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THE ASCENDANCY OF FRANCE UPON THE OHIO.
The year 1754 may be indicated as the period when the favorable sentiments which Croghan and Gist had ascertained and cultivated among the Ohio Indians, began to change to hostility. It was a year of French activity and English folly. The colonies were alarmed, but inefficient and parsimonious; while the French labored zealously to conciliate the Indians by gifts and flatteries. The envoys of the latter did not alarm the savages by any demands—their only object was to conciliate good will. “During the autumn of 1754," says Perkins, “the pleasant Frenchmen were securing the west step by step ; settling Vincennes, gallanting with the Delawares, and coquetting with the Iroquois, who still balanced between them and the English. The forests along the Ohio shed their leaves, and the prairies filled the sky with the smoke of their burning; and along the great rivers, and on the lakes, and amid the pathless woods of the west, no European was seen whose tongue spoke other language than that of France."1
On the other hand, the infatuation of the colonists in seeking a grant of extensive tracts, occupied by Ohio Indians, from the Iroquois—the increasing numbers and influence of the Shawanese, who were the hereditary enemies of the English, and whose professions otherwise to Gist were probably hypocritical or mercenary—the failure of the colonies to continue their donations to the western Indians, while French emissaries swarmed in every village, with gifts of trinkets and exchanges of ammunition and ardent spirits; and finally the evidences of French activity and strength afforded by the erection of forts at Sandusky, Vincennes, Miamis, Presque Isle, Du Quesne, &c.—all these circumstances conspired to alienate even the Delawares and Miamis from the English, and to make all the tribes either allies or acquiescent spectators of the French inroad. The main body of the Wyandots, and the Ottawas, without exception, became the active allies of the French.
1) Perkins' Writings, ii, 280.
Perhaps no one was more keenly sensitive to the approaching danger, and more sagacious in devising means to avert it, than Benjamin Franklin. He was the life and soul of the Albany Congress of 1754, which was summoned to promote the common defence and general welfare of the colonies, and his writings reflect vividly the weakness of the English counsels as contrasted with his clear perception of the exigencies of the crisis. No western annalist should omit a cordial recognition of Franklin's timely and valuable suggestions on the eve of that momentous struggle which terminated French dominion upon the St. Lawrence and the Obio.
As is well known, the Albany Convention of 1754, resulted in a plan of union, drawn by the sagacious Franklin, which was deemed too loyal to the crown by the colonies, and too democratic by the Court of England, and therefore was universally rejected. There were present delegates from New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The Six Nations were also represented by Hendrick, the Mohawk Sachem, and certainly no one was more capable than an Iroquois chieftain to impress upon the delegates the necessity of union. The policy of a confederacy had been the secret of the strength of the Five Nations, and it was a remarkable incident at the council of Lancaster, in 1744, that a recommendation of Union came from Cannastego, one of their orators. At the session of the FOURTH OF JULY, of that year, the eloquent Onondaga warrior used this language:
“We have one thing further to say, and that is, we heartily recommend union and good agreement between you and your brethren. Never disagree, but preserve a strict friendship for each other, and thereby you, as well as we, will become the stronger.
“Our wise forefathers established union and amity between the Five Nations; this has made us formidable : this has given us great weight and authority with our neighboring nations. We are a powerful confederacy; and by your observing the same methods which our wise forefathers have taken, you will acquire fresh strength and power; therefore, whatsoever befalls you, never fall out with each other.”
There are evidences that Franklin's thoughts had been for some time turned to a union of the colonies. He had thrown out hints to that effect in his newspaper. The Pennsylvania Gazette for May 9, 1754, contains an account of the capture by the French of Captain Trent's party, who were erecting a fort (afterwards Fort Du Quesne) at the fork of the Ohio. The article was undoubtedly written by the editor. After narrating the particulars and urging union to resist aggression, he adds: “The confidence of the French in this undertaking seems well grounded in the present disunited state of the British colonies, and the extreme difficulty of bringing so many different governments and assemblies to agree in any speedy and effectual measures for our common defence and security ; while our enemies have the very great advantage of being under one direction, with one council and one purse.” At the end of the article is a wood cut, in which is the figure of a snake, separated into parts, to each of which is affixed the initial of one of the colonies, and at the bottom, in larger capitals, the motto, “ JOIN OR DIE.” It is well known that this device was adopted with considerable effect at the beginning of the Revolution. In some of the newspapers of that day, the mutilated snake makes a conspicuous head-piece, running across the page, and accompanied by the same significant motto.2
Not discouraged by the Albany failure, Franklin persisted in devising other measures of relief for the colonial crisis. He brought forward his “Plan for settling two Western Colonies in North America, with reasons for the plan,” dated 1754, and probably written shortly after the Albany Convention of that year. One of these barrier colonies was to guard the Niagara frontier, and the other to occupy the northern bank of the Ohio. This was to be done by organizing a joint stock, one share of which, calling for a blank number of acres, was to be transferred to every settler or subscriber of a given amount of money-by which he anticipated that sufficient men and means would be collected, “ provided only,” added the shrewd Franklin, “that the crown would be at the expense of removing the little forts the French have erected in their encroachments on his Majesty's territories, and supporting a strong one near the Falls of Niagara, with a few small armed vessels, or half-galleys to cruise on the lakes.'
For the security of the Lake Colony in its infancy, he proposed a temporary fort on French Creek, the principal branch of the Alleghany River, but which Franklin calls “Buffalo creek of the Ohio,” and “ another at the mouth of the Tioga, on the south side of Lake Erie, where a port should be formed and a town erected for the trade of the lakes.” I presume that “ Tioga” was intended for Cuyahoga, for he immediately adds, that “the colonists for this settlement might march by land through Pennsylvania.”
2) Sparks' Franklin, iii, 25.
The next paragraph contains an allusion to Fort Sandusky, which demonstrates that it was founded before 1754 at least.
“ The river Scioto, which runs into the Ohio about two hundred miles below Logstown, is supposed the fittest seat of the other colony; there being for forty miles on each side of it, and quite up to its head, a body of all rich land: the finest spot of its bigness in all North America, and has the particular advantage of sea-coal in plenty (even above ground in two places,) for fuel, when the wood shall be destroyed. This colony would have the trade of the Miamis or Twightwees; and should, at first, have a small fort near Hochockin, at the head of the river, and another near the mouth of the Wabash. Sandusky, (in the earliest edition of Franklin's Works written Sanduski,) a French Fort near the Lake Erie, should also be taken ; and all the little French forts south and west of the lakes, quite to the Mississippi, be removed, or taken and garrisoned by the English.
These colonies were to be on the French plan of western colonization, every fort having a small settlement around it, one furnishing protection and the other provisions ; and Franklin assumes that there are already in all the old colonies many thousands of families that are ready to swarm, wanting more land,” who would be attracted by “the richness and natural advantages of the Ohio country." He opens his essay, indeed, by observing that “the great country