Western Lands and the American Revolution

By Thomas Perkins Abernethy | Go to book overview
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WHEN Sir William Johnson agreed with the Six Nations that they would surrender their claim to all territory lying south of the Ohio River as far down as the Tennessee and that traders who lost goods in 1763 would be compensated by a grant of land, his negotiations concerned territory not in his own department but in that of John Stuart, the Southern superintendent. It is certain that neither Sir William nor any of the group with which he was associated had any organized designs on the area lying below the Little Kanawha. Why then did he make this plan so early and go to so much trouble to carry it through at Fort Stanwix in 1768? Here is a mystery the documents do not solve, and one is left to formulate the best theory which appears to fit the facts. Sir William knew that the lands which the "suffering traders" coveted were admitted to lie within Virginia, and that the old Ohio Company was still pressing its claim to this same area. He would, therefore, very naturally have expected trouble from that quarter over the traders' grant. But he knew also that Virginia was keenly anxious to extend her western boundary against the Indians, and a new cession from the Six Nations would be of some assistance toward that end. The fact that Dr. Thomas Walker, the accredited agent of Virginia for that purpose, gave his unqualified sanction at Fort Stanwix to this arrangement certainly tends to substantiate the view that a bargain had been made in advance. Indeed, while the treaty was in progress of negotiation, Thomas Wharton in Philadelphia heard something that caused him to become alarmed over possible opposition from Virginia. Croghan wrote him that if he had read his brother Samuel's last letter, he would have known that there was nothing to fear from that quarter.1

Dr. Walker had served as commissary for Virginia troops during the French and Indian War. In that capacity he had visited Philadelphia and become acquainted with Benjamin Franklin and some of the important merchants. His home in Virginia was near that of Peter Jefferson. After the death of Jefferson he acted as guardian for the fatherless, red-headed, freckle-faced lad, Thomas Jefferson. Walker had powerful connections

Also Johnson to Hillsborough, June 26, 1769, P.R.O., C.O., series 5, 70.


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Western Lands and the American Revolution


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