George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 2 April 1792

From Henry Knox

[Philadelphia] 2 April 1792. Submits “the Indians reply to Your speech to Colonel Pickering.”1


1Although the enclosure has not been positively identified, it was probably a copy of Red Jacket’s speech of 31 March. War Department clerk John Stagg, Jr.’s copy of the account of that day’s meeting reads: “The Indians of the five nations present in this City, being assembled in their council room addressed to Colonel Pickering the following Speech. The Chief named Sau-goo-a-wathau (or Red Jacket) being the Speaker and having in his hands the large White belt delivered to them by the President at the close of his Speech on the [ ] instant now request the Attention of the President of the United States by his agent Colonel Pickering here present.”

Red Jacket’s speech reads: “A few days since when the American Chief had spoken to us, he gave us to understand that General Knox and Colonel Pickering should be the agents to negotiate with us on things which concern our welfare.

“Let me call for Your compassion, as you can put all down upon paper, while we have to labour with our minds, to retain and digest what is Spoken, to enable us to make an Answer.

“Brother, whose attention I have called as the Representative of the great chief of this Island, when, the other day, he welcomed us to the great council fire of the thirteen United States, he said it was from his very heart. He said it gave him pleasure to look round and see such numerous representation of the five Nations of Indians. And that it was at his Special request we had been invited to the Seat of the general Government to promote the happiness of our nation, in a friendly connection with the United States.

“He then told us that his love of peace did not terminate with the five Nations: but extended to all the nations of the Setting Sun; and that it was his desire that Universal peace might prevail in this Island.

“Brother Conneh-Sau-ty, (The Indian name of Col. Pickering) and I requested your compassion; on account of our different Situations, that I should notice only a few of the principle things in the president’s Speech declared to us the other day, Three things I have mentioned of the introductory part of his Speech. What other reply can we, Your brothers of the five nations Make to that introductory part of the Speech than to thank him, and Say, that it has given a Spring to every passion of our Souls?

“Brother, The President again observed to us, that he wished our minds might all be disposed to peace, that a happy peace might be established between Your brothers of the five nations, So firmly that nothing might move it: that it might be founded as upon a rock. this Sentiment of your Chief has given joy to our hearts—to compare that peace to a rock, which is immoveable.

“The President further observed to us, that by our contriving to walk in the path of peace, and hearkening to his council, We might Share with you in all the blessings of civilized life: This also meets the Approbation of our minds and has the thanks of all your brothers of the five nations.

“He again observed to us, that if we attended to his council in this matter, our children and childrens children might partake in all the blessings which should rise out of this earth. This has taken hold of our minds, and even we who are grown up look forward, and anticipate its fulfilment.

“The President again observed to us, that what he had Spoken was in the Sincerity of his heart and that time and opportunities would give further evidence, that what he said was true: And we believed it, because we saw the words come from his own lips: and therefore they were lodged deep in our minds.

“The President of the thirteen fires, while continuing his Speech made also this remark. That in order to establish all his words for the best good of Your nation & ours—we must forget all the evils that were past, and attend to what lies before us, and take such a course as Shall cement our peace, that we may be as one.

“The President again observed, That it had come to his ears, that the cause of the hostilities now prevailing with the Western Indians, was their persuasion that the United States had unjustly taken away their lands. But he assured us this was not the case. That it was not the mind of any of his Chiefs to take any land on the whole Island without agreeing for it. He then mentioned a treaty at Muskingum, and he concluded that what land was given up at that treaty was fairly obtained.

“He also observed to us that it was his opinion that the hostile Indians were in an error, that they had missed the true path, whatever evil Spirit or whatever lies had turned them aside—he wishes they could be discovered, that they might be removed. He expressed a Strong wish that those obstacles to the extending of peace to the Westward, might be discovered; and he would use all his exertions to remove them; that peace might be extended to the whole Island.

“Towards the close of the Speech the President informed us that there were many things which concerned the future happiness of the five nations the concerting of which he should refer to you (pointing to Colonel Pickering) here present, and the Chief Warrior of the United States.

“And at the close he observed, that our professions of friendship and regard were commonly witnessed by some token: therefore in the name of the United States, he presented us with this white belt, which was to be handed down from one generation to another, as a confirmation of his words, and a witness of the friendly disposition of the United States towards the peace and happiness of the five confederated nations.

“(Red Jacket here laid aside the white belt received from the President; and taking up a belt of their own (which is annexed) proceeded as follows).

“Now let the President of the United States, possess his mind in peace, that we have made but a short reply to his address to us the other day; for the belt he gave us is deposited with us; and we have taken fast hold of it. What more can we say, than but to return our United thanks for his address in welcoming us to the seat of the great Council and for the advise he gave us, and our pleasure is increased that You, Conneh-Sau-ty [Timothy Pickering], are appointed to assist us in devising the means to promote and secure the happiness of the five nations.

“Brother! Now open Your ears, as the Representative of the great Council of the Thirteen United States in our present council—hear the words we may Speak. And all here present of the great Council (some members of Congress were present—of which the Indians had been informed) and our Brethren of the five nations, hear!—We consider ourselves in the presence of the great Spirit, the Proprietor of us all.

“The President, in effect, observed to us that we of the five nations were our own proprietors; were freemen and might speak with freedom, This has gladdened our hearts, and removed a weight that was upon them. And therefore You will hear us patiently while we speak.

“The President has in effect told us that we were freemen; the sole proprietors of the soil on which we live. This is the Source of the joy; which we feel—How can two brothers speak freely together, unless they feel that they are on equal ground.

“I observed to you Brother that our considering ourselves by Your own acknowledgment as freemen has given the joy to our hearts. that we might Speak in Character. Therefore, we join with the president in his wish that all the evils which have hitherto disturbed our peace, may be buried in oblivion. And this wish proceeds from our heart. Now we can Speak our minds freely as they are free from pressure.

“Now Brother, which you continue to hear in behalf of the United States let all here present also open their ears, while those of the five nations, here present Speak with one voice. We wish to see Your words verified to our Children & Childrens children. You enjoy all the blessings of this life: to you therefore we look to make provision that the same may be enjoyed by our Children. This wish comes from our hearts. but we add, that our happiness cannot be great if in the introduction of your ways, we are put under too much constraint.

“Brother! Appointed agent to converse with us upon the affairs of our peace, continue to hear—we Your brothers of the five nations believe that the Great Spirit let this Island drop down from above—we also believe in his Superintending over this whole Island. Tis he who gives peace and prosperity, and he also sends evil. But prosperity has been Yours—American Brethren—All the good which can spring out of this Island You enjoy. We therefore wish that we and our Children and our Children’s children may partake with you in that enjoyment.

“Brother! I observed that the great Spirit might Smile upon one people and turn & frown upon another. This you have Seen who are of one colour and one blood. The King of England and you Americans Strove to advance your happiness by extending your possessions upon this Island, which produces so many good things. And while you two great powers were thus contending for those good things, by which the whole Island was shaken and violently agitated, is it Strange that the peace of us the five nations was Shaken and overturned? But let me say no more of the trembling of our Island. All is in a measure now quieted. Peace is now restored. The peace of us the five nations is now budding. But still there is some Shaking among the original Americans, at setting sun—and you the thirteen fires, and the King of England: Know what is our situation, and the causes of this disturbance now here You have an Embassador as we are informed, from the King of England. Let him, in behalf of the King, and the Americans adjust all their matters according to their agreement at the making of peace—and then you will soon see all things settled among the Indian-Nations, peace will be Spread far and near; Let the president and the Embassador use all their exertions to bring about this settlement (according to their peace) and it will make us all glad & we shall consider both as our real friends.

“Brother! You continue to hear, be assured we have Spoken from our very hearts and not from our lips only Let us therefore make this observation That when you Americans and the King made peace, he did not mention us and showed us no compassion notwithstanding all he Said to us, and all we had suffered. This has been the occasion of great sorrow and pain, and great loss to us the five nations. When you asked and he settled the peace between you two great nations, he never asked us for a delegation to attend to our Interests, Had he done this a settlement of peace among all the Western nations might have been effected. But the neglecting of this and passing us by unnoticed has brought upon us great pain & trouble.

“Brother! It is evident that we of the five nations have Suffered much in consequence of the Strife between You and the King of England who are one colour and one blood. Our chain of peace has been broken—Peace & friendship have been chased from us. But you Americans were determined not to treat us in the same manner as we had been treated by the King of England You therefore desired us at the reestablishment of peace to Sit down at our ancient fire places, and again enjoy our lands. And had the peace between You and the King of England been completely accomplished it would long before this time, have extended far beyond the five nations.

“Brother Conneh-Sau-ty [Timothy Pickering] you are specially appointed with General Knox to confer with us our peace and happiness. We have rejoiced in Your appointment and we hope that the great Warrior will remember that though a Warrior he is to converse with us about peace: letting what concerns War Sleep; and the Counselling part of his mind, while acting with us, be of peace.

“Brother! have patience and continue to listen: the President has assured us, that he is not the cause of the hostilities now existing at the Westward but laments it. Brother we wish You to point out to us of the five nations What You think is the real cause.

“Brother! Agent of the Thirteen United States in the present Council, we now publicly return our thanks to the president & all the Counsellors of the thirteen United States for the words which he has spoken to us. They were good, without any mixture. Shall we observe that he wished that if the errors of the hostile Indians could be discovered he would use his Utmost exertions to remove them? Brother You & the King of England are the two governing powers of this Island. What are we? You both are important and proud: and you cannot adjust your own affairs agreeably to Your declarations of peace. Therefore the Western Indians are bewildered—one says one thing to them and one says another. Were these things adjusted it would be easy to diffuse peace everywhere.

“In confirmation of our words we give this belt which we wish the president to hold fast in remembrance of what we have now Spoken.

“(He then delivered to Colonel Pickering the annexed belt)” (NBuHi: Indians [Ogden Treaty], BOO–2).

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