Timothy Pickering to Henry Knox
Kanandaigua Octr 28. 1794
Various accidents have retarded the business of the treaty—among others, the death of two Oneida Chiefs—they were very old men.1 And the appearance of William Johnson, the British interpreter, occasioned the loss of two days. As the Chiefs told me that he had come at their request, it seemed necessary, besides mentioning my orders to suffer no British agent to intrude, to give some reasons for his exclusion. These were satisfactory; and they concluded “to shove him out of the Council.” The next day he set off for Niagara.2
He brought a verbal message from Captain Brant, who, with governor Simcoe, he said, arrived at fort Erie on Saturday the 18th instant, from the Westward. A copy of that message is inclosed, as reported by the Cornplanter, in presence of the Chiefs; with an extract of their answer to Brant. But notwithstanding their declaration that they shall insist on the line fixed in their agreement with the Lake Indians, I am persuaded they will abandon it.3 Of one thing I am well satisfied—that they have no thought of war.
If there should be a strenuous opposition to such a settlement as we desire, I believe it will be made by the Cornplanter. The rude & threatening speech delivered by him last summer, from Buffaloe Creek, I am now told was displeasing to the principal Chiefs, altho’ they suffered it to be sent to the President.4 It is not a new thing, I presume, for the majority of an Assembly silently to acquiesce in a measure repugnant to their sentiments. He was the only Chief who objected to the sending back of Johnson the British interpreter.
On my arrival here I found General Chapin indisposed with the jaundice. He has sensibly grown worse; and I am not without apprehensions for his safety. I have the honor to be &c
LB, MHi: Pickering Papers.
1. The treaty meetings were suspended on 24 Oct. for the burial of the two chiefs (entries for 23 and 24 Oct., Journal of James Emlen, 15 Sept.–30 Oct. 1794, N: manuscript 5222; entry for 24 Oct., Journal of David Bacon, 15 Sept.–21 Nov. 1794, PHC: Quaker Collection).
2. For more-detailed reports of the debate about whether William Johnston should be admitted to the council, see the entries for 25 Oct. in the Emlen and Bacon journals, and Evans, Journal of William Savery description begins Jonathan Evans, comp. A Journal of the Life, Travels, and Religious Labors of William Savery, a Minister of the Gospel of Christ, of the Society of Friends, Late of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, 1863. description ends , 114–17. For the British perspective on Johnston’s dismissal, see John Graves Simcoe to George Hammond, 9 Nov., and Simcoe to Alexander McKee, November (Cruikshank, Simcoe Papers description begins E. A. Cruikshank, ed. The Correspondence of Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe, with Allied Documents Relating to His Administration of the Government of Upper Canada. 5 vols. Toronto, 1923–31. description ends , 3:171–72, 5:123). Pickering’s speech on this occasion is in MHi: Pickering Papers, vol. 60.
3. The enclosed message from Joseph Brant and extract of the reply have not been identified. According to one observer of Cornplanter’s report, Brant sent compliments, reminded the Indians of the boundary line previously agreed upon, and asked that they meet at Buffalo Creek immediately after the current treaty ended (Evans, Journal of William Savery description begins Jonathan Evans, comp. A Journal of the Life, Travels, and Religious Labors of William Savery, a Minister of the Gospel of Christ, of the Society of Friends, Late of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, 1863. description ends , 115). Pickering probably enclosed part or all of the second paragraph of the reply, which reads (in a British copy): “We wish to inform you our Elder Brother, that as we are now collected at this Council fire, we shall insist on standing to the old agreement, which we made with the Lake Indians, and wish you to believe that we shall have that done strong, we are very sorry that it happened that our Elder Brother could not attend at this Council, but it is common that some Chiefs are absent, occasioned by sickness;—we are very much disappointed as we expected to have had Mr. Johnston in Council with us side & side, with the Commissioners of the United States, but we consider ourselves notwithstanding a free People. I wish to inform you, my friend, that we are much disappointed to find that after the arrival of Mr. Johnston, that in his presence the Commissioners of the United States informed us, of the difficulties which had from time to time taken place between the British, and the people of the United States. Mr. Johnston will be able to inform you what those difficulties are, and that his stomach was overcharged with them. You know my friend, that we are despised by the whites on both sides, that we are a poor, tho’ independant people the reason why we are despised by both parties is because they both want to be the greatest people” (Cruikshank, Simcoe Papers description begins E. A. Cruikshank, ed. The Correspondence of Lieut. Governor John Graves Simcoe, with Allied Documents Relating to His Administration of the Government of Upper Canada. 5 vols. Toronto, 1923–31. description ends , 3:154).
The Lake Indians were the more northern of the Ohio tribes: the Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Wyandot. The boundary line referred to was the Ohio River, which the western Indians and Iroquois had agreed to uphold at a council at Sandusky in 1783 and reaffirmed at another council held in August and September 1792 (Downes, Council Fires description begins Randolph C. Downes. Council Fires on the Upper Ohio: A Narrative of Indian Affairs in the Upper Ohio Valley until 1795. Pittsburgh, 1940. description ends , 96, 282–84, 320–22).