George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Morgan, 9 May 1779

From George Morgan

Princeton [N.J.] May 9th 1779


The Delaware chiefs appointed by their nation to transact business with the united states are now at my house—They are desirous to make known to your Excellency their situation—and the situation of Indian affairs in general to the Westward, before they do it to Congress—This they wish to do in person, if you please to appoint a time for them to wait on you either at your own quarters, or in the neighbourhood of camp. There are three chiefs—they have eleven attendants—a part or the whole will wait upon you as your Excellency may direct—I can manage matters so as they shall arrive at any appointed hour—And as what they have to say, will be committed to writing it will take up the less of your time. As they have thrown aside the use of wampum they will wish to be indulged with your Excellency’s written answer. As the disposition of this nation has been and is of infinite consequence to the frontiers of Virginia and Pennsylvania I have thought I could not render my country a more important service than to attend with these chiefs on your Excellency. They have brought three of their sons to place at school under my care, as a testimony of their disposition towards us, and they would very willingly increase the number. I shall wait your Excellencys answer &c.

Geo. Morgan.

P.S. I have thought it proper to inclose to your Excellency the original address of the Delaware Indians.1

Copy, in Richard Kidder Meade’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169.

1The chiefs had arrived in Philadelphia on 4 May for preliminary meetings with Congress, and then gone to New Jersey to meet with GW before returning to Philadelphia (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 14:544–45). GW replied to Morgan on 11 May and met with the Delaware Indian chiefs on the afternoon of the following day. In their address to GW and Congress, dated 10 May, the chiefs complained that the United States had not held up its end of the bargain on treaties signed in 1775, 1776, and 1777. They expressed a particular grievance with the September 1778 Treaty of Fort Pitt, which they claimed Brig. Gen. Lachlan McIntosh had persuaded them to sign under false pretenses, leading them into open enmity with Great Britain (see Address from the Delaware Nation, 10 May, n.4). The chiefs now came, they said, to seek the supplies due to them under the terms of earlier treaties and to abrogate their agreement with McIntosh, while at the same time reaffirming their commitment to maintain a policy of strict neutrality in the contest between the United States and Great Britain. GW, preferring to leave Indian diplomacy to Congress, replied to the Delawares’ address in vaguely conciliatory terms, but he entertained the chiefs at headquarters for the following two days while pumping them for information about frontier geography.

On 13 May, GW penned a summary of the information that he had received from the Indians: “From Wenango to Cochnawaga (a Seneca Town lying in the great Fork) by land, & the most direct road, is about 70 Miles through a level Country, not incommoded by Swamps nor large waters, except one Creek which is fordable—the road is on the No. side. the distance from Wenango to Cochnawaga by water is much further than by Land. (suppose 100 Miles)—the navigation good.

“From Cochnawaga to the round hole on the main alligany, is, by land, 60 Miles; the Country in general favourable, & a good Road may be had—no swamps or large waters to cross. the distance by Water nearly the same, & the navigation good. The Waters above Wenango to the round hole are less rapid than they are below it, to Fort Pitt. In the Summer & Fall these Waters are low.

“From the round hole to the first Seneca Towns on the River Chenessie, is abt 30 or 35 Miles through a level Country & not Swampy; about 15 Miles from hence to the next town on the same river. The Alligany is left to the right in crossing from the round hole to the Seneca Towns on the Chenessie River.

“From these (last mentioned) Towns to the Cayuga lakes is about 60 or 70 Miles through a level Country.

“From the Cayuga lakes to the Onondago Castle is abt 30 or 35 Miles.

“The passage from Alligany into lake Erie is shorter & better by the Canawaga branch than by French Creek. it is said, there is no portage at all by the first rout, & only one place where Vessels require to be unloaded & dragged over shoal water & stones; & even here Canoes can pass without unloading.

“From the Mouth of Canawaga to the stony place & shallows above mentioned, is about 18 or 20 Miles. this obstacle does not continue above 1/2 a mile. from hence to lake Erie is ab⟨t⟩ 18 or 20 Miles more, & good Water, bec⟨oming⟩ deeper & stiller as it approaches the lake” (DLC:GW).

On 14 May the chiefs paraded before the army with GW and then returned to Col. Morgan’s estate at Princeton, where three of their sons enrolled in school and college. They returned to Philadelphia on 24 or 25 May and conferred until 2 June with the Committee for Indian Affairs. Congress’s response was noncommittal aside from a promise that supplies would be sent to the Indians as soon as possible, and no formal agreement was signed before the Indians left Philadelphia; but both sides seemed content that the conferences had cleared up all major points of dispute (see Weslager, Delaware Indians description begins C. A. Weslager. The Delaware Indians: A History. New Brunswick, N.J., 1972. description ends , 310–11). For correspondence relating to the Delawares’ visit with GW and his subsequent orders for their protection against enemy raiders, see Address from the Delaware Nation, 10 May; GW to Morgan, 11 May; Address to the Delaware Nation, 12 May; GW to John Jay, 14 May; GW to Daniel Brodhead, 21 May; and GW to Morgan, 21 May. For firsthand accounts of their parade before the army, see General Orders, 14 May. For the course of the Indians’ negotiations with Congress, see Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 12:526–28, 534–36, 542–45; for Morgan’s motivations in arranging their visit, see Address from the Delaware Nation, 10 May, n.4.

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