Ohio History Journal




VOLUME 70 ?? NUMBER 3 ?? JULY 1961




The British Indian Department and

The Abortive Treaty of Lower Sandusky, 1793






IN THE EARLY FALL of 1792 a general council of the Indian

nations of the Old Northwest was held at the junction of the

Maumee and the Auglaize rivers in what is now northwestern

Ohio. The Indians who gathered there were jubilant, for their

attempts to resist the American advance into the Old North-

west had met with success. Two major American attempts to

destroy Indian resistance had failed. In October 1790 General

Josiah Harmar had suffered humiliating reverses after burn-

ing Indian villages near what is now Fort Wayne, Indiana,

and in November 1791 an army under the command of the

governor of the Northwest Territory, Arthur St. Clair, had

met complete disaster. St. Clair's force was overwhelmed by

an Indian attack some one hundred miles north of Fort Wash-

ington (Cincinnati), and suffered over six hundred killed. The

crushing defeat of St. Clair filled the Indians with confidence,

and the American government was now obliged to pursue two

policies. While on the one hand General Anthony Wayne was

appointed to build an army for the defeat of the Indians, on

the other the government made a number of attempts at con-

ciliation. These attempts served both to divert the Indians

while Wayne prepared, and to convince the eastern public


* Reginald Horsman is an assistant professor of history at the University of

Wisconsin - Milwaukee.



that everything possible was being done to avoid an Indian

war. American efforts at conciliation in 1792 met with fail-

ure, and the general Indian council gathered on the Maumee in

the fall of that year to decide future policy in regard to the

American government.1

The Indians were inspired by their victories to increase

their demands. Since the summer of 1791 they had advocated

a boundary that would run along the Ohio River from the

mouth of the Tennessee to the mouth of the Muskingum, up

that river to the portage joining it to the Cuyahoga, and then

in a direct line across country to Fort Venango, in northwest-

ern Pennsylvania.2 Now, under the stimulus of military vic-

tory, the council suggested that the Ohio River should be the

limit of American expansion. The Indians were willing to

meet the Americans at Lower Sandusky (on the site of the

present city of Fremont) in the following spring to discuss

peace on this basis, and they sent their decision to the Ameri-

can government. Thus the way was prepared for a major at-

tempt to achieve peace in the Old Northwest.3 This develop-

ment was of immediate interest to the British authorities in


The British in Canada had of course been deeply involved

in the affairs of the Indians south of the Great Lakes since the

United States had achieved her independence. In spite of the

treaty of peace the British had continued to occupy the posts


1 The events of the years from 1789 to 1792 are discussed in Randolph C.

Downes, Council Fires on the Upper Ohio: A Narrative of Indian Affairs in the

Upper Ohio Valley Until 1795 (Pittsburgh, 1940), 310-322, and in Beverley W.

Bond, The Foundations of Ohio (Carl Wittke, ed., The History of the State of

Ohio, I, Columbus, 1941), 319-328.

2 This boundary had been suggested to the governor-in-chief of Canada, Lord

Dorchester, by deputies from the western Indians. The British had asked the

Indians to suggest the terms on which peace with the United States might be

achieved. See Ernest A. Cruikshank, ed., The Correspondence of Lieut. Governor

John Graves Simcoe (Toronto, 1923-31), I, 55.

3 See Six Nations to the United States, November 16, 1792, in American State

Papers (Washington, 1832-61), Indian Affairs, I, 323-324. For the proceedings

of the council, see Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I, 218-229; also B. H.

Coates, "A Narrative of an Embassy to the Western Indians from the Original

Manuscript of Hendrick Aupaumut," Memoirs of the Historical Society of Penn-

sylvania, II (1827), 115-121.



south of the Great Lakes, and were able to control both the

Indians and the fur trade of that region.4 British plans be-

came more ambitious in the early 1790's. From the beginning

of 1791 the British in Canada hoped they would be able to

mediate in the Indian-American difficulties, and thus secure

British interests. This idea was elaborated in 1791 and 1792,

and in March 1792 a definite policy was transmitted to the

British minister in the United States, George Hammond, by

Foreign Secretary Lord Grenville. In essence it was suggested

that the Muskingum boundary advocated by the Indians since

the summer of 1791 should form the basis of a permanent

American-Indian settlement. The resulting Indian territory

in the Northwest was to be guaranteed by both Great Britain

and the United States as a neutral barrier state. Hammond

did not present this formal offer of mediation, as he was

certain it would be refused, but the idea of a neutral barrier

state still remained a definite hope of the British government.5

The idea of a neutral Indian barrier state was particularly

desirable to the British authorities in Upper Canada. The first

lieutenant governor of that province, John Graves Simcoe, ar-

rived at Montreal in June 1792, and immediately investigated

the possibility of obtaining a neutral barrier state. His source

of information was British Indian agent Alexander McKee,

who was in charge of the vital post of the Indian department

at Detroit. After McKee had advised Simcoe at Montreal in

June, the lieutenant governor quickly assumed direction of

Indian affairs in Upper Canada. It quickly became apparent

that the British desired to play a part in any future Indian-

American agreement. In August 1792 Simcoe sent to McKee

a suggestion that had originated with Hammond in Philadel-

phia, and had been developed by Simcoe. McKee was to im-


4 A standard modern account of the reasons behind Great Britain's retention of

the western posts is in Alfred L. Burt, The United States, Great Britain, and

British North America from the Revolution to the Establishment of Peace After

the War of 1812 (New Haven, Conn., 1940), 82-105.

5 The hopes of the British government for mediation, and the project of a neu-

tral barrier state, are treated in ibid., 106-124, and in Samuel F. Bemis, Jay's

Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy (New York, 1924), 109-133.



press upon the Indians that they should solicit the good offices

of the British government in securing a peace: "It is to be

extremely desired that this solicitation should be the result of

their own spontaneous Reflections." Simcoe had no doubt of

the ability of McKee to conjure forth a "spontaneous" re-

quest for British aid. McKee was, however, to deny any

assertions that Great Britain might go to war on the side of

the Indians.6

Thus, even before the Indian tribes at the October 1792

council offered to meet the Americans for a treaty in the fol-

lowing spring, the British had prepared to take part in any

such meeting. The British in Canada were anxious that the

Indians should not achieve a peace without British mediation,

for this would lessen British influence among the Indians.

In November 1792, after the Six Nations of the New York

area returned from the council on the Maumee, they met in

council at Buffalo Creek, and on behalf of the Indians re-

quested the British to attend the coming treaty at Lower San-

dusky with all the records, treaties, and other documents

pertaining to the Indian claims.7 This was the "spontaneous"

request that Simcoe had asked McKee to produce, and on re-

ceiving it Simcoe asked Hammond how he should reply. Ham-

mond had already sounded out Alexander Hamilton, and had

received the answer that the United States would be unwilling

to accept mediation, as this would detract from the power of

the country in the eyes of the Indians. However, Secretary of

State Thomas Jefferson agreed that British Indian agents

could attend the treaty to explain American offers to the In-

dians.8 As it was becoming obvious that the Americans would

not accept British plans of formal intervention and a buffer

state, the need to maintain the strength and unity of the In-



6 For the Simcoe-McKee discussions, see Simcoe to Henry Dundas, June 21,

1792, and Simcoe-McKee Memorandum in Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I,

171-174; also Simcoe to McKee, August 30, 1792, ibid., I, 207-209.

7 Ibid., I, 256-260.

8 Simcoe to Hammond, November 17, 1792, January 21, 1793, Hammond to

Simcoe, November 27, 1792, ibid., I, 262, 277-278, 267-269.



dians became increasingly important to the authorities in Can-


The permission that had been obtained for British agents

to be present at Lower Sandusky simplified matters, and Sim-

coe appointed Alexander McKee and John Butler to attend on

the British behalf. The British also intended to use more

than moral suasion on the Indians, for Simcoe refused Ameri-

can agents permission to purchase supplies in Canada for the

use of the Indians at the coming treaty. Instead, Great Brit-

ain would supply the tribes with the necessary provisions.9 For

a treaty between the Americans and the Indians on American

soil, Britain intended not only to have her agents present but

also to supply the Indians with all they needed during the pro-


The Indians also laid their plans during the winter. For-

tunately for the American settlers, the frontier was for the

most part quiet, for the chiefs were restraining their warriors

until they knew America's decision regarding the invitation to

Lower Sandusky.10 The American secretary of war, Henry

Knox, replied in December 1792 to the Indian request for a

treaty. He said the United States would be happy to meet

the Indians, but did not mention the boundary for which the

United States would be prepared to treat.11 The Indians now

spent the winter in making arrangements for the coming

treaty negotiations.    The western tribes decided that they

would meet in council before the gathering at Lower Sandusky

in order to confront the Americans with an appearance of

complete unity. As early as February 1793 the western tribes

informed the Six Nations that they would meet in council at

the foot of the rapids of the Maumee in the spring, and they


9 Simcoe to Hammond, January 21, 1793, Simcoe to McKee (extract), January

23, 1793, Requisition for Supplies, February 21, 1793, ibid., I, 277-279, 296.

10 See McKee to Simcoe, January 30, 1793, ibid., I, 282.

11 Knox to the Western Indians, December 12, 1792, ibid., I, 270. In this reply

the United States agreed to meet the Indians at the rapids of the Maumee rather

than at Lower Sandusky as requested by the Indians. This offended the Indians,

and the United States claimed that it was owing to an interpreter's mistake. Knox

corrected the error, and it was agreed to meet the Indians at Lower Sandusky.

Ibid., I, 283-284, 295.



requested the Six Nations to attend. Yet, even in this mes-

sage calling for unity before the treaty, there were distinct

signs that the Indians would be unable to maintain it. The

western nations expressed surprise that the reply of the

Americans agreeing to the treaty made no mention of the In-

dian sine qua non -- the Ohio boundary -- and they there-

fore suggested that the Six Nations had not understood, or

had not well explained to the Americans, the result of the

Indian council during the previous fall. They wanted the Six

Nations to come to the rapids to concert ideas, and to ensure

that even before the Indians went to the treaty council they

could ascertain whether the American commissioners had the

power to make peace on the terms required.12

The Six Nations on their part were not at all happy with

the manner in which the western Indians were directing the

affairs of the Indian confederacy. In a letter to McKee late

in March 1793 their spokesman Joseph Brant expressed the

view that the Americans genuinely desired peace, and thought

that the western nations should be most careful to restrain

themselves.13 Moreover, the Six Nations themselves held a

council at Niagara before Brant, their representative, and his

entourage departed for the Maumee, and came to the conclu-

sion that a reasonable line would be that suggested to Lord

Dorchester at Quebec in August 1791 -- the Muskingum line,

which would yield land to the north of the Ohio. Brant also

expressed the very reasonable point of view that places already

settled by the Americans, such as Gallipolis or Marietta, could

be yielded to the United States even though they were not

within the general boundary, so long as the permanent bound-

ary was definitely marked.14 Plans for the Indian council at


12 Western Indians to the Five Nations, February 27, 1793. Claus Papers, MG

19, Series F 1, Vol. 5, Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa. All subsequent refer-

ences to the Claus Papers are to this volume.

The Six Nations had given the request for a treaty to the Americans. See

Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I, 256-260.

13 Brant to McKee, March 23, 1793. Claus Papers.

14 Simcoe to Alured Clarke, April 1, 21, 1793, Simcoe to McKee, April 29,

1793, in Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I, 308-309, 317-318, 322-324.



the rapids thus matured in an atmosphere of distrust and dis-

agreement between the Six Nations and the western tribes.

The British in Canada were of course most interested in the

development of the Indian plans for the 1793 treaty, and they

decided to provide the provisions for the preliminary Indian

council as well as for the treaty at Lower Sandusky. When

Simcoe at the end of April 1793 reported to McKee on Brant's

ideas for a Muskingum boundary, he expressed the opinion

that Brant's ideas seemed just, and that this arrangement

could form the basis of an Indian barrier state. He also warn-

ed, however, that no hint of this should be given until the

American commissioners had left Lower Sandusky with a

signed treaty.15 Simcoe ignored the fact that Brant's line

disregarded the Ohio boundary decided on by the general In-

dian council in the previous fall.

While the British and the Indians matured their plans, the

United States had no great hopes for the coming council at

Lower Sandusky. Jefferson later said that the negotiations of

1793 were only entered into "to prove to all our citizens that

peace was unattainable on terms which any one of them would

admit."16 The United States would have liked peace in the

Northwest, but the government did not believe they could ob-

tain the land they wanted until they had defeated the Indians

in battle. The problem of instructions for the American com-

missioners was a difficult one, and it was not until after cabinet

discussions that this question was finally resolved. The great

problem was whether the United States would consider re-

treating from the boundaries obtained during the 1780's. In

essence these boundaries had given the United States a good

part of what is now the state of Ohio -- everything east of the

Cuyahoga and Muskingum, and southern Ohio west to the

Great Miami. The United States did in fact retreat a little in

the instructions finally given to the commissioners. At the

15 Simcoe to McKee, April 29, 1793, ibid., I, 322-324.

16 Jefferson to Charles Pinckney, November 27, 1793, in H. A. Washington, ed.,

The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1854), IV, 85-86; see also Wash-

ington to Charles Carroll, January 23, 1793, in John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The

Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931-44), XXXII, 312-313.



end of April 1793 Benjamin Lincoln, Beverley Randolph, and

Timothy Pickering, the distinguished trio who were to repre-

sent the United States, were told that the United States would

be happy if they could obtain confirmation of the boundaries

established in the 1780's. If this were accomplished the United

States was prepared to confirm the Indian right of soil to the

remaining lands in the Northwest, and to pay liberally for the

agreement. The commissioners could even consider retreating

slightly from the line confirmed at the treaty of Fort Harmar

in 1789 if this would establish peace. They could not retreat

too far, for the United States had already sold much of the

land gained in the 1780's. The commissioners were to treat as

much as possible with the separate tribes, in order to dis-

courage the idea of an Indian confederacy. They were also

told to try to complete their negotiations by August 1, and

immediately to inform General Anthony Wayne of the re-

sult.17 In this way the military campaign could be carried out

if, as expected, the negotiations should fail. Wayne himself

was ordered to have everything ready for a campaign by

July 20 or, at the latest, August 1.18

By the spring of 1793 the participants in the proposed treaty

of Lower Sandusky were seeking at least four different ob-

jectives. The western Indians hoped to secure a boundary that

would give them permanent possession of the lands northwest

of the Ohio. Joseph Brant and the Six Nations hoped to

secure a boundary that would give the Indians possession of

most of the Northwest, but would yield land in what is now

southeastern Ohio. The Americans hoped to secure a treaty


17 The instructions to the commissioners, dated April 26, 1793, are in American

State Papers, Indian Affairs, I, 340-342. For cabinet discussions preceding the

sending of instructions to the commission, see Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington,

XXXII, 348-349; Washington, Writings of Jefferson, IX, 136-138; Clarence E.

Carter, comp. and ed., The Territorial Papers of the United States (Washington,

1934-), II, The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, 1787-1803, 440-441,


18 Knox to Wayne, April 20, 1793, in Richard C. Knopf, ed., Anthony Wayne--A

Name in Arms; Soldier, Diplomat, Defender of Expansion Westward of a Nation:

The Wayne - Knox - Pickering - McHenry Correspondence (Pittsburgh, 1960),




that would bring peace to the Northwest, and that in essence

would confirm to them the boundaries of the treaty of Fort

Harmar--that is, give the Americans much of what is now

eastern and southern Ohio. The British would have been

happy with either the Muskingum or the Ohio boundary for

the Indians--the essential condition being Indian unity on one

or the other--and it was hoped that the creation of this bound-

ary would prepare the way for the establishment of the

remaining lands of the Old Northwest as a permanent Indian

preserve. Moreover, a broad difference was that both the

Indians and the British hoped in the coming treaty to gain

acceptance of the idea that the Indians could treat as a united

confederacy holding their lands in common, while the Ameri-

cans hoped to emphasize the idea of the different Indian

tribes having rights to particular tracts of land.

The American commissioners finally arrived at Niagara

on their way west in the latter part of May 1793. There they

were to stay for six weeks, until Lieutenant Governor Simcoe

informed them that they could go forward.19 The delay was

made necessary by the long drawn out preliminary proceedings

on the part of the Indians. McKee had already expressed the

fear that the Indians would not be ready to meet the com-

missioners until "after June,"20 and this fear was borne out

in the following months. Until past the middle of May the

Indians were in their villages engaged in the planting of corn

and in other preparations for the summer. Though Joseph

Brant arrived at Detroit with representatives of the Six Na-

tions and the Delawares from the Grand River in the middle

of May, and was at the foot of the rapids of the Maumee by

May 22, it was not until the first two weeks in June that the


19 See American State Papers, Indian Affairs, I, 342-348; also Benjamin Lin-

coln, "Journal of a Treaty Held in 1793, with the Indian Tribes North-West of

the Ohio, by Commissioners of the United States," Collections of the Massachu-

setts Historical Society, Third Series, V, (1836), 122-137.

20 R. G. England to E. B. Littlehales, April 16, 1793, in Cruikshank, Simcoe

Correspondence, I, 314.



other Indians at last started arriving at the rapids.21 By the

second week most of the important chiefs from the Glaize

(the junction of the Maumee and the Auglaize rivers) had

arrived, and the British Indian department at Detroit was

busily engaged in sending not only provisions but also Indians

down the Maumee. McKee had left his old friend Matthew

Elliott in charge at Detroit, and he had the task of ensuring

that the Indians were well supplied. He also sent for Indians

who had not yet arrived, and as they came to Detroit tried

to send them on their way without incident. On June 19

Elliott informed McKee that he had sent tobacco and wam-

pum to the Saginaw Indians to hurry them along as quickly

as possible--he had already sent to the Indians in the region

of Michilimackinac. In these councils of the early 1790's

Indians attended from all over the Northwest--the Maumee,

the Sandusky, the Wabash, Canada, the Saginaw Bay region,

and the vast area west of Lake Michigan. The success of

such general councils depended a great deal on the fact that

the British would supply the Indians when they arrived, and

on the fact that the British agents helped to summon the

Indians to the place of meeting. Moreover, the provisions that

were issued were not always the ubiquitous pork and peas.

The boat that left Detroit for the rapids of the Maumee on

June 19 carried, among other supplies, five barrels of powder,

and one thousand pounds of ball and shot.22 This was required

by the Indians for hunting, but it naturally also proved a great

aid in establishing a stock of weapons with which to resist

the American advance. The facility with which the provisions

could be supplied increased as the summer progressed. The

commander at Detroit, Lieutenant Colonel Richard England,

informed McKee on June 20 that he now had been given a


21 See McKee to England, May 16, 1793, Brant to McKee, May 17, 1793, Claus

Papers; Joseph Brant's Journal, in Cruikshank, Sincoe Correspondence, II, 5-6;

Chiefs at the Glaize to McKee, May 27, 1793, Indian Affairs, Superintendent Gen-

eral, RG 10, Vol. 8, Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa. All subsequent references

to documents of the department of Indian Affairs are to this volume.

22 Elliott to McKee, May 20, June 5, 1793, Claus Papers; Elliott to McKee,

June 11, 14, 19, 1793, England to McKee, June 10, 18, 1793, Indian Affairs.



latitude that would enable him "with some ease" to attend to

McKee's requisitions, and Simcoe told McKee on the twenty-

second that he had informed England to lose no time in sup-

plying McKee with provisions for the Indian councils.23

Provisions and Indians passed in considerable numbers

along the Detroit River, into Lake Erie, and up the Maumee

in June of 1793. Elliott was able to inform McKee on June

24 that all the Indians were now past, or would be the next

day, except for some of those from the Saginaw and Michili-

mackinac regions. On the twenty-ninth McKee wrote from

the foot of the rapids to tell Simcoe that the number of Indians

"from distant quarters" now amounted to nearly one thou-

sand.24 At the end of June and the beginning of July practi-

cally every day saw supplies leave Detroit for the provisioning

of the Indians on the Maumee.25

While the Indian department ensured that the Indians

would actually gather for the council, and would be well sup-

plied, the council itself was not proceeding smoothly. From

the point of view of the British and the Indians the most un-

fortunate development was an increasing rift between the Six

Nations and the western Indians. Brant was not pleased that

the Indians had not gathered when he arrived, and he became

less pleased as time went on. In the first two weeks in June

he recorded in his journal that evil reports were being spread

against him to the effect that he was a traitor, and had only

attended the council to receive money. Though on June 15 he

called a council with the Shawnees, Delawares, Miamis, Wy-

andots, and some of the Lake Indians (Ottawas, Chippewas,

and Potawatomis) in order to try to remove the bad impres-

sion, the evil reports continued. He was particularly perturbed

that the Shawnees, Delawares, and Miamis were on many

nights holding councils to which the Six Nations were not


23 Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I, 361; Claus Papers.

24 Indian Affairs; Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I, 371-372.

25 Elliott to McKee, June 25, 28, 1793, England to McKee, June 26, 1793, Indian

Affairs; England to McKee, June 29, 1793, in Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence,

I, 372-373; Thomas Duggan to McKee, July 3, 1793, England to McKee, July 5,

1793, Elliott to McKee, July 13, 1793, Claus Papers.



invited. Though Brant was being excluded from the secret

deliberations, there seems little doubt that the British Indian

department was in the confidence of the western tribes. Mc-

Kee and his chief assistant Elliott had spent a lifetime among

the Shawnees, their wives came from that tribe, and their

whole sympathy was with the western Indians rather than

with the Six Nations. McKee eventually approached Brant

to ask him if he would agree to the idea of a deputation going

to meet the American commissioners at Niagara to ask them

if they had the power to establish a new boundary. Brant

expressed his approval, adding that the principal chiefs

should go, and on July 1 the chiefs of the other nations came

to Brant to make a formal proposal for a deputation. On the

following day the deputation set out for Niagara.26 McKee

explained in letters to Simcoe that the general confederacy

was anxious to know whether the commissioners had the nec-

essary authority to draw a new boundary (in particular one

along the Ohio), and the Indians were also concerned at the

presence of a powerful body of troops in the Northwest

(Wayne's force). McKee's opinion was that the Indians

would not make peace unless the Ohio boundary was given,

and all the American forts to the north of the Ohio were

demobilized. He expressed the fear that if the commissioners

came to Sandusky without the authority to conclude an agree-

ment in this form it might incite the tribes to hostile action.27

McKee's fears of the outcome of the treaty council had

already been voiced by Simcoe. During the weeks in which the

American commissioners were detained at Niagara, it became

very apparent that the United States was not prepared to

deviate to any great extent from the boundary that had been

established at Fort Harmar in 1789. Simcoe became con-

vinced that there was little likelihood of a peace, and he

realized that neither the commissioners nor Wayne really


26 Joseph Brant's Journal, in Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, II, 5-7.

27 McKee to Simcoe, June 29, July 1, 1793, ibid., I, 371-372, 374.



expected one.28 Simcoe's desire to make the forthcoming treaty

greatly to the advantage of Great Britain was undoubtedly

increased when in May 1793 he received and proclaimed the

news that England and France had been in a state of war

since February.29 From this time the efforts of the British

authorities in Canada to bolster Indian resistance, and to

secure an Indian-American agreement to Britain's advantage,

became far more overt.

Simcoe placed great faith in Alexander McKee, and the

letters that passed between the two men clearly indicated the

extent to which Simcoe entrusted power into the hands of the

Indian department. On June 22 Simcoe sent to McKee and

John Butler the instructions to guide them during the pro-

ceedings at Lower Sandusky. He told them that they were

not to act as mediators, but that on the request of the Indians

they should interpret maps and treaties. They should also

make use of their influence over the Indians by inclining them

to accept offers if they were of benefit to the Indians, and to

reject them if they were contrary to their real interests. They

should of course be cautious, and as had been usual in the

Indian department in the past it was preferable that they

should give advice privately to some of the chiefs. If it be-

came necessary to express disapproval at a general meeting, it

was better to do this by silence rather than by words. Simcoe

expressed the desire for a safe and solid peace, and for the

complete attachment of the Indians to Great Britain.30 In

his instructions to the Indian interpreters who were also going

to Lower Sandusky, Simcoe added a little more. He told them

that "the union of the Indian Nations" was the great object

of their being sent to Sandusky. They should work for this

end, and were to persuade the Indians "to adopt such meas-

ures as Col. McKee shall from time to time direct as necessary

for their common benefit and preservation."31

28 Simcoe to McKee, June 2, 1793, Claus Papers; Simcoe to Alured Clarke,

June 14, 1793, in Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I, 354-355.

29 Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I, 329.

30 Ibid., I, 365-366.

31 Ibid., I, 368.



It is striking how under the pressure of events in the spring

of 1793, and with the news of the war against France, Simcoe

more and more moved into the position of using the Indian

department as a direct organizer of the Indians within

American territory. Undoubtedly his main object was still

peace, but it was a peace which would leave the Northwest as

a British and Indian preserve. On June 23 Simcoe wrote a

confidential letter to McKee in which he expressed the hope

that if a treaty was signed the confederacy would guarantee

the boundaries of the Indian buffer state sketched by McKee

and Simcoe in Montreal in June 1792. Five days later he

expressed the opinion that detaching Kentucky from the

Union, and attaching it to Canada, would give the Indians

perfect security, and that though this might prove difficult

the attempt should not be for a moment out of sight.32

The deputation of Indians from the rapids quickly pro-

ceeded to Niagara, and on July 7 in the presence of Simcoe

met with the commissioners of the United States. Brant spoke

on behalf of the confederacy. He asked why the United States

was presenting a warlike appearance in the Northwest, and

whether the commissioners had the power to settle a boundary.

The commissioners replied that Washington had forbidden

hostilities until the result of the treaty was known, and that

they had been given the authority to draw a boundary line.

Brant promised that the deputation would take this message

to the confederacy on the Maumee.33 Brant was by no means

a good spokesman for the confederacy at this point--his will-

ingness to give up land to the north of the Ohio was not

matched by his western brethren. McKee wrote to Simcoe

on July 5 that unless the American commissioners would

agree to an Ohio boundary it was likely that war would ensue.

Simcoe himself was concerned about the apparent disagree-

ment between the Six Nations and the other tribes, and while


32 Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, V, 50-53. Simcoe and McKee not only

envisioned an Indian buffer state northwest of the Ohio but also thought Great

Britain should retain Detroit. Ibid., I, 173.

33 Ibid., I, 377-382.



Brant was at Niagara, Simcoe tried to impress upon him the

necessity for a strong union of the Indians.34

In the middle of July both the commissioners and the Indian

deputation set off west along Lake Erie to the vicinity of the

Indian council. The American commissioners had grown in-

creasingly impatient at the delay, and had requested permis-

sion to go to Detroit to be nearer the Indian gathering.

Simcoe had refused this request, but he did grant them

permission to go to the mouth of the Detroit River, some

eighteen miles south of Detroit.35 From there they could easily

communicate with the Indians on the Maumee, and it was

presumed that they would travel from there to Lower San-

dusky when the Indians were ready. The commissioners ar-

rived at the mouth of the Detroit on July 21, and were

accommodated in the home of British Indian agent Matthew

Elliott. Elliott himself had left for the rapids of the Maumee

four days before with provisions. The American commis-

sioners immediately informed McKee of their arrival--they

had become accustomed to the idea of dealing with the Indians

through the British Indian department--and once again set-

tled down to wait for the news that the Indians would proceed

to Lower Sandusky.36

At the foot of the rapids all was not well. On July 21 the

deputation that had been to Niagara returned to the Maumee,

and it immediately became apparent that the rift in the Indian

confederacy was becoming a gulf--with Brant and the Six

Nations, joined by the Ottawas, Chippewas, and Potawatomis

on one side, and the Shawnees, Miamis, Wyandots, and Dela-

wares leading the opposition. Many thought that the deputa-

tion to Niagara had not presented the Indian case with suffi-

cient force. They resented Brant's reluctance to insist on the


34 Ibid., V, 55-56, I, 383.

35 Thomas Talbot to McKee, June 30, 1793, ibid., I, 373-374; Simcoe to England,

June 28, 1793, Joseph Bunbury to McKee, July 16, 1793, Claus Papers.

36 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, I, 351; Lincoln, "Journal of a Treaty

Held in 1793," 141-143; Elliott to McKee, July 16, 1793, Thomas Duggan to

McKee, July 17, 1793, Claus Papers; Commissioners of the United States to

McKee, July 21, 1793, in Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I, 395.



Ohio River boundary. Moreover, in council on July 26, an-

other clash developed because the Lake Indians thought it

would be better to hold the council with the Americans at the

mouth of the Maumee rather than at Lower Sandusky. Brant

was willing to go along with this idea, but it was strongly

opposed by the Wyandots, who had their main villages in the

Sandusky region. The threatened impasse was avoided when

Captain Johnny, the Shawnee chief in whom McKee and

Elliott placed their main trust, spoke on behalf of the Shaw-

nees and urged that the Indians should complete the business

of the meeting and prepare a message for the commissioners.

It is not difficult to see McKee's urging behind this request.

Yet, when in answer to this plea the tribes withdrew to con-

sult, they formed two separate councils: the Six Nations with

the Lake Indians, and the Shawnees, Miamis, Wyandots, and

Delawares in another group. After this separate consultation

Captain Johnny again spoke, and said that the boundary

would have to be that of the treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768

(the Ohio River). The opinion of the Six Nations was not

asked, and a Wyandot chief proceeded to frame the message

while Lieutenant Prideaux Selby, who was attached to the

Indian department as an aide to McKee, wrote it down.

Brant did not agree with the message and would not sign it.

The message reflected the confidence of the western tribes

after the defeat of St. Clair. It told the commissioners that if

the United States wanted a lasting peace, she should imme-

diately remove all her people from the Indian (north) side

of the river. The Indians asked the commissioners whether

they were authorized to fix the Ohio as a boundary, explaining

that the deputation which had gone to Niagara had failed to

give adequate expression to the desires of the confederacy.37

On July 28 a deputation of between twenty and thirty

Indians--including principal chiefs of the Shawnees, Dela-

wares, and Wyandots--set off for the mouth of the Detroit


37 Brant's account of the council is in Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, II,

7-12; see also Western Indians to the Commissioners of the United States, July 27,

1793, ibid., I, 401-402.



River. They were accompanied by Matthew Elliott and

Simon Girty. At the mouth of the Detroit River they en-

camped on Bois Blanc Island; Elliott's farm (where the

American commissioners were staying) faced the island on

the Canadian side of the river. On July 30 the deputation

crossed to deliver the message demanding an Ohio River

boundary, and on the following day the American commis-

sioners delivered their answer. They told the Indians that an

Ohio River boundary was impossible, and that the United

States required approximately the boundary agreed on at Fort

Harmar in 1789. They did, however, now concede that the

right of soil to the rest of the land in the Northwest belonged

to the Indians, and that the United States had been wrong in

the 1780's when she had claimed all the Northwest by right of

conquest from Great Britain. Yet the commissioners would

not concede the Indian right to all the land beyond the Ohio.38

On August 1 a Wyandot chief, speaking through interpreter

Simon Girty, said the deputation would lay the reply of the

commissioners before the warriors gathered on the Maumee,

but to the consternation of Matthew Elliott he also added

that the commissioners might as well go home and tell the

Indian decision to President Washington. The Moravian mis-

sionary John Heckewelder recorded in his journal that Elliott

immediately exclaimed, "No, no, they was not to have said

(the last Words)," and turned to a Shawnee chief and told

him that the last part of the speech was wrong. It would seem

that the Wyandot had forgotten his lines, or had at least ad-

libbed a little too freely. Simon Girty insisted he had trans-

lated the Wyandot's statement correctly, but eventually after

some discussion it was announced to the commissioners

through Girty that they should wait for an answer while the

deputation returned to consult the council on the Maumee.39


38 Accounts of the proceedings from July 28 to August 1 are in American State

Papers, Indian Affairs, I, 352-354; Paul A. W. Wallace, ed., Thirty Thousand

Miles with John Heckewelder (Pittsburgh, 1958), 315-318; Cruikshank, Simcoe

Correspondence, I, 405-409, II, 29-30.

39 Wallace, Thirty Thousand Miles with John Heckewelder, 318; also Cruik-

shank, Simcoe Correspondence, II, 29-30.



While the deputation had been away, the council had become

even more disunited. On the day the message was sent to the

commissioners, July 28, Brant had written to Simcoe saying

that affairs had taken a turn which was not approved by a

great part of the Indians. This change had taken place, he

argued, while he had been away with the deputation at

Niagara. Though the Ottawas, Chippewas, and Potawatomis

approved of its actions, many argued on its return that the

group should have insisted on the Ohio River boundary.

Brant still expressed the opinion that the Muskingum not the

Ohio would be a just and moderate line, though the whole

question should be discussed at the Sandusky treaty, not

definitely resolved beforehand. He expressed the opinion that

some of the tribes had not the least inclination for peace, and

that the message sent to the commissioners made it almost

certain that peace would not be achieved. In this letter Brant

only hinted at the reasons for the attitude of the western

tribes. He said the great change might have occurred owing

to advice received from  the Creek country.40 Two weeks

before, a British trader had arrived from the South with the

news that the Creeks and Cherokees were at war with the

Americans. This trader later informed Simcod that though

the Shawnees had been sent by the confederacy last fall to

invite the southern Indians to join them, they had not told the

southern Indians of the coming treaty, and had in fact assured

them that in the event of war the British government would

supply arms and ammunition.41 The Shawnees were of course

the tribe most closely connected with McKee, Elliott, and the

British Indian department at Detroit.

Though Brant was reluctant to ascribe specific blame in the

middle of the council, he became less reticent in the fall and

in the years to follow. At the end of September, after he had

returned disgusted from the council, he gave as a reason for

the failure of peace hopes, that "the three Nations, Shawonoes,


40 Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, I, 402-403.

41 England to Simcoe, July 18, 1793, Simcoe to Clarke, July 29, 1793, ibid., I,

391-393; Simcoe to McKee, July 23, 1793, Claus Papers.



Delawares, & Twightwees [Miamis]," were in his opinion,

"too much under the guidance & influence of some white peo-

ple, who have advised them to adhere to the old boundary line

as fixed in the year 1768."42 Two years later the accusation

was made even more explicit. It was reported that it was very

difficult to persuade Brant to entertain a favorable opinion of

McKee, to whose interference he publicly attributed the failure

of peace negotiations with the commissioners.43 Certainly

Simcoe showed no willingness to interfere with McKee's ac-

tions in the spring and summer of 1793. To Brant's letter

asking for advice on the matter of the split in the council and

on the boundary question, Simcoe replied rather vaguely that

he could not give an opinion as to the precise boundary, as

this was a matter for the Indians.44 This did not help Brant,

whose whole point was that some of the tribes were far too

much under the influence of McKee.

The deputation to the commissioners, delayed by contrary

winds, did not return to the rapids until August 5. The Brant-

McKee split had become even wider on the previous day.

Brant protested that the Six Nations were being left out

of the decisions, and that too many private discussions

had taken place. "We are not told anything," he asserted.

"Our opinion and that of three respectable Tribes [Ottawas,

Chippewas, and Potawatomis] has not been attended to."

When the deputation arrived and gave an account of the

meeting, Brant and the Six Nations decided to go home.

Brant stated that from the actions that had been taken it

appeared that no treaty was intended. The Shawnees, however,

now pressed the Six Nations to stay a few days. This was in

all probability McKee's desire, as he had been urged to main-

tain as much unity as possible. The council showed signs of

complete disintegration when on August 7 the Creeks made

a formal announcement that they were at war with the Ameri-


42 Brant to Joseph Chew, September 26, 1793, in Cruikshank, Simcoe Corre-

spondence, II, 68-69; also Brant to Simcoe, September 2, 1793, ibid., II, 47.

43 William J. Chew to Joseph Chew, November 26, 1795, ibid., IV, 145.

44 Simcoe to Brant, August 8, 1793, ibid., II, 4-5.



cans, were driving them back, and wanted the aid of the

confederacy. The Six Nations, and the Seven Nations of

Canada, who had arrived late for the council, argued that

the business for which the council had been called should be

completed before the Creek request was considered. The argu-

ment continued for several days. On August 9 Captain

Johnny again spoke for the Shawnees. Though he acknowl-

edged that the confederacy had been started by the Six

Nations, he made it quite evident that he considered the

Shawnees, Delawares, and Miamis had taken it over since the

treaty of Fort Harmar in 1789. He asserted yet again that

though the Indians were willing to meet the commissioners,

the Ohio River would have to be the boundary. Brant op-

posed him. He acknowledged that the western tribes had led

the confederacy since Fort Harmar, but pointed out that the

confederacy itself had originally suggested a boundary along

the Muskingum River to Lord Dorchester in 1791. On the

part of the Six Nations, Brant urged the tribes to yield land

to the Muskingum rather than insist on the Ohio River

boundary. The Seven Nations of Canada did not agree with

this, and their spokesman delivered a revealing speech regard-

ing the British attitude: "My opinion when I left home was

that we were to defend the Old Boundary which is the Ohio,

and in this opinion I was confirmed by the English as I passed

their Posts." He announced, however, that the Seven Nations

would abide by whatever the confederacy decided.45

At this point the attitude of the British Indian agents

became even more apparent. The chiefs of the Shawnees,

Wyandots, and Seven Nations of Canada, apparently won by

Brant's arguments, told him that they would follow his opin-

ion regarding the boundary because he knew more about the

whites. This opinion was soon changed. Brant reported in

his journal that at midnight on the same night, McKee held

a private meeting with these chiefs, and apparently changed

their opinion. There seems no reason to disbelieve Brant on

45 See Brant to McKee, August 4, 1793, Claus Papers; Brant's account of the

council is in Cruikshank, Sincoe Correspondence, II, 12-15.



this occasion.46 Even John Heckewelder, the Moravian mis-

sionary, had already heard from various Indians that Mc-

Kee, Elliott, and others had turned the Indians against

the deputation which had been to Niagara.47 In general coun-

cil on the day after the midnight meeting Captain Johnny

announced that the Ohio River boundary was the final deter-

mination, and that this would be told to the commissioners.

The Seven Nations of Canada agreed to defend this line, but

the Six Nations still insisted that the Muskingum was a more

reasonable boundary. Buckongahelas, a Delaware chief, then

spoke, and Brant wrote in his journal that the Delaware

pointed to McKee and said he was the person who advised

them to insist on the Ohio line.48

On August 13 the confederacy sent a message to the com-

missioners, and argued that none of the cessions made since

1783 were valid, as they had not been made in general council.

The Indians said money was of no use to them, and advanced

the ingenious idea that the Americans should take the money

they were going to give the Indians for the land, and give it

to the American settlers on the north of the Ohio as com-

pensation for having to retire beyond that river. The Indians

pointed out that these settlers must be poor, otherwise they

would never have entered into such a dangerous area. As the

message reached its peroration the language befitted the sol-

emn occasion:


We desire you to consider Brothers, that our only demand, is the

peaceable possession of a small part of our once great Country. Look

back and view the lands from whence we have been driven to this spot,

we can retreat no further, because the country behind hardly affords

food for its present inhabitants. And we have therefore resolved, to

leave our bones in this small space, to which we are now confined.

A resounding list of tribes affixed their names to this declara-


46 Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, II, 16. Burt accepts McKee's rather

than Brant's account of these proceedings. United States, Great Britain, and

British North America, 130.

47 Wallace, Thirty Thousand Miles with John Heckewelder, 315-316.

48 Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, II, 16-17.



tion of war--the Wyandots, the Seven Nations of Canada,

the Delawares, the Shawnees, the Miamis, the Ottawas, the

Chippewas, the Senecas of the Glaize, the Potawatomis, the

Conoys, the Munsees, the Nanticokes, the Mahicans, the Mis-

sisaugas, the Creeks, and the Cherokees.49 Conspicuous by

their absence were the Six Nations. The Lake Indians and

the Seven Nations of Canada had followed the lead of the

council, but the Six Nations would not sign the message.

After it was sent, one more council was held. Brant announced

that the Six Nations could not at present assist the confeder-

acy, for they first would have to remove their people from

among the Americans.50 This fact alone goes a long way

toward explaining the difference in attitudes. The lands held

by the Six Nations were on the American side of the Ohio.

They were already surrounded. To them war was far more

serious than the ceding of an extra strip of land on a boundary

that had already passed them by. The rest of the Indians

looked upon the Ohio as the last great barrier between the

Americans and the Northwest--if that barrier fell the re-

mainder of the Northwest would be unsafe. They thought

they could not afford to cede even a small strip to the north of

the Ohio, and they were right.

Even if Brant and the Six Nations had carried the council

to their point of view, it is difficult to see how peace could have

been accomplished. The slight cessions of land that the Ameri-

can commissioners had been authorized to make would not

have satisfied even the moderates led by Brant. There would

have been a council, but it could well have been a repetition of

Fort Harmar, with the Indians pressed into yielding more

than they wished, and then revoking the treaty when it was

completed. But there was not even a treaty council. The

Indian message reached the commissioners on August 16, and

they immediately replied that the Ohio boundary was impos-

sible. The negotiation was at an end. On August 17 the com-


49 Western Indians to the Commissioners of the United States, August 13, 1793,

ibid., II, 17-20.

50 Ibid., II, 17.



missioners sailed from Elliott's for Fort Erie.51 Meanwhile,

though the Lake Indians (whose main settlements were well

removed from the Ohio) urged Brant to promote a peace

along the Muskingum, a war feast was held at the rapids, with

"the Chiefs of the Shawanoes singing the War Song encour-

aging the Warriors of all the Nations to be active in defend-

ing their Country, saying their Father the English would

assist them," and pointing "to Col. McKee."52

McKee's version of the failure of the council, in a letter to

Simcoe, was much different from Brant's. He said that ex-

pectations of peace had been disappointed because the Indians

insisted on an Ohio River boundary, and that though he had

tried to maintain unity, the Six Nations had acted alone, and

had tried to divide the nations by holding private councils. He

was pleased that the United States had now acknowledged

the Indian right of soil to land not yet sold--"these lands will

form an extensive Barrier between the British & American

Territory." McKee closed by insisting he had tried to obtain

peace, and had exerted no improper influence to prevent it.

He warned Simcoe, however, that he expected to be blamed

for the arguments that the Indians had adopted.53 The part

that McKee and Elliott played in all this will never be com-

pletely understood--records of midnight councils on the

Maumee create few space problems in any library--but it is

obvious that the British Indian department at Detroit used

its power, provisions, and influence to strengthen the resolu-

tion of the Indians to stand firm against the Americans. They

exerted this influence mainly through the medium of the

Shawnees, and were to continue to use this tribe for the next

twenty years. In spite of McKee's protestations, there seems

good reason to believe that he was using his influence on the

Maumee in the summer of 1793 to strengthen the Indian will

against compromise, and against the concessions advocated


51 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, I, 357; Joseph Bunbury to Doctor

Cole, August 17, 1793, Claus Papers.

52 Cruikshank, Simcoe Correspondence, II, 17.

53 McKee to Simcoe, August 22, 1793. Indian Affairs.



by Joseph Brant. Though Simcoe accepted the account of the

proceedings given him by McKee, and assured Hammond, the

British minister in the United States, that McKee had tried

to use his influence to persuade the Indians to be content with

more moderate demands,54 even the British Indian agent John

Butler was not in agreement with McKee's endeavors at the

1793 council. Some two years later he wrote that he feared

he had lost his influence in the department because of his dis-

agreement with McKee at the time of the attempted Sandusky

treaty: "I thought that the most favourable Opportunity that

Perhaps would Ever Occur for them [the Indians] to make an

Advantageous Peace and Save the greatest Part of their


The collapse of negotiations in 1793 made the expedition

of Anthony Wayne inevitable, though the Indians had de-

layed for so long that it was not possible for it to take place

until the following year. The attitudes of the northwestern

contenders had become quite plain in 1793. The Americans,

though more conciliatory in their negotiations with the

Indians than in the 1780's, were quite obviously not prepared

to effect any real compromise in regard to the question of

boundaries. They had little faith in securing what they wanted

without military victory, and the failure of the 1793 negotia-

tions was no surprise to the American government. The

Indians on the other hand had hoped that their military vic-

tories over Harmar and St. Clair would enable them to secure

a satisfactory boundary from the American government. They

were disappointed in their expectations, not only because of

the internal dissensions of the Indian confederacy but also

because the United States was prepared to fight until she did

achieve a military victory rather than yield territory in the

Northwest. The extent of British participation in American-

Indian relations is well revealed by the 1793 negotiations.

Though this was an attempted treaty between the Americans


54 Simcoe to Hammond, September 8, 1793, in Cruikshank, Simcoe Corre-

spondence, II, 49-50.

55 Butler to Joseph Chew, March 1, 1795, ibid., III, 313.



and the Indians within American territory, the British au-

thories in Canada supervised and directed every stage of the

proceedings. The Americans dealt with the Indians through

the medium of the British Indian department. Moreover, it

was becoming increasingly obvious that to talk of a "British"

Indian policy was becoming exceedingly difficult. The theoreti-

cal policy agreed to in London was not necessarily that carried

out in detail by the British authorities in Canada, and the

theoretical policies of the British in Quebec and Montreal

were not necessarily those carried out by the Pennsylvania

loyalists, McKee and Elliott, who led the British Indian

department in Upper Canada. Though the difference in em-

phasis might be only slight at each link in the chain of com-

mand, the final shift could be a decisive one. There is little

doubt that the official correspondence of the British authori-

ties in Canada gives only an incomplete picture of the actual

activities of the individual members of the Indian department.