Reading someone else’s mail: Captain Brant’s Conversation

A letter to Messers Street and Dickenson from government official — pitching the idea of reservations. 

This letter, found in Simcoe Papers Packet A 17 at Canadian Archives in Ottawa, offers a peek at how intergovernmental notes perceived Brant and the Five Nations at the time of writing, on March 29th, 1793.

Captain Brant showing an uneasiness for the present situation of the Five Nations and expressing his fears of the future welfare of  the rising generation, entered fully on matters in general, relative to the Indians and having delivered his sentiments freely, showed a wish to accommodate Government. As well as render an eminent service to his own people.

It being suggested that the rapid increase of the new settlements would soon deprive the Indians in their present situation, of their usual method of subsistence, and reflecting on their former mode of life, usages and customs opposed to the superior knowledge industry, craftiness, and intrigues of the whites, the prospect on the part of the Indians had but a melancholy aspect; That it would therefor be esteemed prudent in them, by every means in their power, to endeavour to form some permanent establishment, for the future comfort of their old men, women and children, and that the present was perhaps more favourable an opportunity as would again occur as it might now accommodate Government and be beneficial to themselves by relinquishing to Govt. some part of the lands on the Grand River for a consideration to be appropriated as hereafter might be thought most eligible.

On enlarging this conversation it was found that an accommodation of this kind had already been hinted at to C. Brant by his excellency G. Simcoe which at that time C.B. could not personally answer to, but that in revolving circumstances in his mind, he was induced to hope that the Indians would see it their interest to relinquish part of the lands on the Grand River should it be the wish of government to have them, and that he personally would use his endeavour to have the wishes of the government brought to effect.

In pursuing this conversation, C.B. opened his mind more freely and perceiving little more was a wanting to an accommodation on both parts than knowing the sentiments of both parts, than knowing the sentiments of each other thro: the medium of a third person, as well as thinking it incumbent on us (with permission of Captain Brant) to commit part of this conversation to writing in order to give Gov. the earliest communication of his sentiments that should be consequence be attended with beneficial effects we could only claim the merit of having done our duty and trust His Excellency will at once see it in the same disinterested light and should one of us have the Honour of a personal conversation with His Excellency will inform him with respect and particulars more fully.

Messers, Street and Dickenson

Newark 29th Mar. 1793

Related Posts