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Journal Of A Treaty Held In 1793, With The Indian Tribes north-West Of The Ohio, By Commissioners Of The United States.
[On the 19th of February, 1793, President Washington sent a message to the House of Representatives, stating that "it has been agreed on the part of the United States, that a treaty or conference shall be held the ensuing season with the hostile Indians north-west of the Ohio, in order to remove, if possible, all causes of difference, and to establish a solid peace with them;" and that it would be necessary that an appropriation be made for this purpose. An Act was accordingly passed that "a sum not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars be appropriated to defraying the expense of negotiating and treating with the hostile Indian tribes north-west of the Ohio." In a letter to Jefferson, dated March
22, 1793, Washington speaks of " the treaty which is agreed to be held on or about the 1st of June, as being of great moment to the interests and peace of this country;" and it appears from other parts of his correspondence, that his attention had been some time previously turned to the selection of suitable persons to be employed as Commissioners at this interview. He first invited Charles Carroll, of Carrolton, and Charles Thomson, to serve in this capacity. In a letter to the former, dated Jan.
23, 1793, he says, "The western Indians having proposed to us a conference at Auglaise, not far distant from Detroit, in the ensuing spring, I am now about to proceeds nominate three Commissioners to meet and treat with them on the subject of peace. What may be the issue of the conference, it is difficult to foresee; but it is necessary that characters be appointed who are known to our citizens for their talents and integrity." Carroll and Thomson having declined the appointment, Washington nominated Benjamin Lincoln, Beverley Randolph, and Timothy Pickering; which nomination was confirmed by the Senate. These Commissioners attended to the duty assigned them, but, as it is well known, did not succeed in their negotiation. The following Journal, kept by one of them, Gen. Lincoln, has lately come into the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and is now printed, for the first time, from the original MS. Gen. Lincoln was a member of our Society, and contributed several valuable papers to its Collections A memoir of his life and character is contained in the third volume of the Collections, second series, page 233.—Publishing Committee."]
April 27, 1793. Having received our commission and instructions, I left Philadelphia, April 27th, 1793, and commenced my journey for Sandusky, the place of treaty, by the route of New York, Albany, Mohawk river, Wood Creek, Oneida Lake, Lake Ontario, Niagara, and Lake Erie. The other Commissioners, Mr. Randolph and Col. Pickering,
having formed a resolution to pass through the country directly for Niagara, remained in the city, where they expected to continue a few days longer,—as the route through the country was much shorter than that by the lakes,—and be at Niagara in time to send a vessel to meet me at Oswego.
I left the city about six o'clock in the morning, in a most violent storm of rain, with the wind at north-east. We passed on very well to Bristol, where we halted for breakfast; after which the driver and landlord, between whom there seemed the most perfect understanding, suggested that we must remain where we were; for that we could not pass the Delaware at the ferry, and that there was not a house near it where we could be accommodated. However, after being detained, from doubt and uncertainty, for some time, we came to a resolution that we would go to the river, and make the attempt to cross. We did, and succeeded agreeably to our wishes. Dined at Trenton, and reached Princeton that evening. We urged the driver to pass on to Kingston, four miles ; but the good understanding between him and the landlord again checked us, and we were here, contrary to our wishes, obliged to put up for the night.
April 28. We found this morning, that from the heavy rain of yesterday and during the night, the waters had overflowed the banks, and that we could not pass the Millstone river, but in a boat. This we did, and procured a stage on the east side of it. We reached Elizabethtown in the evening, and put up for the night. There we were informed that the waters had been so deep on the meadows, that the bridges were destroyed, and that we could not pass to Powles' Hook.
April 29. We went down to Elizabethtown Point, where we found boats, which were going to New York as soon as the wind should abate, it being at that time very high. We came to sail in about one hour, and dined in New York.
During the whole of our journey, from Philadelphia to New York, we found great delay, from a seeming combination between the stage-drivers and the keepers of the public houses. These abuses ought to be corrected. The lands between Philadelphia and New York are generally level and good for wheat. Vegetation was at this time very forward, the orchards in blossom, and the forest trees in foliage. We found a great plenty of asparagus and lettuce, as also lamb in the cities. They have here a practice, among the keepers of public houses, which makes our living very dear, by refusing to supply the table with any thing to drink, saving water, other than what you call for. Care is also taken to keep out of your way small beer and cider, so that your club at dinner amounts to more than the dinner itself.
April 30. In New York. Part of our stores went on board an Albany vessel, in which we had taken passage for that place.
May 1. We this day completed our lading of the vessel, and about three o'clock in the afternoon went on board, with a good wind and tide in our favor. We ran the afternoon and night, and found ourselves in the morning (May 2,) in Haverstraw Bay, becalmed. This made it necessary to anchor for a short time. The wind however soon sprang up, and we went joyfully on our cruise.
May 3. We arrived in Albany about eight o'clock in the morning. The Hudson river is so generally known in the United States, that any remarks thereon may seem unnecessary. However, I will state a few facts which may not be known to all.—Flood tide is just one hour later, as you ascend the river, at the end of every ten miles. At the end of sixty miles, it will be high water in the river, and low water at the mouth of it. Differently from all other rivers which I have seen, the waters in this continue their depth above the highlands, so that there are no considerable falls until you ascend about two hundred miles, one hundred and sixty navigable for vessels of one hundred tons burden. The lands on the river are generally high, and in many places the mountains make the border of the river. There is however generally a flat between the high lands and the river, so that the greatest part of the way there are handsome farms near the river. But you cannot have a just estimate of the value of the country, by sailing up the river; the valuable land and the principal settlements are some distance from it.
As we passed up the river in the night, I lost sight of the new city of Hudson, which, by common report, is in a flourishing state at present; but a few men of enterprise fixed at Albany, would, from the advantages of its situation, soon make it a rival. Nothing can be said in favor of the city of Hudson, which will not apply to Albany, saving the depth of water, and that the river opens in the spring a little sooner. Though. these are considerations of importance, yet the want of an extensive back country will be an evil which Hudson must always experience. The whole distance up the river, the apple-trees and cherry-trees were in blossom, and the forest trees just putting out their foliage. Many of the lands were covered with wheat, which made a very pleasing appearance. There are several small villages near the banks of the river, all very inconsiderable, saving Hudson. Many people are employed in fishing on this river during the night. The shad are taken in great numbers; the sturgeon are sometimes caught with them; they are not used in Massachusetts, but are thought very valuable in Albany. The navigation of this river is excellent; hardly a rock in it which you can touch. There are near Albany some shoals of sand, on which vessels ground at low water; but they lay perfectly easy while in that situation. Vessels do not last many years in this river, and, what is very unusual, the bottoms perish first. I saw a vessel repairing, and the builder taking out all the navel timbers and the futtocks, which were quite rotten, though the vessel had been built but about eight years.
This river runs far up into the country above Albany. From New York to this place is about one hundred and sixty miles; the southern part of the river nearly two miles wide, the other much less, hardly half a mile in some places. It extends far into the country, and is capable, with an attention to canals and locks, of forming a very interesting navigation. Upon a late examination it has been discovered that the waters of an eastern Wood Creek, which empty into Lake Champlain, may with great ease be united with the waters of the Hudson, near Fort Edward. When this shall be accomplished, and some canals and locks made in different places, which business is now commenced, and will, I presume, be completed without difficulty, a water communication will be opened to a great part of the state of Vermont, which borders on Lake Champlain, some parts of which are nearly three hundred miles from Albany. Besides, it will open a communication by water with Quebec, so that the waters of the Hudson and of the St. Lawrence will be united. It is also agreed that a communication shall be opened with the great lakes westward, which to effect is not a difficult matter, by going up the Mohawk river, nearly to Fort Stanwix, now Schuyler, and uniting this river with a western Wood Creek, the waters of which are only eighty-one chains asunder, through a level swampy ground. The waters of Wood Creek empty themselves into the Oneida Lake, those into Ontario, into which all the waters from the great lakes pass; so that when the canals and locks shall be completed, which is not a very difficult task, a water communication will he opened into Canada, both by the Mohawk and the Hudson ; and into these general communications smaller ones may enter. On taking a general view of these things, the extensive advantages to be embraced by the measures adopted and now carrying into execution, I cannot help strolling into the uncertain field of conjecture that some day or other, not far distant from this place, Albany, will be the seat of a great empire.
I spent the remainder of the day in making some arrangements with General Schuyler respecting boats, boatmen, &c. and in viewing the city of Albany. It is built on the banks of the Hudson. There are three streets running parallel with the river, about half a mile in length ; the one called Market is well paved, and thereon are many valuable houses, built on the English mode; but a great proportion of the others are of the ancient Dutch form, with the ends at the street. There are many streets running from the river up and intersect the others nearly at right angles. There are five or six hundred houses in the city, the foundation of which was laid before New York was built. The people were led thus far into the country from the allurements of the Indian trade, which at that day was very important. The original settlers were from Holland. They have retained their ancient manners and language, and have so much secluded themselves from the world at large, that their reservedness has the appearance of a want of hospitality. There are four places of public worship, the Dutch church, the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, and the Methodist. It is a place of considerable business, and I think, by opening the canals and a communication by water with the different parts of the country, it will soon be much more important. The jealousy which has always existed between the Dutch and the New England people is fast subsiding; it should never have existed. It is important to the present governing interest to put an end to these things; for the time is not Tar distant, when the sons of New England and New England manners will prevail.