January 27, 2016

1778 Treaty with Delaware was first treaty signed by US


The first treaty signed by the United States was with the Delaware (also known as Lenape) at Fort Pitt in 1778.  The Articles of Confederation were adopted between the states a little over a year earlier in 1777, to establish a government independent of British rule. The primary purposes of the treaty with the Delaware was to gain Delaware trade, and political and military alliance on the side of the Americans during the War of Independence. The British likewise sought military and political alliances among the Indian nations to fight against the rebellious Americans.

 Many tribes allied with the British, others with the United States of America, while some tribes tried to remain neutral. The Indians were already dependent on trade goods, and needed to keep trade and diplomatic exchanges of goods open from one or the other of the warring factions.

This gave Indian nations a strategic advantage at this point in history, since both the British and Americans needed Indian military alliances, or at least an agreement of neutrality. The Indian nations could negotiate with either of the warring nations, although alliances were often determined by long-term friendly relations with the British or American communities.

The Americans recognized Delaware land rights and offered statehood to friendly Indian nations.  The Delaware could invite any other tribes who had been friends to the interest of the United States to join the present confederation, and to form a state, of which the Delaware nation would be the head, and have representation in Congress. it was never acted upon by either the United States or the Delaware Indians.

Needing Delaware military alliance and upholding treaties previously negotiated by the British, the Americans recognized Delaware internal judicial powers and cultural differences, as well as Delaware independent political government, territory, and power to make treaties.

The 1778 Treaty of Fort Pitt was also known as the Treaty With the Delawares, the Delaware Treaty, or the Fourth Treaty of Pittsburgh. It was signed at Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania, which is the site of present-day Pittsburgh.

According to Daniel Richter in “Facing East from Indian Country” the Delaware perceived the agreement as “merely as free passage of revolutionary troops and the building of a protective fort for defending White settlers.” The American leaders intended to use the fort for offensive campaigns and wrote into the treaty that the Delaware would attack their native neighbors.

Within a year the Delaware Indians were expressing grievances about the treaty. A delegation of Delawares visited Philadelphia in 1779 to explain their dissatisfaction to the Continental Congress, but nothing changed and peace between the United States and the Delaware Indians collapsed.

White Eyes, the tribe’s most outspoken ally of the United States, died in mysterious circumstances, and the Delawares soon joined the British in the war against the United States.

Wording of the Actual Treaty:

Articles of agreement and confederation, made and entered into by Andrew and Thomas Lewis, Esquires, Commissioners for, and in Behalf of the United States of North-America of the one Part, and Capt. White Eyes, Capt. John Kill Buck, Junior, and Capt. Pipe, Deputies and Chief Men of the Delaware Nation of the other Part.


That all offences or acts of hostilities by one, or either of the contracting parties against the other, be mutually forgiven, and buried in the depth of oblivion, never more to be had in remembrance.


That a perpetual peace and friendship shall from henceforth take place, and subsist between the contracting parties aforesaid, through all succeeding generations: and if either of the parties are engaged in a just and necessary war with any other nation or nations, that then each shall assist the other in due proportion to their abilities, till their enemies are brought to reasonable terms of accommodation: and that if either of them shall discover any hostile designs forming against the other, they shall give the earliest notice thereof, that timeous measures may be taken to prevent their ill effect.


And whereas the United States are engaged in a just and necessary war, in defence and support of life, liberty and independence, against the King of England and his adherents, and as said King is yet possessed of several posts and forts on the lakes and other places, the reduction of which is of great importance to the peace and security of the contracting parties, and as the most practicable way for the troops of the United States to some of the posts and forts is by passing through the country of the Delaware nation, the aforesaid deputies, on behalf of themselves and their nation, do hereby stipulate and agree to give a free passage through their country to the troops aforesaid, and the same to conduct by the nearest and best ways to the posts, forts or towns of the enemies of the United States, affording to said troops such supplies of corn, meat, horses, or whatever may be in their power for the accommodation of such troops, on the commanding officer’s, &c. paying, or engageing to pay, the full value of whatever they can supply them with. And the said deputies, on the behalf of their nation, engage to join the troops of the United States aforesaid, with such a number of their best and most expert warriors as they can spare, consistent with their own safety, and act in concert with them; and for the better security of the old men, women and children of the aforesaid nation, whilst their warriors are engaged against the common enemy, it is agreed on the part of the United States, that a fort of sufficient strength and capacity be built at the expense of the said States, with such assistance as it may be in the power of the said Delaware Nation to give, in the most convenient place, and advantageous situation, as shall be agreed on by the commanding officer of the troops aforesaid, with the advice and concurrence of the deputies of the aforesaid Delaware Nation, which fort shall be garrisoned by such a number of the troops of the United States, as the commanding officer can spare for the present, and hereafter by such numbers, as the wise men of the United States in council, shall think most conducive to the common good.


For the better security of the peace and friendship now entered into by the contracting parties, against all infractions of the same by the citizens of either party, to the prejudice of the other, neither party shall proceed to the infliction of punishments on the citizens of the other, otherwise than by securing the offender or offenders by imprisonment, or any other competent means, till a fair and impartial trial can be had by judges or juries of both parties, as near as can be to the laws, customs and usages of the contracting parties and natural justice: The mode of such trials to be hereafter fixed by the wise men of the United States in Congress assembled, with the assistance of such deputies of the Delaware nation, as may be appointed to act in concert with them in adjusting this matter to their mutual liking. And it is further agreed between the parties aforesaid, that neither shall entertain or give countenance to the enemies of the other, or protect in their respective states, criminal fugitives, servants or slaves, but the same to apprehend, and secure and deliver to the State or States, to which such enemies, criminals, servants or slaves respectively belong.


Whereas the confederation entered into by the Delaware nation and the United States, renders the first dependent on the latter for all the articles of clothing, utensils and implements of war, and it is judged not only reasonable, but indispensably necessary, that the aforesaid Nation be supplied with such articles from time to time, as far as the United States may have it in their power, by a well-regulated trade, under the conduct of an intelligent, candid agent, with an adequate salary, one more influenced by the love of his country, and a constant attention to the duties of his department by promoting the common interest, than the sinister purposes of converting and binding all the duties of his office to his private emolument: Convinced of the necessity of such measures, the Commissioners of the United States, at the earnest solicitation of the deputies aforesaid, have engaged in behalf of the United States, that such a trade shall be afforded said nation, conducted on such principles of mutual interest as the wisdom of the United States in Congress assembled shall think most conducive to adopt for their mutual convenience.


Whereas the enemies of the United States have endeavored, by every artifice in their power, to possess the Indians in general with an opinion, that it is the design of the States aforesaid, to extirpate the Indians and take possession of their country: to obviate such false suggestion, the United States do engage to guarantee to the aforesaid nation of Delawares, and their heirs, all their territorial rights in the fullest and most ample manner, as it hath been bounded by former treaties, as long as they the said Delaware nation shall abide by, and hold fast the chain of friendship now entered into. And it is further agreed on between the contracting parties should it for the future be found conducive for the mutual interest of both parties to invite any other tribes who have been friends to the interest of the United States, to join the present confederation, and to form a state whereof the Delaware nation shall be the head, and have a representation in Congress: Provided, nothing contained in this article to be considered as conclusive until it meets with the approbation of Congress. And it is also the intent and meaning of this article, that no protection or countenance shall be afforded to any who are at present our enemies, by which they might escape the punishment they deserve.

In witness whereof, the parties have hereunto interchangeably set their hands and seals, at Fort Pitt, September seventeenth, anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight.

Andrew Lewis, [L. S.]

Thomas Lewis, [L. S.]

White Eyes, his x mark, [L. S.]

The Pipe, his x mark, [L. S.]

John Kill Buck, his x mark, [L. S.]

In presence of—

Lach’n McIntosh, brigadier-general, commander the Western Department.

Daniel Brodhead, colonel Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment,

W. Crawford, colonel,

John Campbell,

John Stephenson,

John Gibson, colonel Thirteenth Virginia Regiment,

A. Graham, brigade major,

Lach. McIntosh, jr., major brigade,

Benjamin Mills,

Joseph L. Finley, captain Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment,

John Finley, captain Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment.

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