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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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Chapter X. — The Iroquois Abandon their Neutral Position in the War Between the English and French.

AT the victory obtained on Lake George, in 1755, a year so disastrous to the British army, the Mohawks alone, of the six Iroquois cantons, were present, with Johnson, their beloved Warraghiyagay, and two hundred warriors, headed by the great
Soiengarahta. A far greater force had been expected from, and promised by, the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Tuscaroras, and Senecas; but, owing to the influence of General Shirley, whose act appears to have been dictated by no higher motive than personal envy of Johnson's rising power with that people, these tribes withheld their respective quotas of warriors. 280 A vacillating and indecisive policy had been pursued by them for some years, and while they were, to use symbolic language, in the chain of friendship with the English, and held the other tribes in check, in conformity with their own and the British interests, they were lukewarm in taking the field as the auxiliaries of the English armies. Johnson had endeavored, soon after his return from his conference with Braddock, to induce a body of the confederates to cross the Alleghanies with that officer; but they evaded the proposal. Cherishing, from ancient times, an ill feeling towards Assaragoa, their name for the Governor of Virginia, they regarded Braddock's advance as a Virginia movement. They deemed the Virginians land robbers, who coveted the Ohio valley; and they were sufficiently good diplomatists to bring forward several weighty considerations on the subject. It happened, while this negotiation was pending, that they furnished Johnson with messengers to the authorities at Fort Cumberland. These Indian runners were there informed that a party of six of the warriors sent out by the Mohawks against the Catabas, had all been killed. This news exercised such a bad effect on the council, that they neither promised nor furnished aid to Braddock, although they did not join the Indian forces on the Ohio to oppose him. Not a man of their people, who bore the honored title of Mingoes, was in the battle of the Monongahela. Tanacharisson, called the Half-King, and Scarooyadi, his successor, evinced throughout a firm friendship for the English, first locally pledged to Washington, during his perilous journey, in 1753.

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The Iroquois had, from the remotest antiquity, enjoyed the reputation of eloquent orators, and expert diplomatists. But Johnson was not a man to be dazzled by words and speeches, while the weightier matter of action was in abeyance. In a general conference with the Onondaga and more westerly tribes, held June 16th, 1757, nearly two years subsequent to his victory on Lake George, in which the Mohawks had so nobly supported him, he alluded to this matter, and proceeded to dispose of some of their diplomatic subterfuges.

"Brethren, you tell me the reason you did not make use of the hatchet I sharpened for you last summer, when I was at Onondaga, and at which time I also painted and feathered your warriors for action, was, because you found yourselves in danger from the Missisagas, and, therefore, were obliged to let my hatchet lay by you, and take care of yourselves.

"Brethren. This is the first time I have heard the Missisagas were your enemies, and I am surprised how it came about. It is but two years ago, at the great meeting here, that you brought down the chief man amongst the Missisagas, and introduced him to me as your great friend and ally, and told me that he and his people were determined to follow the example of the Five Nations. You then desired I would treat and consider him accordingly, which I did, and gave him presents to his satisfaction, and he took belts from me to his people. For what reason, therefore, you think yourselves in danger from the Missisagas, I cannot comprehend, unless it is from some misunderstanding, which, I hear, happened in the woods, some few days ago, between some of your people and them.

"Brethren, another reason you give me for your inactivity is, that you are few in number, and you daily hear yourselves threatened by your enemies. As to your numbers, had you taken my advice, given you many years ago, and often repeated, you might now have been a strong people. I should be glad to know who these enemies are, and what grounds you have for these fears.

"Brethren, you say that the English would first make a trial against their enemies, and that, if we found we could not do without you, that then we would call on you for your assistance. I have looked over the records, where all public speeches and business with the Nations are faithfully wrote down, and I find no such thing there, and I am very positive you must be mistaken; for, from the first meeting I had with the Six Nations, after my return from Virginia, to this day, I have been constantly calling and exhorting them, as children of the Great King of England, as brothers and allies to the English, to join and assist His Majesty's arms against our common enemy, the French; and the Six Nations have as frequently assured me, they would act with us, and for us; and, you must know, you have a great number of belts from me on this subject, now in your possession. You tell me, though you don't know from what quarter, that you expect, in a few months, to be attacked by some enemy, and that, therefore, you think your own preservation requires you to stay at home, and be on

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your guard. What foundation you have for all these fears, so lately come upon you, you have not thought proper to inform me, and, therefore, I am at a loss about it, especially as I understand several parties of your young men are gone a fighting to the southward. Formerly, you told rne that, if you had forts built at your towns, and some men to garrison them, you might then go to war with your brethren, the English, and not be afraid of your old men, your wives and children, during your absence. These forts, though very expensive to the King, your Father, were accordingly built for you, and, if you had applied, you might have had men to garrison them. Brethren, your conduct will, in my opinion, appear very ungrateful, and your reasonings very inconsistent to the King, your Father, and to all your brethren, the English, when they come to their knowledge, as they soon will do; wherefore I would advise you to reconsider the matter, and take it into your most serious consideration.

"Brethren. You say Captain Montour and Captain Butler brought you a message in my name, that I expected you would use the hatchet I had put in your hands against the French; that the message was laid before the council of Onondaga, who said they did not expect such a message from you, as the Covenant Chain was for the common safety, both of us and you, and that, if you were to leave your country unguarded, it might end in your destruction.

"Brethren. It is certain the Covenant Chain was made for our common good and safety, and it is well known to you all that it speaks in this manner: That the English and the Six Nations shall consider themselves as one flesh and blood, and that, whenever any enemy shall hurt the one, the other is to feel it and avenge it as if done to himself. Have not the French hurt us? Is not their axe in our heads? Are they not daily killing and taking our people away? Have not some of your nations, both to the southward and northward, joined the French against us? Nay, some of you, by your own confession, have gone out by yourselves, and struck the English. Have you not now several of our people prisoners amongst you, whom you conceal from me? Have you not, lastly, suffered the Swegachie Indians to come through your habitations, and take one of our people from the German Flats? Let me ask you now if all this is behaving like brethren, and whether you ought not to be ashamed when you put us in mind of the Covenant Chain? Surely you dream, or think I have forgot the old agreement between us, when you talk in this manner. I take you by the head, and rouse you from your lethargy, and bring you to your senses.

"Brethren. You say you must take care of yourselves, and not leave your country unguarded. When our brother's house is on fire, will another brother look quietly on, smoke his pipe at his own door, and say he can't help him, because, perhaps, his own house may take fire? Does the Covenant Chain speak this language? Did your forefathers talk after this manner? Did I talk so to you when the Onondagas, Oneidas, and Tuscaroras sent me word, last year, that they expected the enemy were coming upon them? Did not I and your brethren run through the ice and snow, at two or

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three different times, to their assistance? Where, and who, are those enemies you so much dread? Let us know, do you want our assistance? if you are in danger, we know the Covenant Chain, and will be ready to defend or die with you. We won't tell you, make one trial by yourselves, and that we must stay home, and take care of our own preservation.

"You always tell me 'tis for our mutual interest you go so often to Canada; I am apt to think you have brought these alarms and these fears with you from thence.

"Brethren. I must tell you, that my orders from the King, your Father, are, to take care of and supply with necessaries such good and faithful Indians as will go out and fight for him and his people; and that such and their families, only, has he empowered me to arm, clothe, and provide for, which I shall continue to do to all such as will go out upon service; and those, I dare say, will, in the end, find they have acted more for their honor and interest, than those who stay at home, and smoke their pipes.

"Brethren. You have assured me, that it is the unanimous resolution of the Five Nations to hold fast the ancient Covenant Chain, made by our forefathers and yours. Brethren, our end of this chain is bright and strong, and we shall not be the first to let it go; but it seems to me that your end is grown very rusty, and, without great care, will be in danger of being eaten through, which I should be very sorry to see, as it would be the means, also, of extinguishing the fire here, and oversetting the Tree of Shelter."

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document:
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