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Letter from John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg to Thomas Mifflin
Muhlenberg, John Peter Gabriel, 1746-1807
July 05, 1784
Volume 17, Pages 159-161

-------------------- page 159 --------------------

Philadelphia, July 5th, 1784.


I have the honor to inform your Excellency that I am just returned from the Falls of Ohio, where during my stay of two months, I endeavored to make myself acquainted as much as circumstances would admit of with the present disposition of the Indians in that quarter relative to a peace with America. I take the liberty of troubling your Excellency with the few remarks I have made, wishing to conduce towards hastening the Treaty with the Indians as it is the opinion of those best acquainted with Indian affairs this is the critical time in which the best opportunity offers either to establish a peace or to prevent them from forming a combination against us.

From the best accounts we could get at the Falls, several attempts have been lately made by some of the Indian nations to form a general confederacy which was prevented by the Shawanese who refused to join, until they should be fully apprised of our intentions, and by a quarrel which arose between the Kickapoos and Chickasaws who are now engaged in a desperate War. A public embassy from the Shawanese arrived at the Falls during my stay there; they informed us that it was the general wish of the Nation to engage in a firm and lasting peace, but so much time had elapsed since hostilities between America and Great Britain had ceased in which nothing had been done in regard to them, that they suspected our intentions with regard to them were not friendly. And in their private discourse, they gave us repeated hints, that if we meant to take any of their lands on the West side of the Ohio, it would not be given up without a contest; they have however delivered up a part of the prisoners among them and have promised to bring in the whole.

The Piankshaws likewise sent an embassy requesting a treaty, but their numbers and influence are small and I believe their coming was occasioned by a report that an armed force was coming against them, to chastise them for some depredations they had committed near the Falls.

-------------------- page 160 --------------------

In April last a Council was held at Opost, to which the different Tribes on the Wabash were invited, but none attended except the Piankshaws. The Owiottonons, Maumicas, Kickapoos, and lower Delawares refused and not only threatened the Piankshaws if they went to council but openly declared that they intended to commence hostilities against us, and I have reason to believe that nothing hitherto prevented them but the hope they still entertain of being joined by the Shawanese and their allies.

The Chickasaws have been and still show themselves friendly, giving every assistance to our people coming into the Nation. They sent me a message to the Falls in May requesting our assistance against the Kickapoos, and informed us that the Kickapoos had lately killed 5 or 6 white men at the mouth of the Ohio, and burnt one man where fort Jefferson lately stood. They gave us likewise another piece of information on which I however lay no great stress. That the Spaniards had promised them, and some of the neighboring Nations to supply them with ammunition, &c., provided the Americans should attempt to dispossess them of any of their lands. From every observation that I have made, I am lead to believe that the Shawanese at present take the lead, among the Indian Nations on the Western waters, &c., that if a general Treaty cannot be held at this time a partial treaty with them would keep the other Nations quiet and give us so much time at least as will be necessary to provide against the worst. If this is not done before the Fall I am convinced from the present situation of affairs that a War is unavoidable. The frontier Inhabitants show as much inclination for it as the Indians, expecting that troops from every quarter will be sent to their assistance.

The Gentlemen who received the Illinois Grant of 150,000 acres opposite Louisville on the west of the Ohio, have already laid off a Town in that district, which is settling fast, and this would probably give rise to an immediate quarrel.

I should not trouble your Excellency with these remarks, did I not plainly foresee the miserable situation to which the frontiers will be reduced by a War, breaking out at this time, when the Inhabitants are totally unprepared; lulled into Security by depending on a general treaty; and on succors, which at any rate must come too late, if the Indians act decidedly.

-------------------- page 161 --------------------

Permit me further Sir, to express my fears with regard to the places at which it is said the treaties are to be held, Fort Pitt and Louisville. The Inhabitants near the first have not forgot poor1 Crawford and his fellow Sufferers; those at the latter still remember the Blue Lick and other places where the Indians exercise their cruelties upon them, and private revenge will certainly take place especially in a Country where every man thinks he has a right to do, what seemeth best in his own eyes. Fort McIntosh the mouth of great Miami or the new Town opposite Louisville, would be much more eligible and prevent the mischiefs that might otherwise arise. As I mean to become a residenter on the Western Waters, and shall set out again for the falls in September next, I shall be happy to be the bearer of any orders, either from Your Excellency, or the Honorable the Committee of Congress.

I have the honor to be, &c.,
His Excellency,
The President of Congress.


1 Colonel Crawford lately taken prisoner and cruelly murdered by the Delawares.