Primary Source

Excerpts from the Treaty of Albany (1722)

Annotation

By the mid-18th century, the Iroquois Confederacy was a significant sovereign power and the main physical buffer between the English colonies in the northeast (New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and New England) and French settlements around the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. As tensions rose in the first half of the century between England and France, both sought to please the Iroquois so that the Confederacy would maintain its neutrality. However, Iroquois peace with Europeans did not guarantee Iroquois peace with other Indian nations. Iroquois war parties also travelled up and down the Susquehanna valley through Pennsylvania and Virginia to attack their long-time enemies, the Catawbas, in South Carolina. The external threat of the French paired with colonists getting caught in Iroquois-Catawba crossfire pushed Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia to reach out to his counterparts in Pennsylvania and New York with hopes of bringing the Iroquois to heel. The Treaty of Albany (1722), signed by the five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and the English colonies of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, worked to create a boundary line between the Iroquois and the English that would minimize frontier violence and keep peace between European and Indian nations. Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia, in particular, primarily looked for ways to maintain peace with the Iroquois. However, the governor was also keen to find legal means of moving more settlers onto Indian lands to further expand the growing British Empire, and the wording of treaty documents was a perfect space to do that.

"The Treaty of Albany," 1722, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New-York, Vol. 5

Text

Propositions made to the Five Nations of Indians to wit the Maquase, Oneydes,
Onnondages Cayouges & Sinnekees, by His Excellcy Alex : Spotswood Esqre
Governor of His Matys Dominion of Virginia in Albany ye 29 Aug 1722
Present—His Excellcy Alex: Spotswood Esqre Governor of Virginia
Coll Nathaniel Harrison Esqre of His Majestys Council of Virginia
Coll William Robinson Esqre a Member of the House of Burgesses
of Virginia
Interpreted by Lawrence Claese after it was translated into Dutch by Robt Livingston

Sachims & Warriors of ye 5 Nations
You often say that your Covenant Chain with Virginia is grown rusty, & have urged of late years, that some Commissioners from that Colony should be sent to this Place to brighten the same
This is an old Story which the People of Virginia remember to have been continually rung in their ears & are sensible that none of the many Treaties which they have made for near fifty years past have ever been long observed on the Part of the 5 Nations Wherefore I am now come hither as Governor of Virginia accompanied by some members of that Government in order to try if our Covenant Chain cannot be so polished as never more to grow rusty & to endeavor at establishing an everlasting Peace between your People and ours comprehending not only the Christian Inhabitants of Virginia but also the several Nations of Indians belonging to and subject to that Government & according to the custom of this Place, I signify to you this Proposition by giving 2 Belts of Wampum, ye one for the Government of Virginia & the other for all its tributary Indians
Nothing but your assuredly promising (as you did here last year to your Governor) that you would agree to the Preliminary Articles offered by Virginia could have perswaded that Government to send hither to treat with you and therefore before I enter upon any other matter, I expect you to ratify & confirm that principle article which you have declared that you will faithfully observe If I take care that our Indians perform the same on their Part Viz «' That the great River of Potowmak & the High Ridge of Mountains which extend all along the Frontiers of Virginia to the Westward of the present Settlements of that Colony shall be for ever the established Boundaries between the Indians subject to the Dominion of Virginia & the Indians belonging to and depending on the 5 Nations: So that neither our Indians shall on any pretence whatsoever pass to the Northward or Westward of the said Boundaries without having to produce a Passport, under the Hand and Seal of the Governor or Command in Cheif of Virginia nor your Indians pass to the Southward or Eastward of the said Boundaries without a Passport in like Manner from the Governor or Commander in Cheif of New York "
Now not only our Indians have given us solemn assurances of their keeping within the prescribed Limits but we have also by this act of Assembly taken such measures for their due performance of the same that the Government of Virginia undertakes and engages for their nations in this Particular, so that nothing remains but that the 5 Nations ratifie & confirm the said Article, which I expect should be done in a Solemn manner not only by their Sachims but also by all their Warriors here present & for that purpose I offer you this fine Coronet as a singular Token to be held up in the Presence of all who are upon this occasion assembled, by that Person whom you shall appoint to declare the General Assent of the 5 Nations to this Proposition and let all your People Present at the same time give a shout to be taken as a Signal Testimony of their Concurrence besides I will have it signed by your Sachims & myself before I will either propose or present you with any thing further on the part of Virginia

Answer of the five Nations of Indians viz the Maquase Oneydes, Onnondages,
Cayouges & Sinnekes to His Excellcy Alexr Spotswood Governor of His
Matys Dominion of Virginia, in Albany ye 6th day of Septr 1722
We the Sachims of the five Nations, The Mohogs, Oneydes, Onnondages Cayouges & Sinnekees, together with the Tuscarores are come here upon His Excellcy the Governor of New Yorks message…

Brother Assarigoe
You told us some days ago that the five Nations say that ye Covenant Chain which was made betwixt us, & Virginia fifty years ago is grown rusty & that we did not long keep or observe the Condition of it & you have forbid us to pass the Southside of the Great River Kahongoronton which you call Potowmack or to the East side of the great Ridge of Mountains which extend all along the Frontiers of Virginia
In the first place we agree to this Article & faithfully promise not to pass over the great River Kahongoronton which the English call Potowmack nor the great Rid[g]e of Mountains which extend along your Frontiers we are glad to find you are come here to renew the Peace as well in the behalf of the Christians as ye Indians of Virginia We wish you had brought some of ye Sachims of your Indians that they might have spoke to us face to face & have put their hands into the Covenant Chain, but since you are come here we agree to accept what you offer in their behalf in the same manner as if they were present, and tho’ there is a Nation amongst you, the Toderechrones against whom we have had so inveterate an enmity, that we thought it impossible it could be extinguished, but by a total Extirpation of them, yet since you desire it we are willing to receive them into this Peace & to forgive all that is past…
You have told us that we may pass the great River Kahongoronton & the Great Ridge of Mountains provided we have a Passport from the Governor of New York and we promise you again, not to pass to the Southward or Eastward of the said Boundaries without such a Passport…
And a Memorandum was made under the Propositions of the Governor of Virginia importing that one the sixth day of September 1722 the Sachims & Warriors of the five Nations together with divers cheifs of the Tuscarores made their answer by Ondaghsighte a Sachim of Oneyde their Speaker Chosen for that purpose & did solemnly declare the assent of the whole 5 Nations including the Tuscarores & fully agreed to the said Propositions relating to the Peace & Boundaries & that in Testimony thereof they held up the Coronet & signed these Propositions

The Further Propositions of the Governor of Virginia made to the five Nations
on the 10th Septr 1722
Sachims & Warriors…
I have already told you y' we have made a Law in Virginia to oblige a due performance of yt Article of the Boundaries which you have ratified & it is highly expedient that I now particularly inform you thereof
If any Indians of the aforenamed Nations belonging to Virginia or those whom you declare to be dependent on your five Nations shall hereafter transgress the said Boundaries without having the proper Passeports already mentioned every such Indian is by that Law liable to be put to death or transported & sold for a slave & as the Government of Virginia will not demand satisfaction for whatever you shall do to any of their Indians whom you shall take on the North Side of Potowmack River & on the West Side of the high Ridge of Mountains so your people must not look upon it as any Breach of the Peace & Friendship which Virginia desires to preserve with the five Nations, if that Government shall hang or transport any of your Indians who shall hereafter be taken without a proper Passport on the South Side of the said River & on the east Side of the said Ridge, And I cannot but think that the wiser sort of your People must approve of a Law that will oblige your foolish & ungovernable young men to hearken (better than they always have done) to the sage Council of the Elders & to observe more punctually a Treaty which their Sachims have thought fit to make for them and in Token of your five Nations as well as our Ten Nations of Indians being bound by this Law I give fifteen Guns & that you & your children May at all times to come truly understand what is contained in it, I have brought it hither, under the Seal of the Colony of Virginia & now lodge it in the hands of this Government…

Further Answer of ye five Nations to His Excellency Alex: Spotswood Esqre Governor of Virginia, in Albany 12 Septr 1722
Brother Assarigoe
You are come six hundred miles to treat with us & we are glad to see you You have made your Propositions to us wherein you call us Sachims & Warriors of the five Nations, & acquainted us since we had agreed not to pass the River Kahongoronton, nor the great Ridge of Mountains, that there is a Law in Virginia prohibiting us to pass that River or those Mountains under the Penalty of being transported or sold for Slaves, or put to death We do assure you we are very well satisfied with that Law & desire that those Boundaries may be for ever observed, You have also told us that you will engage for ten Nations of Indians in Virginia, that they shall not Pass to the North side of the River Kahongoronton nor to the Westward of the Great Ridge of Mountains & that if we should meet with any of them without those Boundaries, we might use them as we thought fit, without Breaking this Peace notwithstanding which we assure you if any of your Indians shall happen in our way we will not hurt them, but treat them as friends & give them victuals, so desirous we are of being at Peace with them

Credits

E.B. O’Callaghan, ed., Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New-York, Vol. 5 (Albany: Weed, Parsons and Company, 1855), 657-681, https://archive.org/details/documentsrelativ05brod/page/656/mode/2up, accessed August 25, 2021.

How to Cite This Source
Excerpts from the Treaty of Albany (1722) in World History Commons,