James Pickett: HISTORY
(Kindly contributed by William C. Bell)
THE DEEP INTRIGUES OF MCGILLIVRAY.
Occasionally, the Spanish authorities at Pensacola and Mobile were guilty of consummate folly in imposing restrictions upon the Creeks, which frequently offended them, creating a prejudice, which it required the compromising spirit of Panton and the authority and ingenuity of McGillivray to remove. We will here introduce a letter of the Chief, in relation to the Spanish outrages. Sept. 1788: It was written to Panton and dated at Little Tallase.
"I had written to you, during the great hubbub at Pensacola, by Frank Leslie. I gave, then, a sketch of my idea of the times. The sudden flight of Curnells and Walker ought not to surprise you. The cowardice of the former is proverbial, and Walker fled, being my servant. When Linder and the others were taken up, a little Irishman, living at Tensaw, was in Pensacola. He became frightened, ran out to Walker, and informed him that the governor, in very severe terms, threatened to seize him, understanding that he was recruiting men for my service. Upon which, says Curnells, 'I am his interpreter, therefore my chance to escape is small.' The idea of the mines operated so strongly upon their imaginations, that they precipitately fled. This custom, of taking up traders ignorant of the language, laws and customs of Spain, upon frivolous reports, if persevered in, will have effects of the most pernicious tendency. ---- You were lucky that the American stores were broken up by us, upon the Altamaha; or else, after paying you some part of their skins, the whole of the Lower Creeks and part of the Upper Towns would have, in future, gone to them for supplies, so greatly have the traders been alarmed by the late proceedings at Pensacola. If our friends, the Spaniards, knew how very delicate it was to awaken the suspicions and fears of my people, by harsh measures, they would use none in future. All the traders that have already gone to you, I was positively obliged to drive down, or you would not have seen one, for they would rather have gone to St. Marks or St. Johns. I hope all this is now subsided in Pensacola, for I am ashamed and sorry for it. I can see no reason for all this bustle. If the Grand Turk, or any other power, chooses to make me a present, provided they are not at war with Spain, they cannot be reasonably offended with me for accepting it. We are a free people, and mean to continue so. * * * Your letter of the 2d runs in the same strain of advice as your others, advising and exhorting Sept. me to be guarded in treating with the Americans, and to reserve our trade wholly to Spain. Governor Miro has instructed me to the same purpose, and which I am fully resolved to do, that is, if I have power to offer and insist upon any stipulations, and so I have answered his Excellency. But I was apprehensive that our late royal orders (concerning our treaty with the Americans), now strictly operating, would embarrass our affairs, if not altogether frustrate our intentions, regarding trade: because, if I comprehend the order right, it is that I must treat of peace, and measures which I have found fault with, to enforce it. It must be, of course, allowed that every power to insist upon an article of that kind, or, indeed, any other, is wholly taken from me--for experience has proved that such matters are only to be attained by the longest fire and point of sword, particularly with the Americans. So, as our affairs now stand, I cannot see a chance of our resisting any conditions which they may choose to dictate to us, and we all can foresee these will be no means favorable to our present condition. In the meantime, I have thrown some obstacles in the way of the present treaty, and have written to Governor Miro, stating these matters in a strong point of view, which he mentions he has referred to the Captain-General Esplelata, of Havana. The letter is dated 28th August, and sent by one Nolen, a genteel young Irishman, whom the governor desired me to forward to Cumberland, with some propositions towards a commercial treaty.
"The present interregnum in the American government, and the commissioners putting off the treaty until the next spring, will afford us all time to look around us. Whitefield's letter will show you the dispositions of the Georgians. The United States commissioners wanted the Assembly to co-operate, in a treaty of peace, and the House would not assemble. The Georgians proclaimed a truce of arms with us, on the 31st July. A Coweta Indian gave me, lately, a wretched, dirty and scandalous scrawl, on foul paper, which he found on a tree, near Flint river. It proved to be a threatening talk to me and my savage subjects; that we (the Creeks) should have no establishment of peace until they (the Georgians) shall have full satisfaction of all their desires, etc. Signed, James Alexander, the 15th August. The chap that signs is Colonel Alexander, who murdered the Cussetas. He and Clarke sway Upper Georgia.
"The impolicy of certain late measures, in tieing us up, is evident. If we could have followed up our blows, those fellows, ere this time, would have been effectually humbled; but we have all our work to do over again.
"I observe, with much satisfaction, that the Governor and Intendant of New Orleans have relinquished their claim of one-fourth of the profits of your trade. Such a procedure is extremely generous, and, as for my part, I now repeat to you what I told you more than twelve months ago, when we were talking upon the subject of the trade. I then observed that my nation was much benefited by the honorable and liberal manner in which you supplied them with goods; that, as my attention was wholly occupied about my people, it could not be in my power to be of any essential service to your business; therefore I could not, and ought not, to claim or hold a share of your industry and risks. *** In the meantime, I am thankful for the generous credit of necessaries which you offered me, and if I conclude a peace with the Americans, which I expect to do, it will be in my power and ability to settle my account with you. These gentry will probably restore me my property now among them.
"Our Indian news is in the old strain. The Congress, on the one hand, pretends to hold out the white wing to all the Southern nations; on the other, the back settlers of North Carolina are overrunning the Cherokees, driving them into the woods, murdering women and children, as if they wished to extirpate these poor wretches. A party of my warriors lately went among the Cherokees, collected some of them from their hiding places, and attacked a body of the Franklin troops, that were laying all waste before them, and completely routed them. Only three Americans escaped. This is the first check they ever got in that country, and it has revived the drooping spirits of the Cherokees.
"During our present suspense and half truce, I have encouraged a considerable party of the Upper Creek warriors to go to the assistance of these poor devils, for a few more checks will be of great service to their affairs with the Americans. * * * I have instructed Daniel McGillivray concerning the skins he carries down, of the Wewocoe store. This specimen of the troubles of trade has sickened me with it.
"Farewell, my dear sir, may every good attend you.
"Yours most truly,
" To William Panton, Pensacola."
The perusal of this letter has revealed the motives of its author. McGillivray had offended the Spanish authorities, and this letter appears to have been written chiefly for their eyes. He affects, also, to be under great obligations to Panton, and of little service to him in their commercial connection, which he pretends to desire shall terminate. This was all done for the purpose of alarming Panton, whom he informs he hopes to be able to pay up, if he should make a favorable treaty with the Americans. The wily Chieftain well knew that both Spain and this distinguished merchant would make any sacrifice, before they would permit him to be bought up by the Americans, and that his letter would go to extort from them further favors and emoluments.
1789: During the succeeding twelve months, the Federal Government seized upon every occasion to gain the friendship of McGillivray, and to put an end to the excitement in Georgia. H. Osborne and Andrew Pickens were all the time upon the frontiers, representing the General Government, and writing to McGillivray to meet them, with a delegation from the entire Creek nation, at Rock Landing, upon the Oconee, to settle the serious matters in dispute. The Chieftain at length arranged to meet them; but, just before the time of joining them, wrote the following letter to Panton, which he requested should privately be exhibited to the Spanish authorities:
"Little Tallase, 10th August, 1789.
"Dear Sir.--There being no pack-horses going to Pensacola for a long time past, I have had no opportunity to answer your last letters. The bearer, on my promising him two kegs of taffai, has undertaken to convey these to you.
"Galphin, whom I sent to the Rock Landing with a talk, declining the treaty of June last, returned about a fortnight since, and I find that they are resolved upon making a treaty. In order to accommodate us the commissioners are complaisant enough to postpone it till the 15th of next month, and one of them, the late Chief Justice Osborne, remains all the time at Rock Landing. Pickens returned for the Cherokee treaty; but in this I took measures to disappoint him, for those Chiefs would not meet. In this do you not see my cause of triumph, in bringing these conquerors of the Old and masters of the New World, as they call themselves, to bend and supplicate for peace at the feet of a people whom shortly before they despised and marked out for destruction.*
"My being all at home, and the grand ceremony of kindling the new fire being just over, I deem it the fittest time to meet these commissioners, and have accordingly made the broken days, of which nine are left, to set out in. In conducting the business of the treaty I will, as you observe, confine it to the fixing of our limits and the acknowledgment of the independence of my nation. This I deem very necessary, as the Americans pretend to a territorial claim and sovereignty over us in virtue of the late peace made with England. This being settled will, in a great measure, be doing away with any cause of future quarrel between us. You well know how customary it is in all treaties with the Indians to agree to a commercial one also, it being absolutely necessary, as it more firmly attaches them to friendships formed; for without stipulations of that sort in a treaty of peace, none will be lasting. However, in this instance I will agree to none, as you have a prospect of being able, by the favor of the Spanish government, to supply this trade on as moderate terms as the Georgians can do. Here let me observe to you, that in the affair of trade the Americans will push hard for it, and it will be for us the most difficult part of the negotiation. But I will risk the breaking off of the conference before I will give in to it. On the whole, if I find that the commissioners insist upon stipulations that will in their operation clash with those already entered into with Spain, I shall not hesitate to cut short the negotiation, and support the connection which we have with Spain, it being more safe and respectable than the republicans can make one. But at the same time I must insist upon an equal resolution in our friends, the Spaniards, to afford us their decided support by every means in their power, and not under any pretences to repeat their conduct of last summer, in the very moment of vigorous exertion to refuse a further aid, and incense and menace us to make a peace, right or wrong, with the Americans, which, if we had done at the time, we should have been driven into hostility with Spain before this day. I repeat to you what I have frequently done to Governor Miro, that if we are obliged, for want of support, to conclude an unconditional peace with the Americans, it will prove essentially Lawrence, in the house of my sister, Sehoy Weatherford.* Such men, in official stations, do great injury to their country, at one time or another. This has been proved.
"My friend, the governor, is likewise possessed with the belief that all the damage done the settlers below is done by us; but it is wrong. The whole was a few horses and men taken, and my sister Durant took back the greater portion of these from the Coosawdas. But, at present, the Choctaw is the favorite, and all the outrages which they commit are carefully turned upon us by their partizans. It is notorious that the Choctaws are discontented, and Indians never fail to manifest it, either in taking scalps or committing depredations, which last they do, for it is common for them to kill horses and cattle, etc., on 'Tombecbe,' and this summer even about Mobile. But all this is concealed from Governor Miro. Ben James, who is so much confided in, is privately an American agent, and has actually a commission, which he received from Georgia, to act with Davenport, and I know, could he be supported with any necessaries by the Americans, he would throw off the mask. He was even weak enough to address me for leave to open a trade with the States, which I refused him, as well as his application. As a proof of my assertions respecting the Choctaws, Folch sent them a talk this summer, menacing them with a stoppage of their trade, until they made satisfaction. I am ever ready to make allowances for a momentary impression, caused by false reports; but it would be better that they were more guarded against, and not made the grounds of making differences, which might produce a serious effect. The late menaces which were thrown out to me created no great anxiety in my mind, because I could have directly opened the eastern door, where large magazines of goods, etc., have been stored for some time past, awaiting it to be opened, but, for peace and quietness sake, I hope that there will be no occasion now for it--as everything is fallen into a calm, so let it remain; and all that I have said or done was solely to discover and show the means to prevent it, I hope forever, between us.
"The Chickasaw nation are content (whatever Diego Mingo may say to the contrary,) to put up with the loss of that chap's brother and son, for having fallen in bad company. This will be a warning, and convince them that they will not be permitted, with impunity, to act or encourage hostile designs against us, in concert with any people.
"Now, let me talk a little upon my private affairs. I wish I could lay my hand on that last letter, to send you, and a very curious, and, to you, not an uninteresting Carolina newspaper, just received; but they are both swallowed up in a multitude of papers. You know how it is with me, in the paper way. The commissioners of the United States say it would give them great pleasure to have a private conversation, previous to our entering into the business of the treaty, as it would tend to make it go on agreeably, and with more ease. I need not interpret this paragraph to you, when you already know that I have, for some time past, been endeavoring to recover my house and lands, with my family estate, which, to your knowledge, is more than £30,000 sterling, the offer of which is now, I expect, to be pressed upon me. And there has, since I saw you last, arisen considerable conflict in my mind, in revolving these matters over. Here am I, an absolute heavy tax upon you, for years, and, in fact, not only for my private support, but for all the extra expenses of this department; and although, my dear sir, I know that I can still depend upon your generosity, and in your friendship, that you overlook the heavy expense that I put you to, yet you well know how hurtful it is to the feeling heart, to be beholden to subsist on the bounty of private friendship. Thus situated, I ask--I wish you to give me your opinion. On the one hand, I am offered the restoration of my property, of more than one hundred thousand dollars, at the least valuation: and on the other, not wherewithal to pay an interpreter. And I find that letters are still addressed to me, as agent for his Catholic Majesty, when I have some time ago renounced the pittance that was allowed, as being a consideration disgraceful to my station. If they want my services, why is not a regular establishment made, as was done by the English, with a competent salary affixed, and allowance for two interpreters, one among the Upper and one among the Lower Towns, for hitherto I have had to maintain them myself; or shall I have recourse to my American estate, to maintain them and myself? I wish you to advise me what I had best do.
"Although I have no solid ground to hope a complete adjustment of our dispute with the Americans, I am resolved to go, if it is only to wipe off the suggestion made to me by our friends, that I am actuated by unjust motives and an unreasonable prejudice against the Americans, as the ground of hostility against them. But if they, on the other hand, should find a body of people approaching their mines, would not they say, What business have you here? Do not you know that there are grounds from which we draw the chief source of our conveniences and happiness, and we cannot suffer you to participate in, or deprive us of them; and these encroachers should refuse to withdraw, would they not commence and support an inveterate hostility, until they should expel them?
"The fellow, Romain, whom Madame Villar writes of, was a great liar. He came here from the Choctaws, with a quantity of silverware and a few goods, and wanted Nick White to join him in purchasing negroes, to carry and sell in New Orleans. After roving about for some time, he had a difficulty with Milfort,*** who threatened to send him, in irons, to New Orleans, which terrified him, apparently, and he went off to the Creek town, Chehaw, and, from thence, either to Detroit or to the States.
"A copy of this letter you can send to the /// Miro, as I intended the former one.
"I expect our treaty will be over by the middle of September. If we return safe, expect a visit early in October, from,
"Dear sir, yours most truly,
"To William Panton, Pensacola.
* I can well imagine how McGillivray looked when he wrote this strong and eloquent sentence. At that moment he evidently felt his power, and his face must have been expressive of much pride, exultation and scorn.
** Lawrence was killed in the house of Sehoy Weatherford, then situated upon the spot where Colonel Charles Hooks formerly lived, and which is now owned by Maurice Connolly. In those days a man and his wife seldom lived in the same house. The husband, Charles Weatherford, lived at his race track, a few miles above, on the Alabama. Lawrence and others were accused of stealing horses from the Spaniards, near Mobile, and Captain Folch sent some equally bad men in pursuit of them. The accused took refuge in Sehoy Weatherford's house. It was surrounded, and Lawrence was killed in the middle of the 'door. The others escaped. It is this circumstance to which McGillivray alludes. I derived these facts from Lachlan Durant, who was at the house of his aunt Weatherford when Lawrence was killed. Durant was then a boy.
*** The French officer who lived so long in the nation.
William Panton was under great obligations to McGillivray, for the power of the Chieftain had enriched him beyond measure. He now had large trading establishments at all the prominent posts of Florida. His chief store was at Pensacola. It usually contained a stock of goods to the value of fifty thousand dollars, and he employed fifteen clerks to attend to it. Here he had extensive "skin-houses," where his valuable skins and rich furs were assorted, and packed up, for foreign markets.
Besides his stores at St. Johns, St. Marks, St. Augustine, Pensacola and Mobile, he had trading establishments at the Chickasaw Bluff, upon the Mississippi. It is said that fifteen schooners, owned by himself, were constantly employed by him, in his business. How alarming to him, then, was the preceding letter of McGillivray, and how anxious was he that no treaty should be made with the Americans that would affect his extensive commerce. McGillivray, on the other hand, was in a situation the most favorable to obtain honors and emoluments, and he could well threaten the Spaniards with "opening the eastern door"--the Americans with support from the King of Spain--and alarm Panton with the idea of a new commercial treaty. This able and ingenious Indian, Scotchman or Frenchman, (for who can tell which blood most influenced his disposition), kept Panton, Spain and the United States in a state of feverish excitement, while Georgia was horribly harassed, and made to feel his malignant resentments, for the banishment of his father and the confiscation of his patrimony.
Sept. 10 1789: Washington was now President. He associated with Gen. Pickens, David Humphreys, Cyrus Griffin and Benjamin Lincoln, as commissioners, to treat with McGillivray. These three gentlemen, sailing from New York, arrived at Savannah, with abundant provisions to feed the Indians, while at the treaty ground. In a few days, they reached Rock Landing, upon the Oconee, where McGillivray, at the head of two thousand warriors, had been encamped for more than a week, on the western bank of the river. The commissioners pitched their camp on the eastern bank. The first two days were spent in private conferences with McGillivray, much to the satisfaction of the commissioners, for they were treated by him with great courtesy and politeness. Sept. 24: The latter also visited most of the Chiefs, who all appeared friendly, and glad to make their acquaintance. The commissioners crossed the river, to the western side, and, after partaking of the black drink, were conducted, by the Chiefs, with great pomp and ceremony, to the place of council. One of them made a speech to the Indians, promising much liberality on the part of the United States, which was well received. Impressed with the favorable turn of things, as they supposed, they immediately read to the Chiefs a copy of the treaty, which they had drawn up. It stipulated that the boundary made at Augusta, Shoulderbone and Galphinton should remain; that the United States would guarantee the territory, west of that boundary, forever to the Creeks; that a free trade should be established with the Indians, from ports upon the Altamaha, through which the Indians could import and export, upon the same terms as the citizens of the United States. That all negroes, horses, goods and American citizens, taken by the Indians, should be restored.
Sept 1789: The commissioners then retired to their encampments, and that night McGillivray and his Chiefs went into a grand private council. The next morning the Chieftain informed the commissioners, by letter, that the terms they proposed were not satisfactory, and that the Indians had resolved to break up and go home. He promised to meet them again at some future time, and to keep his warriors from acts of hostility during the ensuing winter. The commissioners were astounded, for they had imagined that everything was in a proper train. But the terms they proposed were unaccompanied with a solitary equivalent, and exhibited an extremely niggardly spirit, from which the high-minded Andrew Pickens wholly dissented. He knew that a treaty could not be made without liberal compensation for the valuable lands which the Georgians were then cultivating. The federal powers also knew this, and had instructed the commissioners to pay the Creeks a fair equivalent for this territory. They now sought every means to induce McGillivray to remain, and begged him to state his grounds of objection to the draft of the treaty. But he broke up his encampment and retreated to the Ockmulgee, from which place he addressed the commissioners the following letter:
Ockmulgee River, 27th Sept., 1789.
"Gentlemen: -- I am favored with your letter of yesterday, by Weatherford. I beg to assure you that my retreat from my former camp on the Oconee was entirely owing to the want of food for our horses, and at the earnest entreaty of our Chiefs. Colonel Humphreys and myself at different interviews entered deeply and minutely into the subject of the contest between our nation and the State of Georgia. I observed to him that I expected ample and full justice should be given us in restoring to us the encroachments we complained of, in which the Oconee lands are included; but finding that there was no such intention, and that a restitution of territory and hunting grounds was not to be the basis of a treaty between us, I resolved to return to the nation, deferring the matter in full peace till next spring. Many of the principals have gone hunting--nothing further can be done. I am very unwell, and cannot return. We sincerely desire a peace, but cannot sacrifice much to obtain it. As for a statement of our disputes, the honorable Congress has long since been in possession of and has declared that they will decide on them on the principles of justice and humanity. 'Tis that we expect.
"I have the honor to be, etc.,
"To the Hon. Commissioners, Rock Landing.
Nov 1789: The commissioners repaired to Augusta with their fingers in their mouths. They drew up a series of questions for Governor Walton, of Georgia, who answered them. He stated that the lands between the mountains and the old Ogechee line, north of the Oconee, were equally the property of the Creeks and Cherokees; that before the revolution the lands in the territory of Wilkes county were ceded by these tribes to Georgia; that during the war the province had been attacked by these Indians, and at the close of it they were respectively called upon to make some satisfaction; that in the spring of the Cherokees came to Augusta and signed a treaty, and the Lower Creeks came in the autumn and performed the same act, thus ceding to Georgia their respective rights to lands specified in these treaties. These treaties were laid before the legislature. These lands were surveyed, sold, settled and cultivated in peace; that the Indians made these cessions voluntarily, and received presents, in return, of value, and that, at the treaty of Galphinton, no unworthy use was made of the force which was sent upon the ground.
Governor Walton appended to this statement, a list of the Georgians who had been killed, and of the property stolen, during the recent hostilities, which was alarming in magnitude.*
* American State Papers, Indian Affairs, vol. 1, pp. 65-78.
Apr. 13 1790: The first impulse of President Washington, upon the return of the commissioners to New York, was to wage a war of invasion against the Creeks and compel them to make a peace, and relinquish the Oconee lands. He was influenced to this course, against his judgment, by the urgent demands of the Georgia delegation in Congress. But when he found, from an estimate, that the expenses of the war would amount to fifteen millions of dollars, he abandoned the project, believing that the General Government could not sustain such an expense, while it was still struggling with that incurred by a long war with England. He believed that the difficulties could yet be settled by negotiation, if he could once get Colonel McGillivray into his presence. Colonel Marinus Willett, a native of Long Island, New York, and a distinguished officer in the Canadian war, and the American revolution, was selected by Washington, as a secret agent, to visit the Creek nation, by a circuitous route, and to endeavor to return, with McGillivray, to the seat of the Federal Government. He was strictly enjoined to keep his mission a profound secret from every one, except General Pickens, to whom he bore a letter. Colonel Willett sailed from New York, with a servant and two horses, and, after a passage of fourteen days, arrived in Charleston. Leaving this place, he had not proceeded far, before the servant, manifesting much fear, was ordered back to New York, while a German, of doubtful character, supplied his place. Colonel Willett reached the residence of General Andrew Pickens, on the Seneca river. General Pickens was a gentleman who had been engaged extensively, as we have already seen, in negotiations with the Indians, and one in whom Washington reposed great confidence. Apr. 19: Obtaining from General Pickens an Indian guide for the Cherokee country, and purchasing two additional horses, he sat out to complete his lonely and difficult mission, after having enjoyed for several days the hospitality and kindness of that distinguished revolutionary character. Pursuing his journey leisurely, the Cherokee town of Santee, containing eighteen houses, and surrounded by mountains, was first reached. The route lay through Little Chote, and the town of Huntowekee, which embraced both sides of a branch of the Coosa, and contained about fifty houses. Along the banks of the Etowah, Colonel Willett entered Newcoheta, or Long Swamp, where he met Mr. Thomas Gogg, to whom he bore a letter from General Pickens. This gentleman accompanied him to Pine Log, where he had long resided, as a trader among the Cherokees, and introduced him to Yellow Bird, the Chief, who not only received him with unaffected hospitality, but invited him to witness the novel and exciting game of the ball play. On the banks of the river, they reached Eustenaree, a city of refuge, to which the guilty were wont to fly and be safe from punishment. No blood could be shed within the bounds of its sacred corporation. Here resided two Indian Chiefs, Badger and Jobberson, who gave him a warm reception, induced by the letters of General Pickens. April 28 1790: The next morning Jobberson and the interpreter, Mr. Carey, having agreed to accompany him to the Creek nation, the party all proceeded to Hihote, the last of the Cherokee towns in this direction, crossed the Etowah in a canoe, swam the horses, and ascended the Pumpkin Posh mountain, which is nearly a day's travel from the river. The wealthy Mr. Scott, a European, who had long been a trader in the nation, resided in the first Creek settlement, which they now entered. April 30: Here, learning that McGillivray was then on a visit to Ocfuske, on the Tallapoosa river, Colonel Willett determined to join him at that place. Since he had left the borders of South Carolina, more than ten days had been consumed in his solitary march over a wilderness country, which was the constant scene of murder and robbery. The expenses of the expedition, chiefly for provender, were paid for in ribbons and paints. At the house of Mr. Graison, in the Hillabees, the secret agent had the good fortune to meet Colonel McGillivray. He describes him as a "man of an open, generous mind, with a good judgment and very tenacious memory." Delivering the important letter of General Washington, two days were passed in conversation with this distinguished Indian personage, and here Colonel Willett, for the first time, witnessed the religious ceremony of the black drink. May 3 1790: The party, accompanied by Colonel McGillivray and his servant, took leave of the hospitable mansion of Graison, and, after ten miles travel, approached the Fish Pond Town, where, in the evening, they were honored with a dance by the inhabitants. They soon arrived at the Hickory Ground, a large town, and one of the residences of Colonel McGillivray. May 4: Here, it was understood that the Indians of Coosawda were engaged in a grand busking for mulberries.
It was not long before Colonel McGillivray sent out ten broken days, for the Chiefs of the Lower Towns to meet at Ositchy to consult on public business; and, during this time, Colonel Willett amused himself in riding about the vicinity. He visited the old French fort, "Toulouse," the remains of which were scarcely visible. He tarried several days at Little Tallase, the birthplace of McGillivray, which was also called the "Apple Grove," situated on the east bank of the Coosa, five miles above the Hickory Ground, a most delightful and well improved place. Here he fared sumptuously on fish, venison, strawberries and mulberries. On the 12th of May the agent and McGillivray, with their servants, set out eastwardly, and arrived at the great town of Tookabatcha at four o'clock in the evening, and passed the night with Mr. Curnells, the interpreter. Crossing the Tallapoosa, in company with their host, they went by the house of the Tallase King, and saw a Scotchman, named James McQueen, who had been a trader for sixty years, in the nation. The next day, they passed the residence of the Hollowing King, and reached Coweta, upon the Chattahoochie river, where Mr. Deresau, the interpreter, sheltered them for the night. Many of this numerous population were engaged in drinking taffai, and the night was spent in much noise and carousal. Passing down to Ositchy the next morning, these distinguished gentlemen remained there, awaiting the arrival of the Chiefs, when, at 11 o'clock a.m., Colonel Willett, the secret agent, delivered to the assembled wisdom of the Creek confederacy an address, the substance of which was, that he had been sent an immense distance by our Great Chief, George Washington, to invite them to his council-house, at New York, where he, with his own hand, wished to sign, with Colonel McGillivray, a treaty of peace and alliance. He stated to them that the United States wanted none of their lands, and that Washington would take effectual measures to secure their territory to them, according to the treaty which he and Colonel McGillivray would conclude; that the President was ready to promote their trade, by affording them means to procure goods in a cheap and easy manner, and intended to perform other acts which would promote the welfare and happiness of the Creek nation. Colonel Willett concluded his speech by earnestly inviting them to embrace these terms, and to select such Chiefs as they chose to accompany Colonel McGillivray to the great council-house of New York, where Washington would make a treaty with their Great Chief "as strong as the hills and lasting as the rivers."
May 17 1790: Retiring for an hour from the vast assembly, whom he left to deliberate upon his overtures, Colonel Willett was again called in, when he received the following speech from the Hollowing King, a fine-looking man and great orator:
"We are glad to see you. You have come a great way, and, as soon as we fixed our eyes upon you, we were made glad. We are poor, and have not the knowledge of the white people. We were invited to the treaty at the Rock Landing. We went there. Nothing was done. We were disappointed, and came back with sorrow. The road to your great council-house is long, and the weather is hot; but our beloved Chief shall go with you, and such others as we may appoint. We will agree to all things which our beloved Chief shall do. We will count the time he is away, and, when he comes back, we shall be glad to see him with a treaty that shall be 'as strong as the hills and lasting as the rivers. 'May you be preserved from every evil."
Having negotiated this business to the mutual satisfaction of himself and the warriors, Colonel Willett returned to Coweta that evening, and the next morning assumed the retrograde march for Tookabatcha, where he arrived on the 21st, partook of the ceremony of the black drink, and received a speech from the venerable White Lieutenant, as the voice of the Upper Creeks, breathing sentiments similar to those delivered at Ositchy. Late in the evening of the next day McGillivray and the agent arrived at the Hickory Ground. From this place Colonel Willett despatched a letter to the Secretary of War, by the hands of Mr. Carey, the Cherokee interpreter.
June 1 1790: Finally, Colonel McGillivray, with his nephew and two servants, accompanied by the secret agent, set out from Little Tallase for New York. They were all mounted on horseback, and accompanied by several pack-horses. Taking a northeastern direction through the wilderness, they arrived at the Stone Mountain, in the present State of Georgia, and were there joined by the Coweta and Cusseta Chiefs. Reaching the house of General Pickens, the party received the warmest welcome, and, after being joined by the Tallase King, Chinnobe, the "great Natchez warrior," and other Chiefs, the expedition again set out, with three wagons, in which rode twenty-six warriors, while four were on horseback. Colonel McGillivray and suit were mounted on horses, and the agent rode in a sulky. At Guildford C. H., North Carolina, a truly affecting scene occurred. Some years before this the Creeks had killed a man named Brown, and captured his wife and children, whom they brought to the nation. Colonel McGillivray, moved at their unfortunate situation, redeemed them from slavery by paying the price of their ransom, as he had done many others, and maintained them at his house over a year. Mrs. Brown, hearing of the arrival of Colonel McGillivray, rushed through the large assembly at the court house, and, with a flood of tears, almost overpowered him with expressions of admiration of his character, and gratitude for his preservation of her life, and that of her children, while alone in a land of savages. The party passed through Richmond and Fredericksburg, where they were treated with much kindness, while Colonel McGillivray was received by the most prominent citizens with distinguished consideration. Arriving at Philadelphia, Colonel Willett and his party were there entertained, for three days, in a manner which could not fail to please. Entering a sloop at Elizabethtown Point, they landed in New York, where the Tammany Society, in the full dress of their order, received them in splendor, marched them up Wall street by the Federal Hall, where Congress was then in session, and next to the house of the President, to whom they were ntroduced with much pomp and ceremony. Then, visiting the Minister of War and Governor Clinton, a sumptuous and elegant entertainment at the City Tavern finished the day. *
* A Narrative of the Military Actions of Colonel Marinus Willett, pp. 95-113.
When it became known that McGillivray had departed for New York, great excitement arose in Florida and Louisiana. A correspondence began with the Captain-General at Havana, and ending by his despatching from East Florida an agent with a large sum of money to New York, ostensibly to buy flour, but really to embarrass the negotiations with the Creeks. Washington, apprised of the presence of this officer, had his movements so closely observed, that the object of his mission was defeated.
Washington, communicating with the Senate, advised that the negotiations with McGillivray should be conducted informally, as all the overtures hitherto offered by the commissioners had been rejected. Embarrassments existed, because the commerce of the Creeks was in the hands of a British company, who made their importations from England into Spanish ports. It was necessary that it should be diverted into American channels; but McGillivray's treaty, at Pensacola, in 1784, could not be disregarded, without a great breach of faith and morals on his part.
Aug. 7 1790: But finding, from the informal intercourse with them, that McGillivray and the Chiefs were ready to treat, upon advantageous terms, Henry Knox was appointed to negotiate with them, and a treaty was concluded by him, on the part of the United States, and, on the other side, by McGillivray and the delegation, representing the whole Creek nation. It stipulated that a permanent peace should be established between the Creeks and the citizens of the United States; that the Creeks and Seminoles should be under the protection, solely, of the American government, and that they should not make treaties with any State, or the individuals of any State; that they should surrender, at Rock Landing, white prisoners and negroes, taken during the recent hostilities, in default of which the Governor of Georgia was authorized to send persons in the nation to claim and demand them; that the boundary line between the Creeks and Georgia was to be that claimed by the latter in the treaties which she had made at Augusta and Shoulderbone.
1790: Thus did Alexander McGillivray at last surrender the Oconee lands, about which so much blood had been shed, and so much negotiation wasted. And for what? For fifteen hundred dollars, to be paid annually to the Creek nation, with also some goods, to be distributed among the Indians, which were then in the warehouses of Augusta. The Federal Government also guaranteed to them their territory free from future encroachments. *
* American State Papers Indian Affairs, vol. 1 pp. 81-82.
Did the proud, the powerful, the shrewd Alexander McGillivray surrender these valuable lands for the pitiful amount already mentioned? Ah!--but the reader must not be too fast. There was a secret treaty between him and Washington, which now for the first time, comes to light in history. It provided that, after two years from date, the commerce of the Creek nation should be carried on through the ports of the United States, and, in the meantime, through the present channels; that the Chiefs of the Ocfuskees, Tookabatchas Tallases, Cowetas, Cussetas, and the Seminole nation, should be paid annually, by the United States, one hundred dollars each, and be furnished with handsome medals; that Alexander McGillivray should be constituted agent of the United States, with the rank of Brigadier General, and the pay of twelve hundred dollars per annum; that the United States should feed, clothe and educate Creek youth at the North, not exceeding four at one time.
Thus Colonel McGillivray secured to himself new honors, and a good salary, by a secret treaty, which left him in a position to return home and intrigue with Spain. Even in the presence of Washington, and his able cabinet, the Chieftain pushed hard for favorable terms, and received them.*
* I am indebted to Colonel John A. Campbell, an eminent lawyer of Mobile, and to Mr. Alfred Hennen, a distinguished member of the New Orleans bar, for placing in my hands papers filed in the District Court of Louisiana containing the letters of Alex. McGillivray to Panton, dated at Little Tallase, September 20, 1788, and August 10, 1789, which have been copied in this History, at length. I also found among this file the "secret treaty," written upon sheep-skin, and signed by Washington, Knox, McGillivray and the Chiefs. A celebrated law-suit brought in this court by Johnson and other claimants, under the heirs of McGillivray vs. the heirs of Panton, was the means of the preservation of these important historical papers.
Aug. 18: Receiving half of his salary in advance, McGillivray left New York, with the Chiefs, for the bright waters of the Alabama. A veil of silence covers the acts of the august Chieftain for several months, and we hear nothing more of him, until he was visited, in the nation, by Lieutenant Heth, who bore with him two thousand nine hundred dollars in gold, the balance due to the Chiefs, agreeably to the treaty. He brought this money, on pack-horses, from New York around by Virginia and East Tennessee. Heth was instructed to remain with McGillivray a long time, and endeavor to get him to carry out the provisions of the treaty, in regard to the restoration of prisoners and negroes, and the running of the line between the Creeks and Georgians.
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