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Apr
17

Edmond Atkin – Indian Superintendent

By
When:
April 16, 2018 all-day
2018-04-16T00:00:00-04:00
2018-04-17T00:00:00-04:00

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All correspondence between Edmond Atkin and GW:

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https://founders.archives.gov/search/Correspondent%3A%22Atkin%2C%20Edmond%22%20Correspondent%3A%22Washington%2C%20George%22

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About Atkin and  extensive Indian activities:

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https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-05-02-0089

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Scots and Indian Trade

http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/wiley031/00040818.pdf

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In 1755, a South Carolinian submitted a report and a plan to the Board

of Trade in London that shed much light on frontier conditions. Edmund

Atkin (1707–1761), himself a successful Charleston merchant in the Indian

trade, was tactless, quarrelsome, pompous, arrogant, and inept. And he did not

play favorites, angering whites and Indians alike. One incident highlights the

personal danger of operating in Indian country, the volatile atmosphere that

always lurked beneath the surface when whites and Indians met, and the

damage that could be done by offensive deportment or ill-chosen words. It

was described by the trader James Adair, on one occasion while in council

in the Upper Creek town of Tuckabatchee, which was located in present-day

Elmore County, Alabama, northeast of modern Montgomery. Atkin so

enraged the Creek warrior Tobacco Eater, “who had always before been very

kind to the British traders,” that Tobacco Eater “jumped up in a rage, and

darted his tomahawk at his head.”The blade hit a beam as it came down and

struck Atkin only a glancing blow. But blood spurted, and pandemonium

ensued. Traders fearing all would be massacred fled in every direction. But

several Creeks friendly to the English sprang upon Tobacco Eater and threw

him to the ground and bound him. Thus, Adair wrote, was “prevented those

dangerous consequences which must otherwise have immediately followed.

Beginnings 21

Had the aimed blow succeeded, the savages would have immediately put up

the war and death whoop, destroyed most of the white people there on the

spot, and set off in great bodies, both to the Cherakee country, and against

our valuable settlements.”30

Yet Atkin was intelligent, well educated, and a good observer. And unlike

many, if not most, of his fellow merchants, he believed strongly that central

control and regulation of the Indian trade was necessary if England was

to best France in the momentous war for North America then being waged.

His general approach was neither unique nor new to the authorities in London.

Various proposals by well-known colonials had been submitted to the

Board of Trade during the early 1750s. But his plan, wrote the historian

Wilbur Jacobs, “was truly the first comprehensive, well-organized design for

Indian management submitted to British authorities.”31

Atkin divided the colonies into northern and southern departments,

with a superintendent of Indian affairs for each. The northern superintendency

would be filled by the famous and very able Anglo Irishman Sir

William Johnson, whose main responsibility would be the powerful Iroquois

Confederacy of central and western New York, among whom he lived, married,

and begot children. His baronial home, Johnson Hall, still stands in the

Mohawk Valley. Atkin was made superintendent of the Southern Department,

in which he served from his appointment in 1756 until his death in

October 1761.

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