Hendrik, through Colonel Johnson, Governor S. expresses himself in terms of the warmest admiration for Hendrik both as an orator and as a, man; thanks him for his speech at Albany; and promises to recommend him to his majesty as the warm friend and fast ally of the English. Governor Livingston alluding to this speech also speaks of Hendrik as a "consummate orator."- Vide Life of Livingston by Sedgwick, 98.
lived happy whilst they were under his management, for we love him, and he us, and he has always been our goodly and trusty friend." Then before he sat down, he added with significant irony : "Brethren:-I forgot something. We think our request about Colonel Johnson, which Governor Clinton promised to convey to the king our father, is drowned in the sea." Then turning himself around and facing the New York commissioners for Indian affairs, he closed by telling them that the fire at Albany was burned out, and requesting that they would take notice of what he said.
These speeches, as exponents of the state of feeling existing among the Confederates, were considered so important, as to cause them to be debated, by the commissioners, paragraph by paragraph; and the same committee-which had drafted the opening speech of the lieutenant governor upon the nineteenth, was requested to prepare a suitable answer to these also.(1) On the third of July the draft of the answer was submitted to the board of commissioners by Colonel Johnson, as chairman, and the answer was submitted to the board of commissioners; being approved, it was delivered to the Indians, by Mr. De Lancey on the fourth. Its tone was eminently kind and conciliatory. In it, the lieutenant governor expressed the gratification which it afforded all present, to learn of their good intentions, and know that it was not with their countenance that the French had entered upon the Ohio, and their lands. Some of the information, moreover, which they had communicated in their speech, was to himself and the commissioners not a little surprising. Although, he said, he had known for the past five years, of the encroachments of the French, yet it was only lately, that he was aware that they had been building forts for the protection of themselves and the Indians. "It is fortunate"
(1) This committee consisted of William Johnson, Samuel Welles, Theodore Atkinson, Elisha Williams, Martin Howard Jr., Isaac Norris, and Benjamin Tasker Jr.
he added, "that Mr. Weiser, who transacts the public business of Virginia and Pennsylvania with your nations, and is one of your council, and knows these matters well, is now present. Hear the account he gives, and this will set the matter in a true light." Conrad Weiser was here: introduced, and a brief sketch of the French encroachments on the Ohio, was given by him to the Indians. Mr. De Lancey then continued-As to their dissatisfaction at the resignation of Colonel Johnson, he was sensible that while he had the management of their affairs they all lived happily and contentedly, but as Albany was the place where the ancient council fire was kindled, which was now almost extinguished, and as Colonel Johnson still declined acting, he had thought proper to rekindle the fire by appointing commissioners. "These" said he, "I shall direct to receive and consult with you upon all business that may concern our mutual interests; and I expect that you will for the future, according to the custom of your forefathers, apply to them. I shall give them directions that they treat you with the affection due to you as brethren. I shall therefore make trial of them another year; and if you do not meet with the kind treatment you have a right to expect, complain to this government, and effectual measures shall be taken for your satisfaction." Mr. Kellogg, the interpreter from Massachusetts Bay, then closed the conference for the day, by telling the Indians of several forts which the French were erecting on the Kenebec and Connecticut rivers, and also of some depredations lately committed in the colony of New Hampshire, by a party of the St. Francis Indians.
While the congress was sitting, Colonel Johnson, at the request of the commissioners, submitted a paper, containing his views on the management of the Six Nations, and, the best method of defeating the designs of the French upon the Confederates. The suggestions were considered so judicious, as to lead the congress to vote that Mr. Franklin should be desired to give the thanks of the board to Colonel Johnson, and request him to allow a copy to be taken by the commissioners of each colony for the consideration of their respective governments.
The chief measures urged by the colonel were, that garrisons should be established immediately in the most commodious situations among the Six Nations, from which the Indians should be supplied with food, until their own lands could be so protected as to furnish them with the means of subsistence. The French, moreover, obtained much of their influence over the Indians by having large stores of clothing and other necessaries for them at their different forts; and such kind of encouragement should likewise be extended by the English at Oswego, and at any other posts or trading houses that might hereafter be built in the Indian country. A strict look out at Oswego and at other points was recommended, to hinder the French from tampering with the Confederates; and military officers, he thought, should reside at each castle, and keep the government well advised of every occurrence. The building of a fort also at the Onondaga castle, properly garrisoned, was strongly urged, where should be stationed a missionary and a smith to repair their arms and utensils. The colonel, moreover, respectfully suggested, that young men well versed in grammar should reside among the Onondagas, Senecas and Mohawks, in order that they might become good interpreters in every dialect-a thing much needed. Finally the Six Nations should be reminded of their promise to extend the covenant chain to Detroit unless hindered by the French; consequently, if the latter were removed, there would be nothing in the way of the fulfillment of their agreement. This, the colonel thought, might "serve to show them the early and contrived encroachments of the French." These suggestions were considered so valuable, that Mr. De Lancey forwarded a copy of them to the board of trade, recommending their adoption. Several more days were occupied in hearing and answering speeches from the Six -Nations, the Schaticock and River Indians; and on the eleventh, the Confederates, having renewed all their covenants, and sworn uncompromising hostility against the French, were dismissed seemingly pleased with the result.(1)
The Indians were not allowed to depart however, until the famous purchase from them of the Wyoming lands was effected ;-an account of the origin of which, from the important hearing of the transaction on future events, must not be omitted.
"The first grants of land in America by the crown of Great Britain, were made with a lavishness which can exist only where acquisitions are without cost, and their value unknown; and with a want of provision in regard to boundaries, which could result only from entire ignorance of the country. The charters of the great western and southern Virginia companies, and of the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut, were of this liberal and uncertain character. The charter of the Plymouth company covered the expanse from the fortieth to the forty-sixth degree of northern latitude, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean."(2) This charter was granted by King James I., under the great seal of England, in the most ample manner, on the third of November, 1620, to the duke of Lenox, the marquise of Buckingham, the earls of Arundel and Warwick and their associates, "for the planting, ruling, ordering and governing of New England in America." The charter of Connecticut was derived from the Plymouth company, of which the earl of Warwick was president. The grant was made in March, 1621, to Viscount Say and Seal, Lord Brook, and their associates.
(1) At this congress, a present from the king was distributed to the Indians, "of much greater value than ever before." The commissioners from New Hampshire made them a separate present. It is a custom among the Six Nations to give a name to their benefactors upon such occasions. The name which they gave to the province of New Hampshire was So-Saguax-owdne. I have inquired of the Rev. Mr. Kirkland, the meaning of this name. He informed me that So signifies again ; Sagudx, a dish ; and owane large." Again a large dish.-Belknap.
(2) Gordon's History of Pennsylvania.
It was made in the most ample form, and also covered, the country west of Connecticut to the extent of its breadth, being about one degree of latitude from sea to sea.(1) This grant was confirmed by the king in the course of the same year, and again in 1662. New York, or to speak more correctly in reference to that period, the New Netherlands, being then a Dutch possession, could not be claimed as a portion of these munificent grants, if for no other reason, for the very good and substantial one, that in the grant to the Plymouth company, an exception was made of all such portions of the territory as were "then actually possessed or inhabited by any other Christian province or state." But the round phraseology of the charters opened the door sufficiently wide for any subsequent claims, within the specified parallels of latitude, which the company, or its accesors, might find it either convenient or politic to interpose. And it appears that even at the early date of 1651, some of the people of Connecticut were already casting longing eyes upon a section of the valley of the Delaware. It was represented by these enterprising men that they had purchased the lands in question from the Indians, but that the Dutch had interposed obstacles to their settlement thereon. In reply to their petition, the commissioners of the united colonies asserted their right to the jurisdiction of the territory claimed upon the Delaware, and the validity of the purchases that had been made by individuals. "They protested against the conduct of the Dutch, and assured the petitioners that though the season was not meet for hostilities, yet if within twelve months, at their own charge, they should transport to the Delaware one hundred armed men, with vessels and ammunition approved by the magistrates of New Haven, and should be opposed
(1) Trumbull's History of Connecticut. Colonel Timothy Pickering, in his letter to his son, giving the particulars of the highhanded outrage committed upon him in Wyoming in 1788, in speaking of these grants, remarks:-"It seems natural to suppose by the terms of these grants, extending to the western ocean, that in early times the continent was conceived to be of comparatively little breadth."
by the Dutch, they should be assisted by as many soldiers as the commissioners might judge meet; the lands and trade of the settlement being charged with the expense, and continuing under the government of New Haven."(1) The project, however, was not pressed during the designated period, nor indeed-does it seem to have been revived for more than a century afterward. Many changes of political and other relations had occurred during this long lapse of time. Disputes had arisen between the people of Connecticut and the New Netherlands, in regard to boundaries, which had been adjusted by negotiation and compromise. The colony of the New Netherlands had moreover fallen, by the fortunes of war, under the sway of the British crown. The colonies of New Jersey and Pennsylvania had also been planted. Various additional grants had been given by the crown, and other questions of territorial limits had been raised and adjusted. But in none of these transactions had Connecticut relinquished her claims of jurisdiction, and the preemption right to the lands of the Indians lying beyond New York, and north of the fortieth degree of latitude, as defined in the original grant to the Plymouth company. The grant of the Plymouth company to Lord Say and Seal and Lord Brook, had been made fifty years before the grant to William Penn, and the conformation of that grant to Connecticut by royal charter, nineteen years prior to that conveyance.(2)
Unfortunately, moreover, from the laxity that prevailed among the advisers of the crown, in the granting of patents, as to boundaries, the patent to William Penn covered a portion of the grant to Connecticut, equal to one degree of latitude and five of longitude; and within this territory, thus covered by double grants, was situated the section
(1) This quotation is from Gordon. Colonel Pickering, in the letter already cited in a preceding note, addressed to his son, and privately printed for the use of his own family only, supposed that Connecticut did not set up any formal claim to lands west of New York and New Jersey, until just prior to the revolution. He was in error.
of the Delaware county heretofore, spoken of; as also the yet richer and more inviting valley of Wyoming, toward which some of the more restless, if not enterprising sons of the Pilgrims were already turning their eyes with impatience.
The project of establishing a colony in Wyoming was started by sundry individuals in Connecticut in 1753, during which year an association was formed for that purpose called the Susquehanna company, and a number of agents were commissioned to proceed thither, explore the country, and conciliate the goodwill of the Indians. This commission was executed; and as the valley, though at that time in the occupancy of the Delawares, was claimed by the Six Nations, a purchase from that Confederacy was determined upon. To this end, a deputation of the company, the associates of which already numbered about six hundred persons, embracing many gentlemen of wealth and character, was directed to repair to this present congress at Albany, and if possible effect the purchase. Their movements were not invested with secrecy, and James Hamilton, the governor of Pennsylvania, becoming acquainted with them, was not slow in interposing objections to the procedure-claiming the lands as falling within the charter of Penn, and of course belonging, the preemptive right at least, to the proprietaries for whom he was administering the government. Hamilton wrote to Governor Wolcott upon the subject, protesting strongly against the designs of the company. To this letter Wolcott replied, that the projectors of the enterprise supposed the lands in question were not comprised within the grants of William Penn; but should it appear that they were, the governor thought there would be no disposition to quarrel upon the subject. Governor Hamilton also addressed Colonel Johnson in relation to the matter, praying his interposition to prevent the Six Nations from making any sales to the agents of the Connecticut company, should they appear at Albany for that purpose.
But these precautionary measures on the part of Governor Hamilton did not defeat the object of the Connecticut company, although the Pennsylvania delegates were especially instructed to that end before leaving home for Albany. A purchase was made by the Connecticut agents or delegates, through Lydius, of a tract of land extending about Seventy miles north and south, and from a parallel line ten miles east of the Susquehanna, westward two degrees of longitude.(l) This purchase included the whole valley of Wyoming, and the country westward to the sources of the Allegany.(2) The Pennsylvania delegates did all in their power to circumvent the agents of the Susquehanna company, holding several private councils with the chiefs of the Six rations, and endeavoring to purchase the same lands themselves. In the course of their consultations, Hendrik, thinking that some reflections had been cast upon his character, became excited and declared that neither of the parties should have the land. But the Connecticut agents succeeded, as already stated, and the Pennsylvanians also effected the purchase of " a tract of land between the Blue mountain and the forks of the Susquehanna river;- purchases which were to involve Pennsylvania in a long and savage war, in which the blood of her best settlers flowed like water. Strong efforts were subsequently made by the Pennsylvanians, aided by the influence of Colonel Johnson, to induce the Indians to revoke the sale to the Susquehanna company, and Hendrik was induced by the colonel to make a visit to Philadelphia upon that business. And in justice to the Pennsylvanians it must be allowed that they always protested against the legality of this purchase by their rivals-alleging truly that the bargain was
(2) Chapman. Another association was subsequently formed in Connecticut called the Delaware company, which purchased the land of the Indians east of the Wyoming tract, to the Delaware river. This company began a settlement on the Delaware at a place called Coshutunk in 1757, which was the first settlement founded by the people of Connecticut within the territory claimed by them west of New York.
not made in open council; that it-was the-work of a few of few the chiefs only; and that several of them were in a state of intoxication when they signed the deed of conveyance.
During the session of the congress, at the suggestion of the Massachusetts commissioners, the plan for a general federal union was taken into consideration. A committee, consisting of a delegate from each of the colonies represented, was appointed to draft plans for this object;(2) and the subject was debated "hand in hand with the Indian business daily, for twelve consecutive days."(3) Finally, after several different plans had been submitted to the board and debated, the one drawn by Franklin-the chief heads of which had been prepared by him before he left home, was adopted. Every member of the council approved of the plan except Mr. De Lancey, " and he made no great opposition." (4) The plan, in many of its features, was similar to the federal constitution, which its author assisted in framing many years afterward. It proposed first, that application should be made to parliament for a act to establish a general government in America, which was to consist of a president general, to be supported by the crown, and a grand council of forty-eight members
(1) Gordon. In this opinion Gordon is supported by Colonel Pickering, who remarks:-These purchases were not made, I am well satisfied, at any public council, or open treaties of the Indians to Whom they belonged, but of little knots of inferior and unauthorized chiefs, indifferent about the consequences, provided they received some present gratification, if comparatively of little value.
(2) This committee was composed of Franklin of Pennsylvania, Tasker of Maryland, Smith of New York, Hutchinson of Massachusetts, Atchinson of New Hampshire, Pitkin of Connecticut, and Hopkins of Rhode Island- all distinguished men.
(4) Smith. See also Governor Livingston Mass. His, Col, viii, 77. Authorities, I am aware, differ on this point of unanimity. Franklin and Hutchinson say the plan was unanimously agreed upon, and Trumbull directly affirms the contrary. The balance of authority however, serves to sustain the view taken in the text.
who were to be chosen by the different colonial assemblies. The number of members from each colony was to be never more than seven, nor less than two; and was to be "in proportion to the sums paid by each colony into the general treasury." To the grand council was to be committed the entire management of all civil and military affairs. The president general was to have a veto power on every act of the council, and in him was: to be lodged the whole executive authority. To him also was given " the appointment, with the advice of the council, of all military officers, and the entire management of Indian affairs." The president and council together might declare war against the Indians, or make peace with them; conclude treaties; buy lands either in the name of the crown or the union; raise troops; build forts; and in short do everything for the general defence and welfare of the colonies. The seat of this government was to be located in Philadelphia, which, it was supposed, might possibly be reached from either South Carolina or New Hampshire in fifteen or twenty days!
This plan was not adopted. The several assemblies deeming it too much of an encroachment upon the liberties of the people, refused their assent. The parent government, equally jealous of the prerogative, rejected it on the ground that it favored the democratic at the expense of the aristocratic element; and the colonial governors, "too inconsiderable to hope for so illustrious a seat as the president's, could not brook the exaltation of private citizens to stations in the grand council, inflating their vanity, and enabling them not only to traverse their interests at court,
(1) The assemblies were to choose the members
for the grand council in the following proportion:
New Hampshire ..................2 Maryland...............................4
Rhode Island........................2 North Carolina......................4
New York............................4 South Carolina.......................4
but lessen their authority."(l) The plan, therefore, meeting with coldness from both the crown and the colonists, fell through; yet not until it had proved the leaven, which, working for many years, prepared the minds of the people to receive with alacrity a similar federal constitution, thirty-three years afterwards.
Thus closed the labors of the most august assemblage that had ever yet been convened upon the American continent. Composed of men distinguished in the walks of science, statesmanship and philanthropy, it commanded attention alike from the humblest of the people to the highest dignitary of the crown. Though in some respects it was a political failure, yet it stands another link in the chain of events which were rapidly hastening the colonies into the maintenance of an independent existence. (2)
Scarcely had the last commissioner departed from Albany, when the whole frontier from the meadows of the Ohio to the forests of Maine, became alive with savage hordes let loose upon the settlements by the French. Intimations of this however, had been received through the mouths of Indian runners in the spring. As soon as hostilities had fairly begun on the frontiers of Pennsylvania, reports came that a fort had been erected on the head waters of the Kennebec by the French. Immediately on the receipt of this news, Governor Shirley, at the suggestion of Dinwiddie,(3) proceeded up that river with five hundred men to Tacconet falls where he built Fort Halifax. Having explored the country above Nimdynock without discovering any signs of the enemy, Governor Shirley built Fort Western at Cushenoc, and leaving a sufficient number of men to garrison the forts, returned to Boston to find the enemy almost at the very gates of that city.
The storm which had been so long gathering had indeed burst with all its fury upon the colonies. On the twenty-eighth
(2) For a full account of this congress, see Mass. His. Col. v, 3d series.
(3) Governor Dinwiddie to Lieutenant Governor De Lancey.
of May a body of one hundred Schaghticoke Indians fell upon Dutch Hoosick, about ten miles west of Fort Massachusetts, and attacking some men at a mill on the borders of the town, killed one and wounded another. Seemingly infuriated by the sight of blood, they next rushed into the settlement-firing houses, barns and stacks of grain, and killing large numbers of cattle. On the following day they burned the little village of Coick, but as most of the inhabitants had fortunately taken the alarm and fled the day previous, the loss of life was not great.(l) The villagers presented a lamentable spectacle as they came the next day into Albany, some half naked, others with one or two articles of household goods-all that they had been able to secure in their sudden flight-and all footsore and weary. The sight, says an eyewitness, was pitiable in the extreme.(2) The garrison of Fort Massachusetts being too weak to furnish efficient aid, a party of militia immediately left Albany for the scene of devastation; but the Indians escaped into the woods, whither the militia dared not follow.(3) Hardly had the yells of the savages died away, when, as if to add intensity to these horrors, intelligence came that the tomahawk was doing its bloody work upon the borders of New Hampshire. On the fifteenth of August, the Indians made their first appearance at Bakerstown, killing a woman, and capturing several others. A few days afterwards they surprised the house of James Johnson at Number Four, in the night, and rousing his family from their slumbers, conveyed him, his wife and six others to Crown Point, and thence into Canada.(3) Finding the enemy intent upon slaughter, Governor Shirley at once took active measures for the defence of the Massachusetts frontier. Colonel Israel Williams, who had
(1) Hoyt's Indian Wars.
(2) Letter from the Indian commissioners at Albany to lieut. Gov. De Lancey.
(3) In this raid 14 houses, 28 barns, and 28 barracks of wheat were destroyed.-Statement of Captain Chapin, then in command of Fort Massachusetts.
proved himself such an efficient officer in the last war, was again called to the defence of the western border. That officer, having in his previous service become thoroughly conversant with the topography of the country, submitted to Shirley a sketch of the land,-together with a plan for a vigorous prosecution of the war. He proposed that those forts which had afforded little or no protection heretofore to the borderers should be given up, and in their place, a line of small fortifications should be erected through the valley of Charlemont; Forts Dummer and Massachusetts were to be strengthened and supplied with light cannon, and with two additional forts to the westward, were to form a chain of forts connecting with the line of fortifications in New York.(1) Having seen, also, the advantage which the Indians, by their system, of warfare, had always possessed over the whites, Colonel Williams now proposed to meet them with their own weapons and upon their own ground. For this purpose, bodies of rangers well skilled in woodcraft and in bush fighting, were to be selected and kept constantly traversing the wilderness,(2) keeping at the same time a sharp look out upon the routes to and from Crown Point.(3) The plan of Colonel Williams was laid by Governor Shirley before the general court, and its main features were adopted. A body of rangers, such as the colonel had recommended, was also raised and stationed on the western frontier under his command. At the same time troops were raised for the defence of the northwestern quarter of the province, in the counties of Worcester and Hampshire, and Captain Ephraim Williams appointed to the command, with the rank of major.(4)
While these vigorous measures for the defence of Massachusetts were being pushed forward by Governor Shirley, the lieutenant governor of New York was not idle. As
(1) Hoyt's Indian Wars.
(2) The present state of Vermont.
(3) Hoyt's Indian Wars.
soon as the latter received intelligence of the destruction of Hoosick, he sent orders to the authorities of Albany to repair the stockades around that city, and put the block houses in a suitable condition for defence. Simultaneously, by his orders, the only company remaining in New York -the two independent companies having sailed for Virginia-marched to Albany-a sergeant and a few invalids only being left in the city to garrison the fort.
While these measures were in progress to guard Albany against surprise, rumors reached Colonel Johnson from the north, that the French were meditating a descent upon the lower settlements of the colony, and that a large force in advance of the main body had already begun their march. (1) Although these reports were not credited by the colonel, yet he did not think it prudent to relax the preparations which he had already begun, shortly after the burning of Hoosick, for putting the frontier towns in a posture of defence. Measures were therefore immediately taken by him for placing the militia of the province in a condition to render efficient service. Acting with this object, he wrote at once to the captains of the several companies within his district, ordering them to have their men in readiness to march at a moment's warning.(2) At the same time, he directed the commanding officer at Schenectady to see that all the companies stationed there were instantly equipped and provided with proper arms and ammunition. The officer was further ordered to keep a strict watch by night and by day, and to report to him the state of the block houses.(3) Considerable difficulty having arisen between the militia and the regulars stationed at Schenectady, the colonel in these same orders thought proper to add:-" the guard must be regular, and not allowed to commit
(1) Manuscript orders of Colonel Johnson to the captains of the different companies within his district.
(3) Manuscript letter; Johnson to Captain Jacobus Van Slyck, the commanding officer at Schenectady, Aug. 80th, 1754.
any indecency, or give any insults to the king's garrison."
Meanwhile the general assembly was convened, by the lieutenant governor on the twentieth of August. His reason for convening it at such an unusual season of the year was given in the opening message. It was, he said, to inform them of Colonel Washington's defeat upon the east side of the Ohio, within the undoubted limits of his majesty's dominions ; and as it was plain that the king's lands had now been invaded, there was therefore no excuse for not voting their promised aid to Virginia, which they had refused at the last session. The defenceless condition of Albany was then pointed out, and the consequent necessity for erecting a fort upon Hudson river for its protection; equally necessary, he continued, in view of the importance of the Six Nations as allies, was the erection of a fort in the Seneca's country, where a smith could permanently reside. As the Confederates, moreover, at the last congress, had complained of the pernicious effect of the sale of rum amongst them, he urged a more stringent act to prevent its sale to the Indians, as the one formerly passed for that purpose had proved totally ineffectual. A stronger militia act, for the formation into companies of those able to bear arms, yet exempt from military duty by law, was advised ; and also that a quantity of arms and accouterments should be provided at New York and at Albany, to be on hand in case of any emergency. Directing his remarks more particularly to the house, he informed it of the plan of union which had been unanimously agreed to by the commissioners at Albany, which he concluded, " I shall now order to be laid before you."
The answer of the house was of the same general tenor as its reply to the lieutenant governor's message at the preceding session-full of quibbles in justification of its refusal to grant the desired aid. While it deemed it the reciprocal duty of the colonies to assist each other, yet "these principles," said the house, "your honor will not extend to an unlimited, sense;" there may be instances where the particular colonies -which are invaded, ought to exert their own strength and "not call too loudly upon others more exposed than themselves ;"-yet such, it said, was the condition of the colony of New York, burdened with taxes, and threatened by the enemy at their very doors. "The other colonies," it continued, " make themselves strong and defensible by settling in townships, or some other close order, while our frontier lands are granted away in patents, almost without bounds or number, regardless of settlements or the public welfare."
"Would any man," says Mr. Smith, alluding to this answer of the assembly, " would any man without doors, and not in the secret, believe what is a fact, that they had already, that very morning, voted a gift of five thousand pounds to their fellow subjects in Pennsylvania and Virginia?" - Yet such was the fact. By granting the aid to Virginia and Pennsylvania, the ministry were humored; while by doing it with seeming reluctance, the parsimonious spirit of the people was gratified and suspicions of a sacrifice of the colony's interests to the DeLancey faction, prevented.(1) Nothing worthy of special note occurred during the remainder of this sitting; and the members of the assembly, after thanking Mr. De Lancey for the faithful manner in which he had distributed the presents to the Indians at the late congress-intending by this a direct hit at Mr. Clinton-were dismissed to their homes.
In the general assembly which met on the fifteenth of October, was first manifested the want of that harmony, which had hitherto been so nattering to Mr. De Lancey's administration. The reluctance of the lieutenant governor at the congress to accede to the plan of union, first awakened suspicion in the public mind that his sympathies were on the side of the crown; and that the affection which he professed for the people, was only a cover to his
own ambition. There were also a few of Mr. Clinton's friends left, around whom were gathered a small opposition; and the partiality which Mr. De Lancey had shown to his partizans since coming into power, disgusted others and added to the discontent which was now quite general. To this was added another source of dissatisfaction, viz.: the course he had taken in the founding of the college. To understand this latter point more clearly, it is necessary to glance at the origin of the controversy which was now raging fiercely, and which had already divided the assembly into two parties.
The province of New York at this period was divided in its religious views, into two sects-the Episcopalian and the Presbyterian-the former being led by James. De Lancey, and the latter by Wm. Livingston. The Presbyterians, though outnumbering ten to one the Episcopalians,(1) had not fairly recovered from the oppressions of the early governors, Fletcher and Cornbury; and they would probably have remained quiet, had not the Episcopalians, with great lack of judgment,, stirred up anew the embers of controversy.(2)
The people of New York, awakened to the importance of stimulating education, raised by successive lotteries, the sum of three thousand four hundred and forty-three pounds for the purpose of founding a college; and in the fall of 1751, passed an act for placing the money thus raised in the hands of ten trustees. Of these, seven were Episcopalians, two belonged to the Dutch church, and the tenth was Wm. Livingston, an English Presbyterian.(3) This manifest inequality in favor of the church of England, at once raised a well founded alarm in the minds of the other sects, who very justly perceived in this, an attempt to make the college entirely sectarian, by which only those in the Episcopal church could participate in
(2) Life of Livingston, by Sedgwick Jun.
(3) Wm. Livingtson, afterward governor of New Jersey.
its benefits. Nor -were they left long in suspense, for it soon became well understood, that the majority of the trustees were to have the college under their control, and were intending shortly to petition the lieutenant governor for a charter, in which it was to be expressly stipulated that no person out of the communion of the English Church should be eligible to the office of president.(1) Far seeing men uttered gloomy forebodings; and a belief soon diffused itself through the minds of intelligent dissenters, that this was only the foreshadowing of an attempt to introduce into the colony an established church.
This idea was to a majority of the colonists repugnant in the extreme. The union of church and state, with its tythes and taxes, was, like the "skeleton in armor," ever present to their imaginations, stimulating them to the utmost resistance. Mr. Livingston, therefore, partially with a view to expose the evils of a college founded upon such sectarian principles, established a paper called the Independent Reflector. (2) The articles which successively appeared from his pen on this subject were able and pungent. Under his lash the leaders of the church party winced (3) and in their agony, charged him with the design of breaking up the plan of any college whatever, and dreaded lest he should obtain a charter " for constituting a college on a basis the most catholic, generous and free."(4) These attacks of the church party were returned with
(1) Life of Livingston.
(3) In a letter from the Rev. Samuel Johnson of Connecticut to Bishop Secker (published in the London Documents xxx, 6), the writer says: "The church at New York is about founding a college with free liberty to dissenting pupils to go to what meeting they please; nay not excluding dissenters from being even tutors. * * * Nay they contend that no religion at all should be taught in the college rather than the church should have any precedence. So bitterly are they set against us! and however so much they are otherwise at variance among themselves, yet they unite with their utmost force against us, and do all they can to disaffect the Dutch towards us, who otherwise were peaceably disposed."
(4) Independent Reflector, No. 18.
redoubled violence, and the controversy had now risen to fever heat.(1)
The efforts of Mr. Livingston and other able writers to prevent the incorporation of the college under these principles, were fruitless; and Mr. De Lancey accordingly granted the charter. Rev. Samuel Johnson from Stratford, a worthy man, was called to the president's chair, and Mr. Livingston was appointed one of the governors, in the hope of silencing his opposition.(2)
The granting of this charter was so displeasing to the majority of the people, that the lieutenant governor thought it advisable, in order to win back their former confidence, to urge at the present session the passage of several popular acts. Among them was one for supplying the garrison at Albany and the fortifications along the frontiers, and another for the discharge of the claims of the public creditors, especially the one of Colonel Johnson.
It may at first appear singular that Mr. De Lancey should be found using his influence in favor of Colonel Johnson. His opposition to the latter, however, had arisen more from a desire to harass Governor Clinton, than from any personal animosity; and the cause being now removed, he not only ceased his enmity, but continued his warm friend until his decease.
In a message which the lieutenant governor sent down on the twenty-fifth, the house was informed that the Mohawks of the lower castle were dissatisfied on account of a piece of ground which they had formerly sold to the
(1) The following are a few of the titles of the articles written and published by Mr. Livingston at this time.
"No. xxxi. Primitive Christianity, short and intelligible-Modern Christianity, voluminous and incomprehensible.
" xxxiv. Of the veneration and contempt of the clergy.
" xxxvi. The absurdity of the civil magistrate's interfering in matters of religion.
" xxxvii. Of passive obedience and nonresistance.
Rev. Mr. Barclay. The land, they said, they never intended should pass in fee, but remain forever for the use of any missionary who might he stationed among them. Rev. Mr. Barclay, having given np his situation as missionary to the Mohawks, for the rectorate of Trinity Church, would gladly deed the land back to the Indians, provided he was reimbursed for the improvements which he had put upon it. The message therefore recommended that a sufficient sum of money should be appropriated for this object, as well as for the erecting of a church among the Canajoharies, which the latter very much desired.
The assembly had already proceeded to vote the arrears of salaries, and a farther sum of one hundred and fifty pounds for the extraordinary expenses of the lieutenant governor at the late treaty, when on the twenty-first of November, a letter was communicated to them by Mr. De Lancey, from the lords of trade. The latter, he said, were of opinion, that the council had done right in refusing its assent to the late application bill, as such annual grants might be employed "to the purpose of wresting from the crown the nomination of all officers whose salaries depended upon the appointment of the assembly, and of defeating all the necessary services of government;" and that they were, therefore, at a loss to understand what end the plan of granting a yearly revenue could serve. If, however, the assembly persisted in these attempts to weaken the power of the crown by such measures, it must not flatter itself that it could give them either stability or permanency. "I hope, therefore," continued Mr. De Lancey, " you will take these weighty reasons into your most serious consideration, and provide a permanent revenue for the support of government, in such a manner as may put an end to any dispute on that head." "There is another point in their lordship's letter," he farther added, "on which it is proper yon should know their sentiments. Their lordships are inclined to believe, from the nature of paper currency in general, that the making such paper money a legal tender in all payments, is unnecessary, improper, and inconsistent with the sense of parliament," and therefore "I cannot give my consent to any act of this sort without a clause being inserted therein, suspending its execution, until his majesty's pleasure be known."
The result of this communication was an address in which, while the assembly denied any intention to encroach on the executive, it refused to recede- from the new mode of a yearly support. It was impossible, it said, on account of the colony debt, to erect forts without a farther issue of paper; and it boldly declared, that unless the bills were made a legal tender without any restriction, it would not even accede to that; when however he had it in his power, to give his assent to an act that should not be impeded by any restraining clause, it would cheerfully provide for the defence of the colony. The assembly nevertheless was so alive to the importance of erecting a fort forthwith upon the Hudson river above Albany, that it directed him to have one built, promising to defray the cost: when the amount should be known.(1)
The granting of a charter to the new college had not utterly crushed out opposition to its obnoxious principles. The house still had the disposal of the money which had been raised ; and the sectaries having a majority, the trustees were ordered to report their transactions by virtue of the act under which they had been appointed. The latter accordingly on the first of November handed in two separate reports, Wm. Livingston reading one, and James Livingston and Mr. Nicoll the other. After the two reports had been considered, the house unanimously resolved "that it would not consent to any disposition of the moneys raised by lottery for erecting a college within this colony, in any other manner, than by an act of the legislature hereafter passed for that purpose." Permission at the same time was given Mr. Robert Livingston to
(1) Journal of assembly.
bring in a bill for incorporating a college, which he introduced that same afternoon.(1)
The introduction of this hill astonished both houses. It was vain to suppose that the council -would give its assent to an act so distasteful to its religious prejudices; nor was the lieutenant governor likely to directly contradict the letters patent which, on behalf of the crown, he himself had granted-while the assembly, composed chiefly of dissenters, dared not reject it.(2) In this predicament, a motion was made by Mr. Walton-prefaced with the remark "that the subject-was of the utmost consequence to the people they represented, with respect both to their civil and religious liberties"-that the consideration of the bill be deferred until the next session, by which time the sentiments of their constituents could be obtained. This motion was gladly seized upon as the only mode which presented an honorable retreat from the position they had so hastily assumed, and was therefore immediately carried. Thus, with the close of the year, practically terminated the college controversy. A controversy, which considered in itself, was not perhaps of much importance; but which should not be omitted by the historian, who would show the progress which the colonists were making toward that civil and religious freedom which they afterward attained.
Thanks to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on the internet.
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