The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from Its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744

The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from Its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744

The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from Its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744

The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from Its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744

Excerpt

Some years ago I climbed the steep flights of stairs to the fourth floor of Lehigh University's Linderman Library in order to pay homage in person to that venerable historian of the eighteenth-century British Empire, the late Lawrence Henry Gipson. He sat in his eyrie, nestled among books and piles of papers more like an ancient little owl than an eagle, and he whispered the wisdom of nearly ninety years of living. "You know, Mr. Jennings," the soft voice confided, "when I started to write my history of the Revolution, I decided it would need a chapter of introduction." He paused to savor the coming joke. "Well that chapter became nine big volumes"—a vague wave of the ancient hand toward The British Empire Before the American Revolution, the anticipated classic, and a dry chuckle.

I felt a premonitory chill. I, too, intended a chapter of introduction to my subject. It does not seem likely that I have shouldered so great a burden as Gipson's, but neither have I ever felt hugely confident of lasting till ninety. My chapter of introduction grew into a full book and about a quarter of this one, just to get the poor thing born. Tristram Shandy managed better.

This book, like its predecessor The Invasion of America, is part of a history of how Euramericans and Amerindians shared in the creation of the society that became the United States of America. In that long process, different strategies were adopted by varied Indian tribes and European colonies in order to cope with the presence of all the others. The strategy of Puritan New England was armed conquest. I described it in Invasion with the intention of also writing a description of the strategy of accommodation used in the "middle colonies" of New Netherland and its English successors: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The material outgrew the book, so Invasion was confined to a general introduction and a narrative of New England. Here now is a balancing supplement. Complete in itself, it is also a continuation of the history of the peoples who formed a Covenant Chain of formal cooperation between Indian tribes and British colonies. This is a history impossible to conceive under the assumptions traditionally held by American historians until only a few years ago. The Covenant Chain has played no role in "frontier . . ."

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