Some Letters of Alexander McGillivray

Some Letters of Alexander McGillivray

Kindly contributed by Dorothy Ann Folmar


I am Informed that one of our traders, named Ambrose Grizzard is now in Confinement in Pensacola, for what offense I have not learnd. If tis on Suspicion of his being a Spy, tis Without foundation, he being encourgaged by the report of other traders that have been at Pensacola Selling Negroes, he asked & obtained my permission not doubting if any Intercourse or traffic had been at any time allowed to an Indian trader he woud meet with the same Indulgence. I am now Sensible of my error in permitting the Man to go: the bearer of this is Brother to Grizzards wife. I have taken this opportunity of demanding the Immediate Liberation of Grizzard & that he may be Shewn an Indulgence equal to any that Have before him been there, on the Contrary the King of Spains Garrisons, cannot be Sufferd to enjoy the tranquility, they have hitherto done from the Creek Nations. Such usage must rather make them be Considerd Enemys.

Alex. McGillivray
A Native of & chief of the Creek Nations
Little Tallassies
or Hiccory Ground, March 10th, 1783
The Honorable the Commandant of the King of Spains Garrison of Pensacola

Note: Arturo O'Neill was the Spanish official in closest contact with McGillivray. Born in Dublin in 1736, O'Neill emigrated to Spain with his parents. In 1762 he served in military campaigns in Portugal and Algiers, and subsequently in Brazil. Under Bernardo de Galvez he participated in the siege of Pensacola in 1781, becoming its governor in that year, in which office he continued until 1792, when he was made captain general of Campeche. When Napoleon invaded Spain, he emerged from retirement to hold an important command in the defense of Madrid.

Little Tallasssie, or Otciapoka as the Creeks called it, was on the Coosa near its junction with the Tallapoosa to form the Alabama. During the French period Fort Toulouse had stood here; present-day Montgomery is not far from the site. This was McGillivray's headquarters where he spent most of his time, but he had a lesser plantation and another wife in the Tensaw district near Mobile. His home was a typical southern plantation, with mansion, apple orchard, cowpen, fifty or sixty Negro slaves, and overseers, but with the addition of an Indian village as an integral part of the ménage. White visitors were enthusiastic about the beauty and richness of the region and the comforts of civilization available.

Little Tallassie, December 5, 1783


Some time last Month one Jameeson came up here in Company with Gaines. He delivered me the enclosed letter, the Contents gave me some Surprise, which determined me to send it to Your Excellency, as Lisk has had the presumption to write in your Name of an affair, that I am well assured Your Excellency never Spoke of.

Lisk has likewise in his letter preferd Michael Walsh to be Commissary in this Country, but that I imagine to be like the rest. I must not forget to Inform you that Walsh on going to Pensacola the last time Stole a horse from my relation & the fear of Punishment has kept him from ever coming back, tho the horse is since recovered.

The Loyalists Corps at St. Augustine are disbanded & tis reported that above a hundred of them are coming this way & to Pensacola. For my part I dont wish for any of them as they can have no means of Supporting themselves here; we have disorderly people enough already among us.

We have nothing new Stirring among us, but we shall how soon some Indians return that are with the americans, & some letters I expect from my friends in St. Augustine. About ten days ago, I received a letter from thence from a freind in London who mentions that a negotiation was going on with the Court of Spain for the Floridas. The letter was dated in 4th July last. However it be time must discover. Mean time beg leave to make you my best acknowledgements and the worthy Padre for the great Civilities you were pleased to Shew me when I was in Town, & have the honor to be with the greatest respect,


Your Excellencys most obedient &most humble servant,
Alex. McGillivray

Governor ONeil

Note: Swan's statement corroborates: "The whites living among the Indians (with very few exceptions) are the most abandoned wretches that can be found, perhaps, on this side of Botany Bay; there is scarcely a crime but some of them has been guilty of."

Little Tallassie, January 1, 1784


Having received Information a few days ago by letter from St. Augustine that the Definitive Treaty of Peace between their Brittanick & Most Catholic Majestys Was rafified and Signd on the 3d day of September last in Paris, I take the liberty to Congratulate Your Excellency on the happy event.

As the Floridas are Confirmd to the Crown of Spain by the Peace, I Solicit in behalf of the Creek Nations his Majestys most Gracious Protection for themselves and Country, as is by them claimd and now held in actual possession.

If in the event of War Brittain has been Compell'd to withdraw its protection from us, She has no right to transfer us with their former possessions to any power whatever contrary to our Inclination and Interest.

We certainly as a free Nation have a right to chuse our protector and on our Search what power is so fitting as the Master of the Floridas.

I shall offer Some reasons to Shew that it woud be good Policy in the crown of Spain to Grant us our desires.

Since the General peace has been declared the American Congress has published a State of their Finances and an account of the heavy debt they have Contracted in Europe & at home in Carrying on the War (which I have now before me) estimated at Forty two Millions & upwards of Dollars, the Yearly Interest of Which is two Millions and near a half Dollars. The Court of France has made a Very pressing demand for the Interest Money. Congress in order to Comply with it to raise the Money they have laid on Taxes & Dutys on the thirteen States, which has been So Ill receivd that great Numbers of the Inhabitants are retired from their homes to avoid the taxes & are gone to seek new ones in the Wilderness & are chiefly directing their course to the Mississippi together with Numbers of disbanded Soldiers, who wish to possess themselves of a Great part of that River and mean to erect & establish what they Call a Western Independency out of the reach of the Authority of Congress. The Emigrations are so frequent that in a short time tis possible they Will attempt it, as their numbers will daily encrease & once they are Settled it will be a work of time and expence to crush them.

I can assure Your Excellency for a certainty that the South American States [i.e., Georgia and the Carolinas] are exceding Jealous of the Countenance that is Shewn to the Indians at Pensacola & those States at this time are taking every measure in their power by Supplies of Goods and presents to fix this Nation in their Interests which if they are allowed to effect they Will Make the worst use of their Influence & will Cause the Indians from being freindly to Spain to become Very dangerous Neighbours, & will make use of them in all the designs they may form against Pensacola & Mobile or elsewhere. All this they declare openly.

I shall Say Something on what methods ought to be taken to frustrate the americans Schemes. One Principal Consideration Shoud be a plentifull Supply of Goods Shoud be carried to trade in the Nation on the footing that the English used to do, for Indians will attach themselves to & Serve them best who Supply their Necessities. There is a Stipulation made for that in the articles for delivering up East Florida to his Most Catholic Majesty, the Indian Trading Merchants remain and carry on their trade as usual but it is much more convenient for this upper Nation to have the trade from West Florida, for which purpose I have to pray for leave to be given me to be allowed to Bring a Quanity of Indian Goods from St. Augustine to Mobile from whence I coud Supply my People by Water Carriage preferable to pack Horses.

I had no desire to Carry on a trade but that I had engaged my Nation in the Cause of Loyalty & to Which they Stood Stedfast to the last, I consider myself obligated to Support them for their fidelity.

I beg to offer to Your Excellencys Consideration what I have now written. If it shoud meet with approbation the Crown of Spain will Gain & Secure a powerfull barrier in these parts against the ambitious and encroaching Americans.

I likewise herewith beg leave to offer my Services as an Agent for Indian Affairs on the part of his Most Catholic Majesty, in which capacity I have Served his Brittanick Majesty for very near Eight years past.

Having full reliance in Your Excellencys best exertions in our behalf & wishing you every happiness, I have the honor to be Sir

Your Excellencys most obedt. & Humble servant.
Alex. McGillivray
A cheif of the Creek Nations

Governor O Neil

Little Tallassie, January 3, 1784


By the bearer hereof Indian Munny I received the account Your Excellency was pleased to send me of the death of my relation old Red Shoes, for whose loss I am realy sorry, as he has been always a faithfull & a Couragious Leader, whenever I had occasion to employ him. I have often attempted to cure him of his fondness for Strong Waters but never coud. His other freinds blame Lucas & Allen as being in a great measure Instrumental to his loss by Stealing his horses. Was it not for that they say the old man would have been on his return home. I am realy apprehensive that it will cost the life of one of the two whitemen that Stole the horses, as the brothers & Nephews of the deceased in Short the whole family are the crossest & most mischievous on the Tallapoussie River, & they are now all of them Shooting Deer & Bear between this & Pensacola.

Ever since the Execution of Cor. Sullivan the whole white people in this nation behave remarkably well &live with the Indians very Quietly. Public examples are sometimes necessary particularly in this Country, as executing one notorious offender, oftentimes saves the lives of severals, as the Indians themselves in such cases observes no bounds.

I wish the Superintendent woud hold a general meeting, sometime in april next, that things be once Settled & then I shall know how to manage with Straglers, whether american or any others.

The Nation is now pretty well drained of Negroes. What few there is, dont answer the description, you wish.

As for Raw & drest deer Skins, I can purchase any Quanity whatever, if they woud turn to good account. If I knew the prices that Skins would fetch, I coud then be a better Judge, how to lay out money in them.

I wrote to your Excellency very fully by my Sister, what I wrote concerning the Indian Trade, was on account that Messr. Panton Forbes & Co. Merchants in Augustine is by the treaty of Peace to remain & carry on the trade there & as I formerly mentiond they have petitioned the Spanish Ambassador in England for leave to establish a house either at Pensacola or Mobile for the purpose of Supplying the Trade in case it took place, those Gentlemen offerd me a part in it. They have hopes of Succeeding, &I am certain it will be good Policy to permit of such a measure by the Court of Spain, for reasons that I mentioned in the letter by my Sister.

As the american Independency is established by the general peace, I suppose your excellencys Court will Settle the boundary lines between them & the american States. If tis no Improper Question I would be glad [to] learn of Your Excellency the extent of Louisiana & the Floridas, as the americans talk largely of theirs.

A man of mine tht I sent for some necessarys to Augustine was detaind there till a packet boat shoud arrive there from England, which was to sail from there 28' September last, from which she must have arrived some time ago, & of course expect my man up every day of which I shall write your Excellency by the first opportunity. A Spanish Garrison is expected to take possession of St. Augustive this month. Tis said an Irish Gentleman is to be Governor, but whose name I have forgot. Nothing more occurring I conclude with assuring you that I am

With respectful regard
Your Excellencys most obedient Servant
Alex. McGillivray

Governor ONeil

P. S. the bearer has executed his trust faithfully & he begs of me to recommend him to Your Excellencys bounty for 4 kegs Strong taffia, a good Carrot tobacco some ammunition & something to his wife and child.

A. McG.

Note: In describing the struggle that arose over McGillivray's effort to place the warriors over the micos, or peace-time kings, Swan explains the execution of Colonel Sullivan. "The struggle became at last so serious, that the beloved chief McGillivray had one Sullivan and two others, partizans of the micos, put to death in the public squares. They were all three white men who had undertaken to lead the faction against him; but he finally crushed the insurgents and effected his purposes."

Little Tallassie, January 7, 1784


The letters I enclosed to Your Excellency are from St. Augustine. Govr. Tonyn required them to be sent as Soon as they shoud come to hand, which I have now done by the bearer a nephew to the late Red Shoes, who goes in Search of the white men that Stole his Uncles horses. I desired him to wait upon & to receive Your Excellencys orders in what manner he is to proceed. If I did not tell him this there woud be bloodshed as that Family are Very Much Enraged.

I did expect to have done Myself the pleasure to have waited on Your Excellency in the next month, but on receipt of letters from St. Augustine by Cornel I find that my presence is necessary there on affairs of consequence to myself as well as to others, which obliges me to begin to prepare for So long and disagreeable a Journey. If the letters I now send [require] any answer, Your Excellency Will be pleased to Send them to Me before this Month is Out. The Weather being Very foul and Severe I cant go off till then. In Setting off so early I do it with a view to be soon back for the Meeting that is to be heald With this Nation at Pensacola in the Spring.

I had forgot to Inform Your Excellency in My last letter of the Death of Capt. James Colbert of the Chickesaw Nation who had been at St. Augustine, concerning demands that was made on him by the Governor of New Orleans for damages he did on the Mississippi: he got full powers to Clear up that Complaint, & on his Way to the Chickesaw Nation three days after he left my house his horse threw him down and Killd him before his Servant could assist him....

Alex. McGillivray

Governor ONeil

Note: Colbert had lived for 40 years with the Chickasaws, had a rich lodging and about 55 Negroes, and several sons by Chickasaw women. According to Adair he spoke the Chickasaw language "with more propriety than the English." He had made a quixotic effort to get the release of the leaders in the Natchez uprising in 1781 by seizing Spannish travelers on the Mississippi, among whom was the wife of Governor Cruzat of St. Louis. The scheme failed...

More coming soon, thanks to Dorothy Folmar!

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