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

By Timothy J. Shannon | Go to book overview

Epilogue: Albany, 1775

We . . . embrace this opportunity to rekindle the ancient council fire, which formerly burnt as bright as the sun in this place, and to heap on it so much fuel that it may never be extinguished: and also to renew the ancient covenant chain with you, which you know has always been kept bright and clean, without any stain or rust.

--Speech of the Commissioners appointed by the Continental
Congress to treat with the Six Nations in Albany, August 1775

Let us have a trade at this place . . . as it was in former times, when we had hold of the old covenant. For then, brothers, if our people came down with only a few musquash [muskrat] skins, we went home with glad hearts. Brothers, let it be so again.

--The Indians' response

One last story:

In August 1775, a young Philadelphia gentleman named Tench Tilghman traveled to Albany as the secretary of four commissioners appointed by the Continental Congress to treat with the Iroquois there.1 Tilghman's journal from this trip, like Theodore Atkinson's from the Albany Congress, opens a portal on intercultural relations in the Mohawk Valley at a key moment in the history of British North America. Although an Anglo- Iroquois treaty had not convened in Albany since 1754, the conference's participants quickly assumed familiar roles. Beneath this continuity in the process of treaty-making lay a radical disjuncture in its political context that revealed the far-reaching consequences the Albany Congress had had for Britannia's Americans.

____________________
1
See "The Journal of Tench Tilghman, Secretary of the Indian Commissioners, appointed by Congress to Treat with the Six Nations at German Flats, New York," in Samuel Harrison, Memoir of Lieut. Col. Tench Tilghman ( Albany, 1876), 79-101. Tilghman and the commissioners met with the Indians in German Flatts and Albany in August-September 1775. The official proceedings of the conference are in NYCD, 8:605-31. For the background and context of this conference, see Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution ( Syracuse, 1972), 65- 74.

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