The particular gains of the moment,
substantial as they were, appear slight today in comparison with the
treaty's more longlasting achievement. This was disclosed in a speech of
the Mohawks, the Indians who had always been physically and politically
closest of the Iroquois to Albany. "We are glad," they told Coursey,
that the Governor General bath been pleased to destinate and appoint
this place to speake with all Nations in peace . . . especially that his
Honor hath been pleased to grant you the privilege for to speake with us
here . . . for the Covenant that is betwixt the Governor Generall and us
is Inviolable; yea, so strong that if the very thunder should breake
upon the Covenant Chain, it would not breake it asunder.
Thus the historic Iroquois covenant chain came into effective existence.
The many treaties binding New York to its various Indians had now become
institutionalized in an organization.115
Even in its origins the chain implied Iroquois primacy among the Indians
bound together by it, but this was no forest empire created by conquest.
Though the national identity of the Susquehannock's was submerged, there
can be small doubt that the decisions at Albany, as at Shackamaxon, were
made by discussion and consent. The key figure throughout was Edmund
Andros. It was Andros' intervention that brought refuge to the harassed
Susquehannock's, and Andros' maneuvers that frustrated Maryland's
intrigues at the Delaware Bay. It was also Andros who gave the Iroquois
a new lease on life. Before his coming, the Iroquois had been
demoralized and enfeebled, losing battles on every side. The sudden
change in their fortunes was the product of New York's power used for
New York's purposes. As Andros delicately reported to England, "Colonel
Coursey hadd answers to his satisfaction," while Andros got "reitterated
assurances from said Indyans of their faithfullnesse."116
What we see in the 1677 treaty is the further development of the Indian
policy adopted by Andros in 1675. Andros' policy was to rely upon
favored instruments among the Indians in order to control the more
unruly elements. He chose the Mohawks to be his special friends in New
York, and through the Mohawks he drew under his wing the whole Iroquois
League. In his government of Delaware Bay, Anclros' instrument was at
first the Lenape nation. After 1677 these favored instruments came into
closer relationship to each other through the enlargement and
modification of the Iroquois League. Previously the League had "adopted"
defeated nations and communities. Now it acquired a new flexibility of
organization that made possible a special relationship with the Mahicans
at Scaticook and the Lenape at the Delaware, both of which peoples were
within Andros' jurisdiction and under his protection.117
By drawing the chief belligerents into one organization the new
confederation resolved in one moment all the Indian conflicts that had
plagued the Hudson, Delaware, and Susquehanna valleys since the start of
the beaver wars. All of the Indians within the confederation were
immeasurably strengthened by it; but, as the Mohawks so quickly had
perceived, the Iroquois were strengthened most of all. Their backs were
now protected by inclusion in the covenant chain of the Mahicans and
Lenape, and their fighting strength was greatly enhanced by the adopted
Susquehannock's. If Andros had sponsored the covenant chain primarily for
his own purposes, he certainly had also served the Indians well. The
revitalized Iroquois rebounded from their low point in 1674 to begin the
series of military and diplomatic maneuvers that were to make their
covenant chain a balancing factor in English interprovincial politics
and a third power between England and France. To the Iroquois, covenant
chain relationships did not imply passive neutrality. In their eyes the
peace within the chain established a secure base from which an
aggressive policy could be conducted against outsiders. Covenant chain
power had its limits, as the Iroquois themselves well knew; the desires
of Albany's merchants and New York's Governor could never be flouted.
But the interests of Albany were firmly committed to the prosperity of
the Indian trade, and an enlarged covenant chain meant an enlarged
trade. Albany soon showed great sympathy for Iroquois ambitions.
speech, 6 Aug., 1677, Md. Arch. (PRO) 5: pp. 256—258. Cf.
Livingston Indian Records, pp. 45—47. Substance of texts is
identical. Minor variations of tendency appear.
Account of the General Concerns of New—York, N. V. Col. Docs. 3:
this treaty was the event that converted the Lenape into "women"
in the Iroquois covenant chain. The subject is too complex and
controversial to be discussed properly in a note. Among modern
authorities, C. A. Weslager argues the theory that the Iroquois
really did conquer the Lenape: "The Delaware Indians as Women,"
Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, 34 (1944): pp.
381—388. Anthony F. C. Wallace uses anthropological evidence as
well as historical data to conclude that the "woman" status of
the Lenape was not a product of conquest and subjugation: King
of the Delawares: Teedyuscung, 1700—1763 (Philadelphia, 1949),
pp. 195—196; "Woman, Land, and Society: Three Aspects of
Aboriginal Delaware Life," Pennsylvania Archaeologist 17 (1947)
: pp. 1—35. My own reasoning follows Wallace, both because of
the factual findings of this present article and also because of
my findings in "The Delaware Interregnum," cited n. 5.