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Samuel Kirkland to Henry Knox

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Kirkland 135c

Samuel Kirkland to Henry Knox
Oneida, 22d April 1791. Honored Sir - When I was in Philadelphia the winter
past, and honored with a personal interview with you, the character and
present situation of the Indians were a subject of much conversation. Among
other things, the propriety and practicability of an accommodation with the
Indians in the vicinity of the Miami, to prevent the horrors of an Indian
war, were inquired into. - Their complaints and uneasiness which at length
broke out into open hostilities to two causes, viz.: the influence and
artifice of unprincipled traders and others who had immediate access to
them, - and secondly, their ignorance of the fixed determination and real
disposition of Congress to do strict justice to the Indians. To remove
these prejudices and correct their mistaken apprehensions, it was proposed
that a number of their chiefs should be brought down to Congress, that both
might have a fair hearing. This idea was suggested by Captain Obeil , alias
Cornplanter, who on the occasion remarked that the voice of Congress could
never reach those western Indians; before it passed through so vast a tract
of country it would either evaporate into the air, or be intercepted by the
voice of birds - alluding to the artifice of evil-minded persons and
unfriendly to the States.

Some time after my return from Philadelphia, as a friendly correspondence
is kept up between Captain Brant and myself, I wrote him upon the state of
the Indians at large, and the discouragement that attended every attempt
(already made) to introduce the arts of civilized life among them; subjects
upon which we had frequently conversed with the utmost freedom. I also
expressed my fears that their love of war with their spirit of jealousy
would terminate in their ruin. I must acknowledge that my chief design in
this was to obtain his sentiments and feelings towards the hostile Indians
in the vicinity of the Miami. A few days ago I received his answer by two
runners. Your official character and known humanity induce me to transmit
you a copy of his letter for your own perusal and not for publication - as
my situation among them is delicate and I am continually watched. I shall
at present make no comment upon his letter - am obliged to write in haste -
the strong trait of British influence and interest in many passages will
not escape your discovering eye. As I deprecate an Indian war from every
principle both of humanity and policy - if it can possibly be avoided
without a direct violation of the laws of the general Government;

permit me, Sir, to suggest the idea of sending Captain Hendrick and one
other chief of the Stockbridge tribe to the westward. This tribe had
formerly more influence with the Miamis, Shawanees, Delawares and Chippewas
than all the Five Nations. Captain Hendrick is well acquainted with their
customs and manners, and has since the war received several invitations
from those western tribes to make them a visit. He once went as far as
Buffalo Creek, where he met with some of his own nation who reside in that
quarter. In private council of the Oneida Chiefs they have advised to the
measure. Captain Hendrick flatters himself he could convince them of the
justice and goodness of Congress in the treatment they are disposed to give
to all Indians, and persuade them to lay down the hatchet till they could
give Congress a fair hearing. As you are in great measure a stranger to
Captain Hendrick's character, allow me, from long personal acquaintance to
say, in a word, that he is very little inferior to

Cornplanter; who also himself has a high esteem of Hendrick, and mentioned
him to me when at Philadelphia as a proper person for an embassy to the
westward. - Captain Hendrick with one other person will either go in the
name and behalf of their own nation, or at your direction, as may be
thought best, - if he can only be furnished for the journey with the
necessary articles of clothing, belts and strings of wampum, with a little
pocket money, the whole amount of which would be no more than fifty or
sixty dollars. The support of his family might require as much as twenty
bushels of grain between this and next fall. Should the proposal meet your
approbation, as bearing the signatures of humanity and policy - you will
please to honor me with the earliest notice - as no time should be lost for
the enterprise; to forward which every aid in my power shall be most
cheerfully afforded. With sentiments of highest respect and esteem, I am,
honored Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant, Samuel Kirkland ,
Missionary. Honorable Henry Knox , Esquire Secretary War Department (From
Pickering Papers, 61: 200-201. Massachusetts Historical Society)