Statement of Frontier Grievances

Henry Jones Ford

"We, Matthew Smith and James Gibson, in behalf of ourselves and his Majesty's faithful and loyal subjects, the inhabitants of the frontier countries of Lancaster, York, Cumberland, Berks, and Northampton, humbly beg leave to remonstrate and lay before you the following grievances, which we submit to your wisdom for redress.

"First, We apprehend that as Freemen and English subjects, we have an indisputable title to the same privileges and immunities with his Majesty's other subjects who reside in the interior counties of Philadelphia, Chester, and Bucks, and, therefore, ought not to be excluded from an equal share with them in the very important privilege of legislation; nevertheless, contrary to the Proprietor's charter and the acknowledged principles of common justice and equity, our five counties are restrained from electing more than ten Representatives, viz., four for Lancaster, two for York, two for Cumberland, one for Berks, and one for Northampton; while the three counties and City of Philadelphia, Chester, and Bucks, elect twenty-six. This we humbly conceive is oppressive, unequal, and unjust, the cause of many of our grievances, and an infringement of our natural privileges of Freedom and equality; wherefore, we humbly pray that we may be no longer deprived of an equal number with the three aforesaid counties, to represent us in Assembly.

"Secondly, We understand that a bill is now before the House of Assembly, wherein it is provided that such persons as shall be charged with killing any Indians in Lancaster County, shall not be tried in the County where the act was committed, but in the Counties of Philadelphia, Chester, or Bucks. This is manifestly to deprive British subjects of their known privileges, to cast an eternal reproach upon whole counties, as if they were unfit to serve their county in the quality of jurymen, and to contradict the well-known laws of the British nation in a point whereon life, liberty, and security essentially depend, namely, that of being tried by their equals in the neighborhood where their own, their accusers, and the witnesses' character and credit, with the circumstances of the fact, are best known, and instead thereof putting their lives in the hands of strangers, who may as justly be suspected of partiality to as the frontier counties can be of prejudices against Indians; and this, too, in favor of Indians only, against his Majesty's faithful and loyal subjects. Besides it is well known that the design of it is to comprehend a fact committed before such a law was thought of. And if such practices were tolerated, no man could be secure in his most valuable interest. We are also informed, to our great surprise, that this bill has actually received the assent of a majority of the House, which we are persuaded could not have been the case, had our frontier counties been equally represented in Assembly. However, we hope that the Legislature of this Province will never enact a law of so dangerous a tendency, or take away from his Majesty's good subjects a privilege so long esteemed sacred by Englishmen.

"Thirdly. During the late and present Indian War, the frontiers of this Province have been repeatedly attacked and ravaged by skulking parties of the Indians, who have with the most savage cruelty murdered men, women, and children, without distinction, and have reduced near a thousand families to the most extreme distress. It grieves us to the very heart to see such of our frontier inhabitants as have escaped savage fury with the loss of their parents, their children, their wives, or relations, left destitute by the public, and exposed to the most cruel poverty and wretchedness, while upwards of an hundred and twenty of these savages, who are with great reason suspected of being guilty of these horrid barbarities, under the mask of friendship, have procured themselves to be taken under the protection of the Government, with a view to elude the fury of the brave relatives of the murdered, and are now maintained at the public expense. Some of these Indians, now in the barracks of Philadelphia, are confessedly a part of the Wyalusing Indians, which tribe is now at war with us, and the others are the Moravian Indians, who, living with us under the cloak of friendship, carried on a correspondence with our known enemies on the Great Island. We cannot but observe, with sorrow and indignation, that some persons in this Province are at pains to extenuate the barbarous cruelties practiced by these savages on our murdered brethren and relatives, which are shocking to human nature, and must pierce every heart but that of the hardened perpetrators or their abettors; nor is it less distressing to hear others pleading that although the Wyalusing tribe is at war with us, yet that part of it which is under the protection of the Government, may be friendly to the English, and innocent. In what nation under the sun was it ever the custom that when a neighboring nation took up arms, not an individual should be touched but only the persons that offered hostilities? Who ever proclaimed war with a part of a nation, and not with the whole? Had these Indians Disapproved of the perfidy of their tribe, and been willing to cultivate and preserve friendship with us, why did they not give notice of the war before it happened, as it is known to be the result of long deliberations and a preconcerted combination among them? Why did they not leave their tribe immediately, and come among us before there was ground to suspect them, or war was actually waged with their tribe? No, they stayed amongst them, where privy to their murders and revenges, until we had destroyed their provisions, and when they could no longer subsist at home, they come, not as deserters, but as friends, to be maintained through the winter, that they may be able to scalp and butcher us in the spring.

"And as to the Moravian Indians, there are strong grounds at least to suspect their friendship, as it is known they carried on a correspondence with our enemies on the Great Island. We killed three Indians going from Bethlehem to the Great Island with blankets, ammunition, and Provisions, which is an undeniable proof that the Moravian Indians were in confederacy with our open enemies; and we cannot but be filled with indignation to hear this action of ours painted in the most odious and detestable colors, as if we had inhumanly murdered our guides, who preserved us from perishing in the woods, when we only killed three of our known enemies, who attempted to shoot us when we surprised them. And, besides all this, we understand that one of these very Indians is proved, by oath of Stinson's widow, to be the very person that murdered her husband. How, then, comes it to pass that he alone, of all the Moravian Indians, should join the enemy to murder that family? Or can it be supposed that any enemy Indians, contrary to their known custom of making war, should penetrate into the heart of a settled country to burn, plunder, and murder the inhabitants, and not molest any houses in their return, or ever to be seen or heard of? Or how can we account for it, that no ravages have been committed in Northampton County since the removal of the Moravian Indians, when the Great Cove has been struck since? These things put it beyond doubt with us that the Indians now at Philadelphia are his Majesty's Perfidious enemies, and, therefore, to protect and maintain them at the public expense, while our suffering brethren on the frontiers are almost destitute of the necessaries of life, and are neglected by the public, is sufficient to make us mad with rage, and tempt us to do what nothing but the most violent necessity can vindicate. We humbly and earnestly pray, therefore, that those enemies of his Majesty may be removed as soon as possible out of the Province.

"Fourthly. We humbly conceive that it is contrary to the maxims of good policy, and extremely dangerous to our frontiers, to suffer any Indians, of what tribe soever, to live within the inhabited parts of this Province while we are engaged in an Indian war, as experience has taught us that they are all perfidious, and their claim to freedom and independency puts it in their power to act as spies, to entertain and give intelligence to our enemies, and to furnish them with provisions and warlike stores. To this fatal intercourse between our pretended friends and open enemies, we must ascribe the greatest of the ravages and murders that have been committed in the course of this and the last Indian war. We, therefore, pray that this grievance be taken under consideration and remedied.

"Fifthly. We cannot help lamenting that no provision has been hitherto made, that such of our frontier inhabitants as have been wounded in defence of the Province, their lives and liberties, may be taken care of, and cured of their wounds at the public expence. We, therefore, pray that this grievance may be redressed.

"Sixthly. In the late Indian war, this Province, with others of his Majesty's colonies, gave rewards for Indian scalps, to encourage the seeking them in their own county, as the most likely means of destroying or reducing them to reason, but no such encouragement has been given in this war, which has damped the spirits of many brave men, who are willing to venture their lives in parties against the enemy. We, therefore, pray that public rewards may be proposed for Indian scalps, which may be adequate to the dangers attending enterprizes of this nature.

"Seventhly. We daily lament that numbers of our nearest and dearest relatives are still in captivity among the savage heathen, to be trained up in all their ignorance and barbarity, or to be tortured to death with all the contrivances of Indian cruelty, for attempting to make their escape from bondage; we see they pay no regard to the many solemn promises they have made to restore our friends who are in bondage amongst them. We, therefore, earnestly pray that no trade may hereafter be permitted to be carried on with them until our brethren and relatives are brought home to us.

"Eighthly. We complain that a certain society of people in this Province, in the late Indian War, and at several treaties held by the King's representatives, openly loaded the Indians with presents, and that J. P., a leader of the said society, in defiance of all government, not only abetted our Indian enemies, but kept up a private intelligence with them, and publicly received from them a belt of wampum, as if he had been our Governor, or authorized by the King to treat with his enemies. By this means the Indians have been taught to despise us as a weak and disunited people, and from this fatal source have arose many of our calamities under which we groan. We humbly pray, therefore, that this grievance may be redressed, and that no private subject be hereafter permitted to treat with, or carry on a correspondence with, our enemies.

"Ninthly. We cannot but observe with sorrow, that Fort Augusta, which has been very expensive to this Province, has afforded us but little assistance during this or the last war. The men that were stationed at that place neither helped our distressed inhabitants to save their crops, nor did they attack our enemies in their towns, or patrol on our frontiers. We humbly request that proper measures may be taken to make that garrison more serviceable to us in our distress, if it can be done.

"N. B.—We are far from intending and reflection against the commanding officer stationed at Augusta, as we presume his conduct was always directed by those from whom he received his orders.

"Signed on behalf of ourselves, and by appointment of a great number of the frontier inhabitants.



"February 13th, 1764."