Benjamin Franklin Papers

Draft of a Speech for William Denny, [12 November 1756]

Draft of a Speech for William Denny

AD: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

At the Council meeting following receipt of the Assembly message urging him to meet the Indians in spite of Lord Loudoun’s orders not to,9 Denny was distressed to learn that the Indians insisted the conference be held in Easton. He agreed unwillingly to go, declaring it “rediculous” to leave the comforts of Philadelphia “to humour the Indians,” and asked the Assembly to appoint some members to go with him. On November 4, Speaker Isaac Norris, Joseph Fox, John Hughes, Franklin, and William Masters, all provincial commissioners,1 were duly appointed, and they all, except Norris, left the 5th. Stopping overnight at Samuel Dean’s inn on Tohicon Creek, Bucks Co., they reached Bethlehem the next day where they heard alarming reports of Indians in the woods. They arrived in Easton the afternoon of the 7th.2

During the first two days of the conference, November 8 and 9, the participants exchanged the usual expressions of good will and elaborate invocations to open their “Eyes and Ears.” After a Council meeting on the 10th, Denny and the commissioners discussed their approach to the central question: did the Indians have any grievances “in Land Affairs” for which retribution might now be made? The governor agreed to add to his next speech “a Paragraph putting the Question in plain Terms.” The speech printed below from the draft in Franklin’s hand, perhaps prepared with the help of the other commissioners and probably submitted to Denny at this meeting, is, with the additions indicated, substantially the same as Denny’s speech of November 12 printed in the official record of the conference.3

[November 12, 1756]

Brother Tediuskung4

What I am now going to say to you should have been mentiond sometime ago I now desire your strict attention [?] to it.5

You was pleased to tell me the other Day that the League of Friendship made by our Forefathers was as yet fresh in your Memory. You said it was made so strong that a small Thing could not easily break it. As we are now met together at our Council Fire, kindled by us both, and have promised on both Sides to be free and open to one another, I must ask you how that League of Friendship came to be broken? Have we, the Governor or People of Pensilvania done you any kind of Injury? If you think we have, you should be honest and tell us your Hearts; you should have made Complaint before you struck us; for so it was agreed in our ancient League: However, now the Great Spirit has thus happily brought us once more together, speak your Mind plainly on this Head, and tell us if you have any just Cause of Complaint, what it is? That I may obtain a full Answer to this Point, I give this Belt.6

Give a Belt.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9See above, pp. 6–7.

1See above, p. 3 n.

2Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 308–14; Votes, 1756–57, p. 27; PMHB, XXX (1906), 418.

3Minutes of Conferences, held with the Indians, at Easton, In the Months of July and November, 1756 … Phila., Franklin and Hall, 1757, pp. 16–19; cited in this and the following documents relating to the conference as Minutes, and reproduced in facsimile in Carl Van Doren and Julian P. Boyd, eds., Indian Treaties Printed by Benjamin Franklin, 1736–1762 (Phila., 1938), 135–66. See above, V, 84–107, for the full record of the Indian treaty at Carlisle in which BF participated.

4Teedyuscung (c. 1700–1763), “One Who Makes the Earth Tremble,” Delaware Indian leader; born in New Jersey; resided near Easton and later in the Wyoming region, 1730–50; baptized “Gideon” by the Moravians, 1750, and lived for a time at Gnadenhütten; in 1754 he turned his back on white civilization and resumed traditional Indian ways. He led some of the murderous attacks against which BF contended in Northampton Co., but after mid-1756 he seems generally to have sought accord with the English as a means of maintaining Delaware independence from their Iroquois overlords and from the French. Though often the tool of Quakers anxious to convict proprietary agents of Indian land frauds, he was also often a shrewd and able negotiator for the Indians of whom he dubiously claimed to be “King.” Vain, pompous, sometimes eloquent but more often merely loquacious, and usually drunk, he was a colorful, dominant figure on the Pennsylvania frontier during the French and Indian War. He burned to death in a drunken stupor when his Wyoming house was set on fire, probably by a vengeful Iroquois. DAB; Anthony F. C. Wallace, King of the Delawares: Teedyuscung, 1700–1763 (Phila., 1949).

5This short paragraph in Richard Peters’ hand; probably added at the Council meeting on the morning of the 12th when final “Alterations” were made in Denny’s speeches. Minutes, p. 19.

6The document continues with Peters’ notes on two more speeches; Teedyuscung’s request for time to consider the inquiry, and Denny’s polite concurrence which closed the conference for the day. Minutes, pp. 20–1. Apparently BF gave this draft to Denny, who gave it to Peters, and the secretary recorded the minutes for the rest of the session on it.

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