George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Henry Knox, 6 December 1792

From Henry Knox

War-department, December 6th 1792.


In explanation of the speeches from the chiefs of the six nations herewith submitted, it may be proper to observe that Jasper Parish who is a temporary interpreter to those tribes1 informs verbally that the said chiefs returned from the hostile tribes to Buffaloe Creek about the last of October—That they immediately sent a runner to General Chapin the temporary Agent to the six Nations, and who resides at Canandarqua, about ninety or one hundred miles distant—That he being absent, his son and the interpreter repaired to Buffaloe Creek, where they received the said speeches.

Besides the papers transmitted by Mr Chapin, the interpreter says, that a list of the tribes which composed the council, at the Au Glaize, on the Miami river of Lake Erie, was taken by Mr Chapin, but he omitted to transmit it.2

He was informed by the chiefs of the Six Nations, that at the council of the hostile indians, which was numerous, but the numbers not specified, no other white person was admitted but Simon Girty, who they considered as one of themselves.3

That the chiefs of the Shawanese were the only speakers, on the part of the hostile indians, and Red Jacket the Seneka chief, the only speaker on the part of the friendly indians.4

That Captain Brant did not arrive at the Au Glaize until after the council had broken up, which probably by a comparison of circumstances happened about the 10th or 12th of October.5

That Captain Hendricks the chief of the stockbridge indians had proved unfaithful, having delivered the message, belt, and map with which he was entrusted for the hostile indians, to Mr McKee, the british Indian Agent, and that the said Hendricks did not repair to the council at all.6

The said Jasper Parish also adds that Red Jacket was exceedingly desirous of repairing to Philadelphia in person, but Mr Chapin apprehending the expences persuaded him to the contrary— This circumstance is exceedingly to be regretted, as further information and explanations would be highly desireable at this moment, in order to judge with greater precision of the meaning of the speeches, which may have suffered in the translation, as well as in other respects.7 I have the honor to be, Sir, with the highest respect, Your obedient and humble servt

H. Knox secy of war

LS, DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–93, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB (dated 5 Dec.), DLC:GW; copy, PHi: Large Miscellaneous Volumes.

1Jasper Parrish (1767–1836) had been captured in 1778 by the Delaware Indians and had been taken the following year to Fort Niagara, where he was sold for £2 to a Mohawk Indian. Released from captivity after the Revolutionary War, Parrish rejoined his family at Goshen, N.Y., and began a career as an Indian interpreter.

2During a visit to Philadelphia in the spring of 1792, a delegation of Iroquois chiefs agreed to send emissaries to the western Indians in an effort to restore peace between those tribes and the United States. The Iroquois representatives attended the grand council that met between 30 Sept. and 9 Oct. at Au Glaize.

In the enclosed letter to Knox of 22 Nov., Israel Chapin, Jr., wrote: “There was a number of Gentlemen from Niagara who attended the Council at Buffaloe Creek, amongst which was Colonel [John] Butler the Indian Agent under the British Government, who in some of his hours express’d himself that unless proper means was taken that a lasting peace could not take place, but if the United State’s proposals are honorable he would give every assistance in his power, but if otherwise he should prevent a peace taking place.

“Major Littletrates [Edward Baker Littlehales] who represented Governor [John Graves] Simcoe assured me it was the disposition of the Governor to give every assistance in his power to procure peace on equitable terms.”

The enclosed speech, given to Chapin and Parrish at Buffalo Creek, N.Y., on 16 Nov., reads: “Brothers people of the United States & Kings people take notice, last winter the president took us by the hand and led us to the Council fire at Philadelphia there they made known to us their friendship, and requested of us to proceed to the westward, and to use our influence to make peace with the hostile Indians—we went accordingly and made known to them our agreement.

“When we returned from Philadelphia to Buffaloe Creek, the Chiefs that remained at home on their seats was well pleased with what we had done at Philadelphia, and after we had determined to proceed on our journey some of our Chiefs was detained on account of sickness.

“Broth⟨e⟩rs people of the U.N.S. & Kings people after we arrived at the westward we met with an agreeable reception, they informed us we was their oldest Brothers and appeared as the Sun risen on them, as they always looked to them for advice.

“It is now four years since we have heard your voices, and should be happy now to hear what you have to relate to us.

“The Six nations then requested of the western Indians what they had to relate to them, as they kindled the Council fire.

“The western Indians replied, about four years since your voices came to us, desireing us to combine ourselves together as we was the eldest people of this Island and all of one Colour, that our minds may be one.

“This they informed us they had attended to, and exhibited a large bunch of wampum to prove the same, from each nation.

“To confirm it still further they informed us we sent them a pipe, which passed through all the nations at the west and southward, all smok’d out of it both women and Children, and as this pipe has been through the nations and all smoked out of it, they then returned it to us and bid us to smoke out of it ourselves.

“Brothers listen once to your eldest Brothers—Our fore fathers have handed down to us that we are one people of one colour on this Island, and ought to be of one mind, and had made our minds strong and had become as one people in peace and friendship.

“This being done our Chiefs agreed to hand it down to future posterity, and the same combination to continue down to them.

“The nation called the unions took a brand from our fire and kindled it, and became a people with us—then we considered ourselves as one people, combined together.

“And now there is a white people on this Island who are watching our conduct—but let us attend to our own concerns, and brighten the Chain of friendship with our nations: and as our minds are one, let us consider future posterity, and not consider those young warriors who are in the prime of life and so much engaged in the pursuit of Land &c: which is the cause of so much difficulty at present.

“Brothers consider your Country which is good, and conduct yourselves in such a manner as to keep it, to yourselves and posterity.

“Now Brothers you present us the pipe you say your oldest Brothers sent you, you say your head Chiefs all smoked out of it, and returning it to us again all took it and smoked out of it ourselves in friendship. Now as we are thus combined together we are able to lift a heavy burden.

“Shawany nation—Our eldest Brothers we have heard what you have related, we have heard it with attention—we consider it as if you delivered it from the outside of your lips, although you consider us your younger Brothers, your seats are not at such a distance, but what we can see your conduct plainly, these are the reasons why we consider you to speak from the outside of your lips, for whenever you hear the voice of the United States, you immediately take your packs & attend their Councils.

“We see plainly folded under your arm the voice of the United States—wish you to unfold it to us, that we may see it freely and consult on it, speaking on a string of wampum of three strings, throwing it across the fire to us, instead of handing it in a friendly manner.

“Then we proceeded to relate the instructions of Congress which is too tedious to relate, and which they already know, but when we first related it, we failed for Interpreters so that they had not a proper idea of it, they appeared to be very much ruffled in their minds and adjourned the Council to the next day—then it was interpreted properly to them and they appeared easy in their minds.

“Eldest Brothers, you desire us to consider our Country and property, we will accept of your advice and proceed accordingly.

“Six nations—Let us look back to the time of white people coming into this Country, very soon began to traffic for land, Soon after Sr Wm Johnson was sent as an Agent from the King, and he began to purchase at the Treaty at Ft Stanwix—and purchased all, East of the river Ohio.

“A few years after this purchase, the people of the States and the King’s people broke apart, and we being persuaded to take the Kings part became very bad for us—after a few years the King was beat, then the States took possession of all the Land the English formerly took from the French.

“You tell us we come with the voice of the United States, we do together with the advice of the King—He tells us not to throw our minds on either side, but to listen to reason &c. and remain a people confederated.

“Shawany nation [—]Now eldest Brothers, you come to us with your opinion and the voice of the U.N.S., it is your mind to put an end to all hostilities—Brothers, now we will relate what took place last Fall in our Country—General Washington sent an army into our Country which fell into our hands; their orders was thus to proceed into our Country as far as the Miami Towns, to the Glaze—thence to Detroit—but not to molest the Kings people, and if the army should meet any people that appeared friendly, to leave them behind their backs without harm.

“The president of the United States must well know why the Blood is so deep in our paths, we have been informed he has sent Messengers of peace on these Bloody roads, who fell on the way—and now as he knows that road to be bloody, no communication to take place through that Bloody way, as there is a path through the six nations Country, which is smooth and easy. If he wants to send the voice of peace, it must pass through this road.

“Eldest Brothers, We have been informed the President of the U.N.S. thinks himself the greatest Man on this Island, we had this Country long in peace before we saw any person of a white skin—we consider the people of a white Skin the younger.

“Brothers, you inform us it is the wish of the white people to hold Council with us, General Washington being the head Man—We will consent to treat with them—We desire you our older Brothers to inform General Washington we will treat with him, at the rapids of Miami next Spring, or at the time when the Leaves are fully out.

“We consider ourselves still the proper Owners of some Land on the East side of the Ohio.

“But we will deliver up that, for money that has been paid to some individuals, for Land on the west side of the River Ohio.

“Brothers, you have given us a Dish and one Spoon desiring the whole combination to eat with them; we accept of them & shall do accordingly.

“We are now about to complete the business you came on, when you return you will make known to the President what we have done, it may be he will not consent to what we have proposed, and if he will not, we must call on you to assist in the heavy burden which will lye on us—we have opened a path for them and pointed out a way, and if he will not walk in it, we must have your assistance.

“Now our eldest Brothers—when the president come to you, he took you aside to hear what he had to say, He desired you to come to us and deliver the Messages, you have delivered them, & we desire you to deliver the Messages we have given you to deliver to him, and desire him to send a Message back what he will do respecting what we have done and concluded on, to forward it to you, and you to us—We will lay the bloody Tomahawk aside until we hear from the President of the U.N.S., and when this Message come to us we will send it to all the different nations. Speaking on three strings of wampum.” For other contemporary accounts of the grand council at Au Glaize, see “Canadian Archives. Colonial Office Records: Michigan,” description begins “Canadian Archives. Colonial Office Records.” Collections and Researches Made by the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, vols. 23:603-80; 24:1-699; 25:1-681. 1895-96. description ends 468–74, 483–98, and Aupaumut, “Narrative,” 115–30.

Chapin also enclosed the speech of 16 Nov. to GW from the Six Nations at Buffalo Creek: “You sent us on to the westward with a message of peace to the hostile Indians.

“We proceeded accordingly to your directions, and was protected going and coming by the Great Spirit.

“We give thanks to the Great Spirit that we have all returned safe to our seats.

“While we was at the Westward we exerted ourselves to bring about peace, the fatigues we underwent are not small—Now it is our desire for your people on the Ohio, to lay down their arms, or otherwise it is all in vain what we have done.

“Now if you wish for peace, you must make every exertion and proceed through this path we have directed for you. If peace does not take place the fault must arise from your people.

“We now desire you Brs. to send forward agents who are men of honesty, not proud Land jobbers but men who love & desire peace, also desire they may be accompanied by some Friend or Quaker to attend the Council.

“Wish you to exert yourselves to forward the Message to the western Indians as soon as possible—and we are taken by the hand, and have agreed next Spring to attend the Council at the rapids of Miami, when we shall hear all that takes place there.

“Hostile Indians to Governor Simcoe—Brothers, we have been informed the late Govr is a good man—we desire you that you will take the Governor by the hand, and lead him to the Council next Spring—Exert yourselves to get him up that he may not be backward, that he may sit side & side wth the Americans at the time of the Council. and when you take him by the hand, desire him to furnish us with provisions necessary for the Treaty.

“Six Nations to the Governor—Brothers, now we have laid all our proceedings before you which took place at the westward. You have heard the request of your western Brothers, therefore wish you to exert yourself to grant their requests.

“You informed us to listen to the voice of peace wherever we might hear it—now we hear the voice of peace—We call on you for assistance that we may obtain peace through this Island.

“Brothers, we now sit here together—you are the man who represents the United States—we have discerned that too great a degree of pride has subsisted between the two Governments—we desire that it may be laid aside.

“When the Agents from the U.N.S. come forward to the Council, we desire they may bring forward all records, plans, maps and documents that any way respect to Lands purchased from the Indians.

“Fish Carriers Speech—Desiring this degree of pride which has heretofore subsisted may be done away, and that each Government will mutually consent and agree on terms of peace.

“Cornplanter’s Speech—He informs that he has always attended treaties that has been held and has always wished for peace, and has done all in his power for peace, that he has not advised any hostilities to commence on either side, and now wishes each Government to lay aside all pride and prejudice and to use their endeavours for peace.

“After the Council was over Major Littletrates who represented Governor Simcoe on that occasion, answered the Indians as follows.

“Brothers, I shall lay before the Governor your requests and respecting his furnishing you with provisions &c: I doubt not but he will do it agreeable to your wishes—and also to procure all Records, plans & Documents which shall be thought necessary—and to do every thing in his power to bring about a peace so interesting to the United States, as well as to the British Government.” For another contemporary account of the November meeting at Buffalo Creek, see “Canadian Archives. Colonial Office Records: Michigan,” description begins “Canadian Archives. Colonial Office Records.” Collections and Researches Made by the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, vols. 23:603-80; 24:1-699; 25:1-681. 1895-96. description ends 509–16. Copies of Chapin’s letter and of both enclosed speeches are in DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–93, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages, and they are identified as “true copies, from the originals on file in the War-Office of the United States, December 5th: 1792”; see also ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:323–24.

3Pennsylvania native Simon Girty (1741–1818) was captured with his family by Indians in 1756 and spent the next three years as a captive among the Senecas who lived in the Ohio River Valley. After his release in 1759, he remained in the Ohio region as a trader, occasionally acting as an interpreter for the British and colonists at nearby Fort Pitt. During the early years of the Revolutionary War, Girty served as an interpreter for the Americans, but by 1778 he had transferred his loyalties to the British and had fled the Fort Pitt region for the British post of Fort Detroit. Girty subsequently was hired as an interpreter to the Six Nations by the British Indian Department, a position he continued to hold after the war.

4Seneca chief Red Jacket (c.1758–1830) was renowned for his oratorical abilities, and his political skills ensured his inclusion among the Indian leaders with whom the Americans conducted their diplomatic negotiations. For the visit of Red Jacket and other Iroquois leaders to Philadelphia in the spring of 1792 and for American overtures to the Iroquois for their assistance in the U.S. peace efforts in the Northwest Territory, see Timothy Pickering to GW, 21 Mar., GW to the Five Nations, 23 Mar., and source note, Henry Knox to GW, 2 April, n.1, 22 April, n.1, GW’s Message to the Five Nations, 25 April 1792.

5Knox and GW had hoped that diplomatic intervention by the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant would help to produce a peaceful settlement of U.S. differences with the western Indians. For an account of the illness that prevented Brant from reaching Au Glaize until after the council’s conclusion, see Henry Knox to GW, 15 Sept., n.6.

6Knox was wrong in his assessment of Stockbridge chief Hendrick Aupaumut. For Aupaumut’s account of his peace mission to the western Indians in 1792, see Aupaumut, “Narrative.” Alexander McKee, a deputy agent in the British department of Indian affairs, had entered that department in 1760, had married a Shawnee woman, and had pursued a career in the Indian trade, gaining considerable influence among the Indians north of the Ohio River. Sympathetic to the British cause, McKee had moved from the Fort Pitt area in 1778, eventually settling among the British at Detroit, where he used his considerable influence among the Indians against the American forces in the Ohio Valley during the remainder of the Revolutionary War. After the war McKee strongly supported the western Indians’ resistance to American advances in the Ohio Valley.

7For Knox’s invitation to Red Jacket to visit Philadelphia, see his letter to Israel Chapin, Sr., of 12 Dec. in Tobias Lear to Knox, 11 Dec. 1792, n.2. GW sent Knox’s letter of 6 Dec. and its enclosures with a cover letter to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on 6 Dec. 1792.

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