Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754

By Timothy J. Shannon | Go to book overview

PART I PATHS WITHIN THE EMPIRE

In Anglo-Iroquois diplomacy, the word "path" had dual significance. In its literal sense a path was a route of travel for people and goods between Indian villages and European settlements. These paths crisscrossed northeastern America, following major waterways and linking isolated communities over vast distances. As a diplomatic metaphor, a path also signified communication and exchange. The Covenant Chain alliance, for example, preserved an open path between the Iroquois Confederacy and the northern British colonies. Conversely, a closed or obstructed path signified a dissatisfaction between neighbors that, if not cleared, could lead to hostilities. Such paths, real and metaphorical, connected the colonial and Indian peoples of North America. Other paths linked the inhabitants of the British-Atlantic empire through shared markets, language, and culture. Some followed regular channels of communication such as the post roads and shipping routes carrying newspapers, private correspondence, and the official business of government. Others were more ephemeral, emerging out of the personal alliances and patronage networks that shaped imperial and colonial politics.

Three such paths brought colonists and Indians to the Albany Congress of 1754. First, a breakdown in intercultural relations along a local path on the New York frontier caused a group of Mohawk Indians to declare the Covenant Chain broken in June 1753. This news spread along a second imperial path connecting colonial administrators in London and America, who interpreted the breaking of the Covenant Chain as symptomatic of a much larger crisis threatening Britain's imperial ambitions in North Amer

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