PENNSYLVANIA and NATIVE AMERICANS
Archive of over seventy manuscript documents and maps principally relating to the Walking Purchase
Pennsylvania: circa 1700-1762. Together, over 70 separate manuscript documents, comprising over 200pp, plus two important manuscript maps. Some documents separated at folds, one of the folding maps with cellotape repairs. A detailed listing available upon request.
An incredible archive of original source material relating to the infamous Walking Purchase.
Although no bloodshed was spilled and no massacres ensued, the Walking Purchase of 1737 is seen by many as one of the most underhanded betrayals ever perpetuated against Native American peoples. The present archive presents unprecedented, primary source documentation of the theft of nearly 1,100 square miles or 1.2 million acres in the Lehigh Valley.
Following William Penn's death in 1718, control of Pennsylvania fell to his sons and the Proprietors's representatives in America, most notably James Logan. By the 1730s, however, the Proprietors were in substantial debt. Their most important source of revenue -- the ability to sell lands in Pennsylvania -- had largely been exhausted since their remaining lands in the desirable upper Delaware Valley were largely held by Native claims. Those lands at the forks of the Delaware could be sold by the Proprietors, but only at a fraction of their value since the land could not be deeded, surveyed or settled unless a quitclaim was negotiated with the resident tribes to lift the Native American encumbrances. In September 1734, a conference was held at Durham with Chief Nutimus in an attempt to purchase those claims, but the Proprietors offered a mere fraction of the land's value and were refused.
"An open seizure of recognized Indian property would defeat its own purpose since the whole point of seizure would be to raise money by selling the seized lands, and no one would buy those lands if title continued to be encumbered by Indian claims publicly accepted to have merit. The Penns' problem was to devise ostensibly legal means of procedure to mask an illegal act. The device they hit upon was elaborately public enough of its aspects to achieve the desired appearance of legality. This was the Walking Purchase ... The Penns' new tactic depended on proving that the Forks of Delaware lands had really been bought and paid for by their father in the remote year of 1686, but that the boundaries of that purchase had not been measured off in the manner duly provided by the terms of the conveyance" (Jennings). Thus, the Penns miraculously "found" in their father's papers an "ancient copy" of a 1686 deed in which the Native tribes had sold to William Penn land at the forks of the Delaware, with the proviso that the specific boundaries of the purchase were to have been established by a man's day and a half walk from a stipulated starting point. Claiming that the Native Americans had been paid as per the terms of the treaty, but that the walk to determine the boundaries had never been performed, the Proprietors insisted that the walk be held and that Chief Nutimus and his fellow chiefs were already in debt to them.
It would be two years between the presentation of this purported 1686 treaty to the Indians at the May 1735 Pennsbury Conference and the eventual September 1737 walk. In the interim, a number of important events were orchestrated by the Proprietors to pressure the Indians into agreeing to the walk. In 1736, James Logan, with Conrad Weiser's assistance, executed a treaty between the Proprietors and the Iroquois Confederacy, in which they quitclaimed the land in question on behalf of the Lenape (even though they had no claim on that land to begin with), thus pressuring their native cousins over whom they asserted sovereignty. In August 1737 another conference was held, this time at Logan's estate Stenton, to convince the Lenape to agree to the walk. At the conference, a manuscript map was produced to show the chiefs the extent of the land in question, with a dotted line indicating the proposed walk. The map, however, like the copy of the 1686 deed, was a fraud. The geography of the region depicted was familiar to the Chiefs and appeared to represent a very small area of land. However, the English names on the map (which the Chiefs could not read), a distorted scale, as well as the purposeful absence of several geographic details, revealed it to depict a vast area instead: what the Chiefs assumed was a small area of land south of Tohickon Creek, was actually a very large region. Given the pressure from the Iroquois treaty and what appeared to be a minor piece of land, the Lenape Chiefs agreed to the walk.
The fraud did not end there. Unbeknownst to the Indians, the Proprietors had already carefully scouted the land, choosing a route for the walk and clearing the path, so that the maximum amount of distance could be travelled in the day and a half. Multiple walkers were carefully chosen from among the colony's fastest runners, and in the end, "walker" Edward Marshall reached a point 70 miles away, resulting in the boundaries of the purchase to enclose an area of 1.2 million acres, a region roughly the size of Rhode Island.
The Lenape immediately protested. But it was not until Benjamin Franklin, Charles Thomson and Israel Pemberton took up their cause in mid-1750s in which any action was taken on their behalf. In the midst of the French and Indian War, and fearful of the Delaware raids on the Pennsylvania frontier, conferences were held at Easton in 1756 and 1757 in an attempt to repair relations with the Lenape. Led by Chief Teedyuscung, the Lenape -- now backed by Franklin and a group of influential Quakers -- formally protested, resulting in a Royal Court ordered investigation, which culminated in evidence being presented to Sir William Johnson at the 1762 Easton Treaty. By then, with the French and Indian war completed, there was little reason for Johnson to support the Lenape claims and their protests were, for all intents and purposes, dismissed.
The present archive, evidently kept by an agent for the Proprietors (possibly Benjamin Chew?), is largely comprised of extensive documentation created in an attempt to justify the Proprietors's case. This includes numerous affidavits and heavily corrected drafts of affidavits, concerning the "ancient deed" of 1686 and the actual walk. This also includes eyewitness accounts of the walk and extracts from a diary purporting to authenticate the 1686, among others. Other legal documents include memos relating to legal strategy, detailed drafts of the minutes of the Easton conferences, eyewitness accounts of the Easton conferences with transcriptions of various speeches, drafts of proclamations of peace, memos outlining proposed settlements which would accommodate the Proprietors position and more. Notably included is a 12-page manuscript by Conrad Weiser, being a point by point rebuttal of Charles Thomson's An Enquiry into the Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawanese Indians from the British interest (London:1759).
Also included in the archive are significant documents from earlier dates. This includes a 1700 manuscript deed signed by the Sachems of the Susquehannah River granting land to William Penn (endorsed on verso by James Logan and others in 1735); a large manuscript map by Jonathan Harrison dated 1719, depicting the land between the Delaware River and the Susquehanna; manuscript lists of goods being given the various Indians in exchange for land; and an intriguing 11-page manuscript concerning the Pennsylvania/Maryland boundary dispute. Perhaps the most provoking document in the archive is an autograph letter signed by Thomas Penn to his agent James Steel, informing him that he cannot find "the coppy of the Indian Deed", perhaps referring to the infamous 1686 document. Significantly, a contemporary true copy of the 1686 deed is included and dates from as early as 1735 to the time of the Easton Conferences.
The archive includes an important manuscript map of the region by surveyor Nicholas Scull, which was prepared for the Proprietors in 1735 for use in a scheme to sell portions of the land in question by lottery. There is also a very interesting 1732 autograph letter signed by an Indian named Tattemey to Thomas Penn, seeking a Pennsylvania grant for land at the forks of the Delaware (even though he already held the Native claim). The archive includes several documents and letters concerning Indian troubles on the frontier in the 1740s, along with Indian protests to the Proprietors over rum being sold to their people.
An incredible primary source archive of early to mid-18th century manuscripts relating to an infamous period in Pennsylvania and Native American relations.
Francis Jennings, "The Scandalous Indian Policy of William Penn's Sons: Deeds and Documents of the Walking Purchase" in Pennsylvania History, vol. 37, no. 1 (January 1970), pp. 19-39; James H. Merrell, "'I Desire all that I have said ... may be taken down aright': Revisiting Teedyuscung's 1756 Treaty Council Speeches" in WMQ, 3d series, Vol. LXIII, No. 4 (October 2006); Steven C. Harper, Promised Land (Bethlehem:2006); Steven C. Harper, "Making History: Documenting the 1737 Walking Purchase", in Pennsylvania History, Vol. 77, No. 2 (2010); William J. Buck, History of the Indian Walk (Philadelphia: 1886).