Benjamin Franklin Papers

William Denny to the Provincial Commissioners, 29 December 1756

William Denny to the Provincial Commissioners

Copy: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Philadelphia 29th: December 1756


Mr. Croghan, who has a Deputation from Sir William Johnson to manage Indian Affairs for this Part of the Northern District,4 has proposed, for the immediate Service of this and the other Colonies, to send one or two Messengers to the Sasquehannah Indians at Otsaningo, and to Teedyuscung at Diahogo,5 to come to meet him at Harris’s Ferry, where he will endeavour to engage some of the most skilful and discreet of them to go to the several Shawonese and Delaware Tribes of the Ohio Indians, in order to sound their Inclinations with respect to this Province, and if they shall be found well disposed, then to invite them to a Conference in the Spring, at some Place to be left to their Choice. As Money will be wanted for this Service, I recommend it to you to allow a Part out of the Remainder of the Thirty Thousand Pounds to defray the Expences which will accrue by these Messages and the intended Necessaries at Harris’s. This, which requires immediate Dispatch, is, I think, of so much Consequence as to merit a Preference to any other Matters. It is necessary that this Affair should be kept secret.6 I am Gentlemen, Your very humble Servant,

William Denny.

To the Provincial Commissioners.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Under Johnson’s own exclusive commission to manage Indian affairs in the Northern Department, he had on Nov. 24, 1756, made George Croghan his deputy in Pennsylvania with instructions to secure Indian friendship, persuade braves to march with British armies in the spring campaigns, inquire into Delaware and Shawnee grievances, and find out the intentions of the Ohio Indians. When Denny read to the Council, December 14, a letter from Croghan announcing his authority and explaining his plans, that body “was not a little surprized at the Appointment” in view of Croghan’s earlier difficulties in the province. Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 354–6 (and see above, VI, 295 n.). He was asked to appear in Council on the 29th when “the State of Indian Affairs was fully considered.” Since Denny had no funds at his disposal, the Council agreed to seek the commissioners’ aid in executing Croghan’s plans. Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 382.

5Indian towns on the upper east branch of the Susquehanna, near present-day Binghamton, N.Y., and Athens, Pa., respectively.

6The commissioners received this letter on the 29th, and that evening two of them told Denny they could not grant the request since the £30,000 “were expended.” Ibid., VII, 383. On Jan. 4, 1757, the commissioners laid the letter before the House, where, after Denny had furnished copies of Croghan’s instructions and plans, Speaker Isaac Norris was asked “to speak to George Croghan, concerning his Intentions of sending Messages to the Indians.” Norris reported on the 6th that Croghan expected the government to defray the expense of sending “Messengers to Diahogo, to hasten the Meeting of the Indians intended to be held at Easton, in Pursuance of the late Conference with Teedyuscung.” The Assembly promptly resolved to bear that expense (Votes, 1756–57, pp. 62–4), but perhaps pointedly said nothing about messengers to the Ohio Indians or a conference at Harris’s Ferry. Two days later Croghan received £100 from Israel Pemberton and other members of the Friendly Association to pay for sending “Messengers to the Ohio Indians and obtaining a Conference with them.” Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 391. Thus, at least temporarily, Croghan secured the support of the usually discordant groups interested in Indian affairs: the governor and his Council, the Assembly, and the Friendly Association. Nicholas B. Wainwright, George Croghan, Wilderness Diplomat (Chapel Hill, 1959), pp. 118–21.

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