Burgoyne’s Speech to the Indians

The substance of the Speech of Lieut. Genl. Burgoyne to the Indians in Congress at the Camp Upon the River Boquet

June 21, 1777

Chiefs and Warriors

The Great King, Our common Father and the Patron of all who seek and deserve his Protection; has considered with satisfaction the general conduct of the Indian tribes form the beginning of the troubles of America. Too sagacious and too faithful to be deluded or corrupted, they have observed the violated Rights of the Parental State they lave, and burn to vindicate them. A few individuals alone, the refuse of a small tribe, at the first was led astray; and the misrepresentations, the specious allurements, the insidious promises and diversified plots in which the Rebels are exercised, and all of which they employed for that effect, have served only in the end to enhance the honor of the Tribes in general by demonstrating to the World how few and how contemptible are the Apostates. It is a truth known to you all that these pitiful examples excepted (and they probably have before this day hid their faces in shame) they collective voices and hands and hearts of the Indians tribes over this vast continent, are the side of Justice, of Laws, and of the King.

The restraints you have put upon your resentment in waiting the King your Fatherā€™s call to arms (the hardest proof, I am persuaded to which your affection could have been put) is another manifest and affecting mark of your adherence to that principle of connection to which you were always fond to allude, and which is mutually the joy and the duty of the Parent to cherish.

The clemency of your Father has been abused; the offers of his Mercy have been despised; and his further patience would in his eyes become culpable in as much as it would withhold redress from the most grievous oppressions in the Provinces that ever disgrace the history of mankind.

It therefore remains for me, the General of one of his Majesties Armies, and in this Council His Representative, to release you from those bonds which your Obedience imposedā€”Warriors, you are freeā€”go forth in might of your valor and your causeā€”strike at the common enemies of Great Britain and Americaā€”Disturbers of public order, peace and happinessā€”destroyers of commerce; parricides of the State.

The circle round you, the Chiefs of His Majestyā€™s European forces, and the Princes his Allies, esteem you as Brothers in the War. Emulous in glory and in friendship, we will endeavor reciprocally to give and to receive examples. We know how to value, and we will strive to imitate, your perseverance in enterprise, and your constancy to resist hunger, weariness and pain. Be it our task, from the dictates of our religion, the laws of our warfare, and the principles and interest of our policy, to regulate your passions when they overbear, to point out where it is nobler to spare than to revenge; to discriminate degrees of guilt; to suspend the up-lifted stroke; to chastise and not to destroy.

This War to you my friends is new. Upon all former occasion in taking the field you held yourselves authorized to destroy wherever you came, because everywhere you found an enemy. The case is now very different.

The King has many faithful subjects dispersed in the provinces, consequently you have many brothers there; and these people are the more to be pitied, that they are persecuted or imprisoned wherever they are discovered or suspected; and to dissemble is to a generous mind a more grievous punishment.

Persuaded that your Magnanimity of Character, joined to your principles of affection to the King, will give me fuller Control over your minds than the military rank with which I am invested, I enjoin your most serious attention to the rules which I hereby proclaim for your invariable observation during the campaign.

  • I positively forbid bloodshed when you are not opposed in Arms.
  • Aged men, women, children and prisoners must be held sacred from the knife or hatchet, even in the time of actual conflict.
  • You shall receive compensation for the prisoners you take, but you shall be called to account for scalps.

In conformity and indulgence to your customs, which have affixed an idea of honor to such badges of victory, you shall be allowed to take the scalps of the dead when killed by your fire and in fair oppositionā€™ but, on no account, or pretence, or subtlety, or prevarication, are they to be taken from the wounded, or even dying; and still less pardonable, if possible, will it be held, to kill men in that condition on purpose, and upon a supposition that this protection to the wounded would be thereby evaded.

Base lurking assassins, incendiaries, ravagers and plunderers of the country, to whatever army they belong, shall be treated with less reserve; but the latitude must be given by order, and I must be the Judge of the Occasion.

Should the enemy, on their part dare to countenance act of barbarity towards those who may fall into their hands it shall be yours also to retaliate; But ā€˜till severity shall be thus compelled, bear immovable in your hearts this solid maxim, it cannot be too deeply impressed, that the great essential reward, worthy service of your alliance, the sincerity of your zeal to the King, your Father and never failing protector, will be examined and judged, upon the test only of your steady and uniform adherence to the orders and councils of those, to whom His Majesty has entrusted the direction and the honor of arms.

Answer from an old Chief of the Iroquois.

I stand up in the name of all the Nations present to assure our Father that we have attentively listened to his discourse. We receive you as our Father because when you speak we hear the voice of our great Father beyond the Great Lake.

We rejoice in the approbation you have expressed of our behavior.

We have been tried and tempted by the Bostonians; but we have loved our Father and our hatchets have been sharpened upon our affections.

In proof of the sincerity of our professions our whole villages able to go to War are come forth. The old and inform, our infants and wives alone remain at home.

With one common assent we promise a constant obedience to all you have ordered and you shall order, and may the Father of Days give you many and success.


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