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Timothy Pickering on His Successful Negotiation of 1791 Treaty with the Five Nations, Unrealistically Hoping for Peace with other Western Native Americans
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from them no danger is to be apprehended: they are firmly resolved on peace…. I hope and trust the western campaign will succeed without bloodshed. Scott’s expedition was extremely fortunate; and must when combined with the consideration of the power of the main army, impel the hostile Indians if not to make, yet to accept of offers of peace...

TIMOTHY PICKERING. Autograph Letter Signed, likely to Samuel Hodgdon. August 25, 1791. Philadelphia, PA. 2 pp. 8 x 9¼ in.

Inventory #24376       Price: $2,500

Complete Transcript

Philadelphia Augt 25, 1791.

Dear Sir:

            I just now found at your house your favour of the 18th in which you gently upbraid me for not writing by a former conveyance. I had notice from Mrs H. I told her I would write; [loss of a couple words] & did not return in time. I wanted to write more especially to give you certain information of the result of the treaty with the Five Nations but I presume this has been done by Genl Knox; & that you already know that from them no danger is to be apprehended; they are firmly resolved on peace.

            Before this reaches you, you will have been informed of my appointment to the office of postmaster general. I shall come to reside in town myself; but not remove my family till the winter, when the snow shall render the road smooth & easy.

            I hope and trust the western campaign will succeed without bloodshed. [Charles] Scott’s <2> expedition was extremely fortunate; and must when combined with the consideration of the power of the main army, impel the hostile Indians if not to make, yet to accept of offers of peace.

            Capt. Hendrick [Aupaumut], the Stockbridge Indian Chief, left the place of my treaty the 12th of July [few words lost] ...hostile nations, in the name of his own nation, to mediate a peace. He is a discreet, judicious, worthy man: I hope you will have an opportunity of seeing & conversing with him; & in this case also I request you will show him attentions for my sake for I esteem him highly.

If I obtain leave of absence, I shall set off for Wyoming in two or three days when I will present your compliments as requested. Yesterday, I returned from New-York. Stevens & family well.

In haste affectionately adeiu.

                                                                        T. Pickering
Historical Background

As a special agent of the federal government, Colonel Timothy Pickering met with one thousand Iroquois, including Cayugas, Oneidas, Onondagas, Tuscaroras, Stockbridge, Mohawks and Mohicans, in early July 1791 near Elmira, New York and Tioga Pennsylvania, to prevent them from joining hostile western tribes in fighting American settlers. According to Diane Janowski, the Elmira city historian:

 “The eloquence of Col. Pickering’s speech proved to the Indians that they were wrong in questioning the Fort Stanwix treaty of 1784. The Indians believed that the Stanwix treaty was void because they were given alcohol and had signed under trickery. Some claimed that they had been told to sign for others who were not present. Pickering’s speech surprisingly won over the Indians…. Top of Form

Bottom of Form

The Treaty of Painted Post, signed in Elmira on July 26, 1791 directed the native peoples to accept that much of the land that they thought they owned was now the property of the United States. In return, they should receive the beneficence of the new nation by moving on to lands farther west…. At this time, they did not realize that millions of white people would eventually arrive and take most of their land. Some historians write that the treaty ended well, others claim it was disappointing. It helped to shore up differences between the Natives and the newcomers, but the talks ended the plans of Red Jacket, the Seneca chief, who refused to concede any lands to the white people.

The Papers of George Washington published the letter from Secretary of War Henry Knox to the President, noting that Pickering “has with great ability and judgment, carried into effect the objects of his appointment, by cementing the friendships between the United States and the said Indians.” A footnote reports, “concluding that reports that the Six Nations were preparing for war had been greatly exaggerated, Pickering spent much of the council assuring the assembled chiefs of the peaceful intentions of the U.S. government and urging them to encourage their people to adopt a sedentary agricultural life. Pickering’s efforts to persuade the Indians to abandon their traditional culture were met with resistance from the Seneca chief Red Jacket that threatened to undermine the treaty conference. Pickering’s journal of the affair is in MHi: Pickering Papers. The papers he sent to GW arrived shortly after the conclusion of the council on 17 July…”

In 1791, Brigadier General Charles Scott led a series of raids into the Northwest Territory. In July, he raided and destroyed the village of Ouiatenon in what is now west-central Indiana. Scott’s raids were preparatory to a major advance by some 1,400 men under the command of General Arthur St. Clair. In November 1791, near the Wabash River, a combined group of Miami and Canadians attacked St. Clair’s army, killing 600 and capturing 300. St. Clair retreated to Kentucky, having failed to awe the “hostile Indians.” Instead, formerly neutral Delawares and Wyandots allied with the Miami and Shawnee against the American settlers.

President Washington appointed Pickering as Postmaster General on August 12, 1791, two weeks before Pickering wrote this letter to his friend and former business partner.


Loss of a few words along folds, archivally repaired including leafcasting to even the edges.

Timothy Pickering (1745-1829) was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard College in 1763. Admitted to the bar in 1768, he entered the Continental Army as a colonel and in 1777 was appointed adjutant general.  He served as quartermaster general of the Continental Army from 1780 to the end of the war. In 1785, he moved to Philadelphia, and in 1786, to the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania, where he held local offices in Luzerne County. He served in the Pennsylvania convention that ratified the United States Constitution, and then as President Washington’s Postmaster General (1791-1795) and Secretary of War (1795). He was the nation’s third Secretary of State (1795-1800), in both the Washington and Adams administrations. After the election of 1800, Pickering briefly returned to private life, though maintaining a leading role in opposition to Thomas Jefferson. He served as a Federalist U.S. Senator from Massachusetts from 1803 to 1810, and then as a U.S. Representative from 1813 to 1816.

Samuel Hodgdon (1745-1824), born in Boston, served during the Revolutionary War in a variety of positions, including captain of artillery and field commissary of military stores under General Henry Knox. From 1780 to 1783, he was assistant to Quartermaster General Timothy Pickering. After the war, Hodgdon settled in Philadelphia, where he and Pickering formed a partnership as commission merchants from 1783 to 1788. On March 4, 1791, President Washington nominated Hodgdon as Quartermaster General. Among his first responsibilities was to prepare for General Arthur St. Clair’s ill-fated expedition to the Northwest Territory. Hodgdon’s lack of knowledge of frontier conditions led to poor decisions in equipping St. Clair’s army. A Congressional committee agreed with St. Clair in blaming Hodgdon for the defeat. In April 1792, he returned to his position in charge of military stores in Philadelphia, serving until 1800.

Hendrick Aupaumut (1757-1829) was a native diplomat and grand sachem of the Mahicans. Born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, he was educated by the Moravians. During the Revolutionary War, Aupaumut enlisted in the Continental Army. After the battle of White Plains in 1778, he was commissioned captain and presented a sword by General George Washington. After the war, the Stockbridges moved to Oneida Creek, New York, and established New Stockbridge, where Aupuamut became very influential as an intermediary between the Indians and the new government of the United States. He also translated the Bible and catechism into the language of his people.

Charles Scott (1739-1813) was born in Virginia, and orphaned at a young age. He served as a scout in the French and Indian War, rising to the rank of captain. Returning to the military during the Revolutionary War, he was promoted to colonel in 1776. Scott commanded General George Washington’s light infantry and served as chief of intelligence. In 1779, he became a prisoner with the surrender of Charleston. Paroled in March 1781, and exchanged sixteen months later, he engaged in recruiting until the war’s end.  He settled on the frontier in 1787, near what became Versailles, Kentucky. In 1790, he raised a company of volunteers for an Indian expedition, and conducted a series of successful raids. He participated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794.  From 1808 to 1812, Scott served as the fourth governor of Kentucky.

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