The French And Indian War
There was no great change in political conditions in Pennsylvania
until about the year 1755. The French in Canada had been gradually
developing their plans of spreading down the Ohio and Mississippi
valleys behind the English colonies. They were at the same time
securing alliances with the Indians and inciting them to hostilities
against the English. But so rapidly were the settlers advancing that
often the land could not be purchased fast enough to prevent
irritation and ill feeling. The Scotch-Irish and Germans, it has
already been noted, settled on lands without the formality of
purchase from the Indians. The Government, when the Indians
complained, sometimes ejected the settlers but more often hastened
to purchase from the Indians the land which had been occupied. "The
Importance of the British Plantations in America," published in
1731, describes the Indians as peaceful and contented in
Pennsylvania but irritated and unsettled in those other colonies
where they had usually been ill-treated and defrauded. This, with
other evidence, goes to show that up to that time Penn's policy of
fairness and good treatment still prevailed. But those conditions
soon changed, as the famous Walking Purchase of 1737 clearly
The Walking Purchase had provided for the sale of some lands along the Delaware below the Lehigh on a line starting at Wrightstown, a few miles back from the Delaware not far above Trenton, and running northwest, parallel with the river, as far as a man could walk in a day and a half. The Indians understood that this tract would extend northward only to the Lehigh, which was the ordinary journey of a day and a half. The proprietors, however, surveyed the line beforehand, marked the trees, engaged the fastest walkers and, with horses to carry provisions, started their men at sunrise. By running a large part of the way, at the end of a day and a half these men had reached a point thirty miles beyond the Lehigh.
The Delaware Indians regarded this measurement as a pure fraud and refused to abandon the Minisink region north of the Lehigh. The proprietors then called in the assistance of the Six Nations of New York, who ordered the Delawares off the Minisink lands. Though they obeyed, the Delawares became the relentless enemies of the white man and in the coming years revenged themselves by massacres and murder. They also broke the control which the Six Nations had over them, became an independent nation, and in the French Wars revenged themselves on the Six Nations as well as on the white men. The congress which convened at Albany in 1754 was an attempt on the part of the British Government to settle all Indian affairs in a general agreement and to prevent separate treaties by the different colonies; but the Pennsylvania delegates, by various devices of compass courses which the Indians did not understand and by failing to notify and secure the consent of certain tribes, obtained a grant of pretty much the whole of Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna. The Indians considered this procedure to be another gross fraud. It is to be noticed that in their dealings with Penn they had always been satisfied, and that he had always been careful that they should be duly consulted and if necessary be paid twice over for the land. But his sons were more economical, and as a result of the shrewd practices of the Albany purchase the Pennsylvania Indians almost immediately went over in a body to the French and were soon scalping men, women, and children among the Pennsylvania colonists. It is a striking fact, however, that in all the after years of war and rapine and for generations afterwards the Indians retained the most distinct and positive tradition of Penn's good faith and of the honesty of all Quakers. So persistent, indeed, was this tradition among the tribes of the West that more than a century later President Grant proposed to put the whole charge of the nation's Indian affairs in the hands of the Quakers. The first efforts to avert the catastrophe threatened by the alliance of the red man with the French were made by the provincial assemblies, which voted presents of money or goods to the Indians to offset similar presents from the French. The result was, of course, the utter demoralization of the savages. Bribed by both sides, the Indians used all their native cunning to encourage the bribers to bid against each other. So far as Pennsylvania was concerned, feeling themselves cheated in the first instance and now bribed with gifts, they developed a contempt for the people who could stoop to such practices. As a result this contempt manifested itself in deeds hitherto unknown in the province. One tribe on a visit to Philadelphia killed cattle and robbed orchards as they passed. The delegates of another tribe, having visited Philadelphia and received 500 pounds as a present, returned to the frontier and on their way back for another present destroyed the property of the interpreter and Indian agent, Conrad Weiser. They felt that they could do as they pleased. To make matters worse, the Assembly paid for all the damage done; and having started on this foolish business, they found that the list of tribes demanding presents rapidly increased. The Shawanoes and the Six Nations, as well as the Delawares, were now swarming to this new and convenient source of wealth.
Whether the proprietors or the Assembly should meet this increasing expense or divide it between them, became a subject of increasing controversy. It was in these discussions that Thomas Penn, in trying to keep his family's share of the expense as small as possible, first got the reputation for closeness which followed him for the rest of his life and which started a party in the province desirous of having Parliament abolish the proprietorship and put the province under a governor appointed by the Crown.
The war with the French of Canada and their Indian allies is of interest here only in so far as it affected the government of Pennsylvania. From this point of view it involved a series of contests between the proprietors and the Crown on the one side and the Assembly on the other. The proprietors and the Crown took advantage of every military necessity to force the Assembly into a surrender of popular rights. But the Assembly resisted, maintaining that they had the same right as the British Commons of having their money bills received or rejected by the Governor without amendment. Whatever they should give must be given on their own terms or not at all; and they would not yield this point to any necessities of the war.
When Governor Morris asked the Assembly for a war contribution in 1754, they promptly voted 20,000 pounds. This was the same amount that Virginia, the most active of the colonies in the war, was giving. Other colonies gave much less; New York, only 5000 pounds, and Maryland 6000 pounds. Morris, however, would not assent to the Assembly's bill unless it contained a clause suspending its effect until the King's pleasure was known. This was an attempt to establish a precedent for giving up the Assembly's charter right of passing laws which need not be submitted to the King for five years and which in the meantime were valid. The members of the Assembly very naturally refused to be forced by the necessities of the war into surrendering one of the most important privileges the province possessed. It was, they said, as much their duty to resist this invasion of their rights as to resist the French.
Governor Morris, besides demanding that the supply of 20,000 pounds should not go into force until the King's pleasure was known, insisted that the paper money representing it should be redeemable in five years. This period the Assembly considered too short; the usual time was ten years. Five years would ruin too many people by foreclosures. Moreover, the Governor was attempting to dictate the way in which the people should raise a money supply. He and the King had a right to ask for aid in war; but it was the right of the colony to use its own methods of furnishing this assistance. The Governor also refused to let the Assembly see the instructions from the proprietors under which he was acting. This was another attack upon their liberties and involved nothing less than an attempt to change their charter rights by secret instructions to a deputy governor which he must obey at his peril. Several bills had recently been introduced in the English Parliament for the purpose of making royal instructions to governors binding on all the colonial assemblies without regard to their charters. This innovation, the colonists felt, would wreck all their liberties and turn colonial government into a mere despotism.
The assemblies of all the colonies have been a good deal abused for delay in supporting the war and meanness in withholding money. But in many instances the delay and lack of money were occasioned by the grasping schemes of governors who saw a chance to gain new privileges for the Crown or a proprietor or to weaken popular government by crippling the powers of the legislatures. The usual statement that the Pennsylvania Assembly was slow in assisting the war because it was composed of Quakers is not supported by the facts. The Pennsylvania Assembly was not behind the rest. On this particular occasion, when their large money supply bill could not be passed without sacrificing their constitutional rights, they raised money for the war by appointing a committee which was authorized to borrow 5000 pounds on the credit of the Assembly.
Other contests arose over the claim of the proprietors that their estates in the province were exempt from taxation for the war or any purpose. One bill taxing the proprietary estates along with others was met by Thomas Penn offering to subscribe 5000 pounds, as a free gift to the colony's war measures. The Assembly accepted this, and passed the bill without taxing the proprietary estates. It turned out, however, to be a shrewd business move on the part of Thomas Penn; for the 5000 pounds was to be collected out of the quitrents that were in arrears, and the payment of it was in consequence long delayed. The thrifty Thomas had thus saddled his bad debts on the province and gained a reputation for generosity at the same time.
Pennsylvania, though governed by Quakers assisted by noncombatant Germans, had a better protected frontier than Maryland or Virginia; no colony, indeed, was at that time better protected. The Quaker Assembly did more than take care of the frontier during the war; it preserved at the same time constitutional rights in defense of which twenty-five years afterwards the whole continent fought the Revolution. The Quaker Assembly even passed two militia bills, one of which became law, and sent rather more than the province's full share of troops to protect the frontiers of New York and New England and to carry the invasion into Canada.
General Braddock warmly praised the assistance which Pennsylvania gave him because, he said, she had done more for him than any of the other colonies. Virginia and Maryland promised everything and performed nothing, while Pennsylvania promised nothing and performed everything. Commodore Spy thanked the Assembly for the large number of sailors sent his fleet at the expense of the province. General Shirley, in charge of the New England and New York campaigns, thanked the Assembly for the numerous recruits; and it was the common opinion at the time that Pennsylvania had sent more troops to the war than any other colony. In the first four years of the war the province spent for military purposes 210,567 pounds sterling, which was a very considerable sum at that time for a community of less than 200,000 people. Quakers, though they hate war, will accept it when there is no escape. The old story of the Quaker who tossed a pirate overboard, saying, "Friend, thee has no business here," gives their point of view better than pages of explanation. Quaker opinion has not always been entirely uniform. In Revolutionary times in Philadelphia there was a division of the Quakers known as the Fighting Quakers, and their meeting house is still pointed out at the corner of Fourth Street and Arch. They even produced able military leaders: Colonel John Dickinson, General Greene, and General Mifflin in the Continental Army, and, in the War of 1812, General Jacob Brown, who reorganized the army and restored its failing fortunes after many officers had been tried and found wanting.
There was always among the Quakers a rationalistic party and a party of mysticism. The rationalistic party prevailed in Pennsylvania all through the colonial period. In the midst of the worst horrors of the French and Indian wars, however, the conscientious objectors roused themselves and began preaching and exhorting what has been called the mystical side of the faith. Many extreme Quaker members of the Assembly resigned their seats in consequence. After the Revolution the spiritual party began gaining ground, partly perhaps because then the responsibilities of government and care of the great political and religious experiment in Pennsylvania were removed. The spiritual party increased so rapidly in power that in 1827 a split occurred which involved not a little bitterness, ill feeling, and litigation over property. This division into two opposing camps, known as the Hicksites and the Orthodox, continues and is likely to remain.
Quaker government in Pennsylvania was put to still severer tests by the difficulties and disasters that followed Braddock's defeat. That unfortunate general had something over two thousand men and was hampered with a train of artillery and a splendid equipment of arms, tools, and supplies, as if he were to march over the smooth highways of Europe. When he came to drag all these munitions through the depths of the Pennsylvania forests and up and down the mountains, he found that he made only about three miles a day and that his horses had nothing to eat but the leaves of the trees. Washington, who was of the party, finally persuaded him to abandon his artillery and press forward with about fifteen hundred picked men. These troops, when a few miles from Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh), met about six hundred Indians and three hundred French coming from the fort. The English maintained a close formation where they were, but the French and Indians immediately spread out on their flanks, lying behind trees and logs which provided rests for their rifles and security for their bodies. This strategy decided the day. The English were shot down like cattle in a pen, and out of about fifteen hundred only four hundred and fifty escaped. The French and Indian loss was not much over fifty.
This defeat of Braddock's force has become one of the most famous reverses in history; and it was made worse by the conduct of Dunbar who had been left in command of the artillery, baggage, and men in the rear. He could have remained where he was as some sort of protection to the frontier. But he took fright, burned his wagons, emptied his barrels of powder into the streams, destroyed his provisions, and fled back to Fort Cumberland in Maryland. Here the governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia as well as the Pennsylvania Assembly urged him to stay. But, determined to make the British rout complete, he soon retreated to the peace and quiet of Philadelphia, and nothing would induce him to enter again the terrible forests of Pennsylvania.
The natural result of the blunder soon followed. The French, finding the whole frontier of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia abandoned, organized the Indians under French officers and swept the whole region with a devastation of massacre, scalping, and burning that has never been equaled. Hurons, Potawatomies, Ojibways, Ottawas, Mingoes, renegades from the Six Nations, together with the old treaty friends of Penn, the Delawares and Shawanoes, began swarming eastward and soon had killed more people than had been lost at Braddock's defeat. The onslaught reached its height in September and October. By that time all the outlying frontier settlers and their families had been killed or sent flying eastward to seek refuge in the settlements. The Indians even followed them to the settlements, reached the Susquehanna, and crossed it. They massacred the people of the village of Gnadenhutten, near Bethlehem on the Lehigh, and established near by a headquarters for prisoners and plunder. Families were scalped within fifty miles of Philadelphia, and in one instance the bodies of a murdered family were brought into the town and exhibited in the streets to show the inhabitants how near the danger was approaching. Nothing could be done to stem the savage tide. Virginia was suffering in the same way: the settlers on her border were slaughtered or were driven back in herds upon the more settled districts, and Washington, with a nominal strength of fifteen hundred who would not obey orders, was forced to stand a helpless spectator of the general flight and misery. There was no adequate force or army anywhere within reach. The British had been put to flight and had gone to the defense of New England and New York. Neither Pennsylvania nor Virginia had a militia that could withstand the French and their red allies. They could only wait till the panic had subsided and then see what could be done.
One thing was accomplished, however, when the Pennsylvania Assembly passed a Quaker militia law which is one of the most curious legal documents of its kind in history. It was most aptly worded, drafted by the master hand of Franklin. It recited the fact that the province had always been ruled by Quakers who were opposed to war, but that now it had become necessary to allow men to become soldiers and to give them every facility for the profession of arms, because the Assembly though containing a Quaker majority nevertheless represented all the people of the province. To prevent those who believed in war from taking part in it would be as much a violation of liberty of conscience as to force enlistments among those who had conscientious scruples against it. Nor would the Quaker majority have any right to compel others to bear arms and at the same time exempt themselves. Therefore a voluntary militia system was established under which a fighting Quaker, a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, or anybody, could enlist and have all the military glory he could win.
It was altogether a volunteer system. Two years afterwards, as the necessities of war increased, the Quaker Assembly passed a rather stringent compulsory militia bill; but the governor vetoed it, and the first law with its volunteer system remained in force. Franklin busied himself to encourage enlistments under it and was very successful. Though a philosopher and a man of science, almost as much opposed to war as the Quakers and not even owning a shotgun, he was elected commander and led a force of about five hundred men to protect the Lehigh Valley. His common sense seems to have supplied his lack of military training. He did no worse than some professional soldiers who might be named. The valley was supposed to be in great danger since its village of Gnadenhutten had been burned and its people massacred. The Moravians, like the Quakers, had suddenly found that they were not as much opposed to war as they had supposed. They had obtained arms and ammunition from New York and had built stockades, and Franklin was glad to find them so well prepared when he arrived. He built small forts in different parts of the valley, acted entirely on the defensive, and no doubt checked the raids of the Indians at that point. They seem to have been watching him from the hilltops all the time, and any rashness on his part would probably have brought disaster upon him. After his force had been withdrawn, the Indians again attacked and burned Gnadenhutten.
The chain of forts, at first seventeen, afterwards increased to fifty, built by the Assembly on the Pennsylvania frontier was a good plan so far as it went, but it was merely defensive and by no means completely defensive, since Indian raiding parties could pass between the forts. They served chiefly as refuges for neighboring settlers. The colonial troops or militia, after manning the fifty forts and sending their quota to the operations against Canada by way of New England and New York, were not numerous enough to attack the Indians. They could only act on the defensive as Franklin's command had done. As for the rangers, as the small bands of frontiersmen acting without any authority of either governor or legislature were called, they were very efficient as individuals but they accomplished very little because they acted at widely isolated spots. What was needed was a well organized force which could pursue the Indians on their own ground so far westward that the settlers on the frontier would be safe. The only troops which could do this were the British regulars with the assistance of the colonial militia.
Two energetic efforts to end the war without aid from abroad were made, however, one by the pacific Quakers and the other by the combatant portion of the people. Both of these were successful so far as they went, but had little effect on the general situation. In the summer of 1756, the Quakers made a very earnest effort to persuade the two principal Pennsylvania tribes, the Delawares and Shawanoes, to withdraw from the French alliance and return to their old friends. These two tribes possessed a knowledge of the country which enabled them greatly to assist the French designs on Pennsylvania. Chiefs of these tribes were brought under safe conducts to Philadelphia, where they were entertained as equals in the Quaker homes. Such progress, indeed, was made that by the end of July a treaty of peace was concluded at Easton eliminating those two tribes from the war. This has sometimes been sneered at as mere Quaker pacifism; but it was certainly successful in lessening the numbers and effectiveness of the enemy.
The other undertaking was a military one, the famous attack upon Kittanning conducted by Colonel John Armstrong, an Ulsterman from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and the first really aggressive officer the province had produced. The Indians had two headquarters for their raids into the province, one at Logstown on the Ohio a few miles below Fort Duquesne, and the other at Kittanning or, as the French called it, Attique, about forty miles northeast. At these two points they assembled their forces, received ammunition and supplies from the French, and organized their expeditions. As Kittanning was the nearer, Armstrong in a masterly maneuver took three hundred men through the mountains without being discovered and, by falling upon the village early in the morning, he effected a complete surprise. The town was set on fire, the Indians were put to flight, and large quantities of their ammunition were destroyed. But Armstrong could not follow up his success. Threatened by overwhelming numbers, he hastened to withdraw. The effect which the fighting and the Quaker treaty had on the frontier was good. Incursions of the savages were, at least for the present, checked. But the root of the evil had not yet been reached, and the Indians remained massed along the Ohio, ready to break in upon the people again at the first opportunity.
The following year, 1757, was the most depressing period of the war. The proprietors of Pennsylvania took the opportunity to exempt their own estate from taxation and throw the burden of furnishing money for the war upon the colonists. Under pressure of the increasing success of the French and Indians and because the dreadful massacres were coming nearer and nearer to Philadelphia, the Quaker Assembly yielded, voted the largest sum they had ever voted to the war, and exempted the proprietary estates. The colony was soon boiling with excitement. The Churchmen, as friends of the proprietors, were delighted to have the estates exempted, thought it a good opportunity to have the Quaker Assembly abolished, and sent petitions and letters and proofs of alleged Quaker incompetence to the British Government. The Quakers and a large majority of the colonists, on the other hand, instead of consenting to their own destruction, struck at the root of the Churchmen's power by proposing to abolish the proprietors. And in a letter to Isaac Norris, Benjamin Franklin, who had been sent to England to present the grievances of the colonists, even suggested that "tumults and insurrections that might prove the proprietary government unable to preserve order, or show the people to be ungovernable, would do the business immediately."
Turmoil and party strife rose to the most exciting heights, and the details of it might, under certain circumstances, be interesting to describe. But the next year, 1758, the British Government, by sending a powerful force of regulars to Pennsylvania, at last adopted the only method for ending the war. Confidence was at once restored. The Pennsylvania Assembly now voted the sufficient and, indeed, immense sum of one hundred thousand pounds, and offered a bounty of five pounds to every recruit. It was no longer a war of defense but now a war of aggression and conquest. Fort Duquesne on the Ohio was taken; and the next autumn Fort Pitt was built on its ruins. Then Canada fell, and the French empire in America came to an end. Canada and the Great West passed into the possession of the Anglo-Saxon race.
Back to: The Quaker Colonies