In December the commissioners received a letter from Captain John Collins in Schenectady about a Christian boy who had been taken captive by “some of our upper nations.” The commissioners still used “Christian” to mean “European” even though by this time many Native Americans and African Americans were also Christian. They had not yet adopted the use of the term “white,” or at least not in their records.
The boy was taken captive along with this father, who was employed driving horses for traders, and “a negro.” No mention is made of what happened to the other two captives. The boy was taken to Canojoharie (which during this period was one of the two major Mohawk (Kaniengeha’ka) towns, then moved to “the foremost Castle,” which probably means Tiononderoga. According to Collins’s letter, the Indians to whom the boy was given treated him badly and he was advised by other Indians to run away for fear of his life. He now wanted the Christians to rescue him from the “fury of the heathen.” The boy had forgotten English, and had to communicate by way of Laurence Claessen the interpreter.
The commissioners decided to take him in until Governor Burnet could advise them about what to do with him. They arranged to give him clothing and sent him to live with Captain [Evert] Bancker until spring. Like other captives mentioned in the records during this time, the boy, his father, and the African American taken captive with them, all remain unnamed.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, December 1725 starts here.
The next entry is a November 4th letter from the Commissioners but written by James Stevenson (perhaps the one in this biography) because Philip Livingston, the Secretary for Indian Affairs, was absent. James Stevenson was not a commissioner, raising the question why Henry Holland and Evert Bancker, the commissioners present, did not write the letter themselves. Perhaps the Dutch commissioners were still not confident about their ability to write adequate English. Their letter is a response to a letter from Joseph Willard, Secretary of Massachusetts Bay, who had received from Colonel Stoddard the Commissioners’ message about the forces that had left Canada to attack the New England frontiers. It informs him that they have no additional news except that the governor of Canada was dead. They would continue to watch the enemy and provide intelligence as occasion offered.
On November 25th the commissioners agreed with Jacob Brower and Harme Vedder to go to Onondage as smiths. They asked Juriaen Hogan, his brother, and the assistant “Lansingh” to stay on as smiths in Seneca country, giving them leave to return to Albany on lawful business if they wished. It does not appear that they complied with the Six Nations’ request to provide new and better smiths.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, November 1725 starts here.
Trade is Welcome in Iroquoia; Alcohol and Quarrels Are Not
On October 10th, another delegation from the Six Nations met with the Commissioners. This time Thanentsaronwe (Thannintsorowee) was the speaker. He came to complain again about the sale of alcohol by the European traders in Iroquoia, and to object once more to Governor Burnet’s proposed trading house on the Onnondage (Oswego) River. Alcohol had led to the death of a principal sachem, Sogeanjawa, who had been “stuck dead with a knife.” Several people had had noses and ears cut off, and nine of the “Far Indians” had killed each other. In the name of the whole Six Nations, he asked that no alcohol be transported to Iroquoia for the consumption of the Far Indians or the Six Nations. Traders were welcome to come and trade wherever they wished, with any other sort of goods. He also expressed uneasiness that the governors of New York and Canada could not agree. He begged them not to shed blood in the Six Nations’ country, where both were trading. He asked that if any English people should encounter the French “they may kindly love & friendly greet one another.” He explained that they had told the governor of Canada the same thing.
Thanentsorowee told the Commissioners that strowd blankets were now being sold to the French at the Onnondage River, despite the New York law against it. He said he had heard that people from Albany were taking credit for bringing Far Indians to Albany to trade, but actually the Six Nations should get the credit for going to the Far Nations and asking them to come to Albany to trade, with the result that five Far Nations had promised to do so. The Six Nations was paying the expenses in wampum and blankets to engage in this promotion. He asked that Albany help them with strowds, powder, and lead in order to continue doing so.
He also complained that the message that the governor of New York could not meet that summer had not been properly conveyed to the Senecas from Onondage, and if it had they would not have come. In the future, messages should be sent directly to the Senecas. He also asked for a better smith, since they did not like the one sent to them, and requested that Myndert Wemp come back with them immediately along with tools.
The Commissioners responded by thanking the delegates for bringing Far Nations to Albany to trade. They gave them powder, lead, and strowd blankets as they had requested, along with two kegs of Rum. They acknowledged the remainder of the message but did not respond to it. However they forwarded the minutes of the meeting to Governor Burnet.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, October 1725 starts here.
Blocked from Trading with Montreal, Albany Traders Move West
In September the commissioners made good on their promise to give the governor an account of the volume of the fur trade to the west. Captain Harme Vedder, stationed in Seneca Country, returned with his company and 50 bundles of fur. Many other traders were now going west as well. Despite the difficulties involved, the commissioners put together a detailed list of who had gone to Indian country and how many furs and skins they had purchased. At least fifty-one canoes, each carrying several traders, had been to the lakes and returned with 738 bundles of furs. The list of names covers many if not most Albany families. It also includes an unnamed Indian couple, several unnamed hired men, and a member of the versatile Montour family, Jean Montour. Some traders went more than once and some trips for which details were not provided brought 50 additional bundles of furs. In addition, 43 canoes of “far Indians” came to Albany and Schenectady with 200 bundles.
The direct trade from Albany to Canada was far smaller, as estimated by the commissioners and Lieutenant Blood, who was stationed at the English garrison at Mount Burnet, on the Hudson north of Albany.
Commerce between Albany and Canada continued however. On September 6th, Colonel Myndert Schuyler and Captain De Peyster returned from Canada and took the oath required of persons suspected to have traded with the French, which strongly suggests that they had in fact traded with the French. Moreover they confirmed that they had seen large quantities of strowd blankets sent from Albany to Montreal.
Trade with Montreal is Illegal, But News from Montreal is Valuable;
Grey Lock is Raiding New England
Schuyler and De Peyster also brought important news. A party of 150 warriors had left Montreal on their way to attack New England, passing Chambly, where others were encamped who planned to go as well. The French, including their priests, were encouraging them to fight, and Montreal was fortifying itself with a stone wall. The commissioners informed both New York Governor Burnet and the government of New England about the situation. In a subsequent letter they told Governor Burnet that the party at Chambly had been persuaded to go home instead of attacking New England, but the party of 150 from Montreal were sill out fighting. Two small groups of nine and fourteen were supposed to be lurking on the western frontiers, lead by Grey Lock (Wawenorrawot). The commissioners told Governor Burnet that the Indians were tired of war and wanted peace, but the French continued to push them to war.
The Six Nations Meet with the French
Schuyler and De Peyster said that a large group of leaders from the Six Nations had come to Montreal, where they were honored with a cannon salute. According to some Seneca leaders who came to Albany to tell the commissioners about the situation, and who had resolved not to go to Montreal themselves, the Six Nations contingent included eleven Seneca sachems from Canossodage and six from Onnahee. They went to condole the passing of “Lieutenant Governor” Monsieur “D Ramsay,” (Claude de Ramezay, the governor of Montreal who had died the previous summer.) Probably they also discussed their concerns about the escalating construction of forts in their country by both the French and the English.
Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie Want a General Treaty
Lieutenant Colonel Stephanus Grosbeeck had also been in Montreal. He told the commissioners that the sachims of Kahnawage and Schawenadie had sent him an express as he passed La Prairie, asking him by seven hands of wampum to bring a message that they were coming to Albany about October 1st, where they wanted to meet with the governors of New York and Boston (i.e. Massachusetts Bay) as well as the Six Nations. The commissioners contacted Massachusetts Bay Governor William Dummer directly to pass on this message, sending their letter by way of the authorities of Westfield Massachusetts, in order to inform them that they were at risk of attack.
The Six Nations Confirm the Treaty of 1722 with New York and Virginia
On September 26th, twelve sachems from Onondage, Cayuga, and Tuscarora came to Albany and met with the Commissioners. They said they had been sent to look into rumors spread among them and find a way to prevent such stories. They asked the Commissioners to read them the treaty made in 1722 between Virginia and the Six Nations, which was done.
Their speaker D’Kanasore (Teganissorens) gave a speech addressed to Asserigoa, the Iroquois name for the Governor of Virginia, asking the Commissioners to pass it on. He pointed out that the Six Nations had returned two prisoners taken in Virginia, an Indian (probably meaning Governor Spotswood’s Saponi servant) and a “Negroe boy,” (probably Captain Robert Hicks’ slave). He said that whoever was going fighting towards Virginia from Canada or from the Six Nations’ castles was doing it without their consent. Nonetheless, if they went past the line agreed to in the treaty of 1722 and were taken prisoner, they should likewise be returned.
Teganissorens also complained that the gunpowder they had purchased recently was defective. He asked for more powder as well as lead and gunflints, pointing out that the cost would be made up by the value of the skins they could obtain with it through hunting. He also asked for a smith as soon as possible, one better than those who had been working there, whose work was not the best.
The Six Nations Have New Objections to Burnet’s Trading House
Like the delegation from Kahnawake and Schawenadie, Teganissorens was not happy with Governor Burnet’s proposal for a trading house on the Onnondage (Oswego) River. He admitted that the Six Nations had consented to it, but he said they now feared it would cause mischief because alcohol would be sold there. People would get drunk, become unruly, and and cause harm. In addition some would likely buy rum instead of ammunition. Teganissorens asked that in the future traders would bring powder and no rum. A slightly different version of this speech was written out and then crossed out. It appears on page 146a.
The Commissioners responded the next day in a speech that verged on being abrupt, even rude. They told the delegates they were glad they wanted to prevent rumors from spreading; the only way to do so was simply refuse to listen to those who tried to delude them. They promised to convey Teganissorens’ speech to the Governor of Virginia, but added that the Six Nations should not let their people go past the boundary line agreed to in 1722. The people of Virginia “will never molest you if you do not excite them to it” and if you commit mischief you will have to answer for it, as also for “those for whom you are become Security.” The reference was to Kahnawake and its allies, the “French Indians.”
In response to the complaint about powder, they said they were sorry the Six Nations were too impoverished to buy enough powder to meet their needs. The Commissioners would ask the governor to write to England to have better powder made, but the real reason for their poverty was that they went fighting against people who had not attacked them. Instead they should stick to hunting. They agreed to convey the request for a smith and expected the governor would send one.
In response to the Six Nations’ request that traders bring powder rather than rum to sell on the Onondaga River, the Commissioners would only say that they would ask the governor to prevent traders from selling rum to the Six Nations and to sell them powder and lead. However, the traders would continue selling rum to the Far Indians because otherwise they would be unable to sell their goods. They urged the delegates to be kind to all traders on the Onondaga River and the lakes and to invite the far Indians to come trade with Albany in order to get goods cheaper than from the French. To encourage this they agreed to supply them with power, lead, and flints to meet their present needs.
The Six Nations added that the bellows at Onondaga was old and not fit for service. They asked for a new one before winter set in. They said they expected their speech to go to the governor of New York and then be forwarded to Virginia, acknowledged that the commissioners had asked them to keep the Treaty, and said they expected Virginia and its Indian allies to do the same. They expected that those who brought evil reports to them (that is rumors) probably did the same with the governor of Virginia, so they hoped he would not listen. They agreed to be kind to traders in their country and assist them however they could.
The commissioners asked what Monsieur Longuiel said when he came to their country, and Teganissorens quoted him at length. “Fathers, [the Six Nations had adopted Longueuil as their “child”] I desire that you be not surpriz’d when any blood shall be shed on the Onnondage River or at the side of the Lake for we and the English can’t well abide one another, do you not meddle with the Quarrel butt Set Still smoke & be neuter.” Tegannisorens confirmed that they had sent wampum to Canada to answer the governor saying they were surprised that the French should “trample on the Blood of their Brethren” in the Six Nations country. If they wanted to fight, they should “go to sea and fight where you have Room.”
Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie Appear, Expecting the General Treaty; They Offer an Indian Woman to Make Up for the Murder of a Soldier
Prior to the commissioners’ response to Teganissorens, seven sachems from Kahnewake, Schawenadie and Rondax appeared. They said they had come to meet with the governors of New York and Boston, as they had requested in the message they sent by Stephanus Grosbeeck a few weeks earlier. They expected the commissioners to provide lodging in Albany in the meantime. They had no wampum, for which they asked to be excused. The commissioners provided them with housing and necessities.
On September 28th, they formally condoled the man murdered at Saratoga by their people, presumably the English soldier named Williams from the garrison at Mount Burnet. They asked for reconciliation and forgiveness and gave wampum to wipe off the tears of those in mourning for him. And in addition they offered the commissioners a captive, an Indian woman, in place of the man they had lost. They said it was “not our maxim to do so yet we do it to satisfie you for the breach that is comitted.”
They said those who killed the soldier had been on their way to fight in New England. Their young men were unruly and could not be prevented from going to help the Eastern Indians fighting against the English. They asked the Commissioners to do everything they could to end the war.
The Commissioners explained that they had gotten the wampum message that Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie wanted to meet with the governors of New York and Massachusetts Bay and had sent notice to Boston. The governor there had said that he had to attend a treaty there with the Indians who were at war and asked the Commissioners to hear on his behalf what Kahnawage, Rondax, and Schawenadie had to say. The sachems said they would do so only if Colonel John Schuyler were present to represent Massachusetts. The Commissioners said that Colonel Schuyler was welcome to attend, but they did not think he would come. If the sachems did not want to deliver their message to the Commissioners to pass on to him, perhaps they could meet with him alone, or perhaps they would like to go to Boston, where they would be well received.
The next day the Commissioners gave a more full answer, reproaching the sachems for the murder of the soldier when the parties were at peace. They accused them of deliberately breaching the Covenant Chain in order to undermine the good relations between them. Those who committed such murders should be punished. But since the sachems had come to “mediate and reconcile” the matter, the commissioners said they would ask the governor to forgive the injury on condition that the sachems agree to deliver over anyone who committed such an offense in the future. They accepted the woman in place of the dead soldier “as a Token of your Repentance and sorrow for what is past” and gave a belt of wampum. After harangueing them further to the same effect, they gave them additional wampum. The sachems responded that they had heard the message and would communicate it to their leaders at home, since they were not empowered to promise to deliver up people who transgressed in the future.
The Commissioners wrote to the governor of Massachusetts Bay and described the meeting. They referred the governor to Colonel John Schuyler for more information, explaining that the sachems had refused to deliver their message except to him. They wished the governor success in making peace.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, September 1725 starts here at page 142 through 152a and jumps back here to p. 113.
The next letter from the Commissioners to New York Governor Burnet passed on several items of news. The Six Nations had sent delegates to meet with the governor of New France and there was speculation that they might sell the land on the Oswego River (which they called the Onnondage River) where Albany traders were trading with “Far Indians” from beyond Iroquoia.
David Van Dyck and Goose Van Schaik had been to Canada where they learned that four people from Schawenadie were the culprits in the death of Williams, a soldier from Mount Burnet who had been missing for some time. Kahnawage was very concerned and was sending envoys to Albany.
The Six Nations had sent 100 men to Virginia, where they planned to take revenge for the deaths of 150 of their people who had been killed by the English and their indigenous allies.
The commissioners continued to issue summonses to people who were suspected of trading illegally with the French, with little success. Strowd blankets were still being sold to the French, but now the traders were using the Oswego River location as well as Albany to carry on this trade.
The commissioners also told the governor that six French soldiers had deserted from Montreal and come to Albany. They were allowed their freedom to stay there and work, pending instructions from the governor about what to do with them.
The commissioners said it would be difficult to give the governor an exact account of how many furs have been traded at Lake Ontario, what had come from Canada, and the value of goods carried to the west, because many traders refused to provide information. They were confident, however, that profits were high and the number of skins was more than what had come (illegally) from Canada.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, August 1725 starts here.
The commissioners wrote to the governor again, responding to a letter from him that is not part of the record. They told him that trade on the Lake (Ontario / Cadaraqui) was doing well, but needed more than cheap goods to succeed. They expressed concerns about the French threat and promised to give him a full account of the trade to lay before the New York Assembly.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, July 1725 starts here.
On June 5th the commissioners wrote to the governor explaining that they had sent Laurence Claessen and two smiths to Onondaga. They added that David Van Dyck had resigned as commissioner, as Johannes Bleecker had done the previous November. A few days later, on June 11th, Claessen returned and gave an account of his journey.
Claessen arrived at Onondaga on May 27th to find the sachims of the Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Cayougas, and Senecas and Onondagas who had recently met with “Mons. Longueil, Lieut. Gov.r of Canada,” (Charles Le Moyne, Baron de Longueuil).
Claessen gave them seven strings of wampum, the agreed upon protocol that confirmed an official message. He told them that Governor Burnet (William Burnet, Governor of New York and New Jersey) had sent him to say that he could not comply with their request to meet, but that he would meet them the following year. They were happy to hear that Burnet only planned to build a trading house at Oswego, not a fort, and said they had nothing against building a house. They also thanked the governor for sending the smiths and promised to make them very welcome. They told Claessen that Longueuil had been at Onondaga until May 25th, two days before Claessen arrived. The records include what purports to be Longueuil’s speech at Onondaga.
Addressing the Haudenosaunee as “Children,” according to French custom, Longueuil said that he had been ordered to come there by the governor. He performed the customary condolence ceremony and gave a large belt of wampum, adding additional belts for each point in his speech. He said he had heard that the Six Nations were “jealous” of the French and expressed the hope that the bad feelings generated by the previous war between them were over and forgotten, since France and England were now at peace. He urged them to forget old differences and promised to “Imprint in the memory of our Children to observe the treaties of Peace & friendship” between them, so that it would live on even when “we aged Men” were dead and gone.
Longueuil confirmed that he was going to Tierondequoit (Irondequoit at the site of present day Rochester) and then to Seneca Country and Niagara, where he planned to build a strong trading house and sell goods more cheaply than before to the Six Nations as well as the nations beyond them. He also planned to build two ships to bring goods there.
Some Albany Traders Agree Not to Trade With the French
On June 11th the commissioners continued to attempt to enforce Governor Burnet’s prohibition against selling Indian goods to the French by resolving to direct the sheriff to issue summonses to a number of traders including John Schuyler, Stephanis Groesbeck, Nicholas Bleecker, Cornelis Cuyler, Hans Hansen, Edward Collins, David Schuyler Jr., Johannes Roseboom and Gerrit Roseboom Jr. They were directed to appear and take the oath against trading Indian goods with the French as required by the Act of 1720. All of them all except John Schuyler and Gerrit Roseboom Jr. appeared and took the oath. So did Jacob Verplanck. It is unclear whether “John Schuyler” refers to Colonel Johannes Schuyler or his son Johannes Schuyler, Jr.
The Jenondadies (Petun) Come to Trade
On June 19th, some “far Indians” came to trade, a group of “Jenondadies” (Tionondati or Petun) who lived near the French fort at Detroit. Their leader Schaojiese thanked the commissioners for inviting them to come to Albany to trade and asked that the path be kept clear for them. They condoled Colonel Peter Schuyler and Hendrick Hanson, who had both died in February 1724, and requested “that their Eldest Sons may be accepted in their places that the tree may grow under w.h all ye upper nations may Shelter themselves.” They also said they were “great Lovers of Liquor” and asked for good Rum, not watered down.
The commissioners thanked them for coming and for their condolences and assured them that goods would be cheap. They promised to do what they could to prevent traders from watering down rum. They appeared taken aback by the request to appoint the eldest sons of Schuyler and Hansen in their place. They explained that the choice was in the hands of the governor. They assured the Tionontaties that the tree of peace and friendship would grow as strong as ever and the upper nations would be welcome to take Shelter under it.
The Twightwighs (Miamis) Send Joseph Montour and his Cousin Maconte as Messengers
Two members of the Montour family, who had married into the Twightwigh (Miami) nation and lived among them, met with the commissioners, Jean Fafar alias Maconte, was the nephew of Louis Montour, killed by the French in 1709 for encouraging far nations to trade with the English, and Joseph Montour, Louis’s son. They brought a message from a group of Twightwigh (Miami) who had sent nine canoes to trade but were stopped at the falls of Oneida by the people who lived there. The reference appears to be to European traders, probably English subjects, because if they were French, the commissioners would have noted it. Possibly Abraham Schuyler and his party were trading while stationed with the Iroquois to reassure them about the expanding English presence in their country.
The Miami wanted to come renew their treaties and wondered why they had been stopped. Maconte and Joseph gave some dressed deerskins and a calumet pipe to the commissioners. The commissioners thanked them, but did not show much sympathy for the Miami. They expressed surprise that they had not come to Albany, since they had joined themselved in the Covenant Chain. They should not have allowed the people at Oneida falls to persuade them to trade there instead of at Albany, where goods were cheaper. They asked the Miami not to listen to such people in the future. They gave the Montour cousins some rum and blankets for the Miami sachems.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, June 1725 starts here.
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.
The Six Nations Don’t Want a French-English War in Iroquoia
On April 11th, a delegation from Onondaga, Cayouga, and the Tuscaroras came to Albany on behalf of the Six Nations as a whole. They told the commissioners that Governor Vaudreuil had sent a message to Jean Coeur (Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire) in Seneca Country telling him that someone from New England had revealed Governor Burnet’s plan for a trading house at the mouth of the Onondaga River (Oswego). Governor Vaudreuil described his own plans to build a fort at Niagara and ships to sail Cadarachqui (Lake Ontario) as well as his intention to destroy the English house at Oswego.
The delegates said that the Six Nations reminded Jean Coeur that the French and the Haudenosaunee had recently fought a bitter war that ended with an agreement not to make war over frivolous things such as “Beavers and furrs.” If the French destroyed the English trading house and built the proposed ships and fort, it could mean war. They urged the French to live in peace with the English. They did not want blood shed in their country.
They begged their brother Corlaer (New York) to listen to this message too. The French and the English should “live like friends together,” neither becoming the first aggressor. The delegates said they would take particular note of whether Corlaer followed this advice, in support of which the sachims had sent a large belt of wampum. They had sent a belt to the French with the same message. They wanted Governor Burnet to meet them at the beginning of June to renew the covenant and discuss important matters.
The commissioners responded that they were surprised that the Six Nations would allow the French to impose on them in such a way, at which point the page ends. The remainder of their answer is missing.
(I have edited this post to remove the sections relating to French forts, Abraham Schuyler’s assignment, and problems at Tiononderogue. The records begin to get out of order here, and I made a mistake in the dates of the entries relating to these issues, which date from 1726, not 1725. Apologies to my readers!)
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, April 1725 starts here .
A Conference With Kahnawake, Schawenadie, the Kaniengeha’ka, and Albany
On March 13 the commissioners met with five leaders from Kahnawake (spelled Cachnawage in the records) and Kahnawake’s ally Schawenadie, in this case spelled Scanrinadie. (My best guess is that Schawenadie is the Iroquois name for the community that gradually relocated in the early 18th century from the Island of Montreal to Lac des Deux Montagnes on the Ottawa River nearby, becoming known as Kanesetake.) Some Kaniengeha’ka (Mohawk) leaders were also present. The record of this conference is a good example of the ongoing diplomacy between Iroquois communities in the Saint Lawrence Valley, the Six Nations, New France, and Albany that was conducted outside the initiatives of English governors. It also shows how events in Dummer’s War looked from a native perspective and confirms that Burnet was wrong when he accused the Albany traders of manipulating the Six Nations into objecting to Burnet’s plans for a trading house at Oswego. In reality those objections reflected the Six Nations’ valid concerns about the situation, concerns that Albany shared. The conference is omitted from Peter Wraxall’s Abridgement except for a brief reference to the information provided about French plans. I have not found that it is printed anywhere else.
The Iroquois Object to Shifting the Fur Trade to Oswego
The speaker was Ondatsagto (possibly the Oneida leader Ondatsighta). The minutes say he spoke for Cachnawage and Schawendie, although he seemed at times to speak for the Haudenosaunee as a whole. He began by saying that he was glad that some of the Maquas (Kaniengeha’ka or Mohawk) sachems were present. After explaining that “we are but youngsters, our ancestors understood affairs better than we,” he said that they would speak plainly. The ancient friendship among the parties was declining as though they were no longer brothers. They came to rekindle the fire at Albany, long established as the place to treat about matters of public concern.
Ondatsagto went on to explain that Kahnawake had six sachims, two of whom had been made “children” of Albany who were responsible for telling the commissioners if there was a threat to them. One of them had died and the commissioners had appointed someone to take his place. He was now present and would convey important information.
Ondatsagto next referred to the treaty conference held the previous year with Governor Burnet. New York had asked the Iroquois to persuade the Eastern Indians to end their war with New England. Ondatsagto said that the Iroquois had tried to end the war, but their efforts were undermined by the news that New England had taken an Eastern Indian town. This news made the Iroquois ambassadors ashamed. The Eastern Indians accused them of being spies because they remained at peace with New England while it subjected the Eastern Indians to a bloody war. Ondatsagto reproached the commissioners with not keeping their promise to write to the governor of New England to ask him to stop his people from attacking the Eastern Indians.
Next Ondatsagto said that D Cannihogo, the Kahnawake leader appointed to maintain ties between New York and Kahnawake, now had news for them. Kahnawake had learned that at the treaty the previous year, Governor Burnet insisted on his plans to build a trading house at the mouth of the Onnondaga River (Oswego) over the objections of the Six Nations, who wanted it to be located at the west end of Oneida Lake. But there were serious problems with Burnet’s desired location. It was already in use by the French to travel from Montreal to the “far nations” beyond Iroquoia, and was first possessed by them. The Governor of Canada would undoubtedly destroy any English trading house built at that location, which could trigger a conflict between the French and the English. Ondatsagto advised the commissioners to keep the trade at Albany. They would get more beaver that way, and the French might be persuaded not to build their proposed fort at Niagara. On this proposition he gave a large belt of black wampum. The recorder first wrote and then crossed out that if the English insisted on their location a war would ensue and destroy the beaver trade.
Ondatsagto reminded the commissioners that the Onondagas had accepted Monsr. De Longueuil, the Governor of Montreal, as their child and allowed him to build a house at Onondaga. Pieter Schuyler then tore the building down, claiming that its construction was a breach of the Covenant Chain. The French could be expected to destroy Governor Burnet’s proposed building at Oswego for the same reason.
The “French Indians,” that is the people from Kahnawake and Schawenadie, then addressed the Mohawks and said their ancestors all lived in one country as one people, but now everyone had gone where they pleased and it was their lot to settle in Canada. They acknowledged a belt sent to them by the Mohawks asking them to keep the Covenant Chain, promised to do so, and said they expected the same on the Mohawks’ part.
The pages of the minutes are out of order at this point and it is possible that some material has been lost.
The Commissioners Response: England Claims the Six Nations as Subjects
Three days later the commisioners responded. They thanked the Sachims for speaking clearly and clearing up “the mistake that happen’d.” It is not clear exactly what they meant. They expressed appreciation that the other Sachims had come with DCannihogo to tell them about the French plans. They renewed the Covenant Chain, assuring all present of their continued friendship, and gave a belt of Wampum.
Then they explained the trading house situation from England’s point of view. They claimed that Pieter Schuyler destroyed the French trading house at Onondaga because Onondaga was on “Land belonging to the five Nations who are Subjects to the King of Great Britain.” The same logic allowed the English to build their house at Oswego on “Land belonging to the English.” The French would not dare to break it down because the two crowns were at peace. They said they would give Governor Burnet the information about the French plans and gave another belt of wampum. If Ondatsagto responded to the commissioners’ claim that the Six Nations were English subjects and England owned the land in their country, his answer is not recorded.
The commissioners said they did not remember promising to write to New England to ask them to end hostilities and they could not do such a thing while the Eastern Indians continued to kill New England settlers. They asked D Cannihogo to continue bringing information.
D Cannihogo said again that the French intended to break down the proposed trading house at Oswego. He added that the Governor of Canada planned to build two ships at Cadaraqui (the location of present day Kingston, Ontario) to be used in transporting furs from Niagara to Montreal, another ship above Niagara Falls to bring furs there, and a strong fort at Niagara itself.
The Commissioners Ask the Governor to Work Directly With the Senecas
The commissioners passed this information on to Governor Burnet in a letter, enclosing a copy of the minutes of the meeting. They asked the governor to give the Senecas presents in order to persuade them not to allow the French to execute their plans for a fort and repeated their suggestion to make an English settlement at Irondequoit (present day Rochester, NY) in order to counter the influence of the French. Significantly, they did not offer to negotiate with the Senecas themselves, a sign of the ongoing tensions between them and Governor Burnet. At the treaty conference the previous year, when the Six Nations objected to Burnet’s proposed location for a trading house, he accused them of being manipulated by Albany traders. Now the commissioners seemed to be trying to put the burden of dealing with the situation back on him.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, March 1725 starts here and then jumps to here.
From the only entry for February, which is another letter from the commissioners to Governor Burnet, it appears that Colonel John (Johannes) Schuyler continued to work with Massachusetts separately from the commissioners to negotiate with the forces in Canada that supported the Eastern Indians, or Abenaki, in the war known variously as Father Rale’s War, Dummer’s War and Greylock’s War. Massachusetts representatives William Dudley and Samuel Thaxter met Schuyler in Albany and left with him for Canada on February 6th. The commissioners told the governor that they had offered them support.
They also told the governor that they had a letter from Captain Harme Vedder, who was in the Seneca Country. He had informed them that Louis-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire, known to the Iroquois as Sononchiez and to the English as Jean Coeur, had spent the winter at Onnahec, the “little Seneca Castle,” with four men. In the spring they planned to go to Niagara. He told the Seneca that Vedder had orders to kill him, which Vedder denied, although he said that he would kill him if he deserved it.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, February 1725 starts here
Things were still not going well between the commissioners and William Burnet, the governor of New York and New Jersey.
In January the commissioners replied to a letter from the governor in which he told them not to give Nicholas Schuyler and Jacob Wendell the oath against trading with the French because they were already trading with the French in contravention of the Act of 1720 that prohibited it. In this letter the governor accused the commissioners of taking ‘no more Notice of [his] minute in Council then if it had been waste paper.” Presumably he was angry about the incident the previous October in which Schuyler and Wendell had been caught red-handed in the woods north of Albany with a group of native people and a large quantity of strowd blankets that they were obviously transporting to Canada to trade with the French. No doubt it seemed pointless to have traders take loads of goods to Montreal and take the oath against doing so only after they returned.
In their reponse to the governor, the commissioners said they were sorry that he felt this way. They insisted that they were doing their best to comply with his directions but the Act of 1720 did not authorize them to do more than what they were doing.
The governor’s letter also asked for changes to their report responding to the petition of the London merchants opposed to the Act and sent them a printed copy of the Act. They thanked him for it, and for the suggestions for changes. The London merchants’ petition and the final version of the response of the New York government can be seen here in the printed Papers Relating to an Act of the Assembly of Province of New-York, For Encouragement of the Indian Trade &c. and for Prohibiting the Selling of Indian Goods to the French viz. of Canada. NY: Bradford, 1724. The papers include a map that shows the route from Albany to Iroquoia, featuring the Five Nations, and showing rivers, lakes, and carrying places. The map does not show the native communities in the Saint Lawrence Valley and elsewhere that were affected by suppressing the trade between Albany and Montreal.
In their letter to the governor the commissioners also suggested that it would be useful to have an English settlement at Irondequoit (the location of present-day Rochester) so that if there was a dispute between the far Indians (members of nations coming to trade from beyond Iroquoia) and the French who wanted to prevent that trade, they could encourage the Six Nations to support the far Indians.
In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, January 1725 starts here