colonial leaders on just what would lead to a lasting peace. They would squabble for years over that question.
At least he had the commander in chief's support. What a relief for Johnson after the years he had vainly argued with Jeffrey Amherst that peace could only be maintained with generosity rather than severity. Amherst had rejected his advice; war had followed. In stark contrast, Amherst's successor Thomas Gage firmly grasped that simple truth. Intelligent, tolerant, and experienced in dealing with Indians, Gage was of one mind with Johnson on how to govern the new empire and its subjects. They developed and coordinated their policy through a series of letters and meetings over the years. Together they worked to implement their policy at all levels, through British officers and Indian agents, traders, provincial governments, and settlers. It was an unending, frustrating labor, but they largely succeeded.99
The key to peace was to respect and legally uphold the Indian assertion of sovereignty. To do otherwise would bring war. Although the European powers might trade territorial claims in the poker game of international relations, the Indians living on those lands would never subject themselves to any foreign ruler "or will ever ever consider themselves in that light whilst they have any men, or an open country to retire to, the very idea of subjection woud fill them with horror."100Johnson asks Gage to "Imagine to yourself, Sir, how impossible it is to reduce a People to subjection who consider themselves independent thereof both by nature and situation, who can be governed by no laws, and have no other ties among themselves but inclination." Indeed, according to Johnson no Indian language had a word that conveyed the British concept of subjection. Thus he called for prohibiting its use in any treaty to avoid future problems: "it may prove of dangerous consequences to persuade them that the Indians have agreed to things which (had they ever even assented to) is so repugnant to their principles that the attempting to enforce it must lay the foundation of greater calamities than has yet been experience in this country."
The details of any peace treaty rested upon that concept of native sovereignty. While conceding that basic point, Johnson and Gage were hardnosed diplomats: "we must show firmness where it's proper and & yeild in trifles when it becomes necessary to gain their affections."101 In all, Johnson faced a Sisyphean challenge.