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Instructions from Robert Dinwiddie, 30 October 1753

Instructions from Robert Dinwiddie

[Williamsburg, 30 October 1753]

Instructions for George Washington Esqr.

Whereas I have receiv’d Information of a Body of French Forces being assembled in an hostile Manner on the River Ohio, intending by force of Arms to erect certain Forts on the said River, within this Territory & contrary to the Peace & Dignity of our Sovereign the King of Great Britain.

These are therefore to require & direct You the said George Washington Esqr. forthwith to repair to the Logstown1 on the said River Ohio; & having there inform’d Yourself where the said French Forces have posted themselves, thereupon to proceed to such Place: & being there arriv’d to present Your Credentials, together with my Letter to the chief commanding Officer,2 &, in the Name of His Britanic Majesty, to demand an Answer from him thereto.

On Your Arrival at the Logstown, You are to address Yourself to the Half King,3 to Monacatoocha4 & other the Sachems of the Six Nations; acquainting them with Your Orders to visit & deliver my Letter to the French commanding Officer; & desiring the said Chiefs to appoint You a sufficient Number of their Warriors to be Your Safeguard, as near the French as You may desire, & to wait Your further Direction.

You are diligently to enquire into the Numbers & Force of the French on the Ohio, & the adjacent Country; how they are like to be assisted from Canada; & what are the Difficulties & Conveniencies of that Comunication, & the Time requir’d for it.

You are to take Care to be truly inform’d what Forts the French have erected, & where; How they are Garrison’d & appointed, & what is their Distance from each other, & from Logstown: And from the best Intelligence You can procure, You are to learn what gave Occasion to this Expedition of the French. How they are like to be supported, & what their Pretentions are.

When the French Commandant has given You the requir’d & necessary Dispatches, You are to desire of him that, agreeable to the Law of Nations, he wou’d grant You a proper Guard, to protect You as far on Your Return, as You may judge for Your Safety, against any stragling Indians or Hunters that may be ignorant of Yr Character & molest You.

Wishing You good Success in Yr Negotiations & a safe & speedy return I am Sr Yr hble Servt

Copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/1328, f. 47; copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/14, f. 76; copy, P.R.O., C.O. 5/1344, f. 199; copy, House of Lords, Record Office.

For background to this document, see the editorial note to Commission from Robert Dinwiddie, 30 Oct. 1753.

1Logstown was an Indian village on the banks of the Ohio River about 18 miles below its confluence with the Monongahela. Settled by Shawnee and Delaware, it attracted Indians of various tribes and soon became a major trading post. It was a frequent site for Indian conferences.

2Pierre Paul de La Malgue, sieur de Marin, was commandant of the French fort-building expedition until his death at Fort Le Boeuf in Oct. 1753. He was succeeded by Jacques Le Gardeur, sieur de Saint-Pierre, to whom GW delivered Dinwiddie’s letter at Fort Le Boeuf, about 20 miles south of Lake Erie.

3The Half-King (c.1700–1754), or Tanacharison, a Seneca chief, was a prominent negotiator and adviser on Indian affairs to the British. He assumed a leading role as a representative of the Ohio Indians at the Logstown Treaty in 1752. By Oct. 1753 the Half-King, firmly opposed to the French incursion into the Ohio country, had already sent a delegation to the French warning them they were trespassing on Indian lands. Although GW was occasionally suspicious of the Half-King’s loyalty, the chief remained a faithful supporter of the British when many of the other chiefs defected to the French after the surrender of Fort Necessity. A few days before his death in Oct. 1754 he remarked that he “wou’d live and die with the English” (Pa. Arch., Col. Rec. description begins Colonial Records of Pennsylvania. 16 vols. Harrisburg, 1840–53. description ends , 6:183).

4Monacatoocha, or Scarouady, a pro-English Oneida chief ranking second only to the Half-King in authority, had represented the Six Nations at Logstown.

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