The Collaborator


White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America

By Fintan O'Toole

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 402 pp.,

$26)During the 1750s, Sir William Johnson became the most famous
American in the British Empire. Not even the amateur scientist and
professional lobbyist Benjamin Franklin could compare. George
Washington, a wealthy planter and provincial politician in
Virginia, lagged far behind. Franklin and Washington now loom much
larger in American memory because they won the revolutionary
independence that Johnson resisted to his death in 1774. And those
revolutionaries erased the Indian power that Johnson had exploited
to make himself indispensable to the lost empire.

Born into Irish obscurity, Johnson achieved wealth and power after
emigrating to colonial America during the late 1730s. Settling in
the Mohawk Valley of New York, he lived on the dangerous margins of
colonial society, where the British Empire encountered Indian
peoples. He arrived as the imperial wars escalated between Britain
and France for control of North America. Rather than blanch at the
dangers, Johnson shrewdly exploited his frontier land and his
violent times. Adapting quickly, he founded settlements, built
mills, traded with Indians, and became the primary colonial
official for dealing with them.

Unlike most colonists, who disdained the Indians, Johnson took pains
to learn their customs and their words. Remarkably accessible and
relatively fair, he impressed the local Mohawks, who ritually
adopted him with the apt name of Warraghiyagey, which meant "a man
who undertakes great things." A colonial admirer attributed
Johnson's influence among the Mohawks to his "compliance with their
humours in his dress and conversation."

Johnson saw opportunity in the friendship of his five hundred Mohawk
neighbors. Although diminished by disease, war, and migration, they
had important allies to the west among their fellow Iroquoian
speakers of the Six Nations. By pleasing the Mohawks, Johnson won
influence among all the Iroquois-- deemed the most important of the
Indian tribes because they occupied the strategic nexus of
waterways between French and British America. The Iroquois were the
gatekeepers of imperial war. At least, an Iroquois alliance would
screen New York from invasion by the French and their Indian allies
in Canada. And at best, that alliance would allow the British to
invade Canada. Early and often, Johnson pitched himself as the one
man who could sway the Iroquois, swinging the balance of power in
North America.

By cultivating Mohawk chiefs and royal governors, Johnson became the
indispensable broker of imperial relations with the American
Indians. During the climactic war of 1754-1763, Johnson secured
enough Iroquois support to facilitate the British conquest of
Canada. During that war, he led small armies to victory at Lake
George in 1755 and Fort Niagara in 1759. But his greatest triumphs
came in shaping opinion. A masterful publicist and correspondent,
Johnson won extra credit for his victories by dazzling the press and
imperial officials. To reward Johnson, Parliament gave him L5,000,
while the Crown knighted him as a baronet: he was only the second
colonist to be so honored. In 1756 the Crown also promoted him to
superintendent of Indian affairs in the northern colonies, with an
impressive salary of L600. These rewards from Britain enhanced
Johnson's clout in the colonies.

It did not pay to cross Sir William, for he twice toppled Britain's
military commanders in North America. In 1755, General William
Shirley offended Johnson by competing for Mohawk warriors, who were
invaluable to a frontier campaign. When Shirley sent meddling
emissaries among the Iroquois, Johnson bristled--and made sure that
almost no warriors joined his superior officer. Johnson's political
allies in New York also held up supplies desperately needed by
Shirley's army. When his expedition inevitably stalled, Shirley was
vulnerable to hostile insinuations cleverly spread in London by
Johnson's publicists. Discredited, Shirley was sacked and summoned
home to England.

Johnson bagged an even bigger prize in 1763. After the British
conquest of Canada, the chief commander, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, cut
Britain's costs by curtailing Johnson's budget for Indian affairs.
Denied their customary presents and treated harshly by British
troops, the Indians rose up in armed rebellion around the Great
Lakes and in the Ohio Valley. In masterful letters to his superiors
in London, Johnson made it abundantly clear that Amherst was to
blame- -and that only Johnson could clean up the mess. Impressed
and desperate, the imperial lords recalled Amherst and more than
restored Johnson's budget. Lavishing attention on the Indians,
Johnson restored peace and consolidated his reputation as the most
powerful man in Anglo-America.

In the meantime, he assembled in the Mohawk Valley a vast landed
estate of at least 150,000 acres, which he named "Kingsland" and
"Kingsborough" in honor of his ultimate patron. Within this estate,
he founded the village of Johnstown, just south of a palatial
mansion known as "Johnson Hall," where he entertained a steady
stream of Indian chiefs, provincial officers, and British
aristocrats. Fifty-five feet long by thirty-seven feet wide and
rising two full stories (plus an attic) above a complete cellar,
Johnson Hall was the largest residence on the colonial frontier.
Just outside the mansion, two smaller stone structures provided a
storehouse for Indian goods and an office for Johnson's records.
Nearby, a visitor found a coach house, a blacksmith's shop, barns,
and a council house for meeting Indians during inclement weather.

Indians daily visited Johnson Hall, indulging their curiosity and
pressing Johnson to redress their grievances. In 1764, Sir William
complained that "I have inexpressible trouble, every Room & Corner
in my House Constantly full of Indians, each individual of whom has
a thousand things to say, & ask and any person who chuses to engage
their affections or obtain an ascendency over them must be the
greatest Slave living & listen to them all at any hour." While
grumbling in private letters, Johnson publicly treated Indians with
patience, respect, and good humor. He never forgot that influence
with Indians sustained his wealth and power in colonial society and
the wider empire.

Visitors to Johnson Hall marveled at the overlap of European
sophistication and wealth with American savagery. Johnson's
compound seemed to crystallize the diverse cultural and racial
strands of empire. Enslaved Africans waited on the family and their
guests--and suffered pain for any infractions. The interior boasted
rich furnishings imported from Europe: oil paintings, framed prints
of the royal family, mahogany furniture, a billiard table, engraved
swords, porcelain china, silver tableware, and fine glasses. But
Johnson also proudly displayed curiosities avidly collected from
Indians: bows and arrows, wampum belts, baskets, pipes, and
deerskin attire decorated with beadwork. He also displayed the
pelts and antlers of wild mammals. This celebrated "cabinet of
curiosities" attracted inquiring correspondence from gentlemen on
both sides of the Atlantic.

As with Indian curios, so with Indian women: Johnson transmuted a
forest association into an emblem of genteel privilege. With fellow
gentlemen of worldly tastes, Johnson bantered about his rakish
exploits, hard drinking, and fornicating with women of lesser
standing and another color. In 1762 he wrote in a knowing tone to
his older friend Goldsbrow Banyar:

Should you deign to pay me a visit, I shall endeavor to make
everything agreeable to you, and introduce you to a Princess of the
first Rank here, who has large possessions, as well as parts,
provided I could be assured of your paying her more civility than
you did to the lady I shewed you at Albany, and dischargeing the
necessary Duty, which men of years and infirmities are seldom
capable of.

Mohawk Valley gossip insisted that Johnson lived "in a very genteel
style, and very hospitably, keeping a number of young Indian women
about him in [the] quality of concubines, and offering them in that
respect to gentlemen who happened to lodge at his house."

During his travels among the Iroquois villages, Johnson accumulated
mistresses. A friend noted that "Sir William like Solomon has been
eminent in his Pleasures with the brown Ladies." In addition to
their carnal pleasures, the liaisons and the children they produced
created a kinship network that bound Johnson to Indian families,
with their obligations and benefits. Johnson had to bestow
particular favors and presents on his Indian kin, while they
provided him with inside information and political support. A man of
lusty appetites but shrewd calculation, Johnson understood the
multiple advantages of his native mistresses and children.

The most enduring and important of those mistresses was
Konwatsitsaienni, or Molly Brant, who bore their first child in
September 1759. A colonist described her as a "daughter to a
sachem, who possessed an uncommonly agreeable person, and good
understanding." It was no coincidence that in 1759 Johnson became
much better informed about, and better able to manage, the complex
inner workings of Iroquois diplomacy. A colonist slyly noted, "As
she is descended from and connected with the most noble families of
the Indians, she was of great use to Sir William in his Treaties
with those people. He knew that Women govern the Politics of
savages as well [as] the refined part of the World and therefore
always kept up a good understanding with the brown Ladies."

The couple never married, at least not in a colonial ceremony. In
his will, Johnson described Molly as his "prudent & faithfull
Housekeeper" and as the mother of his "natural children." But he
treated her and their eight children with respect, honoring them
with his last name and significant bequests (albeit lesser bequests
than those received by his three elder children by a European
woman). Molly conducted his household with grace, intelligence, and
sound judgment, which charmed genteel visitors, who overlooked the
irregularity of her status and the color of her skin. After a visit
in 1765, Lord Adam Gordon wrote to Johnson, "My Love to Molly &
thanks for her good Breakfast."

In grand exaggeration, Johnson's amours became legendary. One story
ran that, when asked the number of his children, Johnson smiled and
replied, "That is a question that I cannot answer." Crossing the
Atlantic, the legend appeared in the popular novel Chrysal: or the
Adventures of a Guinea, written by Charles Johnstone and published
in London in 1761. The novel featured a superintendent as
accomplished in Indian love as in Indian war. He built a village to
accommodate his mistresses, who "often amounted to hundreds," and
"there was scarce a house in any of the tribes around him from
which he had not taken a temporary mate, and added a child of his
to their number." Procuring a copy of the novel, Johnson took a sly
pleasure in the celebrity of his libido.

His dramatic personality and his multicultural world have long
attracted biographers. Appealing for readers, the authors emphasize
the cultural overlap in Johnson's world--and especially his native
mistresses and their children. Rarely can authors resist straining
for an anachronistic analogy, usually medieval. Time and again,
they cast Johnson as a frontier lord living in a stone castle among
native retainers. Francis Jennings writes:

What Johnson aimed at, and he achieved it in his own lifetime, was
lordship over those Iroquois in the pattern of medieval lords who
led tribesmen to battle, acquired title to their lands, and did not
disdain the privilege to be free with their maidens.... Johnson
championed them exactly as the medieval lord looked after his
peasant manpower--because it was the foundation of his own power.

Bernard Bailyn similarly describes the "biracial manor court where
[Johnson] lived the uninhibited life of a marchland baron,
surrounded by his illegitimate children."

In White Savage, Fintan O'Toole adopts that motif, but with an Irish
spin. He casts Johnson as "a Gaelic lord, an idealized feudal
chieftain.... He gathered around him broken shards of the old Irish
order: harp music and the Gaelic language, Catholicism and the
ancient sacred spring of his Warrenstown childhood." Johnson
enjoyed "a kind of feudal Irish lordship in the Mohawk Valley." In
O'Toole's view, Johnson was a conflicted man shaped and haunted by
his Irish past.

O'Toole defines Irish culture as a tenacious allegiance to the Roman
Catholic faith, and to Gaelic words and ways deeply rooted in the
Middle Ages. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this
medieval culture was intensified by a relentless confrontation with
British invaders who were Protestants. During the 1690s, the
invaders completed their conquest by defeating the "Jacobite"
supporters of the Catholic King James. The Protestant victor, King
William III, tightened English control by imposing penal laws
constraining education, inheritance, and office-holding by Irish
Catholics. Most of the Irish land passed from Catholic into
Protestant ownership, condemning the majority to work as tenants or

O'Toole insists that the victors inflicted psychological wounds by
compelling the defeated Irish to hide their Gaelic and Catholic
culture. The victims included Johnson's father Christopher: "He had
learned how to live with the slow death of a defeated culture, how
to keep his head down, how to hold his tongue, how to move amid
undercurrents, how to survive." Taken to America, this inherited
pain endowed Sir William with his special asset, an empathetic
understanding for Indians facing British conquest: "He, like the
Iroquois, had grown up in a culture that felt itself in danger of

Looking at the same limited sources, other biographers see
Christopher Johnson as an opportunist who converted to the Anglican
form of Protestantism favored by the British establishment.
Undaunted by the lack of evidence, O'Toole insists that father
Johnson remained a lifelong Catholic anguished by the British
conquest and devastated when his son converted to Anglicanism. But
he also discounts the sincerity of that conversion. William was
merely following the cynical example of his uncle and patron, Sir
Peter Warren, who became a wealthy and powerful admiral in the
Royal Navy. Warren invested some of that wealth in Mohawk Valley
lands, which he entrusted to Johnson's management: the young man's
invitation to colonial America. O'Toole insists that, for both men,
Anglicanism was a thin veneer adopted to get ahead "while remaining
true to Catholicism in private prayer." He insists that they
nurtured "a silent hinterland beyond their public selves." But how
can O'Toole know what they thought in private prayer? And how can
we discern a private hinterland that remains silent?

He finds Catholic hints in stray slivers of evidence. Peter Warren
did not complete the legal formalities of Anglican conversion until
the year of his death. In another sliver, an Irish-born teacher,
Charles Reilly, sought Johnson's patronage in 1749 by writing a
letter in Latin. "As the language of the Mass and the priesthood,
Latin had deep importance to the Irish adherents of an outlawed
church," O'Toole confides. Reilly "understood, and wished Johnson
to know that he understood," that they shared "the painful and
never quite total adoption of a new personality."

In 1755, at the Battle at Lake George, Johnson captured the French
commander Baron de Dieskau. Sparing his life from the Mohawks,
Johnson graciously treated Dieskau as an honored guest. O'Toole
notes that a decade before, at the Battle of Fontenoy in Flanders,
Dieskau had served in a French army that featured Irish-Catholic
refugees, including some of Johnson's Warren cousins. "In his great
kindness to Dieskau," O'Toole concludes, "Johnson was perhaps
honouring a memory of these kinsmen and remembering how easily ...
he could have been their comrade rather than their enemy."

According to O'Toole, a private Irish Catholicism also shaped
Johnson's frontier policies, contributing to his unusual respect
for Indian beliefs. In 1766 he negotiated peace with Pontiac, a
chief who had helped to lead the Indian rebellion. O'Toole insists
that "Pontiac and Johnson enacted an elaborate version of the
Catholic ritual of Confession." Mohawks introduced Johnson to the
sacred and healing waters of Saratoga Springs, which, O'Toole
suggests, Johnson equated with a Catholic holy well from his Irish

Catholic Irishness also allegedly framed Johnson's disgust at
Pennsylvania's Scotch-Irish settlers, who treated Indians with
larcenous and murderous disdain. "The Catholic Jacobite poets of
Johnson's youth, and his parents' prime, railed against lower-class
Presbyterian settlers in exactly the same terms," O'Toole writes.
To develop his frontier estate, Johnson needed tenant farmers, and
he preferred to recruit Gaelic-speaking Catholics from the Scottish
Highlands. "Outwardly and officially an enthusiastic upholder of
the established Anglican Church, he was nevertheless forming an
unofficial Catholic colony under his personal protection," O'Toole
observes. Johnson even employed an Irish-born Catholic priest to
conduct mass for them. This the author considers a "quiet
rebellion" against the Protestant establishment.

To clinch his psychological case, O'Toole dwells on an angry letter
that Johnson wrote in 1764 to his superiors in London. The letter
denounces a rival peacemaker, General John Bradstreet, for
pretending that the Indian rebels had submitted to him and had
become British subjects. Writing "in terms poignantly redolent of
his own Irish Catholic background," Johnson raged against
Bradstreet for daring to describe the Indians as subjugated. "A
hidden voice from Johnson's own history is sounding out through the
words he puts in the mouths of the Indians." Here, then, is
O'Toole's trump card to reveal that Johnson privately resented
Ireland's subordination and denied that the Irish had accepted
British domination.

O'Toole portrays Johnson as a complex character tormented by a
psychological tension between his past and present, and between his
inner and outer selves. Superficially, he basked in wealth and
power won by serving a Protestant empire bent upon subordinating
Indians as it had conquered the Irish; but within, he squirmed in
psychic pain at having "compromised with the new political,
religious, and cultural order." There could never be inner peace for
an empire- builder who nurtured "the self-image of the dispossessed
Gaelic families." In this double consciousness, Johnson belongs in
a modern novel--which is exactly what O'Toole has produced.

O'Toole's book appeals to the current taste for a secret reality
cleverly revealed by gathering deeply hidden clues to subvert an
official story. The beauty of secret histories and conspiracy
theories is that they need not weigh the preponderance of evidence.
Instead, they can freely connect disparate slivers into an ominous
pattern mandated by prior conviction. But let us imagine that a
historian should seek probability in the most economical
explanation: the one that requires the fewest convolutions. If so,
the surviving documents consistently reveal Johnson as thoroughly
dedicated to the British Empire, its Protestant sovereign, and his
Anglican church.

A relentlessly ambitious man, Johnson cultivated a genteel style
that disdained overt emotions, especially in religious beliefs. In
eighteenth- century Britain and America, a fundamental divide
separated the genteel few from the common many who had to work with
their hands as farmers, artisans, sailors, or day laborers. Public
authority and high social standing belonged to "the better sort"
who combined superior wealth with polished manners, some classical
learning, and an honorable reputation.

Loyalty, ambition, gentility: these qualities best illuminate the
bits of evidence that O'Toole kidnaps from their context. The late
completion of Warren's formal conversion attests to the weakening
of the penal laws, for it mattered not a whit to his career on
behalf of a Protestant monarch. And in his life and his will, he
lavished benefactions on Protestant churches and missionaries--long
after any supposed need to cover his convictions. But what of that
Latin letter from the Irish schoolteacher? More than a code
language for Catholic priests and tormented converts, Latin was
coveted by all educated men with genteel aspirations. John Adams
and Thomas Jefferson cherished their Latin learning, but neither
was remotely Catholic. In 1749, Johnson needed a Latin instructor
to teach his children gentility, not Catholicism. And there was
nothing Gaelic or Catholic about Johnson's rage against murderous
settlers. Amherst's replacement as army commander, General Thomas
Gage, made identical characterizations--and Gage was thoroughly
English and just as Anglican as Johnson.

O'Toole also strains credulity by finding an ambiguous allegiance to
Britain and Protestantism in Johnson's graciousness to Dieskau. Far
more relevant is that Johnson named his summer house "Castle
Cumberland" to honor the Duke of Cumberland, who was Dieskau's
British opponent at the earlier Battle of Fontenoy. Moreover, in
1746 at Culloden in Scotland, the ruthless duke massacred Catholic
rebels, preserving the Protestant establishment in Great Britain.
As a byword for Protestant victory, "Cumberland" hardly suggested a
hidden fondness for Catholicism.

Indeed, O'Toole knows that Johnson did not need the supposed
ambiguity of a convert to treat Dieskau generously. A living and
grateful Dieskau was Johnson's greatest asset in 1755: a witness
that a colonial commander could live by a European code of elite
civility. After speculating wildly, O'Toole belatedly acknowledges
"that Dieskau was a very valuable prize, a high-class vehicle in
which to carry [Johnson's] reputation far beyond the forests of New

Nor did Johnson rebel against Protestantism when he recruited
Catholic tenants from Scotland. To develop his estate, Johnson
desperately needed tenants, but almost all Protestant colonists
preferred their abundant opportunities to acquire freehold farms.
Employing a Catholic priest was simply good business for a
Protestant landlord seeking the best available supply of tenants.
Johnson emulated the hundreds of Anglican landlords of Ireland who
employed Catholic laborers and tenants on their estates. By no means
were those landlords betraying their empire.

But what about Johnson's rant against General Bradstreet for
describing Indians as British subjects? Can that be read as an
Irish discomfort with British power? In fact, Johnson regarded
Bradstreet as an old and dangerous rival once again meddling in
Indian affairs. By pretending that Indians had become subjects,
Bradstreet seemed to pull off a coup meant to please the imperial
lords in London. Apparently he had trumped Johnson, who had long
(and accurately) insisted that Indians were fiercely independent
peoples who would become allies but never subjects. Bradstreet's
fraud had to be exposed quickly and thoroughly--hence Johnson's

Dismissive of colonial Protestants, O'Toole lumps their diverse
denominations into one malignant mass of "lunatic enthusiasts." This
lumping especially distorts when he casts another Johnson foil,
Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, as representing "pressure from the
Anglican Church." In fact, Wheelock was a New England
Congregationalist by denomination, and an evangelical Calvinist by
theology. This made him a "dissenter" from the official Anglican
church led by the king. As a staunch royalist, Johnson distrusted
"dissenters" as potential regicides and republicans. Johnson's
eventual aversion to Wheelock registered his devotion to
Anglicanism--not some closet Catholicism.

Indeed, initially Johnson found common ground with Wheelock as
fellow Protestants united against the influence of Catholicism
among the Indians. O'Toole never tells readers that in the early
1760s Johnson supported Wheelock's controversial program for
spreading dissenting missionaries and teachers among the Iroquois
to counteract the French Jesuits. While Johnson admired the talents
of the Jesuits, he dreaded their influence as a menace to British
rule in North America. Johnson preferred Anglican missionaries, but
they were so scarce in the early 1760s that he had to cooperate with
Wheelock to achieve their primary goal, which was to roll back

During the late 1760s, Johnson broke with Wheelock when he foolishly
bypassed the superintendent to meddle in Indian affairs. Such
meddling was always anathema to Johnson, who jealously guarded his
monopoly in Indian relations. The break came more easily because,
at decade's end, the Anglican Church could provide a new and
growing stream of missionaries to replace Wheelock's dissenters.
Sparing no expense, Johnson repaired or built three Anglican
chapels, and he subsidized Anglican teachers and missionaries for
both the settlers and the Indians throughout the Mohawk Valley. A
leading Anglican effused, "Although Sir William, like Solomon, has
been eminent in his Pleasures with the brown Ladies, yet he may lay
the Foundation of a Building in the Mohawk Country that may be of
more real use, than the very splendid Temple that Solomon built."

Indeed, Johnson became the leading lay spokesman for Anglicanism in
the colonies. In part, his increased zeal reflected an anxiety over
his eternal fate by an aging man in deteriorating health. But it
also expressed dismay at the growing colonial resistance to the
authority of the Crown. Johnson depended on that Crown for his
income and his authority, and painful experience with New York's
elected assembly had taught him to disdain popular politics. He
hoped to save the empire by increasing American Anglicans, whom he
deemed "the faithfullest Subjects of the Crown."

In particular, Johnson urged the Crown to appoint an American
Anglican bishop to facilitate the ordination of more clergy. This
proposal outraged the colonial majority, who were dissenters. They
suspected a plot to impose taxes to support the Church of England.
Widely and deeply believed, the anti-bishop propaganda compounded
tensions between the colonial dissenters and their British rulers.
That tension deepened Johnson's antipathy to the Patriot resistance
to British taxes during the 1760s and 1770s. O'Toole's subtitle
links William Johnson to "the invention of America," but in fact
Johnson worked to prevent the invention of America by defending the

O'Toole repeatedly pulls Johnson out of his eighteenth-century
context to plunk him into a continuous stream of Irish nationalism
defined in twentieth- century terms. He cannot imagine an Irish
authenticity disconnected from Catholicism or informed by values
other than Gaelic traditionalism. Of course, he has plenty of
company in seeing an unbroken tradition of uncompromising Catholic
and Gaelic resistance to British rule leading inexorably from
seventeenth-century dispossession to a twentieth-century republic;
but that company does not include Irish academic historians of the
past thirty years, who have recovered a more nuanced picture of
their eighteenth-century past. That century neither reproduced the
religious wars of the seventeenth century nor did it anticipate the
sectarian nationalism of later centuries. The mid- eighteenth
century was an age of compromises, evasions, and new (but later
lost) opportunities for mutual tolerance. Official enforcement of
the penal laws became sporadic and inefficient, giving Catholics
hope that their oppression would wither away.

Far from a trace element, Protestants were one-quarter of the
population, and they often expressed a devotion to Ireland that
matched any Catholic's. Most were Presbyterians, who resented the
official advantages of the Anglicans almost as much as the
Catholics did. During the 1790s, that shared resentment led to the
United Irish movement, which pursued a secular and rationalist
version of nationalism. Violent repression killed that movement and
subsequently divided the Protestant minority from the Catholic
majority. During the nineteenth century, the division led that
majority to develop the more romantic, Gaelic, and Catholic
nationalism that ultimately created the Irish republic--and that
O'Toole insists on reading backward.

The shame of O'Toole's misreading is that an Irish heritage did
indeed shape Johnson's reaction to his American opportunities--but
he championed an Anglican and a genteel Ireland rather than a
Catholic folk culture. In an insightful (but unpublished) doctoral
dissertation from 1975, John Christopher Guzzardo offers a more
persuasive reading of Johnson's fondness for Irish symbols and
Irish friends. Those resonances were overwhelmingly Anglican in
faith and British in allegiance. Johnson and most of his cronies
belonged to the Ireland of "the Pale": the Anglicized zone near
Dublin where ambitious men served the Protestant ascendancy by
dominating the Catholic natives. According to Guzzardo, Johnson
worked to re-create "a traditional Anglo-Irish countryside"
characterized by "the regular army troops, the Anglican chapel and
congregation, [and] the creole collaborators." These elements
"represented forces which had molded his family's Irish destiny for
a century."

Rather than make a painful compromise with the British Empire, Sir
William Johnson made it his own, exploiting its distant
possibilities to achieve a wealth and power far beyond what he
could have achieved at home in Ireland. With good reason, he never
stinted in praising the Protestant monarch who was his patron. Far
from feeling torn, Johnson was smug in his loyalties and triumphs.
He was the consummate collaborator.

By Alan Taylor

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