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The Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake: The Story of a Soldier, Adventurer, and Emissary to the Cherokees, 1756-1765

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  • Posted March 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

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    British Press Fascination for 1762 Cherokee Delegation Visit to London & King George III

    In 1762 a delegation of three leading Cherokee chiefs sailed from Virginia to England and back. They went to reaffirm their recent decision to stand by Britain versus France in the American phase of the Seven Years War. Some months later, possibly as a reward, young King George III issued his Demarcation Line Proclamation which protected all North American Indians against further undesired Colonial entry into Indian homelands west of the Appalachian Mountains. During the coming Revolutionary War, the Cherokees (probably no more than 20,000 in number) stayed loyal to King George and paid for it when the American rebels won. *** The 1762 Cherokee visit is a small but instructive tessera in a great, evolving mosaic of North American Indians interacting with Europeans, mostly Britain, France and Spain. Professor Duane H. King frames THE MEMOIRS OF LT. HENRY TIMBERLAKE brilliantly both in its overall big-picture historical context and its identification of all major players and motifs of Timberlake's 1765 publication. Virginian Henry Timberlake, 26 years old in 1762, began his Cherokee involvement when he volunteered, after helping negotiate a peace agreement, to return to the Cherokee Nation as a combined envoy and hostage against good behavior by the Virginia and South Carolina colonies. He mapped his winter journey there. He made and kept copious notes of what he saw of men, beasts and flora -- some of it unique at the time but verified in the 1960s and later by archeological digs. He then led the group to Williamsburg and across the North Atlantic on a good-will mission. Timberlake's MEMOIRS are fascinating reading in their own right. The scholarship framework supplied by King creates a total package perhaps three times the value of the unadorned narrative by TImberlake, which ends with whining in London about personally borne expenses of Cherokee travel unreimbursed by London or Williamsburg (The Cherokees had no money of their own.) *** Let me conclude by commending Duane King in particular for only one of many outstanding contributions: British press coverage of the 1762 visit, which included a call on 24-year old George III and Cherokee delegation congratulations a month later on the birth of the future George IV. Endnotes 166 - 220 are overwhelmingly about that media coverage and contemporary private observations, including the August 1762 call on the King, painting of their portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds and other artists and also attention from vitriolic humorist William Hogarth. A book to remember! -OOO-

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