Minute Book 3: 1726-April: Major Abraham Schuyler is Sent to Onondaga to Promote the English Interest

1726-4-21Stefan Bielinski‘s biography  of Major Abraham Schuyler (1663-1726), on the New York State Museum’s The People of Colonial Albany Live Here website, tells us that by 1726, Schuyler had spent years as a trader, interpreter, and diplomat in Iroquoia. In April Governor Burnet and the Commissioners of Indian Affairs sent him to Onondaga with orders to invite the Six Nations to Albany in the summer for a meeting with the governor.  Schuyler was told to address Iroquois concerns about traders who brought alcohol to their country and to ensure the safety of the traders.  He was also told to go to the Seneca’s Country or wherever else he could find information about French plans at Niagara, and to hire “trusty Indians” for this purpose. He was provided with gifts and a belt of wampum and instructed to keep a journal of his activities and observations. He was not to engage in trade himself, but to count on an appropriate reward for his services from the governor, although no amount was stated.

Major Schuyler was also told to keep order among the Dutch traders and prevent them from giving rum even to Indians from outside Iroquoia except when they were about to depart from the falls, probably meaning the falls near Oswego, where trade flourished now that Albany merchants were forbidden to trade with Montreal.

The commissioners wrote to Governor Burnet enclosing a copy of Schuyler’s instructions. They said that even the traders who originally opposed moving the trade west (meaning to Oswego) now planned to partake in it and as many as 50 canoes were expected that summer.  If the French did not prevent it, Albany merchants should do well. The commissioners also told the governor that they had learned that Frenchmen were traveling from Montreal to Jagara (Niagara) without revealing their purpose, which was probably to build the new fort.

The last item in the commissioners’ letter reveals that problems with alcohol were were also occuring at Fort Hunter.  People there had submitted a petition asking for a law preventing people from buying corn from Indians and selling them rum, which was proving “very destructive to them.”

There are no entries for May 1726.

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, April 1726 starts here.

Below is the full transcription:

[254] 125a                                                            [Apr. 21, 1726]

[Wraxall mention p. 163]

By the Commissioners of the

Indian Affairs at Albany

Instructions for Major Abraham Schuyler

Whereas his Excllency [sic] william Burnet Esq.

Cap.t Generall and Governour in Chief of the

Provinces of New York New Jersey &c. has been pleasd

to approve that some person of Experience be Sent

among the five Nations to Quiet the minds of the

Indians, and has appointed you to undertake that

affair, we Do therefore hereby Require you forth-

=with to go to Onnondage on your Arrival there,

Desire the Sachims of the five Nations to meet, &

when they Shall be Conven’d, you are to Desire

them in the name of his Excellency our Governou[r]

that he Expects to meet them here this Summer,

and that they do not Suffer any of their people

to molest our Traders. That Several of them had

Carried up Rum Last winter, who Could [be-crossed out] not be

Prevaild on to turn back again, That the Traders

Shall be Directed not to Deliver any of their

Rum to the far Indians but at their Departure

that no mischief may arise from it —-

You are to stay among the five Nations

Till you Shall Receive Orders from his Excellency

to Return home, and while you Stay there you are

to Observe the Motions of the ffrench who we are Informd

are Going from Montreal with a force of men to

build a ffort at Jagara, and it may be at Some other

Places on this Side of Cadaracqui Lake, off which

if your have Certain Intelligence, you are forthwith

by Express to Inform us of it, that his Excellency

may be acquainted with the Proceedings of the

ffrench in the Indian Country, and that you may —

be the better Informd of the ffrench Design,

we think it Necessary that you go to the Sinnekes


[0255] 126

Country or Such other Place as you Shall Judge

Proper, That you may have a true Account of all

their Transactions and Proceedings, for which

Purpose you are to Imploy Some trusty Indians

of the five Nations to go among the ffrench

wherever they are, to see what they are Doing at

Jagara, to which End and for Present to the Indians

we think it Necessary that you Shall Receive

the value of Twenty five Pounds in Presents as

also a Belt of wampum and     [space in original] Blankets of


You are to Reside Some Time at the

ffalls where our Traders Lye to see that they do

not abuse the farr Ind.ns in there Trade, and you

are to give them all the Encouragement Possible

to trade with our People Either here or at the ffalls

you are to take Care that no Rum be Delivered to

the Indians but at their departure that No mischief

may arise from it —

It will be very proper that you keep a

Journal of all your Proceedings & Transactions

of any moment. while you Shall be among the

Indians on this Message. you are to Act in all

things as you Shall think most for his Majesties

Interest and welfare of this Province, you are

not to Concern your Self with any Trade while

you are this Jurney [sic] Not Doubting but his

Excellency Shall Sufficiently Reward you for

your Service.

Given under our hands in Albany

this 21th day of April in the twelfth Year of

his Maj.es Reign Annoq. Domini 1726

Philip Livingston

Henry Holland

Pieter van Brugh

Evert Bancker

Hend. van Rensselaer

[0256] 126a

[Wraxall quotes this letter p. 163.]

Albany 27 April 1726

May it Please y.r Excellency

yours Ex.es favours of ye 25th March on ye Receipt

whereof we sent for major Ab.m Schuyler who as soon

as he Came to Town we acquainted him with your

Exce.ly[s] pleasure. for his Going in ye Indian Country to

Quiet their mines [sic] he accepted to go on Credit of your

Exce.ly[s] Letter we thought it Necessary to give him

Instructions Copy whereof is here Inclosed hopeing

his Message may have ye Desired Effect. and yt. ye.

Assembly will Provide for the Charges he has £25.– in

Presents to the Indians besides 5 blankets Strowds

to be Imployd Instead of belts of Wampum Its very

acceptable to us yt. yr. Exc.ly Concurs with us yt. its

Necessary to have persons of Experience among ye

Indians with out w.h they will Certainly allinate in

their affections & fidelity to his Majesty —

We hear of many that are gone to trade to ye.

westward even to Number of 50 Canoes. People Incou

=rage that trade now to Emulation even those who were

at first ag.nt it. if our People be not Interrupted by ye.

french they will gett a Large Chear of their trade

this Sumer —

We are Informd yt. a number of men

are gone from Montreal to Jagara Some Say to build

a ffort there what there Design may be theyl Conceal

from us as Long as Possible –

Inclosed is a Petition to your Ex.ly from the

Inhabitants of ffort Hunter Desireing a Law for

Restraining People to buy ye. Corn from ye. Indians

there & Selling ym. Rum w.h has been found by Experi

=ence to very Destructive to ym. it would Conduce

much for ye benifitt of ye. Inhabitants there to obtain

Such a Law but they ought to debard as well as others

from buying Corn from ye Indians & Selling Rum