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

By Timothy J. Shannon | Go to book overview

4 Treaty-Making at Albany: Setting and Characters

Sunday, 30th June. Went to Church forenoon and afternoon, after which attended at Church w[h]ere the Mohawks were Call[e]d to Prayers and the Service in their Langwage, which was Performed with the utmost Decency. Many of them had books and responded.

-- Theodore Atkinson, Albany, 1754

Few firsthand accounts of the Albany Congress exist. Historians have had to rely on the official minutes of the treaty conference with the Indians, reports completed by some of the colonial delegations for their home governments, and occasional recollections by individual participants, some written a few days after the congress and some as much as thirty years later. Singular among these sources is the journal kept by New Hampshire commissioner Theodore Atkinson, which provides an eyewitness account of what transpired in Albany between June 19 and July 11, 1754.1 Atkinson comes across on these pages as a taciturn, often cranky New Englander alternately irritated and intrigued by his trip to that far-off place, Albany. He resented the difficulty of travel through western Massa

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1
Atkinson's journal is in the Force Papers, Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress. Beverly McAnear reproduces the entries from Atkinson's arrival in Albany to his departure in "Personal Accounts." A typescript of the journal including the entries for Atkinson's trip to and from Albany is included in Jennings et al., eds., Iroquois Indians, reel 16. McAnear also included in "Personal Accounts" the draft of a letter most likely written by Thomas Pownall to the Earl of Halifax, from New York on July 23, 1754. Three other sources provide eyewitness observations on the Albany Congress: the official minutes of the congress, reprinted in NYCD, 6:853-92; the report submitted by the Massachusetts commissioners to Massachusetts governor William Shirley on November 1, 1754 in Mass. Archives, 4:459-64; and the report submitted by John Penn and Richard Peters to Pennsylvania governor James Hamilton on August 5, 1754 concerning their land negotiations at the congress, reprinted in Penn. Archives, ser. 4, 2:696-724 (hereinafter cited as the Penn and Peters Report). The personal recollections of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Hutchinson many years later will be discussed in Chapter 6.

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