History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Life and Times of
Sir William Johnson, Bart.,
by William L. Stone
Albany: J. Munsell, 78 State Street, 1865.
The news that Sir Charles Hardy was to take the reins of government arrived, much to the chagrin of the De Lancey party, early in March, but it was not until the third of September that the new governor landed in New York. The ship of war in which he came anchored in the harbor upon the second, but the lieutenant governor detained him on board until the next; day, under the pretense that the military were not quite ready to receive him ; but in reality that he might have an evening with him alone to secure him to the interests of his faction.
Sir Charles Hardy, the one whom the ministry had selected to succeed Sir Danvers Osborne was, like Clinton, an unlettered British admiral; and he had not landed long, before it became apparent that like him also, he had not sufficient executive talent to govern without a leader. He therefore soon resigned himself into the hands of Mr. De Lancey, - who thus for the third time became governor.(1) His first message to the assembly on the fourth-three days after that body had been convened and opened by Mr. De Lancey, fully endorsed the message of the latter; expressed his pleasure at the energy which they had shown in granting supplies; and closed with complimenting the lieutenant governor, who, said he, "from his attachment to his majesty's service, and great knowledge of the country, has laid this matter before you in a way that leaves me nothing to require, but that you would proceed with the utmost dispatch on the matters recommended in his message."
The house, however, resolved on the fifth, that the season
was too far advanced to raise men in time for the expedition against Crown Point; but as it understood that Connecticut was actually raising for General Johnson's army two thousand men, who from the forwardness of the levies - could reasonably be expected to reach that general in time for action, it would contribute eight thousand pounds toward their equipment.(1) In order that this resolve might not seem to be dictated by a refractory spirit, the house on the eleventh gent up to the new governor an address couched in the most courteous language, in which, after congratulating him upon his safe arrival, it assured him that the great regard his most sacred majesty had shown his loyal colony by appointing a gentleman of his excellency's upright character to preside over it, was a happy presage of its future prosperity; " and your excellency may be confident of meeting with all the assistance for attaining that most desired end, that it is in the power of a dutiful people to give." He was also informed in this same message, of the custom, usual upon the arrival of a new governor, of dissolving the assembly and issuing writs for a new election ; and that if he thought that such a measure, in the present state of affairs, would be consistent with his majesty's service, it would be agreeable to them, and to the people whom they had the honor to represent. The governor, in his answer on the ninth, thanked them for these expressions of good feeling, assuring him as they did, that a governor who made the welfare of the colony the rule of his conduct, would always meet with their confidence and assistance. "Whatever may appear," he added, "advisable at this juncture, for the peace and good of the province, I cannot but take notice of the honor that must redound to you, gentlemen, who from a consciousness of the rectitude of your conduct, thus refer yourselves to the voice of the people." He did not, however, think it advisable to dissolve the assembly; and after passing, on
(1) Journals of the assembly.
the eleventh, the bill of eight thousand pounds for Connecticut, he prorogued the assembly.
The day after the prorogation, a letter from Colonel Blanchard was received by Sir Charles, informing him in general terms of the action of the eighth of September;(1) but it was not until the fourteenth, that his excellency communicated to his council a letter of the tenth instant from Peter Wraxall,(2) aid-de-camp to General Johnson, containing a full account of the defeat of the French army and the capture of its general. At the same time he laid before the board letters from Governor Wentworth and Lieutenant Governor Phipps. The former wrote that New Hampshire had passed an act for raising three hundred men for the Crown Point expedition; and the latter informed him that Massachusetts had already in the field two thousand men in addition to their former quota of eight hundred, raised for the same object. These letters were accompanied by a suggestion from the executive that as these additional reinforcements might occasion a scarcity of provisions among the troops, if would be well to send at once to Albany an ample supply of stores. Acting upon this hint, the council directed Mr. Oliver De Lancey to forward the requisite supplies, and to purchase and send to Albany three hundred muskets, in addition to those belonging to the province which were already in his hands. After some farther suggestions respecting the health of the city in his absence, the governor, having appointed Thursday, the second of October, as a day of public thanksgiving for the defeat of the enemy, sailed for Albany the afternoon of the same day.(3)
The governor's object in going to Albany at this time was that being nearer the seat of operations, he might be better able to hasten the supplies delayed by the remissness
(1) Manuscript letter: Goldsbrow Banyar to Johnson, Sept. 13, 1755.
(2) Afterward private secretary to Johnson. He died July 11th, 1759.
(3) Manuscript letter; Banyar to Johnson. Sir Charles was accompanied on this voyage by De Lancey, Horsmanden, Rutherford and Pownal, the first three being members of his council.
of the Albany authorities, and personally superintend the forwarding of the Connecticut troops. His visit, however, accomplished little ; and having concerted measures with the Massachusetts and Connecticut commissioners respecting the garrisoning of Forts Edward and William Henry, and giving a few general orders to the militia officers to hold themselves ready to march at a moment's warning, he returned to the city on the twenty-sixth of November.
The governor met his assembly on the second of December, and in his message the day following, announced the victory of General Johnson over Baron Dieskau. Although the expedition had not been attended with those important results which he had hoped for, yet it had been productive of much benefit. The two forts which had been constructed at the great carrying place and the head of Lake George, would not only facilitate any future attempt upon the French in that direction, but, if properly garrisoned, add greatly to the security of the frontier. In the same message, Sir Charles made public, for the first time, the disagreeable instructions with which he had been charged by the ministry; and therefore now demanded, in the name of the king, the passage of a law for settling a permanent revenue on a solid foundation-said law to be indefinite and without limitation of time-for salaries of governors, judges, and all the necessary charges of the government. As moreover, the two forts, erected by the provincial army, were to be garrisoned with troops raised by each province, he recommended an immediate provision for their quota of the expenses incident to this service.
In their answer, on the ninth, the assembly applauded the governor in the warmest terms for his zeal in promoting the expedition against Crown Point. While they confessed that the success of that expedition had not equaled their expectations, yet the advantage gained by General Johnson was deserving of special notice,-as to it might be ascribed the comparative safety of the frontier. The measures, also, which had been taken in erecting and properly garrisoning the forts, were, in their estimation, well judged; and the executive might rest assured, that they would not fail to defray their portion of the expense. To that part of the message demanding an unlimited support, their answer was in singular contrast to the manner in which Mr. Clinton's similar request had been met. "We wish," they courteously replied, "we could with equal satisfaction, reconcile to ourselves your excellency's recommendation of an indefinite support; but humbly beg leave to inform your excellency that we have no permanent funds on which to establish such a revenue; nor do any occur to us, without very apparent inconveniences to our constituents. We therefore most humbly trust that we shall stand acquitted in the eyes of our most gracious sovereign, if we decline a measure so directly opposite to the sentiments of almost every individual of the colony."
The quiet indifference with which the demand for an indefinite support was thus met, is ascribed by Mr. Livingston to the influence of the lieutenant governor, who, having a large sum due him for past services, for the passage of which the governor's consent would be necessary, thought it best to treat Sir Charles in a different manner and with more leniency than his predecessor. While, however, considerable allowance should be made for the rancor of that writer toward his political opponents,, -yet it is certain that there was a marked change in the course pursued by Mr. DeLancey;-a course, moreover, in which he was aided by the conduct of Sir Charles himself, who, preferring the ease and emoluments of office to the bitterness of party strife, soothed the assembly " with hints of his disapprobation of the orders he had delivered from his master, and with intimations of his unwillingness to take umbrage at their noncompliance."(1)
The history of this year would be incomplete without some reference to the Indian ravages on the northeastern
frontier. The provincial army under General Johnson, while it checked incursions along the chain of posts in the northwestern portion of Massachusetts, did not stop the forays of the enemy on the Connecticut river, and along the New Hampshire border. From the St. Lawrence to the Connecticut river, an easy communication by Lake Memphremagog was open to the St. Francis Indians, of which they were not slow to avail themselves. In Keene, the fort was attacked, and though the enemy were repulsed, yet in their retreat they burned several houses, slaughtered many cattle, and killed two men. Near Fort Dummer, a fortified house was entered in the evening, through strategy, by a party of Indians, and all of its inmates captured and conveyed to Crown Point. Many of the St. Francis Indians were in the army of Dieskau, and their defeat stimulated them the more to deeds of increased ferocity.(2) Their incursions at length grew so frequent, that the government of New Hampshire was appealed to for a body of troops to protect the frontier. This appeal being received with indifference, application was next made to Massachusetts with more success; and a body of troops was sent to the aid of the settlers, and the posts on the Connecticut supplied with small garrisons.(3) Notwithstanding this, however, armed bands of Indians continued to' infest the woods, lying close by day, only to wield the hatchet with more fatal effect by night. Numerous were the midnight alarms, the individual murders, the burning dwellings. Farmers gathered their harvests in terror, or more frequently left them to rot untouched upon the field; so that in several instances the inhabitants were threatened with starvation. (4)
While the soil of New Hampshire was watered with the blood of her settlers, Governor Shirley, who, by the death
of General Braddock, had become commander-in-chief of all his majesty's forces in America, arrived in New York the second of December. He came from Albany, where he had been engaged, since his arrival from Oswego, in forwarding stores and munitions to the garrison of that post. Always in a hustle, he never made progress; and although, his plans were feasible and often brilliant on paper, yet in their practical workings they were sadly deficient. His magnificent scheme for the capture of Niagara; having failed, the winter could not pass without his "revolving in his busy mind" another expedition against the enemy. Accordingly, on his arrival in New York, he immediately summoned a grand congress of provincial governors to meet on the twelfth, to discuss a plan of operations for the next year's campaign.(1)
The congress was opened by Mr. Shirley with an elaborate and strongly written statement of the importance of Oswego, both as a military harbor, and as being situated in the country of the Onondagas, the center canton of the Confederacy. Should that post be lost, the inevitable consequence would be, "the defection of the Six Nations, the loss of the whole country, for nearly three hundred miles from Oswego to Schenectady, and perhaps the reduction of Albany itself." Nor should he be surprised to hear any day of its capture, so long as the French held Fort Frontenac,-the possession of which, enabling them to build and maintain "vessels of force" upon the lake. Indeed, he already had reliable intelligence that the enemy were now constructing three large vessels in the harbor of Frontenac, "Hence," concluded, Mr. Shirley, "could the French be dislodged from that post and the little fort at Toronto; and their entrance into Lake Ontario obstructed, all their other forts and settlements on the Ohio and the
(1) This council was composed of Governor Shirley, Sir Charles Hardy, Mr. Fitch of Connecticut, Mr. Sharp of Maryland, Mr. Morris of Pennsylvania, Colonel Peter Schuyler, Colonel Dunbar, Major Craven, Major Rutherford and Sir John St. Clair.
western lakes, would, be deprived of their support from Canada, and must ere long be evacuated."
Having thus prepared the members of the congress to regard his projects with favor, Mr. Shirley laid before them his plan of operations. Five thousand men were to rendezvous early in the spring at Oswego, whence the forts, at Niagara and Frontenac were to be attacked, and of course, taken ; three thousand provincials were to march at the same time, by way of Will's creek, upon Fort Duquesne ; and simultaneously with both these expeditions, - ten thousand troops were to proceed against Crown Point, and having reduced that fort, erect a regular fortification in its place, and build and launch seven war vessels upon the lake. In addition to this large force, two thousand men were to march up the Kennebec, lay waste with fire and sword the French settlements on the Chaudiere, and penetrate to within three miles of Quebec. Thus menaced at all points, disturbed and distracted, Canada must succumb, and the governor's long cherished project of expelling the French from Canada, would be accomplished! Preparatory, however, to the successful prosecution of the spring campaign, he proposed to take advantage of the freezing of the lake and attack Ticonderoga, which, from the weakness of its garrison, he was sanguine could be captured. This plan appeared so feasible, and was withal so confidently stated, that in its chief features it met with the almost unanimous approval of the congress. Sharpe, the lieutenant-governor of Maryland, alone augured ill for the success of the scheme. "We shall have good reason to sing Te Deum, at the conclusion of this campaign," he wrote, "if matters are not then in a worse situation than they are at present." He, however, yielded to the opinion of the majority; and Major Rutherford and Captain Staats Morris were dispatched to England, to lay the plan before the ministry. The business which had brought the governors together being finished, they returned to their several provinces, leaving Shirley in New York, busily engaged in endeavoring to win the assembly's countenance to his winter expedition.
Success, in the estimation of the public, is always the criterion of an able chieftain ; and however fair and plausible the plan appeared upon paper, yet its author had invariably been so unsuccessful in all his military undertakings, that the assembly looked coldly upon the design against Ticonderoga, and refused to appropriate anything for that object. Finding his measures feebly supported, Governor Shirley in disgust returned soon after the holidays to his own province, to induce it to assist him in his winter expedition, and receive from the people of Boston a balm for his wounded feelings in the form of an ovation, gotten up as an offset to the one lately given to Sir William Johnson; in New York.
Sir William Johnson spent most of January in New York, during which month, a tart correspondence was held between himself and Governor Shirley respecting his commission as agent of Indian affairs. It has been seen that the Baronet, holding his commission from General Braddock, had long chafed under the interference of Shirley; and the reception by him at this time of a new commission and instructions from the latter, determined him to bring the matter to a definite understanding at once. If he held any commission in future it was his wish to hold it directly from the crown, and until this point was settled, he preferred to act, if he acted at all, under the one which he then held from General Braddock. "With relation to the new commission," he writes, "which your excellency has thought proper to send me, I must beg leave to observe to your excellency that I apprehend the late General Braddock's commission to me for the sole management of the affairs of the Indians of the Six Nations and their allies, was granted in consequence of the royal instructions, and with the concurrence of the council of Alexandria, of which your excellency was a member, and that it remains still in force. Under this opinion, I do not conceive the necessity of your issuring another commission to me, or that I can consistently accept of it."(1)
To this rejection of the commission, Shirley objected, on the ground that if Braddock had given him such a commission it must have been by sinking the commission from the king, which his majesty had sent to be delivered to him. He however said that he should not insist on his acting under a commission from him, and thus gave up the point, much to the satisfaction of the Baronet, who replied, that he was happy his excellency had thought it advisable that he should not act under his commission, as otherwise he could not possibly have executed the trust reposed in him, nor do that service which the public cause required. "Your excellency," added the Baronet, "as commander in chief has an undoubted right to direct the measures of this his majesty's service, and to send me your instructions accordingly, which I shall think it my duty to obey, but how far at each particular juncture, and upon each particular occasion, and in what peculiar manner, I may be able to manage, and persuade the six Confederate nations (who tho' allies to the British crown are very jealous of being thought dependent upon us) to engage in this or that measure, must, I conceive, while I have the management of their affairs, be left to my conduct and discretion, without which, unless your excellency conceives them as vassals, you must know that no one can manage their affairs properly; and here I must beg leave to represent to your excellency, that there are now agents acting among the Confederate Indians, without any knowledge or advice, and what they are about and what may be the consequence of their measures, I cannot answer for I must therefore beg that your excellency give orders that they be withdrawn, and that none hereafter be sent there, but by my direction or recommendation."(2)
(1) Sir William Johnson to Governor Shirley, Jan. 3d, 1756.
(2) Sir Wm. Johnson to Governor Shirley 5th, January 1756.
In order, however, that this matter might be settled for the future on a permanent basis, the Baronet laid the whole case before the lords of trade; the result of which was that in July he received through Mr. Secretary Fox, a commission as " COLONEL, AGENT, AND SOLE SUPERINTENDENT OF ALL THE AFFAIRS OF THE SIX NATIONS AND OTHER NORTHERN INDIANS," accompanied with a salary of six hundred pounds per annum. At the same time instructions came from the ministry forbidding each northern province to transact any business with the Indians. The Baronet was thus placed on the independent footing which he had so long desired; and the entire management of Indian relations was given into hi hands, " with no subordination but to London."
Thanks to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on the internet.
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.