Congress delivers a Speech to the Indians of the Six Confederate Nations: “We judge it wise and expedient to kindle up a small council fire at Albany, where we may hear each other’s voice, and disclose our minds more fully to each other.” Commissioners are selected for the Northern and Middle Departments.
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
The Speech to the Six Nations was read, debated by paragraphs, agreed to and printed in the Pennsylvania Packet, December 11th 1775. [It is not in the original journal]
A Speech to the Six Confederate Nations, Mohawks, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senekas, from the Twelve United Colonies, convened in Council at Philadelphia [Edited]
Brothers, Sachems, and Warriors,
We, the Delegates from the Twelve United Provinces… now sitting in general Congress at Philadelphia, send this talk to you our brothers. We are sixty-five in number, chosen and appointed by the people throughout all these provinces and colonies, to meet and sit together in one great council, to consult together for the common good of the land, and speak and act for them.
Brothers, in our consultation we have judged it proper and necessary to send you this talk, as we are upon the same island, that you may be informed of the reasons of this great council, the situation of our civil constitution, and our disposition towards you our Indian brothers of the Six Nations and their allies.
When our fathers crossed the great water and came over to this land, the king of England gave them a talk: assuring them that they and their children should be his children, and that if they would leave their native country and make settlements, and live here, and buy, and sell, and trade with their brethren beyond the water, they should still keep hold of the same covenant chain and enjoy peace.–And it was covenanted, that the fields, houses, goods and possessions which our fathers should acquire, should remain to them as their own, and be their children’s forever, and at their sole disposal.
Trusting that this covenant should never be broken, our fathers came a great distance beyond the great water, laid out their money here, built houses, cleared fields, raised crops, and through their own labor and industry grew tall and strong.
They have bought, sold and traded with England according to agreement, sending to them such things as they wanted, and taking in exchange such things as were wanted here.
The king of England and his people kept the way open for more than one hundred years, and by our trade became richer, and by a union with us, greater and stronger than the other kings and people who live beyond the water.
All this time they lived in great friendship with us, and we with them; for we are brothers–one blood.
Whenever they were struck, we instantly felt as though the blow had been given to us–their enemies were our enemies.
Whenever they went to war, we sent our men to stand by their side and fight for them, and our money to help them and make them strong.
They thanked us for our love, and sent us good talks, and renewed their promise to be one people forever.
Brothers and Friends, Open a Kind Ear!
We will now tell you of the quarrel betwixt the counsellors of king George and the inhabitants and colonies of America.
Many of his counsellors are proud and wicked men.–They persuade the king to break the covenant chain, and not to send us any more good talks. A considerable number have prevailed upon him to enter into a new covenant against us, and have torn asunder and cast behind their backs the good old covenant which their ancestors and ours entered into, and took strong hold of.
They now tell us they will slip their hand into our pocket without asking, as though it were their own; and at their pleasure they will take from us our charters or written civil constitution, which we love as our lives–also our plantations, our houses and goods whenever they please, without asking our leave.–That our vessels may go to this island in the sea, but to this or that particular island we shall not trade any more.–And in case of our non-compliance with these new orders, they shut up our harbors.
Brothers, this is our present situation–thus have many of the king’s counsellors and servants dealt with us.–If we submit, or comply with their demands, you can easily perceive to what state we will be reduced.–If our people labor on the field, they will not know who shall enjoy the crop.–If they hunt in the woods, it will be uncertain who shall taste of the meat or have the skins.–If they build houses, they will not know whether they may sit round the fire, with their wives and children. They cannot be sure whether they shall be permitted to eat, drink, and wear the fruits of their own labor and industry.
Brothers and Friends of the Six Nations, Attend,
We upon this island have often spoke and intreated the king and his servants the counsellors, that peace and harmony might still continue between us–that we cannot part with or lose our hold of the old covenant chain which united our fathers and theirs–that we want to brighten this chain–and keep the way open as our fathers did; that we want to live with them as brothers, labor, trade, travel abroad, eat and drink in peace. We have often asked them to love us and live in such friendship with us as their fathers did with ours.
We told them again that we judged we were exceedingly injured, that they might as well kill us, as take away our property and the necessaries of life.–We have asked why they treat us thus?–What has become of our repeated addresses and supplications to them? Who hath shut the ears of the king to the cries of his children in America? No soft answer–no pleasant voice from beyond the water has yet sounded in our ears.
Brothers, thus stands the matter betwixt old England and America. You Indians know how things are proportioned in a family–between the father and the son–the child carries a little pack–England we regard as the father–this island may be compared to the son.
The father has a numerous family both at home and upon this island.–He appoints a great number of servants to assist him in the government of his family. In process of time, some of his servants grow proud and ill-natured–they were displeased to see the boy so alert and walk so nimbly with his pack. They tell the father, and advise him to enlarge the child’s pack–they prevail–the pack is increased–the child takes it up again–as he thought it might be the father’s pleasure–speaks but few words–those very small–for he was loth to offend the father. Those proud and wicked servants finding they had prevailed, laughed to see the boy sweat and stagger under his increased load. By and by, they apply to the father to double the boy’s pack, because they heard him complain–and without any reason said they–he is a cross child–correct him if he complains any more.–The boy intreats the father–addresses the great servants in a decent manner, that the pack might be lightened–he could not go any farther–humbly asks, if the old fathers, in any of their records, had described such a pack for the child–after all the tears and entreaties of the child, the pack is redoubled–the child stands a little, while staggering under the weight–ready to fall every moment. However he entreats the father once more, though so faint he could only lisp out his last humble supplication–waits a while–no voice returns. The child concludes the father could not hear–those proud servants had intercepted his
supplications, or stopped the ears of the father. He therefore gives one struggle and throws off the pack, and says he cannot take it up again–such a weight would crush him down and kill him–and he can but die if he refuses.
Upon this, those servants are very wroth–and tell the father many false stories respecting the child–they bring a great cudgel to the father, asking him to take it in his hand and strike the child.
This may serve to illustrate the present condition of the king’s American subjects or children.
Amidst these oppressions we now and then hear a mollifying and reviving voice from some of the king’s wise counsellors, who are our friends and feel for our distresses, when they heard our complaints and our cries, they applied to the king, also told those wicked servants, that this child in America was not a cross boy, it had sufficient reason for crying, and if the cause of its complaint was neglected, it would soon assume the voice of a man, plead for justice like a man, and defend its rights and support the old covenant chain of the fathers.
Notwithstanding all our entreaties, we have but little hope the king will send us any more good talks, by reason of his evil counsellors; they have persuaded him to send an army of soldiers and many ships of war, to rob and destroy us. They have shut up many of our harbors, seized and taken into possession many of our vessels: the soldiers have struck the blow, killed some of our people, the blood now runs of the American children: They have also burned our houses and towns, and taken much of our goods.
Brothers! We are now necessitated to rise, and forced to fight, or give up our civil constitution, run away and leave our farms and houses behind us. This must not be. Since the king’s wicked counsellors will not open their ears, and consider our just complaints, and the cause of our weeping, and hath given the blow, we are determined to drive away the king’s soldiers, and to kill and destroy all those wicked men we find in arms against the peace of the twelve United Colonies upon this island. We think our cause is just; therefore hope God will be on our side. We do not take up the hatchet and struggle for honor and conquest; but to maintain our civil constitution and religious privileges, the very same for which our forefathers left their native land and came to this country.
Brothers and Friends!
We desire you will hear and receive what we have now told you, and that you will open a good ear and listen to what we are now going to say. This is a family quarrel between us and Old England. You Indians are not concerned in it. We don’t wish you to take up the hatchet against the king’s troops. We desire you to remain at home, and not join on either side, but keep the hatchet buried deep. In the name and in behalf of all our people, we ask and desire you to love peace and maintain it, and to love and sympathize with us in our troubles; that the path may be kept open with all our people and yours, to pass and repass, without molestation.
Brothers! we live upon the same ground with you. The same island is our common birth-place. We desire to sit down under the same tree of peace with you: let us water its roots and cherish its growth, till the large leaves and flourishing branches shall extend to the setting sun, and reach the skies.
Brothers, Observe Well!
What is it we have asked of you? Nothing but peace, notwithstanding our present disturbed situation–and if application should be made to you by any of the king’s unwise and wicked ministers to join on their side, we only advise you to deliberate, with great caution, and in your wisdom look forward to the consequences of a compliance. For, if the king’s troops take away our property, and destroy us who are of the same blood with themselves, what can you, who are Indians, expect from them afterwards?
Therefore, we say, brothers, take care–hold fast to your covenant chain. You now know our disposition towards you, the Six Nations of Indians, and your allies. Let this our good talk remain at Onondaga, your central council house. We depend upon you to send and acquaint your allies to the northward, the seven tribes on the river St. Lawrence, that you have this talk of ours at the great council fire of the Six Nations. And when they return, we invite your great men to come and converse farther with us at Albany, where we intend to re-kindle the council fire, which your and our ancestors sat round in great friendship.
Brothers and Friends!
We greet you all farewell.
We have said we wish you Indians may continue in peace with one another, and with us the white people. Let us both be cautious in our behavior towards each other at this critical state of affairs. This island now trembles, the wind whistles from almost every quarter–let us fortify our minds and shut our ears against false rumors–let us be cautious what we receive for truth, unless spoken by wise and good men. If anything disagreeable should ever fall out between us, the twelve United Colonies, and you, the Six Nations, to wound our peace, let us immediately seek measures for healing the breach. From the present situation of our affairs, we judge it wise and expedient to kindle up a small council fire at Albany, where we may hear each other’s voice, and disclose our minds more fully to each other.
Ordered, That a similar talk be prepared for the other Indian nations, preserving the tenor of the above, and altering it so as to suit the Indians in the several departments.
The Congress then proceeded to the choice of Commissioners for the several departments. After some debate, agreed that the nomination of the Commissioners for the Southern department be postponed till Tuesday next.
Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, and James Wilson, were unanimously elected for the Middle Department.
Resolved, that there be one more added to the number of the Commissioners for the Northern Department: Philip Schuyler, Joseph Hawley, Turbot Francis, and Oliver Woolcot.
Resolved, that the Congress will tomorrow take into consideration the report of the Committee on the Militia.
Congress adjourned until tomorrow at 8 o’Clock.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.