Haughty Conquerors: Amherst and the Great Indian Uprising of 1763

By William R. Nester | Go to book overview

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.


NOTES
1
John Richard Alden, General Gage in America: Being Principally a History of His Role in the American Revolution ( Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1948).
2
Lewis Ourry to Henry Bouquet, June 8, 1764, in Sylvester K Stevens, Donald H. Kent , Autumn L. Leonard, Louis M. Waddell, and John Totteham, eds., The Papers of Henry Bouquet (hereafter cited as Bouquet Papers), 6 vols. ( Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1972- 1994), 6:566-67.

-223-

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Haughty Conquerors: Amherst and the Great Indian Uprising of 1763
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Notes xiii
  • 1 - Conquest "Where Are We Now? The French Are All Subdued" 1
  • Notes 31
  • 2 - Conspiracies "Destroy Their Forts and Make Them Rue the Day" 35
  • Notes 66
  • 3 - Attacks "And Drive These Britons Hence Like Frightened Deer" 73
  • Notes 103
  • 4 - Counterattacks "Big with Their Victories" 107
  • Notes 145
  • 5 - Stalemate "Leave These Distant Lakes and Streams to Us" 149
  • Notes 179
  • 6 - Subjection "To Be a Vassal to His Low Commanders" 185
  • Notes 223
  • 7 - Settlements "Nay Think Us Conquered, and Our Country Theirs" 231
  • Notes 269
  • 8 - Consequencesl "Whom See We Now, Their Haughty Conquerors" 279
  • Notes 283
  • Index 285
  • About the Author *
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