Sir William Johnson

 

Sir William Johnson - Source: http://clarke.cmich.edu/

Sir William Johnson - Source: http://clarke.cmich.edu/

Sir William Johnson was an Indian trader, diplomat, military officer, royalist, and one of the most important people in the events leading up to the American Revolution. 

 He arrived in America sometime around 1737 to manage an estate owned by his uncle in New York.  He soon started to develop friendships with the Mohawk Indians and eventually became recognized as one of their leaders.  His close ties to the Mohawks can be seen with his successive common law marriages of two Mohawk women.  His negotiation skill with the Indians and experience as a senior British officer who achieved fame in the French and Indian War, led to his appointment in 1756 as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Northern Department. He held this position until his death in 1774. Johnson’s career evolved around his Indian and military feats, but given all his fame and fortune, he was limited as a Catholic-turned Protestant.  Nonetheless, he was bestowed with a baronetcy in 1755 and given £5,000 by Parliament for his role in defeating the French at the Battle of Lake George. 

Johnson played a significant role in opening up the frontier to trade and expansion.  His affiliation with the extraordinary Indian trader, George Croghan, who served as his deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, enabled him to open up many new territories to commerce and settlement on behalf of the Crown.  Johnson often defended Croghan’s unscrupulous actions as misguided; when others thought it better to admonish him.  After the war, Johnson concentrated on expanding and improving his own land holdings.  At the time of his death, he owned 170,000 acres which made him the second largest landowner next to the Penn family.

Sources:

Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet – Wikipedia

Sir William Johnson, Indian Superintendent:  Colonial Development and Expansionism by Paul Redmond Drew 1996 Early America Review, The Papers of Sir William Johnson edited by AT Volwiler 1926 Organization of American Historians.

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