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Paths to a Middle Ground

The Diplomacy of Natchez, Boukfouka, Nogales, and San Fernando de las Barrancas, 1791-1795

Written by Charles A. Weeks

Publication Year: 2010

Spanish imperial attempts to form strong Indian alliances to thwart American expansion in the Mississippi Valley.
Charles Weeks explores the diplomacy of Spanish colonial officials in New Orleans and Natchez in order to establish posts on the Mississippi River and Tombigbee rivers in the early 1790s. Another purpose of this diplomacy, urged by Indian leaders and embraced by Spanish officials, was the formation of a regional Indian confederation that would deter American expansion into Indian lands.

Weeks shows how diplomatic relations were established and maintained in the Gulf South between Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee chiefs and their Spanish counterparts aided by traders who had become integrated into Indian societies. He explains that despite the absence of a European state system, Indian groups had diplomatic skills that Europeans could understand: full-scale councils or congresses accompanied by elaborate protocol, interpreters, and eloquent metaphorical language.

Paths to a Middle Ground
is both a narrative and primary documents. Key documents from Spanish archival sources serve as a basis for the examination of the political culture and imperial rivalry playing out in North America in the waning years of the 18th century.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page/Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

Maps and Diagrams

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book represents a blend of older borderland histories, which emphasize the role of the Spanish during the sixteenth through the early nineteenth centuries in the broad area stretching from California to Florida, and more recent work that portrays the same region as one of encounter among its most numerous peoples, Native Americans...

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Introduction: An Argument

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pp. 1-8

Piomingo, the astute and able Chickasaw chief, when invited by the Spanish to participate in a major assembly in 1793 with other Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Cherokees, responded by saying he would follow a “straight path” to Nogales, the site chosen for the meeting.1 In using the word path, Piomingo invoked perhaps the most common symbol...

Part I

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pp. 9

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1. Initial and Sustained Contacts in the Gulf South: From Violence to Diplomacy

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pp. 11-17

Sixteenth-century Native American and European encounters in the Gulf South contrast markedly with those of the eighteenth. Beginning with the arrival of a number of Spanish expeditions from islands in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, there was little of a diplomatic nature about them: they were ephemeral, often violent, and certainly disruptive...

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2. Forging Diplomatic Paths: Native Participants

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pp. 18-24

By the end of the eighteenth century, Indians and newcomers had encountered one another and mixed in a variety of ways. Europeans competing with each other sought Indian allies, and this political objective blended with an active trade involving the exchange of deerskins and pelts for a variety of European goods. An ability to provide goods...

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3. Forging Diplomatic Paths: Emergence of a Culture of Diplomacy

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pp. 25-44

Sustained contacts between natives and Europeans in the eighteenth century brought about change for all and gave added meaning to the phrase new world.1 In the course of this change, a diplomatic culture emerged that reflected many of these changes and no doubt encouraged them. While it incorporated elements of what the new people brought...

Part II

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pp. 45

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4. The Nogales Dispute, 1791–1792: Some Immediate Antecedents

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pp. 47-62

In the years following the American Revolution, local Spanish officials endeavored to find common ground with Indian elites and local traders in an effort to check what all increasingly saw as challenges coming from the United States. Responding to overtures from the Creek chief Alexander McGillivray, these officials held the 1784 congresses...

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5. Diplomacy of the Nogales Dispute, 1791–1792

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pp. 63-80

Given his experience with Choctaw visitors during the April visit to Nogales, Gayoso no doubt received Franchimastabé’s letter—bearing also the name of Taboca—with some surprise shortly after his return to Natchez. One might speculate that had the two chiefs been with Itelegana and Panto Tistabe and the other Choctaws at Nogales...

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6. Paths to Boukfouka and the Tombigbee,1792–1793

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pp. 81-102

Gayoso portrayed the Natchez assembly and treaty as a success in concluding a process to foil the American settlement at Nogales and secure better relations with both the Choctaws and the Chickasaws. Four key people—the Choctaw chiefs Franchimastabé and Taboca, the trader Turner Brashears, and the Chickasaw “king” Taskietoka—seemed now on the side of the Spanish...

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7. Tangled and Twisted Paths to Nogales

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pp. 103-117

As they did in other parts of the world, forts in this region often turned out to be much less than their creators intended or expected, or as people later wanted to see them.1 Like the earlier French Fort Tombecbé, the Spanish “Fort Confederation” might be so regarded. Much to Delavillebeuvre’s dismay—for he saw his credibility with the Choctaws threatened...

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8. The Nogales Assembly, 1793

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pp. 118-125

By the time the assembly called by Gayoso in April for late June finally got under way almost four months later in October after one more delay, over two thousand Indians had arrived, most of them (about fifteen hundred) Choctaws—far more than Gayoso had wanted. Its proceedings, while replete with formality and ceremony...

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9. Paths—River and Other—from Nogales to San Fernando de las Barrancas

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pp. 126-142

While the Nogales congress did not achieve in the end all that Spanish officials and some of the Indian participants may have wanted, it did provide an occasion for more ongoing talk, ceremony, and interaction that in the end proved more important than a specific treaty document. The treaty that came out of the assembly assumed and claimed too much...

Part III

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pp. 143-145

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Diary of Gayoso’s Journey to Nogales, March 24–April 23, 1791

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pp. 146-149

Believing it necessary to inform your lordship about all my operations related to the Nogales post and that the report necessarily ought to be a lengthy one, I will compose it in the form of a diary for greater clarity. Last March 23, I advised your lordship of the departure of an expedition for Nogales. Having returned here that night...

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pp. 150-151

Sir, I heard that My Father the father of the Cohuus and Chickasaws what is the Reason of your Reason your taking of Our Lands We Red People the King of our Lands never offered to thak the White People Land I thought you was our father and loved us but I find it is not the Case I thought that our talks was as one but I find that you took us for your Children...

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Gayoso’s Response to Franchimastabé and Taboca, May 28, 1791

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pp. 152-153

My Dear good friend: I received a talk signed with your name and that of Tobacaie, dated 14 of this month & brought by the Chief of the great medal Ytelegana. As I know the affection you have for the Spanish, I believe that whoever wrote the letter did not explain well your meaning...

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Diary of Stephen Minor’s First Mission tothe Choctaws May 30 to June 13, 1791

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pp. 154-160

May 30, 1791: Having received the sealed letter for Franchimastab

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Gayoso on Minor’s Mission to the Choctaws, July 1, 1791

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pp. 161-169

On last May 28 I informed Your Lordship about the incident, which I then described, relative to the opposition of the Chacta and Chicasa Indians to our settlement in Nogales. On the 30th day of the same [month] Don Estevan Minor left this post with my response for Franchimastab

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Gayoso to Franchimastab

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pp. 170-171

Gayoso prepared this letter for Minor to deliver to Franchimastabé on his second mission to the Choctaws. He enclosed a copy, in Spanish, as the first of several enclosures related to Minor’s mission, with a letter he sent directly to the Spanish Minister of State, the Count of Floridablanca. His letter to Taskietoka (document 9) is one of the other documents enclosed with this letter...

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Diary of Minor’s Second Mission to the Choctaws, March 13–April 3, 1792

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pp. 172-181

Diary of Lt. Estevan Minor, Adjutant Major of the town of Natchez, charged by its Governor Col. Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, to go to the Chacta Nation with an official letter for Franchimastab

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pp. 182

Dear Father, My friend and Brother. You are at the Natchez and sends talks to me and I believe them as you put trust in the man that you sent to talk with me and I have had a great deal of talk with him and I believe you and I hope you will believe me. And if I was to say that there was but seven or eight...

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Gayoso to Tascahetuca [Taskietoka], March 28, 1792

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pp. 183

In the context of Minor’s second mission to the Choctaws, Gayoso wrote this letter to the “King of the Chickasaws.” He sent a copy of it, along with his letter to Franchimastabé, his instructions to Minor, and other documents directly to the minister of state, the count of Floridablanca, in Spain...

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Gayoso’s Account of the Natchez Congress, May 1792

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pp. 184-200

On the tenth of the current month [May] I received information from Franchimastab

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Treaty of Natchez, May 14, 1792

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pp. 201-202

Treaty of Friendship between His Catholic Majesty, Great King of the Spains and of the Indies, on the one part, represented by Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Colonel of his Royal Armies, Governor of the Plaza and district of Natchez; and, on the other, Taskaotuca, K ing of the Chicachas, and of Franchimastab

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Gayoso’s Account of the Visit to Natchez of Cherokee Chiefs, December 1792–January 1793

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pp. 203-206


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Treaty of Boukfouka, May 1793

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pp. 207-208

Treaty of Friendship between His Catholic Majesty great King the Spains and the Indies for one part represented by Lieutenant Colonel Don Juan de la Villebeuvre, Grenadier Captain of the Louisiana Regiment and Commissioner of His Catholic Majesty in the Chacta and Chicacha Nations and for the other by Nanhoulo mastab

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Gayoso’s Account of the Nogales Assembly, October 1793

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pp. 209-229

“Latest of the Assembly” After you charged me to describe part of what happened in the assembly up to the conclusion of the treaty, I received orders from Your Lordship to send assistance from this jurisdiction to our capital and then to the upper reaches of the river. I therefore postponed until now informing Your Lordship...

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Treaty of Nogales, October 28, 1793

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pp. 230-232

Treaty of Friendship and Guarantee between His Catholic Majesty King of Spain and Emperor of the Indies on the one hand and on the other the Chickasaw, Creek, Talapuche, Alibamon, Cherokee, and Choctaw Nations, represented in name of His Majesty by Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Colonel of the Royal Armies, Military and Political Governor...

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Cession of the Barrancas de Marg

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pp. 233-235

This document takes the form of a map followed by a verbal “representation.” The reproduction, which is included here, is a copy from the Archivo General de Simancas of a copy submitted by Manuel Gayoso de Lemos to the Baron de Carondelet, which he signed and then forwarded to Spain (see Figure 7). We have translated the text portion of the document...

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Gayoso’s Account of a Meeting with the Chickasaw King at San Fernando de las Barrancas, August 1795

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pp. 236-242

When Ugulayacab


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pp. 243-244

Notes to Chapters

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pp. 245-274

Notes to Documents

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pp. 275-278

Essay on Sources

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pp. 279-284


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pp. 285-292

E-ISBN-13: 9780817385224
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817356453

Publication Year: 2010