Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 14
by Robert S. Allen
The Regime of Sir William Johnson (1755-74)
Throughout the long wars for empire between France and England in North America, the allegiance of the Eastern Woodland tribes was of paramount importance to the success of both powers. An Iroquois alliance was particularly sought because of their political and military strength, and their strategic central location.1 The Iroquois were kept outside the French fur-trading network, and as a result the confederacy was in constant conflict with the Huron and Neutral who controlled the trade from the north and west. Algonkian-speaking tribes also prevented the Iroquois from usurping the trade along the Ottawa River; and to the east, the Mohican controlled the Hudson River uplands. When their own hunting grounds became denuded of beaver by about 1640, the Iroquois were forced to turn increasingly to the Europeans for subsistence and the acquisition of trade goods, which rapidly became a necessary adjunct of their culture, both for trading purposes and for survival. As a result of the growing necessity for economic dependence, the formal inauguration of a British-Iroquois alliance resulted at Albany in 1664. The agreement was not an innovation in the relations between Iroquois and Europeans, but was merely a continuation of the policy of giving Albany merchants control of Indian affairs and trade, a legacy which was inherited from the Dutch who had made an informal agreement with the Mohawks in the 1640s.2 The importance of this alliance was that it formed a barrier of frontier defence and as Thomas Dongan, governor of the royal colony of New York, later observed, the Iroquois "are a bulwark between us and the French and all other Indians."3 Although French-Iroquois relations were in a condition of alternate peace and war during the 17th century as both sought to control the fur trade with the western Indians, the British succeeded in maintaining a peaceful cordiality with the Iroquois confederacy. Thus the Iroquois assisted in asserting the eventual trading supremacy of the British over the French, as well as providing a convenient first line of defence for the westward-expanding frontier settlements of the colonies of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia against possible attacks from the French and those western Indian tribes in alliance with them.
For nearly 100 years the major diplomatic tactics used by both the French and the British in attempting to achieve an Iroquois alliance involved religion and trade. Missionaries were as much political propagandists as spiritual mentors, and religion became an important tool in serving the ambitions of the imperial rivals in the New World.4 But, as Peter Wraxall, secretary of Indian affairs under Sir William Johnson, clearly pointed out on behalf of the British, "Trade was the foundation of their Alliance or Connexions with us, it is the chief Cement wch binds us together. And this should undoubtedly be the first Principle of our whole System of Indian Politics."5 Thus for the British, supremacy in the Indian trade became the keystone to any preservation of a balance against the French. A temporary setback occurred, however, in 1701 when the Iroquois, following King William's War and a series of French raids into their country, decided to adopt a policy of neutrality and made treaties of peace and friendship with both the French and the British.
This Iroquois diplomacy was shattered in the 1740s during King George's War (1745-48) when British traders took advantage of the supremacy of the Royal Navy, which kept supplies and trade goods from reaching New France, and usurped the French role in the fur trade in the Ohio valley. The Mingo, Delaware, Wyandot, Miami and other tribes which had previously bartered with the French now turned to the British trader and his cheaper and more abundant wares. Following the Logstown conference with the once pro-British Algonkian tribes, the British were permitted to build trading posts on the Miami, Sandusky and Cuyahoga rivers, and by 1748-49, were dominant in the Ohio fur trade.6 But almost immediately the Algonkian tribes of the region became alarmed then hostile at the aggressive nature of the British traders, and especially at the Ohio Company of Virginia, which was granted 200,000 acres of land west of the Allegheny Mountains by George II for the purpose of engaging in trade and land development. British expansion and settlement meant the loss of Indian land and culture, and the tribes began to seek a renewal of their friendship and alliance with the French, whose settlements in the west included only those lands immediate to their trading posts. As early as 1749 George Croghan, trader and agent for Sir William Johnson, commented that "the Indians Dos nott Like to hear of their Lands being Setled over Allegany Mountain."7
The British push into the Ohio valley jeopardized French expansion westward and threatened their supply line to the upper Mississippi valley and the Louisiana colony, and encouraged by the Algonkian tribes, the French redoubled their efforts to regain territorial jurisdiction over these vast wilderness lands. As a first gesture in this reaffirmation of sovereignty, Governor Roland-Michel Barrin, Marquis de La Galissonnière, despatched Captain Céloron de Blainville in the summer of 1749 to the Ohio to assert French rights. With 200 regulars and Canadian militia and a band of Indians, all in 23 birchbark canoes, Céloron descended upon the Ohio country with flags flying, drums beating and the resounding salute of musketry. Lead plates were buried throughout the disputed region proclaiming the Ohio lands for Louis XV of France "by force of arms and by treaties, notably by those of Ryswick (1697), Utrecht (1713), and Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)."8 Tribes trading with the British were admonished to cease and warned that those who persisted in the practice would suffer grave consequences.
French determination to regain control of the Ohio valley culminated in the destruction of the greatest Indian town in the Ohio country, Pickawillany, the centre of British trade and influence. For more than two years following Céloron's tour, the French had attempted unsuccessfully to incite the neighbouring tribes to attack the powerful Miami town.
The downfall of this trading centre was imperative for the French if they were to regain the strategic Ohio lands and recover the allegiance of the tribes in the region. Finally, in 1752, Charles-Michel Langlade, a young French fur trader from Michilimackinac possessing strong influence among the tribes of the upper lakes, persuaded 250 Ojibway and Ottawa to organize an expedition to the Ohio. Eager for adventure and plunder, the group stealthily approached Pickawillany on the morning of 21 June. Indian girls working in the cornfields shrieked the alarm, but the surprise was sudden and complete. Most of the men were away on the summer hunt and the few that remained, including a number of women and children, were quickly butchered. Three British traders who were in the town surrendered, but the attackers stabbed one to death as a grim warning. The pro-British Miami chief, La Demoiselle (known also as "Old Briton") was "boiled and ate" as a final symbolic act of defiance.9
The sacking of Pickawillany temporarily signaled the end of the British trade in the Ohio. The allegiance of the local tribes, including the Miami, had now reverted to the French, and British traders scurried back to the safety of Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. By the winter of 1752-53, Governor Barrin's plan for a line of strategic forts and Indian loyalty was achieved. Although Céloron's expedition and the capture of Pickawillany had secured the Ohio for the French, these events were not sufficient to deter the stubborn aggressiveness of the British traders and the Ohio Company of Virginia, which continued a declared policy of westward expansion through trade and settlement.
The French attempted to discourage British expansion by constructing Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, the entrance through which the British traders gained access to the Ohio country. Irked by this action, the Ohio Company sent a contingent of troops under George Washington to reconnoitre. The Virginian mismanaged the assignment and engaged in a skirmish in which a young French nobleman, Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville, was killed. After this unfortunate affair, Washington and his group hastily retreated to the Great Meadows where he built an entrenched camp called, appropriately, Fort Necessity. A French relief force led by a grief-stricken and vengeful brother of De Viliers forced Washington to surrender on 3 July 1754. The exchange of shots in the Ohio wilderness was sufficient to terminate the short-lived Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. The temporary respite in French-British hostilities had ended, and in America war was renewed.
The defeat of George Washington at Fort Necessity coupled with the memories of Céloron's visit and the massacre at Pickawillany inspired the pro-French Indians to engage in intensive and continuous raids against the British settlements along the northern frontier. Anxious to solve the problems of defence and security against these attacks, the colonies agreed to meet in a general council at Albany, the centre of British trade interests. One of the many matters discussed was that of framing a frontier policy.
The Albany congress of 1754 condemned the private purchase of Indian lands as a principal cause of uneasiness and discontent among the tribes. The need for centralized control of western lands had long been apparent and the congress appealed to the king to create a colonial union to manage Indian trade, war and treaties, buy and settle Indian lands and temporarily govern such settlements which would ultimately become new colonies. In addition, the congress stated that an endeavour should be made to regain the friendship of those tribes which had recently defected to the French; that forts should be built in the Indian country for their protection, to facilitate trade and to bring them under closer supervision. A suggestion was made to control expansion and limit existing colonies. The latter suggestion foreshadowed the Proclamation of 1763 and the British policy of establishing an Indian barrier state as a form of frontier defence.10 Finally, and of vital significance, the congress recommended that those Indians in alliance with or friendly to the British should be kept constantly under the wise direction of an appointed superintendent of Indian affairs.
In London, the news of the Anglo-French hostilities at the Great Meadows prompted the expedition of Major General Edward Braddock with two regiments to Virginia with orders to drive the French from the Ohio country. Before proceeding to disaster at the battle of the Monongahela in the summer of 1755, Braddock, as commander of the British forces in America, followed the recommendations proposed at the now defunct Albany congress and appointed William Johnson superintendent of Indian affairs for the Northern Department.11 The superintendent was to possess full authority and responsibility for all Indian relations in the principal theatre of war on the borders of New England, New York and Pennsylvania. This, according to Johnson, included not only the tribes of the Six Nation confederacy, but those of the entire Ohio valley as well.
The Regime of Sir William Johnson
The selection of William Johnson as superintendent was not surprising. He was born of good family in Ireland in 1715, being the nephew of Admiral Sir Peter Warren, the commander of the British and colonial naval forces at Louisbourg in 1745. Johnson came to America in 1738 for the purpose of attending to his uncle's estate at Warrenbush in the Mohawk valley of upper New York. The young Irishman immediately initiated a lucrative trading business with the Indians, and within the year he crossed the Mohawk River to occupy a great tract of land which he had purchased. Here he built his first home, Mount Johnson, which was before long to be succeeded by the progressively more impressive establishments of Fort Johnson and finally Johnson Hall.
Although Johnson pursued the Indian trade and land acquisition with great vigour and diligence, his exploits were not confined to commerce and real estate. Toward the end of his first year on the Mohawk in 1739, he purchased a 16-year-old German indentured servant girl named Catherine Weissenberg. She was his housekeeper at Mount Johnson, and by her he sired three children, two daughters and a son, John who was the heir to his estates and the future superintendent general of Indian affairs. While at home Johnson seemed content with Catherine, more commonly known as "Catty," and there is some evidence that he married her on her deathbed in 1745.12 Yet in the same year as the birth of Catty's first child, an unknown Iroquois girl bore him a son, the first of a very long succession of mixed-blood offspring. Most of them were the products of temporary relationships and the children remained members of the families of their Indian mothers, but nine of them, resulting from more enduring attachments, were named in his will and to each of these he left money, farms, livestock and other property.
Assisted by several agreeable women, many of whom possessed political influence in council, Johnson enjoyed a long and profitable relationship with the Mohawk and other tribes of the confederacy. His native geniality, robust temperament and earthy sense of humour combined with his fair dealing in trade made Johnson a favourite with the Iroquois, who gave him the sonorous and appropriate name of Warraghiyagey, "he who does much business."13 He wrapped himself in their ceremonial regalia, stamped through their dances, squatted by their fires, sat with respectful patience through their lengthy councils, kept his home continually open to them and showered them with gifts. When Catty died, he chose Iroquois women to take her place, first Caroline the niece of the great Mohawk sachem Hendrick, and then in 1753, Molly Brant, the sister of the soon-famous Mohawk orator, statesman and military leader, Joseph Brant. For 21 years Molly, often called "the brown Lady Johnson," was recognized as his official consort. She bore him eight children and was the honoured hostess presiding at a table at which the guests often included noted Indian dignitaries, governors, generals and peers of the realm.
The success with which Johnson developed his trading and social contacts with the Iroquois, which had already made his private fortune was now about to make his public reputation. Owing to his great influence among the Iroquois during King George's War, Johnson was appointed "Colonel of the Forces to be raised from the Six Nations."14 However, as a result of Céloron's expedition, the burning of Pickawillany and the defeats of the British at Fort Necessity and the Monongahela, Johnson was required to exert every ounce of influence to maintain Iroquois neutrality at least.
Soon after his appointment as superintendent of Indian affairs, Johnson was commissioned a major general. In September of 1755, with an army of some 300 totally undiciplined Mohawk and Oneida warriors and about 300 equally unreliable New England provincials, Johnson fought a battle at Lake George against Baron Dieskau, the commander of a French force recently arrived from France. Dieskau's mixed troops of French and Indians initiated the action by surprising and mauling the vanguard of Johnson's army. The old and very corpulent Mohawk, Hendrick, had his horse shot from under him and was bayoneted while frantically trying to rise. Johnson positioned the remainder of his army behind a makeshift breastwork of logs and boats, and with this protection was able to inflict severe casualties on Dieskau's attacking force.15 In 1756, in appreciation of his victory, the king made Johnson a baronet and appointed him "Sole Agent & Superintendent of the Affairs of the Northern Indians and their Allies."
As superintendent of Indian affairs, Sir William continued incessantly to court the allegiance of the Indians, and in 1757, during a series of lengthy councils, he managed to bind the Iroquois firmly to the British cause in the war with France in North America. Their spokesmen declared that they had "not forgot the old agreement with our Brethren the English, but are determined to hold fast the Covenant Chain . . . and we shall from this day forward consider the English and ourselves as one body, one head and one mind."16 As well as securing the allegiance of the Iroquois, Johnson instructed his agent, George Croghan, to negotiate the Treaty of Easton in 1758 by which Pennsylvania agreed to surrender its title to Indian lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. This treaty temporarily pacified the Algonkian tribes of the Ohio valley, and the loss of their support "knocked the French in ye Heade."17
The results of the recent British successes prompted and encouraged the operation against the French at Fort Niagara. The capture of this magnificent fortress was vital to the British war effort as it would curtail the French western fur trade and finalize the indecision of their already wavering Indian allies. By the summer of 1759, Johnson had coaxed 900 Iroquois, including many pro-French Seneca who lived near the post at Niagara and traded with the French, to accompany him on the British expedition. This was a clear indication that Johnson's long struggle against French agents for Iroquois allegiance, made difficult by their clan disunity and neutrality, had been won.
The British, under Brigadier General John Prideaux, laid siege to Fort Niagara, but a shell from a coehorn burst prematurely and killed the British officer. The command fell to Johnson. The siege continued as Royal Engineers constructed lines of trenches and batteries of artillery. Captain Francois Pouchot, the French commandant at Niagara, was reasonably confident. French reinforcements from the Illinois, Detroit and the western posts, including western Indians under the command of two excellent woodsmen, Aubry and Ligneris, were advancing to the relief of the fort; but the fate of Niagara was to be decided not on the siege.
Within two miles of Niagara, the French relief force was surprised and attacked by the British and Iroquois at La Belle Famille on 25 July. The French were flanked by John Butler, an assistant to Johnson, and routed. Aubry, Ligneris and other French officers made desperate efforts to retrieve the day, but nearly all of them were killed or captured. Johnson informed Jeffery Amherst, commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America, of the battle and noted that "I cannot ascertain the Number of the Kill'd, they are so dispersed among the Woods. But their Loss is Great."18 Pouchot had no choice but to surrender, and by the terms of the capitulation the French garrison was allowed to march out with flags flying, a tribute to their courageous conduct. They eventually returned safely to France, in spite of Iroquois protests.
The capture of Fort Niagara and Wolfe's triumph over Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham in September sealed the fate of France and her hopes for empire in North America. For Johnson personally, the victory at Niagara was the culmination of 21 years of literally uninterrupted lesser successes. The Iroquois were now firmly attached to the British and Johnson, as superintendent of Indian affairs, spoke for England in matters concerning native policy.
The great war for empire had raised England to the summit of imperial power and bestowed on her such remarkable territorial acquisitions as Canada, the Mississippi and Ohio valley regions and the Floridas, but in North America the Seven Years' War had illustrated with almost disastrous results the shortcomings of England's colonial policy of "salutary neglect."19 Before the conflict the colonial governments had been responsible for their own defence and their relationships with the Indians. Throughout the war, the various colonial assemblies were reluctant to make adequate provisions for the defence of the frontier and even failed to cooperate one with another or with the British garrisons. For years New England suffered from Abenaki and French raids, but received little assistance or encouragement from neighbouring New York. The Mohawk valley, a prime frontier target for French and Indian attacks, resisted reasonably well during the Seven Years' War mainly because of the influence and organizing skill of Sir William Johnson and the pro-British Iroquois, especially the Mohawk. In Pennsylvania the pacifistic Quakers, who possessed political and financial control of that colonial assembly, steadfastly refused to expend monies on frontier defence. British administrators, both those stationed in the colonies and at Whitehall, appreciated the deficiencies of this traditional system and realized that the acquisition of new and vast frontier lands necessitated alteration of colonial defence policy in North America.20
After the defeat and expulsion of the French in the Ohio valley, for example, the tribes there were left at the mercy of American expansion. As settlers and traders pushed into the region, the Indians became fearful that their way of life was to be destroyed forever. Concerned about this rampant encroachment on tribal lands, Henry Bouquet, the commandant at Fort Pitt, interpreted the Treaty of Easton as equally binding on Maryland and Virginia, whose lands adjoined the hunting grounds of the Ohio Indians. He therefore issued a proclamation (October 1761) which forbade any hunting or settlement west of the Alleghenies unless licensed by provincial governors or the commander-in-chief. Bouquet enforced the edict by driving away and burning the cabins of "vagabonds" making settlements in the area.20 Further pledges were made to the Indians by Johnson at Detroit in 1761, and George Croghan at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1762. But the policy of regulating the Indian trade and white settlement, so effectively initiated at Albany and continued at Easton, had failed miserably by 1763.
The British interest in safeguarding Indian lands as exemplified by the Treaty of Easton was devised under the shadow of war, but never heartily approved of by any colonial assembly. Inspired by the news of a victorious peace with France, settlers and traders, eager for the acquisition of new lands or fortune, poured into the Indian country where they used "Every Low Trick and Artifice to Overreach and cheat those unguarded ignorant People."21 Sir William Johnson both sensed and feared growing tribal discontent, and in a letter to Amherst urged a policy of "Steady, Uniform,and friendly Conduct towards them," in order to keep the "Indians from forming An attachment to His Majesty's Interest."22 Amherst, however, never saw a need for large expenditures on Indian affairs and his control over the purse of the Indian Department made Johnson's task of conciliating the tribes most difficult. In addition, and contrary to the sound advice of Sir William Johnson, Amherst, as commander-in-chief in North America and thus possessing full control over the Indian Department which was considered a branch of the military, decided to discontinue the expensive annual dole to the tribes, thereby adding to native discontent. This new program of rigid economy was the result of the financial strain placed upon the imperial war chest during the Seven Years' War by constantly presenting the Iroquois and their allies gifts in order to "Brighten the chain of friendship."23
Indian hostility became increasingly overt, and at Michilimackinac, soon after the British takeover, fur trader Alexander Henry was told,
Indian opposition and bitterness toward British rule was further accentuated at the Detroit council in September of 1761 when Johnson committed a diplomatic blunder. The superintendent arrived at Detroit with a host of Mohawk dignitaries and friends who patronized the other tribes insufferably during a long council. Then Sir William Johnson arose and informed the gathering that he regarded the Wyandot as the leaders of the incipient western confederacyat this time a collection of Algonkian tribes, most of which had been allies of the French.25 This speech angered the influential Ottawa confederacy (Ottawa, Potawatomi and Qjibway) and further aggravated the Indians. Johnson's comments, the fear of the irretrievable loss of their lands, their anger at British austerity measures aimed partly at them, and misinformation that the French king was returning to help them combined to goad the Indians under the leadership of the Ottawa chief, Pontiac, into open rebellion against the British in May of 1763.26
Although Johnson had repeatedly sent letters and warnings to Amherst and the Board of Trade in London regarding tribal unrest, the rapid fall of the British frontier posts at Venango, Le Boeuf, Presque Isle, Miami, Sandusky, St. Joseph, Ouiatenon and Michilimackinac in May and June of 1763 surprised the superintendent and the British military. Only Detroit and Fort Pitt withstood the Indian attacks. Even the Seneca, the western door of the pro-British Iroquois, took part in the blood-letting as they massacred the garrison at Venango and ambushed a supply column at Devil's Hole near Niagara Falls.27
The inability of the various colonial assemblies to agree upon any joint system of defence, combined with the Indian uprising under Pontiac and further complicated by the potential danger from the Spanish and French settlements in the Floridas and Louisiana, made all the more obvious the need for a plan of frontier defence utilizing British imperial forces under a central command.28 The British government responded with a royal proclamation prepared by the Board of Trade and Plantations in October of 1763. The proclamation established all lands west of the Alleghenies as an Indian reserve.
Although grants of land in the reserve were forbidden without the express permission of the crown, three new colonies were declared open to settlement in the hope of satisfying land-hungry migrants East Florida, West Florida and a greatly diminished Province of Quebec. Also, the fur trade was regulated by allowing only licensed traders into the frontier regions west of the proclamation line.30 The measure was adopted merely as a temporary expedient in the hope of bringing some form of imperial control to the prevailing turmoil in the wilderness.
Throughout the summer and autumn of 1763, Sir William Johnson held a number of councils at which he urged the Indians to be calm. At Johnson Hall in September the superintendent successfully persuaded the Iroquois, minus the Seneca, to unite with the British. Peace emissaries travelled to the distant Indian towns to stress the firm and mutual attachment of the British and Iroquois.31 The horrible thought of a British-Iroquois force marching against the western tribes the following spring induced a cessation of hostilities. Johnson, sensing a desire for peace, arranged a large council at Niagara in July of 1764, at which he was prepared to discuss a resumption of trade and a redress of native grievances. More than 2,000 warriors congregated at the Niagara council. If peace was restored, the superintendent guaranteed the renewal of the trade upon which the tribes were economically dependent. Johnson's efforts were entirely successful and the tribes agreed to terms. Even the Seneca signed a formal peace treaty on 18 July.32 As a crowning touch to mark the end of this most difficult period of Indian relations, Johnson hosted Pontiac at the Oswego council in July of 1766. The Ottawa chief, after receiving a bountiful distribution of presents, shook hands with Johnson and announced his submission to the British.33 Upon the termination of tribal hostilities, Johnson turned immediately to the more enduring problem of the management and regulation of trade and Indian affairs.
Early in 1764, Sir William Johnson drafted a series of "observations" to the Lord Commissioners of Trade and Plantations in England. The Indian problem, argued the superintendent, was caused by two factors: land encroachments and trade relations. Johnson had negotiated large and personally profitable land deals with the Iroquois, so not surprisingly he largely neglected any discussion of the failure of the Proclamation of 1763 and land infringements. Instead he devoted most of his paper to devising a solution to trade and political relations with the Indians on the western frontier. Johnson proposed that a much stronger Indian Department should be created, independent of military controls; that with appointed deputies, assistants and agents, the superintendent should receive full authority over all aspects of Indian affairs. Trade should be regulated and confined to specific frontier posts, and although traders were to be permitted to go into the interior to conduct their business at the designated posts, they were not to trade at the various Indian villages. In addition, only those under licence and bond could trade, and the trading of alcohol was strictly forbidden. Finally the superintendent and his assistants should act as justices of the peace at these posts.34
The Board of Trade appeared to act favourably toward Johnson's scheme, and on 10 July 1764 proposed a plan for the "Future Management of Indian Affairs in America." In London George Croghan, lobbying for Johnson, was ecstatic over the response and noted that
Croghan's comment foreshadowed a recurring and plaguing problem between the military and the Indian Department regarding the nature of the control exercised over the tribes by the Indian Department.
Since 1756 the Indian Department had functioned under the control of the commander-in-chief of the British forces in North America. Relations between the department and the British military had become extremely sensitive under Amherst who continually interfered with or ignored the policy suggestions of Johnson. With the appointment of Thomas Gage in 1763, however, and his initial laissez faire approach, friction and misunderstanding between the two groups lessened and Johnson was able, for a time, to administer his department unhindered.
Johnson's proposals of 1764 possessed weaknesses, however, and early hopes for the passage of the plan proved premature. The granting of licences to traders was marked by illegalities, favouritism and inter-provincial jealousies. Although Johnson sought to confine the trade of the Northern Department to specific posts in accordance with the plan's provisions, both British and French traders violated the post restrictions and the wholesale evasion of "Johnson's Regulations" soon became common. The Indians clearly preferred to trade in the woods or at their villages rather than make long and tiresome trips to the various designated posts. In addition to these difficulties the crown was suspicious of granting excessive powers to colonial officials for the management of the West. A final blow to the ambitions of Johnson's scheme was the inability of the depleted British treasury to finance a plan of such magnitude. and the refusal of the American colonies to pay taxes and thus help defray the expenses of maintaining the military garrisons. In spite of the lack of support Johnson stubbornly attempted to implement this more extensive system for the management of Indian affairs. He appointed agents and commissaries for Oswego, Niagara, Detroit, de Chartres and Michilimackinac to supervise the trade which was restricted to these several posts.36 Nonetheless by 1766-67. the scarcity of funds and lack of cooperation, in which even post commanders and Johnson's agents violated the directives, rendered the plan inoperative. Immense quantities of beaver pelts were being brought in from various villages, Alexander Henry and his partner, Cadotte, bringing in 1,500 pounds alone; and in 1767 over 100 canoes came to Michilimackinac from the Northwest laden with illegal "Johnson Regulation" beaver pelts.37
Not only had Johnson's plan for Indian affairs and the regulation of trade failed, but of greater importance, he complained.
In addition to the growing dangers of Indian unrest on the frontier, Johnson was forced to intervene in a clash and scandal between the military commandant at Michilimackinac, Major Robert Rogers, and members of the Indian Department over authority, trade and distribution of presents to the upper lakes tribes. With some difficulty Johnson managed to appease the military and Rogers was quietly removed from his post, but only after receiving an attractive and encouraging commission to seek the Northwest Passage.
Colonial opposition to the Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act (1765) which the Americans regarded as "repugnant to our Rights and Privileges as Freemen and British subjects," affected appreciably the Imperial policy for the interior.39 What had originated as measures to help lessen the cost of regulating trade and land settlement had developed into a constitutional issue which involved the affirmation of the legislative supremacy of Parliament over the colonial assemblies, With the steady deterioration of Anglo-American relations, British troops were gradually drained from the wilderness posts to maintain order in the urban seaboard centres.
After a careful study of the frontier problem, Lord Shelburne, recently appointed Secretary of State and concerned with colonial affairs, proposed a plan which represented a departure from previous policy. Shelburne based his premise on the fact that with the withdrawal of British troops from the interior, it was impossible to prevent American westward expansion.40 In addition, the cost of the military establishment in the West involved maintenance of the forts and transfer of troops and provisions, as well as the administrative expenses of the Indian Department and the distribution of presents. Consequently, as a means of lessening these burdens on the British treasury, Shelburne urged the restoration of Indian affairs to the various provinces, and controlled settlement of the interior with the financial provision of quit-rents to solve the problem of expense.41
Lord Shelburne's suggestions were referred to his successor Lord Hillsborough, the first Secretary of State for American Affairs. Working closely with the Board of Trade and Thomas Gage, the commander-in-chief of his majesty's forces in America, Hillsborough's thinking was dominated by three considerations: the reduction of expenses in North America; the maintenance of a proper political relationship between the colonies and Great Britain, and the convenient distribution of the military forces. Thus, the resultant plan of 1768 represented a precipitate retreat from previous imperial policy with regard to the Indians. The British army was withdrawn from posts in the wilderness except for those at Niagara, Detroit and Michilimackinac, and the authority to manage Indian affairs was restored to the colonies. This decision was prompted by the government's primary desire to reduce American expenses.42 Frontier defence had involved an extra expenditure of £300,000. This amount had been considered practicable provided the colonies could be encouraged to pay as much as a third of the amount. But when they continued to balk at paying, it was decided to deny them the defence upon which they appeared to set so little value. A secondary purpose was to gather regular forces in seaboard centres of population where their presence might discourage the growing American inclination to engage in seditious assemblies and riots. A third factor was the belief of the British government that if the colonies were exposed to a general Indian war with which they themselves must deal, this would restore that sense of dependence on England which had passed with the defeat of the French.
Throughout the period of colonial supervision (1768-74), the frontier became increasingly chaotic as a result of the irregular practices and enroachments on western lands by the traders, settlers and speculators. The futility of attempting to stem the tide of westward expansion resulted in a general plan for the formal relocation of the westward limits of the Proclamation of 1763. The extension of the Indian boundary line was a victory for a number of influential land speculators and colonial government officials who envisioned huge personal financial profits and new empires in the vast and largely unknown interior. The first major revision of the boundary was negotiated with the Iroquois by Sir William Johnson at Fort Stanwix in the autumn of 1768. In an effort to salvage some remnants of their traditional homelands from land-hungry settlers and speculators, the confederacy surrendered to the crown title to all their lands south of the Ohio River which "they no longer needed for hunting."43
By the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, Great Britain made a definite pledge that the Ohio River should be the frontier boundary forever. This promise gave the Indian tribes a sense of security against future aggressions, and for that reason won their neutrality. In the generation of Indian conflict that followed, tribal spokesmen never ceased to remind the British and Americans of the solem pledge made by George III at Fort Stanwix. The boundary, agreed upon in 1768 and reconfirmed by American commissioners at the Treaty of Pittsburgh in 1775, was to become the major bone of contention in Indian affairs and was not finally abandoned by the tribes of the Ohio valley and Great Lakes region until the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.44
The results of 1768 were unquestionably momentous for both the Iroquois and Algonkian tribes. The Iroquois received a royal payment of £10,000, as well as 20 batteaux laden with presents and food; and although westward migration had been temporarily diverted from their New York homelands along the Finger Lakes, the negotiations with the Iroquois had opened to settlement the lands of Kentucky and large areas in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This isolated the Shawnee who, in their traditional Kentucky hunting grounds, suddenly found themselves facing a horde of eager white migrants. Because they were considered wards of the Iroquois, the Shawnee had received no payment for the 1768 cession. Thus in anger and bitterness, the frustrated Shawnee joined the Algonkian confederacy centred in the Ohio valley and disassociated themselves from their supposed benefactors, the Six Nations. Unfortunately for the Shawnee and contrary to the advice of John Stuart, superintendent of Indian affairs for the Southern Department, the Cherokee adopted a policy similar to that of the Iroquois and attempted to deflect white expansion from their southern homelands by ceding territory to the north. As a result, by the 1770s migrants from north and south began to flood into the middle or Kentucky lands of the Shawnee, who were literally sacrificed to white greed by the Iroquois and Cherokee.
Disturbed about the growing unrest on the frontier which was created by the inroads of the settlers and traders, Sir William Johnson held a number of lengthy Indian councils between 1770 and 1773. His power, however, particularly among the Algonkian tribes whose lands were threatened, had been considerably reduced as a result of the plan of 1768 and his part in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, and all attempts to secure a promise of peace, especially with the now surly and resentful Shawnee, failed.45 "As far as I can understand these Affairs," Gage wrote to Hillsborough, "the Cession [of 1768] is the Cause of all the Commotions that have lately happened among the Indians." The secretary replied that he could
Hillsborough justifiably complained that the cession had been "so managed" by Johnson, but what followed added to the danger of his misjudgements. After a great purchase, prudence would have counseled slow settlement, but the cession of 1768 was followed at once by plans for immediate settlement on a grand scale and Johnson, as always, was at the centre of the new plans. Hillsborough originally hoped for their success but ultimately opposed them.
As American migrantsamong them Daniel Boonepoured into Kentucky, the Shawnee became increasingly defiant. Thomas Gage, who as commander-in-chief was most anxious not to employ British military forces in an Indian war on the frontier, wished these American groups would "Let the Savages enjoy their Desarts in quiet."47 His position was incompatible however, with the insatiable frontier spirit"a peculiar democratic levelling influence likely to be arrogant, daring, dangerous and uncontrollable."48 Insult was added when migrants from Virginia told a number of Shawnee chiefs, now living in temporary villages along the Scioto north of the Ohio, that soon these lands would also be surveyed and settled. In September of 1773 a delegation of Shawnee, now supported by Wyandot, Delaware and some Seneca, told Johnson that if any whites crossed the Ohio there would be "evil consequences."49 Indeed, further encroachments by whites provoked scattered raids in retaliation.
The lack of a consistent and unified British plan for the tribes in conjunction with bitter intercolonial land rivalry and Indian discontent rendered the situation on the frontier hopeless. The regulation of trade and land settlement virtually ceased, and the frontier gradually dissolved into anarchy. In consequence, a proclamation was issued on 10 March 1774 under order from the crown which reinstated in the king's name the pertinent portions of the Proclamation of 1763, prohibiting settlement and land grants in the West and reaffirming the reservation north of the Ohio River. It also declared that all land purchases from the Indians since 1763 without royal licence would be considered "void and fraudulent."50
The proclamation was a preliminary to the Quebec Act of 24 June 1774 in which Great Britain annexed the entire region north of the Ohio River to the Province of Quebec. Besides the military officers and members of the Indian Department on the frontier, four new civil governments were to be created in the region of Detroit, Michilimackinac, Vincennes and Kaskaskia, with a lieutenant governor for each. Thus the Northwest was to be preserved as an Indian state and a fur-trade empire. This proclamation also resolved the problem of the French Canadian settlements in the Illinois country, giving them the same politico-constitutional privileges and rights as the French in Canada.51
Until the outbreak of the American Revolution, however, white migration westward continued unchecked. The Proclamation of 1763 was ignored; the barrier of 1768 had been washed away by the rushing tide of settlers, and the Quebec Act was despised by Americans and labelled as "intolerable." In Kentucky the mutual acrimony between the Indians and the American migrants was accentuated by the brutal slaying by Americans of an unsuspecting and peaceful Shawnee family which included a pregnant woman. By June, increasing Indian retaliatory raids induced the governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, to call out the militia and declare a state of war. The Shawnee were immediately joined by the Delaware, Wyandot and Seneca. Although the war in Kentucky was to terminate quickly with the result that the Shawnee finally recognized the Fort Stanwix cession, Johnson was fearful that the remainder of the Six Nations might join in the hostilities. Therefore in an attempt to soothe and arrest the Iroquois desire for war, the superintendent assembled a large council at Johnson Hall in July of 1774. After a long, four-hour outburst of rhetoric in which he pleaded for Iroquois neutrality, Sir William Johnson collapsed and died.52
The news of the death of Warraghiyagey resounded throughout the Indian world and was marked by wailing and rituals of lament. In many respects his regime was remarkable. As first superintendent of Indian affairs he had succeeded in developing and maintaining an organization which was capable of influencing and manipulating the tribes to suit the interests of the British crown. At the same time Johnson amassed a personal fortune in land speculation. Iroquois affection for the man and their influence over the other tribes coupled with Johnson's calculated and skillful diplomacy in bargaining for Indian cessions were responsible for his incredible acquisition of wealth. By using the Six Nations as a fulcrum, Johnson's power and prestige were enhanced and by scattering agents throughout the various Indian towns and thus maintaining direct contact with the pulse of native feeling, he achieved a tightly knit system for the management of Indian affairs.
At the time of Johnson's death British economic measures had reduced expenses for the Northern Department to £5,000 per year, and this included the usual high costs of the annual distribution of presents to the Indians. As a result, the tribes were in an unhappy mood with respect to their economic position. Flagrant encroachments on their land by American migrants followed by Dunmore's War only aggravated their bitterness. The situation was further complicated by the dissatisfaction of the Algonkian-speaking western tribes which were angry at the Six Nation Iroquois for hoarding the Fort Stanwix presents. In response to these problems the western tribes decided to rid themselves of the shackles imposed by their Iroquois patrons and to form their own confederacy. Any type of tribal disunity, however, was catastrophic to Indian hopes of continuing a traditional existence of hunting and fishing, and the formation of this second confederacy was to initiate 20 years of disharmony among the native peoples which were to conclude with their destruction. The events of 1775 were to delay the difficulties of Indian factionalism, however, and Johnson's department was soon to face the test of war and the grave responsibility of encouraging and assisting the tribes in the cause of the king.