George Washington Papers

Address from the Delaware Nation, 10 May 1779

Address from the Delaware Nation

[Princeton, N.J.] May 10th 1779.

The Delaware Nation by their Chief Men, chosen for that purpose, beg leave to represent to the United States of America in Congress assembled, & to his Excellency General Washington, as follows.

1st That at their several Treaties with the Commissioners of Congress, & with the Agent for the United States, held at Pittsburgh in the Years 1775, 1776 & 1777, the said Nation were solicited, & they agreed to renew & strengthen their Friendship with the Inhabitants of the said States under their present Revolution & Government1—This Friendship the said Nation have preserved inviolate; observing a strict Neutrality between the United States & Brittain, agreeable to the repeated recommendations of Congress by their Commissioners & Agent as aforesaid, notwithstanding the unprovoked Injuries they have repeatedly received, which they have been willing to attribute to ill designing ignorant Men & not to any evil Intentions of the United States, or any of them, or their Officers.

2d That when Congress & the Delaware Nation renew’d their Friendship as abovemention’d, the former promised, & engaged to supply the latter, in exchange for their Peltries, with Cloathing & other Goods; which from Custom have become absolutely necessary for the Subsistence of their Women & Children—This Engagement has been renew’d on the part of Congress, at four different public Treaties successively, without ever having been complied with in any degree; whereby the said Delaware Nation have become poor & Naked & are now reduced to such Extremity as to induce them to send the Undernamed Chiefs & Counsellors of their Nation, to represent in person their Situation to Congress, & to his Excellency General Washington, that they may receive a certainty whether or not their Necessities can be relieved & their several requests complied with, or whether they must look to the English alone for the Supplies of all their Wants.

3d That the Delaware Nation have ever been, during the present War between Brittain & the United States, & still are of Opinion, that it is their Interest & the Interest of the United States, that the said Nation should observe the strictest Neutrality; which Neutrality they are determined to maintain, so long as in their power, agreeable to the wise recommendation of Congress; And they hope & expect that Congress & his Excellency Genl Washington will give such Orders as will prevent any further Infringement of the Friendship & Alliance subsisting between the said Delaware Nation & the United States of America, agreeable to the Treaties at Fort Pitt beforementiond.

4th That the said Delaware Nation have on the Invitation of Congress by their Commissioners & Agent, sent down three Children of their principal Chiefs, to be placed at School by Congress—these Children if they live & improve the Advantages offerd to them will naturally have great Interest & Influence in the Councils of the said Nation, who therefore wish them to be educated accordingly—And for this favour we beg leave to be obligated to the Wisdom & Generosity of Congress alone2—And should it be agreeable to Congress, we are ready to increase the Number, in order that Our Nation may the sooner & more effectually be brought to embrace civilized Life, & become one People with our Bretheren of the United States. The Delaware Nation think they cannot give more ample Testimony than this, of their firm Resolution to continue an inviolate Friendship with the United States of America to the End of Time; And for ⟨this⟩ desirable purpose the said Delaware Nation have repeatedly applied to Congress, through their Commissioners & Agent, f⟨or⟩ School Masters & Mistresses to be sent among them; & for Usefull tradesmen & Husbandmen to instruct the Youth of their Nation in usefull Arts: these though expensive at present, may in time be fully repaid to the united States in many respects.

5th That the said Delaware Nation have establish’d a town where Numbers of them have embraced Christianity under the Instruction of the Reverend & Worthy Mr David Ziesberger whose honest zealous Labours & good Examples have induced many of them to listen to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which has been a Means of introducing considerable Order, Regularity & Love of Peace into the Minds of the whole Nation—They therefore hope Congress will countenance & promote the Mission of this Gentleman, so far as they may deem expedient, & they may rely that the Delaware Nation will afford every Encouragement thereto in their Power.3

6th That in the Year 1778 General McIntosh & the Commissioners of Congress put a War Belt & Tomhawk into the Hands of the said Delaware Nation & induced some of their Chiefs to sign certain Writings, which to them were perfectly unintelligible; & which, they have since found were falsely interpreted to them & contained Declarations & Engagements they never intended to make or enter into—The said Delaware Nation have therefore return’d the said Tomhawk & Belt into the Hands of the Agent for the United States & have desired him to bury them, as they have created great Confusion among Us & drove off two hundred of our People into the Neighbourhood of the English—but, as the Agent of Congress has now buried this Tomhawk & Belt, so as never to rise again, the Delaware Nation promise to bring back their People to their own Towns on Muskingham. This Tomhawk & Belt were well nigh driving our whole Nation off; but by a timely Message from Congress, we are determined to sit still untill we know their Minds further on this Business.4

7th That as a free & independant People (which the Delaware Nation have ever declared themselves to be) they claim as their sole Property, all the Lands they have long inhabited & hunted on, contain’d within the following Boundaries—Vizt From the Mouth of the Allegany River at Fort Pitt to Venango & from thence up French Creek & by La Beuf along the old Road to Presqu’ Isle on the East—The Ohio River, including all the Islands in it from Fort Pitt to the Wabache, on the South. Thence up the River Wabache to that Branch call’d O,pé, co, mee, cah5 & up the same to the Head thereof, & from thence to the Head Waters & Springs of the great Miami or Rocky River, thence across to the Head Waters & Springs of the most Northwestern Branches of Scioto River, thence to the Head Westernmost Springs of Sandusky River, thence down the said River including the Islands in it & in the little Lake6 to Lake Erie, on the West, & Northwest—And Lake Erie on the North—These Boundaries contain the Cessions of Lands made to the Delaware Nation by the Wiandots & other Nations, And the Country we have seated our Grand Children the Shawnese upon in our Laps—And we promise to give to the United States of America, such a part of the above described Country as will be convenient to them & Us, that they may have room for their Childrens Children to sit down upon.

We pray that God may put Wisdom & Virtue into the Minds & Hearts of the Representatives of the United States of America & the Commander in chief of their Forces & instruct them to give such an Answer to the Delaware Nation as may cement & make an everlasting Union between their respective Nations, so that they may be considerd as one People.7

DS, DNA:PCC, item 166; copy, DLC:GW; copy, WHi: Draper Collection. This address was delivered to GW on 12 May (see George Morgan to GW, 9 May, n.1).

1For details of the conferences and treaties signed between representatives of the United States and the Delawares and other Indian tribes at Fort Pitt, September–October 1775 and October–December 1776, and for correspondence relating to negotiations between the Delawares and the United States in 1777, see Early American Indian Documents: Treaties and Laws, 1607–1789, 18:98–114, 125–55; 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 , 4:266–70, 9:942–44, 10:105–6; and Schutt, Peoples of the River Valleys description begins Amy C. Schutt. Peoples of the River Valleys: The Odyssey of the Delaware Indians. Philadelphia, 2007. description ends , 162. All of these treaties and conventions were aimed at maintaining the Delawares’ neutrality in the conflict between the United States and Great Britain.

2The three young Delawares, Thomas Killbuck, John Killbuck and George White Eyes, aged eighteen, sixteen, and eight, respectively, performed somewhat inauspiciously at school and college in Princeton, N.J.; see Weslager, Delaware Indians description begins C. A. Weslager. The Delaware Indians: A History. New Brunswick, N.J., 1972. description ends , 310–11.

3David Zeisberger (1721–1808), was born in Moravia and emigrated to America when he was a teenager. Settling in Pennsylvania, he soon established himself as a Moravian missionary to the Indians and participated frequently in conferences between the British and the tribes inhabiting Pennsylvania’s western frontier. By 1763 he was living among the Delawares in the Wyoming Valley, and he remained with them as colonial settlements forced them to migrate further west into the Ohio Valley. In 1772, Zeisberger helped the Delawares to establish a village by the Tuscarawas River at Schönbrunn, near what is now New Philadelphia, Ohio. This village, with a population of about four hundred in some sixty buildings, became a center for Moravian proselytization of the Indians and remained so until war-related turmoil on the frontier caused its temporary abandonment and reduced the community to a mere shell sometime between 1778 and 1781. Zeisberger remained in the area until the autumn of 1781, when the British captured him and carried him off to Detroit. Although they eventually decided he was a neutral and granted him freedom, Zeisberger remained in the area, eventually settling near Goshen, Ohio, in 1798.

4Col. George Morgan, as Indian agent for the Middle Department, had long pursued a policy of maintaining Indian neutrality, believing that it was the most effective means of promoting peace on the frontier (see McIntosh to GW, 12 March, n.3). Brig. Gen. Lachlan McIntosh reversed that policy after his arrival at Fort Pitt in August 1778. Intending to march through Delaware territory toward the British fort at Detroit and needing a firm ally against the other Indian tribes that had taken up arms on the side of Great Britain, McIntosh met with representatives of the Delaware Nation at Fort Pitt on 12 Sept. 1778 and persuaded them to enter into a formal alliance with the United States. By the terms of the treaty, signed at Fort Pitt on 17 Sept., the Delawares agreed to provide safe passage for McIntosh’s troops across their territory, and also to provide guides and supplies for the Americans on their march to Detroit. In return, McIntosh agreed to construct a fort in Delaware territory to help protect that tribe against retribution from the Wyandots and other pro-British tribes (for the minutes of the conference and text of the treaty, see Early American Indian Documents description begins Alden T. Vaughan, ed. Early American Indian Documents: Treaties and Laws, 1607-1789. 20 vols. Washington, D.C., Frederick and Bethesda, Md., 1979-2003. description ends , 18:161–69).

McIntosh subsequently abandoned the proposed march on Detroit, and instead built a chain of forts intended to defend the frontier (as well as the Delawares, according to the terms of the treaty), and to serve as bases for potential future advances into enemy-held territory. Disappointed in the feeble American efforts and feeling exposed to enemy retaliation, the Delawares (encouraged by Morgan, who resented McIntosh’s reversal of his neutrality policy), expressed second thoughts about the Treaty of Fort Pitt and claimed that they had been misled. McIntosh, they said, had plied the Indian negotiators with liquor to cloud their judgment, and had deceptively translated the treaty’s terms. For Morgan, their desire to renounce the treaty offered an opportunity to humiliate McIntosh and reestablish himself as the primary representative to the Indians on the Pennsylvania frontier; and he was more than happy, as described in this address, to accept the return of their war tomahawk and formally bury it (see Jackson, Lachlan McIntosh description begins Harvey H. Jackson. Lachlan McIntosh and the Politics of Revolutionary Georgia. Athens, Ga., 1979. description ends , 79–81, 91; and Weslager, Delaware Indians description begins C. A. Weslager. The Delaware Indians: A History. New Brunswick, N.J., 1972. description ends , 304–7). McIntosh wrote to GW on 14 May seeking a formal inquiry into his conduct at Fort Pitt and dispute with Morgan, but GW persuaded him to drop the matter (see also GW to John Jay, 16 May).

5This is another name for the White River, which splits into the east and west branches northeast of what is now Petersburg, Indiana, and enters the Wabash River at what is now Mt. Carmel, Illinois.

6This apparently is a reference to Sandusky Bay, where the Sandusky River enters the southwest corner of Lake Erie.

7The letter was signed at Morgan’s house in Princeton, N.J., by Morgan, Lewis Morris, Sr., John Dodge, and Daniel Sullivan. Signing by mark were chiefs “Cayleylamont or John Kilbuck” and “Weylapacheecon or Eysalaus calld Captain Johnny” counselors “Peykeeling” and “Teytapacheecon” and witnesses “Cool, pée, cox or John Thompson,” “Weyleycapland,” “Quesacothey,” “Mey, ma, o,a ,non ,” “Neymey, sau, land or John Lewis,” and “Scapeheley.”

Killbuck, generally accepted by the Americans as the head of the Delaware delegation, headed the Turtle clan of the Delaware tribe; “Weylapacheecon” headed the Turkey clan; and “Peykeeling” represented the Wolf clan. “Teytapacheecon,” or Tetapachksit, a representative of the Turtle clan, later came to be known as the “Grand Glaize King” and became the nominal head of the Delaware Nation.

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