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1773 Basset

Detroit 29th April 1773


I have just received an account by a Trader from St. Dusky, that a Chawanese Savage has killed Mr. McDowel, a trader from Pensylvania without any provocation except refusing to sell him Rum. The Indian put his Gun through a small hole in a window & shot him as he was sitting at his fire. untill some effectual method is fallen on to prevent such Quantities of Rum coming up from Albany & Canada, we shall never have a safe Trade, the Chiefs complain much of the intention of the English to kill all their young men, it prevents their hunting, by letting such quantities of spirits go out amongst them, and hurts the trade very much, for instead of that Poison when they return from their winter, they would purchase Blankets, shrowdings, & ca which are the manufactures of England, and there would be three times the quantity of Peltry sent home. The Chiefs declare they loose more of their young men by Rum than they used to do by war, & I imagine from what I can learn, are discontented. Believe me Sir, its not, in the power of a Commanding officer at this post, to prevent their going among them, for the Traders land it down the River & have a thousand other tricks to deceive the Commanding officer & cheat the poor Savages. The Traders in general that are on these Posts, are the outcasts of all Nations, and the refuse of Mankind, I sincerely wish there was a Police form'd for these upper Country's, to make these Vagabounds tremble, a commanding officer here has not authority to punish these Villains & if he takes any steps to recover debts, or any other civil affair, they think together & raise a power to torment him, when he goes down there, these fellows call English Liberty, I should imagine if your Excellency would please speak to Governor Tryon, he may possibly have some alterations made in these papers, & oblige them when they come to these Posts, to be subject to the orders of the commanding officer, this would contribute much to keep the Savages quiet for notwithstanding repeated orders these Traders and their Batteau men, watch the skirts of the wood within 3 miles of the Fort & made Bargains with the Indians, cheat them of their Peltry, Venison &ca lodge it safe in a French house or hide it untill they have an opportunity to convey it privately into the Fort, your Excellency may imagine this may be easily prevented but it is impossible without a commanding officer risking a persecution at Law, until its fully in his power to put these fellows in the guard House, and send them by the first opportunity down to New York, or Canada, till then you'll have frequent murders committed, for they first make the Indians drunk & cheat them, this cant be easily proved in a Court of Justice, for they are all of the same way of thinking & there is no person to prosecute, the poor savage murmors & says it was an English Trader & the particular person is not found out. The King's Domain Joining this Fort is about 12 acres, in Front of fine clear land, for about 30 acres back, it will soon be claimed as a common, if your Excellency does not order the front to be picketted, I made a small Field for my Horses, at the back of the Kings garden, & the Traders I'm told grumbled and complained much of my taking in part of the common, there are several of the fellows that keeps cows & many sheep without even being thankful, for such an indulgence when they have a few years more quiet possession, I dare say they'l contest it, its really a very fine spot of ground & will be valuable in a few years, if the commanding officer will have it in his power to oblige those Traders that behave well & many of the poorer sort of French, that are very great objects of charity & are well disposed, I have a copy out of the Archives of Canada, ware its called the King's Domain, & the French Commanding officer proved it & did as they thought proper since the English settled here no officer that commanded (Colonel Campbell) excepted, has ever given themselves much concern about it, the Traders ware very much dis pleased at the Col. for taking in a field Just ware I have done. If your Excellency will allow me to Pickett in the Front of the Domain I'll do it in the most frugal manner & oversee it myself or if your Exellency will allow me fifty Pounds Sterg. I'll take it in & put up handsome large gates, I'm very sure it will cost more, but for the convenience of the officers & Troops in Garrison I'll pay the rest out of my own pocket, it will be saving a fine Tract of land & if ever this should be made a government it will be very valuable to the person appointed & supply him with plenty & it will help this Garrison very much in raising Potatoes Turnips &ca for the soldiers & keeping cows for those that have families, it will make this a very cheap & plentiful quarter, at present its extravagantly dear, The English Traders have all the Inhabitants under their contributions there's no possibility of establishing a market, & every article even so low as a few eggs must be purchased from the Traders at an Extravagant Price as he takes them from the Inhabitants in payment for Rum &ca so that the Military have every thing their Rations excepted, at a very dear rate, & are the only sufferers, I should be very much concerned if your Excellency conceives the most distant Idea of my having any particular advantage, in pressing you to have the Domain picketted my only motives are the comfort of the officers & soldiers. I have drawn on Yr Excellency in favor of Mr. James Stirling for L245 18s. 6d N York curr'y to pay the Interpreters & Indian acct. which I hope Yr Excellency will find very moderate, I have endeavoured to be as frugal as possible, for I have been obliged to purchase every thing, as nothing was left by a few flints of the Indian articles the 1st of Novr. last, The Indians come in at present in great numbers, I cant help giving them they are very prefering & indeed very poor owing to the plenty of Rum, many of them Hunt but very little & indeed this winter for want of snow, there has been very bad Hunting wch made some of them remain near the Fort & if they did not get a little provision &ca they would probably destroy all the cattle & sheep; besides this is not a time to refuse them a little cloathing & provisions. The Repairs of the Fort & Barracks goes on very well, the three companies here have but two, that are called Joyners & the Artillery one and they are all the very worst I ever saw & we cant possibly get a carpenter under a Dollar a Day & his provisions. I have not authority to employ any artificers, except at the King's price, I shall therefore wait for Yr Excellency's directions, through the chief Engineer, & we shall continue to do as much as possible at the Block Houses, & ca.

I am with very great Respect,

Yr Excellency's

Most obliged &

Obedient Humble


Hen. Basset

From: Haldimand Papers. Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections. 19. ( 1891): 296-299.

See Also:

Burton, Clarence. City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922. Detroit: S.J. Clarke, 1922. 5 volumes 1: 124-126.

Marshall, Peter. Imperial Policy and the Government of Detroit: Projects and Problems 1760-1774. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 1974 2 (2): 153-189.

Stevens, Paul L. The Indian Diplomacy of Capt. Richard B. Lernoult, British Military Commandant of Detroit, 1774-1775. Michigan Historical Review 1987 13 (1): 47-82.