First Treaty Signed at Fort Pitt With Delaware for Trade and Alliance
Between 1778 and 1871, the United States negotiated treaties with Indians. The first treaty was signed on September 17, 1778 at Fort Pitt, present day Pittsburgh, between the Delaware Nation and the United States of America, which was the name of the Confederacy of States before the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
The Articles of Confederation was adopted a little over a year earlier in 1777, and was designed to establish a government independent of British rule. The primary purposes of the treaty with the Delaware was to gain Delaware trade, political, and military alliance on the side of the Americans during the War of Independence. The British likewise sought military and political alliances among the Indian nations to fight against the rebellious Americans. Both the Americans and British sought alliance of Indian nations in the war, and in return promised trade and goods.
Many tribes allied with the British, others with the United States of America, while some tribes tried to remain neutral. The Indians, already dependent on trade goods, needed to keep trade and diplomatic exchanges of goods open to one or the other of the warring antagonists. This situation gave Indian nations a strategic advantage at this point in history, since both the British and Americans needed Indian military alliances, or at least an agreement of neutrality. The Indian nations could negotiate with either the warring nations, although alliances were often determined by long-term friendly relations with the British or American communities.
The treaty with the Delaware gives insight into Indian and U.S. relations at the very beginning of the treaty making process. The Delaware treaty was a treaty of peace and mutual protection. “(A) perpetual peace and friendship shall from henceforth take place…” Both sides agreed to peaceful relations and to forget any past harm done to each other. If new antagonisms arose, the two nations agreed to negotiate their differences. As peaceful allies, the Delaware and United States of America agreed to supply military aid to each other in any just war.
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