George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Clinton, 7 April 1794

From George Clinton

New York 7th April 1794

Dear Sir

I had the honor of receiving your Letter of the 31st Ultimo a few Days ago—Could I have had reason to suppose that the Authenticity of Lord Dorchester’s Speech to the Indians would have been doubted by any I presume I might have procured at the Time the most unquestionable Testimony respecting it.1

A Deputation from the St Regis Indians arrived at Albany some Time in the Month of February—Their Object was to sollicit the State to appoint Commissioners to negotiate with their Tribes about certain Lands they claim within Our Limits2—They informed me that the Chiefs of the seven Villages of lower Canada were deputed by the Western Nations (mentioned in his Lordships Speech) to confer with him on the very Subject referred to in it, and that some short Time before they left Home those Chiefs had set out for Quebec with this Object in View. They also told me a few Hours before my getting the Copy of the Speech that they had received a Letter from their Chiefs stating that they had conferred with Lord Dorchester and obtained a satisfactory Answer; which was afterwards explained to me by them as only meaning an explicit, not a satisfactory Answer; but my Informants pretended Ignorance of it’s Contents—Colo. Louis mentioned to me in Confidence his Apprehensions of a War between the British & Americans and seemed desierous of sending to St Regis for his Wife and Children instead of returning there; which he would have done had I not advised him to the contrary and gave him Assurances that should a War take Place I would take Measures for removing his Familly to Oneida3—From these Circumstances—From the Confidence I reposed in the Discernment & Integrity of Colonel Udney Hay who transmitted me the Speech and from its coincidence with Sentiments of Lord Dorchester and Governor Simcoe respecting their being no acknowledged Boundary Line as avowed to Colo. Samuel Ogden in a Report made by him to me a Duplicate whereof I believe was delivered to the Secretary at War4—There was no Room for Doubt left on my Mind, and a Letter from Colo. Joseph Fay which I now inclose will serve to coroberate the Fact.5

I shall not fail to pay the earliest Attention to the interesting Inquieries which you wish me to make and I shall endeavour to conduct them in such a Manner as to prevent any Alarm and ensure a Reliance upon the Result—In the Mean Time it may not be amiss to communicate the following Circumstances.

Quebec Isle à Noux & St Johns are the only fortified Places in Lower Canada. Chamble & Montreal are not in a state of defence6—All the armed Vessels employed on Lake Champlain last War are condemned. A new one has been lately built & now traverses that Lake—I have not been able to learn the Number of regular Troops in that Province—The Militia is by no Means formidable but their Numbers I cannot with any accuracy ascertain.

The antient Inhabitants are disatisfied with the Government—and in Case of a Rupture I have good Reason to believe would be disposed to act in our Favour—A proclamation of Lord Dorchester which I understand has been forwarded to the late Secy of State evinces in some degree his Apprehensions on this Subject.7

The Vermont Militia in the Neighbourhood of the British Lines is formidable—The Settlements of Clinton County on our Side are recent and dispersed, and do not exceed 500 enrolled Militia—The greater Part of these however are contiguous to the British Lines and are well dispossed.

As to Upper Canada—The Fortresses are much decayed and thinly garrisoned, altho they have lately made some Repairs to the Fort at Niagara—The Fort at Oswego is utterly defenceless and only garrisoned by a single incompleat Company and I presume at this Moment might be taken without the effusion of a single drop of blood—Governor Simcoe is erecting a Fortress at Torronto (now called the City of York) on the West End of Lake Ontario—I understand that he has established in his Government a Regiment of about 1000 Men on a Plan similar to the Feudal System and consisting chiefly of the Officers & Soldiers of the irregular Corps that served under the British last War—They occupy the Settlement of Catteraqui & consist of about 5000 Souls.8 The Regular Troops in that Province consist of three Regiments, one stationed at the City of York another at Niagara & the third at D. Troit but neither of them are compleat that at York is greatly reduced by a Fever that prevailed among them last Summer.

Our nearest Settlements to the Line of thei⟨r⟩ Provinces are in the Vicinity of the Oswego Falls9 Fort Stanwix and the Genesse River The enrolled Militia of the Counties of Herkimer Onondago and Ontario in which these Places are situated consist of between 4 & 5000 Men as nearly as I can compute but they are very deficient in Point of Arms, and live considerably dispersed. I am with the highest Respect & Esteem, your Most Obedient Servant

Geo. Clinton


1For the speech given at Quebec by Lord Dorchester to the Seven Nations of Lower Canada on 10 Feb., see n.2 of Clinton to GW, 20 March.

2According to the 8 March 1794 issue of Greenleaf’s New York Journal & Patriotic Register (New York City), Caughnawaga Indian Col. Lewis Cook of St. Regis, Canada, and “three other warriors” arrived at New York in February “as a deputation from the chiefs of the seven villages or nations of Lower Canada.” Clinton submitted their speech to the New York State legislature on 22 Feb., and on 5 March, the legislature reported that “they have enquired into the several circumstances relative to the claim of the said Indians, to certain lands within the jurisdiction of this state, and are of opinion that it will be necessary to appoint commissioners to treat with the said Indians, and to authorize, by law, to extinguish the said claim; or take such measures . . . as shall be most beneficial to this and to the United States” (American Minerva [New York], 19 March 1794). On Clinton’s meeting with Cook and the other Indians from St. Regis, see also Clinton to GW, 20 March. For extinguishment of the claim by the Seven Nations to lands in New York State, see the U.S. Treaty with the Seven Nations of Canada of 31 May 1796, Kappler, Indian Treaties description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends , 2:45–46.

3After the Revolutionary War, Cook lived with the Oneida Indians for a time and then briefly with the Onondagas at their village near Syracuse, N.Y., where he married his second wife, Marguerite (Monique) Thewanihattha (Tewennihata), before returning to St. Regis around 1789.

4Clinton enclosed Udny Hay’s letter to him of 13 March, which accompanied Lord Dorchester’s speech (DLC:GW). John Graves Simcoe was the lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada. During the Revolutionary War, Samuel Odgen (1746–1810) owned an iron foundry on the Rockaway River, near Morristown, N.J., from which he supplied ammunition and iron to the Continental army. He also served in the New Jersey militia, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1777. In 1791, he served as Robert Morris’s agent in the purchase of land in western New York. In 1792–93, he speculated in land located in present-day St. Lawrence County, New York. Ogden’s report, which has not been identified, may have been submitted after his return from Quebec in October 1793 (Diary or Loudon’s Register [New York], 14 Oct. 1793).

5The letter from Vermont resident Joseph Fay to Clinton of 5 April is at DLC:GW.

6Fort Lennox was located on Île aux Noix, an island in the St. Lawrence River. The French fort of St. Jean, known to the English as St. Johns, was situated on the west bank of the Richelieu river, southeast of Montreal. The site is now contained within the city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The city of Chambly, on the Richelieu River, is east of Montreal. An earlier fort on this site was destroyed by the Americans in 1776.

7This proclamation has not been identified.

8Many Loyalists moved to Canada during and after the Revolutionary War, including those from New York who served in a corps of rangers named for its commander, John Butler. After the war, Butler and many of his rangers settled at present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is in Ontario Province and opposite Fort Niagara. Other Loyalists served in the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, which was under the command of Sir John Johnson. Kingston, also known as Cataraqui in 1794, is located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, at the head of the St. Lawrence River. It was settled primarily by Loyalist refugees from the United States, including Mohawk Indians from New York State.

9The Oswego Falls, in the Oswego River, were at the site of the present city of Fulton in central Oswego County.

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