These people always seem to get the bad end of the stick. They are constantly neglected throughout history because people have seen them as non-important sources of labor. Native Americans and African Americans will be manipulated by both sides of the American Revolution in order to enlist their aid in the Revolutionary War. Both the Americans and the British will make false promises to these people in order to sway them to one side or the other. The two opposing sides realized the benefit of having the Natives, as well as, the slaves on their side of the fight. Below you will discover the ways in which both sides appealed to the minority groups to have them join their side of the war.
Caption: In the fall of 1775, General Ethan Allen of the Green Mountain Boys sent this message to Native Americans who lived near the Canadian border (Western Abenakis).
“I always love Indians and have hunted a great deal with them. I know how to shute and ambush just like an Indian and want your Warriors to come and see me and help me fight Regulars—You known they stand all along close together Rank and file and my men fight so as Indians do and I want your Warriors to join with me and my Warriors, like brothers and ambush the regulars. If you will, I will give you money, blankits, Tomehawks, Knives, and Paint, and the like as much as you say… we are obliged to fight but if you our Brother Indians do not fight on either side still we will be Friends and Brothers. You may come and hunt in our woods and pass through our country in the Lake and come to our post and have Rum and be good friends.”
Charles A. Jellison, Ethan Allen: Frontier Rebel (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1983), 137.
Raphael, R. (2001). Native Americans. In H. Zinn (Ed.), A people’s history of the American Revolution: How common people shaped the fight for independence (p. 235). New York: New Press.
DBQ for this source:
- Source this quote. Who is the author? When was it written? What type of source is it? Who was the intended audience of the source?
- What was the purpose of this source? What end did the author hope to accomplish?
- Were you aware that Native Americans were asked to help fight in the American Revolution? What were some benefits to having them fight?
- If the Indians agreed to help the General, what gifts would be bestowed upon them?
- Give evidence of the General being possessive. Does this support the Indians’ views of “good friends”?
- If you were a part of the tribe that received this request, what would your response be? Would you believe the Americans and help them or not?
Caption: Slaves were also a large part of the fight for independence from England. On November 14, 1775, Lord Dunmore made an official proclamation to enlist the help of slaves in the King’s Army. In protest to the proclamation, the patriots will produce an appeal to the slaves published in newspapers.
“And I do hereby further declare all indented Servants, Negroes, and others (appertaining to Rebels) free, that are able an willing to bear Arms, they joining His Majesty’s Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper Sense of their Duty, to His Majesty’s Crown and Dignity.”
Quarles, B. (1958). Lord Dunmore as Liberator. William and Mary Quarterly, 3(15), 502-502.
Raphael, R. (2001). African Americans. In H. Zinn (Ed.), A people’s history of the American Revolution: How common people shaped the fight for independence (pp. 320). New York: New Press.
Within two weeks of Dunmore’s Proclamation, John Page, the vice president of the Virginia Committee of Safety, published an appeal to the slaves in the newspapers.
“Long have the Americans, moved by compassion, and actuated by sound policy, endeavored to stop the progress of slavery. Our Assemblies have repeatedly passed acts lying heavy duties upon imported negroes, by which they meant altogether to prevent the horrid traffic; but their human intentions have been as often frustrated by the cruelty and covetousness of a set of English merchants, who prevailed upon the king to repeal our kind and merciful acts, little indeed to the credit of his humanity. Can it then be supposed that the Negroes will be better used by the English, who have always encouraged and upheld this slavery, than by their present masters, who pity their condition? No, the ends of Lord Dunmore and his party being answered, they will either give up the offending negroes to the rigor of the laws they have broken, or sell them in the West Indies. Be not then, ye Negroes tempted by this proclamation to ruin yourselves. I have given you a faithful view of what you are to expect and declare, before God, in doing it I have considered your welfare, as well as that of the country. Whether you will profit by my advice I cannot tell, but this I know, that whether we suffer or not, if you desert us, you most certainly will.”
Pinkney. (1775). Virginia Gazette.
Raphael, R. (2001). African Americans. In H. Zinn (Ed.), A people’s history of the American Revolution: How common people shaped the fight for independence (pp. 322-323). New York: New Press.
DBQ for this source:
- What did Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation promise the slaves if they served in the King’s Army? Do you believe he would have granted them that?
- What does John Page do in order to get the “American’s statement” out to the slaves?
- How does he present the Americans in his statement? What have they done for the slaves? What negative evidence does he show about the British?
- Compare and contrast these two sources. What differences or similarities do you see between Dunmore and Page’s efforts to target African Americans? Which side do you think was more successful?
- If you were a slave at this time, what choice would you make?
Caption: In 1768, the Americans reinforced their Treaty of Fort Stanwix with the Iroquois Confederacy, stating that the Indians would not enter the war on either side of the fight. In 1775, a British agent named John Bulter tried to tear down that same peace treaty.
“Your Father the Great King has taken pity on you and is determined not to let the Americans deceive you any longer… They mean to cheat you and should you be so silly as to take their advice and they should conquer the King’s Army, their intention is to take all your Lands away from you and destroy your people, for they are all mad, foolish, crazy, and full of deceit. They told you…that they took the Tom Hawk out of your hands and buried it deep and transplanted the Tree of Peace over it. Therefore now pluck up that Tree, dig up the Tom Hawk, and replace it in your hands with the Edge toward them that you may treat them as Enemies.” (245)
The reply came from Kayashuta, a Seneca chief…
“I now tell you that you are the mad, foolish, crazy, and deceitful person—for you think we are fools and advise us to do what is not in our interest… You want us to assist you which we cannot do—for suppose the Americans conquer you what would they then say to us? I tell you Brother you are foolish and we will not allow you to pluck to the Tree of Peace nor raise the Hatchet. We are strong and able to do it ourselves when we are hurt.” (246)
Graymont, Iroquois In the American Revolution, 97-98.
Raphael, R. (2001). Native Americans. In H. Zinn (Ed.), A people’s history of the American Revolution: How common people shaped the fight for independence (pp. 245-246). New York: New Press.
DBQ for this source:
- Why would the Americans want the Native Americans to stay neutral?
- Why would the British want the Native Americans on their side?
- What does the British agent assume about the Indians?
- How does the British agent accuse the Americans of misleading the Indians?
- What is the response from the Native Americans? What does it tell about their relations with whites?