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Petition of Joseph Johnson, a Mohegan, to the New-York Congress



New-York, August 26, A˙ D˙ 1775.

To the Honourable the Provincial Congress of the Colony of NEW-YORK:

I, Joseph Johnson, an Indian of the Mohegan Tribe, humbly offereth the few following lines for your Honours' consideration:

Honourable gentlemen, it is with great reluctance I present this humble petition, considering the unhappy situation of publick affairs at this time, but pure necessity obliges me, in this day of distress, in this day of confusion, to trouble your Honours a few moments. Your Honours doubtless have heard, that for this some time past poor me hath been much concerned about my poor, sinking, decaying brethren, the Indians, that are scattered up and down amongst the English inhabitants, in particular in the New-England Governments, and that for this long time I have been unwearied by seeking their welfare, and in order that they might be truly benefited, have endeavoured to get them unitedly willing to go westward, and there to settle together in peace and be under proper regulations; and, through divine favour, I have, after many weary steps, and after I have gone through many hardships, got secured unto seven tribes of my Indian brethren, that live amongst the English inhabitants, a large tract of good land, bordering on your frontiers.

Honourable gentlemen, many pleasing prospects opened to my view when this design first came into my mind. I had not only the hopes of having the pleasure of seeing my now poor brethren in a prosperous way, but I had the hopes of our leading our western brethren, by our example, in the ways of industry, husbandly, and civility, and, above all, in the ways of wisdom — in the ways of godliness. These, and such like hopes, honourable gentlemen, hath all along animated my soul, and made me comfortable in the most severe hardships that I have undergone, when I have been destitute, as it were, of all other comforts in the wild desert. Such were my pleasing hopes in times past; and this great good to my Indian brethren, not only in the eastern parts but in the western parts of this Country, I have been eagerly pursuing and still hope to pursue.


Honourable gentlemen, I would inform your Honours that I have had no proper encouragement. I have had no particular party or board to look unto for my support, while engaged in such a good cause. But, nevertheless, the gracious Lord, in whom I trust, hath been pleased to give me able friends, in different parts of the Country, to espouse the cause, and hath made them willing to contribute, out of their abundance, a little for my necessitous circumstances in times past, and I bless the Lord for all his goodness to me hitherto, and especially for his giving me favour in the eyes and hearts of his people in this Colony, from whom I have received the greatest encouragement, and who hath greatly relieved me in times of my greatest distress. And now, honourable gentlemen, but this once more I humbly and earnestly solicit your Honours' kindness, hoping that I may not again have occasion to trouble your Honours in the like manner. Doubtless it is necessary that your Honours should know the true state of the matter, which I will endeavour to acquaint your Honours with in few words as possible.

Honourable gentlemen, when I left this City last June, with my three Indian companions, and safely arrived where my friends and relations dwell, I tarried with them about two weeks; then thinking it my indispensable duty to return directly to the Oneida country, and amongst the rest of the Six Nations, without any hesitation I hastily and cheerfully ran in the path of duty. But in order for a quick despatch, as then was thought most expedient, I was advised by several to hire or purchase a horse, to which I readily complied. Seeing I could not hire any, I was obliged to take a horse upon credit, expecting that the Colony of Connecticut would consider of me, as I was repeatedly informed by the members of the honourable Assembly that I was verily chosen, with another Indian of the same tribe to which I belong, to carry a message of peace to the back nations, and that the expenses of the journey should be paid out of the Colony Treasury; and the honourable Governour had given me express orders to be ready at an hour' s warning, &c. But two days before the time that the honourable Governour appointed that we should set out for the intended journey, his Honour the Governour was pleased to send a letter to my intended companion, who was older than myself, informing him that there was no occasion of our going up, as he expected to have an opportunity to send the message with less expense; however, it is known since that his Honour the Governour was disappointed in his expectations. His message was delivered only ten days ago, as it were to no purpose; for the Western Indians had already been acquainted of the true state of affairs in this and in the other country beyond the great lake, and the Six Nation' s had already come to peaceable concessions. And, honourable gentlemen, although things happened as they did, yet I thought it my duty, though I have no encouragement from any, to go to the back Nations, and do my uttermost to persuade them to peace, although at the hazard or expense of my own life, as it was then reported in the country that they were disposed for cruelty or for war. And, according to my promise to this honourable the Provincial Congress last June, I set out with all speed the 17th day of July last, expecting to receive a message at Albany from this honourable Congress for the Six Nations. But when I arrived at Albany, the Hon˙ Abraham Yates and several other gentlemen informed me that your Honours had not sent a message, as was intended last June. However, the honourable Committee of Albany thought proper and did send by me a letter of friendship to the back nations, to whom I delivered the same in good time.

Honourable gentlemen, I would just inform you, that when I left my home I had only twenty Shillings, lawful money of Connecticut currency, and ten Shillings of that money I left with my dear companion in life. How she and our only son hath fared since, I know not; it is now six weeks, lacking one day, since I left them — and with the other ten Shillings I made shift to get to Albany; and the honourable Committee, after knowing my circumstances, was graciously pleased to consider of me, and bountifully relieved me, helped me forward the intended journey, and by their aid I have accomplished the journey, and returned thus far in peace and comfortably; and I had only five Shillings, this currency, when I arrived here. I


would have made application to the honourable Congress before, but I thought that the affecting situation of affairs forbid; but now how to proceed or what to do, I know not. I am sensible that I am utterly unable to make satisfaction for the horse, which was valued at eleven Pounds, ten Shillings, Connecticut currency, and it is no ways likely that the man will take the horse again upon any consideration, and what to do I know not. Well had it been for me to have proceeded as I intended in the first place; that is, to have gone on foot — but being put to the extremes, I am constrained this once, and but this once, to try your Honours' benevolence.

And now your Honours have heard of my true circumstances, and may it please you to consider of me a moment, while I, with all submission, lay prostrate, as it were, at your Honours' feet, and while I cheerfully resign my unhappy case to your great wisdom, confessing that if any favour or encouragement in the least be granted. It will be purely out of favour, and shall be received with the warmest gratitude. And I hope that so long as I live your Honours may never see me lacking at any time from doing my uttermost, as I may have opportunity, or as I may be called in Providence, to cultivate, maintain, and establish peace between you and yours and my brethren that inhabit the border of your extensive frontiers. But I end, hoping that the Lord, who knoweth all things, and hath all power in his hands, may give me Favour in the eyes and hearts of this respectable body, the honourable the Provincial Congress, that I may go on my way rejoicing; and may the gracious Lord order all things in great mercy concerning us all.

I am, Honourable Gentlemen, with great esteem, your well wisher, and yours to serve,


P˙ S˙ I also humbly beseech your Honours to grant me a passport for myself, that I may return home unmolested in these perilous times, and if there should be occasion, that I might pass and repass to and from the country of the Six Nations to New-England, or elsewhere, as business might call me at any time; the which if your Honours grant, will much gladden the dejected heart of your humble petitioner. I am, as before.