Throughout this blog series, the emphasis has always related either directly or indirectly to the Brant/Johnson households and their members. With this entry, a wider berth is being undertaken. As the course surrounding this blog concludes, it may be helpful to look back and evaluate the events in the revolutionary period as they pertain to Native peoples in a more macro-oriented perspective. That way the events of the period can be better integrated into the narrative of the Native American and their diminishing autonomy throughout the nineteenth century. This timeline attempts to do just that. Created using Knightlab’s Timeline JS software, it is a collaboration between print documentation, multimedia sources, and research. The purpose of the project is to enlighten the viewer of how the new federal government of the United States began to secure lands from American Indians and assumed a role of dominance over neighboring tribes. Treaty negotiations are interesting forms of diplomacy because they combine coercion, bribery, and legal maneuvering to cede land to an ever-expanding area of frontier settlement. As you will see from the presentation, most of these treaties were challenged almost immediately after their signing by the tribal leadership of the respective parties, and sometimes no distinction was made by the government agents drafting the agreements in respect to allied tribes who had helped them in battle and protected settlers from hostile forces. If the information outlined in the presentation piques your interest, be sure to take a look at some scholarly works that delve into much greater detail about the fortunes of some of the tribes mentioned therein.
Citizenship in the Revolutionary period was a highly selective and nebulous concept. According to the Naturalization law of 1790, Citizenship was bestowed on those individuals who had resided within the United States for two years, and had been a resident of a state for one. State laws established their own requirement for proving residency within their boundaries. It is also interesting to note that those seeking such title had to demonstrate “good character” to the court clerk before their application was granted. This essentially left bestowing citizenship up to the subjective perspective of the court. While later laws would broaden the requirements, and extend the length of residency before applying, the process remained insular to very particular subsets of the country’s population. Slaves, or free persons of color, were not eligible for the rights of citizenship. Though they may have been born in the United States, or had children who were, their status as non-persons excluded them from consideration. Native Americans were also not eligible for citizenship. This was partly due to the fact that they were not taxed by the federal government, but mainly because the framers did not consider Indians as capable of understanding the concept of citizenship and would be poor examples of its merits.
Using Joseph Brant as an example we can see why citizenship was selective and exclusionary. Brant had fought against the United States and led an army who had a poor reputation among Continentals during the war. However, unlike most Native Americans of the time (or European-Americans for that matter), Brant was educated and could read and write English. This coupled with his relationship with the late Sir William Johnson established his “good moral character”. He was offered acreage in Upstate New York along with compensation for his property which had been seized. The trade-off was that he would not be allowed to lead his fellow Mohawk back with him (they had taken refuge in Canada). This olive branch was also extended to quell border skirmishes which had continued in the back-country through the war’s conclusion. Brant refused this offer for several reasons: One, he considered the offer treasonous, just as he regarded the newly formed nation. Two, he would not be receiving the land he had been deprived of and its value was incomparable with the titles his family had held before the war. Three, he considered it unconscionable to abandon his people to return to New York and Four, it would be extremely dangerous to move back with his family to a country whose citizens considered him a war criminal.
Even more than his personal decision, Native peoples and other racial minorities had once again received a raw deal. They had fought and died, much like their white counterparts, to create a new nation conceived in personal civil liberties and freedom from tyrannical oppression. Their reward in the aftermath of the conflict was the same kind of arbitrary relegation in status that had marginalized them in the beginning. A citizen of the United States in the post-revolutionary period was a “gentlemanly”, white, mainly protestant landowner. Everyone else were the unfortunate remnants of the previous regime.
Moffitt, Sally. “Encyclopedia of Minorities in American Politics.”
Reference & User Services Quarterly 39, 4 (2000): 410-410.
Daniels, Roger. “Coming to America: A History of Immigration and
Loyalists who stayed in the United States met either with good or bad outcomes. As for to the Johnsons, they were among the lucky who were able to rebuild their lives. As I said in a previous blog Sir John Johnson and his family will eventually settle in Canada and buy a lot of real-estate to replace what he losses in New York that Sir John Johnson inherited from his father, Sir William Johnson. At this point in time, if you owned land and a lot of it you were wealthy. He took on roles as a member of the Legislative Council or Lower Canada and as Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs and remained active in this position until his death. There are two statues of the Johnsons. One is of William Johnson and the other is a Johnson Statue in Johnstown, NY.
As for Molly and Joseph Brant their outcome after the war were a mixed bag. After the Revolutionary War Molly and her native people that were loyal were denied the opportunity to address their grievances in the Treaty of Paris in 1783. They lost their ancestral homeland, but they were granted Canadian land and financial compensation. They moved to the an Old French fort at Cataraqui, which was near Kingston, Ontario. The government built a house for Molly and for her brother Joseph right next to each other. The British government also granted Molly a pension of hundred pounds per year and twelve hundred pounds for property loss in the Revolutionary War. There is a statue of Molly’s head facing the Cataraqui River and a statue of Joseph Brant in Ottawa, Ontario.
The memory over time of the Revolutionary War has shifted from the important moments to people’s experience as they fought to establish independence from the tyranny of Great Britain. People on both sides of the war have been forgotten. People like the Brant and Johnson family whose land was taken from them and had to move to an unfamiliar foreign country. Patriotism and Nationalism have overshadowed other interpretations of the Revolution. Not that we wanted to get any from the tyranny that we thought was controlling their taxes and representation to once free became a tyranny over African American slaves. We only remember the good things that happened or came out of the war and not the horrible things we did to loyalist families and Native Americans during and after the war. The struggles to understand both sides of the story rages on.
At the conclusion of the American Revolution and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, it was only to be expected that the Native tribes who had served as allies on both sides of the conflict would receive just compensation for the great losses (in the form of both lives and land) they had experienced as a result of the brutal fighting. However, this was certainly not the case. The Treaty of Paris made no provisions for the tribes of the Six Nations who had allied with the British or the Americans during the war. Rather, they were forced to make their own arrangements, a circumstance that was understandably infuriating to the Iroquois.
As a part of the peace following the war, the British ceded all of its territory east of the Mississippi River, south of the Great Lakes, and north of Florida to the new American nation, essentially giving away the land of their valuable native allies. After losing so much during the war, the tribes who had allied with the British felt betrayed, forgotten, and deceived. However, left to their own devices, they would negotiate with the British in order to secure new land on which to settle, as much of their land had been destroyed during the fighting, especially during John Sullivan’s scorched earth campaign, in which crops and forty Iroquois villages were burned.
In the years leading up to the revolution, Sir William Johnson had played a vital role in maintaining diplomatic relations between the British government and the native tribes of the Iroquois confederacy, namely the Mohawk tribe. However, his death in 1774 came at a time when he would have been needed the most, as the outbreak of the American Revolution was quickly approaching. However, his wife Molly Brant and her brother Joseph Brant readily stepped up to fill the role that Sir William had left behind. Joseph Brant petitioned Governor Frederick Haldimand, a British military officer and the governor of the province of Quebec from 1778-1786, for land on which the Iroquois could settle. Governor Haldimand granted land on the Bay of Quinte, located on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, to the Mohawk. The Bay of Quinte was settled primarily by those members of the Mohawk tribe that had traveled to Montreal. Joseph Brant and Mohawk refugees at Fort Niagara, on the other hand, settled on the Grand River. In 1784, Governor Haldimand signed a decree known as the Haldimand Proclamation that granted the Iroquois land on both sides of the Grand River from its origin to Lake Erie. This land would ultimately be the foundation for the Six Nations Reserve.
Molly Brant also continued to be an important part of protecting the livelihood of the Mohawk tribe. It is believed that Molly used her influence with the British government to receive some compensation for her people. For her role as a diplomat and translator between the British and their native allies, she was granted an annual pension and a house in Cataraqui, which is now Kingston, Ontario. There are reports that the Americans offered Molly Brant financial recompense if her family returned to the Mohawk Valley. However, she justifiably turned down the proposition “with utmost contempt.” Why would she wish to return to a new nation formed out of the suffering and brutal treatment of her people? After all, the American people still resented the Mohawks for allying with their enemies. They certainly would have no qualms about treating the natives unjustly on the foundation that Mohawk support of the British hindered what they saw as a cause devoted to liberty.
While the Mohawks, under the leadership of Molly and Joseph Brant, were forced to remind the British of their invaluable service during the war, they were able to gain land in Canada as compensation for their efforts. However, the tribes of the Six Nations Confederacy that sided with the Americans during the war, the Oneidas and Tuscaroras, were not as fortunate. The 1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix contained provisions that gave land back to the Oneidas, but the treaty was not enforced in its entirety, and Oneida landholdings were severely reduced as a result. The Oneidas and Tuscaroras suffered from a shortage of land as well as starvation. Certainly, the Mohawks were more successful at negotiating with the British than were the Oneidas and Tuscaroras at securing land from the Americans. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to ascertain whether the English-allied tribes might have received more compensation or simply had less difficulty doing so if Sir William Johnson had still been living. As a British official and a wealthy man, the British would have held Sir William in a higher regard than the native Brants, and he likely would have had greater influence when attempting to secure land and financial recompense after the war. Nonetheless, while the Brant family and their people did receive land in Canada on which to settle as compensation for the land they had lost during the war, they resented and mistrusted their American neighbors for the native lives that had been lost at their hands. It is likely that many Native Americans viewed the land they received as a pale comparison to the suffering they had experienced as a result of the American Revolution.
The Brant family and Mohawk people as whole were likely ready to start anew in Canada and restore some semblance of the lives they had lived before the war. While they still mistrusted the Americans, they were likely optimistic about the potential of their settlement in Canada and sought to remain uninvolved in future conflicts involving their American neighbors.
Though the War of American Independence ended in 1783, fighting on the frontier continued. Molly Brant, who had moved to Canada in 1778, was intimately connected to this continuing conflict between Native Americans and those calling themselves “Americans.” Her brother Joseph continued to move across the porous border between British Canada and the newly independent American states, in an effort to preserve Iroquois land and sovereignty. This quest was increasingly difficult, however, because of the chaotic state of affairs on the western edge of the American states and confusion over who governed those regions under the Articles of Confederation. The Brant family, fully entrenched in Canada by the time the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787, likely saw this new federal government as the next threat to Native American sovereignty and would have been opposed to the new constitution. The American Constitution did not change American desire for expansion; rather, it centralized power and made it possible for the new United States to pursue westward expansion wholeheartedly.
The government under the Articles of Confederation did not provide any meaningful direction for policy towards the Native Americans, and essentially allowed states to pursue their own interests in acquiring land from Native Americans. Congressional power to negotiate was limited to “Indians, not members of any of the states,” an ambiguous loophole that left the actual delineation of power unclear (Nichols, 23). States sought to pay their debts after the war by selling Indian lands, and under the Articles of
Confederation, they had the power to do so (Nichols, 23). And yet, relationships between the American states and Native American nations were confused by the Confederation Congress’ attempts to negotiate with them, apart from negotiations with the states. In 1784, Indian Commissioner Arthur Lee met with representatives of the Iroquois and other tribes at Ft. Stanwix. The meeting, for the most part, was a failure: there weren’t enough representatives from the Iroquois or other nations for the Native Americans to commit to anything, and Arthur Lee and other American commissioners were disrespectful and heavy-handed, demanding that the Indians recognize American sovereignty over lands reserved to Natives by the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix. The 1783 Treaty of Paris had given Americans sovereignty over the lands the British had promised to the Native Americans without Native American input, a betrayal that stung for decades and colored Native American interactions with both the British and the new American states.
Confusion over state versus federal sovereignty, continued encroachment from white settlers on Indian land, and a failing economy meant that the borderlands of the western frontier were essentially lawless. Indian federationists, with encouragement and leadership from Joseph Brant, continue to push back at white settlement and towards sovereignty and self-determination for their nations. British post-war policy focused on appeasing those nations that had stayed loyal, and Joseph Brant took advantage of this to acquire land for the Iroquois at Grand River (which he then spent the next several decades fighting over with the British government, but that’s a different story for another blog post!). This Grand River settlement became a base for the federationist forces to continue to push back against American encroachment on their traditional lands.
In 1785, Molly Brant traveled back to New York to meet with Philip Schuyler, then Indian Commissioner for the Confederation Congress. Her lands in New York and those of her children had been confiscated by the government, and they needed Molly’s signature to make the transfer of property. However, Schuyler told her, because her children had been minors during the war, they could have their lands back, and Molly would be paid for her losses, if Molly would agree to return to the United States and act in a diplomatic capacity, negotiating with Native Americans in the west. Molly declined the offer, and never set foot in America again (Leavey 159). Returning to Canada, she continued to be involved with Iroquois attempts for self-determination, but was fiercely opposed to much of US government policy. The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1789 produced a document which centralized the new United States’ treaty-making power. Only the federal government could make treaties with Indian tribes. The Constitution, however, left Native Americans in an indefinite space. As “Indians not taxed,” they were not included in the population counts apportioning representation, and indeed, until 1924, they were not counted as citizens of the United States. Furthermore, the constitutional provision for adding new states to the union was tacit encouragement of continued westward expansion into Native American lands. After the confusion of the post-war Confederation years, the 1789 Constitution pulled the disjointed American states into the United States, but completely excluded Native Americans from that process. Indeed, the formation of the United States was predicated on an assumption of continued westward expansion. The exclusion of Native Americans from citizenship and the writing of the Constitution and the presumption of westward expansion would have made it impossible for Molly or Joseph to support the new Constitution.
It was a dangerous time for Sir John Johnson and his family after the American Revolution. They were loyalist and traitors in the eyes of the newly formed United States of America. Before the war was over Sir John Johnson and his family left their home in the Mohawk valley in New York and fled to Canada. While in Montreal, Sir Johnson was commanded to recruit the first battalion of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York. He eventually recruited a second one in 1780. He fought in many battles in which he defeated the Americans nearby Oriskany.
After the war Governor Frederick Haldimand appointed Sir Johnson to oversee the settlement of loyalist refugees that where located at the upper St. Lawrence and the Bay of Quite. After that he petitioned the king to get new settlements throughout Canada. When he wasn’t named first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada when it was created in 1791, he moved to London where he and his family stayed for four years. After he felt his abilities and contribution were not welcomed he moved back to Montreal in the fall of 1796. He was appointed to the Legislative Council of Lower Canada and continued his duties as head of the Indian Department. As head of the Indian Department he made sure the Indian’s needs, rights, and interests were served. So as you can see some of his wealth he had carried over or he gained from varies high ranking positions he held over the years.
Sir John Johnson did continue to obtain real state to replace what he lost in New York. Even though he already owned a country resident in Lachine and in the suburbs below Montreal he bought a house on a large lot in Upper Canada, in a town called Kingston. He also bought property in Cornwall, large tracts On Lake St. Francis and the Raisin River, and on Amherst Island. He also bought smaller holding in various parts of Canada. Sir Johnson purchased land in Argenteuil which was about 54,000 acres and in Monnoir which was about 84,000 acres. He was never satisfied which how much he collected.
With being a loyalist and relocated in Canada, Sir John Johnson’s wealth followed him and he made out more then most. He was able to rebuilt his houses that he had in New York in Canada. He also ended up renaming the the area he relocated in Canada Mount Johnson. He helped his family to remain wealth through his name and titles. As for other loyalist refugees they didn’t rebound as kindly as Sir John Johnson. The African American loyalist were either shipped to Canada, Great Britain, or the Caribbean Islands. Most of the African Americans who were shipped to Great Britain were often sent back to Africa because there wasn’t any room in a already over populated country. Others had their freedom taken away once again and were either under their captures rule or sold for profit. The trip to Canada was harsh in it’s self. Some were not prepared for the journey if you were lucky enough it might have took you thirteen days or longer. The roads were muddy and some had to travel land and water. The results of the American Revolution did not treat Sir Johnson harshly and with his intelligence and great timing he benefited because of it.