Description

    Maryland Governor Thomas Bladen advocates for the Treaty of Lancaster

    [Treaty of Lancaster]. Autograph Letter from Maryland Governor Thomas Bladen. "T.B." Four page bifolium, 12.25" x 15". Maryland, June 1, 1744, concerning purchasing the land rights from all Indians in the Maryland Colony. This is the pivotal letter that would be the catalyst for the negotiations of the Treaty of Lancaster, which began on June 25, concluding on July 14, 1744.

    The Treaty of Lancaster was conducted to make peace between the Six Nations (Iroquois Indians) and the British settlers in the Maryland and Virginia colonies, by essentially buying rights for the English to own and settle the Shenandoah Valley. In 1743, the Iroquois were close to declaring total war on the colony of Virginia, after skirmishes with valley settlers. Virginia's governor, Sir William Gooch, paid them 100 pounds of silver as appeasement. The next year at Lancaster, the Six Nations sold all remaining rights to the valley for two-hundred pounds of gold. The treaty is named for Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where the negotiations were held.

    Thomas Bladen was the governor of the Maryland Colony at the time, and wrote a dense, verbose letter to the House of Commons, explaining need for the treaty.

    The letter reads, in full: "Gentlemen of the Lower House of Assembly, I am sorry your address of the 30th of May 1744 gives me occasion to wish it had been more suitable for you to present and my self to retrieve and that you or rather some of you had not showed such a willingness to treat in so indecent a manner a message signed and sent by me; and under ye pretence of alternating it to the advice of others. Indulge your selves in making use of a language no way becoming a part of the Legislature, and indeed your whole address is such, as must convince every considerate person you were sensible of being in the wrong; and therefore you were resolved to be very angry at being told so; But as that spirit which so remarkably shines through the whole, savor too much of ransom & violence to fix an imputation upon any part of government whatever or upon any persons in trust with his Lordship or me I shall follow you in every paragraph, but only take notice of the few material parts of your Address.

    I must put you in mind; the purpose of my message was to show, not only how improperly but unwarrantably you had assumed an authority of giving Instructions to ye Members what I then said was so undeniably true, that you were soon sensible the evasion used your first address, of those instructions being private and not publick ones must be seen through by a bare perusal of the body of them, therefore you are now drove to another shift by pretending the Instructions contain not one article or matter which every private person in Maryland hath not a right to enquire into & inform themselves etc., which assertion if any thing to the purpose, must mean that because every person has a right to enquire and inform themselves of etc. Therefore Every person has a Right to give instructions to my commissioners for their Conduct and that consequently the Lower House must have at least as good a right to give such instructions: Thus gave reasoning would stand, but it is too weak to impose on any person since we are not disputing whether you or any private person may not endeavor to inform your selves & etc., but whether you or any private person have the authority to direct the commissioners how to act, and it is beyond contradiction that your instructions are such directions .-

    You urge that the present Treaty with the Indians cannot be said to be either for Peace or War, and your reasons are, because there is no president Rapture and that their demand is to be paid for land, as to the first Indians (I am Informed) frequently insist on a Peace to be made or renewed, although no formal rupture or Acts of Hostility subject, merely for the sake of presents: and my advices from Northward are that the Indians expect at this time more considerable presents on account of the Treaty of Peace than for lands as they are very sensible their Friendship is of much greater consequence at this critical & dangerous juncture, than at any other time. As to their claim to the lands, I am persuaded, if you looked on this matter in a proper light. Your duty and allegiance to our sovereign would have restrained you from considering it as a private right or giving any Treaty relating to it the low denomination of a bargain & sale, the Title to all Lands in this province is held originally and founded on a right from the crown the Indians demand in a manner to be paid for certain lands, who is this demand against? It cannot be against the Lord proprietary, for all the lands of their province have been granted him by the crown; Then to allow anything is due to the Indians from the Proprietary is declaring the Crown granted, what it had no right to; shall we that profess so much, make a conception of this kind against the right & dignity of the Crown of England? What then follow? The Indians declare if the money is not paid, they shall do themselves justice. Is not this a menace against the peace and safety of the province? And whose duty is it to protect the country against the Threats and Insults of an enemy, common sense will inform you; surely the people themselves are to do it. -

    But to put this matter in another light I am confident you or any other Loyal Subject will never Insinuate the Indians have the least pretence of right in Barr or Prejudice of his Majesty's, or that his Lordship hold the lands under a defective title; in which case only he could be obliged to warrant them for I believe it was never before imagined a wonder of Land was to protect are Indians of the purchaser against a superior force or tho we are under an obligation to do it against a Superior right, and therefore since the Indians have no right , they can be considered no other ways than as French, Spaniard or other Enemy's would be in case they should make incursions into and attack this Province, I hope you would not set up these distinctions when called on to assist either by men or money to prevent or oppose any attempt to disturb this Province in derogation of the King's title, I am at a loss to know why the Country should not be as much obliged to provide money for the support of his Majesty's right by a Treaty of Peace or Force of Arms. -

    It is upon the presumption of these Loyal principals which you so Largely profess on every occasion that I am thoroughly assured of you being convinced of the necessity of making good any sum that shall be stipulated to be paid the Indians; tho it should exceed the 300 Sterling mentioned in your address of the last secessions and you may depend on my care in directing the Commissioners on points in your address; that they should use all imaginable endeavors to prevent the Indians from insisting on a greater sum than the people can well spare and also to avoid the consequences which you so justly apprehend from their resentment if they should be disappointed. -

    As to what you mention of allowing the Commissioners their necessary travelling Charges only; I am concerned your warmth has transported you into this unnecessary Declaration; since it may give suspicion, you designed by the allowance to direct a Treaty and that you rather wished a war than a peace with the Indians, but as your former address not only allows a further sum without limitations for the expenses and charges of the said Commissioners but specifies the fund out of which it is to be paid you must Excuse me if I think this counter declaration cannot restrain or limit what was intended by your former address: I may safely appeal to all the sensible and unprejudiced part of Mankind whether your attempting (as you do by your address) to put these who shall be empowered to treat with the Indians under difficulties and your backwardness in furnishing the Country with the means of its necessary Defense can be reconciled to the great profession you make of your Loyalty to his Majesty and regard to the preservation of the people you represent. -

    I shall (as in my former message) appoint such Commissioners as I am confident will conform to my directions only & notwithstanding what you say you are obliged to tell me to the contrary. I make not the least doubt but they will conclude the negotiations not only with honor to themselves but as far as depend on them with advantages to the Province. T.B."

    Thomas Bladen was born in the Maryland Colony in 1698, and in 1712, travelled to England where he received his education, eventually becoming a Member of Parliament. He returned to Maryland in 1742, as the first governor born in the province. As governor, he quickly fell out of favor due to his quarrelsome nature, and was dismissed in October, 1746. Bladen then returned to England, where he remained until his death in 1780.

    Condition: Heavy wear at folds, resulting in pinholes of paper loss. Heavily foxed, but the toning, while heavy, is even. A few words have been lost at the folds. Soft-framed in a black mat to an overall size of 18.5" x 21".


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