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The Winning of the West, Volume Three by Theodore Roosevelt

Part 4 out of 5

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to New Orleans, the disunion agitation once more took formidable form.
The news of his success excited the cupidity of every mercantile
adventurer, and the whole district became inflamed with desire to reap
the benefits of the rich river-trade; and naturally the people formed
the most exaggerated estimate of what these benefits would be. Chafing
at the way the restrictions imposed by the Spanish officials hampered
their commerce, the people were readily led by Wilkinson and his
associates to consider the Federal authorities as somehow to blame
because these restrictions were not removed.

The Indian Ravages.

The discontent was much increased by the growing fury of the Indian
ravages. There had been a lull in the murderous woodland warfare during
the years immediately succeeding the close of the Revolution, but the
storm had again gathered. The hostility of the savages had grown
steadily. By the summer of 1787 the Kentucky frontier was suffering
much. The growth of the district was not stopped, nor were there any
attempts made against it by large war bands; and in the thickly settled
regions life went on as usual. But the outlying neighborhoods were badly
punished, and the county lieutenants were clamorous in their appeals for
aid to the Governor of Virginia. They wrote that so many settlers had
been killed on the frontier that the others had either left their
clearings and fled to the interior for safety, or else had gathered in
the log forts, and so were unable to raise crops for the support of
their families. Militia guards and small companies of picked scouts were
kept continually patrolling the exposed regions near the Ohio, but the
forays grew fiercer, and the harm done was great. [Footnote: State Dept.
MSS., No. 71, vol. ii., pp. 561, 563.] In their anger the Kentuckians
denounced the Federal Government for not aiding them, the men who were
loudest in their denunciations being the very men who were most
strenuously bent on refusing to adopt the new Constitution, which alone
could give the National Government the power to act effectually in the
interest of the people.

Ratification of the Federal Constitution.

While the spirit of unrest and discontent was high, the question of
ratifying or rejecting this new Federal Constitution came up for
decision. The Wilkinson party, and all the men who believed in a weak
central government, or who wished the Federal tie dissolved outright,
were, of course, violently opposed to ratification. Many weak or
short-sighted men, and the doctrinaires and theorists--most of the
members of the Danville political club, for instance--announced that
they wished to ratify the Constitution, but only after it had been
amended. As such prior amendment was impossible, this amounted merely to
playing into the hands of the separatists; and the men who followed it
were responsible for the by no means creditable fact that most of the
Kentucky members in the Virginia convention voted against ratification.
Three of them, however, had the patriotism and foresight to vote in
favor of the Constitution.

Further Delay.

Another irritating delay in the march toward statehood now occurred. In
June, 1788, the Continental Congress declared that it was expedient to
erect Kentucky into a state. [Footnote: State Dep. MSS., No. 20, vol.
i., p. 341 etc.] But immediately afterwards news came that the
Constitution had been ratified by the necessary nine States, and that
the new government was, therefore, practically in being. This meant the
dissolution of the old Confederation, so that there was no longer any
object in admitting Kentucky to membership, and Congress thereupon very
wisely refused to act further in the matter. Unfortunately Brown, who
was the Kentucky delegate in Congress, was one of the separatist
leaders. He wrote home an account of the matter, in which he painted the
refusal as due to the jealousy felt by the East for the West. As a
matter of fact the delegates from all the States, except Virginia, had
concurred in the action taken. Brown suppressed this fact, and used
language carefully calculated to render the Kentuckians hostile to the

Naturally all this gave an impetus to the separatist movement. The
district held two conventions, in July and again in November, during the
year 1788; and in both of them the separatist leaders made determined
efforts to have Kentucky forthwith erect herself into an independent
state. In uttering their opinions and desires they used vague language
as to what they would do when once separated from Virginia. It is
certain that they bore in mind at the time at least the possibility of
separating outright from the Union and entering into a close alliance
with Spain. The moderate men, headed by those who were devoted to the
national idea, strenuously opposed this plan; they triumphed and
Kentucky merely sent a request to Virginia for an act of separation in
accordance with the recommendations of Congress. [Footnote: See Marshall
and Green for this year.]

The Kentucke Gazette.

It was in connection with these conventions that there appeared the
first newspaper ever printed in this new west; the west which lay no
longer among the Alleghanies, but beyond them. It was a small weekly
sheet called the _Kentucke Gazette_, and the first number appeared in
August, 1787. The editor and publisher was one John Bradford, who
brought his printing press down the river on a flat-boat; and some of
the type were cut out of dogwood. In politics the paper sided with the
separatists and clamored for revolutionary action by Kentucky.
[Footnote: Durrett Collection, _Kentucke Gazette_, September 20, 1788.]

Failure of the Separatist Movement.

The purpose of the extreme separatist was, unquestionably, to keep
Kentucky out of the Union and turn her into a little independent
nation,--a nation without a present or a future, an English-speaking
Uraguay or Ecuador. The back of this separatist movement was broken by
the action of the fall convention of 1788, which settled definitely that
Kentucky should become a state of the Union. All that remained was to
decide on the precise terms of the separation from Virginia. There was
at first a hitch over these, the Virginia Legislature making terms to
which the district convention of 1789 would not consent; but Virginia
then yielded the points in dispute, and the Kentucky convention of 1790
provided for the admission of the state to the Union in 1792, and for
holding a constitutional convention to decide upon the form of
government, just before the admission. [Footnote: Marshall, i., 342

Thus Kentucky was saved from the career of ignoble dishonor to which she
would have been doomed by the success of the disunion faction. She was
saved from the day of small things. Her interests became those of a
nation which was bound to succeed greatly or to fail greatly. Her fate
was linked for weal or for woe with the fate of the mighty Republic.



Individual Initiative of the Frontiersmen.

So far the work of the backwoodsmen in exploring, conquering, and
holding the West had been work undertaken solely on individual
initiative. The nation as a whole had not directly shared in it. The
frontiersmen who chopped the first trails across the Alleghanies, who
earliest wandered through the lonely western lands, and who first built
stockaded hamlets on the banks of the Watauga, the Kentucky, and the
Cumberland, acted each in consequence of his own restless eagerness for
adventure and possible gain. The nation neither encouraged them to
undertake the enterprises on which they embarked, nor protected them for
the first few years of uncertain foothold in the new-won country. Only
the backwoodsmen themselves felt the thirst for exploration of the
unknown, the desire to try the untried, which drove them hither and
thither through the dim wilderness. The men who controlled the immediate
destinies of the confederated commonwealths knew little of what lay in
the forest-shrouded country beyond the mountains, until the backwoods
explorers of their own motion penetrated its hidden and inmost
fastnesses. Singly or in groups, the daring hunters roved through the
vast reaches of sombre woodland, and pitched their camps on the banks of
rushing rivers, nameless and unknown. In bands of varying size the
hunter-settlers followed close behind, and built their cabins and
block-houses here and there in the great forest land. They elected their
own military leaders, and waged war on their own account against their
Indian foes. They constructed their own governmental systems, on their
own motion, without assistance or interference from the parent States,
until the settlements were firmly established, and the work of civic
organization well under way.

Help Rendered by National Government.

Of course some help was ultimately given by the parent States; and the
indirect assistance rendered by the nation had been great. The West
could neither have been won nor held by the frontiersmen, save for the
backing given by the Thirteen States. England and Spain would have made
short work of the men whose advance into the lands of their Indian
allies they viewed with such jealous hatred, had they not also been
forced to deal with the generals and soldiers of the Continental army,
and the statesmen and diplomats of the Continental Congress. But the
real work was done by the settlers themselves. The distinguishing
feature in the exploration, settlement, and up-building of Kentucky and
Tennessee was the individual initiative of the backwoodsmen.

The Northwest Won by the Nation as a Whole.

The direct reverse of this was true of the settlement of the country
northwest of the Ohio. Here, also, the enterprise, daring, and energy of
the individual settlers were of the utmost consequence; the land could
never have been won had not the incomers possessed these qualities in a
very high degree. But the settlements sprang directly from the action of
the Federal Government, and the first and most important of them would
not have been undertaken save for that action. The settlers were not the
first comers in the wilderness they cleared and tilled. They did not
themselves form the armies which met and overthrew the Indians. The
regular forces led the way in the country north of the Ohio. The Federal
forts were built first; it was only afterwards that the small towns
sprang up in their shadow. The Federal troops formed the vanguard of the
white advance. They were the mainstay of the force behind which, as
behind a shield, the founders of the commonwealths did their work.

Unquestionably many of the settlers did their full share in the
fighting; and they and their descendants, on many a stricken field, and
through many a long campaign, proved that no people stood above them in
hardihood and courage; but the land on which they settled was won less
by themselves than by the statesmen who met in the national capital, and
the scarred soldiers who on the frontier upbore the national colors.
Moreover, instead of being absolutely free to choose their own form of
government, and shape their own laws and social conditions untrammelled
by restrictions, the Northwesterners were allowed to take the land only
upon certain definite conditions. The National Government ceded to
settlers part of its own domain, and provided the terms upon which
states of the Union should afterwards be made out of this domain; and
with a wisdom and love of righteousness which have been of incalculable
consequence to the whole nation, it stipulated that slavery should never
exist in the States thus formed. This condition alone profoundly
affected the whole development of the Northwest, and sundered it by a
sharp line from those portions of the new country which, for their own
ill fortune, were left free from all restriction of the kind. The
Northwest owes its life and owes its abounding strength and vigorous
growth to the action of the nation as a whole. It was founded not by
individual Americans, but by the United States of America. The mighty
and populous commonwealths that lie north of the Ohio and in the valley
of the Upper Mississippi are in a peculiar sense the children of the
National Government, and it is no mere accident that has made them in
return the especial guardians and protectors of that government; for
they form the heart of the nation.

Unorganized Settlements West of the Ohio.

Before the Continental Congress took definite action concerning the
Northwest, there had been settlements within its borders, but these
settlements were unauthorized and illegal, and had little or no effect
upon the aftergrowth of the region. Wild and lawless adventurers had
built cabins and made tomahawk claims on the west bank of the Upper
Ohio. They lived in angry terror of the Indians, and they also had cause
to dread the regular army; for wherever the troops discovered their
cabins, they tore them down, destroyed the improvements, and drove off
the sullen and threatening squatters. As the tide of settlement
increased in the neighboring country these trespassers on the Indian
lands and on the national domain became more numerous. Many were driven
off, again and again; but here and there one kept his foothold. It was
these scattered few successful ones who were the first permanent
settlers in the present State of Ohio, coming in about the same time
that the forts of the regular troops were built. They formed no
organized society, and their presence was of no importance whatever in
the history of the State.

The American settlers who had come in round the French villages on the
Wabash and the Illinois were of more consequence. In 1787 the adult
males among these American settlers numbered 240, as against 1040 French
of the same class. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 48, p. 165. Of adult
males there were among the French 520 at Vincennes, 191 at Kaskaskia,
239 at Cahokia, 11 at St. Phillippe, and 78 at Prairie du Rocher. The
American adult males numbered 103 at Vincennes and 137 in the Illinois.]
They had followed in the track of Clark's victorious march. They had
taken up land, sometimes as mere squatters, sometimes under color of
title obtained from the French courts which Clark and Todd had organized
under what they conceived to be the authority of Virginia. They were for
the most part rough, enterprising men; and while some of them behaved
well, others proved very disorderly and gave much trouble to the French;
so that both the Creoles and the Indians became exasperated with them
and put them in serious jeopardy just before Clark undertook his
expedition in the fall of 1786.

The French Villages.

The Creoles had suffered much from the general misrule and anarchy in
their country, and from the disorderly conduct of some of the American
settlers, and of not a few of the ragged volunteer soldiery as well.
They hailed with sincere joy the advent of the disciplined Continental
troops, commanded by officers who behaved with rigid justice towards all
men and put down disorder with a strong hand. They were much relieved to
find themselves under the authority of Congress, and both to that body
and to the local Regular Army officers, they sent petitions setting
forth their grievances and hopes. In one petition to Congress they
recited at length the wrongs done them, dwelling especially upon the
fact that they had gladly furnished the garrison established among them
with poultries and provisions of every kind, for which they had never
received a dollar's payment. They remarked that the stores seemed to
disappear in a way truly marvellous, leaving the backwoods soldiers who
were to have benefited by them "as ragged as ever." The petitioners
complained that the undisciplined militia quartered among them, who on
their arrival were "in the most shabby and wretched state," and who had
"rioted in abundance and unaccustomed luxury" at the expense of the
Creoles, had also maltreated and insulted them; as for instance they had
at times wantonly shot the cattle merely to try their rifles. "Ours was
the task of hewing and carting them firewood to the barracks," continued
the petition, complaining of the way the Virginians had imposed on the
submissiveness and docility of the inhabitants, "ours the drudgery of
raising vegetables which we did not eat, poultry for their kitchen,
cattle for the diversion of their marksmen."

The petitioners further asked that every man among them should be
granted five hundred acres. They explained that formerly they had set no
value on the land, occupying themselves chiefly with the Indian trade,
and raising only the crops they absolutely needed for food; but that now
they realized the worth of the soil, and inasmuch as they had various
titles to it, under lost or forgotten charters from the French kings,
they would surrender all the rights these titles conveyed, save only
what belonged to the Church of Cahokia, in return for the above named
grant of five hundred acres to each individual. [Footnote: State
Department MSS., No. 48, "Memorial of the French Inhabitants of Post
Vincennes, Kaskaskia, La Prairie du Rocher, Cahokia, and Village of St.
Philip to Congress." By Bartholemew Tardiveau, agent. New York, February
26, 1788. Tardiveau was a French mercantile adventurer, who had
relations with Gardoqui and the Kentucky separatists, and in a petition
presented by him it is not easy to discriminate between the views that
are really those of the Creoles, and the views which he deemed it for
his own advantage to have expressed.]

The memorialists alluded to their explanation of the fact that they had
lost all the title-deeds to the land, that is all the old charters
granted them, as "ingenuous and candid"; and so it was. The immense
importance of having lost all proof of their rights did not strike them.
There was an almost pathetic childishness in the request that the United
States authorities should accept oral tradition in lieu of the testimony
of the lost charters, and in the way they dwelt with a kind of humble
pride upon their own "submissiveness and docility." In the same spirit
the inhabitants of Vincennes surrendered their charter, remarking
"accustomed to mediocrity, we do not wish for wealth but for mere
competency." [Footnote: _Do_., July 26, 1787.] Of course the
"submissiveness" and the light-heartedness of the French did not prevent
their being also fickle; and their "docility" was varied by fits of
violent quarrelling with their American neighbors and among themselves.
But the quarrels of the Creoles were those of children, compared with
the ferocious feuds of the Americans.

Sometimes the trouble was of a religious nature. The priest at
Vincennes, for instance, bitterly assailed the priest at Cahokia,
because he married a Catholic to a Protestant; while all the people of
the Cahokia church stoutly supported their pastor in what he had done.
[Footnote: _Do_., p. 85.] This Catholic priest was Clark's old friend
Gibault. He was suffering from poverty, due to his loyal friendship to
the Americans; for he had advanced Clark's troops both goods and
peltries, for which he had never received payment. In a petition to
Congress he showed how this failure to repay him had reduced him to
want, and had forced him to sell his two slaves, who otherwise would
have kept and tended him in his old age. [Footnote: American State
Papers, Public Lands, I., Gibault's Memorial, May I, 1790.]

The Federal General Harmar, in the fall of 1787, took formal possession,
in person, of Vincennes and the Illinois towns; and he commented upon
the good behavior of the Creoles, and their respect for the United
States Government, and laid stress upon the fact that they were entirely
unacquainted with what the Americans called liberty, and could best be
governed in the manner to which they were accustomed--"by a commandant
with a few troops." [Footnote: St. Clair Papers, Harmar's Letters,
August 7th and November 24th, 1787.]

Contrast between the French and Americans.

The American pioneers, on the contrary, were of all people the least
suited to be governed by a commandant with troops. They were much better
stuff out of which to make a free, self-governing nation, and they were
much better able to hold their own in the world, and to shape their own
destiny; but they were far less pleasant people to govern. To this day
the very virtues of the pioneers--not to speak of their faults--make it
almost impossible for them to get on with an ordinary army officer,
accustomed as he is to rule absolutely, though justly and with a sort of
severe kindness. Army officers on the frontier--especially when put in
charge of Indian reservations or of French or Spanish communities--have
almost always been more or less at swords-points with the stubborn,
cross-grained pioneers. The borderers are usually as suspicious as they
are independent, and their self-sufficiency and self-reliance often
degenerate into mere lawlessness and defiance of all restraint.

The Regular Officers Side with the French against the Americans.

The Federal officers in the backwoods north of the Ohio got on badly
with the backwoodsmen. Harmar took the side of the French Creoles, and
warmly denounced the acts of the frontiersmen who had come in among
them. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 150, vol. ii., Harmar to Le
Grasse and Busseron, June 29, 1787.] In his letter to the Creoles he
alluded to Clark's Vincennes garrison as "a set of lawless banditti,"
and explained that his own troops were regulars, who would treat with
justice both the French and Indians. Harmar never made much effort to
conceal dislike of the borderers. In one letter he alludes to a Delaware
chief as "a manly old fellow, and much more of a gentleman than the
generality of these frontier people." [Footnote: _Do_., Harmar to the
Secretary of War, March 9, 1788.] Naturally, there was little love lost
between the bitterly prejudiced old army officer, fixed and rigid in all
his ideas, and the equally prejudiced backwoodsmen, whose ways of
looking at almost all questions were antipodal to his.

The Creoles of the Illinois and Vincennes sent warm letters of welcome
to Harmar. The American settlers addressed him in an equally respectful
but very different tone, for, they said, their hearts were filled with
"anxiety, gloominess, and dismay." They explained the alarm they felt at
the report that they were to be driven out of the country, and
protested--what was doubtless true--that they had settled on the land in
entire good faith, and with the assent of the French inhabitants. The
latter themselves bore testimony to the good faith, and good behavior of
many of the settlers, and petitioned that these should not be molested,
[Footnote: _Do_., Address of American Inhabitants of Vincennes, August
4, 1787; Recommendation by French Inhabitants in Favor of American
Inhabitants, August 2d; Letter of Le Chamy and others, Kaskaskia, August
25th; Letter of J. M. P. Le Gras, June 25th.] explaining that the French
had been benefited by their industry, and had preserved a peaceable and
friendly intercourse with them. In the end, while the French villagers
were left undisturbed in their ancient privileges, and while they were
granted or were confirmed in the possession of the land immediately
around them, the Americans and the French who chose to go outside the
village grants were given merely the rights of other settlers.

The Continental officers exchanged courtesies with the Spanish
commandants of the Creole villages on the west bank of the Mississippi,
but kept a sharp eye on them, as these commandants endeavored to
persuade all the French inhabitants to move west of the river by
offering them free grants of land. [Footnote: Hamtranck to Harmar,
October 13, 1788.]

The Real Founders of the Northwest.

But all these matters were really of small consequence. The woes of the
Creoles, the trials of the American squatters, the friction between the
regular officers and the backwoodsmen, the jealousy felt by both for the
Spaniards--all these were of little real moment at this period of the
history of the Northwest. The vital point in its history was the passage
by Congress of the Ordinance of 1787, and the doings of the various land
companies under and in consequence of this ordinance.

Individualism in the Southwest, Collectivism in the Northwest

The wide gap between the ways in which the Northwest and the Southwest
were settled is made plain by such a statement. In the Northwest, it was
the action of Congress, the action of the representatives of the nation
acting as a whole, which was all-important. In the Southwest, no action
of Congress was of any importance when compared with the voluntary
movements of the backwoodsmen themselves. In the Northwest, it was the
nation which acted. In the Southwest, the determining factor was the
individual initiative of the pioneers. The most striking feature in the
settlement of the Southwest was the free play given to the workings of
extreme individualism. The settlement of the Northwest represented the
triumph of an intelligent collectivism, which yet allowed to each man a
full measure of personal liberty.

Difference in Stock of the Settlers.

Another difference of note was the difference in stock of the settlers.
The Southwest was settled by the true backwoodsmen, the men who lived on
their small clearings among the mountains of western Pennsylvania,
Virginia, and North Carolina. The first settlement in Ohio, the
settlement which had most effect upon the history of the Northwest, and
which largely gave it its peculiar trend, was the work of New
Englanders. There was already a considerable population in New England;
but the rugged farmers with their swarming families had to fill up large
waste spaces in Maine and in Northern New Hampshire and Vermont, and
there was a very marked movement among them towards New York, and
especially into the Mohawk valley, all west of which was yet a
wilderness. In consequence, during the years immediately succeeding the
close of the Revolutionary War, the New England emigrants made their
homes in those stretches of wilderness which were nearby, and did not
appear on the western border. But there had always been enterprising
individuals among them desirous of seeking a more fertile soil in the
far west or south, and even before the Revolution some of these men
ventured to Louisiana itself, to pick out a good country in which to
form a colony. After the close of the war the fame of the lands along
the Ohio was spread abroad; and the men who wished to form companies for
the purposes of adventurous settlement began to turn their eyes thither.

Land Claims of the States.

The first question to decide was the ownership of the wished-for
country. This decision had to be made in Congress by agreement among the
representatives of the different States. Seven States--Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New York, Virginia, Georgia, and both Carolinas--claimed
portions of the western lands. New York's claim was based with entire
solemnity on the ground that she was the heir of the Iroquois tribes,
and therefore inherited all the wide regions overrun by their terrible
war-bands. The other six States based their claims on various charters,
which in reality conferred rights not one whit more substantial.

These different claims were not of a kind to which any outside power
would have paid heed. Their usefulness came in when the States bargained
among themselves. In the bargaining, both among the claimant States, and
between the claimant and the non-claimant States, the charter titles
were treated as of importance, and substantial concessions were exacted
in return for their surrender. But their value was really inchoate until
the land was reduced to possession by some act of the States or the

Virginia and North Carolina.

At the close of the Revolutionary War there existed wide differences
between the various States as to the actual ownership and possession of
the lands they claimed. Virginia and North Carolina were the only two
who had reduced to some kind of occupation a large part of the territory
to which they asserted title. Their backwoodsmen had settled in the
lands so that they already held a certain population. Moreover, these
same backwoodsmen, organized as part of the militia of the parent
States, had made good their claim by successful warfare. The laws of the
two States were executed by State officials in communities scattered
over much of the country claimed. The soldier-settlers of Virginia and
North Carolina had actually built houses and forts, tilled the soil, and
exercised the functions of civil government, on the banks of the Wabash
and the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee.
Counties and districts had been erected by the two States on the western
waters; and representatives of the civil divisions thus constituted sat
in the State Legislatures. The claims of Virginia and North Carolina to
much of the territory had behind them the substantial element of armed
possession. The settlement and conquest of the lands had been achieved
without direct intervention by the Federal Government; though of course
it was only the ultimate success of the nation in its contest with the
foreign foe that gave the settlement and conquest any value.


As much could not be said for the claims of the other States. South
Carolina's claim was to a mere ribbon of land south of the North
Carolina territory, and need not be considered; ceded to the Government
about the time the Northwest was organized. [Footnote: For an account of
this cession see Mr. Garrett's excellent paper in the publications of
the Tennessee Historical Society.] Georgia asserted that her boundaries
extended due west to the Mississippi, and that all between was hers. But
the entire western portion of the territory was actually held by the
Spaniards and by the Indian tribes tributary to the Spaniards. No
subjects of Georgia lived on it, or were allowed to live on it. The few
white inhabitants were subjects of the King of Spain, and lived under
Spanish law; the Creeks and Choctaws were his subsidized allies; and he
held the country by right of conquest. Georgia, a weak and turbulent,
though a growing State, was powerless to enforce her claims. Most of the
territory to which she asserted title did not in truth become part of
the United States until Pinckney's treaty went into effect. It was the
United States and not Georgia that actually won and held the land in
dispute; and it was a discredit to Georgia's patriotism that she so long
wrangled about it, and ultimately drove so hard a bargain concerning it
with the National Government.

Claims to the Northwest.

There was a similar state of affairs in the far Northwest. No New
Yorkers lived in the region bounded by the shadowy and wavering lines of
the Iroquois conquests. The lands claimed under ancient charters by
Massachusetts and Connecticut were occupied by the British and their
Indian allies, who held adverse possession. Not a single New England
settler lived in them; no New England law had any force in them; no New
England soldier had gone or could go thither. They were won by the
victory of Wayne and the treaty of Jay. If Massachusetts and Connecticut
had stood alone, the lands would never have been yielded to them at all;
they could not have enforced their claim, and it would have been
scornfully disregarded. The region was won for the United States by the
arms and diplomacy of the United States. Whatever of reality there was
in the titles of Massachusetts and Connecticut came from the existence
and actions of the Federal Union. [Footnote: For this northwestern
history see "The Life, Journal, and Correspondence of Manasseh Cutler,"
by Wm. Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler; "The St. Clair Papers,"
by W. H. Smith; "The Old Northwest," by B. A. Hinsdale; "Maryland's
Influence upon Land Cessions," by Herbert Adams. See also Donaldson's
"Public Domain," Hildreth's "History of Washington County," and the
various articles by Poole and others. In Prof. Hinsdale's excellent
book, on p. 200, is a map of the "Territory of the Thirteen Original
States in 1783." This map is accurate enough for Virginia and North
Carolina; but the lands in the west put down as belonging to
Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia, did not really belong to them
at all in 1783; they were held by the British and Spaniards, and were
ultimately surrendered to the United States, not to individual States.
These States did not surrender the land; they merely surrendered a
disputed title to the lands.]

The Non-claimant States.

All the States that did not claim lands beyond the mountains were
strenuous in belittling the claims of those that did, and insisted that
the title to the western territory should be vested in the Union. Not
even the danger from the British armies could keep this question in
abeyance, and while the war was at its height the States were engaged in
bitter wrangles over the subject; for the weakness of the Federal tie
rendered it always probable that the different members of the Union
would sulk or quarrel with one another rather than oppose an energetic
resistance to the foreign foe. At different times different non-claimant
States took the lead in pushing the various schemes for nationalizing
the western lands; but Maryland was the first to take action in this
direction, and was the most determined in pressing the matter to a
successful issue. She showed the greatest hesitation in joining the
Confederation at all while the matter was allowed to rest unsettled; and
insisted that the titles of the claimant States were void, that there
was no need of asking them to cede what they did not possess, and that
the West should be declared outright to be part of the Federal domain.

Maryland was largely actuated by fear of her neighbor Virginia.
Virginia's claims were the most considerable, and if they had all been
allowed, hers would have been indeed an empire. Maryland's fears were
twofold. She dreaded the mere growth of Virginia in wealth, power, and
population in the first place; and in the second she feared lest her own
population might be drained into these vacant lands, thereby at once
diminishing her own, and building up her neighbor's, importance. Each
State, at that time, had to look upon its neighbors as probable
commercial rivals and possible armed enemies. This is a feeling which we
now find difficulty in understanding. At present no State in the Union
fears the growth of a neighbor, or would ever dream of trying to check
that growth. The direct reverse was the case during and after the
Revolution; for the jealousy and distrust which the different States
felt for one another were bitter to a degree.

The Continental Congress Advocates a Compromise.

The Continental Congress was more than once at its wits' ends in
striving to prevent an open break over the land question between the
more extreme States on the two sides. The wisest and coolest leaders saw
that the matter could never be determined on a mere consideration of the
abstract rights, or even of the equities, of the case. They saw that it
would have to be decided, as almost all political questions of great
importance must be decided, by compromise and concession. The foremost
statesmen of the Revolution were eminently practical politicians. They
had high ideals, and they strove to realize them, as near as might be;
otherwise they would have been neither patriots nor statesmen. But they
were not theorists. They were men of affairs, accustomed to deal with
other men; and they understood that few questions of real moment can be
decided on their merits alone. Such questions must be dealt with on the
principle of getting the greatest possible amount of ultimate good, and
of surrendering in return whatever must be surrendered in order to
attain this good. There was no use in learned arguments to show that
Maryland's position was the proper one for a far-sighted American
patriot, or that Virginia and North Carolina had more basis for their
claims than Connecticut or Georgia. What had to be done was to appeal to
the love of country and shrewd common-sense of the people in the
different States, and persuade them each to surrender on certain points,
so that all could come to a common agreement.

Land Cessions by the Claimant States.

New York's claim was the least defensible of all, but, on the other
hand, New York led the way in vesting whatever title she might have in
the Federal Government. In 1780 she gave proof of the growth of the
national idea among her citizens by abandoning all her claim to western
lands in favor of the Union. Congress used this surrender as an argument
by which to move the other States to action. It issued an earnest appeal
to them to follow New York's example without regard to the value of
their titles, so that the Federal Union might be put on a firm basis.
Congress did not discuss its own rights, nor the rights of the States;
it simply asked that the cessions be made as a matter of expediency and
patriotism; and announced that the policy of the Government would be to
divide this new territory into districts of suitable size, which should
be admitted as States as soon as they became well settled. This last
proposition was important, as it outlined the future policy of the
Government, which was to admit the new communities as States, with all
the rights of the old States, instead of treating them as subordinate
and dependent, after the manner of the European colonial systems.

Maryland then joined the Confederation, in 1781. Virginia and
Connecticut had offered to cede their claims but under such conditions
that it was impossible to close with the offers. Congress accepted the
New York cession gratefully, with an eye to the effect on the other
States; but for some time no progress was made in the negotiations with
the latter. Finally, early in 1784, the bargain with Virginia was
consummated. She ceded to Congress her rights to the territory northwest
of the Ohio, except a certain amount retained as a military reserve for
the use of her soldiers, while Congress tacitly agreed not to question
her right to Kentucky. A year later Massachusetts followed suit, and
ceded to Congress her title to all the lands lying west of the present
western boundary of New York State. Finally, in 1786, a similar cession
was made by Connecticut. But Connecticut's action was not much more
patriotic or less selfish than Georgia's. Throughout the controversy she
showed a keen desire to extract from Congress all that could possibly be
obtained, and to delay action as long as might be; though, like Georgia,
Connecticut could by rights claim nothing that was not in reality
obtained for the Union by the Union itself. She made her grant
conditionally upon being allowed to reserve for her own profit about
five thousand square miles in what is now northern Ohio. This tract was
afterwards known as the Western Reserve. Congress was very reluctant to
accept such a cession, with its greedy offset, but there was no wise
alternative, and the bargain was finally struck.

The non-claimant states had attained their object, and yet it had been
obtained in a manner that left the claimant States satisfied. The
project for which Maryland had contended was realized, with the
difference that Congress accepted the Northwest as a gift coupled with
conditions, instead of taking it as an unconditional right. The lands
became part of the Federal domain, and were nationalized so far as they
could be under the Confederation; but there was no national treasury
into which to turn the proceeds from the sale until the Constitution was
adopted. [Footnote: Hinsdale, 250.]

The Land Policy of Congress.

Having got possession of the land, Congress proceeded to arrange for its
disposition, even before providing the outline of the governmental
system for the states that might grow up therein. Congress regarded the
territory as forming a treasury chest, and was anxious to sell the land
in lots, whether to individuals or to companies. In 1785 it passed an
ordinance of singular wisdom, which has been the basis of all our
subsequent legislation on the subject.

This ordinance was another proof of the way in which the nation applied
its collective power to the subdual and government of the Northwest,
instead of leaving the whole matter to the working of unrestricted
individualism, as in the Southwest. The pernicious system of acquiring
title to public lands in vogue among the Virginians and North
Carolinians was abandoned. Instead of making each man survey his own
land, and allowing him to survey it when, how, and where he pleased,
with the certainty of producing endless litigation and trouble, Congress
provided for a corps of government surveyors, who were to go about this
work systematically. It provided further for a known base line, and then
for division of the country into ranges of townships six miles square,
and for the subdivision of these townships into lots ("sections") of one
square mile--six hundred and forty acres--each. The ranges, townships,
and sections were duly numbered. The basis for the whole system of
public education in the Northwest was laid by providing that in every
township lot No. 16 should be reserved for the maintenance of public
schools therein. A minimum price of a dollar an acre was put on the

Congress hoped to find in these western lands a source of great wealth.
The hope was disappointed. The task of subduing the wilderness is not
very remunerative. It yields a little more than a livelihood to men of
energy, resolution, and bodily strength and address; but it does not
yield enough for men to be able to pay heavily for the privilege of
undertaking the labor. Throughout our history the pioneer has found that
by taking up wild land at a low cost he can make a rough living, and
keep his family fed, clothed, and housed; but it is only by very hard
work that he can lay anything by, or materially better his condition. Of
course, the few very successful do much more, and the unsuccessful do
even less; but the average pioneer can just manage to keep continually
forging a little ahead, in matters material and financial. Under such
conditions a high price cannot be obtained for public lands; and when
they are sold, as they must be, at a low price, the receipts do little
more than offset the necessary outlay. The truth is that people have a
very misty idea as to the worth of wild lands. Even when the soil is
rich they only possess the capacity of acquiring value under labor. All
their value arises from the labor done on them or in their neighborhood,
except that it depends also upon the amount of labor which must
necessarily be expended in transportation.

It is the fashion to speak of the immense opportunity offered to any
race by a virgin continent. In one sense the opportunity is indeed
great; but in another sense it is not, for the chance of failure is very
great also. It is an opportunity of which advantage can be taken only at
the cost of much hardship and much grinding toil.

The Ordinance of 1787.

It remained for Congress to determine the conditions under which the
settlers could enter the new land, and under which new States should
spring up therein. These conditions were fixed by the famous Ordinance
of 1787; one of the two or three most important acts ever passed by an
American legislative body, for it determined that the new northwestern
States, the children, and the ultimate leaders, of the Union, should get
their growth as free commonwealths, untainted by the horrible curse of
negro slavery.

Several ordinances for the government of the Northwest were introduced
and carried through Congress in 1784-1786, but they were never put into
operation. In 1784 Jefferson put into his draft of the ordinance of that
year a clause prohibiting slavery in all the western territory, south as
well as north of the Ohio River, after the beginning of the year 1801.
This clause was struck out; and even if adopted it would probably have
amounted to nothing, for if slavery had been permitted to take firm root
it could hardly have been torn up. In 1785 Rufus King advanced a
proposition to prohibit all slavery in the Northwest immediately, but
Congress never acted on the proposal.

The next movement in the same direction was successful, because when it
was made it was pushed by a body of well-known men who were anxious to
buy the lands that Congress was anxious to sell, but who would not buy
them until they had some assurance that the governmental system under
which they were to live would meet their ideas. This body was composed
of New Englanders, mostly veterans of the Revolutionary War, and led by
officers who had stood well in the Continental army.

When, in the fall of 1783, the Continental army was disbanded, the
war-worn and victorious soldiers, who had at last wrung victory from the
reluctant years of defeat, found themselves fronting grim penury. Some
were worn with wounds and sickness; all were poor and unpaid; and
Congress had no means to pay them. Many among them felt that they had
small chance to repair their broken fortunes if they returned to the
homes they had abandoned seven weary years before, when the guns of the
minute-men first called them to battle.

The Ohio Company.

These heroes of the blue and buff turned their eyes westward to the
fertile lands lying beyond the mountains. They petitioned Congress to
mark out a territory, in what is now the State of Ohio, as the seat of a
distinct colony, in time to become one of the confederated States; and
they asked that their bounty lands should be set off for them in this
territory. Two hundred and eighty-five officers of the Continental line
joined in this petition; one hundred and fifty-five, over half, were
from Massachusetts, the State which had furnished more troops than any
other to the Revolutionary armies. The remainder were from Connecticut,
New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Maryland.

The signers of this petition desired to change the paper obligations of
Congress, which they held, into fertile wild lands which they should
themselves subdue by their labor; and out of these wild lands they
proposed to make a new State. These two germ ideas remained in their
minds, even though their petition bore no fruit. They kept before their
eyes the plan of a company to undertake the work, after getting the
proper cession from Congress. Finally, in the early spring of 1786, some
of the New England officers met at the "Bunch of Grapes" tavern in
Boston, and organized the Ohio Company of Associates. They at once sent
one of their number as a delegate to New York, where the Continental
Congress was in session, to lay their memorial before that body.

Congress and the Ohio Company.

Congress was considering another ordinance for the government of the
Northwest when the memorial was presented, and the former was delayed
until the latter could be considered by the committee to which it had
been referred. In July, Dr. Manasseh Cutler, of Ipswich, Massachusetts,
arrived as a second delegate to look after the interests of the company.
He and they were as much concerned in the terms of the governmental
ordinance, as in the conditions on which the land grant was to be made.
The orderly, liberty-loving, keen-minded New Englanders who formed the
company, would not go to a land where the form of government was hostile
to their ideas of righteousness and sound public policy.

The Prohibition of Slavery.

The one point of difficulty was the slavery question. Only eight States
were at the time represented in the Congress; these were Massachusetts,
New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and
Georgia--thus five of the eight States were southern. But the Federal
Congress rose in this, almost its last act, to a lofty pitch of
patriotism; and the Southern States showed a marked absence of sectional
feeling in the matter. Indeed, Cutler found that though he was a New
England man, with a New England company behind him, many of the Eastern
people looked rather coldly at his scheme, fearing lest the settlement
of the West might mean a rapid drainage of population from the East.
Nathan Dane, a Massachusetts delegate, favored it, in part because he
hoped that planting such a colony in the West might keep at least that
part of it true to "Eastern politics." The Southern members, on the
other hand, heartily supported the plan. The committee that brought in
the ordinance, the majority being Southern men, also reported an article
prohibiting slavery. Dane was the mover, while the rough draft may have
been written by Cutler; and the report was vigorously pushed by the two
Virginians on the committee, William Grayson and Richard Henry Lee. The
article was adopted by a vote unanimous, except for the dissent of one
delegate, a nobody from New York.

The ordinance established a territorial government, with a governor,
secretary, and judges. A General Assembly was authorized as soon as
there should be five thousand free male inhabitants in the district. The
lower house was elective, the upper house, or council, was appointive.
The Legislature was to elect a territorial delegate to Congress. The
governor was required to own a freehold of one thousand acres in the
district, a judge five hundred, and a representative two hundred; and no
man was allowed to vote unless he possessed a freehold of fifty acres.
[Footnote: "St. Clair Papers," ii., 603.] These provisions would seem
strangely undemocratic if applied to a similar territory in our own day.

Features of the Ordinance of 1787.

The all-important features of the ordinance were contained in the six
articles of compact between the confederated States and the people and
states of the territory, to be forever unalterable, save by the consent
of both parties. The first guaranteed complete freedom of worship and
religious belief to all peaceable and orderly persons. The second
provided for trial by jury, the writ of habeas corpus, the privileges of
the common law, and the right of proportional legislative
representation. The third enjoined that faith should be kept with the
Indians, and provided that "schools and the means of education" should
forever be encouraged, inasmuch as "religion, morality, and knowledge"
were necessary to good government. The fourth ordained that the new
states formed in the Northwest should forever form part of the United
States, and be subject to the laws, as were the others. The fifth
provided for the formation and admission of not less than three or more
than five states, formed out of this northwestern territory, whenever
such a putative state should contain sixty thousand inhabitants; the
form of government to be republican, and the state, when created, to
stand on an equal footing with all the other States.

The sixth and most important article declared that there should never be
slavery or involuntary servitude in the Northwest, otherwise than for
the punishment of convicted criminals, provided, however, that fugitive
slaves from the older States might lawfully be reclaimed by their
owners. This was the greatest blow struck for freedom and against
slavery in all our history, save only Lincoln's emancipation
proclamation, for it determined that in the final struggle the mighty
West should side with the right against the wrong. It was in its results
a deadly stroke against the traffic in and ownership of human beings,
and the blow was dealt by southern men, to whom all honor should ever be
given. This anti-slavery compact was the most important feature of the
ordinance, yet there were many other features only less important.

Importance of the Ordinance.

In truth the ordinance of 1787 was so wide-reaching in its effects, was
drawn in accordance with so lofty a morality and such far-seeing
statesmanship, and was fraught with such weal for the nation, that it
will ever rank amongst the foremost of American state papers, coming in
that little group which includes the Declaration of Independence, the
Constitution, Washington's Farewell Address, and Lincoln's Emancipation
Proclamation and Second Inaugural. It marked out a definite line of
orderly freedom along which the new States were to advance. It laid deep
the foundation for that system of widespread public education so
characteristic of the Republic and so essential to its healthy growth.
It provided that complete religious freedom and equality which we now
accept as part of the order of nature, but which were then unknown in
any important European nation. It guaranteed the civil liberty of all
citizens. It provided for an indissoluble Union, a Union which should
grow until it could relentlessly crush nullification and secession; for
the States founded under it were the creatures of the Nation, and were
by the compact declared forever inseparable from it.

New Method of Creating Colonies.

In one respect the ordinance marked a new departure of the most radical
kind. The adoption of the policy therein outlined has worked a complete
revolution in the way of looking at new communities formed by
colonization from the parent country. Yet the very completeness of this
revolution to a certain extent veils from us its importance. We cannot
realize the greatness of the change because of the fact that the change
was so great; for we cannot now put ourselves in the mental attitude
which regarded the old course as natural. The Ordinance of 1787 decreed
that the new States should stand in every respect on an equal footing
with the old; and yet should be individually bound together with them.
This was something entirely new in the history of colonization. Hitherto
every new colony had either been subject to the parent state, or
independent of it. England, Holland, France, and Spain, when they
founded colonies beyond the sea, founded them for the good of the parent
state, and governed them as dependencies. The home country might treat
her colonies well or ill, she might cherish and guard them, or oppress
them with harshness and severity, but she never treated them as equals.
Russia, in pushing her obscure and barbarous conquest and colonization
of Siberia,--a conquest destined to be of such lasting importance in the
history of Asia,--pursued precisely the same course.

In fact, this had been the only kind of colonization known to modern
Europe. In the ancient world it had also been known, and it was only
through it that great empires grew. Each Roman colony that settled in
Gaul or Iberia founded a city or established a province which was
tributary to Rome, instead of standing on a footing of equality in the
same nation with Rome. But the other great colonizing peoples of
antiquity, the Greeks and Phoenicians, spread in an entirely different
way. Each of their colonies became absolutely independent of the country
whence it sprang. Carthage and Syracuse were as free as Tyre or Sidon,
as Corinth or Athens. Thus under the Roman method the empire grew, at
the cost of the colonies losing their independence. Under the Greek and
Carthaginian method the colonies acquired the same freedom that was
enjoyed by the mother cities; but there was no extension of empire, no
growth of a great and enduring nationality. The modern European nations
had followed the Roman system. Until the United States sprang into being
every great colonizing people followed one system or the other.

The American Republic, taking advantage of its fortunate federal
features and of its strong central government, boldly struck out on a
new path, which secured the freedom-giving properties of the Greek
method, while preserving national Union as carefully as it was preserved
by the Roman Empire. New States were created, which stood on exactly the
same footing as the old; and yet these new States formed integral and
inseparable parts of a great and rapidly growing nation. This movement
was original with the American Republic; she was dealing with new
conditions, and on this point the history of England merely taught her
what to avoid. The English colonies were subject to the British Crown,
and therefore to Great Britain. The new American States, themselves
colonies in the old Greek sense, were subject only to a government which
they helped administer on equal terms with the old States. No State was
subject to another, new or old. All paid a common allegiance to a
central power which was identical with none.

The absolute novelty of this feature, as the world then stood, fails to
impress us now because we are so used to it. But it was at that time
without precedent; and though since then the idea has made rapid
progress, there seems in most cases to have been very great difficulty
in applying it in practice. The Spanish-American states proved wholly
unable to apply it at all. In Australia and South Africa all that can be
said is that events now apparently show a trend in the direction of
adopting this system. At present all these British colonies, as regards
one another, are independent but disunited; as regards the mother
country, they remain united with her, but in the condition of

The Question of Slavery.

The vital feature of the ordinance was the prohibition of slavery. This
prohibition was not retroactive; the slaves of the French villagers, and
of the few American slaveholders who had already settled round them,
were not disturbed in their condition. But all further importation of
slaves, and the holding in slavery of any not already slaves, were
prohibited. The prohibition was brought about by the action of the Ohio
Company. Without the prohibition the company would probably not have
undertaken its experiment in colonization; and save for the pressure of
the company slavery would hardly have been abolished. Congress wished to
sell the lands, and was much impressed by the solid worth of the
founders of the association. The New Englanders were anxious to buy the
lands, but were earnest in their determinating to exclude slavery from
the new territory. The slave question was not at the time a burning
issue between North and South; for no Northerner thought of crusading to
destroy the evil, while most enlightened Southerners were fond of
planning how to do away with it. The tact of the company's
representative before Congress, Dr. Cutler, did the rest. A compromise
was agreed to; for, like so many other great political triumphs, the
passage of the Ordinance of 1787 was a compromise. Slavery was
prohibited, on the one hand; and on the other, that the territory might
not become a refuge for runaway negroes, provision was made for the
return of such fugitives. The popular conscience was yet too dull about
slavery to be stirred by the thought of returning fugitive slaves into

Land Purchase.

A fortnight after the passage of the ordinance, the transaction was
completed by the sale of a million and a half acres, north of the Ohio,
to the Ohio Company. Three million and a half more, known as the Sciato
purchase, were authorized to be sold to a purely speculative company,
but the speculation ended in nothing save financial disaster. The price
was nominally seventy cents an acre; but as payment was made in
depreciated public securities, the real price was only eight or nine
cents an acre. The sale illustrated the tendency of Congress at that
time to sell the land in large tracts; a most unwholesome tendency,
fruitful of evil to the whole community. It was only by degrees that the
wisdom of selling the land in small plots, and to actual occupiers, was

Together with the many wise and tolerant measures included in the famous
Ordinance of 1787, and in the land Ordinance of 1785, there were one or
two which represented the feelings of the past, not the future. One of
them was a regulation which reserved a lot in every township to be given
for the purposes of religion. Nowadays, and rightfully, we regard as
peculiarly American the complete severance of Church and State, and
refuse to allow the State to contribute in any way towards the support
of any sect.

A regulation of a very different kind provided that two townships should
be set apart to endow a university. These two townships now endow the
University of Ohio, placed in a town which, with queer poverty of
imagination, and fatuous absence of humor, has been given the name of

Organization of the Company.

The company was well organized, the founders showing the invaluable New
England aptitude for business, and there was no delay in getting the
settlement started. After some deliberation the lands lying along the
Ohio, on both sides of, but mainly below, the Muskingum, were chosen for
the site of the new colony. There was some delay in making the payments
subsequent to the first, and only a million and some odd acres were
patented. One of the reasons for choosing the mouth of the Muskingum as
the site for the town was the neighborhood of Fort Harmar, with its
strong Federal garrison, and the spot was but a short distance beyond
the line of already existing settlement.

Founding of Marietta.

As soon as enough of the would-be settlers were ready, they pushed
forward in parties towards the headwaters of the Ohio, struggling along
the winter-bound roads of western Pennsylvania. In January and February
they began to reach the banks of the Youghioghany, and set about
building boats to launch when the river opened. There were forty-eight
settlers in all who started down stream, their leader being General
Rufus Putnam. He was a tried and gallant soldier, who had served with
honor not only in the Revolutionary armies, but in the war which crushed
the French power in America. On April 7, 1788, he stepped from his boat,
which he had very appropriately named the Mayflower, on to the bank of
the Muskingum. The settlers immediately set to work felling trees,
building log houses and a stockade, clearing fields, and laying out the
ground-plan of Marietta; for they christened the new town after the
French Queen, Marie Antoinette. [Footnote: "St. Clair Papers," i., 139.
It was at the beginning of the dreadful pseudo-classic cult in our
intellectual history, and these honest soldiers and yeomen, with much
self-complacency, gave to portions of their little raw town such
ludicrously inappropriate names as the Campus Martius and Via Sacra.] It
was laid out in the untenanted wilderness; yet near by was the proof
that ages ago the wilderness had been tenanted, for close at hand were
huge embankments, marking the site of a town of the long-vanished
mound-builders. Giant trees grew on the mounds; all vestiges of the
builders had vanished, and the solemn forest had closed above every
remembrance of their fate.

Beginning of Ohio.

The day of the landing of these new pilgrims was a day big with fate not
only for the Northwest but for the Nation. It marked the beginning of
the orderly and national conquest of the lands that now form the heart
of the Republic. It marked the advent among the pioneers of a new
element, which was to leave the impress of its strong personality deeply
graven on the institutions and the people of the great States north of
the Ohio; an element which in the end turned their development in the
direction towards which the parent stock inclined in its home on the
North Atlantic seaboard. The new settlers were almost all soldiers of
the Revolutionary armies; they were hardworking, orderly men of trained
courage and of keen intellect. An outside observer speaks of them as
being the best informed, the most courteous and industrious, and the
most law-abiding of all the settlers who had come to the frontier, while
their leaders were men of a higher type than was elsewhere to be found
in the West. [Footnote: "Denny's Military Journal," May 28 and June 15,
1789.] No better material for founding a new State existed anywhere.
With such a foundation the State was little likely to plunge into the
perilous abysses of anarchic license or of separatism and disunion.
Moreover, to plant a settlement of this kind on the edge of the
Indian-haunted wilderness showed that the founders possessed both
hardihood and resolution.

Contrast with the Deeds of the Old Pioneers.

Yet it must not be forgotten that the daring needed for the performance
of this particular deed can in no way be compared with that shown by the
real pioneers, the early explorers and Indian fighters. The very fact
that the settlement around Marietta was national in its character, that
it was the outcome of national legislation, and was undertaken under
national protection, made the work of the individual settler count for
less in the scale. The founders and managers of the Ohio Company and the
statesmen of the Federal Congress deserve much of the praise that in the
Southwest would have fallen to the individual settlers only. The credit
to be given to the nation in its collective capacity was greatly
increased, and that due to the individual was correspondingly

Rufus Putnam and his fellow New Englanders built their new town under
the guns of a Federal fort, only just beyond the existing boundary of
settlement, and on land guaranteed them by the Federal Government. The
dangers they ran and the hardships they suffered in no wise approached
those undergone and overcome by the iron-willed, iron-limbed hunters who
first built their lonely cabins on the Cumberland and Kentucky. The
founders of Marietta trusted largely to the Federal troops for
protection, and were within easy reach of the settled country; but the
wild wood-wanderers who first roamed through the fair lands south of the
Ohio built their little towns in the heart of the wilderness, many
scores of leagues from all assistance, and trusted solely to their own
long rifles in time of trouble. The settler of 1788 journeyed at ease
over paths worn smooth by the feet of many thousands of predecessors;
but the early pioneers cut their own trails in the untrodden wilderness,
and warred single-handed against wild nature and wild man.

Cutler Visits Marietta.

In the summer of 1788 Dr. Manasseh Cutler visited the colony he had
helped to found, and kept a diary of his journey. His trip through
Pennsylvania was marked merely by such incidents as were common at that
time on every journey in the United States away from the larger towns.
He travelled with various companions, stopping at taverns and private
houses; and both guests and hosts were fond of trying their skill with
the rifle, either at a mark or at squirrels. In mid-August he reached
Coxe's fort, on the Ohio, and came for the first time to the frontier
proper. Here he embarked on a big flat boat, with on board forty-eight
souls all told, besides cattle. They drifted and paddled down stream,
and on the evening of the second day reached the Muskingum. Here and
there along the Virginian shore the boat passed settlements, with grain
fields and orchards; the houses were sometimes squalid cabins, and
sometimes roomy, comfortable buildings. When he reached the newly built
town he was greeted by General Putnam, who invited Cutler to share the
marquee in which he lived; and that afternoon he drank tea with another
New England general, one of the original founders.

The next three weeks he passed very comfortably with his friends, taking
part in the various social entertainments, walking through the woods,
and visiting one or two camps of friendly Indians with all the curiosity
of a pleasure-tourist. He greatly admired the large cornfields, proof of
the industry of the settlers. Some of the cabins were already
comfortable; and many families of women and children had come out to
join their husbands and fathers.

St. Clair Made Governor.

The newly appointed Governor of the territory, Arthur St. Clair, had
reached the place in July, and formally assumed his task of government.
Both Governor St. Clair and General Harmar were men of the old
Federalist school, utterly unlike the ordinary borderers; and even in
the wilderness they strove to keep a certain stateliness and formality
in their surroundings. They speedily grew to feel at home with the New
England leaders, who were gentlemen of much the same type as themselves,
and had but little more in common with the ordinary frontier folk. Dr.
Cutler frequently dined with one or other of them. After dining with the
Governor at Fort Harmar, he pronounced it in his diary a "genteel
dinner"; and he dwelt on the grapes, the beautiful garden, and the good
looks of Mrs. Harmar. Sometimes the leading citizens gave a dinner to
"His Excellency," as Dr. Cutler was careful to style the Governor, and
to "General Harmar and his Lady." On such occasions the visitors were
rowed from the fort to the town in a twelve-oared barge with an awning;
the drilled crew rowed well, while a sergeant stood in the stern to
steer. On each oar blade was painted the word "Congress"; all the
regular army men were devout believers in the Union. The dinners were
handsomely served, with punch and wine; and at one Dr. Cutler records
that fifty-five gentlemen sat down, together with three ladies. The fort
itself was a square, with block-houses, curtains, barracks, and

Cutler's Trip up the Ohio.

After three weeks' stay the Doctor started back, up stream, in the boat
of a well-to-do Creole trader from the Illinois. This trader was no less
a person than Francis Vigo, who had welcomed Clark when he took
Kaskaskia, and who at that time rendered signal service to the
Americans, advancing them peltries and goods. To the discredit of the
nation be it said, he was never repaid what he had advanced. When Cutler
joined him he was making his way up the Ohio in a big keel-boat,
propelled by ten oars and a square sail. The Doctor found his quarters
pleasant; for there was an awning and a cabin, and Vigo was well
equipped with comforts and even luxuries. In his travelling-chest he
carried his silver-handled knives and forks, and flasks of spirits. The
beds were luxurious for the frontier; in his journal the Doctor mentions
that one night he had to sleep in "wet sheets." The average pioneer knew
nothing whatever of sheets, wet or dry. Often the voyagers would get out
and walk along shore, shooting pigeons or squirrels and plucking bunches
of grapes. On such occasions if they had time they would light a fire
and have "a good dish of tea and a french fricassee." Once they saw some
Indians; but the latter were merely chasing a bear, which they killed,
giving the travellers some of the meat. Cutler and his companions caught
huge catfish in the river; they killed game of all kinds in the forest;
and they lived very well indeed. In the morning they got under way
early, after a "bitter and a biscuit," and a little later breakfasted on
cold meat, pickles, cabbage, and pork. Between eleven and twelve they
stopped for dinner; usually of hot venison or wild turkey, with a strong
"dish of coffee" and loaf-sugar. At supper they had cold meat and tea.
Here and there on the shore they passed settlers' cabins, where they
obtained corn and milk, and sometimes eggs, butter, and veal. Cutler
landed at his starting-point less than a month after he had left it to
go down stream. [Footnote: Cutler, p. 420.]

Another Massachusetts man, Col. John May, had made the same trip just
previously. His experiences were very like those of Dr. Cutler; but in
his journal he told them more entertainingly, being a man of
considerable humor and sharp observation. He travelled on horseback from
Boston. In Philadelphia he put up "at the sign of the Connastago Wagon"
--the kind of wagon then used in the up country, and afterwards for two
generations the wheeled-house with which the pioneers moved westward
across plain and prairie. He halted for some days in the log-built town
of Pittsburg, and, like many other travellers of the day, took a dislike
to the place and to its inhabitants, who were largely Pennsylvania
Germans. He mentions that he had reached it in thirty days from Boston,
and had not lost a pound of his baggage, which had accompanied him in a
wagon under the care of some of his hired men. At Pittsburg he was much
struck by the beauty of the mountains and the river, and also by the
numbers of flat-boats, loaded with immigrants, which were constantly
drifting and rowing past on their way to Kentucky. From the time of
reaching the river his journal is filled with comments on the
extraordinary abundance and great size of the various kinds of food

At last, late in May, he started in a crowded flat-boat down the Ohio,
and was enchanted with the wild and beautiful scenery. He was equally
pleased with the settlement at the mouth of the Muskingum; and he was
speedily on good terms with the officers of the fort, who dined and
wined him to his heart's content. There were rumors of savage warfare
from below; but around Marietta the Indians were friendly. May and his
people set to work to clear land and put up buildings; and they lived
sumptuously, for game swarmed. The hunters supplied them with quantities
of deer and wild turkeys, and occasionally elk and buffalo were also
killed; while quantities of fish could be caught without effort, and the
gardens and fields yielded plenty of vegetables. On July 4th the members
of the Ohio Company entertained the officers from Fort Harmar, and the
ladies of the garrison, at an abundant dinner, and drank thirteen
toasts,--to the United States, to Congress, to Washington, to the King
of France, to the new Constitution, to the Society of the Cincinnati,
and various others.

Colonel May built him a fine "mansion house," thirty-six feet by
eighteen, and fifteen feet high, with a good cellar underneath, and in
the windows panes of glass he had brought all the way from Boston. He
continued to enjoy the life in all its phases, from hunting in the woods
to watching the sun rise, and making friends with the robins, which, in
the wilderness, always followed the settlements. In August he went up
the river, without adventure, and returned to his home. [Footnote:
Journal and Letters of Colonel John May; one of the many valuable
historical publications of Robert Clarke & Co., of Cincinnati. VOL

Contrasts with Travels of Early Explorers.

Such a trip as either of these was a mere holiday picnic. It offers as
striking a contrast as well could be offered to the wild and lonely
journeyings of the stark wilderness-hunters and Indian fighters, who
first went west of the mountains. General Rufus Putnam and his
associates did a deed the consequences of which were of vital
importance. They showed that they possessed the highest attributes of
good citizenship--resolution and sagacity, stern morality, and the
capacity to govern others as well as themselves. But they performed no
pioneer feat of any note as such, and they were not called upon to
display a tithe of the reckless daring and iron endurance of hardship
which characterized the conquerors of the Illinois and the founders of
Kentucky and Tennessee. This is in no sense a reflection upon them. They
did not need to give proof of a courage they had shown time and again in
bloody battles against the best troops of Europe. In this particular
enterprise, in which they showed so many admirable qualities, they had
little chance to show the quality of adventurous bravery. They drifted
comfortably down stream, from the log fort whence they started, past
many settlers' houses, until they came to the post of a small Federal
garrison, where they built their town. Such a trip is not to be
mentioned in the same breath with the long wanderings of Clark and Boone
and Robertson, when they went forth unassisted to subdue the savage and
make tame the shaggy wilderness.

St. Clair.

St. Clair, the first Governor, was a Scotchman of good family. He had
been a patriotic but unsuccessful general in the Revolutionary army. He
was a friend of Washington, and in politics a firm Federalist; he was
devoted to the cause of Union and Liberty, and was a conscientious,
high-minded man. But he had no aptitude for the incredibly difficult
task of subduing the formidable forest Indians, with their peculiar and
dangerous system of warfare; and he possessed no capacity for getting on
with the frontiersmen, being without sympathy for their virtues while
keenly alive to their very unattractive faults.

The Miami Purchase.

In the fall of 1787 another purchase of public lands was negotiated, by
the Miami Company. The chief personage in this company was John Cleves
Symmes, one of the first judges of the Northwestern Territory. Rights
were acquired to take up one million acres, and under these rights three
small settlements were made towards the close of the year 1788. One of
them was chosen by St. Clair to be the seat of government. This little
town had been called Losantiville in its first infancy, but St. Clair
re-christened it Cincinnati, in honor of the Society of the officers of
the Continental army.

The men who formed these Miami Company colonies came largely from the
Middle States. Like the New England founders of Marietta, very many of
them, if not most, had served in the Continental army. They were good
settlers; they made good material out of which to build up a great
state. Their movement was modelled on that of Putnam and his associates.
It was a triumph of collectivism, rather than of individualism. The
settlers were marshalled in a company, instead of moving freely by
themselves, and they took a territory granted them by Congress, under
certain conditions, and defended for them by the officers and troops of
the regular army.

Establishment of Civil Government.

Civil government was speedily organized. St. Clair and the judges formed
the first legislature; in theory they were only permitted to adopt laws
already in existence in the old States, but as a matter of fact they
tried any legislative experiments they saw fit. St. Clair was an
autocrat both by military training and by political principles. He was a
man of rigid honor, and he guarded the interests of the territory with
jealous integrity, but he exercised such a rigorous supervision over the
acts of his subordinate colleagues, the judges, that he became involved
in wrangles at the very beginning of his administration. To prevent the
incoming of unauthorized intruders, he issued a proclamation summoning
all newly arrived persons to report at once to the local commandants,
and, with a view of keeping the game for the use of the actual settlers,
and also to prevent as far as possible fresh irritation being given the
Indians, he forbade all hunting in the territory for hides or flesh save
by the inhabitants proper. [Footnote: Draper MSS. Wm. Clark Papers.
Proclamation, Vincennes, June 28, 1790.] Only an imperfect obedience was
rendered either proclamation.

Thus the settlement of the Northwest was fairly begun, on a system
hitherto untried. The fates and the careers of all the mighty states
which yet lay formless in the forest were in great measure determined by
what was at this time done. The nation had decreed that they should all
have equal rights with the older States and with one another, and yet
that they should remain forever inseparable from the Union; and above
all, it had been settled that the bondman should be unknown within their
borders. Their founding represented the triumph of the principle of
collective national action over the spirit of intense individualism
displayed so commonly on the frontier. The uncontrolled initiative of
the individual, which was the chief force in the settlement of the
Southwest, was given comparatively little play in the settlement of the
Northwest. The Northwest owed its existence to the action of the nation
as a whole.


The War in the Northwest. 1787-1790

The Federal troops were camped in the Federal territory north of the
Ohio. They garrisoned the forts and patrolled between the little
log-towns. They were commanded by the Federal General Harmar, and the
territory was ruled by the Federal Governor St. Clair. Thenceforth the
national authorities and the regular troops played the chief parts in
the struggle for the Northwest. The frontier militia became a mere
adjunct--often necessary, but always untrustworthy--of the regular

The Regular Army in the Northwest.

For some time the regulars fared ill in the warfare with the savages;
and a succession of mortifying failures closed with a defeat more
ruinous than any which had been experienced since the days of the
"iron-tempered general the pipe-clay brain,"--for the disaster which
befell St. Clair was as overwhelming as that wherein Braddock met his
death. The continued checks excited the anger of the Eastern people, and
the dismay and derision of the Westerners. They were keenly felt by the
officers of the army; and they furnished an excuse for those who wished
to jeer at regular troops, and exalt the militia. Jefferson, who never
understood anything about warfare, being a timid man, and who belonged
to the visionary school which always denounced the army and navy, was
given a legitimate excuse to criticise the tactics of the regulars;
[Footnote: Draper MSS., G. R. Clark Papers. Jefferson to Innes, March 7,
1791.] and of course he never sought occasion to comment on the even
worse failings of the militia.

Shortcomings of the Regulars.

The truth was that the American military authorities fell into much the
same series of errors as their predecessors, the British, untaught by
the dreary and mortifying experience of the latter in fighting these
forest foes. The War Department at Washington, and the Federal generals
who first came to the Northwest, did not seem able to realize the
formidable character of the Indian armies, and were certainly unable to
teach their own troops how to fight them. Harmar and St. Clair were both
fair officers, and in open country were able to acquit themselves
respectably in the face of civilized foes. But they did not have the
peculiar genius necessary to the successful Indian fighter, and they
never learned how to carry on a campaign in the woods.

They had the justifiable distrust of the militia felt by all the
officers of the Continental Army. In the long campaigns waged against
Howe, Clinton, and Cornwallis they had learned the immense superiority
of the Continental troops to the local militia. They knew that the
Revolution would have failed had it not been for the continental troops.
They knew also, by the bitter experience common to all officers who had
been through the war, that, though the militia might on occasion do
well, yet they could never be trusted; they were certain to desert or
grow sulky and mutinous if exposed to the fatigue and hardship of a long
campaign, while in a pitched battle in the open they never fought as
stubbornly as the regulars, and often would not fight at all.

The Regulars in Indian Warfare.

All this was true; yet the officers of the regular army failed to
understand that it did not imply the capacity of the regular troops to
fight savages on their own ground. They showed little real comprehension
of the extraordinary difficulty of such warfare against such foes, and
of the reasons which made it so hazardous. They could not help assigning
other causes than the real ones for every defeat and failure. They
attributed each in turn to the effects of ambuscade or surprise, instead
of realizing that in each the prime factor was the formidable fighting
power of the individual Indian warrior, when in the thick forest which
was to him a home, and when acting under that species of wilderness
discipline which was so effective for a single crisis in his peculiar
warfare. The Indian has rarely shown any marked excellence as a fighter
in mass in the open; though of course there have been one or two
brilliant exceptions. At times in our wars we have tried the experiment
of drilling bodies of Indians as if they were whites, and using them in
the ordinary way in battle. Under such conditions, as a rule, they have
shown themselves inferior to the white troops against whom they were
pitted. In the same way they failed to show themselves a match for the
white hunters of the great plains when on equal terms. But their
marvellous faculty for taking advantage of cover, and for fighting in
concert when under cover, has always made the warlike tribes foes to be
dreaded beyond all others when in the woods, or among wild broken

Striking Contrasts in our Indian Wars.

The history of our warfare with the Indians during the century following
the close of the Revolution is marked by curiously sharp contrasts in
the efficiency shown by the regular troops in campaigns carried on at
different times and under varying conditions. These contrasts are due
much more to the difference in the conditions under which the campaigns
were waged than to the difference in the bodily prowess of the Indians.
When we had been in existence as a nation for a century the Modocs in
their lava-beds and the Apaches amid their waterless mountains were
still waging against the regulars of the day the same tedious and
dangerous warfare waged against Harmar and St. Clair by the forest
Indians. There were the same weary, long-continued campaigns; the same
difficulty in bringing the savages to battle; the same blind fighting
against hidden antagonists shielded by the peculiar nature of their
fastnesses; and, finally, the same great disparity of loss against the
white troops. During the intervening hundred years there had been many
similar struggles; as for instance that against the Seminoles. Yet there
had also been many struggles, against Indians naturally more formidable,
in which the troops again and again worsted their Indian foes even when
the odds in numbers were two or three to one against the whites. The
difference between these different classes of wars was partly accounted
for by change in weapons and methods of fighting; partly by the change
in the character of the battle grounds. The horse Indians of the plains
were as elusive and difficult to bring to battle as the Indians of the
mountains and forests; but in the actual fighting they had no chance to
take advantage of cover in the way which rendered so formidable their
brethren of the hills and the deep woods. In consequence their
occasional slaughtering victories, including the most famous of all, the
battle of the Rosebud, in which Custer fell, took the form of the
overwhelming of a comparatively small number of whites by immense masses
of mounted horsemen. When their weapons were inferior, as on the first
occasions when they were brought into contact with troops carrying
breech-loading arms of precision, or when they tried the tactics of
downright fighting, and of charging fairly in the open, they were often
themselves beaten or repulsed with fearful slaughter by mere handfuls of
whites. In the years 1867-68, all the horse Indians of the plains were
at war with us, and many battles were fought with varying fortune. Two
were especially noteworthy. In each a small body of troops and frontier
scouts, under the command of a regular army officer who was also a
veteran Indian fighter, beat back an overwhelming Indian force, which
attempted to storm by open onslaught the position held by the white
riflemen. In one instance fifty men under Major Geo. H. Forsyth beat
back nine hundred warriors, killing or wounding double their own number.
In the other a still more remarkable defence was made by thirty-one men
under Major James Powell against an even larger force, which charged
again and again, and did not accept their repulse as final until they
had lost three hundred of their foremost braves. For years the Sioux
spoke with bated breath of this battle as the "medicine fight," the
defeat so overwhelming that it could be accounted for only by
supernatural interference. [Footnote: For all this see Dodge's admirable
"Our Wild Indians."]

But no such victory was ever gained over mountain or forest Indians who
had become accustomed to fighting the white men. Every officer who has
ever faced these foes has had to spend years in learning his work, and
has then been forced to see a bitterly inadequate reward for his labors.
The officers of the regular army who served in the forests north of the
Ohio just after the Revolution had to undergo a strange and painful
training; and were obliged to content themselves with scanty and
hard-won triumphs even after this training had been undergone.

Difficulties Experienced by the Officers.

The officers took some time to learn their duties as Indian fighters,
but the case was much worse with the rank and file who served under
them. From the beginning of our history it often proved difficult to get
the best type of native American to go into the regular army save in
time of war with a powerful enemy, for the low rate of pay was not
attractive, while the disciplined subordination of the soldiers to their
officers seemed irksome to people with an exaggerated idea of individual
freedom and no proper conception of the value of obedience. Very many of
the regular soldiers have always been of foreign birth; and in 1787, on
the Ohio, the percentage of Irish and Germans in the ranks was probably
fully as large as it was on the Great Plains a century later. [Footnote:
Denny's Journal, _passim_.] They, as others, at that early date, were,
to a great extent, drawn from the least desirable classes of the eastern
sea-board. [Footnote: For fear of misunderstanding, I wish to add that
at many periods the rank and file have been composed of excellent
material; of recent years their character has steadily risen, and the
stuff itself has always proved good when handled for a sufficient length
of time by good commanders.] Three or four years later an unfriendly
observer wrote of St. Clair's soldiers that they were a wretched set of
men, weak and feeble, many of them mere boys, while others were rotten
with drink and debauchery. He remarked that men "purchased from the
prisons, wheel-barrows, and brothels of the nation at foolishly low
wages, would never do to fight Indians"; and that against such foes, who
were terrible enemies in the woods, there was need of first-class,
specially trained troops, instead of trying to use "a set of men who
enlisted because they could no longer live unhung any other way."
[Footnote: Draper Collection. Letter of John Cleves Symmes to Elias
Boudinot, January 12, 1792.]

Doubtless this estimate, made under the sting of defeat, was too harsh;
and it was even more applicable to the forced levies of militia than to
the Federal soldiers; but the shortcomings of the regular troops were
sufficiently serious to need no exaggeration. Their own officers were
far from pleased with the recruits they got.

To the younger officers, with a taste for sport, the life beyond the
Ohio was delightful. The climate was pleasant, the country beautiful,
the water was clear as crystal, and game abounded. In hard weather the
troops lived on salt beef; but at other times their daily rations were
two pounds of turkey or venison, or a pound and a half of bear meat or
buffalo beef. Yet this game was supplied by hired hunters, not by the
soldiers themselves. One of the officers wrote that he had to keep his
troops practising steadily at a target, for they were incompetent to
meet an enemy with the musket; they could not kill in a week enough game
to last them a day. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 150; Doughty's
Letter, March 15, 1786; also, November 30, 1785.] It was almost
impossible to train such troops, in a limited number of months or years,
so as to enable them to meet their forest foes on equal terms. The
discipline to which they were accustomed was admirably fitted for
warfare in the open; but it was not suited for warfare in the woods.
They had to learn even the use of their fire-arms with painful labor. It
was merely hopeless to try to teach them to fight Indian fashion, all
scattering out for themselves, and each taking a tree trunk, and trying
to slay an individual enemy. They were too clumsy; they utterly lacked
the wild-creature qualities proper to the men of the wilderness, the men
who inherited wolf-cunning and panther-stealth from countless
generations, who bought bare life itself only at the price of
never-ceasing watchfulness, craft, and ferocity.

The Regulars Superior to the Militia.

The regulars were certainly not ideal troops with which to oppose such
foes; but they were the best attainable at that time. They possessed
traits which were lacking in even the best of the frontier militia; and
most of the militia fell far short of the best. When properly trained
the regulars could be trusted to persevere through a campaign; whereas
the militia were sure to disband if kept out for any length of time.
Moreover, a regular army formed a weapon with a temper tried and known;
whereas a militia force was the most brittle of swords which might give
one true stroke, or might fly into splinters at the first slight blow.
Regulars were the only troops who could be trusted to wear out their
foes in a succession of weary and hard-fought campaigns.

The best backwoods fighters, however, such men as Kenton and Brady had
in their scout companies, were much superior to the regulars, and were
able to meet the Indians on at least equal terms. But there were only a
very few such men; and they were too impatient of discipline to be
embodied in an army. The bulk of the frontier militia consisted of men
who were better riflemen than the regulars and often physically abler,
but who were otherwise in every military sense inferior, possessing
their defects, sometimes in an accentuated form, and not possessing
their compensating virtues. Like the regulars, these militia fought the
Indians at a terrible disadvantage. A defeat for either meant murderous
slaughter; for whereas the trained Indian fighters fought or fled each
for himself, the ordinary troops huddled together in a mass, an easy
mark for their savage foes.

Extreme Difficulty of the War.

The task set the leaders of the army in the Northwest was one of extreme
difficulty and danger. They had to overcome a foe trained through untold
ages how to fight most effectively on the very battle-ground where the
contest was to be waged. To the whites a march through the wilderness
was fraught with incredible toil; whereas the Indians moved without
baggage, and scattered and came together as they wished, so that it was
impossible to bring them to battle against their will. All that could be
done was to try to beat them when they chose to receive or deliver an
attack. With ordinary militia it was hopeless to attempt to accomplish
anything needing prolonged and sustained effort, and, as already said,
the thoroughly trained Indian fighters who were able to beat the savages
at their own game were too few in numbers, and too unaccustomed to
control and restraint, to permit of their forming the main body of the
army in an offensive campaign. There remained only the regulars: and the
raw recruits had to undergo a long and special training, and be put
under the command of a thoroughly capable leader, like old Mad Anthony
Wayne, before they could be employed to advantage.

The Feeling between the Regulars and Frontiersmen.

The feeling between the regular troops and the frontiersmen was often
very bitter, and on several occasions violent brawls resulted. One such
occurred at Limestone, where the brutal Indian-fighter Wetzel lived.
Wetzel had murdered a friendly Indian, and the soldiers bore him a
grudge. When they were sent to arrest him the townspeople sallied to his
support. Wetzel himself resisted, and was, very properly, roughly
handled in consequence. The interference of the townspeople was
vigorously repaid in kind; they soon gave up the attempt, and afterwards
one or two of them were ill-treated or plundered by the soldiers. They
made complaint to the civil authorities, and a court-martial was then
ordered by the Federal commanders. This court-martial acquitted the
soldiers. Wetzel soon afterwards made his escape, and the incident
ended. [Footnote: Draper MSS. Harmar's letter to Henry Lee, Sept. 27,
1789. Also depositions of McCurdy, Lawler, Caldwell, and others, and
proceedings of court-martial. The depositions conflict.]

Fury of the Indian Ravages.

By 1787 the Indian war had begun with all its old fury. The thickly
settled districts were not much troubled, and the towns which, like
Marietta in the following year, grew up under the shadow of a Federal
fort, were comparatively safe. But the frontier of Kentucky, and of
Virginia proper along the Ohio, suffered severely. There was great
scarcity of powder and lead, and even of guns, and there was difficulty
in procuring provisions for those militia who consented to leave their
work and turn out when summoned. The settlers were harried, and the
surveyors feared to go out to their work on the range. There were the
usual horrible incidents of Indian warfare. A glimpse of one of the
innumerable dreadful tragedies is afforded by the statement of one party
of scouts, who, in following the trail of an Indian war band, found at
the crossing of the river "the small tracks of a number of children,"
prisoners from a raid made on the Monongahela settlements. [Footnote:
State Dept. MSS., No. 71, vol. ii. Letters of David Shepherd to Governor
Randolph, April 30, and May 24, 1787.]

Difficulties in Extending Help to the Frontiersmen.

The settlers in the harried territory sent urgent appeals for help to
the Governor of Virginia and to Congress. In these appeals stress was
laid upon the poverty of the frontiersmen, and their lack of ammunition.
The writers pointed out that the men of the border should receive
support, if only from motives of policy; for it was of great importance
to the people in the thickly settled districts that the war should be
kept on the frontier, and that the men who lived there should remain as
a barrier against the Indians. If the latter broke through and got among
the less hardy and warlike people of the interior, they would work much
greater havoc; for in Indian warfare the borderers were as much superior
to the more peaceful people behind them as a veteran to a raw recruit.
[Footnote: Draper MSS. Lt. Marshall to Franklin, Nov. 6, 1787.]

These appeals did not go unheeded; but there was embarrassment in
affording the frontier adequate protection, both because the party to
which the borderers themselves belonged foolishly objected to the
employment of a fair-sized regular army, and because Congress still
clung to the belief that war could be averted by treaty, and so forbade
the taking of proper offensive measures. In the years 1787, '88, and
'89, the ravages continued; many settlers were slain, with their
families, and many bodies of immigrants destroyed; while the scouting
and rescue parties of whites killed a few Indians in return. [Footnote:
Va. State Papers, iv., 357.] All the Indians were not yet at war,
however; and curious agreements were entered into by individuals on both
sides. In the absence on either side of any government with full
authority and power, the leaders would often negotiate some special or
temporary truce, referring only to certain limited localities, or to
certain people; and would agree between themselves for the interchange
or ransom of prisoners. There is a letter of Boone's extant in which he
notifies a leading Kentucky colonel that a certain captive woman must be
given up, in accordance with an agreement he has made with one of the
noted Indian chiefs; and he insists upon the immediate surrender of the
woman, to clear his "promise and obligation." [Footnote: Draper MSS.,
Boone Papers. Boone to Robert Patterson, March 16,1787.]

The Indians Harry the Boats on the Ohio.

The Indians watched the Ohio with especial care, and took their toll
from the immense numbers of immigrants who went down it. After passing
the Muskingum no boat was safe. If the war parties, lurking along the
banks, came on a boat moored to the shore, or swept thither by wind or
current, the crew was at their mercy; and grown bold by success, they
sometimes launched small flotillas of canoes and attacked the scows on
the water. In such attacks they were often successful, for they always
made the assault with the odds in their favor; though they were
sometimes beaten back with heavy loss.

When the war was at its height the boats going down the Ohio preferred
to move in brigades. An army officer has left a description [Footnote:
Denny's Military Journal, April 19, 1790.] of one such flotilla, over
which he had assumed command. It contained sixteen flat-boats, then
usually called "Kentuck boats," and two keels. The flat-boats were
lashed three together and kept in one line. The women, children, and
cattle were put in the middle scows, while the outside were manned and
worked by the men. The keel boats kept on either flank. This particular
flotilla was unmolested by the Indians, but was almost wrecked in a
furious storm of wind and rain.

Vain Efforts to Conclude Treaties of Peace.

The Federal authorities were still hopelessly endeavoring to come to
some understanding with the Indians; they were holding treaties with
some of the tribes, sending addresses and making speeches to others, and
keeping envoys in the neighborhood of Detroit. These envoys watched the
Indians who were there, and tried to influence the great gatherings of
different tribes who came together at Sandusky to consult as to the
white advance. [Footnote: State Department MSS., No. 150, vol. iii.
Harmar's speech to the Indians at Vincennes, September 17, 1787. Richard
Butler to the Secretary of War, May 4, 1788, etc.]

These efforts to negotiate were as disheartening as was usually the case
under such circumstances. There were many different tribes, and some
were for peace, while others were for war; and even the peaceful ones
could not restrain their turbulent young men. Far off nations of Indians
who had never been harmed by the whites, and were in no danger from
them, sent war parties to the Ohio; and the friendly tribes let them
pass without interference. The Iroquois were eagerly consulted by the
western Indians, and in the summer of 1788 a great party of them came to
Sandusky to meet in council all the tribes of the Lakes and the Ohio
valley, and even some from the upper Mississippi. With the Iroquois came
the famous chief Joseph Brant, a mighty warrior, and a man of education,
who in his letters to the United States officials showed much polished
diplomacy. [Footnote: _Do_., pp. 47 and 51.]

The Indians Hold Great Councils.

The tribes who gathered at this great council met on the soil which, by
treaty with England, had been declared American, and came from regions
which the same treaty had defined as lying within the boundaries of the
United States. But these provisions of the treaty had never been
executed, owing largely to a failure on the part of the Americans
themselves to execute certain other provisions. The land was really as
much British as ever, and was so treated by the British Governor of
Canada, Lord Dorchester, who had just made a tour of the Lake Posts. The
tribes were feudatory to the British, and in their talks spoke of the
King of Great Britain as "father," and Brant was a British pensioner.
British agents were in constant communication with the Indians at the
councils, and they distributed gifts among them with a hitherto
unheard-of lavishness. In every way they showed their resolution to
remain in full touch with their red allies. [Footnote: _Do_., St. Clair
to Knox, September 14, 1788; St. Clair to Jay, December 13, 1788.]

Nevertheless, they were anxious that peace should be made. The Wyandots,
too, seconded them, and addressed the Wabash Indians at one of the
councils, urging them to cease their outrages on the Americans.
[Footnote: _Do_., p. 267, Detroit River's Mouth, July 23, 1788.] These
Wyandots had long been converted, and in addressing their heathen
brethren, said proudly: "We are not as other nations are--we, the
Wyandots--we are Christians." They certainly showed themselves the
better for their religion, and they were still the bravest of the brave.
But though the Wabash Indians in answering spake them fair, they had no
wish to go to peace; and the Wyandots were the only tribes who strove
earnestly to prevent war. The American agents who had gone to the
Detroit River were forced to report that there was little hope of
putting an end to hostilities. [Footnote: _Do_., James Rinkin to Richard
Butler, July 20, 1788.] The councils accomplished nothing towards
averting a war; on the contrary, they tended to band all the
northwestern Indians together in a loose confederacy, so that active
hostilities against some were sure in the end to involve all.

Even the Far-Off Chippewas Make Forays.

While the councils were sitting and while the Americans were preparing
for the treaties, outrages of the most flagrant kind occurred. One, out
of many; was noteworthy as showing both the treachery of the Indians,
and the further fact that some tribes went to war, not because they had
been in any way maltreated, but from mere lust of blood and plunder. In
July of this year 1788, Governor St. Clair was making ready for a treaty
to which he had invited some of the tribes. It was to be held on the
Muskingum, and he sent to the appointed place provisions for the Indians
with a guard of men. One day a party of Indians, whose tribe was then
unknown, though later they turned out to be Chippewas from the Upper
Lakes, suddenly fell on the guard. They charged home with great spirit,
using their sharp spears well, and killed, wounded, or captured several
soldiers; but they were repulsed, and retreated, carrying with them
their dead, save one warrior. [Footnote: St. Clair Papers, ii., 50.] A
few days afterwards they imprudently ventured back, pretending
innocence, and six were seized, and sent to one of the forts as
prisoners. Their act of treacherous violence had, of course, caused the
immediate abandonment of the proposed treaty.

The remaining Chippewas marched towards home, with the scalps of the men
they had slain, and with one captured soldier. They passed by Detroit,
telling the French villagers that "their father [the British Commandant]
was a dog," because he had given them no arms or ammunition, and that in
consequence they would not deliver him their prisoner, but would take
the poor wretch with them to their Mackinaw home. Accordingly they
carried him on to the far-off island at the mouth of Lake Michigan; but
just as they were preparing to make him run the gauntlet the British
commander of the lonely little post interfered. This subaltern with his
party of a dozen soldiers was surrounded by many times his number of
ferocious savages, and was completely isolated in the wilderness; but
his courage stood as high as his humanity, and he broke through the
Indians, threatening them with death if they interfered, rescued the
captive American, and sent him home in safety. [Footnote: State Dept.
MSS., No. 150, vol. iii. William Wilson and James Rinkin to Richard
Butler, August 4, 1788; Wilson and Rinkin to St. Clair, August 31,

The other Indians made no attempt to check the Chippewas; on the
contrary, the envoys of the Iroquois and Delawares made vain efforts to
secure the release of the Chippewa prisoners. On the other hand, the
generous gallantry of the British commander at Mackinaw was in some sort
equalled by the action of the traders on the Maumee, who went to great
expense in buying from the Shawnees Americans whom they had doomed to
the terrible torture of death at the stake. [Footnote: _Do_., Rinkin to
Butler, July 2, 1788; St. Clair to Knox, September 4, 1788.]

Under such circumstances the treaties of course came to naught. After
interminable delays the Indians either refused to treat at all, or else
the acts of those who did were promptly repudiated by those who did not.
In consequence throughout this period even the treaties that were made
were quite worthless, for they bound nobody. Moreover, there were the
usual clashes between the National and State authorities. While Harmar
was trying to treat, the Kentuckians were organizing retaliatory
inroads; and while the United States Commissioners were trying to hold
big peace councils on the Ohio, the New York and Massachusetts
Commissioners were conducting independent negotiations at what is now
Buffalo, to determine the western boundary of New York. [Footnote:
_Do_., Wilson and Rinkin to St. Clair, July 29, 1788. These treaties
made at the Ohio forts are quite unworthy of preservation, save for mere
curiosity; they really settled nothing whatever and conferred no rights
that were not taken with the strong hand; yet they are solemnly quoted
in some books as if they were the real sources of title to parts of the

Continued Ravages.

All the while the ravages grew steadily more severe. The Federal
officers at the little widely scattered forts were at their wits' ends
in trying to protect the outlying settlers and retaliate on the Indians;
and as the latter grew bolder they menaced the forts themselves and
harried the troops who convoyed provisions to them. Of the innumerable
tragedies which occurred, the record of a few has by chance been
preserved. One may be worth giving merely as a sample of many others. On
the Virginian side of the Ohio lived a pioneer farmer of some note,
named Van Swearingen. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 150, vol. ii.,
Van Swearingen to William Butler, Washington County, Sept. 29, 1787.]
One day his son crossed the river to hunt with a party of strangers.
Near a "waste cabbin," the deserted log hut of some reckless adventurer,
an Indian war-band came on them unawares, slew three, and carried off
the young man. His father did not know whether they had killed him or
not. He could find no trace of him, and he wrote to the commander of the
nearest fort, begging him to try to get news from the Indian villages as
to whether his son were alive or dead, and to employ for the purpose any
friendly Indian or white scout, at whatever price was set--he would pay
it "to the utmost farthing." He could give no clue to the Indians who
had done the deed; all he could say was that a few days before, one of
these war parties, while driving off a number of horses, was overtaken
by the riflemen of the neighborhood and scattered, after a fight in
which one white man and two red men were killed.

The old frontiersman never found his son; doubtless the boy was slain;
but his fate, like the fate of hundreds of others, was swallowed up in
the gloomy mystery of the wilderness. So far from being unusual, the
incident attracted no comment, for it was one of every-day occurrence.
Its only interest lies in the fact that it was of a kind that befell the
family of almost every dweller in the wilds. Danger and death were so
common that the particular expression which each might take made small
impress on the minds of the old pioneers. Every one of them had a long
score of slain friends and kinsfolk to avenge upon his savage foes.

The Indians Harass the Regular Troops.

The subalterns in command of the little detachments which moved between
the posts, whether they went by land or water, were forced to be ever on
the watch against surprise and ambush. This was particularly the case
with the garrison at Vincennes. The Wabash Indians were all the time out
in parties to murder and plunder; and yet these same thieves and
murderers were continually coming into town and strolling innocently
about the fort; for it was impossible to tell the peaceful Indians from
the hostile. They were ever in communication with the equally
treacherous and ferocious Miami tribes, to whose towns the war parties
often brought five or six scalps in a day, and prisoners, too, doomed to
a death of awful torture at the stake. There is no need to waste
sympathy on the northwestern Indians for their final fate; never were
defeat and subjection more richly deserved.

The bands of fierce and crafty braves who lounged about the wooden fort
at Vincennes watched eagerly the outgoing and incoming of the troops,
and were prompt to dog and waylay any party they thought they could
overcome. They took advantage of the unwillingness of the Federal
commander to harass Indians who might be friendly; and plotted at ease
the destruction of the very troops who spent much of the time in keeping
intruders off their lands. In the summer of 1788 they twice followed
parties of soldiers from the town, when they went down the Wabash, and
attacked them by surprise, from the river-banks, as they sat in their
boats. In one instance, the lieutenant in command got off with the loss
of but two or three men. In the other, of the thirty-six soldiers who
composed the party ten were killed, eight wounded, and the greater part
of the provisions and goods they were conveying were captured; while the
survivors, pushing down-stream, ultimately made their way to the
Illinois towns. [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 150, vol. iii. Lt.
Spear to Harmar, June 2, 1788; Hamtranck to Harmar, Aug. 12, 1788.] This
last tragedy was avenged by a band of thirty mounted riflemen from
Kentucky, led by the noted backwoods fighter Hardin. They had crossed
the Ohio on a retaliatory foray, many of their horses having been stolen
by the Indians. When near Vincennes they happened to stumble on the war
party that had attacked the soldiers, slew ten, and scattered the others
to the winds, capturing thirty horses. [Footnote: Draper MSS. Wm. Clark
Papers. N. T. Dalton to W. Clark, Vincennes, Aug. 23, 1788; also Denny,
p. 528.]

Dreadful Nature of the Warfare.

The war bands who harried the settlements, or lurked along the banks of
the Ohio, bent on theft and murder, did terrible deeds, and at times
suffered terrible fates in return, when some untoward chance threw them
in the way of the grim border vengeance. The books of the old annalists
are filled with tales of disaster and retribution, of horrible suffering
and of fierce prowess. Countless stories are told of heroic fight and
panic rout; of midnight assault on lonely cabins, and ambush of
heavy-laden immigrant scows; of the deaths of brave men and cowards, and
the dreadful butchery of women and children; of bloody raid and
revengeful counter stroke. Sometimes a band of painted marauders would
kill family after family, without suffering any loss, would capture boat
after boat without effective resistance from the immigrants, paralyzed
by panic fright, and would finally escape unmolested, or beat off with
ease a possibly larger party of pursuers, who happened to be ill led, or
to be men with little training in wilderness warfare.

At other times all this might be reversed. A cabin might be defended
with such maddened courage by some stout rifleman, fighting for his
cowering wife and children, that a score of savages would recoil
baffled, leaving many of their number dead. A boat's crew of resolute
men might beat back, with heavy loss, an over-eager onslaught of Indians
in canoes, or push their slow, unwieldy craft from shore under a rain of
rifle-balls, while the wounded oarsmen strained at the bloody handles of
the sweeps, and the men who did not row gave shot for shot, firing at
the flame tongues in the dark woods. A party of scouts, true wilderness
veterans, equal to their foes in woodcraft and cunning, and superior in
marksmanship and reckless courage, might follow and scatter some war
band and return in triumph with scalps and retaken captives and horses.

Deeds of a War Party.

A volume could readily be filled with adventures of this kind, all
varying infinitely in detail, but all alike in their bloody ferocity.
During the years 1789 and 1790 scores of Indian war parties went on such
trips, to meet every kind of success and failure. The deeds of one such,
which happen to be recorded, may be given merely to serve as a sample of
what happened in countless other cases. In the early spring of 1790 a
band of fifty-four Indians of various tribes, but chiefly Cherokees and
Shawnees, established a camp near the mouth of the Scioto. [Footnote:
American State Papers, Indian Affairs, vol. i., pp. 87, 88, 91.] They
first attacked a small new-built station, on one of the bottoms of the
Ohio, some twenty miles from Limestone, and killed or captured all its
fifteen inhabitants. They spared the lives of two of the captives, but
forced the wretches to act as decoys so as to try to lure passing boats
within reach.

Their first success was with a boat going downriver, and containing four
men and two unmarried girls, besides a quantity of goods intended for
the stores in the Kentucky towns. The two decoys appeared on the right
bank, begging piteously to be taken on board, and stating that they had
just escaped from the savages. Three of the voyagers, not liking the
looks of the men, refused to land, but the fourth, a reckless fellow
named Flynn, and the two girls, who were coarse, foolish, good-natured
frontier women of the lower sort, took pity upon the seeming fugitives,
and insisted on taking them aboard. Accordingly the scow was shoved
inshore, and Flynn jumped on the bank, only to be immediately seized by
the Indians, who then opened fire on the others. They tried to put off,
and fired back, but they were helpless; one man and a girl were shot,
another wounded, and the savages then swarmed aboard, seized everything,
and got very drunk on a keg of whiskey. The fates of the captives were
various, each falling to some different group of savages. Flynn, the
cause of the trouble, fell to the Cherokees, who took him to the Miami
town, and burned him alive, with dreadful torments. The remaining girl,
after suffering outrage and hardship, was bound to the stake, but saved
by a merciful Indian, who sent her home. Of the two remaining men, one
ran the gauntlet successfully, and afterwards escaped and reached home
through the woods, while the other was ransomed by a French trader at

Before thus disposing of their captives the Indians hung about the mouth
of the Scioto for some time. They captured a pirogue going up-stream,
and killed all six paddlers. Soon afterwards three heavily laden scows
passed, drifting down with the current. Aboard these were twenty-eight
men, with their women and children, together with many horses and bales
of merchandise. They had but sixteen guns among them, and many were
immigrants, unaccustomed to savage warfare, and therefore they made no
effort to repel the attack, which could easily have been done by
resolute, well-armed veterans. The Indians crowded into the craft they
had captured, and paddled and rowed after the scows, whooping and
firing. They nearly overtook the last scow, whereupon its people shifted
to the second, and abandoned it. When further pressed the people shifted
into the headmost scow, cut holes in its sides so as to work all the
oars, and escaped down-stream, leaving the Indians to plunder the two
abandoned boats, which contained twenty-eight horses and fifteen hundred
pounds' worth of goods.

Pursuit of the War Party.

The Kentuckians of the neighborhood sent word to General Harmar, begging
him to break up this nest of plunderers. Accordingly he started after
them, with his regular troops. He was joined by a number of Kentucky
mounted riflemen, under the command of Col. Charles Scott, a rough
Indian fighter, and veteran of the Revolutionary War, who afterwards
became governor of the State. Scott had moved to Kentucky not long after
the close of the war with England; he had lost a son at the hands of the
savages, [Footnote: State Dept. MSS., No. 71, vol. ii., p. 563.] and he
delighted in war against them.

Harmar made a circuit and came down along the Scioto, hoping to surprise
the Indian camp; but he might as well have hoped to surprise a party of
timber wolves. His foes scattered and disappeared in the dense forest.
Nevertheless, coming across some moccasin tracks, Scott's horsemen
followed the trail, killed four Indians, and carried in the scalps to
Limestone. The chastisement proved of little avail. A month later five
immigrant boats, while moored to the bank a few miles from Limestone,
were rushed by the Indians at night; one boat was taken, all the
thirteen souls aboard being killed or captured.

Misadventures of Vigo.

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