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Letter from James Deane to General Schuyler


Oneida, March 10, 1776.

SIR: Since I had the honour to address my last to you, which informed that Mr˙ Butler, in his late interview with the Six Nations, had spoken to them of nothing but peace, I have been fully persuaded that the information which the people of this place received respecting that interview, was not to be depended on; and that the Oneidas, on account of their well-known attachment to the Colonists, are not at present very likely to be rightly informed. There is now a large party of Onondagas and Quigogas in this town, who came down on pretence of condoling the death of the Cagg. After the ceremonies of condolence were finished, the Quigoga Sachem, in a long and very spirited speech, reproved the Oneidas for their late conduct in several instances; particularly their paying less attention to the ancient Council-fire at Onondaga than that lately rekindled at Albany; adding, that the people who conversed with them at the latter Council-fire, were very deceitful, and if ever they should overcome the King' s Troops, would directly turn their force against the Indians. He observed that the white people were not to be depended on, but that their Indian allies to the westward, with whose disposition he was well acquainted, were ready for their assistance. His manner of expression seemed to raise a jealousy in the minds of our friends here, that some plan was formed to the westward, into the secret of which they had not been admitted. He likewise reproved them for their design of sending for Mr˙ Butler, in which he accused them of an inclination to intermeddle in the present quarrel; to which the Oneidas replied, that they had suspended that matter till they should see whether it met with the approbation of the whole confederacy, which would determine their conduct in the affair. They thanked their brethren for their care not to let them violate the firm agreement lately made with their brethern of the thirteen United Colonies, to maintain the strictest neutrality in the present dispute; and assured them that, though they had interested themselves in behalf of some of their old friends and neighbours who had involved themselves in trouble on account of the part they had acted against the liberties of the country, yet for the future that they would not do it again, in any, even the least instance, but would maintain the most punctilious neutrality. Observing further, that they thought it very likely that Sir John, on account of the deceitful part he had acted since his late engagements at Johnstown, would soon be removed; and should such a thing happen they hoped that none of the Six Nations would, take the least notice of it, but let the white people conduct their own affairs as they pleased. But what offended the Quigogas most was, the conduct of the Oneidas in delivering up the hatchet, in which affair they accused them of acting without the concurrence of the rest of the confederacy, and contrary to a firm agreement, which they said had been made, to deliver it up to the party who gave it. They at the same time informed the Oneidas that they were then on their way to Albany, to recover the hatchet, with a view to deliver it up to Mr˙ Butler, and desired them to depute a number of their warriors to accompany them on the same errand. The Oneidas, in reply, not only explained, and justified their conduct in that affair, refused to send a deputation of their people with them, but also requested them to prevent those suspicions and jealousies which such a step would unavoidably create in the minds of their brethren, the Colonists, by immediately returning home. The disputes between the parties ran very high; at length, however, after much altercation and debate, the (Quigogas agreed to return back, which they did with evident symptoms of disaffection and disgust.

The Oneidas look upon Niagara as the place from whence proceeds the cause of this sudden and unexpected change in the minds of their brethren; and some, in private


conversation, declare it as their opinion that the capture of that fort is the only thing that will unite the minds of the Indians in their friendship to the Colonies. Several expresses have passed tills place from Sir John Johnson to Niagara since the capitulation at Johnstown; — the first very soon after me above-mentioned transaction, who, when they passed this place, pretended they were only going to the Seneca country after horses; but, on their arrival at Onondaga, declared they were sent express by Sir John with a letter to Mr˙ Butler. The others passed this place within a few days after the return of the Oneidas, who were down at Albany on the affair respecting Colonel Butler, and, as I have since heard, conveyed letters to Mr˙ Butler from Sir John and some others. In short, the Mohawks are frequently passing and repassing, without any other apparent business than that of carriers to and from Niagara. A large party of the Senecas are already arrived at the central Council-House, and deputations from the several tribes in Canada are daily expected at the same place. One of the Quigoga Chiefs, who appears friendly to the country, and is a particular friend of Mr˙ Kirkland, has just now been here, and informs that about "one hundred Senecas have lately met Mr˙ Butler, at Niagara; that Mr˙ Butler told them that the Colonists had shut up the passes into the country, and assured them that the Indians would be undone, unless some way could be opened to admit Mr˙ Johnson into the country upon his return in the spring; and that he requested their assistance to do it, which they had promised to give him." He further informs, "that, upon the return of the party, three of their principal men, who had not been down, and were displeased at what their people had done, were set out for Niagara to see Mr˙ Butler." The principal Sachem of the Tuscaroras is lately dead. The Oneidas and Tuscaroras, therefore, cannot attend the grand meeting till his funeral obsequies are performed.

I would beg the favour of a line. The Indians are very hungry for news. I hardly need suggest, sir, that a word of encouragement to our friends in this place would, at this time, strengthen their friendship, and induce them to persevere in that line of friendly conduct which they have hitherto invariably pursued since the commencement of the present disputes.

I am, sir, with much respect, your Honour' s most obedient and very humble servant,

To General Schuyler.