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The Innocence Of The Paxton Boys Essay, Research Paper

I am here today to prove to you that Lazarus Stewart and Matthew Smith are not guilty of the murder of Conestoga Indians. While both men agree that they did kill the Conestogas, what they did is justified by the aggressive behavior shown by the Indians.

I will now present evidence to prove this conclusion.

My first piece of evidence is from a speech made by Little Abraham, a Mohawk sachem, to colonial Pennsylvania officials and Indian Leaders:

“You [...] made Plantations there and spoiled their hunting grounds, they [French-allied Delawares] then complained to us [...] and [we] found their complaints to be true. [...] [...] Our advice to you is, that you send for the Senecas [and Delawares], treat them kindly.”(Mombert 172-174)

From this quote, one can clearly see the fellowship amongst the Indian Tribes. Not only does Little Abraham advise the Colonials to cease settling, but also he has checked up on our doings. As I go over the next few pieces of evidence, I want you to keep in mind this fellowship.

From the “Narrative of Matthew Smith”:

‘[...] I cautiously crawled where I could get a view; I saw Indians armed; they were strangers; they outnumbered us by the dozens. [...] The moment we were perceived, an Indian fired at us and rushed forward [...]. [...] For no murder of our defenseless [sic] inhabitants has since happened” (Mombert 187-188)

This is eyewitness testimony stating that Captain Smith seen armed and foreign Indians in a substantial number. Now, why would there be armed Indians in a peaceful Indian village? Obviously, the Indians are not peaceful. This answer is also backed up by what happened right before the village was razed; as soon as the Indians seen a white man perceiving the activity in the Village, the Indians attacked, unprovoked. As for the final sentence in the quote, we can see that with no safe house with which to operate out of, the Indian attacks ceased.

From Lt. Governor Robert Morris’s Proclamation of War:

“[...] I do hereby declare the said Delaware Indians and all others who, in conjunction with them, have committed hostilities against his Majesty’s subjects within this Province, to be enemies, rebels and traitors [...]; and I do hereby require all his Majesty’s subjects of this Province [...] to embrace all opportunities of pursuing, taking, killing and destroying the said Delaware Indians and all others confederated with them [...].” (Mombert 166-168)

I call this piece of evidence to show direct orders for His Majesty’s subjects to kill, maim, or otherwise destroy Delaware Indians and those who help them. If these orders were followed during the first attack on the Conestoga’s village, there would have never been a second attack. However, the Captains were not sure at the time if the unknown Indians were indeed Delaware allied.

Next, I call Mr. Felix Donnelly to the stand.

Me: Mr. Donnelly, what is your profession?

Mr. Donnelly: Call me Felix, please. I am the keeper of the Lancaster Jail.

Me: Did you witness the so-called slaughter that took place there on the 27 of December?

Felix: Yes.

Me: Did the Indians attack the rioters with the billets of wood that they seized?

Felix: Yes (Rupp 358)

Me: Thank you Felix, there will be no more questions.

As you can see, gentlemen of the jury, it was the Indians, once again, who attacked first. Regardless of the good Captains intentions upon entering the jail, he was forced to take up arms in self-defense.

Now I know what everyone is thinking, what about the two three year-old Indians. On the surface, their deaths seem brutal indeed. However, one must realize that things such as this do happen. When a full-blown melee breaks out in a small place with vision obscured by gun smoke, it is sometimes difficult to identify your target. The Paxton Boys are very lucky that one of their own wasn’t killed in this chaotic fight.

And speaking of brutality, the Paxton Boys are nothing compared to the Indians. A prime example comes from a biographical sketch of Lazarus Stewart in Stewart Pearce’s Annals of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania: “The head of a [...] girl was severed from her body, and raised on a pole [...]. This lady was Captain Stewart’s intended bride [...]” (Pearce 101). Now ask yourself, “Out of the whole family, why was this girl singled out to be beheaded and here decapitated head placed on a pole?” Obviously, the Conestogas either provided the information of who the Captain of the Paxton Boys was engaged to or did this horrific deed themselves.

All in all, the Conestogas should not have collaborated with the enemy. Little Abraham’s speech showed us that the various Indian tribes do have connections with each other. I have an eyewitness account from Captain Smith stating that he saw the armed Indians in the Conestoga village; and I am sure that the Captain was not the only one to see this. Lt. Governor Robert Morris’s Proclamation of War clearly states what is to be done to those who collaborate with the enemy. The Paxton Boys mere carried out the orders contained in the Proclamation of War. Hence, in the eyes of this man, I will forever be indebted to them for their brave service of justice to his Majesty.

Mombert, Jacob Isador. An Authentic History of Lancaster County in the State of Pennsylvania. Lancaster, PA: Barr, 1869

Pearce, Stewart. Annals of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Second ed. Philadelphia:

Lippincott, 1869

Rupp, Daniel I. History of Lancaster and York Counties. Lancaster, PA: Hills, 1829


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