Ohio History Journal

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WAS THE PONTIAC UPRISING A CONSPIRACY

WAS THE PONTIAC UPRISING A CONSPIRACY?

by WILBUR R. JACOBS

Instructor in American History, Santa Barbara College,

University of California

Ever since Francis Parkman wrote his classic account of

the Indian war of 1763, historians have questioned the exact

nature of the origin of Parkman's so-called "conspiracy" of

Pontiac. Contemporary manuscripts reveal that there were enough

abuses suffered by the Indians at the hands of the whites to justify

in the minds of the natives a rebellion. Was the indignation of

the tribesmen the cause of a concerted attack upon the British

outposts in the summer of 1763? Or were the secret machinations

of the great "Pondiac" behind this furious native outbreak?

By the very title of his work, The Conspiracy of Pontiac,

Francis Parkman indicated that he believed the Ottawa leader to

have been the organizer of the Indian attackers. Verification of

this view can again be seen when Parkman writes that near the

end of the year 1762 Pontiac

 

sent ambassadors to the different nations. They visited the country of

the Ohio and its tributaries, passed northward to the region of the upper

lakes, and the borders of the river Ottawa; and far southward towards

the mouth of the Mississippi. Bearing with them the war-belt of wampum,

broad and long, as the importance of the message demanded, and the

tomahawk stained red, in token of war, they went from camp to camp

and village to village.1

1 Francis Parkman, The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War after the

Conquest of Canada (3 vols., Boston, 1898), I, 194-195. Parkman's incomplete

citation for this statement is as follows: "MS. Letter-M. D'Abbadie to M. Neyon,

1764." Professor Albert T. Volwiler supports Parkman's thesis that the Indian

war followed the pattern of a carefully designed conspiracy against the British. In

his scholarly biography of George Croghan he states: "So well planned and wide-

spread was Pontiac's conspiracy that by midsummer in 1763 the English remained

in possession of but three of the French posts which they had just occupied. Nine

forts were surprised and captured, two thousand English soldiers, traders, and

settlers captured or killed, often with the foulest barbarity, some thousands of

English settlers driven to beggary, and traders and troops plundered of goods valued

at nearly 100,000. Albert T. Volwiler, George Croghan and the Westward Move-

ment, 1741-1782 (Cleveland, 1926), 164.

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