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September 28 1812: Brock on Native Claims



On September 28 182, Major General Brock writes to Sir George Prevost trying diplomatically to dissuade his superior from the defensive posture he has ordered. Brock writes that the Americans have taken "defensive measures along the strait of Niagara" but there are reports that large reinforcements are on the march. "Should they arrive," Brock writes, "an attack cannot be long delayed". 

In addition, Brock speaks forcibly against abandoning the Native allies. Brock writes:
Should negotiations for peace be opened, I cannot be too earnest with your excellency to represent to the king's ministers the expediency of including the Indians as allies, and not leave them exposed to the unrelenting fury of their enemies.
At the same time, Brock is aware that the Native nations  have reason to be suspicious of the British. He refers to the "Miami affair, in 1793" which probably refers to the refusal of the British to aid the Native Western Conspiracy that fought American forces under General Anthony Wayne in 1794 in what is now Ohio. Brock appreciates that the Natives have their own interests that have to be part of any peace negotiations. In particular, any peace has to include "their claim to an extensive tract of country, fraudulently usurped from them, and opposing a frontier to the present unbounded views of the Americans." Brock writes: 
...the Indians, aware of our weakness and inability to carry on active warfare, would only think of entering into terms with the enemy. The Indians, since the Miami affair, in 1793, have been extremely suspicious of our conduct; but the violent wrongs committed by the Americans on their territory, have rendered it an act of policy with them to disguise their sentiments. Could they be persuaded that a peace between the belligerents would take place, without admitting their claim to an extensive tract of country, fraudulently usurped from them, and opposing a frontier to the present unbounded views of the Americans, I am satisfied in my own mind that they would immediately compromise with the enemy. I cannot conceive a connection so likely to lead to more awful consequences.
Brock's letter is reproduced below.

Major-General Brock to Sir George Prevost
York, September 28, 1812.

I have been honored with your excellency's dispatch, dated the 14th instant. I shall suspend, under the latitude left by your excellency to my discretion, the evacuation of Fort Detroit. Such a measure would most probably be followed by the total extinction of the population on that side of the river, or the Indians, aware of our weakness and inability to carry on active warfare, would only think of entering into terms with the enemy. The Indians, since the Miami affair, in 1793, have been extremely suspicious of our conduct; but the violent wrongs committed by the Americans on their territory, have rendered it an act of policy with them to disguise their sentiments. Could they be persuaded that a peace between the belligerents would take place, without admitting their claim to an extensive tract of country, fraudulently usurped from them, and opposing a frontier to the present unbounded views of the Americans, I am satisfied in my own mind that they would immediately compromise with the enemy. I cannot conceive a connection so likely to lead to more awful consequences.

If we can maintain ourselves at Niagara, and keep the communication to Montreal open, the Americans can only subdue the Indians by craft, which we ought to be prepared to see exerted to the utmost. The enmity of the Indians is now at its height, and it will require much management and large bribes to effect a change in their policy; but the moment they are convinced that we either want the means to prosecute the war with spirit, or are negociating a separate peace, they will begin to study in what manner they can most effectually deceive us.

Should negociations for peace be opened, I cannot be too earnest with your excellency to represent to the king's ministers the expediency of including the Indians as allies, and not leave them exposed to the unrelenting fury of their enemies.

The enemy has evidently assumed defensive measures along the strait of Niagara. His force, I apprehend, is not equal to attempt an expedition across the river with any probability of success. It is, however, currently reported that large reinforcements are on their march; should they arrive, an attack cannot be long delayed. The approach of the rainy season will increase the sickness with which the troops are already afflicted. Those under my command are in perfect health and spirits.

I have the honor to transmit the purport of a confidential communication* received in my absence by Brigade-Major Evans from Colonel Van Rensselaer. As your excellency's instructions agree with the line of conduct he is anxious I should follow, nothing of a hostile nature shall be attempted under existing circumstances.

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