Minute Book 3: 1724-October

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, October 1724 starts here

The records for October demonstrate the utter failure of Governor Burnet’s policy prohibiting trade in Indian goods between New York  and the French.  The policy was codified in an act that required traders to take an oath that they were not engaging in the trade, but nearly everyone in Albany was doing so, including commissioners and their relatives. Moreover, the trade was a mainstay of the economy for native people in the area, including the Kaniengeha’ka (Mohawks) both in the Mohawk Valley and in the mission communities on the Saint Lawrence River.

The records document a dramatic encounter that occurred on October 1st, when Lieutenant Edmund Blood and Sergeant Charles Buckley, British officers garrisoned at Mount Burnet, north of Albany, traveled up Fish Creek west of the Hudson River to go hunting. Unexpectedly they came across Nicholas Schuyler and Jacob Wendell in the woods, where they were camping in a tent along with twenty or thirty Indians. They had in their possession 58 pieces of strouds, a kind of cloth that was a staple item in the fur trade. The names and nations of the Indians are never identified anywhere in the documents, but Schuyler and Wendell were both from prominent Albany families. They emerged from their tent, surprised to see the Lieutenant, who asked them where they were going. They said they were headed down the river, but could not produce a permit. The British officers seized the strouds in the King’s name by marking them in chalk with “the Broad Arrow,” and Schuyler and Wendell spoke to the Indians in their native tongue, which the British did not understand. The Indians began to pack up the strowds and the officers stopped them and seized the strouds over again.  Outnumbered, the British officers consulted with each other and decided to return to their blockhouse for reinforcements. Not surprisingly they came back to find the group and the strouds had disappeared. They issued warrants against Schuyler and Wendell to require them to appear and take the oath against trading.

In the meantime, “Mr. Hansen” and Cornelis Cuyler had returned from Canada with 117 backs of beavers and some dressed deerskins. More canoes were still expected. Hansen took the oath, but Cuyler refused, apparently planning to send more strouds to Canada by way of a group of Indians who were in town before he took it. He was fined 100 pounds. Hansen testified that he saw other strouds being delivered to Canada on his trip.

Philip Schuyler, father of Nicholas Schuyler, had still not paid the 100 pound fine assessed against him for violating the act.

The records also show in a letter to Governor Burnet dated October 3rd, that the Six Nations sachems met again with the commissioners following the September treaty with Governor Burnet.  Once again they refused to take up arms on Boston’s behalf. They told the commissioners “that they would still be their friends & adhere to them desiring & Recommending them to make a peace w.t the Eastern Ind.ns by Restoring them their Land and sending them their hostages.”

Governor Burnet was adamantly attached to his trade policy, but opposition was widespread even in London, where a group of merchants had signed a petition to the king in opposition to it. Turning the screws tighter on the Indian Commisisoners, Burnet asked them to respond to the London petition to refute the points that it made.

Minute Book 3: 1724-September

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, September 1724 starts here

Most of the minutes for September cover a treaty conference with New York Governor William Burnet, the Six Nations, and the Schaghticokes that was held in Albany beginning on September 14th. They are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 713. I have not transcribed them because O’Callaghan’s version is essentially identical, but will briefly summarize them here.

On September 14th, Governor Burnet held a private conference with the Six Nations, New York Council member Francis Harrison, and Massachusetts Bay Council member John Stoddard. They discussed what had happened between the Six Nations messengers sent to bring the Eastern Indians to a peace treaty at Boston and the Eastern Indians (Abenaki) at the mission town of St. Francis.

The messengers said that they went first to Montreal and met with the Governor, who wanted to hold the meeting at Montreal so that he could be there. The messengers agreed in order to get an interpreter. While waiting for the St. Francis Indians, they went to Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) until the St. Francis delegates arrived. They invited the St. Francis sachems to come to Albany to talk about peace, but they replied that they could not lay down the hatchet against New England, because New England had taken their land and still held their people prisoner. They said that they would make peace when New England restored the land and freed the prisoners. They suggested that the parties wishing to make peace should come to Montreal rather than Albany.

Governor Burnet reminded the messengers that the Six Nations had told Boston that they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not comply with their requests. They denied agreeing to this, despite all his efforts,  “they knew not of any promise or Engagement, only that they promised His Excellency to be mediators for Peace.”

1724-9-15

The next day Governor Burnet welcomed the Six Nations in the name of King George and gave them wampum belts incorporating letters of the alphabet. The meanings of many of these initials are somewhat obscure. He thanked them for opening the path for far nations to come trade at Albany, claiming that this meant that goods were now more plentiful for the Six Nations. (While this might have been the case for those in the west, it is questionable whether things were working out equally well for the Mohawks). He noted that he had also improved the passage at Wood Creek where goods were carried from the Mohawk River watershed to Oneida Lake and eventually Lake Ontario by way of the Onondaga River (now called the Oswego River), a bottleneck for trade to and from the west.

Governor Burnet also said that he was keeping a force of young men with the Senecas with a smith and a trading house and that he also planned to send some men to the Onondagas, where the main trade with the far nations would pass. They planned to build a block house at the mouth of the Onondaga River. (“Onondaga River” did not mean what is now called Onondaga Creek, but rather what is now called the Oswego River where it enters Lake Ontario at Oswego.) Burnet’s men planned to live there along with a smith so they could be good neighbors to the Six Nations “and live as comfortably among you as they do here at home.” He explained that this would bring the beaver trade into Iroquoia along with cheaper goods. Governor Burnet explained that to show how much he wanted their beavers, he was wearing clothes made of beaver cloth. He asked the Six Nations to keep the path open for the far nations and to welcome the New Yorkers living in Seneca country as well as those who would be coming to Onondaga to build the new blockhouse.

Next Governor Burnet reminded the Six Nations that they had said they would send messengers to the Eastern Indians and take appropriate measures if the Eastern Indians continued to fight against New England. He said their continued friendship depended on them keeping their word, but he would leave it to the deputies from Boston to discuss the details.

On September 16th, the Six Nations met with the Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay. Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of this meeting made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed in O’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723.  Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests to stop fighting. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. They reiterated the position of the Eastern Indians that they would not make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.

“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking their brothers.

The next day, on September 17th, the Six Nations renewed the Covenant Chain with New York and thanked the governor for providing a smith to the Senecas and Onondaga, for clearing the passage at Wood Creek and for encouraging the far Indians to come to trade. They agreed to the block house near Onondaga, but expressed concern about what the prices for goods would be. They asked that the proposed blockhouse be located at the end of Oneida Lake instead of at the mouth of the Onondaga River. They acknowledged having said that they would “resent it” if the Eastern Indians continued to attack New England, and agreed to speak to the Boston commissioners about it. The Senecas asked why Myndert Wemp, a smith who they found “good, kind, & charitable” had not returned after spending time there with Major Abraham Schuyler two years before.

Despite the decision of Massachusetts Bay not to print records relating to their war with the Abenaki, the minutes of the proceedings between the  Commissioners for Massachusetts Bay and the Six Nations on September 16th made it to England. They were not included in the Albany Indian Commissioner record books, but they are printed inO’Callaghan’s Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, volume 5, beginning on page 723.  Massachusetts rehearsed the occasions on which the Six Nations had allegedly said they would take up arms against the Eastern Indians if they did not stop attacking New England and urged them to do so now that the Eastern Indians had refused to comply with all requests. The Six Nations said that they were still waiting for an answer to the belt of wampum which they had sent to King George in England. (This belt is described in the record of the treaty conference at Boston in August 1723, which can be found on page 197 of volume 5 of the Massachusetts General Court, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1723-1724.) The Six Nations explained the position of the Eastern Indians, who refused to make peace until their land and hostages were returned. They said that because England and France were at peace, “this matter of Peace lieth with you.” The best way to move forward would be to for Boston to return its Indian captives.

“Tho the Hatchett lays by our side yet the way is open between this Place and Canada, and trade is free both going and coming and so the way is open between this place of Albany and the six Nations and if a War should break out and we should use the Hatchett that layes by our Side, those Paths which are now open wold be stopped, and if we should make war it would not end in a few days as yours doth but it must last till one nation or the other is destroyed as it has been heretofore with us.” The speaker blamed the Governor of Canada for pushing the Eastern Indians to keep fighting even though they were inclined to peace. They asked the Massachusetts commissioners to try themselves to make peace with the Eastern Indians, since the Six Nations’ efforts had not succeeded. They intended to remain at peace and were not forsaking Massachusetts.

A few days later, on September 19th, Governor Burnet addressed the Six Nations again. Burnet’s tone was testy, even autocratic, and reveals the rifts still present between the British authorities and the Albany traders. Burnet told the sachems that the English blockhouse needed to be at the mouth of the Onondaga River in order to control the beaver trade, and that it must be the bad advice of the Albany traders that led the Six Nations to prefer the Oneida Lake location. He also blamed the traders for suggesting that goods should be as cheap at Onondaga as at Albany despite the additional work involved to bring them there from Albany, and for suggesting that Abraham Schuyler and Myndert Wemp return. He said that Albany was interfering in order to preserve its own trade with the French and asked the Six Nations not to consult the Albany traders in the future. He told them that he, not the Six Nations, would appoint his officers, that he would not appoint Abraham Schuyler because “he has taken a wrong way to get himself named,” and that he was sending Harme Vedder and Myndert Wemp’s brother to the Seneca instead of Schuyler and Mydert Wemp. (In the end, however, he appears to have sent Myndert Wemp after all.) He said that if he knew who had put these false notions into the minds of the Six Nations he would punish them.

Burnet said that the Six Nations had admitted to the Boston commissioners that they had agreed to support Boston against the Eastern Indians. He was not happy with their decision to wait for a response from the King of Great Britain before taking up arms. He claimed that the colonies were authorized by the king to make war with Indians on their own without the king’s consent. Burnet insisted that if the Six Nations were so “unworthy and cowardly” as to refuse to make war, they must at least allow their young men to enlist as soldiers in Boston’s army. He gave them what he described as “a very large Present” and wished them a safe journey home.

The Six nations sachems replied by D’Kannasore (Teganissorens) that since the governor did not approve of the location at Oneida Lake, they wished him “joy” where he proposed to make it and hoped it would bring many beavers. He thanked the governor for wishing them a good trip home, for many of their leaders had been lost on such journeys. He asked how many people planned to settle at the end of the Onnondaga river, to which the governor estimated 40 or 50. Teganissorens explained that he had been appointed as speaker by the Six Nations on the governor’s recommendation and that they had agreed to take his advice. He asked the governor whether he would also accept his advice, which the governor said he would do on matters of consequence.

Governor Burnet also met with the Schaghticoke sachems and complained that some of their people had been involved in attacks on New England. The Boston Commissioners at the meeting accused individuals from Schaghticoke named Schaschanaemp and Snaespank of injuring settlers on the frontiers, acknowledging that people at Schaghticoke had formerly lived “on our frontiers”. They were still welcome to hunt there “on the Branches of our Rivers” and considered friends who should not harbor New England’s enemies. The Schaghticokes admitted that Schaschanaemp and another person had come through Schaghticoke and had gone to the Half Moon and Saratoga. They said that the attacks might have been committed by people who had left Schaghticoke to live in Canada. In response to Governor Burnet’s question as to why so many people were moving from Schaghticoke to Canada, they said that one group had left because they heard that they were going to be attacked next by the Indians who were attacking New England, but they did not tell the rest of the Schaghticokes before they left. The governor accused the sachems of having no command over their people and reminded them that a Tree was planted by a former governor for them to live under (a metaphor for Governor Edmund Andros’s policy of sanctuary for refugees from New England).

The Schaghticokes said the tree was decaying, its leaves withering, and they had only a little land now to plant on. Some of them had gone hunting peacefully on the New England frontiers two years before, but were taken prisoner and put in jail in Boston. Jacob Wendell, an Albany trader who became a merchant in Boston, rescued them, but without him they would have been treated as enemies. Some of those who had been jailed had now gone to fight against New England to revenge themselves. The Boston commissioners said they were jailed by mistake because they were on Pennecook River where Boston’s enemies lived, but they were freed as soon as the mistake was discovered.

The Schaghticokes ended by renewing the covenant and affirming the Tree of Peace and Friendship planted at Schaghticoke. They would turn down requests to fight with the Eastern Indians against New England and follow the lead of the Six Nations. They, like the Six Nations, were waiting to hear King George’s response to the wampum belt message sent to him. Governor Burnet renewed the covenant and gave them gifts.

The Albany Indian Commissioners records for September 1724 include one document not printed in O’Callaghan, the record of a meeting on September 19th between the commissioners and Governor Burnet. Burnet changed the makeup of the commissioners by removing Johannes Wendell and restoring Robert Liviingston Junior. He arranged to pay back Jan Wemp and Jacob Glen for financing the work done at the Wood Creek carrying place by Major Goose Van Schaick and David Vanderheyden. He also arranged to get additional work done there to make a bridge over the creek and remove trees from the Mohawk River channel. He appointed Harme Vedder to go the Seneca Country and specified that he get the canoes used there by Jacob Verplank.  He also laid out other details about work to be done in Iroquoia. Myndert Wemp or Juriaen Hogan were preferred as smiths at Onondaga, and tools were to be provided there, although he said he would need to get the funding confirmed by the New York Council.

Last but not least, Governor Burnet said that he would not allow any more money for the interpreter’s travel expenses except if the governor ordered him to go. The interpreter, Lawrence Claessen, traveled to Iroquoia on a regular basis and these trips were important in diplomatic relations between New York and the Six Nations. Burnet was making it more difficult for the Albany Indian Commissioners to conduct their affairs. Clearly matters were still not resolved between the governor and the commissioners.

Minute Book 3: 1724-July

In Library and Archives Canada’s digital copy of the original minutes, July 1724 starts here

The commissioners’ minutes do not record the meetings between the New England delegates, the Six Nations, and the four allied nations headed by Kahnawake / Caughnawaga, although it is clear that such meetings took place. ¬†This might be related to a decision by the Massachusetts government not to publish records related to the ongoing war with the Abenaki (Eastern Indians). The government had published the record of the treaty conference at Boston in August 1723, which can be found on page 197 of the¬†Massachusetts General Court, Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts 1723-1724 (v. 5) The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1924, but decided (p. 235) that publicizing proceedings related to the war was impeding¬†the war effort. They also decided to bury their collection of scalps (Journals … v. 6 p. 210) in secret “so as not to be discovered or produced again.”

On July 1 the Albany Indian Commissioners suggested to the Massachusetts Bay delegates that Albany should have a private conference with the Six Nations sachems. With Massachusetts Bay’s approval, they tried to persuade the Six Nations to send envoys to the Eastern Indians who were still out fighting to order them “come to Terms of Peace and Submission” with Massachusetts Bay, end their hostilities, and send representatives to Boston to conclude a formal peace treaty. They asked the Six Nations to be guarantees for the good behavior of the Eastern Indians.

The minutes do not record the initial response of the Six Nations except to note that it was “delitory and not Satisfactory.” After further consultation, the Six Nations said that they had made proposals to the Kahnawake sachems and their allies and they had agreed to peace. The Six Nations had thought that would conclude the war, but they now agreed with the proposed plan and appointed three men, Tarighdoris, Jacob alias Adatsondie, and Assredowax, to go to negotiate with the Eastern Indians. They asked for wampum belts and a canoe as well as reimbursement for the messengers to pay them for their “trouble & fatigue.” They also asked that someone from New York go with them.

The commissioners wrote to Massachusetts Bay expressing the hope that the Massachusetts Bay delegates would confirm that they had acted in New England’s best interests and worked with the Six Nations to persuade Kahnawake and its allies to bury the hatchet. They said that the Six Nations had insisted “tho’ very absurd” that peace would be concluded when the Indian hostages were returned (by Massachusetts Bay), but had finally agreed to send messengers to stop the Eastern Indians from fighting and require them to come to Boston with the Six Nations for a peace treaty. The commissioners said the Six Nations would compel them by the sword to do so if they did not agree, although it is clear from the wording that the Six Nations was not fully behind this idea.

In the midst of the peace negotiations, the Board met with the Seneca messengers who had gone to the far nations the previous winter to invite them to trade at Albany. They had met with six different nations, none of which are named, adding some extra wampum belts in order to do so. Most of those nations promised to come to Albany. But several of their canoes were met and stopped by near “the Palatines Land at the ffalls,” probably the vicinity of present day Little Falls, where many Palatines had settled. The people there pressured and bribed them to sell their goods there instead of bringing them to Albany. The far Indians and the Six Nations were highly displeased about this.

A letter from the commissioners to Governor Burnet explained the results of the negotiations with the Six Nations as well as the problems encountered by the far Indians intercepted on their way to Albany by “our people who go up to trade.” They asked for reimbursement for redeeming two captives from the Indians who were now being returned to other kinds of captivity. One was a negro boy belonging to Captain Hicks of Virginia, conveyed home by Captain (Henry?) Holland. The other was an Indian who was probably the Sapponi Indian servant of Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia.

Finally on July 14th, some far Indians did come to Albany, explaining that the French had persuaded many of their group to go to Canada instead by telling them that they would be poisoned in Albany. They had an additional purpose in coming besides trade: to condole Pieter Schuyler (Quider), who had died in February. The commissioners welcomed them and thanked them for condoling Colonel Schuyler according to custom, promising that they would always be welcomed as they were by Schuyler himself. The commissioners accepted the calumet pipe presented by the visitors and gave them food, blankets, rum, pipes, and tobacco, assuring them that the French were lying and that they would find cheap goods in Albany.