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This, said the Commissioners, is one concession offered by the United States;—now listen to another, on a subject which has probably disturbed your minds more than any other whatever. The United States formerly set up a claim to all the country south of the great Lakes, on the ground that it was given to them by the treaty of peace, with your father, the King of Great Britain, who declared the middle of those Lakes to be the boundary of the United States; but, they added, "we are determined to be open and sincere, and therefore frankly tell you, we think an erroneous construction has been put on that part of the treaty with the King—that he only intended to transfer the right of pre-emption, or the exclusive right of purchasing the title of the Indians, which he then held; and your great father having conveyed that right to the United States, they alone have now the power of purchasing from you, his children.” They added, “ All your brothers, the English, know this to be true, and it agrees with what your father, Lord Dorchester, told you at Quebec, two years ago." “Now," said they, “we concede this great point. By the express authority of the President of the United States, we acknowledge the property or right of soil to the great country above described, to be in the Indian nations, as long as they desire to occupy it. We claim only the tracts before particularly mentioned, and the right of pre-emption granted by the King as before explained.”
In conclusion, they said, “Brothers! We have now opened our hearts to you. We are happy in having an opportunity of doing it, though we had rather have done it in the full council of your nations. We hope soon to have an opportunity of doing this; and that your next deputation will take us by the hand, and lead us to the treaty.
When we meet, and converse freely, we can easily remove any difficulty which may come in the way of peace.”
The Commissioners then handed the speech with a
white belt, crossed with thirteen rows of black wampum, to the Indian deputation, who promised to make a reply in the morning.
The next day, August the 1st, the council met, when the Wyandot Chief spoke as follows:
“ Brothers! We heard you speak yesterday. We understand you well. You mentioned the treaty of Fort Stanwix, and other treaties; those treaties were not complete; there were but a few chiefs who treated with you. You have not bought our land. You tried to draw some of us off. Many years ago, the Ohio was made the boundary. That was settled by Sir William Johnston. You mentioned General Washington,-he and you know, that you have your houses and people on our land. You say you cannot move them off. We say, we cannot give up our land. We are sorry we cannot come to an agreement. The line has been fixed long ago.—Brothers! We don't say much. There has been much mischief on both sides.
We came here upon peace, and thought you did the same. We shall talk to our head warriors. You may return whence you came, and tell Washington."
The Council then breaking up, Captain Elliot went to the Shawanee Chief, and told him that the last part of the speech of the Wyandot Chief was wrong. The Wyandot Chief then came back, and admitted that it was wrong. After some explanations, Girty said to the Commissioners :
“ Brothers ! Instead of going home, we wish you to remain here for an answer from us. We have your speech, and shall consult our head warriors." The Commissioners consented to remain, but desired their answer might be given without delay.
Some days after, letters were received from Captain Hendrick, chief of the Mohicans, giving information of the proceedings of the Indians at the Rapids, and stating, that the nations were all for peace, except the Shawanees, Wyandots, Miamies, and Delawares. Reports were after
wards received, that those nations, also, had yielded to the majority, and that peace might be expected. These reports, however, proved to be unfounded. After waiting nearly two weeks, without any official information, they proposed to proceed to the Rapids, and make their appeal to the assembled nations in person; but were told they could not be permittted to go to the Maumee Bay, till Colonel McKee should give them notice, that the Indians were ready to receive them.
After waiting a few days longer, the Commissioners received the final answer of the Indians, in which they recapitulated the speech delivered to them by the Commissioners, on the 31st of July, at the mouth of Detroit river, and then proceeded to say, in substance, that a general council of all the Indian Confederacy, was held in the fall of 1788, at the same place in which they were then assembled, that they were then invited by Governor St. Clair to meet him, for the purpose of holding a treaty respecting the lands claimed to have been granted to the United States, by the treaties of Fort Stanwix and Fort McIntosh, -that the Commissioner of the United States was then informed, that no bargain, or sale, of any part of those lands would be considered as valid, or binding on the Indians, unless agreed to by a General Council,—that, notwithstanding this, the Commissioner persisted in collecting a few Chiefs of two or three nations only, and with them, held a treaty for the cession of an immense country, in which they were no more interested, than as a branch of the General Confederacy, and, that they were in no manner authorised to make any grant or concession whatever.
They also said, that it was impossible for the United States to enjoy peace, or quietly hold those lands, when their Commissioner was informed, long before he held the treaty of Fort Harmar, that the consent of a General Council was absolutely necessary, to convey any part of them to the United States,--that the parts which had been sold by the United States, and settled by their people, were sold subsequent to the notice above stated.
In regard to the large sum of money, and the annuity offered by the Commissioners, they remarked, that money to them, was of no value, and to most of them, was unknown; and as no consideration whatever, could induce them to sell the land on which they depended for a subsistence for their women and children, they hoped they might be allowed to point out to the Commissioners a mode by which their settlers on those lands might be easily removed, and peace be thereby obtained. Presuming that those settlers were poor, from the fact, that they had ventured to live in a country which had been in constant trouble since they crossed the Ohio, they proposed to divide the large sum of money which had been offered to the Indians, among them; and also, to give each a portion of the promised annuity, which they believed, the settlers would readily accept, in lieu of the land. They said further, that if, in addition to this, the United States would give to those settlers, the great sums which must be expended in raising and paying armies, to drive the Indians from their country, they would certainly have more than sufficient to repay them for all their labor and improvements. They said further, that the Commissioners had talked about concessions, but it appeared strange, they should expect any from the Indians, who had been only defending their just rights against invasion.“We want peace,” said they, “restore to us our country, and we shall be enemies no longer."
« You make one concession, by offering us money, and another, by agreeing to do us justice, after having long and injuriously withheld it.
“We maintain that the king of England never did, and that he never had a right to give you our country, by the treaty of peace. Because you have at last acknowledged our independence, you want to make that act of common justice, a ground for surrendering to you our country. You
have talked also a great deal about pre-emption, and your exclusive right to purchase our lands, ceded to you, as you say, by the king, at the treaty of peace. We never made any agreement with the king to that effect, and we declare ourselves free to make any bargain or cession of lands whenever, and to whomsoever we please.” They said further, that at their general council at the Glaise, last fall, they agreed to meet Commissioners from the United States, provided they consented to acknowledge and confirm the Ohio to be the boundary line, and on no other condition. They affirmed, that their only demand was the peaceable possession of the small part of their once great country, which remained to them. They entreated the Commissioners to look back upon the lands, from which they had been driven. They alledged that they could retreat no farther; because the country behind, hardly afforded food for its present inhabitants; and that they had therefore resolved to leave their bones, in the small space to which they were then confined.
In conclusion, they said: “ Brothers! We shall be persuaded that you mean to do us justice, if you agree that the Ohio shall remain the boundary line between us. If you will not consent to that, our meeting will be altogether unnecessary. This is the great point, which we hoped would have been explained before you left your homes, as our message, last fall, was principally directed to that subject.”
This communication was signed by the Wyandots, Seven Nations of Canada, Delawares, Shawanees, Miamies, Ottawas, Chippewas, Senecas of the Glaise, Pottawatamies, Connoys, Munsees, Nantikokees, Mohicans, Creeks, and Cherokees.
The Commissioners immediately dispatched the following reply, to the chiefs and warriors of the Indian nations, assembled at the foot of the Miami rapids :