DECEMBER 1, 1790


During the American Revolution, all Iroquois nations (except the Oneida) allied with the British and, under the 1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix, had to cede large tracts of land in the northwest to the United States. In 1790, 3 Seneca chiefs– Big-tree, Cornplanter, and Half-town–met with President Washington to seek reconsideration of the treaty. Cornplanter, also known as Captain John Abeel III, told Washington that the council was “surprised to hear how great a country you had compelled them to give up to you, without your paying to us anything for it.” In justifying their alliance with the British (whom they’d supported in the French and Indian War), he argued that they had promised to obey the king. When the colonists refused to obey that king, “he commanded us to assist . . . In obeying him, we did no more than yourselves had led us to promise. . . we ask you to consider calmly – Were the terms dictated to us by your commissioners reasonable and just?” His efforts failed to sway Washington.

Source:  Kenneth E. Whittington, “Cornplanter (Gyantwahla) Speech to President George Washington (1790),” American Political Thought, Chapter 3: The Founding Era – America and the World.  Retrieved 6/13/2022, Cornplanter-Speech-to-George-Washington.docx (
Painting:  Frederick Bartoli, 1796. Public Domain.  Source: New York Historical Society, Accession No.: 1867.314, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, Gayë́twahgeh (also known as Cornplanter, 1732/40–1846) – Works – New-York Historical Society (

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