New York (State). Secretary's Office.

Journals of the military expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six nations of Indians in 1779; with records of centennial celebrations; prepared pursuant to chapter 361, laws of the state of New York, of 1885 online

. (page 71 of 85)
Online LibraryNew York (State). Secretary's OfficeJournals of the military expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six nations of Indians in 1779; with records of centennial celebrations; prepared pursuant to chapter 361, laws of the state of New York, of 1885 → online text (page 71 of 85)
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only four years after the landing of the Mayflower ; " Ah ! how happy a thing had it
been, if you had converted some before you had killed any !" Opening in blood, nothing
in the subsequent history, need cause surprise. Some of the colonists labored zealously
for the conversion of the natives, and they have been justly canonized in history. Bull
when the greatest of them, John Elliot and Daniel Gookin, during King Philip's War,
pleaded for some of the Indian tribes, asking only for Christian pity, and common jus-
tice, they were hooted at, denounced as traitors, and so threatened, that as Gookin
declared, it was dangerous for him to walk the streets.


Historian like, Bancroft tells you that the Puritans bought the land from the Indians
except in the case of the Pequots. How far this is from the truth, can be seen from the
record. In 1633, Massachusetts Bay passed a law for settling the title to lands in this
jurisdiction. It declared that what lands any of the Indians had possessed and improved
by subduing them, they had just title to, according to Genesis i: 28. This reserving to
the natives, the little patches around their wigwams on which they had raised Indian corn,
and some of these they subsequently purchased. The rest of the land, with an assurance
surpassing even our modern Indian legislation, was declared to belong the whites, ac-
cording to Genesis i: 28, and by " the invitation of the Indians." The pretext for this
was, I suppose, the "welcome Englishmen," pronounced by Samoset, shortly after the
landing of the Mayflower. History will be ransacked in vain, for a parallel to this claim
of title.

It would have been strange, indeed, if the heathen had borne tamely such wholesale
robbery of their property, but early in the story, begins a worse record. In 1623 a com-
pany of worthless white indented servants in Massachusetts, after robbing the cornfields
of the people of Plymouth, changed their quarters and dispersed in little parties, prowled
around like tramps, begging and stealing from the Indians. Had they been red savages,
and the whites the sufferers from such depredations, their extermination would have been
regarded as a bounden duty, for in a new country, such men deserve no mercy. But they
were Englishmen, and when news was brought to Plymouth that the natives, tired of their
thefts, were plotting for their destruction, the outrage was deemed unpardonable. Miles
Standish with eight companions visited the Indian settlement " under the pretense of
trade." Enticing the leading chief with three of his followers into a cabin, the door was
closed and the Christians murdered the heathen in cold blood. This was the transaction
that in the words of a learned historian, "excited some misgivings" in the mind of
John Robinson. Events like this, with which the early history of America is full, roused
the indignation of the natives from Massachusetts to Georgia, and resulted in the feeling
which has been stigmatized as " the inextinguishable hatred which the red men felt for
the white intruder." But crimes of this character, were not the worst that were perpe-
trated upon the natives. We hold up our hands in horror of the tortures practiced by
the Indians on their prisoners. In 1637, the Christian white men of Connecticut, put a
red captive to death, by tearing him from limb to limb with ropes fastened to his legs and
arms. How, during the war with King Philip, the whites burned the savages in their wig-
wams, driving them back into the fl.imes at the point of the bayonet, and how they mur-
dered the women and children, is known to every reader ; but robbery, torture and mas.
sacre, all pale before the crowning infamy which drove the natives to despair. The most
- distinguishing trait of the Indian, was his love of personal freedom. He knew no master
and recognized no lord, save as in a dull vague way he looked up to the " Great Spirit."
Living by the chase, he knew no labor save that of war. To such a nature, slavery was a
thousand times worse than death, and yet to this fate the settlers of New England, Vir-
ginia and the Carolinas, consigned untold thousands of the natives, and in the case of the
northern colonies, the horror of the deed was further aggravated. Had the red man simply
been kept at home, and treated with the same indulgence as the slave from Africa, his fate
would not have been so pitiable. But he was torn from his home and sold to the West
Indian planters, where under a broiling sun and in miasmatic swamps, he dragged out the
miserable remnant of his days. What must such wretches have thought of the Gospel of
Peace and the white man's God ! The practice began when Captain Hunt who accom-
panied Captain John Smith to New England in 1614, kidnapped twenty-seven Indians
and carried them to Malaga for sale. After the Pequod War, the captives who were un-
fortunate enough to escape massacre were doomed to slavery, being sold to the West
Indies, and the war with King Philip was closed by the same sad tragedy ; among the vic-
tims on the latter occasions was a little grandson of the good King Massasoit, who had
welcomed the Pilgrims of the Mayflower and had been their life long friend.

Between 1694 and 1744, Massachusetts passed a large number of statutes, offering
bounties for the scalps of Indian rebels and enemies. The price for male scalps ran as


liigh as ^100, for females something less, while for children ten years of age, it was gen-
■erally jf lo. The same statutes provided, that the females and children taken alive should
belong to the captors, provided they were sold out of the province. By a law passed in
1674, the colony of New Plymouth permitted Indians to be sold for debt and for stealing. In
Virginia and Carolina, ths record is the same. The Indians captured in war were always
■sold as slaves, and a pretext for hostilities was rarely wanting, in a favorable condition of
the labor market. In fact, with such n code of ethics as then prevailed, the red men,
however docile, were never safe. All through New England, and in the Southern colo-
nies, they were constantly kidnapped in time of peace, and shipped to the West Indies.
These facts you will not find in the flowery pages of Bancroft, nor will you hear of them
at New England dinners, but go back to the statutes and old records, and your hearts will
sicken at the full recital. I speak of them, to-day, in no invidious spirit, I mention them
■only in justice to the dusky race, which rarely is heard to speak for itself. Philanthropists
urging justice to the Indian, are told, that we always have had, and always must have
Indian wars, that the red man is cruel, treacherous, and hates the whites, that even Chris-
tian New England found him so, and had no remedy but extermination. Leaving out
the facts of which I have spoken, this would seem to be the truth, but with the whole
story told, we see its falsity. If we have had Indian wars, the white men have provoked
them ; if the Indians are bloody, the whites set them the example ; if they are treacher-
«rous, it is because the whites have always broken faith. As is the record of the west,
to-day, so is the history of all the eastern colonies but one, and there we see what the
Indian was, when treated like a man.

I do not speak of Pennsylvania, for, after all, as Parkman has pointed out, we could
-hardly determine, from the experience of Pennsylvania, what the effect would be upon the
Indian of a policy of justice. The people on whose territory the Quakers made their set.
"tlement, were the Delawares, who, themselves, had been debarred the use of arms. They
had been conquered by the Five Nations, disarmed, and forced to adopt the opprobrious
name of women. That Penn bought their lands was creditable to him, although he but
followed the example set many years before by the Dutch, but that he maintained peace-
ful relations with them, is not surprising, since by force of circumstances, they were a
kind of Quaker Indians.

Turning, now, to New York, we find a record presenting a marked contrast to that of
-all the other colonies. Here were no women like the Delawares, but a race the most pow-
•erful, the most blood-thirsty, and as the Jesuits declared, the most intractable of all the
Indian tribes. Judging from the annals of Virginia and New England, the border set-
tlements of New York should have been one broad field of massacre. And yet these set-
tlements nestled down amid the very strongholds of this savage race, and with its war-
riors maintained an unbroken friendship. This fact alone, is very curious, but there is
■still another element which makes it more remarkable. About the time of the first dis-
'covery of the Hudson river, the French began the settlement of Canada. They hated
the Dutch and the English alike, as heretics in religion and rivals in trade. With most
•of the northern Indians, the settlers on the St. Lawrence, who were mainly fur-traders,
•and not agriculturists, established very friendly relations. They were assisted greatly by
their Jesuit missionaries, and in addition, understood, as the English never did, how to
■conciliate the native tribes. But the Five Nations proved an exception, for their alliance
■ they could never gain. When Champlain ascended the St. Lawrence, the confederates
were engaged in a war with the Algonquins, their ancient enemies. The new comers
:sided with the latter, and took an active part in the contest. Such was the beginning ot
the enmity which the Five Nations cherished for the French, during more than a century
•and a half. But this fact, although the only one noticed by most historians, is a very in-
:sufEcient explanation of their long continued hostility, while it throws still less light upon
their friendship for the people of New York.

The French speedily saw the folly of their first step, and its ill effects would soon have
■worn away, but for the presence on the upper Hudson of a race of men who understood
iow to deal with the Indians, as well as the French themselves, although they adopted a


very different policy. Albany was settled by men of pure Dutch blood, and for many
years after the English conquest, they formed the chief population of Central New York.
Around Manhattan Island, where the population was composed of men of diverse nation-
alities, Indian wars were not uncommon, but with the Five Nations, the Dutch main-
tained an unbroken peace. Much of this was due to one man, Arent Van Curler, who
for a long time was superintendent of the colony of Rensselaerwyck, was one of the
founders of Schenectady, and whose influence among the Indians was almost boundless.
His humanity shown alike to Dutch, Kfench and Indian, his good faith and strict integ-
rity, were the secrefs of his power. The natives paid his memory the highest tribute, in
addressing all the Governors of New York, by the title of " Corlaer," the name under
which he had been known to them. But it was not through the efforts of any man that,
the work was done.

How the Indian was treated by the English, we have already seen. The policy of the-
French was very different. Their rulers called the red men children, amused them with
pageants, flattered their vanity and indulged their weaknesses. The fur traders and
coureurs de l/ois plunged into the forest, lived with the natives, learned their language,
and married their daughters. Side by side with them, or rather in their advance, were
found the missionaries of the Society of Jesus. Such perils as they encountered, such
■ sacrifices and hardships as they endured, no pen can trace. In almost every encampment
was seen the little wigwam with its black robed tenant. There, men of learning and
refinement passed their lives, at times half starved, without books, without companion-
ship, and with no future save that of martyrdom.

But governor, fur trader and Jesuit, made each the same mistake. They thought to.
raise the Indian by stooping to his level, they sank, but the red man did not rise. The
Coureurs de bois who took squaws ^s mistresses or wives, became, themselves barbarians.
The Jesuits baptized thousands, but they encouraged the natives to massacre and the tor-
ture of their prisoners, so that the only thing which distinguished the convert from the
heathen, was the possession of a crucifix. The French officers gained the admiration of
the red men, by their superior energy and daring, but they surpassed him also in the fero-
city of warfare, appearing to his eyes only a more powerful race of savages.

The history of the French dominion in America makes a fascinating story, it is pic-
turesque, romantic and full of stirring incidents. But when the lilies of France disap-
peared from Canada, the dusky natives stood in civilization just where Champlain found
them, a century and a half ago before. They had been treated as children, supplied
with playthings, corrected when too troublesome, and fed to repletion with superstitious
tales, but they had never been educated to be men. Such a policy kept their alliance
for it, was followed out with rare sagacity, but it never won their love.

Very different was the conduct of the Dutch. They simply treated the'^Indian as a
man. Tolerant in religion, they respected his rude faith ; truthful among themselves, to
him they never broke their jvord ; honest in all their dealings, with him they kept good
faith. They suffered from no thefts, because they took nothing except by purchase.
Their land titles were respected, because for every tract they had an Indian deed. They
were scourged by no massacres, save from the enemy across the, border, because they
committed no robbery or murder.

This was the whole secret of their policy. It is easy to belittle it as historians have
done by saying, that upon no other conditions, could they have lived'among the natives
Of course it was politic, but the world had discovered that honesty is the best policy, with-
out thence concluding, that it is any the less a Christian virtue.

These settlers in New York were traders, offshoots from the greatest commercial nation
of the world. They made no pretense of doing missionary work. They were simply in
pursuit of gain. But they had learned, that the only permanent success in life, rests on
honesty and justice. This is the les.son that commerce teaches, and because it does so
it has become the civilizer of the world. Other nations came to America professedly to
Christianize the Indians, and ended their labors by extermination. These men, the set-
tlers of Albany and Schenectady and the fur traders of the Mohawk Valley, came only for-


purposes of trade. They gave to America the alliance with the Five Nations, which largely
controlled its destiny, and they laid the foundations of the policy, under which New York
with an aboriginal population larger than that at the close of the Revolution, shows the
United States how to deal with the Indian question.

In 1617, soon after the settlement of Albany, the Dutch made a treaty of friendship with
the confederates. In 1645 this treaty was renewed by Keift and cemented by frequent
presents or subsidies, it continued in existence until the conquest of New Netherland by
the English in 1664. After some years, it was found that the French were supplying
lire-anns to their savage allies, and the Dutch then entered upon. the new poHcy of plac-
ing the same weapons in the hands of the Iroquois. The Indian soon handled his rifle
with as much skill as the European, and its possession largely contributed to the conquests
which the Five Nations had effected prior to 1672.

When Fort Orange, in 166.1, surrendered to Colonel Cartwright as representative of the
Duke of York, one of his first acts was to renew the old alliance, promising the natives
the same advantages which they had received from the Dutch. Thus Albany still con-
tinued the " Place of Solemn Treaties."

Aside from this formal act, the first three English Governors of New ^'ork, paid but
little attention to the confederates, failing to appreciate the benefits of their trade, or the
value of their alliance. Yet ancient hatred of the French, seconded by the efforts of the
Dutch, who still formed nearly the entire population of Central New York, sufficed for the
retention of their friendship.

With the arrival of Dongan, in 1682, opened a new Indian policy, on the part of the
English Government. The French were rapidly encroaching upon the ancient limits of
the Five Nations, having already constructed a fort at the outlet of Lake Ontario. The
pretext for its erection was, that it furnished a convenient place for holding treaties ; the
true reason was found in its strategical importance, as commanding the commerce of the
lakes. They were also making swift inroads upon the Indian trade, and a force of Jesuit
missionaries, scattered through the tribes, seconded their efforts at every point. Dongan
was a Roman Catholic, and he was commanded by his ducal master to maintain peace ,
with Fiance, but he was the English Governor of New York, and his loyalty to his coun-
try, overcame all religious partialities. He was a man far-sighted, and of advanced ideas.
He saw clearly, as none of his predecessors had done, the importance of the Indian
trade, and the advantage of a close alliance which would interpose a compact body
of brave and skillful native warriors, between the advancing frontiers of the English
and their historic enemies. All through his administration, he hunted the Jesuit political
missionaries from the province, as if he had been a Puritan, and he resisted the encroach-
ments of the French, as though the Duke of York had issued no commands upon the
subject. As the result of Dongan's positive position of friendship for the Five Nations,
he won their confidence as no Englishman had ever done before, and the opportunity
soon arose for a brilliant stroke of policy.

In 1684, a difficulty occurred between the confederates and Virginia, owing to some
Indian outrages incited by the Jesuits. Dongan being applied to by the Governor of
Virginia, invited the confederates to meet him, to discuss their grievances, and the invi-
tation being accepted, a council was held at Albany. At this meeting, explanations and
apologies were made by the Mohawks for the hostile action of the more western tribes,
but this was only a minor part of the business accomplished. Before the council ended,
the sachems of the Five Nations requested Dongan to affix the arms of the Duke of
York upon their stockaded villages, or castles. It has been said that here Indians looked
upon the ducal insignia, simply as a charm to protect them from the French, but to the
Europeans, the act had a much broader significance. It was to them a token of submis-
sion to the English, and the whole course of the subsequent history, shows that the In-
dians themselves, to some extent at least, entertained this view. On the third day after
the request of the sachems had been complied with, the Cayugas and Onondagas, said to
Dongan : " We have put our lands and ourselves under the protection of the great Duke



of York." In 1687, Dongan, in a formal council at Albany, reprimanded the Five Na-
tions, for treating with the French, without his ccivsent, telling them that as subjects of
England, they had no right to do so. In 1692, the sachems of the Five Nations, said to
Major Ingoldsby at Albany: "Brother Corlaer, we are all the subjects of one great
King and Queen ; and in i6g8, I^ord Bellomont, in a letter to Frontenac, the Governor
of Canada, said it could ibe manifested to all the world, by authenticated, solid proof,
that the Five Nations were always considered as subjects of the King of England."

These among many incidents of the same character, would seem to show, that the con-
fedeiates regarded the adoption of the Duke of York's arms, as something more than the
acquisition of a charm. But, whatever its significance to them, one fact is very clear,
after the treaty of 1684, the EngUsh claimed the Five Nations as subjects, who had vol-
untarily sought their protection and whom it was their duty and privilege to guard.

During the long and bloody wars between F"rance and England which followed the
English Revolution, the status of the Eive Nations as subjects of Great Britain was stub-
bornly contested by the French. They Strove in every way to seduce the confederates
from their allegiance and if the English alone had opposed their projects, they doubtless
would have been successful. That they failed signally, was due to the influence of Col-
onel Peter Schuyler, a Dutchman and the first mayor of Albany. Schuyler had succeeded
to the position of Van Curler in the estimafion of the Indians. Whatever " Quidder" as
they called him, recommended or disapproved of, had the force of law. He gained his
power by repeated acts of kindness, and his singular activity and bravery in defense of
the province. His house in Albany was the head-quajters of the confederates, when they
visited the city, and he seriously impaired his private fortune, by the gifts which he lav-
ished on their chiefs.

Finally, in 1710, he, at his own expense, conducted five Mohawk Warriors to England
to lay before Queen Anne the necessity for more active measures against the French.
They were received with every attention, presented at court with great solemnity, and
their presence in the kingdom formed the nine days' wonder of the time.

On the 31st of March, 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht put an end to the war, which had so
long desolated Europe and which had been so fiercely contested in the wilds of central
and northern New York. By the terms of this treaty, the dispute regarding the status of
the Five Nations was settled, for they were distinctly recognized as ''subject to the
dominion of Great Britain," nothing could be more emphatic and conclusive, than this
recognition, inserted in a solemn treaty and following a contest of many years, in which
the specific question had been distinctly raised.

After the Treaty of Utrecht, the colony grew rapidly. Settlers of other nationalities
mingled with the Dutch on the .Mohawk and upper Hudson. The old traditional Indian
policy of the colony was weakened, and might have been abandoned but for the influence
of one man, who arose to carry on the work begun by Van Curler and Schuyler. Fortu-
nately, for the country, he followed their example and methods.

Of course I speak of Sir William Johnson of the Mohawk Valley. Coming to America
at the age of twenty-three, although of good birth and family, he set out to make his own
fortune and plunged into the forest. He opened a store, bought furs and traded with the
natives. He won their admiration for he was athletic, brave and open-hearted. He won
their confidence, for he always told the truth and treated them with justice. He was
made superintendent of Indian affairs, but he never took advantage of his place to rob
his wards. He was made a baronet but he never forgot his humble friends. For nearly
thirty years, he stood up as the advocate of the Six Nations, compelling a recognition of
their rights.

The struggle often was severe, for he encountered every obstacle that the greed or avar-
ice of the whites could suggest, but he triumphed, enforced good faith towards tjie red
men and retained their friendship until the Rovolution. Thus it was, that New York
solved her Indian problem, and now .let us see, what were its effects upon the country.
1' o'- a century and a half, France contended with England for the possession of this con-
tininl. The question which should be the owner, was of vast importance to the world.


Tt was a conflict between priest-craft and free-thought, feudalism and self-government.
Progress was pitted against retrogression, the future fought against the past. The
result we say was certain, but for many years victory hung in the balance. The
French had great advantages, their power was concentrated, they had a single head, and
their people were born soldiers. On the other hand, the English were scattered in little
settlements along a straggling line of sea coast, had no war policy, no head and no con-
cert of action. In addition, the French had as allies substantially, all the Indian tribes
except the Iroquois. Had these tribes instead of slaying the French and their allies,
united against the English, history would probably have told a very different story. It
is mainly owing to their friendship, that an Anglo-Saxon and a Gallic civilization pre-

Online LibraryNew York (State). Secretary's OfficeJournals of the military expedition of Major General John Sullivan against the Six nations of Indians in 1779; with records of centennial celebrations; prepared pursuant to chapter 361, laws of the state of New York, of 1885 → online text (page 71 of 85)