Benjamin Franklin Papers

Memorandum: Preliminary Conference with the Indians, 26 September 1753

Memorandum: Preliminary Conference with the Indians

AD: American Philosophical Society

Peters, Norris, and Franklin were commissioned on September 22 to meet the Indians at Carlisle and they proceeded to the westward immediately. They reached the house of Conrad Weiser, the province interpreter, on the Tulpehocken on September 24 and, setting out next morning and making all speed, they covered sixty miles and rode into Carlisle on the afternoon of September 26. The Indians had just arrived, in the company of George Croghan7 and Andrew Montour.8 The conference began inauspiciously, for the commissioners had outrun the wagons carrying the province’s presents, and no formalities could begin until the goods were actually distributed. While they waited, the commissioners held informal conversations with Croghan, Scaroyady,9 and others about the treaty at Winchester and the temper of the Ohio Indians.1 To bind the Indians more closely to the British interest they ordered additional presents from an Indian trader. Incomplete notes of the conversations of September 26–30 are printed here. The treaty opened formally on October 1 (see below, pp. 84–107).

[September 26, 1753]

They drank Health to the English. We drank their Healths. They ours. They drank the King &c. We wish’d them good Night; and told them we would send for them again tomorrow.

Orders to all Tavern keepers and others not to let the Indians have any Spirituous Liquors.2

Thursday 27. Sept.

Considering the Goods not come agreed to forbear further Treaty till their Arrival, It being necessary the Presents of Condolence should be first made to wipe away Tears, &c. of which we let the Indians know.

Enquir’d of Croghan and Montour concerning the Virginia Treaty and learnt that the Indians had now forbid the Virginians building the Fort at Mohongala. They would defend the Country themselves and drive off the French, provided they might be supply’d with Powder and Lead. These should be lodg’d in a particular Place under the Care of Trent,3 Guest,4 and Montour.

The Half King5 is gone to warn off the French. If they will not go he will strike &c.

The Council at Onondago neglect them. Therefore they will stir themselves.

The Virginia Presents chiefly fine Cloths, and a few Guns.

Conrad Weiser talks privately with a few Indians, learns that the Cagnawaga Indians who came with the French were dissatisfied with the Expedition; &c.

Commissioners Agree with J. Carson6 for a Quantity Goods to be sent hither tomorrow, at Philadelphia Price with the Carriage.

12 or 14 Gentlemen dine with us at our Expence.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7George Croghan (d. 1782), Indian trader and land speculator, came from Ireland to Pennsylvania, 1741. He represented Pennsylvania at many Indian conferences, including that at Winchester, Va., 1753; assisted Washington in 1754 and Braddock in 1755; and was named deputy superintendent of Indian affairs by Sir William Johnson, 1756. DAB; Nicholas B. Wainwright, George Croghan: Wilderness Diplomat (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1959).

8Andrew Montour (d. 1772), called the Half Indian, carried Governor Dinwiddie’s invitation to the Six Nations at Onondago to a treaty with Virginia at Winchester, and interpreted there and at Carlisle, 1753. He was with Washington at Fort Necessity, 1754, and with Braddock, 1755, and was subsequently in the service of Sir William Johnson, interpreting at the treaty of Fort Stanwix, 1768. C. Hale Sipe, The Indian Chiefs of Pennsylvania (Butler, Pa., 1927), pp. 312–24. Richard Peters thought him “a dull stupid Creature.” Paul A. W. Wallace, Conrad Weiser (Phila., 1945), p. 345.

9Scaroyady (d. 1757), the Oneida chief who represented the Iroquois in their dealings with the Ohio Indians after 1747; he attended the treaty of Winchester, 1753. He was captured but released by the French in Braddock’s defeat at Great Meadows, 1755. Sipe, Indian Chiefs, pp. 213–54.

1Wallace, Conrad Weiser, pp. 344–6.

2The Indians complained of this prohibition until the commissioners assured them that if they stayed sober during the treaty they would get plenty of rum afterwards. The treaty was concluded in orderly fashion, and the Indians claimed and received their liquor. That night they were all drunk; they quarreled and fought, built a great bonfire in the town square, and chased one another with lighted firebrands, yelling hideously. At midnight a number burst into the commissioners’ rooms, demanding more rum. Next day three of their old men apologized, but justified the Indians’ conduct by saying that the Great Spirit, who made all things for a purpose, had made rum for Indians to get drunk on. Par. Text edit., pp. 304–6.

3Col. William Trent (1715–1787), Indian trader, captain of Pennsylvania troops raised for an attack on Canada, 1746–47 (see above, III, 89 n); carried Virginia’s presents to the Miami Indians at Pickawillany. He built the Virginia fort at the Forks of Ohio, 1754, which the French captured, completed, and named Duquesne. DAB.

4Christopher Gist (c. 1706–1759), explored the Ohio River lands for the Ohio Company of Virginia, 1750–51; settled at Wills Creek, Md., 1753; accompanied Washington to Fort Le Boeuf, 1753, and served with him at Fort Necessity, 1754. He was a guide for Braddock, 1755. DAB.

5Tanacharison, or Scruniyatha (d. 1754), called the Half King, a stout friend of the English, was sent by the Indians to warn the French away from the Ohio in the summer of 1753; but the French paid no attention and treated him contemptuously. On his return to the English, shedding tears of mortification, he begged them to send no more traders across the mountains as the French would surely seize them. The Half King served with Washington in 1754 but complained that the Virginian treated the Indians as he would his slaves and would take no advice from them. Sipe, Indian Chiefs, pp. 179–212.

6John Carson, of Paxtang, Indian trader. I Pa. Arch., VII, 773.

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