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.
At no time in its history, had the Confederacy of the Six Nations been in so calm a state as at the opening of the present year. It is true that an occasional brush with the Paxton men caused, at times, some uneasiness; but those land disputes, which had been a source of so much irritation, were now mostly settled; while the recent adjustment of the boundary appeared as if the whites were in future disposed to act fairly. Within the past year, moreover, efforts had been made by the principal sachems to lead back those of their number, who had strayed into lands far removed from their ancient fireplace; and generally with success. Those of the Tuscaroras, who had remained in the Carolinas, had followed their kindred; the Onondagas of Swegatchie and the Sault St. Louis again slept in the lodges of their fathers; and the Senecas of the Ohio were gradually finding their way back to Chenussio. Indian teachers, educated by Doctor Wheelock, and supported at the private expense of Sir William Johnson, were quietly diffusing among the tribes a taste for reading and peaceful avocations. The brazen age of the Confederacy seemed rapidly giving way to the golden.1
1 One of these teachers was a Mohegan Indian, Joseph Johnson, who was born at Mohegan in 1750. He was the son of Capt. Joseph Johnson, -who served near Lake George in the French war of 1757, and who was a man of piety. After he had been employed some two years, among the Six Nations, he became for a time a wanderer. Returning from a whaling voyage, in 1771, he repaired to his farm in Mohegan, and there in a time of sickness brought on by his vices, became a Christian convert by reading the New Testament and Baxter's Saint's Rest. It would seem, from his journal, which is still-preserved, that he experienced the deepest conviction of sin. Afterward he was licensed to preach, and was for years a missionary in the state of New York.
The tranquillity that now prevailed, afforded Sir William all opportunity of carrying out a plan which he had long meditated for the improvement of his special protégés, the Mohawks. The mission established by the Rev. Mr. Barclay between the Lower Mohawk Castle and Albany, since he had become the rector of Trinity Church, had been without a settled pastor -a circumstance which had been a source of much vexation both to the Indians and the Baronet. Accordingly, in the early spring, the latter, at his own expense, began the erection of a handsome little church at Canajoharie, designed expressly for the use of the Mohawks of the Upper and Lower Castles. Owing, however, to the necessity of bringing most of the building materials from New York city, the church was not completed and thoroughly furnished until June of the following year; when, a new supply of Indian prayer books having been received from Hugh Gaine, it was opened for divine worship on the seventeenth of that month, Rev. Harry Munro from Albany, at the invitation of Sir William, preaching the dedication sermon.1
While the Baronet was thus engaged, he entertained, in March, at the Hall, Professors Danford and Willard of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who were on their way to Lake Superior to observe the transit of Venus. Fears were entertained that the jealousy of the western nations might be excited at the mathematical instruments,-suspecting
1 In writing to his agent in New York, for the different materials for this church, the Baronet mentions the following items: " To get a ball made and gilt; also a weathercock, and all the iron work necessary to fix them. They are to he proportioned to the building, which is a wooden church now a building at Canajoharie, of 60 ft. long by 32 wide. Also a bell, £13 or £20 in price." MS. letter, Johnson to John Wetherhead, 17th Feb., 1769. This little church is still standing in the town of Danube, Herkimer Co., N. Y. The same old bell still hangs in the belfry. Tradition states that during the revolution this bell was carried off by the Indians, who on being pursued cast it into the Mohawk, whence it was afterwards fished out and restored to its place.
that they were to be used in surveying their country,- and although they were armed with a pass from General Gage, requesting the commanding officer at Michilimackinac to explain to the Indians the object of their visit, yet they desired to have the benefit of such suggestions from the superintendent as would best facilitate the object of their journey.
In the election which took place, as stated in the last chapter, almost immediately after the dissolution of the assembly, the Baronet did not take his usual active part. This was owing to the fact, that one of the candidates for reflection to the assembly from Albany county was Colonel Philip Schuyler, between whom and himself a coolness had recently arisen. The cause of the estrangement was as follows: During the last session of the assembly, Colonel Schuyler, chafed at some opposition in his last election, in the Spring of 1768, from Sir John Johnson, and believing it to have emanated from the father, (although this was not the case,) made a motion for an act to prevent any member of the council interfering in future elections. Although the motion was negatived by a large majority, yet the Baronet, believing, in common with many of his friends, that this was intended for himself, felt aggrieved that one for whom he had always manifested a warm friendship, and one, moreover, whom he had but recently created a colonel as a special mark of favor, should have taken such a course. He was not a man, however, to brood in secret over a supposed injury, and he, therefore, in the middle of January, just previous to the election, wrote a letter to the colonel, stating that if the reports which he had heard were true, he could not give him his support. Colonel Schuyler, who, if he really designed the motion as a thrust at the Baronet, was not disinclined to have his influence in the coming canvas, immediately replied to Sir William's letter. His explanation, however, was evidently not satisfactory. "The several reports," wrote Sir William to an intimate friend, "that I have lately received of Phil. Schuyler's conduct towards me, are so correspondent that I have written him upon it; and although in his answer he appears very desirous of clearing up matters to my satisfaction, I find it will he necessary for me to have some little communication with him whenever I meet with an opportunity, as his answer sufficiently shows that he has been led into some capital errors relating to part of my late conduct, which he spoke of in the late assembly. However, I shall suspend my thoughts for a little time, as I am willing to suppose that a man whom I have never injured, and who has twice solicited for my interest, which I freely promised him, would hardly have insinuated anything with regard to me unless he had been excited-perhaps without any ill intention on his part.l Feeling, therefore, that he could not give him his cordial support, and being unwilling to oppose one who was known as the champion of the people against ministerial oppression, he took no active part in the election. Colonel Schuyler was accordingly reelected by a large majority,-very much to the chagrin of Henry Van Schaack, who was his strong political enemy. "The people down here," wrote the latter from Kinderhook to the Baronet, "almost to a man, were greatly disappointed that there was no opposition to the last elections, as they had flattering hopes of your interfering.2
In New York city the election was warmly contested. "I hear," wrote Sir William, jocularly, to a friend in New York, "that you are likely to have a hot election, and probably there will be work for shillalahs." Nor was the writer far out in his conjecture. At no time, for many years, had the excitement been more intense; and every means and device was made use of to secure votes.3
1 Manuscript letter ; Johnson to Major Moncrieffe,
26th Jan., 1769.
2 Manuscript letter ; Henry Van Schaack to Johnson, 20th March, 1768.
3 "It is surprising what trifles can be turned to the greatest advantage in elections, and be made to captivate the passions of the vulgar. A straw, (Continued)
In the city, especially, the contest was between the church party and the dissenters-the former being led, by the DeLanceys, and the latter by the Livingstons. The church, having the support of the mercantile and Masonic interests, was triumphant; and John Cruger, James DeLancey, Jacob Walton, and James Jauncey, were elected by the city.1
On the fourth of April the new assembly met. John Cruger was immediately chosen speaker, and it was not long before another proof was afforded of the strength of the church party in the house. "The De Lancey interest," wrote Hugh Wallace, a member of the council, to Sir William, "prevails in the house greatly, and they have given the Livingston interest proof of it by dismissing
a firebrand, have severally answered this purpose in a recent instance. It was said, during the last election, that T. Smith had said that the Irish were poor beggars, and had come over here upon a bunch of straw. The whole body of Irishmen immediately joined and appeared with straws in their hats. Mr. Kissam, who summed up the evidence for Mr. Scott in the late charge against Mr. Jauncey, happened to say that the passions of the Germans were firebrands;-a whole congregation were, in consequence of that, resolved to vote with them in their hands; but being dissuaded, they however distinguished themselves by the name of the Firebrands. These gentlemen have also made themselves remarkable by a song in the German language, the chorus of which is,
"Maester Cruger, Delancey,
Maester Walton and Jauncey."
'Twas droll to see some of the first gentlemen in town joining in singing this song, while they conducted the members to the coffee house." Letter P. Van Schaack to his brother Henry, 27th Jan., 1769.
1 "I arrived here St. John's day, when there was a grand procession of the whole fraternity, and a very excellent sermon preached by Dr. Auchmuthy, at Trinity Church, on the occasion. At the same time a collection was made for the city, which I think amounted to £200. Would you think it-but it is true-that the Presbyterians immediately labored to convert this charitable affair to the disadvantage of the church of England, and the part which they take in the election ensuing? Will Smith and W. Livingston, got an old rascally sermon, called "MASONRY THE SURE GUIDE TO HELL," reprinted and distributed it with great assiduity, * * and there is, this day, an extraordinary lodge held on the occasion in order to consult means to resent the affront." Manuscript letter; J. Weatherhead to Johnson, 9th January, 1769.
P. Livingston the house as a nonresident." The Livingstons, however, were not entirely crushed, for the same writer adds:'' " Its said he will be returned again and again and so become another Wilkes.1"
The opening speech of Governor Moore contained not the remotest reference to the difficulties which had caused the recent dissolution ; hut referred only to the manner in which the colony's agent in London was appointed-a mode which, his excellency thought objectionable-and asking for farther military appropriations. He was of opinion that the appointment of an agent should be made by an act of the governor, council and assembly, specially passed for that purpose, as was done in the colonies of Virginia, Carolina, Georgia and the West India Islands and had formerly been done in this.
The change in the manner of appointing the colonial agent had been first introduced during the administration of Governor Clinton, in 1747, in the appointment of Robert Charles without the former's privity or consent. Governor Clinton, it will he recollected, had complained bitterly at the time of the innovation, but without effect; and it was, therefore, not likely that an assembly, having had their own way in this matter for upwards of twenty years, would now yield. Accordingly, in their reply upon the eighth, they utterly declined adopting the mode which his excellency had recommended; declaring that it would be sacrificing the rights and diminishing the liabilities of their constituents to adopt any other mode of appointment than that which had been practiced in the colony for many years past. In reference, however, to that part of the governor's speech requesting certain military appropriations, they were not as decided. The sums, they said, that had been granted for the support of his majesty's troops in barracks were very considerable; the repeated application of monies to that purpose would effectually ruin a colony, whose trade, by unnatural restrictions and
1 Manuscript letter; Hugh Wallace to Johnson, 13th May, 1769.
the want of a paper currency to supply the almost total deficiency of specie, had so much declined; in this unhappy situation, therefore, his excellency's requisition for fresh aid demanded their most serious consideration.
It was during the spring of this year, that the division of Albany county into two counties was first contemplated ; and in the course of the present session, Colonel Schuyler moved for permission to bring in a bill for that purpose, which was granted. The author of this bill undoubtedly meant well, but his impulses occasionally led him into the commission of acts -which infringed upon the rights of others. His action on the present occasion was by no means authorized by his constituents. The project had been merely talked of informally among a few; and the first intimation that those of the inhabitants, who were to form the population of the western division-and who were therefore entitled to an opinion -had of the proposed division, was upon hearing of Schuyler's motion in the house. The manner, moreover, in which it was proposed by the bill to divide the county was not agreeable to many, who were otherwise strongly in favor of a division. Among the latter was the Baronet. " Albany county,"he wrote at this time, "is much too large, but the manner in which it is proposed to be divided is in many respects extremely inconvenient, and would prove disagreeable to almost all the inhabitants. The only rational boundary, it has appeared to me, and all I have conversed with, would be at the west bounds of the township of Schenectady, which is a well known place, where there is a good natural boundary, which could not interfere with any property or create the least confusion, as this proposed must do."1 A petition was likewise drawn up by him, on behalf of those who were opposed to the bill as it then stood, and placed in the hands of Captain James De Lancey 2 to be
1 Manuscript letter ; Johnson to Hugh Wallace,
2 James De Lancey of the city of New York, eldest son of James De Lancey, lieutenant governor of New York, was in early life a captain in the British regular service, and was always called "Captain DeLancey," to distinguish him from his first cousin, James DeLancey of Westchester, afterwards the famous partisan colonel of the Westchester loyalists, otherwise known as the Cowboys.
laid before the assembly. The decided opposition thus shown was successful. "The attempt to get Albany county divided," wrote Wallace to Johnson, "will not pass." The writer's prediction was correct. The bill was ordered to a second reading, and for the present dropped; and a few days after, on the twentieth of May, the assembly were prorogued by the governor to the mouth of July; not, however, until that body had voted, with a very ill grace, eighteen hundred pounds for the support of his majesty's troops quartered in the colony.1
Meanwhile, late in May, an express arrived at Niagara from Detroit, bearing the startling intelligence that the western nations were again on the verge of a general insurrection, and that the garrison of that post had thrown themselves into the fort for its protection.2 This news, moreover, seemed to receive confirmation, when a few days after, a friendly chief of the Mississageys came into Niagara and begged the traders to defer making their yearly visit to Detroit.3 The alarm became general. Hundreds of bateaux were at once stopped at the portage on their way to the frontier posts; and, in their terror, the settlers abandoned their farms from Bedford to Fort Pitt.
Happily, the fears of the Detroit garrison were not confirmed, the threatened outbreak resulting in the murder of two or three traders on the Ohio; but the horrors of Pontiac's war were too recent to be easily forgotten, while the known efforts of the French and Spanish traders, for the past two years, to incite the western savages to revolt,
l Mr. Lossing, in his life of Schuyler, and Mr. Leake, in his life of John Lamb, state the sum voted to have been 1500£. The Journal of the assembly, however, printed by Hugh Gaine, reads 1800£.
2 Manuscript letter; Rev. Samuel Kirkland to Johnson, 25th May, 1769.
3 Manuscript letter; Capt. Norman McLcod, commissary at Niagara to Johnson, May, 1769.
rendered it very probable that they had finally
succeeded. Under these circumstances Sir William, always vigilant, aware that
if the reports from the west-were true, no exertions would be spared to draw
the Six Nations into the war, resolved upon a tour throughout the Confederacy
with a view of ascertaining its present temper and disposition. Accordingly
he set out from the Hall on the twenty-sixth of June, proceeding first to
Onondaga castle and returning by way of Seneca. His tour of inspection confirmed
his suspicions. Many of the younger warriors, of the upper castles, were already
much excited by numerous belts which had recently been received from the west;
while nearly all the old sachems were alarmed at the late
order of the board of trade, which, with a shortsighted policy, required the superintendent to dismiss the commissioners of trade at the several posts, with a view to diminish the expenses of the Indian department.
At Onondaga, which he reached on the tenth of July, he met with an accident, that, at his time of life, was not slight. Returning one evening across the lake from a preliminary conference with a few of the principal chiefs, the canoe which he was paddling upset. "With great difficulty he reached the shore, and while clambering up a steep bank, he received a severe cut in his wounded leg. His sufferings were at first intense, but finding himself easier, a general council was held two days after, at which he distributed large quantities of Indian corn to the Onondagas, their crops having failed. Thence he journeyed to Cayuga, and having held another meeting at that castle, he proceeded to Seneca, where two thousand Indians were awaiting him. While at this place belts arrived, announcing the approach of several Cherokee chieftains, who were on their way to a general congress, soon to be held at Onondaga, for the purpose of cementing alliances with the Canada Indians and other friendly tribes. The Baronet, thereupon, arranged for a full report of its proceedings; and having completely neutralized the poison of the western belts, he returned home by easy stages, reaching the Hall the seventh of August. His injury, however proved more serious than was at first supposed. He was obliged to consult a physician from New York city; and it was not until the fourth of October, that he was sufficiently recovered to leave his room.1
A few days after his return, Sir William received intelligence that the king had conferred upon him, as a peculiar mark of his appreciation of his services, a large tract of land, situated on the north side of the Mohawk, and known in later times as the ROYAL GRANT. The origin of it was as follows:
In the fall of 1760, the Mohawks of Canajoharie, through one of their chiefs, desired the attendance of Sir William at their castle upon business of importance. The latter immediately complied with their request, and upon his arrival at the Lower Castle, the Mohawks in full council informed him, that they had a few days previously unanimously resolved, as a mark of esteem and affection, to make him a present of a large tract of land; at the same time desiring him to have a deed of gift drawn for that purpose. The Baronet, to whom this generosity was an entire surprise, thanked them for the friendly feeling thus shown, and requested time to consider it. Determined, however, that he should accept the gift, five sachems, deputized by the castle, waited upon him a few days afterward and insisted upon having the deed drawn. This having been done, they returned with the deed to Canajoharie, where it was signed by all of that castle, old and young;-the Baronet insisting upon giving them, as a substantial mark of his appreciation of their kindness, the sum of twelve thousand dollars, besides numerous presents. The tract, thus conveyed, embraced all the land lying on the north side of the Mohawk
1 Johnson to the minister, 26th August, 1769; Manuscript correspondence of Johnson during August and October, 1769,
between Cayahara and Canada creeks, and contained sixty-six thousand acres of land.1
Soon after receiving this present, Sir William wrote to Lieutenant Governor Colden requesting a patent for the land in the usual form. Upon his letter being referred to the council, they were of opinion that so large a tract could not he granted to one person without infringing on his Majesty's proclamation of 1763. 2 The revolt of the western nations occurring shortly after, the matter rested until the summer of 1766, when Sir William laid before the king, in council, a memorial setting forth the facts of the case, and praying that royal letters patent might issue to him for the land. The memorial, was, thereupon, referred to the hoard of trade, who in February, 1767, reported favorably upon it. "The established character and reputation of Sir William Johnson," the report went on to say, "leaves us no room to doubt of the veracity of his relation of this matter; and in this light it does not appear to us, that the grant in question can properly come under the description of a purchase; since the money which the petitioner alledges that he paid to the Indians, who bestowed these lands upon him, seems not so much to have been considered as an equivalent by way of bargain, as a customary present, regularly expected by them in acknowledgment, even of their most disinterested benefactions, * * * We think, therefore, that this consideration
l "The rear line of this tract is to begin at the northeasterly corner of the rear line of a parcel of land, surveyed last fall by McGinn, and runs thence a westerly course to the Canada kill or creek at Burnett's field, which will make it about thirteen miles distant to the Mohawk river." Manuscript letter; Johnson to Banyar, 6th January, 1761. These two creeks are now known as the East and West Canada creeks.
2 This proclamation strictly forbids "any private persons to presume to make any purchase from the Indians of any lands reserved to the said Indians, within those parts of the colonies where his majesty has thought proper to allow settlements ;" alleging as the ground for this prohibition, "that great frauds and abuses had been committed in the purchasing lands of the Indians, to the great prejudice of the interests of the crpwm, and to the great dissatisfaction of the said Indians."
not only exempts his particular case from those general objections, that are founded in the apprehension of prejudicial consequences resulting from the dissatisfaction of the Indians, but leaves a doubt with us whether, on the contrary, they would not probably consider themselves as suffering an indignity and affront, by a disallowance and refusal of their grant." This report was satisfactory; and the king granted the land to Sir William Johnson by royal letters patent, which passed the Royal Seal in June of the present year.1
The death of Sir Henry Moore, on the eleventh of September, threw a gloom over the entire city- His polished
1 Manuscript letter; Johnson to Banyar, 6th January, 1761; do Johnson to John Pownal, 18th April, 1763 ; do, Johnson to ----, 13th Sept., 1769; do, Johnson to Hon. Thos. Penn, 15th September, 1769 ; Lieutenant-Governor Golden to the lords of trade, 13th May, 1765. "Report of the lords of trade on the memorial of Sir William Johnson." (Note: do probably means duplicate to.... ajb, typist.)
Within the Royal Grant were several patents taken up several years before the action of the Canajoharie Mohawks, but against the legality of which, the latter always protested.-Manuscript letter; Johnson to Banyar, 6th Jan., 1769. The owners of these patents (thirty-nine in all) were consequently joined in the royal letters patent; but afterward released their interest to Sir William for due consideration. The author had among his manuscripts several original affidavits, sworn to by parties who were present at the release, testifying to this transaction. Unfortunately, however, before this work went to press, he found that these affidavits had been lost, so that he is unable to refer the reader to them more particularly than by this statement. The date of these affidavits, if his recollection serves him, was several years after Sir William's decease.
It maybe well to state in this connection, that, With the exception of the royal grant, the only lands that Sir William ever had of the Indians were a small tract on the Susquehanna, and the Onondaga lands, for both of which he paid a large sum of money,-the rest of his estate having been purchased of the whites. This statement is proved by numerous letters of his in which it is asserted. The romantic story of his dreaming away from King Hendrik the Royal Grant-which even Mr. Schoolcraft, in his Notes on the Iroquois, gravely narrates as a fact-is false. Hendrik had been in his grace five years before this tract was given. Indeed, the uprightness of Sir William's dealings with the Indians, which was the chief cause of his ascendancy over them, sufficiently proves its falsity, even if we had not the above positive testimony. It is quite time that the numerous silly stories, afloat in regard to Sir William Johnson, and resting solely on tradition, should be done away with.
manners, courteous address and genial disposition, had endeared him to many in the colony. Although forced, oftentimes, as the representative of the crown, to come in collision with the popular sentiment, yet such occasions were evidently so distasteful to him, that many, who were his bitter political enemies, regarded him with cordial good will. By his death the reins of government fell for the third time into the bands of Doctor Colden, who, as lieutenant governor, opened the fall session of the assembly on the twenty-second of November.
Appearances seemed to indicate a stormy session. Massachusetts had just passed a series of spirited resolutions against the military and naval force stationed at her capital. The assembly of Virginia, late in the spring, had been dissolved by the new governor, Lord Botetourt, for its presumption in sending Massachusetts words of encouragement and support. The refusal, moreover, of the house of commons, in March, to receive the representative of the New York assembly, had excited the apprehensions of those of the colonists who had hitherto been warmly attached to the crown. "I must confess," wrote Sir William Johnson, in September, " that the aspect of affairs at home is very unpleasing, and ought to give concern to every well wisher of his country, because whatever reason or justice there may be in the late steps, there is a probability of their being carried farther than a good man can wish for."1
Yet there were those also in the house of commons, who had more than glimmerings of the result. "Be assured, sir," said Alderman Thecotherick, in April, in seconding the motion of Thomas Pownall for a repeal of the revenue act, "that every measure of security resorted to by Great Britain against her colonies will recoil upon ourselves. The hearts of its subjects are the surest hold that any government can have on their fidelity and obedience." "Nobody," petulantly exclaimed Lord North, "is more
l Manuscript letter; Johnson to Rivington, 14th Sept., 1769.
concerned than I am at the existing differences between America and the mother country; but this is neither a measure of credit nor of reconciliation; if you lose your credit with the colonies, you never can be reconciled with them; and he argued that he saw nothing uncommercial, in making the Americans pay a tax upon tea. "If the noblelord," replied Alderman Beckford, "imagines that Americans will come to us upon their knees, he will be disappointed. I believe they never will submit to internal taxes. Whether combinations against the mother country are legal or illegal, is a matter I will not go into; but the head of a family may surely say: "You shall not wear British manufactures." Said Mr. Jackson, "I consider the preservation of America to depend upon the repeal of this act." "We are lighting up," urged Lord Beauchamp, "a general flame in America. "We shall lose the affections of two millions of people for the sake of a paltry extorted revenue. Trade is the offspring of good will." "We ought to govern America," added in the same strain Lord John Cavendish, "through the affections of the people." But these prophetic warnings were unheeded. The motion was at that time lost, Lord North postponing farther discussion upon it by a stroke of parliamentary tactics. Something, however, all agreed must be done to conciliate the colonies; and accordingly, in May, the minister, in a circular letter, assured the colonists that a proposition would be made at the next session of parliament to repeal the duties on all articles except tea. This announcement was not satisfactory. It was evident that the right of taxation was not relinquished.
Contrary, however, to general expectation, during the fall and winter session, there were no collisions between the executive and the legislature, although the spirited resolutions of Virginia, of the preceding May, were unanimously concurred in. On the first day of the session a bill was
1 Sir Henry Cavendish's debates in the House of Commons, from 1768-1774.
introduced for emitting one hundred and twenty thousand pounds in bills of credit, to be put out on loan, as a means of revenue. The bill was at first hailed with delight by the leaders of the popular party, who thought they discerned in it a desire, on the part of the executive, to gratify the wish of the people. When, however, it was followed, on the fifteenth of December, by a motion to grant two thousand pounds for the support of his majesty's troops in the colony, which sum was to be taken out of the interest arising from the loan bill when it should become a law, a complete revulsion of feeling took place; and they now saw only an attempt, on the part of the lieutenant governor, to compel the assembly into an unconditional submission of the mutiny act. Accordingly, the first sight that greeted the citizens, on the morning of the seventeenth, was a naming placard, posted up in the most conspicuous portions of the city, addressed, " TO THE BETRAYED INHABITANTS OF THE CITY AND COLONY OF NEW YORK," and signed "A SON OF LIBERTY." This placard declared, that the granting of money to the troops was implicitly acknowledging the authority that had enacted the revenue acts, which had been passed for the express purpose of taking money out of the pockets of the colonists, without their consent; that what made the granting of money the more grievous was, that it went to the support of troops kept, not to protect, but to enslave them; that this was the view taken of the mutiny act by the assemblies of Massachusetts and South Carolina, - therefore let not the assembly of New York tell their disgrace in Boston, nor publish it in the streets, of Charleston! The assembly, moreover, had not been attentive to the liberties of this continent, nor to the prosperity of the good people of this colony. This sacrifice of the public interest, it attributed to a corrupt source, which, it scrupled not to affirm in plain words, was an infamous coalition, recently entered into between the executive and the De Lancey family, for this very object. In conclusion, the placard advised all the people to assemble the following day in the fields, there to express their sentiments upon a point so vital to colonial liberty.
The large concourse of people, gathered in the fields at the time appointed, clearly showed how in unison with the public feeling were the sentiments uttered in the placard of the previous day. The object of the gathering was set forth by John Lamb, one of the most prominent of the Sons of Liberty, and the question asked, whether the citizens would uphold the recent action of the assembly. The emphatic NO that at once arose from the vast throng was a sufficient answer to this question; and a committee of seven was immediately appointed to carry this public expression of feeling to the legislature. But however much that body may have regretted their partial committal to the loan bill, they did not choose to be dictated to by a meeting which they considered little better than a mob. Accordingly, the consideration of the placard having been made the first order of the following day, James DeLancey moved that "the sense of the house should be taken whether the said paper was not an infamous and scandalous libel." The question being put, all the members voted in the affirmative except Colonel Schuyler, who when his name was called, -with admirable moral courage, fearlessly answered in the negative. A series of resolutions was then passed condemning the paper as false, seditious, and infamous, and requesting the lieutenant governor to offer a reward of one hundred pounds for its author or authors. Immediately after the passage of these resolutions, Mr. DeLancey laid before the house another handbill, in which the late proceedings of that body were strongly condemned, signed LEGION. Resolves were at once passed, similar in tone to those just noticed, and an additional reward of fifty pounds offered for the writer of this also.
Nothing worthy of special mention occurred during the remainder of this session. John Lamb, it is true, three days after the passage of the resolutions, was arraigned before the house on suspicion of being the author of the libelous handbill; but nothing being proved against him he was immediately discharged. The general assembly having now been convened more than two months, and its members being now anxious to return to their homes, Lieutenant Governor Colden signed several acts, among them one for appointing commissioners to meet commissioners from the neighboring Colonies to agree upon a plan for regulating the Indian trade, and on the twenty-seventh of January, prorogued it to the second Tuesday in March, and from time to time afterward to the eleventh of December.
Meanwhile, the hatred between the soldiers and the Sons of Liberty daily gained strength. The former had long writhed under the undisguised disgust with which they were treated by the latter, and only waited for an opportunity to repay this scorn with interest. Hitherto, they had been restrained through motives of policy, and now that the supplies were granted, they threw off all restraint, and resolved to insult their enemies in their most tender spot. Accordingly, on the thirteenth of January, a portion of the Sixteenth Regiment attempted to destroy the liberty-pole by sawing off its spars and blowing it up with gunpowder. A knot of citizens having gathered round while they were thus engaged, they desisted for the present from the attempt, and charging upon the group with fixed bayonets, drove them into a tavern, kept by Montagnie, and a favorite resort of the Sons of Liberty, broke the windows, and demolished a portion of the furniture. Three days afterward, however, they succeeded in their design, and having, on the night of the sixteenth, cut the obnoxious symbol in pieces, piled its fragments in front of Montagnie's door. Incensed at this daring insult, three thousand citizens assembled early the following morning at the scene of the outrage, and adopted, among others, a resolution that all soldiers found in the street after roll call, "should be treated as enemies to peace of the city;" mutually pledging themselves to see that this resolve was vigorously enforced. Early the next morning insulting placards were found posted up in various parts of the city, ridiculing the resolutions of the previous day, and daring the citizens to carry them into execution. In the course of the day three soldiers were discovered by Sears and others in the act of posting up more of these handbills; and a skirmish ensuing, the citizens, having obtained the upper hand, were conducting the offenders to the office of the mayor, when they were met by a band of twenty additional troops. A general fight with cutlasses and clubs now followed, the military, slowly retreating to Golden hill.l At this point they were met by a party of officers, who immediately ordered their men to the barracks, and the riot was quelled. In this, brush, several citizens were wounded and one killed, although the soldiers were generally worsted. The following day witnessed a number of frays, none of which however, were attended with loss of life; and on the twentieth, the mayor having issued a proclamation forbidding the soldiers to come out of the barracks unless accompanied by a noncommissioned officer, the excitement was quieted and order once more restored.2 On the fifth of February another pole was erected, inscribed "Liberty and Property," on ground purchased for the purpose, '
1 John street between Cliff street and Burling slip.
2 "We are all in confusion in this city ; the soldiers have cut and blowed up the liberty pole, and have caused much trouble between the inhabitants. On Friday last between Burling Slip and Fly Market, was an engagement between the inhabitants and the soldiers, when much blood was spilt; one sailor got run through the body, who since died; one man got his skull cut in the most cruel manner. On Saturday the Hall bell rang for an alarm, when was another battle between the inhabitants and soldiers: but the soldiers met with rubbers, the chiefest part being sailors with clubs to revenge the death of their brother, which they did with courage and made them all run to their barracks. What will be the end of this, God knows." -Letter from "New York, Jan. 22, 1770," in the St. James Chronicle, or British Evening Post, March 16th, 1770.
where it remained until cut down in 1776, by the British soldiery, at that time occupying the city.
The Sons of Liberty were undaunted. In February, one hundred of them purchased of Colonel Morris a house for six hundred pounds-each of them contributing six pounds-in which to celebrate the repeal of the stamp act;1 and having, on the nineteenth of March, drank forty- five popular toasts, they proceeded to the jail where Captain McDougal was confined for being the author of the libelous handbill of the previous December; saluted him with forty-five cheers, and quietly dispersed.
In Boston the feeling between the citizens and soldiery was even more embittered. The news of the recent occurrences in New York was not calculated to soothe this mutual animosity; and when, on the second of March, an affray took place at Gray's rope walk, between a citizen and a soldier, in which the latter was worsted, it required but a small degree of forecast to anticipate an approaching explosion. Three days afterward, on the evening of the fifth, a sentinel who had wantonly abused a lad was surrounded in King street by a mob of boys, and pelted with snowballs made of the light snow that had just fallen. "They are killing the sentinel," shouted a bystander to the main guard. Instantly a file of six soldiers, headed by a corporal and followed by Preston, the officer of the day, rushed to the rescue at a double quick step with fixed bayonets. A crowd gathered round, and the musket of a soldier being hit by a stick thrown from the throng, Preston gave the order to fire.2 Montgomery, the man whose musket had been hit, immediately fired, and attacks; a mulatto, who had been quietly looking on, fell dead on the spot. Six others, thereupon, taking deliberate aim, fired in succession at the crowd, who were already beginning to disperse. Three of the citizens, including the mulatto, were instantly killed, and of eight others who
1 Manuscript letter ; Norman McLeod to Johnson, 18th February, 1770.
2 Compare Bancroft, vol. vi, p. 347, Note.
were wounded, two died shortly afterward from their injuries.
It has been usually asserted by historians, that the first blood in the war of the American revolution was shed at Lexington; but such is not the fact. THE BATTLE OF GOLDEN HILL, on the eighteenth of January, 1770, was the beginning of that contest, so fearful in its commencement, so doubtful in its progress, and so splendid in its results. The storm had now been gathering for several years, and the public mind had become exceedingly feverish, not only in respect to the conduct of the parent government, but in respect to the language and bearing of the officers of the crown stationed in the colonies. The destruction of the liberty pole increased the mutual exasperation; and the fight that followed was but the natural consequence. To the city of New York, therefore, must ever be given the honor of striking the first blow. The town was thrown into commotion, the bells rang, and the news, with the exaggerations and embellishments incident to all occasions of alarm, spread through the country with the rapidity of lightning. Everywhere, throughout the wide extent of the old thirteen colonies, it created a strong sensation, and was received with a degree of indignant emotion, which very clearly foretold that blood had only commenced flowing. The massacre in King street, two months later, added intensity to the flame; and although five years intervened before the demonstration at Lexington, there were too many nervous pens and eloquent tongues in exercise to allow these feelings to subside, or the noble spirit of liberty that had been awakened to be quenched. "Such stirring orations as those of Joseph Warren were not uttered in vain; and often were the people reminded by him, or by his compatriots of kindred spirit -'The voice of your brethren's blood cries to you from the ground.' The admonition had its effect, and the resolutions of vengeance sank deeper and deeper, until the fulness of time should come."
Late in January, the Cherokees spoke, with calumets and belts of wampum, to the warriors of the Six Nations. The peace pipes strengthened the recent alliance, and the wampum invited the latter to join in a crusade against the southwestern tribes. On the reception of the invitation, fresh fuel was thrown upon the council fire, at Onondaga, that it might burn clearer and brighter; and after a lengthy deliberation, the Confederacy declined giving a definite reply until they had taken the advice of their brother Warraghiyagey. Accordingly, a message was sent to the latter, requesting that he would hold a general congress with the Confederacy and give them the benefit of his counsel. In support of their request, the Cherokee deputies, who had accompanied the embassy from Onondaga, urged, that the English were as much interested as themselves in taking up the hatchet, instancing the case of Colonel Croghan, who had been attacked at the mouth of the Wabash in 1764, and also the numerous traders murdered on the Ohio.
The position in which Sir William was placed in replying to this request, was exceedingly embarrassing. Should he give a decided refusal, he feared that the Cherokees- who were bent on war and to whom it mattered not whom they fought - divested from their original design, might turn their arms against the English. On the other hand, should he sanction it, he dreaded, for the sake of humanity, the bloody wars which would follow. " It is a disagreeable circumstance," he wrote to the minister, "that we must either agree to permit these people to cut each others' throats, or risk their discharging their fury on our traders and defenceless frontiers." Of these two alternatives, however, policy dictated the security of the frontiers as an object of the first consideration. Accordingly, he appointed a congress to be held in July at the German Flats, hoping that he might prevail upon the Cherokees to relinquish the idea of war altogether.
But now a serious difficulty arose. In preparing for the approaching congress, no Indian goods, suitable for presents, were to be found. The vigor with which the Sons of Liberty had carried out the non-importation agreement, had produced a scarcity of goods of every kind in the market; and a large package of goods, designed expressly for Indian presents, and consigned to a merchant in Albany, had been seized in New York on its way to the consignee. Under these circumstances, Sir William addressed the following letter to the chairman of the non-importation committee:
"JOHNSON HALL, March 22d, 1770.
"As I am very soon to hold a general congress with the
Indians, on matters of much consequence to the public, I have made inquiry
in order to procure a proper assortment of goods for that occasion. In consequence
of which, I can meet with none that will answer the purpose excepting a cargo
consigned to Dr. Sam. Stringer, of Albany, and marked S. S. From the invoice
of which, and the invoice he has given me, they will answer, but I am informed
that they were stored by a resolution of the Sons of Liberty, of whom you
were chairman. The occasion of my writing, therefore, is to know whether the
goods will be delivered up to my order for the purpose before mentioned, in
case I purchase them. If they are, I shall agree for them without delay; and
as the service requires my holding the congress forthwith, which I cannot
do without a suitable present, as usual on such occasions, I make no doubt
that you will favor me with an answer as soon as possible.
'I am, Sir, &c.,
" To Mr. Isaac Low."'1
This application was successful, and the goods were forwarded in ample time for the congress. Had the congress,however, been held a month later, no difficulty would have
1 Manuscript letter.
been experienced; for the duties on all goods except tea having been removed by parliament, in April, the Committee of One Hundred, on the ninth of July, resolved upon the resumption of importation of every thing but tea, and sent forth a circular letter to that effect.
A portion of the early summer was spent by the Baronet at his favorite resort on the banks of the Sacandaga; and on the fifteenth of July, he set out from the Hall for the German Flats, taking him with large quantities of provisions for the Indians, whose crops had been recently destroyed by an army of caterpillars that had swept through the land with devastating fury. He was accompanied by Doctor Shuckburgh,1 his private secretary for Indian affairs, and also by a deputation from the Canada tribes, who had stopped at the Hall on their way to the congress.
Arrived at the German Flats, he found twenty-four hundred Indians, including the Cherokee deputies, already assembled. The task of preventing the Six Nations from being drawn into a war, on the one hand, and of divesting the Cherokees of their belligerent feelings on the other, was not so difficult as he had anticipated. Many of the former, owing to the destruction of their crops, were half famished, and the sight of the provisions brought by the Baronet, wrought a wonderful change in their temper. At several private conferences, moreover, he had talked long
1 "Richard Shuckburgh, who, if he did not compose, at least introduced the popular and well known air of Yankee Doodle into this country, was of German origin, and received a commission as surgeon of Capt. Horatio Gates' Independent Company of New York, on the twenty-fifth June, 1737. Whilst encamped at Greenbush, in the neighborhood of Albany, during the French war, to please, it is said, some eastern levies, he composed a tune and recommended it to the officers as one of the most celebrated airs of martial music. The air took, and in a few days nothing was heard in the Provincial camp but Yankee Doodle. Little did the doctor imagine the renown which awaited the air which he had recommended in a joke.'' Farmer and Morris, New Hampshire Collections, iii, 217.-Note to N. Y. Col. His. by the . Editor, Doctor O'Callaghan.
and earnestly with the chief men of both the Cherokees and the Confederates, so that in the public council, both nations agreed to give up all thoughts of war against the Choctaws, at least, until they had had time to propose to the latter terms of accommodation; and this matter, which had at first appeared fraught with consequences inimical to the peace of the colonies, was amicably arranged. The treaty of Fort Stanwix was next taken up, and its several articles, in all their length and breadth, duly ratified in the name of his majesty.
The effect of the non-importation acts had been productive of much anxiety among the Six Nations, who, not comprehending the policy in which these acts were dictated, only saw in the great scarcity of goods at the trading posts during the past year, a desire on the part-of the king and colonists to restrict in future their trade. "At the treaty of Fort Stanwix," said the Mohawk, Abraham, at this congress, to Sir William, "you told us that we should pass our time in peace, and travel in security, that trade should flourish and goods abound, and that they should he sold us cheap. This would have endeared all the English to us - but we do not see it.1- It is now worse than it was before, for we cannot get goods at all at present, and we hear, from all traders, that none will bring in any and that you have none for yourselves."2
Interfering with their trade - as those of my readers who have carefully followed this history must have observed-was touching the Indians in a sensitive spot. Fortunately, however, for the continuance of amicable relations, the importation of all goods except tea, was now resumed; and in answer to the Sachem's speech, the Baronet was able to assure him that goods would in future be very plenty, as many merchants had recently
1 It seems that this popular phrase originated with Abraham.
2 Some of the traders had stated to the Indians - with what object is not dear- that the reason they had no goods to sell -was because the Colonists wished to hinder the Indian trade.
sent for large cargoes, which might very soon be expected in New York. This reply was entirely satisfactory. The Cherokee ambassadors returned to their own country; and the Confederates, loaded with provisions for their families, departed to their castles.1
On the eighteenth of October,2 John Earl of Dunmore, arrived in New York to occupy the gubernatorial chair, left vacant by the lamented Sir Henry Moore. The new governor-is described, in a letter to Sir William, as "a very active man, fond of walking and riding, and a sportsman." This description affords a clue to the character of the man - easy in his disposition, and one who preferred the delights of the chase to controversies with his legislature. There was little likelihood, however, of his being troubled with a body that had, of late, grown very subservient. The news, moreover, which he brought with him, of his majesty's consent to the bill authorizing the emission of a colonial paper currency, increased the spirit of loyalty; and when, in his opening speech, on the eleventh of December, he expressed his pleasure that the example of the loyal subjects of the province had been the means of restoring friendly feelings and confidence between the parent country and the colonists, the address of the assembly, in reply, was a simple echo. During the entire session, therefore, the wheels of government rolled smoothly; and at its close, on the sixteenth of February, 1771, the loan bill was passed, as was also the one for appropriating two thousand pounds for the support of the troops. The crown had seemingly triumphed, but the end was not yet.
Toward the close of the year, speculation in all kinds
1 Johnson to the minister, 12th July, 1770 ; Johnson to the minister, 14th Aug., 1770; Proceedings of Sir William with the Indians near the German Flats in July, 1770.
2 Lord Dunmore to Hillsborough, 24th Oct., 1770. Several writers have stated that he arrived on the 24th Oct. The date, to be sure, is not of much consequence, but if it is stated at all, it might us well be stated correctly.
of adventures became rife, and among others, a company was formed, and a grant obtained from the king, for exploring the copper mines of Lake Superior. During the fall, Sir William was overwhelmed with letters from different individuals in the company, asking advice as to the best method of conciliating the Indians in the vicinity of the mines. He was also urgently solicited to take a share in the company, the first dividend of which was to make the fortune of each member. Sir William, however, had no inclination to be caught by these golden offers. "Being now advanced pretty far in life," he wrote in reply to the president of the company, "and my constitution greatly impaired through the fatigues and hardships I have experienced in the service of the crown and the public; and having a very troublesome office to discharge, it is not in my power to find sufficient leisure from the duties thereof to attend to my present domestic concerns, as I ought to do, much less to embark in any additional engagements, however inviting."1
1 Manuscript letter; Johnson to Samuel Fouchet, 16th Sept., 1770.
to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on
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