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In the Declaration of Independance, one of the "Wrongs of King George" is:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

This sentence always gets my family stirred up when I read it aloud on the Fourth of July, with them criticizing the founders' attitudes regarding the American Indians.

What I would like to know: Is this accusation based on fact? Did the British incite any Indian tribes to attack colonial settlements? I know there were hard feelings in the colonies about the treaty enacted in 1763 that forbade settlement beyond a line in the Appalachian Mountains, but I am not sure if that is what Jefferson was referring to. Were there British funded raids by tribes, or perhaps British arming of tribes?

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2 Answers 2

The quoted indictment, the 27th against the King of England, refers to the use of slaves and Indians against the colonial rebellion. The most notorious of these policies was the Dunmore Proclamation (1775) which offered freedom and weapons to any slave in Virginia that would fight against rebellious colonists. The Virginians were infuriated by this act. The "Savages" charge arose from the Proclamation of 1763 which declared all the land beyond the Appalachians as belonging to the Indians. The withdrawal of British support for frontier colonialists resulted in many massacres of families who had ventured into these areas. The Virginians were particularly offended by this proclamation, because many of the settlers of the Youghiogheny River Valley who were getting slaughtered were from Virginia. It was also well known that British officers were cosying up to different Indian tribes, especially the Mohawks, and making non-aggression pacts with them. These agreements gave the Indians free hand to attack wayward settlers who strayed too far west.

To my knowledge the British did not specifically sponsor any Indian raids or provide them with free weapons before 1776. In general, the British policy was to maintain neutrality with the tribes.

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Update: I've edited this answer to expand the material provided and to more precisely address the elements of the question, specifically, what is the factual basis for the accusation? A quick google search for Indian attacks 1605..1776 will reveal multiple attacks. Even if we narrow the range to 1754..1776, there are attacks by Indians on colonists. Trivial Research confirms that the direct reference is to attacks on colonists in Georgia.

Did the King provoke these attacks? I think there is legitimate debate. The Colonist's claim arises from Indian attacks on the frontiers. The English crown had guaranteed those lands to the native indian inhabitants; the colonists felt that the lands were theirs. Furthermore, the colonists believed that British officials paid cash for scalps taken from colonist forces: see the following quote from wikipedia

In the American Revolutionary War, Henry Hamilton, the Lieutenant Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs at Fort Detroit, was known by American Patriots as the "hair-buyer general" because they believed he encouraged and paid his Native American allies to scalp American settlers. When Hamilton was captured in the war by the colonists, he was treated as a war criminal instead of a prisoner of war because of this. However, American historians have conceded that there was no positive proof that he had ever offered rewards for scalps.[20] It is now assumed that during the American Revolution, no British officer paid for scalps.[21]

(Although it is not relevant to OP's question, I've included the modern position that the events never happened. Scholarship on this matter has changed since I was an elementary school student, and I don't want to perpetrate myths we now doubt.)

On the gripping hand, the entire document is propaganda; it is not designed to argue facts, but to justify actions and to persuade those who were not yet committed to believe in the legitimacy of the new country. Facts and evidence are ineffectual tools for persuasion; grand claims and hyperbole are far more effective.

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This text seems to be more interested in debating the justice of the declaration than on answering the questions, which is "what was the factual basis for charge #27". You may think Jefferson and Adams made an unjust indictment, but the question does not ask whether the charge was just or not, it asks what they were basing the charge on. –  Tyler Durden Jul 5 at 14:13
'"Facts and evidence are ineffectual tools for persuasion; grand claims and hyperbole are far more effective."' -- That may be true, but only to the extent that the hyperbole doesn't come back and ruin your reputation. In that way, truth also has real value. –  Dolda2000 Jul 8 at 23:32

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