The traveler along the New York Central railroad may have pointed out to him, near the town of Amsterdam, a heavy stone mansion, half hidden from view by a grove of locust trees. The building is "Johnson Castle," a name which its owner gave one hundred and forty years ago. Its walls are thick and massive, its windows small and deep-set. Though extremely odd in its architecture, its size and durability still gave it just rank as a fine residence. A century and a half sit lightly on its shoulders, and, barring accidents, it will survive two or three times that period. A few miles away, in the edge of Johnstown, the curious visitor will find "Johnson Hall." It is twenty years younger than the castle
A visitor describes the place as follows: "Although both house and grounds have been greatly altered and modernized, we can even now judge well what they must have been originally. The hall is a two-storied double mansion, built of wood, in the most substantial, conscientious manner, with raised panels on the outside in imitation of stone. It was, without doubt, in its day the most spacious and elegant edifice in the colony outside of New York City. The hall is fully fifteen feet wide, and the ceilings over twelve feet high, surrounded with massive wooden cornices of carved work. The sides of the rooms are elegantly wainscoted with pine panels and heavy carved work. A broad staircase, if easy ascent, leads from the lower to the upper hall, ornamented with massive mahogany balustrades, which still, at every foot, bear the marks of the tomahawk's hacking, said by tradition to have been notched there by Chief Brant himself, when he fled the valley with Sir John Johnson, in 1776, "to protect the house from the torch of Indians, who would understand and respect these signs."
"Of the garden and nursery, situated to the south of the hall, and which in the olden times were the delight of their owner, and the pride of the surrounding country, no vestige remains. Some of the poplars, however, which he planted, still stand, green and vigorous. The hall was formerly flanked by two stone block-houses, with sundry loop-holes for musketry cut directly under the eaves. But one of these--now converted into a servant's dwelling--yet stands, the other having been burned down many years ago. Of the stone wall which surrounded the whole place as a protection against attack, but little now remains.
A subterranean passage led from the main building to the block-house on the left, and thence another communicated with the blockhouse on the right flank. These passages, however, as well as the port-holes in the remaining block-house, have been filled up. Although the building never experienced a siege, yet it was twice fortified; once, as stated, by a strong stone rampart in 1763, and again in 1776."
The builder and original proprietor of these singular and romantic looking mansions was Sir William Johnson, Baronet. He came to this country when a young man, without title or fortune. Engaging in traffic with the Indians, Johnson, by dint of great natural abilities, which were assisted rather than retarded by a coarse nature, made money in large quantities. In 1742 he bought from the Mohawk Indians a large tract of the richest land in the world, lying in the very heart of the far-famed Mohawk valley. To this he added by yearly purchases, until he became the wealthiest man, and, next to the Penns, the largest landed proprietor in America. The "castle" was his residence throughout the year, until he built the "hall," in 1763, which he occupied as a summer residence, using the older mansion only in winter.
Four or five years after he built the castle, the wife of Colonel Johnson, as he was then called, a plain, fair-haired German girl, of humble lineage, died, leaving her husband one boy, John, and two baby daughters. One day the widower attended a muster of the county militia. As an officer came riding by on a prancing steed, a bright-eyed, red-cheeked Indian girl of sixteen, a real beauty, with her white teeth, long, flowing, black hair, and a form of rare symmetry and grace, laughingly bantered him for a ride. The officer told her she might jump on if she could. Quick as a flash the agile girl leaped on the horse behind the gallant rider, and clinging to him, her hair and ribbons blowing wildly in the breeze, rode round and round on the flying steed before the applauding crowd. One man took more than ordinary interest in the incident. It was the susceptible and lonely widower. That night Mollie Brant, for such was the name of the dusky beauty, went home with the baronet to Johnson Castle, becoming thenceforth the mistress alike of it and its proprietor.
The two motherless daughters were assigned apartments of their own, where they lived in complete seclusion under the care of a devoted friend of their mother, an officer's widow. Their time was occupied with needle-work or study. Their library consisted of the Bible and prayer-book, a lot of the ponderous romances, which mark the beginning of the English novel, and Rollin's "Ancient History." A game of chess, a walk in the park or a drive up the alley, constituted their only amusements. At the age of sixteen they had never seen a lady other than the governess. Occasionally some gentleman visitor found his way to Johnson Hall. This was a rare treat to the lonely girls, to whom such a guest was always presented. They married early, and their father built for them two elegant stone residences a few miles from the castle.
Far different from this conventual life of the two sisters was that led below stairs by the baronet. From the first, Sir William, as we will call him, though the title was not conferred by the king until the French and Indian War, acquired great influence over the warriors of the far-famed Six Nations. He had located himself in the heart of the territory of the Mohawks, the most easterly of the Iroquois nations. Thoroughly understanding the Indian character, he won their confidence and attained an ascendancy in their councils which no other white man ever approximated. The negotiations of the British Government with the Iroquois were all carried on through him. The castle was his store-house where the wonderful supplies of guns, ammunition, and trinkets were kept for trade. Around the castle were clusters of cabins for the accommodation of Indians who came to trade.
Sir William kept a bounteous table, open to every comer, and dispensed his hospitality in lord-like style. The Indians would visit him day and night, sleeping in the halls, on the steps, or in the cabins, as suited their fancy, and faring on their host's sumptuous provision for days at a time. The natural genius of the man for controlling the restless red men, and bending their rigid natures to his will, was powerfully supplemented by his rather questionable alliance with Mollie Brant. She was immensely popular, possessed a shrewd intelligence, and herself acquired great influence over her people.
The baronet, moreover, by this connection, for it was not a marriage, won the hearts of the warriors. His castle, to which they were always delighted to come, was looked up to as the splendid establishment of one of their own people. As they exchanged their valuable furs for the wares of the baronet, the heavy profit which went into his pocket was, they felt, well earned by the free and easy manner with which he treated them. In winter, the baronet often humored them by arraying himself in Indian disguise--war-paint, feathers, and tomahawk, complete--and living with weeks at a time as one of their own braves. His word once given, whether a threat or a promise, was kept inviolate.
His vast landed estate was parceled out among Dutch and Highland tenantry, who were as devoted to his interests as the Indians themselves. "Nature had well fitted him," says a writer, for the position in which his propitious stars had cast his lot, His person was tall, erect, and strong; his features, grave and manly. His direct and upright dealings, his courage, eloquence, and address were sure to favor in Indian eyes.
"He had a singular facility of adaptation. In the camp or at the council-board, in spite of his defective education, he bore himself as became his station; but at home he was seen drinking flip and smoking tobacco with the Dutch boors, his neighbors, talking of improvements or the price of beaver-skins; and in the Indian villages he would feast on dog's flesh, dance with the warriors, and harangue his attentive auditors with as the dignity of an Iroquois sachem. His temper was genial, he encouraged rustic sports, and was respected and beloved alike by whites and Indians.
"His good qualities, however, were alloyed with defects. His mind was as coarse as it was vigorous; he was vain of his rank and influence, without any scruples of delicacy as to proclaiming them. Eager and ambitious in pushing his own resistless way, he trampled beneath his iron heel whomsoever cross his pathway."
Before proceeding to the story which forms the more immediate subject of this chapter, it may well to speak more at length than we have heretofore done of the far-famed Iroquois, among whom Sir William Johnson lived, and over whom he exerted such a commanding influence. Francis Parkman gives the following eloquent summary of their tragic history:
"Foremost in war, foremost in eloquence, foremost in their savage arts of policy, stood the fierce people called by themselves the Hodenosaunee, and by the French the Iroquois, a name which has since been applied to the entire family, of which they formed the dominant member. They extended their conquests and their depredations from Quebec to the Carolinas, and from the western prairies to the forests of Maine. On the south, they forced tribute from the subjugated Delawares, and pierced the mountain fastnesses of the Cherokees with incessant forays. On the north, they uprooted the ancient settlements of the Wyandots. On the west, they exterminated the Eries and the Andastes, and spread havoc and dismay among the tribes of the Illinois, and on the east, the Indians of New England fled at the first peal of the Mohawk war-cry,
"Nor was it the Indian race alone who quailed before their ferocious valor. All Canada shook with the desolating fury of their onsets; the people fled to the forts for refuge; the blood-besmeared conquerors roamed like wolves among the burning settlements, and the youthful colony trembled on the brink of ruin.
"The Iroquois, in some measure, owed their triumphs to the position of their country; for they dwelt within the present limits of the State of New York, whence several great rivers and the inland oceans of the northern lakes opened ready thoroughfares to their roving warriors through all the adjacent wilderness. But the true fountain of their success is to be sought in their own inherent energies, wrought to the most effective action under a political fabric well suited to the Indian life; in their mental and moral organization; in their insatiable ambition and restless ferocity.
"In their scheme of government, as in their social customs and religious observances, the Iroquois displayed, in full symmetry and matured strength, the same characteristics which in other tribes are found distorted, withered, decayed to the root, or, perhaps, faintly visible in an imperfect germ. They consisted of five tribes or nations, the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas, to whom a sixth, the Tuscaroras, was afterwards added.
"To each of these tribes belong an organization of its own. Each had several sachems, who, with the subordinate chiefs and principal men, regulated all its internal affairs; but when foreign powers, were to be treated with, or matters involving the whole confederacy required deliberation, all the sachems of the several tribes convened in general assembly at the great council-house in the valley of Onondaga. Here ambassadors were received, alliances were adjusted, and all subjects of general interest discussed with exemplary harmony. The order of debate was prescribed by time-honored customs; and, in the fiercest heat of controversy, the assembly maintained its iron self-control.
"But the main stay of the Iroquois policy was the system of totemship. It was this which gave the structure its elastic strength; and but for this, a mere confederacy of jealous and warlike tribes must soon have been rent asunder by shocks from without or discord from within. At some early period, the Iroquois must have formed an individual nation, for the whole people, irrespective of their separation into tribes, consisted of eight totemic clans; and the members of each clan, to what nation soever they belonged, were mutually bound to one another by those ties of fraternity which mark this singular institution.
"Thus the five nations of the confederacy were laced by an eight-fold band; and to this hour their slender remnants cling to one another with invincible tenacity. The Iroquois had no laws, but they had ancient customs, which took the place of laws. Each man, or rather each clan, was the avenger of its own wrongs; but the manner of the retaliation was fixed by established usage. The tribal sachems, and even the great council at Onondaga, had no power to compel the execution of their decrees; yet they were looked up to with a respect which the soldier's bayonet or the sheriff's staff would never have commanded; and it is highly to the honor of the Indian character that they could exact so great an authority where there was nothing to enforce it but the weight of moral power.
"The superiority of the intellect of the Iroquois was as marked as that of their political organization. The energy of their fancy displayed itself in that peculiar eloquence which their wild democracy tended to call forth, and to which the mountain and the forest, the torrent and the storm, lent their stores of noble imagery. That to this imaginative vigor was joined mental power of a different stamp, is witnessed by the caustic irony of Garangula and Sagoyewatha, and no less by the subtle policy, sagacious as it was treacherous, which marked the dealings of the Iroquois with surrounding tribes.
"Their dwellings and works of defense were far from contemptible, either in their dimensions or in their structure; and though by the several attacks of the French, and especially by the invasion of De Nonville, in 1687, and of Frontenac, nine years later, their fortified towns were leveled to the earth, never again to reappear; yet in the works of Champlain and other early writers, we find abundant evidence of their pristine condition. Along the banks of the Mohawk, among the hills and hollows of Onondaga, in the forests of Oneida and Cayuga, on the romantic shores of Seneca Lake, and the rich borders of the Genesee, surrounded by waving maize fields, and encircled from afar by the green margin of the forest, stood the ancient strongholds of the confederacy. The clustering dwellings were encompassed by palisades, in single, in double, or triple rows, pierced with loop-holes, furnished with platforms within, for the convenience of the defenders, with magazines of stones, to hurl upon the heads of the enemy, and with water conductors to extinguish any fire which might be kindled from without.
"The area which these defenses inclosed was often several acres in extent, and the dwellings, ranged in order within, were sometimes more than a hundred feet in length. Posts, firmly driven into the ground, with an intervening frame-work of poles, formed the basis of the structure; and its sides and arched roof were closely covered with layers of elm bark. Each of larger dwellings contained several distinct families, whose separate fires were built along the central space, while compartments on each side, like the stalls of a stable, afforded some degree of privacy. Here rude couches were prepared, and bear skins spread; while above, the ripened ears of maize, suspended in rows, formed a golden tapestry.
"In the long evenings of midwinter, when in the wilderness without the trees cracked with biting cold, and the forest paths were clogged with snow, then, around the lodge-fires of the Iroquois, warriors, squaws, and restless, naked children were clustered in social groups, each dark face brightening in the fickle firelight, while, with jest and laugh, the pipe passed round from hand to hand. Perhaps some shriveled old warrior, the story-teller of the tribe, recounted to attentive ears the deeds of ancient heroism, legends of spirits and monsters, or tales of witches and vampires--superstitions not less rife among this all-believing race than among the nations of the transatlantic world.
"The life of the Iroquois, though void of those multiplying phases which vary the routine of civilized existence, was one of sharp excitement and sudden contrast. The chase, the warpath, the dance, the festival, the game of hazard, the race of political ambition, all had their votaries. When the assembled sachems had resolved on war against some foreign tribe, and when, from their great council-house of bark, in the valley of Onondaga, their messengers had gone forth to invite the warriors to arms, then from east to west, through the farthest bounds of the confederacy, a thousand warlike hearts caught up the summons with glad alacrity. With fasting and praying, and consulting dreams and omens; with invoking the war-god, and dancing the frantic war-dance, the warriors sought to insure the triumph of their arms; and, these strange rites concluded, through the devious pathways of the forest.
"For days and weeks, in anxious expectation, the villagers await the result. And now, as evening closes, a shrill, wild cry, pealing from afar, over the darkening forest, proclaims the return of the victorious warriors. The village is alive with sudden commotion; and snatching sticks and stones, knives, and hatchets, men, women, and children, yelling like fiends let loose, swarm out of the narrow portal, to visit upon the miserable captives a foretaste of the deadlier torments in store for them. And now, the black arches of the forest glow with the fires of death; and with brandished torch and firebrand the frenzied multitude close to the victim. The pen shrinks to write, the heart sickens to conceive, the fierceness of his agony; yet still, amid the din of his tormentors, rises his clear voice of scorn and defiance. The work is done; the blackened trunk is flung to the dogs, and, with clamorous shouts and hootings, the murders seek to drive away the spirit of their victim.
"The Iroquois reckoned these barbarities among their most exquisite enjoyments; and yet they had other sources of pleasure, which made up in frequency and in innocence all that they lacked in intensity. Each passing season had its feasts and dances, often mingling religion with social pastime. The young had their frolics and merry-makings; and the old had their no less frequent councils, where conversation and laughter alternated with grave deliberations for the public weal. There were also stated periods, marked by the recurrence of momentous ceremonies, in which the whole community took part--the mystic sacrifice of the dogs, the wild orgies of the dream-feast, and the loathsome festival of the exhumation of the dead. Yet, in the intervals of war and hunting, these multiform occupations would often fail; and, while the women were toiling in the cornfields, the lazy warriors vainly sought relief from the scanty resources of their own minds, and beguiled the hours with smoking or sleeping, with gambling or gallantry.
"If we seek for a single trait pre-eminently characteristic of the Iroquois, we shall find it in that boundless pride which impelled them to style themselves, not inaptly as regards their own race, 'the men surpassing all others.' 'Must I,' exclaimed one of their great warriors, as he fell wounded among a crowd of Algonquins,--'must I, who have made the whole earth tremble, now die by the hands of children?' Their power kept pace with their pride. Their war-parties roamed over half America, and their name was a terror from the Atlantic to the Mississippi; but when we ask the numerical strength of the dreaded confederacy, when we discover that, in the days of their greatest triumphs, their united cantons could not have mustered four thousand warriors, we stand amazed at the folly and dissension which left so vast a region the prey of a handful of bold marauders. Of the cities and villages now so thickly scattered over the lost domain of the Iroquois, a single one might boast a more numerous population than all the five united tribes."
Before leaving the history of the Iroquois, it is possible to give the account other terrible destruction of the Eries, which is said to have been handed down by traditions. This mighty tribe, which, prior to their subjugation, far exceeded in strength any other single tribe of Indians, lived at the lower end of the lake which bears their name. Their chief town, Tushuway, occupied the site of modern day Buffalo. Jealous of the great confederacy to the eastward of them, the proud Eries sent a challenge to the Senecas, their nearest neighbors, for a game of ball between one hundred young men from each tribe. The great council of Five Nations deliberated upon the challenge, and decided to decline it.
The next year the, "Lords of the Lake" renewed the challenge. It was again declined. A repetition of it the third year so inflamed the younger warriors of the Five Nations, that the challenge was reluctantly accepted. One hundred braves, the very flower of the confederacy, armed with nothing but the small bat, used in ball playing, and commanded by a chief of approved experience, marched away through the forest to the city of the Eries. A vast pile of furs, bracelets, beads, silver, and copper was to be the stake.
The eventful day arrived. The great Eries far excelled the more timid young men from the Five Nations in their self-confidence. But the superiority went no farther. After a desperate contest the Iroquois bore off the prizes. The chief of the chagrined Eries at once challenged the visitors to a foot-race, with ten runners on a side. The Iroquois accommodated him, and were again victorious. As a last trial of skill, the Erie chieftain proposed to select ten wrestlers to be matched against an equal number from the ranks of the visitors, the victorious antagonist, in each case, to dispatch his adversary on the spot, by braining him with a tomahawk and scalping him. This bloody proposal was assented to by the Iroquois with altered countenances.
The first pair of wrestlers struggled furiously. The Iroquois finally threw his opponent on the ground, but refused to kill him. In a moment the angry chief of the Eries flung his own tomahawk revolving in the air and with unerring aim scattered the brains of his defeated kinsman on the soil of the arena. Another pair of champions from the rival sides then grappled for the conflict. Again victory was achieved by the strangers. Again the victor refused to strike his fallen foe. Again the Erie chieftain, black and choking with a tempest of rage, killed the vanquished brave with his own hand. A third time the singular scene took place. This was the last. At a signal from their leader, the well-disciplined Iroquois suddenly withdrew from the field, and, taking their canoes, returned home to relate their victories and the strange customs of their hosts.
The Eries at once resolved on war. The confederacy, on the other hand, prepared for defense. Three thousand warriors and a thousand reserves rode with nodding plumes into the forest to meet their foes. The two armies met half-way between Canandaigua Lake and the Genesee River. The battle raged with indescribable fury. The Eries saw too late that their enemies, too weak to cope with them single-handed, had combined against them, and that it was no longer a fight for glory, but a struggle for existence. Hour after hour, far into nightfall, the awful carnage proceeded. With unyielding courage and invincible obstinacy the doomed Eries, like the Spartans of old, refused to fly, but fought to the bitter end, preferring death on the battle-field to survival of defeat. The battle was lost.
The victors, like avenging demons, pushed on to the Erie strongholds. Using their canoes for scaling ladders, the maddened Iroquois, insane with the delirium of victory, leaped down like tigers, and butchered the defenders without mercy. For the Eries it was not merely defeat. It was destruction. The proud people were literally destroyed from the face of the earth. To-day nothing remains to tell us that they ever existed, except the name of ERIE, which the generations of men still give to the blue inland sea along whose shores they flourished and then fell forever.
Such also was the fate of the noble Hurons, the Neutral Nation, and the Wyandots.
Thus, within less than a quarter of a century, four nations, the most brave and powerful of the North American savages, sank before the arms of the confederates. Nor did their triumphs end here. Within the same short space they subdued their southern neighbors, the Lenape or Delawares, the leading members of the Algonquin family, and expelled the Ottawas, a numerous people of the same lineage, from the borders of the river which bears their name. In the north, the west, and the south, their conquests embraced every adjacent tribe; and meanwhile, their war-parties were harassing the French of Canada with reiterated inroads, and yelling the war-whoop under the very walls of Quebec.
They were the worst of conquerors. Inordinate pride, the lust of blood and dominion, were the mainsprings of their warfare, and their victories were stained with every excess of savage passion. That their triumphs must have cost them dear; that, in spite of their cautious tactics, these multiplied conflicts must have greatly abridged their strength, would appear inevitable. Their losses were, in fact, considerable; but every breach was repaired by means of a practice which they, in common with other tribes, constantly adhered to.
When their vengeance was glutted by the sacrifice of a sufficient number of captives, they spared the lives of the remainder and adopted them as members of their confederated tribes, separating wives from husbands and children from parents, and distributing among different villages, in order that old ties and associations might be more completely broken up. This policy, as Schoolcraft informs us, was designed among them by a name which signifies "flesh cut into pieces and scattered among the tribes."
With two explanations, we resume the thread of the story, interrupted to relate the history and character of the Iroquois. A southern tribe, the Tuscaroras, having been expelled from their former home, came north, upon the invitation of their old allies, the Five Nations, and were received into the confederacy, which, from that time, became the "Six Nations." Although the Iroquois had been such as we have related it, it is to be remembered that they had been greatly weakened by successive wars, and at the time of Sir William Johnson, though still powerful, the "Six Nations" were very far from being what they had once been.
From early times the Iroquois were allies of the English and Dutch colonists of the coast. Through them the confederacy procured fire-arms and ammunition far earlier than other nations, and by this means their power was infinitely increased. In return they constituted themselves a sort of police for the colonies against other tribes of Indians. They had early come in conflict with the French, as we have seen in the story of La Salle, and their prejudices were for the English. But the latter, by long years of neglect and aggression, lost their advantage.
When the French and Indian war broke out, the Six Nations were strongly disposed to join their red brethren in a war which was to drive the white man out of the country which he had wrongfully invaded. That they did not do was solely owing to the ascendancy and influence, the tireless efforts, the superb diplomacy of Sir William Johnson. Such an important figure did the British Government find him, that he was appointed Indian commissioner for the North, a position he held for twenty years, rendering heroic and invaluable service to England. He was further made baronet, and received vast grants of land, as a reward for his work during the war. When Pontiac, "the archangel fallen," planned his gigantic conspiracy, the baronet again needed all his influence and resources to hold the confederacy to its alliance with England. Indeed, the Senecas, farthest removed from his influence, did get away from him and join the conspiracy.
From 1763 Sir William lived in ease, his immense possessions multiplying year by year. But a struggle was coming, in which it would have been as difficult for him to choose his own side as for his Indian allies themselves. The volcanic fires of the AMERICAN REVOLUTION were, at the time of which we write, shooting their forks of flame upward through the fissures in the political and social crust. Which side should we take? Should he, on one hand, turn traitor to the government which he had served so long, and from which he had received such abundant favors? Or should he, on the hand, let loose the thunderbolts of savage warfare which he held within his grasp, upon the struggling colonists, his neighbors, friends, and countrymen, who were so clearly in the right? He never gave his final decision.
Deeply disturbed at the approaching crisis, and perhaps lacking the nerve which had belonged to the earlier years of his strange life, the great baronet gave way his anxieties, and died suddenly in the summer of 1774. The belief was widespread at the time that his sudden death was the work of his own hand.
The zeal of Sir William Johnson for the improvement of his Mohawk neighbors had planted churches and sent missionaries among them. More than this, he selected promising youths from the Mohawk nation, and sent them to be educated at a school in Lebanon, Connecticut.
Women are often designing, and use their influence over men for their own purposes. It is natural to find that Mistress Mollie Brant made use of her influence with the baronet to further the interests of her brother Joseph. He was born about 1742, and became a lad of unusual precocity. Of course he became the recipient of Sir Williams bounty. He was sent to the school at Lebanon. He was employed by the baronet in the discharge of his multitudinous duties as Indian commissioner. He acted as interpreter, he labored to carry out his master's notions concerning his people, and he was often sent on long journeys to the wild Indians of the west. In this work he early exhibited rare diplomatic ability.
Nor was this all. His precociousness and talent were turned to the assistance of the missionaries. The smart heathen helped to prepare translations of the Bible, and of the prayer book and ritual, into the Mohawk tongue. With a readiness, which is suspicious, he joined the Episcopal Church. So zealous was Joseph in the observance of the forms of worship, and in partaking of the sacraments of the Church, that enthusiastic friends pointed him out as a model Christian.
As he took the rank which his lineage and his native abilities alike insured him, these good missionaries predicted that he would absolutely lift his people out of their savage state and transform them into solid citizens. No doubt they expected the wild Mohawk warriors to lay aside their filthy blankets, and don knee-breeches, silk stockings, knee-buckles, and powdered wigs, all on account of Joseph. He lived so much of the time with Sir William, and was devoutly attached to him. His Indian name was Thayendanegea, of which "Brant" was a translation.
At the time of the baronet's death, Brant was a powerful Mohawk sachem. The title and much of the property of Sir William went to Sir John Johnson, the only son of the dead baronet. Guy Johnson, the son-in-law, became Indian commissioner. To him Joseph Brant became private secretary. By means of their great wealth and family prestige, Sir John and Guy Johnson naturally inherited much of the influence of Sir William over the Six Nations. This influence was greatly strengthened by the attachment of Brant.
Meanwhile, the colonies were hurrying forward to a crises. The spirit of patriotism entered into, and possessed the people. Resistance to tyranny, free-trade, and self-government became the catch-words of the hour. The struggling colonies, hitherto a mere outlying and uninfluential province of a great empire, suddenly felt themselves assuming a vast and startling importance before the eyes of mankind.
Political discussion became loud and heated. The people found themselves ranged into two hostile parties. The great majority were patriots. They believed in the colonies having justice, though the heavens fell. These were the Whigs. There was also another party, a minority, who retained their old attachment to England. They justified the home government. They abused the Whigs. They were opposed to revolution and even to agitation. They were the Conservatives, or Tories. The lines between these two parties were very clearly marked out. The warfare was bitter. The same party lines exist in every epoch of progress. They are the Radicals and Conservatives. The one demands a change, a reform, a revolution. The latter cries out, "Let be; let well enough alone; peace! peace!" when there is no peace.
These party dissensions extended to the Mohawk valley. As elsewhere, there were Whigs and Tories. The majority of the people were enthusiastic Whigs. They wished to better their condition. They were therefore Radicals.
The Johnsons, however, were Tories. Property and aristocracy, are conservative. The wealthy few who are on top are comfortable. They are averse to change. They desire only that things remain as they are. If you touch them they scream. This is natural, but it is selfish. On the other hand, the many who are underneath, want to take the risk and make a change. They have nothing to lose and every thing to gain. This also is natural, but selfish.
Sir John Johnson held a title of nobility under the British crown. Guy Johnson held the lucrative office of Indian commissioner under the same government. They had vast possessions. They lived in baronial splendor in magnificent stone castles, from whose turrets the eye swept over an estate, stretching many miles along the lovely valley, and supporting a vast tenant population. These gentlemen, therefore, were strongly conservative. What cared they for a tax of a few cents on tea? Their dinner table would not be thereby deprived of the steaming tea-pot. What was it to them if troops were quartered in Boston? It cost them nothing. So they wanted things to continue as they were.
Retyped and reformatted by Ray and Kathy Leigh