Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
December 8, 1892


Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.


It will be of interest now to consider the circumstances which led the Passamaquoddies at this time to side with the Americans.

The capture of Quebec, in 1759, by the English under Wolfe, proved a fatal blow to French power in North America.  One of the results which followed was the removal of the great disturbing influence which for so many years had inspired the Maliseets in their relentless hostility to the English.

Left to themselves, the Indians began to appreciate the kindness shown them from time to time by the Nova Scotia government.  Peace prevailed on all sides until the year 1765, when a little breeze ruffled the tranquil waters, but subsided without doing much harm.

The Indians threatened at this time to declare war against the frontier settlers because they frequently killed moose, beavers, and other wild animals, which the aborigines considered as their own exclusive property.  Indian chiefs came to Halifax about the matter, alleging that it was one of the conditions of a former treaty that the settlers should not kill any wild game in any part of the wilderness beyond the limits of their farms and improvements.  Governor Wilmot replied that all treaties must be strictly observed, and if the settlers had transgressed they should be severely reprimanded and restrained from continuing such practices.  The chiefs said that it might be out of their power to pacify their young men, unless compensation were made for the damage already done.  Examination, however, revealed the fact that the Indians had greatly exaggerated the number of wild animals destroyed.  After full inquiry, the governor gave a final answer to the effect that although the grievances complained of were by no means sufficient to justify the hostile proceedings, which had greatly alarmed the country and put the inhabitants to much trouble and expense, yet to do the Indians ample justice he would order a certain amount of clothing and provisions for their benefit, and also send orders to restrain the settlers from hunting wild animals in the woods.  The chiefs accepted this offer, and peace again prevailed.

General Gage was able, in July, 1768, to withdraw the garrisons at Fort Cumberland, Fort Frederick, and other outposts, and concentrate them at Halifax.

With the exception of a few local squabbles with the traders, and occasional remonstrances with such settlers as ventured to intrude upon their hunting or fishing grounds, the Indians remained quiet until the beginning of the Revolutionary war.

The assistance of the Passamaquoddy and St. John river tribes was then sought by both parties; but the Americans were first in the field, and reaped corresponding advantages.

The Massachusetts provincial congress addressed a letter to the eastern Indians, May 15, 1775,1 soliciting their aid.  The extracts quoted below will indicate the style of argument employed to seduce the simple forest children from their allegiance to the King of England:-

The Ministry of Great Britain have laid deep plots to take away our liberty and your liberty.  They want to get all our money, make us pay it to them when they never earned it; to make you and us their servants and let us have nothing to eat and drink or wear but what they say we shall, and prevent us from having guns and powder to use and kill deer, wolves and other game with or to send to you for you to kill your game and to get skins and furs to trade with us for what you want. . . . .

We want to know what you our good Brothers want from us of clothing or of warlike stores, and we will supply you as fast as we can.  We will do all for you we can and fight to save you at any time. . . .

Our good Brothers the Indians at Stockbridge all join with us and some of their men have listed as soldiers and we have given them that listed each one a Blanket and a Ribbon and they will be paid when they are from home in the service and if any of you are willing to list we will do the same for you.

Fortified with this letter, Captain John Lane and John Preble2 were sent to secure a pledge of assistance from the Maliseets.

The efforts of the American emissaries induced the Maliseet chiefs, Pierre Toma and Ambroise St. Aubin, when at the Penobscot truck-house, in September, 1775, to forward a letter to the Massachusetts authorities, stating they would heartily unite with their Penobscot brothers in opposing the people of Old England ‘that are endeavoring to take yours and our Lands and Libertys from us.’  They add that they have no where to look for assistance but to the Americans, and implore the good offices of the Massachusetts government in procuring them a priest, the English having removed their old one and failed to send another.  They further state,

We have no place to go to but Penobscot for support and we desire you would provide Amunition, Provisions and Goods for us there and we will come in there and give you our fur and skins and take our support from you in return and will be thankful to you for the kindness.

The proposals soon after made to the Indians by the Nova Scotia government speedily suggested to them the idea of playing a double part; which they did so effectively that it may be said they lived largely at the expense of both parties until the close of the war.

Ambrose Var was among the delegates of the St. John and Micmac tribes, at a conference held with the members of the council of Massachusetts Bay, at Watertown, in July, 1776.  According to the record of this conference3 he delivered to the president of the council ‘a large parchment, containing a Treaty made between those tribes and The Government of Nova Scotia, in 1760; Also a Letter to them from General Washington, dated February last, and a letter to them from the General Court of Massachusetts Bay dated in October last.'

The conference lasted several days.  A treaty of alliance and friendship was concluded on the 19th of July, in which the Indians agreed to furnish a band of 600 warriors.  In the eighth article-

The Delegates promise, and Engage to us their Utmost Influence with the Passamaquoddy & other Neighbouring Tribes of Indians to persuade them to furnish and supply for the said Service as many Strong Men of their Respective Tribes of Indians as Possible, and that they come along, with those of the Tribes of St. Johns and Micmack, and the said Governor of sd State of Massachusetts Bay, do hereby engage to give to such of the Passamaquoddy or Other Neighbouring Indians who shall enter into the Service of the United States of America, the same pay and Encouragement, in every particular as is above agreed to be given to the St. Johns or Micmack Indians and to Consider them as our friends, and Brother-

To the 600 Indians thus to be raised, it was proposed to add 250 white soldiers, and form the whole into a regiment under American officers.  The attempt, however, was a dismal failure.  Indeed it would appear that the Americans were sadly victimized by this treaty; for the Micmacs, a few weeks after it was signed, forwarded a letter in which they protested against being called on to engage in hostilities.  ‘We found,’ they say, ‘that some of our young men had been with you in the character of Chiefs and made a Treaty to go to war contrary to our desire; and as we understand from them, the matter was not rightly understood.’4

1See Kidder’s Military Operations in Eastern Maine and Nova Scotia, pp 51, 52.

2This John Preble died at Portland, of consumption, in 1787, aged 47 years.  He was for a while truckmaster to the Indians.  He was born at York, Me., 1740, married at Machias in 1783.

3A copy of the lengthy records of this conference is kindly placed at our disposal by Hon. Geo. M. Hanson, of Calais.  The document is interesting from the fact that the first party to the conference is designated at the commencement as ‘the Honble Council of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, in behalf of ye sd Colony and of all the United Colonies’; and at the close as ‘the Governors of the State of Massachusetts Bay.’  The unexpected event which caused this change of style is thus solemnly announced to the Indian delegates a week after its occurrence:

Those Colonies have lately by their Great Council at Philadelphia, declared themselves free and Independent States, by the Name of the United States of American the certain News of it and the Declaration itself are just come to Us.

4Justin Winsor, speaking of Indian treaties, in Narrative and Critical History of America, quotes approvingly Dr. Shea’s remark, ‘No intelligent man will believe that the Indians understood the law terms of these treaties; Hutchinson admits as much.’  It is to be feared there were other than law terms which the Indians frequently did not clearly understand.  The means employed by the whites to secure the assent of the Indian delegates to the provisions of their treaties can scarcely be commended.  For instance there was a conference at Boston in the year 1736, extending over three weeks, during which time nine chiefs from the Penobscot region lodged with one John Sale, who, in rendering his account for twenty-four days entertainment, charges for 3 half pints of wine per day each, 12 pence worth of rum per day each, 120 gallons of cider; also for damage done in breaking of sash doors, frames of glass, china bowls, double decanter and sundry glasses and mugs; for 2 gross of pipes and tobacco; for showing them the rope dancers; for washing 49 of their ‘greasy shirts;’ and for ‘cleaning and white washing two rooms after them.’

The following memorandum is attached to the account:

‘They eat for the most part between 50 and 60 pounds of meat per day, besides milk, cheese, etc.  The cider which they drank I sold at 12 shillings per quart.  Besides they had beer when they pleased.  And as for meat they had the best as I was ordered.’

Correction: Article XLVI contains the following correction to this one: "In Article xlv., the word ‘conference’ is misspelled in the paragraph beginning with the name of Ambrose Var.  In the quotation which follows the next paragraph, the first word of the second line should be ‘use;’ the other omissions of letters reproduce contractions and blunders in the original."