Dummer’s War Drags On
The first entry for May is a letter from Samuel Thaxter, William Dudley, and Theodore Atkinson, representatives from Massachusetts Bay who had gone to meet with Governor Vaudreuil in Montreal to negotiate the release of captives and try to end the war. The first page is missing, but Peter Wraxall’s Abridgment of the Indian Affairs summarizes the complete letter on p. 157-158. Vaudreuil had heard about New York’s plan to build a block house at Oswego and he considered it a violation of the Treaty of Utrecht between France and England. If the blockhouse was constructed, he would tear it down. Vaudreuil claimed that he could order the Five Nations to take English prisoners whenever he liked.
Vaudreuil supported the Abenaki demand that if the English wanted peace, they must return all Abenaki lands, including all of Lacadie (Nova Scotia) except the fort at Anapolis Royall as well as everything claimed by Massachusetts for 30 leagues along the Atlantic coast, including existing English settlements and forts. Massachusetts Bay (and Wraxall) considered these demands to be absurd. The Abenaki also asked that their church at Norridgewalk, which the English had destroyed, be rebuilt, the plunder taken there returned, and a priest restored to them. Their priest, Father Sebastien Rale, had been killed in the fighting the previous summer.
Vaudreuil claimed that he did not encourage the Abenaki, although papers taken at Norridgewalk showed otherwise. He refused to put anything in writing. He also refused to do anything to retrieve the English captives held by Indians. Even as to English captives held by the French, he told the Massachusetts Bay representatives that they would have to ransom them at whatever price was set by their owners.
The Massachusetts Bay representatives bemoaned Vaudreuil’s conduct. Many French owners of captives had raised their ransom prices. The letter ended with a plea for help: everything showed “what hardships and Intolerable Burthen his Maj.es Good Subjects lye under, being used more like brute creatures than Men & Christians & call alowd upon all Men under the Same King to lend a helping hand to gett the aforesd. Governm.tts out of this Unjust War.”
The term “unjust war” carried a lot of legal weight during this period. It suggests that the representatives may have been starting to question their governor’s aggressive policies towards the Abenaki. Not surprisingly, Wraxall’s Abridgement does not include this part of the letter, in which the New England representatives sound strangely like the Six Nations, tired of the war and looking for help in persuading the government to end it. At the conference with Governor Burnet in September 1724, the Six Nations had reminded the governor that they had sent a wampum belt to King George with a message that “this matter of peace lieth with you.”
Albany Passes on the Iroquois Message to Governor Burnet
The next entry, dated May 6th, is a copy of a letter from the commissioners to the governor. They passed on the message from the “Canada Indians” (Kahnawake and its allies) and confirmed by the Six Nations asking the British and the French both to refrain from building additional forts and trading houses in the country of the Six Nations for fear they would come to blows with each other. The commissioners had to be tactful because the governor had previously insisted that it was Albany traders who persuaded the Six Nations to oppose his proposed trading house at Oswego, where the Six Nations thought it was likely to provoke a French attack. The commissioners also passed on the Six Nations’ request for a meeting with the governor.
The 1722 Law Against Trading Indian Goods with Canada is Still Not Working
The commissioners told the governor that they would try “as much as lyes in our Sphere of bussiness” to discourage “French Indians” from transporting strowd blankets in violation of the governor’s trade policy, but the implication is clear: they did not believe they had the authority to take direct action. They also informed the governor that action had been taken against Nicholas Schuyler and Jacob Wendell, who had been caught with goods intended for the illegal trade with Canada the previous October, but their description probably did not satisfy the governor. The sheriff agreed to keep Schuyler at his own house while Schuyler gathered bedding and other things in preparation for going to jail, but as they were going there Schuyler made his escape. They informed Evert Wendell, a commisioner himself, about the situation. It is unclear what happened to Jacob Wendell.
Finally the commissioners said they were looking for a smith to go to Indian Country and passed on the information obtained from the Massachusetts Bay Commissioners.
Governor Burnet Won’t Meet the Six Nations; The Commissioners Try to Reassure Them
Governor Burnet wrote to the Commissioners telling them that he could not possibly meet the Six Nations that year because he was occupied with business in another province, but he would meet them the following year. The commissioners sent Laurence Claessen to Onondaga with this message and the mission to “quiet the minds of the Indians” in the face of the French efforts to undermine their alliance with New York. Laurence was told to explain that the governor did not plan to make a fort on Lake Ontario, but just a trading house on the “Onnondage River,” now called the Oswego River. The commissioners also agreed with Harme van Slyck Junior and Egbert Egbertse to work as smiths at Onondaga.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, May 1725 starts here.