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Of course, such a treaty excited the bitter anger of the frontiersmen, and they scornfully refused to obey its provisions. They hated the Indians, and, as a rule, were brutally indifferent to their rights, while they looked down on the Federal Government as impotent. Nor was the ill-will to the treaty confined to the rough borderers. Many men of means found that land grants which they had obtained in good faith and for good money were declared void. Not only did they denounce the treaty, and decline to abide by it, but they denounced the motives of the Commissioners, declaring, seemingly without justification, that they had ingratiated themselves with the Indians to further land speculations of their own.
As the settlers declined to pay any heed to the treaty the Indians naturally became as discontented with it as the whites. In the following summer the Cherokee chiefs made solemn complaint that, instead of retiring from the disputed ground, the settlers had encroached yet further upon it, and had come to within five miles of the beloved town of Chota. The chiefs added that they had now made several such treaties, each of which established boundaries that were immediately broken, and that indeed it had been their experience that after a treaty the whites settled even faster on their lands than before. Just before this complaint was sent
Clay MSS. Jesse Benton to Thos. Hart, April 3, 1786. 4 State Department MSS., No. 56. Address of Corn Tassel and Hanging Maw, Sept. 5, 1786.
to Congress the same chiefs had been engaged in negotiations with the settlers themselves, who advanced radically different claims.
The fact was that in this unsettled time the bond of Governmental authority was almost as lax among the whites as among the Indians, and the leaders on each side who wished for peace were hopelessly unable to restrain their fellows who did not. Under such circumstances, the sword, or rather the tomahawk, was ultimately the only possible arbiter.
The treaties entered into with the Northwestern Indians failed for precisely the opposite reason. The treaty at Hopewell promised so much to the Indians that the whites refused to abide by its terms. In the councils on the Ohio the Americans promised no more than they could and did perform; but the Indians themselves broke the treaties at once, and in all probability never for a moment intended to keep them, merely signing from a greedy desire to get the goods they were given as an earnest. They were especially anxious for spirits, for they far surpassed even the white borderers in their crazy thirst for strong drink. “We have smelled your liquor and it is very good; we hope you will give us some little kegs to carry home,” said the spokesmen of a party of Chippewas, who had come from the upper Great Lakes.5
These frank savages, speaking thus in behalf of their far northern brethren, uttered what was in the minds of most of the Indians who attended the councils held
s Do., Letters of H. Knox, No. 150, Vol. I, p. 445.
by the United States Commissioners. They came to see what they could get by begging, or by promising what they had neither the will nor the power to perform. Many of them, as in the case of the Chippewas, were from lands so remote that they felt no anxiety about white encroachments, and were lured into hostile encounter with the Americans chiefly by their own overmastering love of plunder and bloodshed.
Nevertheless, there were a few chiefs and men of note in the tribes who sincerely wished peace. One of these was Cornplanter, the Iroquois. The power of the Six Nations had steadily dwindled; moreover, they did not, like the more western tribes, lie directly athwart the path which the white advance was at the moment taking. Thus they were not drawn into open warfare, but their continual uneasiness, and the influence they still possessed with the other Indians, made it an object to keep on friendly terms with them. Cornplanter, a valiant and able warrior, who had both taken and given hard blows in warring against the Americans, was among the chiefs and ambassadors who visited Fort Pitt during the troubled lull in frontier war which succeeded the news of the peace of 1783. His speeches showed, as his deeds had already shown, in a high degree, that loftiness of courage, and stern, uncomplaining acceptance of the decrees of a hostile fate, which so often ennobled the otherwise gloomy and repellent traits of the Indian character. He raised no plaint over what had befallen
his race; "The Great Spirit above directs us so that whatever hath been said or done must be good and right,” he said in a spirit of strange fatalism well known to certain creeds, both Christian and heathen. He was careful to dwell on the fact that in addressing the representatives of "the Great Council who watch the Thirteen Fires and keep them bright,” he was anxious only to ward off woe from the women and little ones of his people and was defiantly indifferent to what might personally be before him. “As for me my life is short, 'tis already sold to the Great King over the water,” he said. But it soon appeared that the British agents had deceived him, telling him that the peace was a mere temporary truce, and keeping concealed the fact that under the treaty the British had ceded to the Americans all rights over the Iroquois and Western Indians, and over their land. Great was his indignation when the actual text of the treaty was read him, and he discovered the double-dealing of his far-off royal paymaster. In commenting on it he showed that, like the rest of his race, he had been much impressed by the striking uniforms of the British officers. He evidently took it for granted that the head of these officers must own a yet more striking uniform; and treachery seemed doubly odious in one who possessed so much. "I assisted the great King,” he said, “I fought his battles, while he sat quietly in his forts; nor did I ever suspect that so great a person, one too who wore a red coat sufficient of itself to tempt one, could be guilty
of such glaring falsehoods."6 After this Cornplanter remained on good terms with the Americans and helped to keep the Iroquois from joining openly in the war.
The Western tribes taunted them because of this attitude. They sent them word in the fall of 1785 that once the Six Nations were a great people, but that now they had let the Long Knife throw them; but that the Western Indians would set them on their feet again if they would join them; for “the Western Indians were determined to wrestle with Long Knife in the spring."
Some of the Algonquin chiefs, notably Molunthee the Shawnee, likewise sincerely endeavored to bring about a peace. But the Western tribes as a whole were bent on war. They were constantly excited and urged on by the British partisan leaders, such as Simon Girty, Elliot, and Caldwell. These leaders took part in the great Indian councils, at which even tribes west of the Mississippi were represented; and though they spoke without direct authority from the British commanders at the lake posts, yet their words carried weight when they told the young red warriors that it was better to run the risk of dying like men than of starving like dogs. Many of the old men among the Wyandots and Delawares spoke against strife; but the young men were for war, and among the Shawnees, the Wabash Indians, and
6 State Dept. MSS., No. 56, March 7, 1786, p. 345, also p. 395.
Do., No. 150, Vol. I, Major Finley's Statement, Dec. 6,