The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History: Volume 2: Continental America, 1800-1867 0300062907, 9780300062908

Continental America offers a rather different way of looking at a period of enormous expansion, development, and crisis

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The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History: Volume 2: Continental America, 1800-1867
 0300062907, 9780300062908

Table of contents :
Part One. Extension: The Creation of a Continental Empire
1. Doubling the National Territory: Louisiana
2. Pressures on the Borders: Southward
3. Pressures on the Borders: Northward
4. The Reach Westward: To circa 1830
5. Shoving the Indians Out of the Way
6. Assertion and Division: Oregon and the Northern Boundary
7. Annexation and Conquest: Texas and the Hispanic Borderlands
8. Spanning a Continent—and Ocean
9. Empire: The Geopolitical Management of Captive Peoples
10. Continentalism: Objectives, Modes, Visions
Part Two. Expansion: The Growth of a Continental Nation
1. Filling in the Framework: Migration Westward
2. Occupying New Ground: Colonization, American Style
3. Planting New Societies: New England Extended
4. Planting New Societies: Virginia Extended
5. Planting New Societies: Midlands Extended
6. Planting New Societies: The Cotton Belt and South Carolina Extended
7. Color in the Plantings: The Afro-American Presence
8. Making New Pathways: Waterways, Roads, and Rails
9. Tying the Parts Together: National Programs
10. Creating New Centers: Cities and Systems of Cities
11. Harnessing New Forces: Industries and Industrial Regions
12. Cementing the Parts Together: An American Nation
13. Morphology: The Shape of the United States, 1850s
Part Three. Tension: The Sundering of a Federation
1. The Shaping of New States
2. Expanding the Federation
3. The Idea of Separation
4. Disintegration
5. Geopolitical Alternatives
6. Conquest and Emancipation
7. Empire, Nation, Federation: Geopolitical Contentions
Part Four. Context: The United States in North America Circa 1867
1. Continental America
2. The Northern Borderlands
3. Hispanic Borderlands
4. The Afro-American Archipelago
5. A Wider Presence
Sources of Quotations

Citation preview


Volume 1 Atlantic America, 1492-1800 (1986) Volume 2 Continental America, 1800-1867 (1993) Volume 3 Transcontinental America, 1850-1915 (in preparation) Volume 4 Global Amenai, 1915-1992


W Volume 2 Continental Am erica 1 8 0 0 -1 8 6 7 D. W. MEINIG

Yak University Press New Haven and London

Published with assistance from the foundation established in memory o f Philip Hamilton M cM illan o f the C lass o f 1894» Yale College. Copyright O 1993 by Yale University. A ll rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced» in whole or in part, including illustra* dons, in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 o f the U .S . Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publishers. Set in Goudy Old Style type by The Composing Room o f M ichigan, Inc. Printed in the United States o f America by Vail-Ballou Press, Binghamton, N.Y. Library o f Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data (Revised for vol. 2) Meinig, D. W. (Donald W illiam ), 1924The shaping o f America Includes indexes. Includes bibliographical references. Contents: v. 1. A tlantic Am erica, 1492-1800— v. 2. C onti­ nental Am erica, 1800-1867. 1. United States— History. 2. United States— Historical ge­ ography. E178.M 57 1986 973 85-17962 ISBN 0-300-03548-9 (v. 1 : cloth) 0-300-03882-8 (v. 1 : pbk.) 0-300-05658-3 (v. 2 : cloth) 0-300-06290-7 (v. 2 : pbk.) A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability o f the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity o f the Council on Library Resources. 10

9 8 7 6 5 4 3

fo r


Think o f the peat as space expanding infinitely beyond our vi­ sion. . . . Then we choose a prospect. The higher it is, the wider and hazier our view. Now we map what we see, marking some features, ignoring others, altering an unknown territory . . . into a finite collection o f landmarks made meaningful through their connections. History is not the past, but a map o f the past drawn from a particular point o f view to be useful to the modem traveler. Henry G lassie


L is t o f Illustrations


P re fa c e


A ckn ow ledgm en ts


P r o lo g u e


1 . D oubling the N ational Territory: Louisiana



Pressures on the Borders: Southward



Pressures on the Borders: Northward



T h e Reach Westward: To circa 1830



Sh o vin g the Indians O ut o f the Way



A ssertion and Division: Oregon and the Northern Boundary



A nnexation and Conquest: Texas and the Hispanic Borderlands


8 . Sp an n in g a C ontinent— and O cean


9 . Em pire: T he G eopolitical M anagement o f Captive Peoples


10 .

C ontinentalism : O bjectives, M odes, Visions



Prologue 1. Filling in the fram ew ork: M igration Westward

221 222



2. Occupying New Ground: Colonization, Am erican Style


3. Planting New Societies: New England Extended


4. Planting New Societies: Virginia Extended


5. Planting New Societies: M idlands Extended


6. Planting New Societies: T he C otton Belt and South Carolina Extended 285 7. C olor in the Plantings: T he Afro-Am erican Ptesence


8. M aking New Pathways: Waterways, Roads, and Rails


9. Tying the Parts Together: N ational Programs


10. C reating New Centers: C ities and System s o f C ities


11. H arnessing New Forces: Industries and Industrial Regions


12. Cem enting the Parts Together: A n Am erican N ation


13. M orphology: T he Shape o f the U nited States, 1850s





1. T h e Shaping o f New States


2. Expanding the Federation


3. T h e Idea o f Separation


4. D isintegration


5. G eopolitical A lternatives


6. C onquest and Em ancipation


7. Empire, N ation, Federation: G eopolitical Contentions





1. C ontinental Am erica


2. T he N orthern Borderlands


3. H ispanic Borderlands





T h e Afro-Am erican Archipelago



A . W ider Presence


S o u r c e s o f Q uotations


B ib lio g r a p h y


In d e x



1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27.

T he U nited States, c. 1800. A lternative Solutions to the M ississippi Problem. Plan o f New O rleans, 1815. Southern Borderlands. T he U nited States and the C anadas. A View o f N orth A m erica, 1802. T he W est. Som e U .S .'In d ian Relationships. W estern Territory, c. 1840. T he W estern Frontier, 1837. Oregon Borderlands. Fort Vancouver. T he Lower Colum bia River. Borderlands: Red River and M adawaska. M exico. Texas, 1835. T he View from W ashington: “How much o f M exico should we take?" T he Am erican G ibraltar, H avana, 1853. T he U nited States West o f the M ississippi, 1859. T he A m ericas and the Pacific. H onolulu, O ahu, Novem ber 1840. Troop M ovem ents, 1857-58. “M ap o f the U nited States with the Contiguous British and Spanish Possessions,” 1816. Continentalism and Som e “N atural” Geographic Concepts. Territories and M odes o f Expansion, 1800-1859. Two “M ight-Have-Beens. ” Westward M igrations: Northern Paths. x

5 8 21 25 42 61 64 84 93 95 106 107 112 121 131 136 148 156 162 165 166 171 199 201 210 215 226


28. Westward M igrations: Southern Baths. 29. The Federal Township'and'Range System. 30. The Pioneer Settler and H is Progress. 31. U nited States Counties, June 1, 1860. 32. The C lassic Tum erian Pattern. 33. A n A lternative Pattern: Am erican System o f Regional Development. 34. T he Yankee Settler and His Progress. 35. Syracuse, New York, c. 1860. 36. “View o f a Farm on the Ilinois Prairie,” 1833. 37. Courthouse at M ount Vernon, Indiana, 1833. 38. Early Formations o f the Cotton Belt. 39. C otton Production, 1860. 40. Slaves, 1860. 41. Liberia, 1853. 42. T he Colored Presence. 43. T he G allatin Plan, 1808. 44. C otton Boat, 1833. 45. Fotam ic Am erica. 46. R ailroads, 1860. 47. Four Complementary Trunk Lines, c. 1830. 48. N ation al Roads. 49. “ Diagram , A System o f Rail Roads,” 1838. 50. T h e Forks o f the O hio, c. 1815. 51. T h e Falls o f the O hio, 1824. 52. C h icago, c. 1853. 53. C in cin n ati, 1848. 54. T h e Pättem o f C ities, 1860. 55. G eographical Hyperbole, Virginia. 56. U tica, New York, 1848. 57. N ew England Manufacturing Employment, 1850. 58. New England Manufactures. 59. A nthracite Coalfield. 60. Heavy Industrial Region. 61. Troy, New York. 62. G lobe V illage, M assachusetts, c. 1822. 63. M auch Chunk, Pennsylvania, 1845. 64. A Q uasi-O fficial Map o f the U nited States, 1841. 65. T h e U .S . Army Logistics Com plex. 66. T he C apitol at Harrisburg, c. 1856-60. 67. A N ation al Imprint.


233 242 247 251 260 262 267 271 275 276 288 290 294 303 308 314 319 320 329 337 340 344 356 358 360 362 367 368 373 379 381 383 385 386 394 397 402 404 406 407


68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86.


Foreign'Bom and State Populations, 1850. New York City, 1856. “W all Street, H alf Päst 2 O ’C lock, O ct. 13, 1857.” G eographical M orphology, Late 1850s. A Proposal for New States, 1784. Som e G eographic Issues in State Formation. Indiana as a M odel. R alston’s Plat o f Indianapolis. Expanding the Federation. Lim iting Slavery. T he Confederate States o f A m erica. T he Borderlands and Som e Fracture Lines. G eneral Strategies. Richm ond, A pril 1865. A N ation Trium phant, May 1865. Freedman’s V illage, A rlington, Virginia. T he U nited States in N orth A m erica, 1867. Ottaw a: T he New C apital o f the New Confederation. S t. Thom as, Danish West Indies, c. 1843.

410 419 422 424 434 438 442 444 449 452 485 488 508 514 527 528 538 545 551


Commentai Am erica offers a rather different way o f looking at a period o f enormous expansion, developm ent, and crisis in the career o f the U nited States. A lthough it stands as a discrete, coherent work, it is best understood as a continuation o f the special kind o f description and assessm ent set forth in Atlantic America, 14921800, the opening volume o f this geographic interpretation. I must acknowledge that Continental Am erica covers only h alf o f the span origi' nally announced for Volume II. O nce I was immersed in the writing it becam e apparent that the am ount o f basic geographic change was simply more than could be conveniently contained within a single book without sacrificing too much pertinent detail. Thus, The Shaping o f Am erica is now projected to be four volumes. Volume III, Transcontinental Am erica, 1850-1915, now in preparation, will begin at midcentury, overlapping the coverage o f Volume II so as to give proper attention to the several regions o f the Am erican Far W est, which in the present book have merely been brought into the framework o f the U nited States as the western realm o f empire. In that way the treatm ent o f their fuller developm ent and incorporation into the body o f the nation and federation will become an uninterrupted theme in the form ation o f a genuinely transcontinental republic. Several other im portant topics only touched on in Continental Am erica, such as the emergence o f a more stable regional structure within the U nited States as a whole, immigration and the changing sociocultural com position o f the population, and continuing cultural connections with Europe, will also receive more attention in this next volume. A succinct statem ent o f my views on the nature o f geography and history, relationships between these fields, and a few basic geographic principles that inform this entire project can be found in the Preface o f A tlantic Am erica and will not be repeated here. I would reemphasize, however, that these volumes are intended as both a com plem ent to and a critique o f more common versions o f Am erican history. A s for the first, they make no attem pt to deal with many topics central to the concerns o f historians and therefore are not offered as a substitute for xiii



more orthodox treatm ents; on the other hand, they do seek to dem onstrate th at a broader geographic context and far greater concern for the character and sign ifi' canee o f place and location, for geographic structures, systems, and change, are fundamental to a better understanding o f what the U nited States is like and how it got to be that way. I must also emphasize again how very lim ited my treatm ent is within my own field. The Shaping o f Am erica is not environm ental history, nor a close study o f colonization and the developm ent o f resources, and certainly not an analysis o f the changing spatial economy o f the nation. Such themes are im portant facets o f historical geography. I make no claim for the superiority o f my particular em phases over these, or any others, but neither do I make any apology for what 1 have done and left undone. It will be obvious to any specialist in Am erican history that despite the size o f these volumes they can provide no more than a sketch o f even these selected patterns and developm ents o f such a huge and com plex subject. Yet it is not a rough or sim ple sketch, it has been drawn with much thought and care, it offers a coherent picture within its own term s, and it aspires to limn a likeness that will be at once recognizable and appreciated as a fresh way o f looking at som ething fam iliar and im portant. My m ain focus is on the emergence and continuing developm ent o f the U nited States, and 1 have followed the common usage o f the term American to refer to features pertaining to this country, however illogical, ambiguous, or annoying to other people on the sam e continent this universal practice may be. T hat the term occasionally is used in som e broader sense should be clear from the context. I must also try to make clear how I have dealt with several rather more difficult problems o f terminology in this hum an geography. I have used Indian as the collective term for the descendants o f the aboriginal inhabitants o f N orth Am erica because I see no better alternative. N ative American is too ambiguous, especially for nineteenth' century history, wherein Am erican-born citizens might well use that reference or some variant to differentiate them selves from new immigrants. A s for specific Indian groups, I have tried to use nam es now in general use, but one cannot overcome a good deal o f com plexity and controversy in these m atters. S o , too, with such generic terms as confederation, nation, tribe, and band; these European concepts are prickly with connotations about relative status and often grossly m isleading as to actual sociopolitical structures. I have tended to use them to convey some sense o f scale o f the relative size o f groups, but one must recognize that there is no way o f achieving clarity or certainty with any o f these widely employed— imposed— shorthand terms. T he descendants o f A fricans in Am erica pose even more intractable problems. One wants to be sensitive to the preferences o f the referent people them selves, but these, too, are varied, nuanced, and unstable. I have chosen to stick with A / to-



American and Black as two interchangeable terms o f general reference. “Negro” and "colored" appear only in quotations or where directly tied to some historical use by government or society. Readers will note that throughout these books Block and White are capitalized. T h at is a deliberate attem pt to emphasize that race is an abstraction, a social construct that has little relation to colors o f ordinary refer' ence: after all, m ost Am erican "blacks" are not black, "w hites” are certainly not white, and there is no objective way o f separating the one group from the other on such a basis. T h at such words can engender heated disagreem ents, be expressions o f pride and instrum ents o f hate, underscores the long'festering and most funda­ m ental problem o f Am erican society and, ironically, the continuing need to use them in any discussion o f that relentless reality. Sim ilarly, one wants to be sensitive to the sexism embedded in common lan­ guage, but there is no obvious guide to appropriate usage. Here, too, the text often reflects the social practice o f the tim es under study and, as well, my own tendency to resist radical— and clumsy— alterations and restrictions on our venerable tongue. In a work o f this scale one is talking more o f “populations" and "peoples” than o f specific com m unities or sm aller groups, and unless otherwise specified one may assume that all such collective terms routinely include both men and women, without im plication as to proportions or status. Finally, I would call attention to som e common words central to this geographic interpretation that are little less com plex and laden with m eanings even if they m ight seem , at the m om ent, to be much less provocative. Empire, nation, culture, region, and other terms related to them do not refer to fixed and readily defined entities. Such words are an essential, generalized shorthand for elusive form ations that are continuously under construction and alteration. I have tried to use them with care. Indeed, a m ajor purpose o f this project is to help us understand them a little more clearly in their special application to Am erica and Am ericans. D. W. M einig Syracuse, New York


My greatest debt continues to be to those many scholars, mostly historians, who have produced the detailed studies and informed assessments that make this kind o f synthetic overview possible. The range o f my reading is detailed in the Bibliography. Som e indication o f more specific debts may be inferred from the sources of quotations appended, but because The Shaping o f America is offered as a fresh interpretation rather than as a closely argued response to current propositions about Am erican developments, I have not larded every page with footnotes. A h though I have tried to be accurate, I cannot pretend to be an "authority” on all these topics, and my contribution lies not in an assessment o f specialist literature but in a way o f looking at some important topics— a perspective developed over a lifetim e o f thinking as a geographer. I feel very fortunate to have these volumes issued by Yale University Press. 1 am grateful to John Ryden, director, and Judy M etro, my editor, for their patient and unstinting support o f such a large and prolonged project and to the many others who have had a hand in it for the quality and care that has marked every phase o f publication. The gentle touch o f my manuscript editor, Laura Jones Dooley, has im proved every page, and Nancy Ovedovitz has continued her fine work on design. A generous fellowship from the N ational Endowment for the Humanities a 1lowed an uninterrupted year o f writing. 1 also acknowledge, somewhat belatedly, a Faculty Enrichment G rant from the Canadian embassy in W ashington, D .C ., that supported two months o f study and reconnaissance o f eastern Canada. I am even more indebted to the consistent support o f Syracuse University in many forms. My departm ental chairm en, Robert G . Jensen and John Mercer, and the deans o f the M axw ell School, Guthrie S . Birkhead and John L. Palmer, have covered all the costs o f manuscript preparation and most o f the cartographic services, provided extra travel funds (support for a month-long exploration o f the Border South was especially im portant), reduced teaching loads, and, most recently, arranged for me to devote full tim e to this project. Kay Steinm etz not only transformed my handwriting into type but scrutinized xvii



every line with a keen editorial eye and a sensitivity to language, and 1 gratefully acknowledge her many contributions. Sh e also helped prepare the index. C ynthia A . M iller served as my graduate research assistant for a year, and her fam iliarity with government docum ents was especially valuable on such topics as transporta' tion programs, new states, and secession. A journalist reviewing Volume I com ­ mended “the plethora o f maps which broaden and sweeten the text,” and M arcia Harrington continues her am eliorative work in this one, transform ing my sketches into maps and charts. M ichael Kirchoff, director o f the Cartographic Laboratory, was, as always, an efficient helper with all sorts o f problems with illustrations. John Reps, with his usual generosity, allowed me to select whatever 1 w anted from his wonderful store o f historic m aps, plans, and views. Many persons assisted in the search for illustrations or provided inform ation about those in hand. Even though not every search was successful nor could every item found be used, my hearty thanks to the following for their readiness to help: Ronald G rim , Andrew M odelski, and Richard Stephenson o f the Library o f Congress; Richard Sm ith, the N ational A rchives; Rachel D. Bliven, history consultant, Troy, N .Y .; Janice K . Broderick, curator, A . G . Edwards and Sons, S t. Louis; C raig C olten, Illinois State Museum; H elen D eroia, N ation al A rchives o f C anada; Susan Fam ilia and Jam es G . W ard, Passaic County H istorical Society; Jeanne Frantz and Jesse M atz, Yale University Press; Charlene G ill, A lton Museum o f History and A rt; Katherine R. Goodw in, U niversity o f Texas at A rlington; Judith M . Jacobi, U niversity o f Tennessee, Knoxville; Linda Leazer, Virginia H istorical Society; Brian O sborne, Queen’s University, Kingston; Richard Pillsbury, G eorgia State U niversity; Sandra Stetts, Pennsylvania State U niversity; Susan Sutton, Indiana H istorical Society; David Tatum , Syracuse U niversity; Mark W eimer, Syracuse University. 1 thank Boomer Kennedy-Raisz for perm ission to use portions o f Erwin Raisz’s great map o f Landform s o f the U nited States. Portions o f the m anuscript were read by Peirce F. Lewis, Jam es Roger Sharp, Stephen Saunders Webb, and John W estern, and I thank them for their critiques and their encouragem ent. Twenty years ago I corresponded with Rodman W. Paul, then professor o f history at the C alifornia Institute o f Technology, about our mutual interest in the Am eri­ can W est. H is strong support o f my published attem pts at historical geographic interpretation helped em bolden me to apply my approach to the entire country, and I am very sorry that he did not live to see this project unfold to this point and to receive my public recognition o f his encouragem ent. More recently, 1 only belatedly learned just how decisive has been the help from another fellow student o f the Am erican W est, Howard R . Lam ar o f Yale U niversity. He strongly endorsed my original prospectus, reviewed the entire m anuscript o f A tlantic Am erica, and has long been supportive o f my work, and I wish to express a special thanks for his



generosity. Such endorsements from historians are especially important to one who trie s to apply a different set o f tools to some o f their well-cultivated ground. T h is book, like its predecessor, is dedicated with deepest thanks to the one who h a s lived it with me day by day.


History abhors determinism but cannot tolerate chance. Why did we become what we are and not something else? . . . Why does the United States consist o f ju st the land area the map now shows: why are diere not two or more nations in that area, why does it not include parts or all o f Mexico? . . . I do not know how powerfid a force, absolutely or relaäve, our continentalism has been [bu t]. . . Ameri­ can history . . . could not be written at all if that experience were left out o f account. Bernard DeVoto



X he U nited States began in a spa­

cious frame— the world’s largest republic, obviously rich in potential if as yet m odest in developm ent. And just twenty years after its formal indepen­ dence, it was, at a single stroke, doubled in area. During the next fifty years an even greater expanse o f territory was added so that by midcentury the U nited States was more than three times its original size. T he creation o f the outer framework o f the Republic is a geographic topic worthy o f close analysis and speculative reflection. However “natural” and m atter-of-fact this broad, com pact, alm ost symmetrical transcontinental belt o f territory must seem after all these years, no one ever envisioned exactly that extent and shape for the nation during this era o f expansion; no far-sighted statesm an ever sketched that geographical design on the map as the objective o f national policy. We are concerned with the various geographical designs that were put forth during each episode and stage o f that history, with what the territorial issues were, what alternatives were considered, and why the U nited States did come to have the particular outline it eventually obtained. We are also concerned not simply with the setting o f exact boundaries but with the creation o f broad borderlands. W hile a sequence o f gigantic extensions shifted the western limits o f the U nited States from the G reat River to the crest o f the G reat M ountains to the shores o f the G reat O cean, we will be dealing not simply with the Westward M ovement, so famous in our national history and mythology, but, more accurately, with a powerful Outward M ovem ent that ramified deeply into every neighboring society. A nd while




we will not, in this part, focus closely on the actual expansion of the “Am erican” people, we will pay attention to those other peoples who got caught in the path o f that expansion through these successive extensions o f Am erican jurisdiction. Having established the outer bounds of the U nited States, we will then be ready to look more closely at the momentous geo­ graphical changes taking place within this expanding structure during these years.

1. Doubling the National Territory: Louisiana In 1800 the U nited States was one o f the world's largest states. Extending broadly inland from the A tlantic, spanning the Appalachians and fronting upon nearly the entire length o f the M ississippi, its boundaries (as yet uncertain in some sectors) encompassed about 900,000 square miles (fig. 1). Few Old World empires ex­ ceeded it in size; no single nation or kingdom rivaled its extent. In sim plest geographic terms, apparent to all at the time, it was a country divided into two grand parts: east and west, seaboard and interior, old and new. The Am erican people were eagerly expanding into the newly opened and nearly empty lands o f that western interior, and the prospects for national growth and enrichment seemed unlimited in a country blessed “with room enough,” as Thom as Jefferson said in an inaugural flourish, “for all descends to the 1,000th & 1,000th genera­ tion.” And yet there was another side to this grand scale and geographic situation that was a cause o f concern for many o f its leaders and citizens. For size alone, no matter how rich the lands, does not necessarily bestow strength and security and advan­ tage to the state. The U nited States was in fact huge in extent but strained in coherence and constricted and unsatisfied in geographic position. Three great geographic problems confronted its leaders: 1. How to bind together the East and the W est, divided as they were by such a broad corrugation o f mountains and so divergent in their alignments on the grand waterways o f nature; 2. How to secure geographic positions deemed essential to the development o f its territories, especially unrestricted use o f the M ississippi River, upon which the traffic o f the western half o f the nation must move; and 3. How to m aintain the delicate geopolitical balances o f federation as the spread­ ing population became formed into an array o f new western states.

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The United States c. 1800

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1. The United States, c. 1800.







N o one appreciated these national problems more than the Virginian ph ilosopher, scientist, and geopolitician who assumed the presidency in 1801. from th e time he began service as Secretary o f State in 1790, Thom as Jefferson had giv en extraordinary attention in particular to the second o f these m atters, focusing o n New O rleans and A m erican access to the G u lf o f M exico. In August o f that year h e had drawn a memorandum rehearsing a variety o f possibilities for solving th e problem . T he basic assum ptions, boldly stated, were that the U nited States Mby N ature" and uby Treaty” have wa right to the navigation o f the M ississippi"; wit is necessary to u s," and therefore must be obtained, preferably by negotiation, but if necessary by force. T h is said, there followed a rationale as to why it would be in Spain’s best interests to accede in som e significant way to A m erican desires for full and free use o f the lower M ississippi. S o long as they had only to deal with Spain , Am ericans seemed confident o f eventual success. Spain m ight not wish to give up New O rleans, but Louisiana was a huge and distant province thinly settled and feebly held, whereas in the adjacent Am erican territory, as the Spanish governor o f Louisiana warned his superiors, “a new and vigorous people, hostile to all subjection, [were] advancing and m ultiply' ing . . . with prodigious rapidity.” Both parties knew that if the A m ericans were determ ined to seize control o f the M ississippi it would be im possible, in the long run, to stop them . T h e Treaty o f San Lorenzo (Pinckney’s Treaty) in 1795 was an attem pt to stabilize the situation. It favored the Am ericans by setting their bound' ary with West Florida as far south as 31° N orth latitude, by recognizing A m erican rights o f navigation on the entire M ississippi, and by specifying their privileges o f deposit (landing and transfer o f cargoes without payment o f custom s) under Sp an ­ ish jurisdiction at New O rleans. Subsequently there was a great increase in Am erican traffic on the river, re­ flecting the rapid growth o f settlem ent in the O hio Valley. Each year more flatboats descended upon New O rleans, where the waterfront was crowded with Am erican shipping and A m erican m erchants played a predom inant role. But such commer­ cial growth only aggravated A m erican political feelings, for all was at the suf­ ferance o f Spanish officials. In spite o f provisions o f the deposit, many activities required Spanish licenses, papers, fees, inspections, and essential services (such as river pilotage), and the aggressive, restless Am ericans found it increasingly galling that the vital trade o f their western territories should have to run this foreign gauntlet. Such concerns were not merely local or even regional, for the M ississippi trade had become part o f a rapidly emerging national, continental pattern. Be­ cause movement upstream was so difficult and tedious, settlers in the O hio Valley imported their needs across the m ountains from the leading com m ercial centers on the seaboard. By 1800 m ercantile houses in Philadelphia, Baltim ore, and New York (but not Boston) had become heavily involved in this western trade and



thereby “the Hudson, not the Potomac, was now the northern boundary o f the ‘M ississippi interest.'” Decisive action on the “M ississippi problem ,” however, was prompted not so much by these operational aggravations as by larger and ominous geopolitical concerns. T he whole m atter was beclouded and intensified by political turmoil in Europe, where a renewal o f the great struggle between France and G reat Britain threatened to subordinate Spain to one or the other and make the mouth o f the M ississippi a tempting prize in new imperial strategies. Horn 1795 on, rumors that Spain had secretly agreed to cede Louisiana back to France fueled Am erican fears. Furthermore, throughout these years there were schemes and rumors o f schemes, homegrown or fostered from afar, powered by political ambition and land specula­ tion and involving a number o f prominent Am ericans, that envisioned some sort of new geopolitical creature carved out o f the western territories and Louisiana— a M ississippi Valley republic fitted more to nature's frame rather than attenuated across the mountains or artificially divided along the grand trunk stream itself. In all this swirl o f aspirations and intrigue the only certainty seemed to be a general feeling that the existing pattern o f boundaries and sovereignties in this important but largely undeveloped sector o f North Am erica was unlikely to endure. Jefferson cam e to the presidency determined somehow to remake that pattern more to Am erica's liking. We shall not try to follow all the nuances o f domestic and international politics leading up to the astonishing solution o f the problem. It will be useful, however, to bring into focus the basic geographical dimensions o f this M ississippi Q uestion and the range o f alternatives Jefferson considered during his years o f attention to the matter. These can be arranged from minimal to maximal in term s o f the amount o f change required in the existing political geography. The m ost minimal alternative in fact involved no territorial change at all, for at one point when Jefferson was seeking to calm the rising Am erican alarm over Spanish interference, he opined that “the U nited States could, in case o f necessity, make itse lf independent o f New Orleans by developing the rival port o f N atchez.” This tow n, poised where the looping river cut into the high loessial bluffe 200 miles above N ew O rleans, came under Am erican control only in 1798. It was booming from its ow n productive hinterland as well as from the traffic coming down the M ississippi, and in 1802 ocean vessels began to come all the way up to load cotton. But th at w as a long, slow run, and it was obvious that Natchez could serve as no more than a “worst case” alternative and did not constitute a satisfactory long-term solution (fig. 2). The m ost lim ited change was one Jefferson suggested in the early 1790s, when the possibility o f any m ajor cession from Spain seemed dim. He urged the necessity of obtaining at least a separate Am erican entrepôt near the mouth o f the M is­ sissippi at som e “convenient spot placed under our exclusive occupation, & ex-


Natchez as the American Entrepôt

English Tum as an American Enclave

WE S T V i F LO R I D A1


Purchase of West Florida

Purchase of Isle of New Orleans

2. Alternative Solutions to the Mississippi Problem.



em pted from the jurisdiction & police o f their governm ent.” Such an extrater­ ritorial enclave would separate the two peoples and put an end to those “eternal altercations” that “keep us in ill humour with each other.” W ith typical thorough­ ness, he specified the desired spot: at the Detour aux A nglais, or English Turn, about eighteen m iles downriver horn New O rleans, “the only lands below the town, not subject to inundation.” But this, too, was far short o f the ideal and could only be a step toward the eventual solution that was in fact already entirely clear in his mind. W hat was required was “a well-defined separation” o f Spanish and Am erican territories and an am ple A m erican position on d ie lower M ississippi. Fortunately, in his view, Nature has decided what shall be the geography of that in the end, whatever it might be in the beginning, by cutting off from the adjacent countries of Florida and Louisiana, and enclosing between two of [the Mississippi] channels, a long narrow slip of land called the Island of New Orleans. . . . A disinterested eye, looking on a map, will remark how conveniently this tongue of land is formed for the purpose; the Iberville and Amit channel offering a good boundary and convenient outlet, on the one side, for Florida, and the main channel an equally good boundary and outlet, on the other side, for Louisiana; while the slip of land between, is almost entirely morass or sandbank; the whole of it lower than the water of the river, in its highest floods, and only its western margins (which is the highest ground) secured by banks and inhabited. T h at inhabited margin happened to contain New O rleans, the capital and com­ m ercial center “with about ten thousand white inhabitants,” and Jefferson under­ stood that the idea o f handing that city over to d ie Am ericans would be “too disagreeable at first view,” but he thought that “reason and events” would “by little and little” bring the Spanish to such a consideration. Ten years later reason and events em boldened Jefferson, now president, to move to obtain exactly th at piece o f ground. A ctually, there were two steps in his move. In 1801, when the transfer o f Louisiana back to France was still a rumor in A m erica, Jefferson instructed his newly appointed am bassador to Paris, Robert Livingston, to find out if the rumor were true and if it were to suggest that France consider ceding W est Florida (assum ing it to be part o f Louisiana) to the U nited States as a sim ple m eans o f lessening inherent frictions in the area. Such a change would give the U nited States Baton Rouge and bring its border to the old M anchacIberville-Pontchartrain route and, farther east, to the gulf itself. There was more to the Am erican interest in West Florida than in the obvious advantage o f controlling the m ouths o f the several stream s reaching into M ississippi Territory. O ne o f the more fervent speculative schem es o f the day was that o f the Yazoo Com pany, led by W illiam Blount o f K noxville, which envisioned a colony and com m ercial center at M uscle Shoals (a stretch o f rapids on the southerly swing o f the Tennessee River)



and a canal from that point connecting to the upper waters o f the Tombigbee from which a moderately deep channel led directly south to M obile. The whole project foundered in political scandal, but the concept o f an all-Am erican waterway that might drain the traffic o f a huge area and compete in some degree with the M ississippi was not unrealistic, given the technology o f the time (pre-steam boat) and assuming the continued political partition o f the M ississippi Valley. (The idea was, in fact, finally accomplished in the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, com­ pleted in 1985— and regarded by its opponents as one o f the greatest porkbarrel projects in congressional history.) Before Livingston could broach this idea, confirmation o f the retrocession was received and emboldened Jefferson to move more decisively. He now declared the reappearance o f powerful trance in this vital part o f North Am erica to be a crisis for the U nited States: “There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor o f which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New O rleans, through which the produce o f three-eighths o f our territory must pass to market, and from its [the West] fertility it will ere long yield more than half o f our whole produce and contain more than h alf our inhabitants.” W hereas Spain was feeble and might be pressured to accede to Am erican interests, it was “impossible that France and the U .S . can continue long friends when they meet in so irritable a position.” Therefore in April 1802, he instructed Livingston to enlarge his proposal and inquire about the purchase o f “the island o f New Orleans and the Floridas.” Later that year a Spanish imperial official abruptly suspended the Am erican privilege o f deposit at New O rleans. T his action infuriated the Am ericans and greatly intensified pressures for a radical resolution o f the problem. In response Jefferson sent his fellow Virginian, Jam es Monroe, to Paris as an envoy extraordinary to join with Livingston in the urgent task o f persuading the trench (and if necessary the Spanish, for the formal retroces­ sion had not yet taken place) to yield on this vital matter. A fter many delays, Livingston finally had a chance to make his proposal, modified to fit his own assessment o f the bargaining possibilities. He suggested that in return for some negotiable sum France cede to the U nited States so much of Louisiana as lay above the mouth of the river Arkansas. By this, a barrier will be placed between the colony of France and Canada from which she may otherwise be attacked. . . . Let her retain the country lying on the west of the Mississippi and below the Arkansas river—a country capable of supporting fifteen millions of inhabitants. By this she will place a barrier between the United States and Mexico. . . . Let her possess East Florida as far as the river Perdido, with all the ports on the Gulf, and cede West Florida, New Orleans, and the territory on the west bank of the Mississippi [above the Arkansas] to the United States. Livingston excluded East Florida from his offer because it seemed clear that



France in fact had no claim on that territory, it having never been part o f Loui' siana. T h at he sought all o f Louisiana north o f the Arkansas was unprecedented in Jefferson’s formulations and may be seen as a bargaining ploy, one made credible by the very slight European hold on that remote ground and the near impossibility o f shielding it from Am erican infiltration. T he key area was o f course the Island o f (New) O rleans, and Livingston elaborated at some length why France should not be overly concerned about giving up that famous colonial outpost: “It may be supposed that New Orleans is a place o f some moment; it will be so to the U nited States, but not to France, because Fort Leon, on the opposite bank, affords a much more advantageous station; has equal advantages as a harbor; is higher, healthier, and more defensible; and, as the great bulk o f the settlem ents must necessarily be on that side, the capital must be transplanted there even if France continued in possession o f New O rleans.” New Orleans was there, on the wrong bank, he explained, because the whole region had been first approached and settled from the east, along the sheltered passageway hugging the coast west horn Biloxi via Lake Pontchartrain. But once the M ississippi became the great avenue, the west bank must be preferred. Here was an interesting vision o f two capitals as twin cities astride the great river serving the two halves, French and Am erican, o f the M is­ sissippi Valley. T h at these two sovereignties would in fact continue to face each other in this strategic sector seemed a reasonable assumption even to the best informed and most hopeful. Jefferson confessed privately more than once during these months that he was wnot sanguine in obtaining a cession o f New Orleans for money, ” but he was convinced that an attem pt at peaceful negotiation for territory that the U nited States m ust eventually obtain by whatever means was the appropriate move at this time. In A pril 1803 the Spanish government restored the deposit at New O rleans and invited negotiations to select an alternative location for such privileges. The A m erican adm inistration proceeded in the hope that France, once it got formal control, m ight sell a sm all enclave for a new Am erican entrepôt. T hat would not be a lastin g solution, but it would ease the pressures and probably avoid war. In th at sam e month o f 1803 the French foreign minister startled Livingston by asking if th e U nited States would like to buy the whole o f Louisiana. In retrospect, historians have offered plausible explanations for Napoleon’s sudden shift o f plans and attitu d es, but the prospect o f obtaining the whole vast province in one simple transaction exceeded all expectations. There could be no hesitation on such a rem arkable opportunity, and a deal was soon worked out. The signing o f the treaty was m ade known to Jefferson on July 3 and announced to the public on the following day, the twenty-seventh anniversary o f the Declaration o f Indepen­ dence. T he Louisiana Purchase was an unprecedented and exhilarating event. A t the



stroke o f a pen and for what even then seem ed a trifling cost, the world's largest republic was doubled in size. Its landward border was shifted hundreds o f m iles to the as-yet-unexplored crest o f the continent, the western rim o f the immense basin o f the M ississippi system . U ncertainties over these new lim its precluded any exact calculation, but the national territory now approached two m illion square m iles, including a thousand m illion acres o f incalculable potential. A nd all this was a bonus to the original objective o f rem oving the galling geopolitical constriction on Am erican commerce on the M ississippi. A nd not only was that issue dissolved but the nation’s security was immeasurably enhanced. N orth Am erica was once more freed o f the im perial presence o f France, the world's most powerful m ilitary state; the Spanish hold receded to Texas and the Floridas— and the boundaries o f these colonies were uncertain and im mediately placed under pressure by Am erican claim s. T h is sudden enormous geographical augm entation o f the state must have had a tremendous im pact on the whole citizenry and society: enlarging visions, w hetting appetites, swelling national pride, bolstering Am erican self-confidence, elevating the West into even greater prom inence, and confirming a genuine continental destiny for the young republic. There was, however, another, more sobering side to the m atter, arising from the scale and content o f Louisiana. If one o f the great geopolitical issues had been dissolved, the other two had been magnified and joined by further com plications. There was the im mediate question, deeply troubling to Jefferson, o f the legality, the constitutionality, o f such an addition to the federal republic. Could the execu­ tive, even with the consent o f Congress, simply expand in such a way what was basically a com pact am ong states? Included in this was the difficult and potentially embarrassing question as to whether the people o f Louisiana could simply be purchased and annexed without their consent. A nd once brought under A m erican sovereignty, just how should this non-English-speaking population with its French and Spanish institutions and legal codes be incorporated into the federal structure ? Beyond those im m ediate issues lay a host o f m atters pertaining to the m anagem ent and developm ent o f such an enormous territory o f unknown qualities. Could such an expanse be effectively bound up with the older states? Would not the acquisition o f the whole M ississippi Basin magnify the physical divergence between the A tlan ­ tic seaboard states and the gulf-oriented interior and eventually force the nation to yield to the power o f “natural law"? Should Louisiana be reserved for Indians, including those to be pressured out o f lands east o f the M ississippi, or opened for colonization by W hites, like the rest o f the U nited States was or would eventually be? A nd once settled, how many states and what portion o f the national population would these new western lands contain, and what would such an immense amount o f geographical change do to the delicate balances and harm onies o f a



fragile federal structure? Such questions necessarily received a good deal o f atten ' tion in the opening years o f the new century; some o f them would not be answered until much later in that century. N ot everyone was delighted with the acquisition o f “this new, immense, un' bounded w orld.” In Congress, Senator Sam uel W hite o f Delaware declared that Louisiana's incorporation into the U nion would be “the greatest curse that could at present befall u s." He dism issed any plan to keep all west o f the M ississippi an Indian reserve: “You had as well pretend to inhibit the fish from swimming in the sea” as to prevent “the adventurous, roving, and enterprising" Am ericans from populating that country. A nd once that happens, W hite warned, our citizens will be removed to the immense distance of two or three thousand miles from the capital of the Union, where they will scarcely ever feel die rays of the General Government; their affections will become alienated; they will gradually begin to view us as strangers; they will form other commercial connexions, and our interests will become distinct. These, with other causes that human wisdom may not now forsee, will in time effect a separation, and 1 fear our bounds will be fixed nearer to our houses than the waters of the Mississippi. We have already territory enough. But such fears for the future were a feeble parry against the virtual gift o f one'third o f a continent and visions o f a far greater republic. Senator John Breckenridge o f Kentucky scornfully dism issed the geographical principle implied in W hite’s argu­ m ent: Louisiana too great an extension? I would ask, sir, what is his standard extent for a Republic? How does he come at that standard? Our boundary is already extensive. Would his standard extent be violated by including the island of Orleans and the Floridas? I presume not, as all parties seem to think their acquisition, in part or in whole, essential. Why not then acquire territory on the west, as well as on the east side of the Mississippi? Is the Goddess of Liberty restrained by water courses? Is she governed by geographical limits? Is her dominion on this continent confined to the east side of the Mississippi? So far from believing in the doctrine that a Republic ought to be confined within narrow limits, I believe, on the contrary, that the more extensive its dominion the more safe and more durable it will be. In proportion to the number of hands you intrust the precious blessings of free government to, in the same proportion do you multiply the chances for their preservation. 1entertain, therefore, no fears for the Confederacy on account of its extent. W hatever uncertainties and uneasiness there may have been about such an un­ precedented issue— and one m ust be wary o f taking these political orations at full face value, for such debates were enmeshed in more personal and party struggles— there was never the slightest doubt about congressional as well as popular approval



o f the Louisiana Purchase. It was an enormous triumph for Jefferson and his fellow Republicans. More than all else it ensured their reelection, and the president’s comment on the topic in his second inaugural address was a tem perate affirm ation o f Breckenridge’s argument: I know that the acquisition of Louisiana has been disapproved by some, from a candid apprehension that the enlargement of our territory would endanger its union. But who can limit the extent to which the federative principle may operate effectively? The larger our association, the less it will be shaken by local passions; and in any view, is it not better that the opposite bank of the Mississippi should be settled by our own brethren and children, than by strangers of another family? With which shall we be most likely to live in harmony and friendly intercourse? T he annexation o f Louisiana was a triumph o f nationalism over regionalism . But it created new and in part unexpected regional issues. Few shared Jefferson’s deep concerns for the constitutionality o f this executive acquisition o f territory, and he was reluctantly convinced not to insist on a constitutional amendment as a prerequisite to ratification o f the treaty. But if territory could be added to a federa* tion without the direct consent o f the member states, could it be legally or ethically annexed without obtaining the consent o f its citizens? T h at issue was debated in Congress as one o f political principle rather than possible contention in Louisiana, for it was generally assumed and repeatedly asserted that “the inhabitants would readily agree to the proposed transfer o f their allegiance,” for none could “be so unwise as to prefer being the colonists o f a distant European Power, to being members o f this immense Empire, with all the privileges o f Am erican citizens” (although the question o f just how such persons actually m ight become citizens was not readily apparent). It was soon revealed that few congressm en agreed with John Quincy Adam s that uwe ought to have applied to the inhabitants o f Louisiana to recognize our right to govern them .” M ost believed it was quite enough, and salutary, that the treaty declared that uthe inhabitants o f the ceded territory sh all be incorporated in the U nion o f the U nited States, and adm itted as soon as possible, according to the principles o f the Federal C onstitution, to the enjoym ent o f the rights, advantages and im m unities o f citizens o f the U nited States; and in the meantime they shall be m aintained and protected in the free enjoym ent o f their liberty, property, and the religion which they profess.” In fact, Jefferson envisioned neither statehood nor cultural integrity for this Louisiana community. H is first thought was to annex the settled region o f Lower Louisiana to M ississippi Territory so as to am algam ate the people "with such a body o f Am ericans as may take the lead in legislation and governm ent." He soon gave that up as im practicable and set about devising a special interim territorial status for the former French colony. T he Louisiana Purchase was immediately divided in



two at 33° North latitude. A ll land north o fth at arbitrary line was designated the D istrict o f Louisiana and placed under the adm inistration o f the Territory o f Indiana, seated at Vincennes. Jefferson's intent was to lock that huge area up as an Indian reserve for the time being. T he remainder, south o f 33°N , containing an estim ated 50,000 mostly French-speaking inhabitants, was set up as the Territory o f O rleans. Jefferson had originally assumed that the upriver boundary should be drawn near Pointe Coupee, at the northern margins o f settlem ent along the M is­ sissippi. But that would have excluded N atchitoches, an important outpost and border station to the northwest, and it seems clear that the boundary was set so for north to enclose about as much country above the French settlem ent along the M ississippi as below and that this configuration was directly related to Jefferson’s design for the eventual incorporation o f this foreign body into the U nion. Louisiana was an imperial colony o f alien people— this all Am erican leaders recognized, though they differed as to how comfortable they were with that fact and what means should be taken to “Americanize” this sudden addition. Jefferson, and apparently most others, assumed some com bination o f pressured acculturation and dilution o f numbers as appropriate and essential to the task. Louisianians, in the eyes o f these Am ericans, were a people speaking a foreign tongue and steeped in foreign ways, exhibiting unusual and even questionable values and behavior (festivals and frolics on Sundays! ), used to authoritarian government, unlettered in representative institutions, following strange legal customs and laws. They must therefore be ruled firmly by an Am erican governor under close supervision o f federal authorities, assisted by an “Assembly o f Notables” selected by the governor to give some voice to the people but with a majority o f strong Anglo-Am ericans, and their laws and courts must be quickly remolded to the Am erican system. To hasten and broaden the processes o f culture change as well as to ensure the political allegiance o f this strategic border territory, a rapid immigration o f Americans into this part o f Louisiana should be induced, and Jefferson strongly supported a bill designed to do just that: I propose. . . enlisting 30,000 volunteers, Americans by birth, to be earned at the public expense, & settled immediately on a bounty of 160 acres of land each, on the west side of the Mississippi, on the condition of giving two years of military service, if that country should be attacked within 7 years. The defence of the country would thus be placed on the spot, and the additional number would entitle the territory to become a State, would make the majority American, & make it an American instead of a trench State. This would not sweeten the pill to the French; but in making that acquisition we had some view to our own good as well as theirs, and 1 believe the greatest good of both will be promoted by whatever will amalgamate us together. Certainly there was a strategic urgency in his mind. Lower Louisiana was nearly



surrounded by potentially hostile forces, and its borders were in serious dispute. The Spanish still held West Florida, with gunboats on Pontchartrain and Fort San Carlos overlooking the M ississippi at Baton Rouge, and they were expanding and reinforcing their positions in Texas. A bill to induce such a migration passed the Senate but stalled in the House, more from a perceived threat to competing land speculations in older territories than from any lack o f conviction about Jefferson’s concept, although the military provision also gave some members pause. The president's reference to “sweeten the pill” acknowledges that in fact the French were not overjoyed about the sudden blessings o f Am erican rule. There was much unease and a good deal o f social conflict, and in the first year a delegation o f Louisiana’s leaders traveled to W ashington to plead for immediate statehood on terms that would provide equality o f treatment with other states but at the sam e time ensure the integrity o f Louisiana laws and customs. They saw themselves as being under the thumb o f a governor who could neither read nor speak French, with a council stacked seven to six in favor o f the Anglo-Am ericans (even though they were no more than one in twelve o f the population), forced to transact governmental business in English, and threatened with alarming changes with respect to their laws, rights, and property. A major grievance was the arbitrary embargo on the importation o f slaves into Louisiana, even though the states were free to augment their labor force with slaves until the constitutional prohibition went into effect in 1808. The most tangible response was a new bill, approved in 1805, that generally brought Louisiana into line with the territorial provisions o f the Northwest Ordinance as it applied to the territorial process toward statehood. A more representative council was authorized, and the bill specified the continua­ tion in force o f local Louisiana law for the time being. The m atter o f laws, o f legal philosophies, codes, and procedures, was the most intense and explicit difficulty facing the incorporation o f Louisiana into the Union. The Am erican legal system was based on English Common Law, that o f Louisiana on French and Spanish civil law. Americans assumed not only the need for uniformity within the U nion but generally the superiority o f their system as basic to their unprecedented freedoms and protections; French Louisianians saw no such superiority, regarded the Am ericans and their system as offensively litigious, and were deeply alarmed by the disruptive potential o f any general change. The differences were fundamental, touching every dimension o f life. W ith regard to domestic affairs, for exam ple, the French system emphasized family interests, in contrast to the Am erican emphasis on individuals and especially males; the French recognized husband and wife as contractual partners, put lim itations on disinheri­ tance, and provided for the legitim atization o f bastards; whereas the Am ericans merged the couple under the husband’s authority, allowed complete disregard o f family heirs, and had no provision for legitimatizing bastard offspring. In Louisiana



free persons o f whatever color had all the rights o f citizens, whereas Am erican com m on law allowed an alm ost com plete denial o f human rights to persons defined as having even a fraction o f "colored” blood. A s G eorge Dargo has detailed, illustrations o f such differences can be drawn from throughout the laws o f obliga* tion, property, and com m erce. T he one feature o f Am erican law Louisianians readily adopted was trial by jury in criminal cases. They welcomed such personal protection after the arbitrary authority they had experienced under Spain. But they assiduously resisted all attem pts to supplant their civil code and in 1808 achieved a m ajor triumph when d ie U nited States formally recognized the Digest o f the C ivil Laws, m odeled on the Code N apoléon and printed in French and English (with French as the authorita­ tive language). Thus, as Dargo has put it, the territory o f Louisiana became "a civil law island in a sea o f com m on law,” a notable Jeffersonian concession "in an otherwise heavy-handed effort to bring about some kind o f adjustm ent between A m erica and its first subject people.” T h is com prom ise cam e in the wake o f other developm ents that had eased A m erican attitudes toward this alien people they had annexed. M ost im portant, perhaps, was the fact that the French Louisianians were in no way im plicated in the com plicated intrigues o f the so-called Burr Conspiracy, which had seem ed, mo­ m entarily, to pose great dangers to the integrity o f the U nited States in the M ississippi Valley. It was the allegiance o f A m ericans, not the french, that was the cause for concern, and the volatile potential o f these W estern societies spurred Congress to incorporate them more firmly into the U nion. In 1809 b ilb approving Louisiana’s preparation for statehood were introduced in Congress. T he debate reopened the constitutional question o f whether by action o f Congress new mem­ ber states could be carved out o f territories that were not part o f the original U nited States. A number o f northern legislators spoke strongly against the validity o f such additions to the federation. Debate reached an om inous point when Josiah Quincy o f M assachusetts spoke fervently against such a "great usurpation” engineered by "th e slave vote” to add to the weight o f their section "the m ixed, though . . . respectable race o f Anglo-H ispano-G allo-A m ericans who bask on the sands at the m outh o f the M ississippi.” If this be approved, he argued, it would be but the first in a relentless sequence o f such additions whose cum ulative effect would be such a grotesque distortion o f the original com pact as to be the "death-blow to the C onstitution” and force the dissolution o f the U nion. Quincy’s fellow New En­ glanders endorsed his principle, though not necessarily his threat, but their am endm ent to require the unanimous consent o f each state or a constitutional am endm ent was defeated by a vote o f eighteen to ten. A fter much further debate Louisiana statehood was approved in 1811 by two-to-one m ajorities in both houses.



Approval was granted even though die census o f 1810 counted just 34,311 free W hites among the population o f 76,556, whereas the Northwest Ordinance pre­ scribed a minimum o f 60,000 such persons as a prerequisite o f statehood (the Louisiana bill denied the franchise to the 7,585 “free coloreds”). There was, however, a further body o f people that might readily be added to Louisiana. From the first discussions o f its great acquisition die U nited States claim ed that West Florida, reaching east to the Perdido River, was part o f Louisiana and therefore included in the purchase. Spain strongly denied that interpretation, and trance refused to specify, so the issue remained in dispute. The Spanish hold was meager, at M obile and a few coastal and waterway points along the route to Baton Rouge, and the backcountry began to fill with Anglo-Am ericans, especially in the west, a spreading out from the thriving Natchez hinteriand. In 1804 a local Anglo attem pt to seize Baton Rouge failed. In the same year Congress authorized the creation o f a district and port o f entry on the waters o f the M obile. Spain protested this act; the U nited States reasserted its claim s but set up its customs station at Fort Stoddert, just upriver within the M ississippi Territory. In the years following, various plans were laid for the purchase or, if need be, seizure o f West Florida. The m atter came to a head in 1810, when Spain was struggling against N apoleonic dom ination and revolt was beginning to well up in various parts o f Spanish Am erica. Anglo settlers now took control o f Baton Rouge and sought annexation to the U nited States. When the Am erican government delayed, not wanting to provoke Spain unduly, the settlers proclaimed a “Republic o f Florida” and set about forming a govern­ ment. However, unwilling to foster this ambiguous state on its borders, the U nited States soon ordered the governor o f Louisiana to occupy the area as far east as the Pearl River and organize it under his jurisdiction. T his block o f territory between the M ississippi and the Pearl, known ever after as the Florida Parishes, was not included in the Louisiana statehood bill, primarily because o f uncertainties about the Am erican legal title to it. Louisiana’s French leaders strongly opposed the addition o f the Florida Parishes because it would augment the Anglo-Am erican population by several thousands. Under Am erican pressure, however, the first act o f the legislature o f the new state in 1812 approved this annexation. O nlyw iththis seemingly minor addition did the U nited States achieve full control from source to mouth over both banks o f the M ississippi. The character o f Louisiana as an imperial colony remained vividly apparent even as immigrations and econom ic developments altered the patterns and propor­ tions o f its peoples. Common perception and reference viewed it as being divided between two peoples, the “Am ericans” and the “French,” or “C reoles,” although such terms masked a considerable variety in each case (creole, especially, had many shades o f meaning in local usage). The cultural geography o f the state evolved not simply out o f an influx o f Am ericans upon a residual Creole society, for the French



population was expanding, too, not only by a high rate o f natural increase but also by immigration. For many years émigrés trickled in from recurrent upheavals in France. More important was the feet that anim osities arising from the N apoleonic occupation o f Spain reverberated in the Spanish Empire and sent thousands o f St. Domingue French who had earlier fled to Cuba on to a new refuge in Louisiana. By 1810, 7,000-8,000, including many wealthy planters with retinues o f slaves as well as many free Blacks and m ulattos, had arrived, to the discomfort o f the Am erican governor, who both wished to enforce the law forbidding the importa­ tion o f slaves and feared the free "coloreds." He relented out o f recognition o f the exigencies o f political exile and the near impossibility o f controlling the influx. These new planters, like those who had come to Louisiana after the first phases o f the Afro-Am erican revolution in Santo Domingo, played a major role in the rapidly developing sugar industry, thickening settlem ent along the lower river and spreading west and north from Bayou Teche. Newcomers added to the factionalism within French Louisiana, the Santo Domingan planters being regarded as a partic­ ularly haughty and aggressive group, but they also significantly augmented the wealth and leadership o f the whole. T hat “w hole," meaning the non-AngloAm erican population, was in feet hard to define internally, for in addition to the great variety that had accumulated during the century o f French and Spanish rule, there was a continual drifting in along all the tropical sealanes: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, and a wide sprinkling o f others; W hite and Black and all shades in between; seamen, fishermen, trappers, smugglers, pirates, traders, ar­ tisans, farmers; having in common only a niche somewhere in the watery labyrinth o f the Delta or the downriver suburbs o f New O rleans, a convergence toward a common creole tongue, and a strong sense o f distinction from the Am ericans, who regarded them all with a degree o f disdain. Meanwhile the Am ericans came flocking in, spreading over the Florida Par­ ishes, sprinkled through the northern districts along the O uachita and Red rivers, extending the sugar and cotton plantation country northward along the M is­ sissippi, and edging into the older districts at many points. The general divide between an Am erican north Louisiana and a Creole south, with French outliers at A lexandria and N atchitoches, emerged within the territory and became fixed in com m on perceptions within a few years. These Am ericans were also o f several types and sources: southern backcountry pioneer hunters, stockm en, farmers; C arolina planters with their Black slaves; traders and speculators from the Am eri­ can W est; Kentucky rivermen; merchants and agents, lawyers and other profes­ sional classes from Baltim ore, Philadelphia, and New York. To these may be added many European immigrants, ranging from people o f means to poor Irish laborers, all o f whom reinforced the English-speaking sector o f society. New Orleans was o f course the great meeting point, the fulcrum o f Louisiana



society. There had been Anglo-Am ericans there before the purchase, prominent as merchants and agents in the burgeoning trade o f the M ississippi Valley. Such persons necessarily had close associations with Spanish and French merchants and officials; most were at least bilingual, and some had married into prominent Creole families. During the troubled yean o f transition toward Am erican statehood some o f these Anglos, as well as some later arrivals, aligned themselves with the Creoles in seeking special concessions to the cultural distinctiveness o f Louisiana. T he emergence o f such intermediaries, whether arising from cultural attraction, ethical penuasion, personal and political advantage, or most probably some com plex mixture of such m otives, is a common feature in imperial colonies. Certainly for the great majority o f the population, Am erican and Creole alike, there was a strong sense o f separation between the two peoples and this the physical and social patterns o f a rapidly expanding New Orleans prominently displayed. The first steam boat came downriver from the O hio in 1812 and such vessels became a famous symbol o f the boom that ensued. Soon there were scores, then hundreds, and by the 1830s a thousand such boats on the M ississippi system, as New Orleans became what it had long seemed destined to be: the emporium for half o f North Am erica. The city was quickly expanded in form as speculators platted wedges o f streets extending back from the curving riverfront (fig. 3). Laid out on either side o f the original French grid, these extensions gathered distinctly different peoples. Am ericans were arrayed in all their variety on the upriver side above the Vieux Carré (as the old French town was now known) in thriving commercial blocks along the river, handsome residences o f merchants and planters in the Faubourg St. Mary, and shacktowns o f riverfolk, drifters, and free coloreds in the backswamps. Downriver was Faubourg Marigny, designed by its wealthy French promoter to attract the Creole elite but filling instead with a miscellany o f lesser folk o f all colors— French, Spanish, and West Indians— who were drawn to this thriving center. These three sectors o f the city were clearly apparent, set apart by broad avenues and esplanades. There was o f course a good deal o f interaction among many o f these people and especially along the busy riverfront, the “main street o f the world. ” The newspapers were bilingual, and many civic affairs brought Americans and Creoles together. But there was much antagonism and chronic tension as well, so much so that in 1836 the state withdrew the city’s charter and reissued one that divided it into three m unicipalities, each with its elected alder­ men, with a single mayor and council over the whole. T hat was a formal geopoliti­ cal expression o f the continuing, even intensifying, geocultural reality o f New Orleans as the capital o f an imperial colony. By then the city had perhaps 50,000 inhabitants, and the Creole/A m erican ratio had been reduced from 7:1 to 2:1. In Louisiana as a whole the population had doubled between 1810 and 1820 (to 153,000) and reached 216,000 ten years later.

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Such decennial growth masked the deadly punctuations o f yellow fever. T h is infamous feature o f the Louisiana environm ent was an annual m enace, killing hundreds and som etim es thousands; epidem ics were especially severe in the late 1820s, and that o f 1832-33 is estim ated to have taken a toll o f about 10,000. Newcomers from the northern states and Europe were more vulnerable than those from the south and the tropics, and W hites more than Blacks. T h at is one impor­ tant reason why, as measured by the census and its categories, W hites rem ained a minority through all these years. In 1830 the “colored" population constituted more that 58 percent o f the total, up from 55 percent in 1810. A more im portant change was the fact that the “free colored” had declined from 18 percent to 13 percent o f these totals. We should not rely on these as exact figures, but we may well note the processes o f “A m ericanization" implied. In (heir census taking as in their laws, the A m ericans attem pted to impose a rigid categorization and separa­ tion o f Blacks and W hites, lum ping all those subtle gradations o f color, so impor­ tant in the actual pattern o f Louisiana social life, into a sim ple category o f people who were forbidden (as specified in a law o f 1806) “to ever consider them selves the equal o f w hites.” Louisiana W hites were understandably haunted by the specter o f Santo Domingo. T he large number and prom inent role o f the free coloreds, espe­ cially in New O rleans, was regarded by Am ericans as a chronic m enace. Laws were passed to make it harder for m asters to free their slaves; regulation after regulation attem pted to control the m ovements o f Blacks and to prohibit the assembly of, indeed any contact between, free Blacks and slaves. But the older patterns o f Creole Louisiana prevailed. B ee Blacks could own property— some o f them owned slaves— they resisted adoption o f those patterns o f deference so viciously enforced elsewhere in A m erica, and they continued to play diverse and im portant roles in the local scene. In fact, despite all laws and pressures local color lines blurred; there was in places and at tim es much contact among all these many peoples. M ost free coloreds were m ulattos, whose very existence and expansion testified to intim ate contacts o f great social im portance. T h is variegated vibrancy o f A fro-A m erican Creole Louisiana and the range and rituals and unusual openness o f associations between W hite and Black, as much as anything else, made New O rleans, th is Am erican “colonial city ," such a self-conscious and famous place. N ot all Am ericans were com fortable with such a colorful and anom alous place. B om statehood in 1812 onward there were repeated attem pts by the A m ericans to shift Louisiana’s capital fiom this cosm opolitan turbulent city to some quieter town nearer to the cultural border, such as Baton Rouge or S t. B an cisville. In 1829 legislators voted to move the seat o f government to Donaldsonville, eighty m iles upriver, but a couple o f sessions in that rural retreat drove them back to the comforts and pleasures o f New O rleans. Louisiana thus had a special and surprising meaning for the young republic. T h e



U nited States purchased the western h alf o f the M ississippi Valley to obtain an outlet for the eastern half; it took over the whole o f Louisiana to obtain the one sm all part it considered essential to the nation’s security and prosperity. T hat small part proved to have a significance quite beyond such simple geopolitical calcula' tions. Louisiana was a remarkable case o f expansion without conquest (although die threat o f conquest, by overt war or covert infiltration, was surely a major factor in N apoleon’s decision to sell) but it was nonetheless an imperial acquisition— imperial in the sense o f the aggressive encroachment o f one people upon the territory o f another, resulting in the subjugation o f that people to alien rule. The Louisianans were suddenly annexed to the U nited States without the slightest gesture o f interest on the part o f either Am erica or France as to how they might feel about it. If they did not take up arms to resist annexation (as Am erican leaders feared they m ight), they openly resisted absorption and insisted on official recogni' tion o f their cultural identity and differences from the national body. The C on­ stitution had no provision for such an acquisition; it spelled out no special terms for such a disparate case. Louisiana therefore became an unexpected experiment in empire; in subtle, as yet little appreciated, ways, it challenged Americans’ views o f themselves as well as o f others, and it began to give the word empire another and not altogether comfortable connotation for Am erica: not just a rhetorical term for a republic grand in scale and rich in possibilities, nor that wonderful new thing o f Jeffersonian vision, uan empire for liberty,” but an Am erica that included a bloc of captive peoples o f foreign culture who had not chosen to be Am ericans. O f course, the Am erican Indians were exactly that, too, but had long been relegated to a special, prim itive category that eased the Am erican conscience about such matten .

2. Pressures on the Borders: Southward T he Louisiana Purchase gave the U nited States its fint territorial frontage on the G u lf o f M exico. Narrow at first, little wider than the M ississippi, it was a position immediately broadened in claim and soon made broader still in common readings o f its geopolitical im plications. W ith the extension o f the country’s borden to this tropical sea, a whole circuit o f coasts— Florida, Cuba, Yucatán, M exico, Texas— suddenly took on new mean­ ing for Am ericans, and before long such places were being declared to be o f com pelling national interest. For the G ulf o f M exico was an inner compartment, ”a M editerranean with two outlets,” as the geographer Alexander von Humboldt put it, guarded by H avana, an Am erican G ibraltar "strongly defended by nature and still more strongly fortified by art. ” U nlike its European counterpart, one could not sail outward past this bastion directly into the A tlantic but had to skirt a broad



and a dangerous archipelago to the north and east or pass the whole length o f Cuba and other large islands extending a thousand miles to the south and east before reaching the open sea. So it was necessary also to bring the Bahamas, Jam aica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico into this new Am erican view (fig. 4). This was not a tranquil prospect. Through Louisiana the U nited States stepped directly into an arena that had been the scene o f intense European imperial activities and immense geographical changes for 300 years. The young republic immediately asserted claim to a m ajor role in that theater and found itself par* ticipating in a tumultuous drama involving three European powers and a dozen American peoples. We need not enter very far into the bewildering com plexities o f diplom atic, political, and military history during the first two or three decades o f the new century. We do need, however, to get a clear picture o f the geopolitical context and pay special attention to some details of the changing human geogra­ phy o f this com plicated Am erican arena. Our concern is not so much with the political drama as with some regional patterns during a critical phase in the form a' tion o f one o f the world’s great cultural border zones. For 300 years the central strategic feature o f these tropical seas was the trunk line o f empire connecting Spain and M exico, a trafficway anchored on Vera Cruz (the sole authorized port o f New Spain), secured by pivotal Havana (with a branch line to Panama and Peru), and with outposts guarding the eastern channels at St. Augustine, Santo Domingo, and San Juan. For a long time such bases made the G ulf o f M exico a Spanish sea without need o f imposing control upon the whole littoral. The french first appeared through a back door, coming down the M is­ sissippi from Canada. Failing to secure what gradually began to emerge as the key position on the northern shore, the Spanish hastened to broaden their defenses of the great riches o f M exico by creating the province o f Texas to bar any encroachment westward from the M ississippi Valley. There followed a century o f intrusions and intrigues, o f recurrent warfare and tradings o f territories by treaty among Spain, France, and Britain, but persisting through it all was the basic Spanish concern for this lifeline o f empire. FLORIDA

In this perspective, the Am erican purchase o f Louisiana was more than a change o f control over a foothold in the gulf. It represented a thrust from the interior, powered by growth within the continent. Further, it superimposed an Am erican trunk line through the Florida Straits that connected the two grand halves o f the nation. The Florida peninsula, always o f concern to the Spanish but never o f primary interest to its European rivals (the British traded it back in 1783 after twenty years o f control), thus now took on a new importance for the U nited States. The simple conformation o f the continent had invited Am erican interest, and in




1802 Jefferson had set out to purchase die Floridas along with New O rleans. A t that time his agent was instructed to consider the Floridas one-fourth the value o f the Island o f New O rleans, and East Florida one-half the value o f West Florida. Such valuations o f course reflect the main purpose o f obtaining for the M ississippi Valley direct access to the G ulf o f M exico. The congressional committee inves­ tigating the issue noted that whereas East Florida was not essential it was nonethe­ less desirable for several reasons: “The southern p o in t. . . is not more than one hundred miles distant from the Havana, and the possession o f it may be beneficial to us in relation to our trade with the West Indies. It would likewise make our whole territory com pact, would add considerably to our seacoast, and by giving us the G ulf o f M exico for our southern boundary, would render us less liable to attack, in what is now deemed the most vulnerable part o f the U nion.nThe danger was not from the Spanish in Florida but from France or Britain taking advantage o f the weakness o f Spain to appropriate Florida or Cuba. There was good reason to be concerned about the British intriguing from their base in the Bahamas with the Creeks and other Indians against the U nited States, and their powerful navy could put any but the most stoutly defended seacoast at hazard. Although views o f the value and significance o f Florida varied, there was a fairly consistent assumption among the Am erican leadership that the whole territory should and would be obtained, sooner or later, in one way or another. A s we have noted, Jefferson quickly asserted a claim to West Florida as being part o f Louisiana, and in 1805 he made overtures to Spain to purchase the remainder and to resolve the disputed boundary on the west with Texas. Spain disdained to respond to the aggressive claim s o f the Am ericans, but the Louisiana-Texas border was stabilized in that year by the actions o f local authorities in the field, and the U nited States soon began to pick away at the lean, attenuated body o f Florida. The territory west o f the Pearl River was occupied in 1810 and soon annexed to Louisiana, follow inga local coup. Spain itself was then in turmoil; a popular uprising against N apoleonic occupa­ tion had sent a strong tremor o f republicanism to the Spanish colonies. In response to such uncertainties, Congress, by a secret act in 1811, authorized the president to take possession o f the Floridas under any o f a number o f specified circum stances that might develop. A n attem pt to generate one o f those circum stances soon followed as a group o f G eorgia filibusters, conniving with a few Americans resident in Florida, gathered at S t. Mary’s to proclaim a “Republic o f Florida,” crossed the border, and captured the frontier (and notorious smuggling) station o f Fem andina, and, now joined by Am erican troops, moved south to lay siege to S t. Augustine. Such a blatant attem pt to steal East Florida caused a political storm in W ashington and Europe. Eventually the U nited States apologized to Spain and withdrew the m ilitia, but not before the Am ericans, regulars and irregulars, had laid waste every



settlem ent within reach. M eanwhile, in support o f the standing Am erican claim to all west o f the Perdido as part o f the Louisiana Purchase, an Am erican army occupied M obile in 1813, an action further justified as a need to keep it out o f the hands o f G reat Britain, with which the U nited States was at war. Spanish Florida did becom e a theater o f that war, a minor one with respect to the overall contest but with m ajor im plications for the future o f the region. Both British and A m erican forces invaded Florida, showing little respect for Spanish sovereignty (each briefly occupied Pensacola), but there were no great confronta' tions between them before the A m erican slaughter o f the British army in the belated finale o f New O rleans. T he critical feature o f the contest in this sector was the situation and role o f the Creeks and Sem inóles. T he C reek N ation , which had so long dom inated much o f the southern coastal plain, was a loose and unstable confederation o f Indians long experienced in coping with com petitive and acquisitive im perialism s. T he Creeks had dealt with the Spanish, the French, the British, and, m ost recently, the A m ericans, through the trading systems reaching inland from C harleston, A ugusta, Pensacola, and M obile. Such protracted encounters had brought many social and econom ic changes, called forth generations o f skilled interm ediaries, and produced many “mixed-blood” offspring o f the various peoples involved— European, Indian, A frican— som e o f whom becam e im portant leaders in the confederation. Through it all the Creeks had held their ground and in some ways prospered. In 1800 about 15,0 0 0 Creeks were living in more than thirty towns in the core o f their hom eland along the Alabam a-Coosa-Tallapoosa (U pper C reeks) and the C hattahoochee (Lower C reeks). Tukabatchee and Cow eta, serving as capitals o f these m ajor groups, were seats o f power, conference centers to which not only the Creeks but occasionally delegations from bordering tribes gathered. There was also a m ajor nucleus in the savannas and canebrakes o f the lower Alabam a and M obile, Settle­ m ents o f the com plex “M uskogee” m étis stockraisers closer in culture and com ­ merce to Euro-Am ericans but under their own leadership. T he Sem inóles were an independent group, perhaps largely o f Creek origin with rem nants o f other tribes, now living to the southeast extending into northern Florida. A fter the turn o f the century A m erican pressures on this large area increased ominously. G eorgians, em boldened by a federal com m itm ent to the eventual extinction o f Indian title to their lands, were especially aggressive. By 1804 all land east o f the Okm ulgee had been given to them in payment o f ostensible debts, and in the following year the federal governm ent extracted the right to establish a road for the m ail, serviced by ferries and inns, cutting across the heart o f Creek lands from G eorgia via Cow eta to Fort Stoddert. A s many chiefs had feared, traffic and trouble grew together along this swath, and when Am erican agents, without foil Indian approval, began to explore for a north-south road between Tennessee and



M obile, the Creek confederation was plunged into crisis over the proper response. The problem, faced sooner or later by every Am erican Indian people, was basic: how to survive in the face o f such relentless pressures. The response was also common: two irreconcilable factions, the “nativists,” who opposed any concession and wanted to root out European influences that had so permeated the culture, versus the “civilizationists,” who saw extensive but controlled adaptation to Euro­ pean ways and submission to U nited States polity as the only hope for survival. When in 1812 the civilizationists executed some nativists who had taken revenge on some W hites, civil war erupted among the Creeks. The first action was an attack upon the m étis, culm inating in the killing o f several hundred who had taken shelter at Fort Mims, one o f the many stockaded settlem ents scattered along the Alabam a. A t the first news o f warfare Am ericans in the bordering territories jumped to the conclusion that the whole Creek N ation was on the warpath against all Am ericans, and they further assumed “the Creek troubles as originating in British m achinations and encouraged by covert Spanish aid.” M ilitias from G eorgia and M ississippi and an army from Tennessee under Andrew Jackson, assisted by some groups o f Cherokees and friendly Creeks, in­ vaded the Creek heartland, fought a series o f bloody battles in which several thousand Indians were killed, laid waste villages, fields, and herds, and when it was over, forced the Creek N ation, friend and foe alike, to hand over more than half its lands. Jackson designed these cessions so as to ring them about with Am erican territories and separate the Creeks from the Choctaws in the west, leaving the Creeks only the land between the Coosa and Okmulgee. Peace was soon followed by Am erican pressures to remove the Creeks altogether from this remnant territory to lands west o f the M ississippi. Having defeated and despoiled the Creeks, Jackson moved on to Pensacola. T he British, who had landed there and armed Indian and Black m ilitias, withdrew with these associates eastward to the A palachicola. After the war with Britain was formally over, Jackson asked the Spanish governor to dismantle the fort left by the British on the A palachicola, return all runaway slaves to American authorities, and disperse the largely Black settlem ent that had gathered around the fort. W hen the governor refused, Jackson sent a force to destroy this outpost, killing most o f the inhabitants. Further mutual depredations between Americans and Sem inóles and continued shipments o f arms from Nassau traders to Indians and Blacks led to yet another Am erican invasion o f Florida in 1818. T his time the Am ericans and their Lower Creek allies, under Jackson, destroyed virtually all the Indian and Black villages in the Apalachee and Suwanee districts and captured and executed Indian leaders and two British traders. In the prelude to this campaign Jackson had written to President Jam es Monroe saying, “Let it be signified to me through any ch an n el. . . that the possession o f the Floridas would be desirable to the U nited



States, and in sixty days it will be accomplished. ” He had already virtually done so; he had held Spanish officials at Pensacola and S t. Marks captive while American forces roamed at will. W hether he had received the kind o f signal he had suggested was debatable, and his actions, especially the execution o f British citizens on Spanish soil, caused an uproar in Congress, but these were rationalized by the president, widely applauded by the Am erican public, and only mildly rebuked by an investigating com m ittee. N egotiations that had been underway between the U nited States and Spain over disputed borders now received a sudden stimulus. Obviously unable to defend Florida against Am erican aggression, Spain ceded it to the U nited States in return for definition o f an exact boundary o f Louisiana on the west that left all o f Texas as a Spanish buffer for essential M exico. Am ericans generally justified these invasions and destructions as necessary in view o f Spain's inability to control its own people and police its borders, as a legitim ate response to unbearable provocations. In the language o f the time (and in most Am erican accounts thereafter), Florida was the lair o f "murderous In­ dians,” "runaway N egroes,” "white renegades," "villainous outcasts,” "foreign ad­ venturers.” In the words o f John Quincy Adams during the negotiations with Spain, the whole province was "a derelict, open to the occupancy o f every enemy, civilized or savage, o f the U nited States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post o f annoyance to them .” A good deal o f evidence was cited in support o f such fervent characterizations. But there is another way o f interpreting such evi­ dence and the larger affair. Despite a long history o f turbulence on this old border zone, for the past twenty years the Americans had played the leading roles in this drama. They were the most numerous, varied, and aggressive participants, openly seeking m ajor changes in the human geography o f the region. One could view the problems cited and the responses undertaken as being primarily the result not of Spanish but o f Am erican disorder: the forays o f Am erican slavehunters, the wan­ ton violence against Indians, the unwillingness o f Am erican governments to honor treaties, the open defiance o f courts and federal policies by state officials, the blatant attem pts to provoke rebellion against Spanish authorities. Clearly, the U nited States made little attem pt to control its borders in the interest o f good neighborly relations. To some extent, certainly, runaways, renegades, and refugees in Spanish Florida were products o f Am erican society. It is not our purpose to try to weigh rights and wrongs and apportion blame in such m atters. But it is important to get a reasonably clear picture o f what happened to the peoples o f this region and how such changes fit into the broader panorama o f historical geography. Spanish Florida was a regional entity, albeit a fragile and attenuated one, sparsely developed and sporadically governed. It was a m ultiracial, multicultural colony with Europeans, Indians, A fricans, and various blends of these three living in contact, though not everywhere in close association, with one



another. In addition to the Spanish garrisons and officials at S t. Augustine, Pen* sacóla, and S t. Marks, there was a sm all civilian population o f Spanish Creoles, M inorcans, French Creoles (at Pensacola), and a miscellany o f other W hites and mestizos, including a number o f British planters along the S t. Johns, some o f whom had returned to Florida after disappointing results in the Bahamas. The plantations were largely worked by Black slaves, but there was also a considerable population o f free Blacks in the towns, as well as in their own villages inland from S t. Augustine. Like the W hites, these Blacks were varied in origin and status as Floridians: some had been there for several generations; others had come during the turbulence o f the Am erican Revolution, when British officials had actively encouraged slave defections from rebel owners; some had been left behind after the British evacúation in 1784; others had come from Cuba with the Spanish reoccupation; a good many were recent runaways from cotton planters on the expanding G eorgia fron­ tier. Many Blacks and m ulattos also lived with the Sem inóles, sometimes as slaves but commonly in a client relationship o f mutual advantage. Blacks were important as agriculturalists, artisans, interpreters, and advisers to the Sem inóles, and there was considerable intermarriage. In 1800 the Sem inóles occupied a scattering o f districts across northern Florida and overlapping the unsurveyed boundary into southwestern G eorgia. The A tlantic end o f that border, well away from these Indian areas, was much the most troublesome area. S t. Mary’s and Fem andina were the sort o f volatile settlem ents common to such political outposts, and the U nited States had legitim ate concerns about Am elia Island as a smuggler’s base. But Spanish Florida as a whole was neither a chaotic colony nor a body o f oppressed people longing for liberation. Away from the Am erican border it was a relatively tranquil society, and for some peoples it was obviously an attractive refuge from more brutal conditions to the north. T h at it was so was not because the Spanish Empire was an intrinsically benign and tolerant system— a long and violent history belied any such notion— but because Florida was a marginal holding in a system that had long since lost its expansive vigor. Florida had never held many attrac­ tions for European colonists, and the Spanish occupance in 1800 was less extensive than it had been a century earlier. Am erican actions and official rationale show that it was this very character o f Florida that made it necessary to take the colony over. Its very existence was intolerable to influential Am erican interests. For such Am ericans, Florida was a “backcountry” out o f control: its Black villages were a standing enticem ent to Am erican slaves; its Black m ilitia (not uncommon in Spanish colonial services) were an open inflammatory threat to the order and safety o f Am erican society; its Indians, who harbored refugees from Am erican attacks and occasionally retaliated for American trespass and murder on their lands, were a savage enemy hiding under a foreign flag. T hat the British supplied such people with arms and Spanish officials



sought to impede the inm isión o f A m ericans seeking to retrieve runaway slaves or to punish retaliating Indians was undeniable, but whereas Am ericans read such arm ing and officiating as intolerable threats and affronts to the U nited States, and the British were certainly interested in stirring up as much trouble for the Am eri­ can s as possible, Floridians had good reason to regard such actions as desperately defensive measures against their A m erican enem ies. Surely the likelihood that free Blacks would leave their precarious sanctuary in Florida and risk death, torture, and reenslavem ent to go raiding extensively into G eorgia seems lim ited indeed. T he m ost insistent drive for Am erican annexation o f Spanish Florida thus was generated and sustained not so much as a national response to British m achinarions, the possible disintegration o f the Spanish Empire, or larger geopolitical considerations, as from those who wanted to control, crush, even utterly destroy som e specific peoples o f Florida who were considered to pose a danger to immediate regional interests. T he real pressure on this order cam e directly out o f the frontiers and plantations o f G eorgia and Tennessee from people who regarded free Blacks and Creeks and Sem inóles as anathem a. T he A m ericans had made considerable headway in rem aking the hum an geography o f this borderland well before annexa­ tion. T he invasion o f 1812 ravaged Indian and Black settlem ents in the A lachua; die war against the Creeks reduced them in number and territory; and the flight o f resisters into Florida provided an excuse for the invasion o f 1816, which wiped out m ost o f the Blacks on the A palachicola and drove the rem ainder eastward to the Suw anee, from where they and their Sem inole hosts along with others in the A lachua prairies were pushed further into the watery wilderness o f the peninsula. O ne sm all group o f about 200 Sem inole Blacks put to sea in their long dugouts, fam ilies packed in with a few provisions and seeds for planting, and crossed the Straits o f Florida to refuge on A ndros Island— a "boat people” fleeing the relentless tyranny from the north. U nlike Louisiana, the acquisition o f Florida was essentially an expansion by conquest. Like Louisiana, the U nited States thereby captured some populations th at had no desire to be included in the Republic. Because o f the precedence o f Louisiana, annexation o f the largely French C reole settlers o f Biloxi, Pascagoula, M obile, and the Tensaw was not regarded as a serious problem. T h is C reole coast was attached to M ississippi Territory, which was soon subdivided to create A la­ bam a Territory in such a m anner as to give both access to the gulf. T he C reole population rem ained locally im portant but was soon a tiny minority in these large and rapidly developing units, and no special provision was made for them. T he rest o f Spanish Florida, all east o f the Perdido, was organized as a single territory, with Andrew Jackson its first governor. T he total population was probably less than 20,000, including about 5,000 Sem inóles. Territorial officials moved quickly to pressure the Indians into a more constricted inland reserve on unwanted lands on



the peninsula, south o f O cala, and the federal government established Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay to keep an eye on them and to prevent any shipments o f arms or other traffic with Cuba, the Bahamas, or elsewhere. In 1824 a new capital was located at Tallahassee, and the attractive cotton lands o f M iddle Florida (a new juridical designation for the area between the A palachicola and the Suwanee rivers) were readied for sale. Meanwhile, G eorgia planters came in search o f runaways, Florida statutes provided death penalties for slave stealing or assistance to fugitives, and the free Blacks now found themselves part o f a society in which they were considered to be an anomalous and dangerous people. CUBA

This Am erican obsession with a sm all number o f free Blacks was o f course grounded in the latent fear o f slave revolt, a worry magnified during this form ative period o f Florida by the sensational conspiracy o f Denmark Vesey in South Carolina but more deeply sustained by the ominous example o f French San to Domingo. In any new Am erican view southward, Black Haiti loomed in the distance; with the acquisition o f Florida, only Cuba lay between. W ith this extension o f the Republic’s national borders to encompass the southeastern com er o f the continent and the rapid expansion o f the Am erican slave economy westward across the cotton lands o f the coastal plain, Cuba began to take on a new and important meaning for Am erican policies and aspirations. In Thom as Jefferson’s mind Florida and Cuba were readily coupled. W hen contem plating reprisals against Spain in 1807 he remarked that an Am erican force could easily take Florida and “probably Cuba will add itself to our confederation.” Two years later he was assuring his successor, James M adison, that given the French conquest o f Spain and the incipient disintegration o f the Spanish Empire “the Floridas and C u ba. . .will offer themselves to you.” In 1810 Madison sent a consul to Havana with instructions to make it known that the U nited States would not allow any other power to take over Cuba, and to sound out Cubans about annexa* tion to the U nited States. The agent eventually reported that annexation would be favored only as an alternative to a drastic internal change: the abolition o f slavery in the Spanish Empire. Such a response might suggest that Jefferson was m istaken about Cuba and that it was in fact a colony critically different in kind from Spanish Horida. In the early 1800s Cuba was no mere husk o f a moribund empire; rather, it was a prosperous colony growing in population and production, which had been invigo­ rated by the recession or collapse o f empire elsewhere. Indeed, the beginning o f this unusually thriving era could be traced directly to the influx o f thousands o f planters fleeing the French disaster in Santo Domingo. W ithin a few years the sugar and coffee industries were expanding vigorously. The arc o f deep red limestone



soils back o f Havana reaching east to G üines and Matanzas was beginning to display the basis o f its later fame as one o f the world’s finest sugarcane environ' ments. Havana itself was thriving not only on the productions o f its hinterland but from the relaxation o f Spanish controls on its commerce begun during the exigencies o f the various wars and blockades. The 1810 census enumeration o f 96,114 inhabi' tants made it alm ost exactly the size o f New York City, and that total did not include several thousand military, members o f religious orders, and foreign tran­ sients. It did include the suburbs around the bay, which Humboldt, visiting a few years later, found especially attractive, noting that the “light and elegant” country houses there “are ordered from the U nited States, as one would order any piece o f furniture.” In 1817 the population o f the island was reported as 572,363, more than double what it had been in 1792. O f these 45 percent were listed as W hite, 35 percent as slaves, and 20 percent as free Blacks and mulattos. Throughout this period there were important additions from immigration as well as from natural growth. Imports o f slaves continued. W hen, under pressure from Britain, Spain signed a treaty in 1817 to end the slave trade by 1820, nearly 60,000 slaves were brought in during those final three years, and in b e t the treaty was ignored and imports continued at a high rate for decades. And there were important influxes o f W hites, in addition to the Santo Domingan refugees. A s we have noted, some of these French planters moved on to Louisiana in response to strong anti-French feelings during the Napoleonic occupation. But Cuba also received most o f the Spanish citizens and soldiery evacuated from Louisiana and the Floridas. Much more important was the fact that the first upwellings o f revolt against the empire in 1810 brought in a trickle o f royalists from M exico, and by the time the revolution had engulfed the mainland perhaps 20,000 such emigrants had taken refuge in Cuba. In 1817 the Spanish government undertook a program to encourage foreign immigration. Cienfuegos was begun as a French colony, and a number o f other new towns were founded in this period to foster the development o f districts well away from Havana. The selective infusion o f so many royalists strengthened the ties o f Cuba to Spain, and as Ferdinand VII gained firm control over the motherland in the 1820s, annulling the work o f the liberal Cortes, Cuba and Puerto Rico were increasingly treated as privileged preserves, bases for the eventual reconquest o f the empire. Despite this invigoration and reinforcement the fate of Cuba remained uncer­ tain because other forces were contending for its control. O n the inside no colony could be wholly immune to the independence and republican movements that were dissolving the Spanish Empire. O n the outside other powers hovered. Spain rejected a British proposal to take over eastern Cuba. A British squadron patrolled the northern C uban coast to suppress piracy so that the U nited States would not



have an excuse to occupy C uba as it had Florida. A nd just as the U nited States was receiving form al title to Florida it was faced with what to do about its new neighbor across the narrow seas, for in 1821 a Cuban group openly sought A m erican sympa­ thy and m aterial support for revolution against the Spanish regime. President M onroe referred the m atter to his cabinet. Secretary o f War John C . C alhoun, o f South C arolina, urged im m ediate annexation o f C uba to the U nited States. Secre­ tary o f State John Q uincy Adam s argued that Am erican interests would be best served by the continuance o f Spanish im perial rule. Two m ajor concerns dom i­ nated the discussion: the fear that a liberal revolution would inevitably lead to a massive slave revolt, and the possibility that G reat Britain would seize all or part o f Cuba. The first would produce the alarm ing situation o f another H aiti adjacent to the Am erican South; the second would put the G ibraltar o f the Am erican M editer­ ranean in the control o f the world's greatest naval power (a base far superior to that o f N assau in the niggardly Baham as and much more strategically positioned than Jam aica, islands Britain had long held). T he Adam s position prevailed because it was judged to be the best response to both concerns. Thus Am erican policy gave tacit support to the continuation o f Spanish rule, C reole planter dom inance, and slavery, because an im perial autocratic society seem ed to offer the best hope for political and social stability in a region o f new strategic significance to d ie U nited States. In a letter to the U .S . m inister in M adrid in 1823 Adam s looked beyond this temporizing policy and sp e lle d out his geopolitical views and expectations at som e length: It may be taken for granted that the dominion of Spain upon the American conti­ nents, north and south, is irrevocably gone. But the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico still remain nominally, and so far really dependent upon her, that she yet possesses the power of transferring her own dominion over them, together with the possession of them, to others. These islands, from their local position, are natural appendages to the North American continent, and one of them, Cuba, almost in sight of our shores, from a multitude of considerations has become an object of transcendent importance to the commercial and political interests of our Union. Its commanding position with reference to the Gulf of Mexico and the West India seas; the character of its population, its situation midway between our southern coast and the island of San Domingo; its safo and capacious harbor of the Havana, fronting a long line of our shores destitute of the same advantage; die nature of its productions and of its wants, furnishing the supplies and needing the returns of a commerce immensely profitable and mutually beneficial; give it an importance in the sum of our national interests with which that of no other foreign territory can be compared, and little inferior to that which binds the different members of this Union together. Such indeed are, between the interests of that island and of this country, the geographical, commercial, moral and political relations formed by nature, gathering



in the process of time, and even now verging to maturity, that in looking forward to die probable course of events from a short period of half a century, it is scarcely possible to resist the conviction that the annexation of Cuba to our federal republic will be indispensable to the continuance and integrity of the Union itself. It is obvious however that for this event we are not yet prepared. Numerous and formida* ble objections to the extension of our territorial dominions beyond the sea present themselves to the first contemplation of the subject. Obstacles to the system of policy by which it alone can be compared and maintained are to be foreseen and sur­ mounted, both from at home and abroad. But there are laws of political as well as physical gravitation; and if an apple severed by the tempest from its native tree cannot choose but to fall to die ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union, which by the same law of nature cannot cast her off from her bosom. T he “no-transfer” part o f this policy was promulgated later that year in die M onroe D octrine. It obviously applied to Puerto R ico as well as to C uba, and Am erican support for continued Spanish rule o f the sm aller island followed the sam e rationale as with C uba. In 1822 a sm all expedition o f revolutionaries fitted out in New York and Philadelphia set off to free Puerto R ico and establish the “Republic o f Boriqua. ” T h is meager attem pt became diverted and thwarted before it reached the island, but the fact that its leaders had been conspiring with Blacks in Puerto R ico and intended to abolish slavery was a cause o f alarm to island and m ainland planters alike. T he role o f sugar and slavery was less im portant within this more m ountainous island than in C uba, and whether Puerto R ico was another fruit that would eventually ripen and fall to the bosom o f the U nited States was not o f such m oment, but its fate seem ed likely to be connected to that o f the larger and nearer island. Thus the H ispanic islands and the N orth Am erican m ainland became bound together in im portant ways. U nderneath the larger geopolitical concern to keep the greater European powers away from positions o f strategic im portance was a fundam ental feature shared by C uba, Puerto R ico, and the southern U nited States: these societies constituted one o f the last flourishing sectors o f the centuries-old Am erican institution o f Black slavery (Brazil was another). Vigorous agricultural expansion, based primarily on sugar in the one case and cotton in the other, reinforced this traditional tropical system o f labor in both areas. In 1808 the Am erican constitutional prohibition o f further slave im portation went into effect, and it had been proscribed w ithin the British Empire in the previous years. But it rem ained tacitly open in the Spanish colonies, and the m erchants o f Havana and Santiago de C uba began sending large vessels (m ostly built especially for this trade in Baltim ore and usually captained and manned by Am ericans) across the A tlan­ tic, taking over a trade long dom inated by the British, D utch, and trench. More



than 400,000 A fricans were brought to Cuba in the forty years after 1820; B lacks soon exceeded the number o f W hites, and slaves accounted for more than a third o f the population. C uba and Puerto R ico thus became the last great entryways through which A frica continued directly to replenish the northern sector o f th e deep-rooted and expanding Afro-Am erican world. Cuba thereby became the c h ie f source o f illegal imports into the U nited States, and a prospering C uba increasingly im portant to southern Am erican statesm en and planters as a society allied in basic interests. Elsewhere, the world o f slavery was collapsing. A bolition in some form was a basic tenet o f all the new H ispanic A m erican republics, and in 1833 a program o f staged em ancipation (involving a transitional period o f indenture) was begun in the British Empire. T he Royal Navy took the lead in suppression o f the slave trade. Cargoes seized on the high seas were freed, and many o f these (about 4,000 by 1838) were taken to N assau and eventually given sm all plots o f land in the Bahamas. MEXICO

T his variegated extension o f Am erican involvem ent southeastward into the tropi­ cal seas had been obtained in some degree, at least in formal diplom atic term s, by the relinquishm ent o f claim s and the establishm ent o f an exact boundary to the U nited States on the southwest toward M exico. Events in that sector and the developing human geography o f Texas itself, however, suggested that Am erican interests would not be so simply contained. Shortly after the purchase o f Louisiana, Jefferson laid claim to the R io G rande as its western boundary, an obvious bargaining ploy o f little substance, since the Spanish had colonized San A ntonio in 1718 and founded twenty towns along the lower Rio G rande in the 1750s. In their attem pts to gain the H oridas, Am erican negotiators soon backed down to the Colorado River, debouching into M atagorda Bay, as a more feasible claim . But that, too, was a line well west o f the Spanish nucleus at N acogdoches, and the local m ilitary forces sent by the Spanish and by the Am ericans to assert their claim s soon agreed to settle in at the old outposts o f Los A dais and N atchitoches, respectively, reaffirming the de facto bounds o f Spanish Texas and French Louisiana, with a narrow neutral strip between. W hen formal negotiations were resumed in 1816, the U nited States again laid claim to the Colorado River, but the Am erican delegate was instructed to back down to the Sabine if that would be necessary to obtain Florida. By 1819, John Quincy Adam s, the Am erican negotiator, was quite willing to accept that more easterly stream with a geom etric extension north to the Red River (R io Roxo) as a southwestern boundary for Louisiana because he had obtained formal agreem ent to set a northern lim it to Spanish claim s all the way from this boundary to the Pacific



O cean (via the Red, the Arkansas, and the Forty-second parallel). Thus the longsought cession o f Florida to the U nited States, extending the Am erican border around the southeastern com er o f the continent, included formal declaration o f a transcontinental U nited States with claim to a broad frontage on the northwestern coast o f North Am erica. Spanish officials were well aware o f all this while also aware o f the need to strengthen their hold on Texas. In 1805 they approved a program to establish settlem ents at each o f the m ain river crossings along the road between San A n­ tonio and Nacogdoches, but, as had always been the case with this distant frontier, it was next to impossible to find appropriate colonists. A few stockmen from San Antonio and La Bahia (G oliad) formed the nucleus o f San M arcos on an upper branch o f the G uadalupe, and a miscellany o f people displaced from Spanish Louisiana were brought together at Salcedo on the Trinity, but in 1809 the gover­ nor could report only about 3,500 people plus 1,000 soldiers in all the settlem ents of Spanish Texas. The problem was that the only people attracted to the piney woods o f East Texas were the wrong kind, the kind that had been infiltrating for some years: traders, squatters, drifters, adventurers, smugglers, conspirators— people attracted by the possibilities o f a ill-policed border zone and minimal civic authority. T he more conservative o f Spanish strategists advocated giving up East Texas and withdrawing to the only part o f Texas worth living in, the fine ranching country anchored on the old San A ntonio nucleus. But others insisted on holding to the Sabine River line to create a substantial buffer against Am erican pressures and retain influence with the Caddo Indians. Several episodes rather more dram atic than the usual border infiltrations made the dangers here all too apparent. In 1812 in the aftermath o f the abortive Hidalgo revolt in M exico, a cosm opolitan filibuster group o f M exicans and Am ericans inarched in from Louisiana, defeated a Spanish troop, captured San A ntonio, and declared an independent “State o f T exas,” only to mire in dissension and be annihilated by a Spanish counterattack. In 1818 the Spanish had to drive off a band o f N apoleonic exiles who tried to form an unauthorized colony along the lower Trinity. In the following year another group o f Am erican filibusters seized control o f N acogdoches. And during most o f this time pirates had used G alveston Island as a base for preying upon Spanish vessels. In response to such affronts the Spanish governm ent did decide to alter its age-old policy and open its territories to colonization for foreigners under a carefully defined program (as it had done in Cuba). Before anything could be accom plished, however, the independence movement led by Colonel A gustín de Iturbide had effectively severed M exico from Spanish authority. The new M exican state inherited the problems and the program and soon



fostered important changes in this border region. Much the most significant was the Austin Colony, originally authorized by the Spanish to Moses A ustin, a Connecticut-born entrepreneur who had long resided in M issouri, been a citizen o f Spanish Louisiana, and had extensive dealings with Spanish officials, and after h is death reconfirmed to his son. Stephen F. Austin thereby became empresario o f a huge block o f country in the Brazos and Colorado basins, bounded on the north by the main road across Texas and on the south by a coastal strip from which M exico wished to exclude foreign colonists. It was thus central within the spare framework o f Texas and included a rich mixture o f prairies, woodlands, and especially bottom ' lands attractive to Anglo-Am erican settlers. further, it could be had in m unificent amounts, for in keeping with common Spanish practice it was allocated in ranch ' size units o f a square league (about 4,428 acres) to each family. Land could thereby be obtained in Texas in for larger amounts at for less cost than in the U nited States (where the Panic o f 1819 had put great strain on overextended formers and specula­ tors), and eager applicants began to arrive from the western frontiers o f the U nited States even before Austin could lay out his capital town o f San Felipe on the lower Brazos. A s empresario, A ustin was accountable to the M exican government for the selection o f settlers, allocation o f lands, and imposition o f regulations relating to citizenship. By 1830 he had settled more than 5,000 Am ericans on his lands, including many slaves (the importation o f which was technically forbidden by M exico but tacitly allowed). In time he received additional grants, including the bordering coastal strip, and other empresarios developed sim ilar holdings on either side. Austin was an unusually conscientious agent, and his colony gave no serious trouble to the M exican state in these early years. But in districts to the east toward the Louisiana border there were conflicts between new Am erican grantees and the scattering o f older settlers, uncertainties and unrest over the boundary in the northeast, and continual problems with squatters, smugglers, and speculators. Increasingly alarmed at the scale and temper o f the Anglo-Am erican influx, in 1830 M exico halted further immigration from the U nited States and imposed customs duties in an attem pt to redirect Texas commerce from Am erican to M exi­ can ports. Texas was reorganized into three departments (Bexar, Brazoria, Nacog­ doches), several new garrisons (bearing famous M exican-Indian names: Anahuac, Lipantitlan, Tenoxtitlan) were established, and a program to recruit M exican and European colonists was drawn up. By this time at least three-quarters o f the 25,000-30,000 people in Texas (excluding Indians) were Anglo-Am erican (ineluding Black slaves). However, throughout this time the M exican government had kept Texas bound to Coahuila, with officials at San A ntonio generally subordi' nate to those in Saltillo. In this larger grouping, the Anglo-Am ericans’ preponder­ ance in central and eastern Texas was more than offset by the Hispanic populations o f Bexar and Coahuila, but such would not long be the case if recent trends continued.



The newly independent and unstable Republic o f M exico was thus in serious difficulty on its most critical frontier. Nacogdoches was the only district along the length o f its vast and vague continental bounds feeing directly on an organized state and an expanding people. In 1805 when the Spanish and the Americans had defined a neutral zone between them at Los Adais-Natchitoches it was an appropri­ ate dem arcation, concordant with the human geography and reasonable claim s o f the two peoples; when the boundary was shifted slightly westward to the Sabine and formalized in 1819, such separations had become more blurred but not deeply altered. By the 1830s, however, the situation was fundamentally different. The dynamics o f Am erican frontier expansion, aided by M exico’s own calculated pro­ gram , had produced a m ajor discordance between political and cultural bound­ aries. T he western margins o f Anglo-Am erica were now beyond the Colorado (th at lim it Am erican statesm en had so long claimed on so little substance), 250 m iles west o f the Sabine, lapping against the old H ispanic areas o f Bexar. O f course, by law and by intent o f the empresario program all colonists were to become M exican citizens and accept the basic rules and patterns o f a Spanish-speaking, C atholic society. In one sense, this was not an unreasonable expectation by the new M exican state. A fter all, foreign colonists were nothing new in the Am erican world. Acculturation would lead to assim ilation, or at least to some kind o f toler­ able incorporation o f such immigrants and their descendants into the body o f the larger receiving society. Perhaps there could be special recognition o f certain Anglo-Am erican customs, as in the neighboring exam ple o f the Creole Louisia­ nians in the U nited States. A nd in feet the Coahuila y Texas legislature did respond in 1835 to Anglo-Am erican petitions for special concessions, guarantee­ ing religious toleration, allowing the use o f English in official documents, extend­ ing local government, and offering a number o f other reforms. The plea to make Texas a separate state was rejected, but Texans were given an increase in represen­ tation in the legislature. But the Anglo-Am erican presence in Texas was not really analogous to that o f die French in Louisiana. These were new colonists, not hapless victim s o f impul­ sive territorial trades concluded in distant capitals, and they were but one part o f a much broader westward migration o f Anglo-Am ericans into new lands. We can never know how many o f these immigrants sincerely intended to become loyal citizens o f M exico (as Stephen A ustin demonstrably did); we should note that most o f them cam e out o f the western frontiers o f the U nited States, where the reshaping o f geopolitical territories, the formation o f new local and state govern­ ments, and contentious political agitations were concom itant with pioneering. Had the relative power and internal stability o f M exico and the U nited States been more alike, the results might have been very different. A s it was, the efforts o f a rapid succession o f insecure M exican adm inistrations to control and contain this new population and ensure the integrity o f the national state only heightened the



discontent o f that population and turned it toward alternatives. By the 1830s an autonomous Texas, an independent Texas, the annexation o f Texas had becom e common topics in this far frontier, and all the while unwelcomed overtures from U nited States representatives in M exico C ity to purchase Texas strengthened M exican fears o f Am erican intentions. T his uneasy relationship was quickly transformed in late 1835, when as so easily happens in such a situation, a m inor dispute with local custom s officials flared in to a wider defiance o f M exican authority, attem pts to exercise that authority m et aim ed resistance, and conflict soon escalated into open warfare. Started by a few extrem ists, expanding despite the efforts o f many Anglo-Texans to dampen it, th e revolt quickly engulfed the region in a bitter struggle between the A ngloAm ericans and the m ilitary power o f the M exican state. O n March 1,1836, w hile the A lam o was under siege, A nglo-A m erican leaders gathered at W ashington-onthe-Brazos in the m idst o f the A ustin Colony to declare an independent R epublic o f Texas, an aspiration that hardly seem ed assured until the defeat o f the M exican army at San Jacinto seven weeks later. In their first general election Texan voters alm ost unanimously endorsed annex­ ation to the U nited States, and a formal proposal was made to the A m erican government in 1837. But the idea proved highly controversial in the U n ited States, and after a long, hum iliating delay Texas firmly withdrew the offer, its leaders turning more fully to the daunting task o f asserting control and developing this new republic that claim ed the whole course o f the Rio G rande as its southern and western bounds. The Louisiana Purchase thus had powerful ram ifications southward. It was m ore than a portal on the gulf, the other half o f the M ississippi Valley, and a vast opening to the west. Louisiana was like a wedge, inserted at New O rleans, driven by repeated Am erican hammerings to expand until, piece by piece, it broke the Spanish off the m ainland on the one side and created such heavy pressures and fracture lines as to leave the loose piece o f Texas hanging uncertainly on the other. The great cultural border zone o f the Am ericas was thereby extended and altered in important ways. T he French Creoles o f Louisiana and West Florida were encom ­ passed and incorporated into the Anglo-Am erican state, retaining some m easure o f identity. T he H ispanic presence in northern Florida was removed and the political border shifted to the Florida Straits, leaving the Sem inóles and the jungly waterlands o f the peninsula as a precarious buffer between the vigorous slave-based planter societies o f the Am erican South and H ispanic Cuba. O n the southwest Anglo-Am ericans had expanded to the G uadalupe, held the sm all residual H is­ panic population o f Bexar captive, and laid claim to all north o f the Rio G rande as within the bounds o f a new Anglo-Am erican republic. A nd by their policies and perform ance, by public discussions and popular agitations with reference to Cuba



and M exico and related areas, the governments o f the U nited States and Texas and their A nglo-A m erican citizens were declaring that both the political and the cultural borders between A nglo-A m erica and H ispanic Am erica remained open to further and perhaps m ajor alterations.

3. Pressures on the Borders: Northward In 1800 the boundary between the U nited States and British N orth Am erica extended halfway across the continent. It was a varied and indirect line, traced most o f the way along rivers and watersheds and broad looping bi-sections o f the G reat Lakes for more than 2,700 m iles between the Bay o f Fundy and Lake o f the W oods. A nd it was an uncertain line in several sectors, for com plications arising from inaccurate maps and ambiguous identity o f stream s in treaty definitions had yet to be resolved. More im portant for our purposes was the varied hum an geogra­ phy o f this elongated zone and the significance such a line was accorded by those living on either side. Even a glance will make clear that this political divide, created in 1783 following the dram atic disruption and disintegration o f an encom ­ passing British A m erica, was no barrier to commerce or m igration, and, with certain im portant exceptions, was not generally perceived as a sharp separation o f peoples or prospects in the developm ent o f N orth A m erica. T he principal exceptions to this generalization were to be found in those settled districts on the British side that had been created for and by Loyalists fleeing the Republic: around Passamaquoddy Bay, along the upper S t. Lawrence, around the Bay o f Q uinte, and at N iagara. In such places a self-conscious "Britishness" was kept alive, nurtured especially by local elites and by colonial officials— appointees o f the Crown— o f New Brunswick and U pper C anada. But such feelings had not been intensified by any strong A m erican pressure, or even presence, in relation to diese areas. T he forts at N iagara and Oswego were barely manned by Am erican troops. Sam uel O gden had laid out a town at the site o f the old C anadian outpost on the O sw egatchie, but the lands along these borders o f New York and M aine had as yet scarcely felt the touch o f Am erican frontier developm ent (fig. 5). West o f N iagara there was little relation between the political boundary and the respective fields o f activity o f the British and the Am ericans. T he whole country tributary to Lakes Huron, M ichigan, and Superior had been an unchallengeable part o f M ontreal's hinterland ever since French explorers had penetrated the area a century or more earlier, and the freedom o f the British and the Indians (as well as the A m ericans) to "pass and repass by land or inland navigation" and to carry on commerce across this boundary had prevailed since the Revolution and been explicitly confirmed in Jay’s Treaty o f 1795. In 1800 the few Am ericans who had come to the ostensible border posts o f D etroit and M ichilim ackinac found them-


. The United States and the Canadas.



selves deep within a vast region o f British activity. Each post was in fact a pivotal point w ithin long-established networks com prehending the G reat Lakes and reaching westward to the M ississippi. D etroit was the forward base on the old M aum ee'W abash route to the Illinois Country, a hinterland much dim inished in profits but magnified in its political significance for Indian relations. M ich' ilim ackinac was sim ilarly situated with reference to the G reen Bay-FoxW isconsin route, leading to the old French outpost and Indian rendezvous at Prairie du C h ien on the upper M ississippi. Thus the whole northwest com er o f the U nited States was under A m erican sovereignty but quite untouched by Am erican power or influence. T he Indians were clients o f the M ontreal traders, the thin scattering o f settlem ents was wholly French C anadian and m étis, with a few British traders. Both D etroit and M ichilim ackinac had been dim inished by recent British evacuations to nearby sites on C anadian soil. They were establishing Fort M alden downriver on the D etroit and had shifted to S t. Joseph Island near the Sault Sainte M arie in the north, and these now became the great centers o f contact between the British and d ie Indians o f the G reat Lakes region. A further blurring o f the boundary in quite a different way took place during the early years o f the nineteenth century in two im portant areas. In the afterm ath o f the Revolution it was the policy o f British governors o f Q uebec to keep Loyalists and other A m ericans out o f the strategic border zone south and east o f M ontreal. In d ie 1790s, however, the governor o f the newly designated territory o f Lower C anada sought to fill that very area with English-speaking colonists, in part as a counterweight to the French C anadians. T he Eastern Townships were surveyed and put on the m arket, and Yankee landseekers, who by 1800were finding little left worth taking in adjacent Vermont and New Ham pshire, cam e flooding in. M uch o f d ie land was granted in township units to leaders acting for a body o f settlers, a practice well suited to New England traditions o f colonization. Because this north' ward thrust was sim ultaneous with one to the west o f Vermont into northern New York, a common pattem o f life and landscape, bisected by the international boundary, was quickly spread over a broad area between the Adirondacks and the S t. Lawrence. T he pace o f developm ent quickened markedly from 1807 onward as blockades and embargoes incident to the N apoleonic Wars turned Britain to C anada for vital shiptim bers and naval stores. Much o f the tim ber exported from M ontreal and Q uebec actually originated in New York and Vermont, as did a growing share o f the potash and flour, and with the expansion in facilities and prosperity M ontreal m erchants began to import consumer goods more and more by way o f New York C ity and Albany-Troy. By 1810 many o f those m erchants were Am erican im m igrants, as were alm ost all the m illers, m echanics, storekeepers, innkeepers, schoolm asters, and m inisters, and the m ajority o f the formers and lumbermen in these borderland districts o f Lower C anada. T hese Am ericans had been lured by econom ic opportunities: by land in large amounts on better terms



than in New England or New York, by commercial possibilities in a suddenly thriving Laurentian system, o f which, by the avenues o f nature, the whole Cham plain area was an integral part. Any sense o f Am erican nationality was weak. In spite o f differences in the structure o f government, English laws and institutions prevailed in both countries, and allegiances were not deeply rooted. A fter all, Vermonters in particular had lived in ambiguity for years before their state had belatedly become a formal member o f the Am erican federation in 1791. In these expansive years, then, not only was the international boundary essentially “non* existent in the routine affairs o f daily life,” but it had “all but disappeared from the consciousness” o f Vermonters and a good many— but not all— Canadians in this area. A sim ilar development took place west o f N iagara in the long peninsula o f land between Lakes Erie and Huron. The first governor o f Upper Canada had laid out a framework for colonization as well as military defense and calculatingly sought to lure experienced Am erican farmers, believing that he could nurture them into loyal British subjects. T he first contingents coming in response to his advertise' ments were known as "late loyalists,” being in many cases relatives, friends, or former neighbors o f original Loyalist refugees or, as in the case o f various Quaker and German pietist groups, people who had reason to feel uncomfortable in the rather bellicose and disorderly new Am erican republic. A fter 1800, as western New York was being settled and the G enesee Road was extended to N iagara, more and more landseekers ferried the river and ranged on farther over well-established military roads into the western districts o f Upper Canada. The land there was generally excellent by any comparison fam iliar to these Americans, and it was more accessible and could be had on better terms than lands in the W estern Reserve or other tracts in O hio. Further, although there were Indians along the Grand River, they were fhendly Indians, Iroquois allies o f the government, and there seemed to be little reason to fear the kind o f bloody preludes to colonization so widespread in the U nited States. Thus in broader view a swelling vanguard o f westward-moving pioneers bifurcated around Lake Erie, submerging the political border under layers o f uniformities: the same kinds o f people from the same source regions, spreading at the same time upon the same kinds o f lands to dom esticate and develop them in sim ilar ways. By 1812 probably 80 percent o f the people o f Upper Canada were Am ericans; 20 percent o f these were Loyalists and their children, but the rest were immigrants o f the last few years and such people were a large majority in the lands west o f N iagara. A s A . L. Burt has noted, the “A m eri' can” character o f this movement should not be emphasized, “for it was primarily North Am erican. It was land these people were after. Few seemed to care whether they lived under the Am erican or the British flag.” Differences in formal govern' ment, land surveys, taxes, and m ilitias became mere details within the larger pattern o f a single region o f settlem ent.



To leaden o f Upper Canada who were striving to ensure the continuance o f a British North Am erica, that kind o f indifference was, o f course, a cause o f some concern, and there was a growing unease about the magnitude and character o f this influx. But even for that vocal and influential minority the political border was not a sharp line o f separation. T he Loyalists among that group had, after all, once resided in Am erica, and alm ost all had left friends and relatives behind, m aintain' ing regular contact with them by letters and visits and travelers’ reports. Commer­ cial relations flourished; news o f the larger world came more regularly by way o f New York and New England than by M ontreal and H alifax. A nd, “far from rejecting all things Am erican, many U pper C an adian s. . . consciously used the U nited S u te s as both a positive and a negative point o f reference by which to gauge their own developm ent.” Such persons found much to admire in Am erican economic progress and some o f its institutions, while at the same time they “watched ap­ prehensively as the fragile subility o f Am erican society” seemed “threatened by the influence o f unruly democracy. ” In this they found allies and interpreters in the Federalists o f adjacent New York and New England, whose “critique o f Am erican democracy and o f republican France together with . . . enthusiasm for ‘peace, order and good government’ naturally struck a responsive chord with Upper C ana­ dian loyalist leaders.” A nd the same might be said o f the leadership o f New Brunswick and, to a lesser degree, o f Lower Canada as well. Thus, when fetationships between the U nited S u te s and G reat B riuin deteriorated rapidly after 1807 it began to appear to some N orth Am ericans that there were greater differences— geopolitical differences— within the U nited S u te s than between the northern su tes and their northern neighbors. O ne spot along this lengthy border, however, became a festering sore between the two sovereignties. Fort M alden, at the westernmost point o f the O nurio peninsula, was the critical link between British officials and Indian nations o f the western lakes. A nd that link became a focus o f Am erican agitation as the Indians intensified their resistance to powerful Am erican pressures on their homelands in the opening decade o f the nineteenth century. We shall look more closely at those pressures in a later section. Suffice it to note here that these were generated by a deep-rooted expansionism that was intensified after the acquisition o f Louisiana by Jefferson’s idea o f removing all Indians to a western sanctuary beyond the M is­ sissippi (leaving behind only those who agreed to settle on small agricultural reserves). The principal agent o f this policy in the northwest was W illiam Henry Harrison, seated at Vincennes as governor o f the recently created (1800) Indiana Territory. Through aggressive use o f threats, trickery, and bribery, creating and capiulizing on tribal dissensions, Harrison, in treaty after treaty, gained the ces­ sion o f m illions o f acres o f Indian lands, clearing the way for the creation o f Michigan (1805) and Illinois (1809) territories. The esublishm ent o f such frontier governments further intensified Am erican pressures, as officials and land specula-



tors sought to maximize the development o f their territories. The Indians' deepen­ ing fears and resentments were brought into focus by two charism atic Shawnee leaders, Tecumseh and his brother, The Prophet. Tecumseh visited Fort M alden to seek British support for organized resistance against further Am erican expansion. British officials tried to follow a policy delicately balanced between befriending the Indians as allies and restraining them from attacking the Americans. Although British traders wanted to preserve their dominance over the Upper Lakes (and there was still talk about a formal Indian buffer state and even an eventual revision o f the international boundary), the principal British motive was defensive: to protect the precarious attenuated inland and border colony o f Upper Canada from Am erican aggression. Am ericans in contrast, understandably regarded any British contact with these Indians as a brazen interference in Am erican domestic affairs. In geopolitical terms, conflict arose as the opening phases o f the Am erican frontier process (Indian treaties, territorial form ation, land speculation) moved in upon a de facto British imperial protectorate on Am erican soil. In 1810, having failed to get a retraction from Harrison o f his latest land-grab, Tecumseh called for Indian attacks on Am erican frontier settlem ents. Harrison's counterattack at Tippecanoe dispersed a major Indian force along the W abash frontier, and although not an unqualified victory, it confirmed Am erican suspi' cions that the Indians were making extensive use o f British arms, and that led to a mounting cry from western interests for the conquest o f Canada and elim ination o f Britain from North Am erica. If this issue was not the main cause o f the War o f 1812, it was an important contributor, constituting a strong pressure upon the beleaguered president o f a deeply divided nation, and it made Detroit-Fort M alden the initial focus o f international conflict on the mainland. The War o f 1812 is a curious, com plex, and controversial topic in Am erican history. It was a war generated primarily by maritime policies and practices so remote from m odem behavior as to be difficult to comprehend; it was declared and fought by a U nited States so deeply divided on the very idea o f such a war as to generate not only internal resistance but considerable support for the enemy; and it was concluded by a treaty formally recognizing that nothing had been changed in the basic relationship between the two belligerents. Like most wars, it had unfore­ seen results, not least o f which were those relating to the international boundary between the U nited States and British North Am erica, a geographical line left unchanged in position but profoundly altered in meaning. In general, the U .S . plan for the war was utterly simple: defend Am erican coasts and seize Canada. Canada was understood to have a special importance for Britain as well as for the U nited States. W hereas spokesmen for the Am erican West were obsessed with the need to "cut off the communication between foreign nations and the Indians on our frontiers and in our own territory, " President M adison had com e



to see the conquest o f C anada more as a m eans o f pressuring Britain to stop interfering with Am erican oceanic shipping by severing it from a vital resource, for he understood that the British navy and m erchant shipping, having been shut out o f the Baltic for several years, had become critically dependent on N orth A m erican timbers. C anada thus was more than a convenient hostage in the Am erican plan to force Britain into negotiation o f the festering issues between them. A nd it was a strategy widely regarded as not only obvious but easily executed. Thom as Jefferson in a letter written shortly after the Am erican declaration o f war (and subsequently famous as a succinct expression o f Am erican illusions), declared: T h e acquisition o f Canada this year, as for as the neighborhood o f Q uebec, will be a mere m atter o f m arching, and will give us experience for the attack o f H alifax the next, and the final expulsion o f England from the A m erican continent. H alifax once taken, every cock-boat o f hers must return to England for repairs.” U pper C anada, inland, beyond the support o f the British fleet, adjacent, "defended by only a few regular soldiers, and containing a predom inantly Am eri­ can population that would presumably welcome the invaders as liberators” seemed to be “a plum ready for the picking. ” A quick thrust to seize M ontreal and sim ulta' neous invasions from N iagara and D etroit were expected to do the job in short order. It did not work out quite that way. In fact, the U nited States was utterly unprepared for war. It had alm ost no regular army, no system to support and no leadership com petent to undertake such extensive operations; m ost im portant, the country was deeply divided over the very idea o f waging war. New York and New England, the Am erican areas m ost critical for operations against British N orth A m erica, refused to support the national adm inistration. There was no quick invasion to seize M ontreal because it proved im possible to raise volunteers and m ilitia in those states willing to undertake the task, and the general placed in charge o f that sector became instead preoccupied with the T o ry revolt"— m eaning the Federalist opposition in that populous com er o f the nation. In sim ple term s, that opposition arose from an intense divergence between the com m ercial interests o f the N orth and Republican agrarian interests o f the South and W est. H aving been dragged into the war, A m ericans in these northeastern border zones were willing to take up defensive positions but were quite unwilling to invade their neighbors, with whom they had no grievance and with whom they were, in som e degree, kin. They would, in fact, continue to trade across these borders, even to the point where, in the late stages o f the war, the commander o f the by-thensizable British forces poised for the invasion o f the U nited States reported that twothirds o f his army “were eating beef provided by Am erican contractors, drawn principally from the States o f Vermont and New York.” U nable to m ount an attack upon the “trunk" o f British power on the S t.



Lawrence, the Am ericans flailed away at “the leaves and branches” with feeble incursions at D etroit and N iagara. T h e results were disastrous. T he British repelled these intrusions and counterattacked, seizing D etroit and M ichilim ackinac and, with their Indian allies, clam ping a hold upon Prairie du C hien and the Northwest. These surprising successes transformed the conflict. W hereas the A m erican declaration o f war had produced much consternation and even despair among the people o f U pper C anada, who saw them selves as vulnerable innocents (British commanders also had a hard tim e organizing local m ilitias, even for defense), these initial British victories gave them hope and a mounting pride in having defied Am erica's gratuitous assaults and arrogant assum ptions. From these opening salvos the war on this northern front developed into an interm ittent set o f local m ilitary engagem ents on land and on the lakes with first one side, then the other, victorious, but neither able to bring the other to bay. T he Am ericans were unable to conquer C anada, the British were unable to invade and threaten any vital part o f the U nited States. But even though the war was in a larger sense a stalem ate— on this border and as a whole— two and a h alf years o f hostilities affected, often severely, many localities along the border. Detroit, the Tham es River Valley, the N iagara frontier, Sacket’s Harbor, the S t. Lawrence below Prescott-Ogdensburg, and Châteauguay and the northerly margins o f Lake Cham plain were battle zones. Homes and farm steads, orchards, crops, and live' stock, public buildings and whole towns had been ravaged, pillaged, burned, blown up. A n Am erican force had sailed across Lake O ntario, captured York (Toronto), and spent four days looting and burning, including the parliam ent and other public buildings o f the capital o f U pper C anada; some m onths later the British did the sam e to Joseph E llicott's rising New Am sterdam at Buffalo (and more pointedly and powerfully, on the A tlantic front the British sailed up the Chesapeake in 1814 and seized and burned the C apitol, the president’s house, and other buildings in W ashington in direct retaliation for York). These were the experiences that produced the most im portant results. T he Treaty o f G hent, ending the war, specified restoration o f the status quo antebellum— nothing to be changed in the territorial relations o f the U nited States and British N orth Am er* ica; those several areas never exactly defined in 1783 to be settled by am icable negotiation. But there was no way the people o f this northern border could undo history, could forget what had happened to them in these anxious years, what they had done to one another in this unwanted war. Actually, the two parties at G hent had begun their negotiations with m ajor geopolitical alterations in m ind. The British opened with an insistence on the creation o f a perm anent Indian buffer territory encom passing a huge area (nearly all west o f the 1795 G reenville Treaty line) to be jointly guaranteed by G reat Britain and the U nited States, and they had up their sleeve dem ands for cessions o f



M ichilim ackinac, the N iagara corridor, and a large part o f M aine (British forces had taken firm hold o f C astine, Bangor, and all east o f the Penobscot). Som e members o f the Am erican delegation had come to Europe a year earlier (hoping for Russian help in securing an arm istice) and had in the meantime received instruc­ tions to do their best to obtain British cession o f Upper and Lower Canada. But the peace negotiations, like the war, were a stalem ate from the start, dragging on for months until the two governments, each too insecure at home to be confident o f obtaining the resources to pressure the other to an advantageous conclusion, decided to get out o f it with what was in effect an armistice and withdrawal to their sovereign boundaries. In the U nited States the war was proclaimed a victory; there was general satis­ faction and considerable pride in the fact that the Americans had stood up to and in the end yielded nothing to the world’s most powerful imperial state, the very state that in that sam e year had emerged triumphant in the vast convulsions o f Napoleonic Europe (and would yet again, at W aterloo, in the summer o f 1815). Jackson’s victory at New Orleans provided a resounding response to the humilia­ tion o f the burning o f W ashington. The Federalist opposition was discredited and (he movement toward New England secession brought to an abrupt halt by a surge of national feeling. Canada faded from view as Am ericans again fixed their gaze westward. In British North Am erica the Canadians, too, could proclaim victory. They could take considerable pride in the fact that scarcely half a m illion British Am eri­ cans had stood up to seven and three-quarter million Am ericans; if it was pointed out that it was really the British army and navy and treasury that made the balance, they could take great satisfaction in the proven vitality o f that connection. They could also breathe a great sigh o f relief that they had not been conquered and forcibly incorporated into the body o f their aggressive, volatile, republican neigh­ bor. But there were disappointm ents as well, especially in the fact that London had once again reneged on its promises to its Indian allies and again given up the western lakes country wherein the Am ericans had never been more than margin­ ally present. But, perhaps more important than any o f these, was the bitterness (hat Canadians, and especially Upper Canadians, now harbored. These people had had no qu an d with Am ericans, had not so far as they could see, given any offense whatever (those few British officials and traders at Fort M alden were operating in a specialized and remote world), yet they had been attacked and made to suffer. One might respond by saying that they were victim s o f geography: they had been attacked simply because they were near at hand, and, o f course, they were attacked simply because they were British, for in such circumstances this connection was a liability as well as an asset. T his much could be readily understood by Am ericans and C anadians alike. But if one seeks to understand the consequences, one must go



further and note that many Canadians felt they had been attacked because they were considered weak and vulnerable, that they had been victimized by the preda­ tory opportunism on the part o f a bullying neighbor, that there had been intent to seize them and never let them go. Once people survive that kind o f experience, they do not readily forget— or forgive. They leam not to trust the expressed goodwill o f such a neighbor, and they take steps to be in a stronger position should it ever happen again. The War o f 1812, so quickly forgotten by succeeding genera­ tions o f Am ericans, would become a pivotal event in a developing Canadian nationalism . And so although the international boundary might remain unchanged, the relationships between the peoples on either side were deeply altered. Som e com­ merce continued to follow natural avenues, but it was reduced by imposts and in a decade or so redirected by the Erie and Cham plain canals. And people m ight continue to move across these borders, but no longer in such numbers, and no longer from the U nited States into Canada with the welcome or indifference o f prewar days. There was now a greatly heightened sense o f two sovereignties. T he war had produced a quick sorting. For the original Loyalists and those nurtured in loyalism it was a dreaded reopening o f a wound; for the thousands o f Am ericans who had recently settled in Canada it was essentially a North Am erican civil war drat suddenly forced them to make agonizing decisions about oaths o f allegiance, service in m ilitias, staying or leaving. We have no reliable count o f such move­ ments, but apparently most stayed put, hoping to hang on to land or business and preserve life and limb while staying as neutral as possible. Brebner notes that "loyalty and willingness to fight on the part o f the Canadian m ilitia increased in a sort o f progression from the Americanized west to the loyalist east o f U pper Canada. French Canadians fought valiantly in defence o f Lower C anada.” Such exodus and forced commitment together with the whole experience o f war sharply accentuated the Britishness o f C anada, and officials set about to strengthen that trend. In January 1815 the governor received authorization to refuse grants o f land to Am ericans, to prevent them from entering Canada if he wished, and to place special restrictions on those allowed to come. T his policy was not favored by local commercial interests, but its effects were meant to be offset by a corresponding encouragement o f British immigration. It was some time before immigration m ade much o f an impact, but the governor was still insisting ten years later that "th e speedy settlem ent o f the Colony however desirable is a secondary object compared to its settlem ent in such a manner as shall best secure its attachm ent to British Laws and Governm ent." Various subsidy schemes implanted a few thousand Scots and Irish in backcountry townships, as at Perth and Peterborough, and in 1826 the Canada Company began development o f its million-acre Huron Tract, but the western districts expanded mainly through the unassisted migration o f thousands



of poor— Irish, English, and Scots, Catholic and Protestant— who provided a profitable return cargo for the timber ships working out o f Quebec. Numbers increased rapidly in the late 1820s: the population o f Upper Canada doubled to 321,000 in the ten years after 1825; by 1842 it was nearing half a m illion. But it was simply not possible to erase all Am erican influences. Relatively few migrants now cam e from the U nited States (whereas many immigrants to Canada soon moved south across the border to what they thought were better oppor­ tunities), but their impact was not to be measured by members. Som e twenty years after the war most o f the m inisters and preachers o f the many Protestant denominations and sects in Upper Canada were Am erican. M ethodist circuit riders were particularly influential, entering as an extension o f the Genesee Conference o f western New York and m aintaining full formal connection with the Am erican church (founded and headquartered in Baltim ore) until 1828. British Wesleyan ministers provided a potential counterweight, but for some years they agreed to confine their work to Lower Canada. A ll the while the politically powerful A ngli­ can leadership asserted the prerogatives o f an established church but provided little service to rural communities. W hat few schools existed were thus also mostly staffed by Am ericans, to the dismay o f many a British visitor. Thom as Rolph, who toured die province in 1833, found it a really “melancholy” experience to visit the common schools: You find a herd of children instructed by some anti-British adventurer instilling into the young. . . mind sentiments hostile to the parent state; false accounts of the late w ar. . . geographies setting forth (American) cities as the largest and finest in the world; historical reading books describing the American population as the most free and enlightened under heaven and American spelling-books, dictionaries and gram­ mar teaching diem an anti-British dialect and idiom.

In the following year Am erican immigrant teachers were specifically required to become citizens, but that by itself could not solve the problem. Indeed, there had been a bitter debate a few years earlier over who constituted the legitimate citizens of Upper C anada, wherein the Tories had sought to force a protracted naturaliza­ tion process on all American-born settlers who had arrived after 1783. In face o f an outcry that such a law would disenfranchise and categorize as alien large numbers who had been loyal through the late war and spent much o f their life building up the colony, the decisive date was shifted to 1820. But the special concern re­ mained. Canada was feeling, as it would ever after, the cultural pressures o f propin­ quity with a powerful neighbor with which it had much in common and was deeply entwined. O nly by extraordinary self-conscious efforts could it nurture effective distinctions— beyond the obvious differences in government— as it began to do in education, under the leadership o f Egerton Ryerson, John Strachan, and others in the 1830s and 1840s.



T he British governm ent meanwhile undertook a program to provide stronger defenses for all its N orth A m erican colonies, and especially for M ontreal an d U pper C anada. T he m ost notable and costly was the Rideau C anal, a 130-mile link opened in 1832, from the foot o f Lake O ntario to the Ottawa River, designed to b e a strategic route bypassing the Am erican border along the S t. Lawrence. T he o ld Loyalist town o f Kingston thereby becam e a m ajor pivot in the defense system, its economy and sociopolitical status enhanced by the naval dockyard and Fort Henry. Far more im portant com m ercially was the W elland C anal across the N iagara isthmus, initiated by a private entrepreneur (with about h alf the fonds provided by Am erican investors) and com pleted in 1833. W idely touted as a C anadian answ er to the Erie C an al, it in fact functioned in considerable part as simply an alternative route within the Erie system as both C anadian and Am erican shippers made use o f it, Lake O ntario, and the Oswego C anal to connect with the Erie C anal at Syracuse. T he W elland was not more effective as a C anadian instrum ent because o f shipping lim itations on the S t. Lawrence above M ontreal, where programs for navigation improvements foundered in political controversy. A nd indeed the whole Laurentian com m ercial system , now tapping a rapidly developing agri­ cultural hinterland, cam e under severe pressure from Am erican com petition. T h e Cham plain C an al, connecting that lake to the Hudson, had ended the am biguities o f Vermont and turned it firmly away from Lower C anada, and the Oswego and Erie canals brought sim ilar New York com petition to bear on the most fertile districts o f Upper Canada. In M ontreal, the great entrepôt o f this Laurentian system, there was acute awareness o f this Am erican com m ercial pressure but less concern than in K ingston and Toronto (as York had been officially named in 1834) over the threat o f A m eri­ can cultural influences. Here at the de facto hinge o f the two C anadas, “English” stood in opposition to “B e n ch ,” and the obsessive issue was not “am éricanisation” but “anglicisation.” C entral to nearly all developm ent— “the heart o f the country, and from it circulates the life blood o f C anada”— the city had passed Quebec in population ten years after the war, and surpassed 40,000 inhabitants by 1840. M ost im portant was the fact that the British population was now greater than the French. English-speakers dom inated commerce and industry and had put their unm istakable im print on the landscape o f the growing city: their G eorgian and G reek Revival m ansions clim bing the flanks o f M ount Royal, their neoclassical banks on S t. Jam es Street, their English-style churches, and their gray granite public buildings were all “conscious symbols o f British Protestant authority.” Yet for all this obvious display o f prosperity and power, English M ontreal re­ mained embedded locally and provincially within French C anada. T he British governors sent over from London resided not in M ontreal but on the citadel at Quebec, where they could never forget the presence o f and their responsibilities to



the nearly h alf a m illion French o f Lower Canada. Through all these years, there' fore, M ontreal commercial interests sought ways to extricate themselves from what they considered to be the stifling constrictions o f a backward, rural, an ti' progressive, priest'ridden entity. They fervently backed a British proposal of 1822 to unite the two Canadas, a scheme designed to anglicize the French and nullify any tendencies toward Am erican republicanism. The matter proved to be highly controversial; fiercely opposed by French Canadians and no more than gingerly supported in Upper Canada, the bill was defeated in the House o f Commons. W ithin a few years these same M ontreal merchants were pushing hard for the annexation o f the island o f M ontreal (and intervening seigneurie) to Upper Canada. Such a modest geopolitical change would, in their view, “liberate" a large portion o f the English-speaking population o f Lower Canada; provide Upper Canada with a seaport and direct control over customs receipts (a critical source o f governmental incom e); consolidate under one government all those deeply con ' cerned with improvements in the S t. Lawrence trafficway; and bring Upper Canada out o f its inland seclusion and more effectively into the British orbit and away from Am erican influences. A s G erald M. C raig has remarked: “It was a dazzling conception, and the conservative and commercial leaders o f Upper C anada could never fully understand why everyone concerned did not endorse it with enthusiasm. ” O f course, the very idea o f losing control o f such a famous and vital part o f la patrie was anathem a to the French, however much they resented the grip o f these M ontreal English on so much o f the vitals o f their province. Failing to achieve this intercolonial annexation, these M ontrealers sent a delegation to the C olonial Office in London to propose a more radical change: to place the St. Lawrence waterway directly under imperial control, removing it from the politics o f both Canadas. But in this, too, they got nowhere. T h ese issues (and they were entangled in many others) suggest the profound difficulties that faced political leaders in British North Am erica. There was a general concern to magnify the separation from the U nited States, to insist on the im portance o f the connection to Britain. This common theme was widely accepted (although the public seemed at times exasperatingly lax and indifferent to all the nuances o f the m atter), yet there appeared to be insuperable difficulties in binding the two C anadas, Upper and Lower, English and B ench, together in some work' able way, a linkage that seemed to be demanded by the physical and economic realities o f the S t. Lawrence Valley and system. In the late 1830s a set o f dram atic political crises within the two colonies provided the impetus for a bold new experi' ment. A s th e Panic o f 1837 plunged the A tlantic trading world into severe depression, long-sm oldering political grievances in the two Canadas burst into flames. In simple term s, disaffections arose from deadlocked struggles between elected assem-



blies and entrenched oligarchical executives. In both colonies impassioned c ritic s fomented extrem e actions: rallies led to brawls, to clashes with police and m ilitia , to bloodshed, and finally to quick defeat and dispersion. T he leaders and m any o f their followers fled to sanctuary in the U nited States, where they found considerable popular sympathy in border districts. There followed a season o f in ten se activity in such places as D etroit, Buffalo, Lockport, W atertown, Ogdensburg, a n d M ontpelier, as C anadian rebels and Am erican supporters, adventurers, and m er­ cenaries organized secret societies and plotted invasion and the final expulsion o f British m onarchical tyranny from N orth A m erica. H alf a dozen raids on C an ad ian soil, however, found no support for such radicals; their m eager forces were quickly captured or repulsed, and these im pulsive movements soon subsided. T he u n ­ planned involvem ent o f these uprisings with Am erica and Am ericans deepen ed the separation between the two countries. For the m ost part, the federal govern­ ment and bordering state governm ents did their best to avoid actions that m ight b e deemed interference in C anadian affairs. But inevitably there were antagonism s and m isunderstandings on both sides, and although the whole affair could b e quickly dism issed in the U nited States as a distinctly m inor flurry on the fringe, it could not but magnify old suspicions and bittem ess among C anadians, who saw them selves once again attacked from Am erican soil. In fact, the m ilitary im plica­ tions seem ed serious enough to cause both G reat Britain and the U nited States to give renewed attention to their frontier fortifications. Shortly after the rebellions o f 1837 the British government appointed Joh n George Lam bton, earl o f Durham, as governor-general with orders to investigate and propose a solution for the festering problems o f government in the C an adas. H is penetrating and eloquent report, published in 1839, was greeted with alarm o r suspicion by many C anadian interests, but his fundam ental geopolitical recom ­ m endation, union o f the two colonies under a single legislature, was adopted by th e British government in the next year. In 1841 the assembly o f the new U n ited Province o f C anada, with forty-two members from Canada East (Lower C an ada) and forty-two from C anada W est (U pper) gathered for its first session in K ingston, that “sober, granite tow n,” the most Loyalist o f places, “true-blue and free o f the taint o f rebellion.” T h is bold new design was based on one critical, precarious, assum ption, how­ ever: that the British dim ension o f Canada would so expand in extent, prosperity, and power, as to pressure the French (in the words o f the Durham Report) to “abandon their vain hopes o f nationality” and acquiesce to integration and assim ­ ilation into an English-speaking and English-dom inated society. It was a goal long espoused by British C anadians but now featured in an unusually forthright manner. Lord Durham was uncompromising on the m atter: If the British Government intends to maintain its hold of the Canadas, it can rely on



the English population alone. . . .T h e French Canadians. . . are but the remains of an ancient colonization, and are and ever must be isolated in the midst of an AngloSaxon world. . . . There can hardly be conceived a nationality more destitute of all that can invigorate and elevate a people, than that which is exhibited by the descen­ dants of the French in Lower Canada, owing to their retaining their peculiar language and manners. They are a people with no history, and no literature.

Such comments infuriated the French Canadians, as did the stipulation in the new design that English would be the only language used in the Assembly and the allocation o f an equal number o f seats to the two colonies when Canada East contained 60 percent o f the more than one million people in the U nited Province. How such talk and concepts and actions could ameliorate "the deadly animosity” that Lord Durham had, to his surprise, found separating Mthe inhabitants o f Lower Canada into the hostile divisions o f French and English" could only be grasped, one is tempted to assume, by those as imperious, arrogant, and optim istic, as imbued with confidence in the new liberal industrial order, as English— or almost— as Durham himself. But it must also be emphasized that it was quite explicitly a view shaped by what were widely understood to be North Am erican realities. H is rationale for assim ilating the French was based on the apparent hopelessness o f their survival as a nationality on a continent so obviously destined to be completely dominated by the English "race." Even if set apart in a province o f their own (he had considered taking the Eastern Townships and M ontreal away to form parts o f a third, intermediate Canada) they would soon become impoverished by their increase in numbers and their inability to compete in the modem commer­ cial and industrial world. “It is to elevate them from that inferiority that I desire to give to the [French] Canadians our English character"; the way to give them that character was to immerse them in an English province, and, he argued at some length, the way to do that "without disorder or oppression, and with little more than the ordinary anim osities o f party in a free country" was "memorably ex­ emplified in the history o f the state o f Louisiana, the laws and population o f which were French at the time o f its cession to the Am erica U nion.” Durham acknowl­ edged that at the outset there had inevitably been deep divisions, jealousies, and rivalries between the French and the Am ericans, but these were easing from the simple and obvious fact that “the French o f Louisiana. . . were incorporated into a great nation, o f which they constituted an extremely small part." Therefore, in politics, in commerce, and in every other progressive dimension o f life, the object o f any aspiring man was "to merge his french, and adopt completely an Am erican nationality." Louisiana had by then been a state for twenty-six years; Durham thought that it would be “no long time” before the Irench language and manners there would "pass away like the Dutch peculiarities o f New York." He recognized that the bloc o f 450,000 French in Lower Canada might be less easily or quickly digested, but the exam ple o f Louisiana as well as the experience o f the two unions



in the British Isles (with Scotland and with Ireland) showed how effectively “refractory” populations could be made to acquiesce in their fate. The Durham Report became a great landmark in Canadian history not by such a misreading o f the future o f the B ench in Canada (or o f the Irish in the British Isles) but because Durham’s presentation o f the need for fundamental structural changes did lead directly to “responsible government” in British North Am erica. Such a move was compelled not only by the equity o f the case and the recent disorders but by the attractive power o f the Am erican example with regard to popular govern* ment and concom itant land policies (Durham noted that in the 1830s probably 60 percent o f the British emigrants to Upper Canada soon moved on to the U nited States). O f course, this new British program for the Canadas was heartily supported by the British commercial establishm ent in M ontreal and Upper Canada. A long with a promised infusion o f British funds, it gave hope o f stim ulating development, rationalizing the Laurentian system (Durham had emphasized the unity demanded by “the great natural channel o f the S t. Lawrence"), and making Canadian mer­ chants more com petitive with the Am ericans. Even so, there were reservations. A s Donald Creighton, a famous historian o f that system, has noted: “Experience had proven that the two provinces could not live economically apart and instinct warned that they could not live politically together.” In 1841 it was impossible to define just what this ambiguity o f two Canadas U nited meant. One thing that was much clearer in general, even if also not easy to define, was the fact that what had been a border zone across half the width o f northern America had, in forty years’ tim e, become much more sharply defined as a bound­ ary, a line o f separation, a division between cultures as well as sovereignties. It was not a readily visible line. For that, one needed to go to one o f the marked discor­ dances between political and cultural geography created early in this era, such as could readily be seen southeast o f M ontreal at Granby and S t. Nom-de-Marie or Famham and St.-Jean; to see, in other words, where Yankee settlers in the Eastern Townships had spread up against French settlem ents in the seigneurial lands o f the Richelieu; to see how “two totally different traditions o f vernacular architecture contributed to one o f the most visible breaks in the cultural landscape o f north­ eastern North A m erica." T hat vivid line was a Canadian-Am erican boundary in an older, deeper historical sense: a recent juxtaposition o f two o f the earliest European-founded societies in North Am erica. But that lay wholly within the body o f Lower Canada, and there was nothing like it to be found along the actual political boundary between the U nited States and Canada. There the separations were in the attitudes and allegiances o f two peoples whom visitors from abroad had a hard time telling apart. Am erican pressure had been applied northward as it had been southward into



the H ispanic borderlands. In this northern zone, however, the one brief phase of hard hammering had forced open the light British grip on a large piece o f Am erican territory in the northwest but had foiled to break off any expanse o f British ground. W hat the War o f 1812 had done, quite undesignedly, was harden the existing boundary, fixing it in place as a for more decisive factor in the lives o f the peoples on either side. Viewed more broadly from the standpoint o f the two countries, the effects were quite asymmetrical. By 1840, Americans in general, as a people or as a government, were not much concerned with their northern border, at least in this long sector, for they had far more com pelling opportunities and problems else' where. The people and government o f Canada, quite the contrary, were now highly conscious o f their southern border and o f the society and polity that loomed so large beyond. It was a danger zone. Twice they had been called upon to defend that line by arms. A nd the dangers were not simply, or even mainly, military or political; they were for broader, more relentless, and more insidious than that— and, as might be expected, no one had put the case more clearly than Durham: The influence o f the United States surrounds [the Canadian] on every side, and is for ever present. It extends itself as population augments and intercourse increases; it penetrates every portion of the continent into which the restless spirit o f American speculation impels the settler or trader; it is felt in all the transactions of commerce, from the important operations o f the monetary system down to the minor details of ordinary traffic; it stamps, on all the habits and opinions of the surrounding coun' tries, the common characteristics o f the thoughts, feelings and customs of the Ameri­ can people. Such is necessarily the influence which a great nation exercises on the small communities which surround it. Its thoughts and manners subjugate them, even when nominally independent o f its authority.

During this period, clearly, Canadians had become well aware o f this power o f geographical propinquity and were determined to resist it, at least in terms o f its political im plications. Harsh experiences, the allegiances called for in times o f emergency, and the selective sortings o f migrations had all worked toward the fact that "there was nowhere any substantial group which favoured acceptance o f the standing invitation to become part o f the U nited States.” Canadian nationhood was as yet feeble and unfocused except in this negative way: by now, as ever after, the fundamental feature o f Canadian nationhood “was the determ ination not to be Am erican.” W hat the positive side o f nationality might be was only beginning to be argued. The English'speaking population, faced with Am erican expansionism , responded by persuading themselves “that they were more British than they actu­ ally were.” Much o f the internal crisis o f these times, especially in Upper Canada, was bound up with the fact that by emphasizing this Britannic connection C ana­ dians were, as David Bell comments, cultivating a paradox: clinging “to the sym­ bols o f colonial status to serve as symbols o f national status.” Lord Durham, o f



course, had something to say about that matter, too: “If we wish to prevent the extension o f this [American] influence, it can only be done by raising up for the North Am erican colonist some nationality o f his own; by elevating these sm all and unimportant communities into a society having some objects o f a national impor­ tance; and by thus giving their inhabitants a country which they will be unwilling to see absorbed even into one more powerful. ” Here Durham was arguing in favor o f a federation o f all the British North Am erican colonies, an idea first promulgated by a governor just after the drastic revisions o f 1783 but one that neither these colonies nor the British government were as yet ready to try. It has been said that “the Am erican Revolution created not one country, but two: a nation and a non-nation. ” H alf a century later there was a growing awareness within the non-nation that if it were to continue to share the continent with its powerful neighbor it might have to turn itself into something more nearly like a nation. For Canadians the political boundary between the two countries had become a hard edge against which they defined themselves. The U nited Province o f Canada was a new framework within which its designers sought to build som e­ thing more positive and substantial. It was a thoroughly British creation, and its larger geocultural premise o f an encompassing, assim ilating British North Am erica would, as was understood to some degree then, have to cope not only with the enormous ever-pressing neighbor to the south but with an existing nation within: the original Canada for which la survivance was hardly a new concept. In their struggles to cope simultaneously, experimentally, reluctantly, with these two great realities o f their historical human geography, British North Am ericans would gradually become Canadians.

4. The Reach Westward: To circa 1830 When Thom as Jefferson made his wonderful announcement o f the Louisiana Purchase on the Fourth o f July, 1803, neither he nor anyone else knew just what had been obtained. None o f the parties involved— least o f all the Am ericans— knew o f its bounds or much about its character. Uncertainty over its extent was not just because o f inevitable disputes as to where such lines should be drawn but because no one had a map o f the features relevant to their placement. Europeans had been vigorously probing, measuring, and appraising their New World for more than 300 years, but a large portion o f western North America was still undefined. Characteristically, Jefferson, already the best geographically informed Am erican, immediately undertook to gather and collate as much information as possible in preparation for congressional deliberations. But when this official “Account o f Louisiana" was made available that November, it contained a good deal o f informa­ tion about New Orleans and the lower M ississippi Valley but admitted that the



geography o f the greater portion o f this enormous new domain remained "but little known." The historical geographer John Logan A llen has likened this level o f American knowledge to "a basin, surrounded by ridges o f better knowledge and grading into a vast, flat surface o f pure conjecture, broken here and there by a peak o f better understanding.n One o f those "ridges” arched across the map at higher latitudes where the fur traders had been sorting out the intricate northern river systems of British Am erica. Publication in 1801 o f Alexander Mackenzie’s account o f his recent explorations began to show the relation o f these Hudson Bay- and A rctic* flowing networks to the Pacific Slope, but only tentatively, for no one had yet been able to confirm the intrepid Scot’s assumption that he had touched the upper waters o f the Colum bia in his difficult detour to the ocean. Another "ridge o f knowledge” extended narrowly along the entire Pacific mar­ gin o f the continent, where the vague coastline and a few named headlands had become defined in much greater detail by a flurry o f activities in the late 1700s. The Spanish had staked out their hold on the new province o f A lta California as far north as San Francisco Bay; and in an intensely com petitive series o f strategic, scientific, and commercial explorations, Spanish, British, Russian, and Am erican seafarers had charted the intricate shorelines o f the maze o f islands and deeply serrated mainland in the rain-soaked, densely forested northwest coast. Beyond the mountainous horizon occasionally visible through the fog and cloud, however, virtually nothing was known o f the western side o f the continent. A great river, long rumored, then confidently inferred from offshore evidence, had finally been confirmed, entered, and named in 1792, and its lower course became fixed on the maps. T he Colum bia River thereafter seemed the obvious corridor inland, but no European knew where, how far, or into what kind o f country it led. To the south, A lta California was a strategic frontier o f state and church confined to a strin g o f presidios and missions within a narrow coastal belt. Concerned with fending off seaborne encroachm ent, the Spanish remained comfortably ignorant o f all th at lay beyond the broad emptiness o f the G reat Valley. The Spanish claim , o f course, included all that unknown interior, and far to the east, Santa Fe and the remote nucleus o f New M exico stood out on contemporary maps as a "peak o f better understanding.” A long the eastern edge o f Louisiana the great sequence o f rivers flowing in from the west were known and named and reasonably well placed on the maps, but their upper reaches lay in that "vast, flat surface o f pure conjecture”— as did, indeed, the source o f the mighty M ississippi itself. In 1803, then, the Am ericans, British, and Spanish (with the Russians pushing in from the far northwest) were variously positioned for the exploration, exploita­ tion, and eventual partition o f this vast, vague remainder o f the continent. We



need to bring into focus some important centers or districts on this perimeter and fields o f activity em anating from them. For the Am ericans, S t. Louis, the forty-year-old town that fell to them for­ tuitously in the purchase, was the obvious base. A s New Orleans was the key to the M ississippi, so S t. Louis was the key to westward expansion, the natural entryway into G reater Louisiana. Its site on a low limestone rise a short distance below the mouths o f the M issouri and Illinois rivers had been chosen with exactly that in mind by Pierre Laclede, a New Orleans merchant who had obtained a franchise for the Indian trade. By the time his stepson, Auguste Chouteau, was laying out the town, all east o f the M ississippi had been given to G reat Britain, and so the new trading post became an instant town as some French from Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and other Illinois settlem ents moved across the river to stay on French soil— only to find, in December 1764, that Louisiana had been transferred to Spain. Local merchants prospered on trade with the O sage, Kansa, and lesser local tribes but were unable to lure upriver Indians from the hold o f British traders. In the 1790s several m ajor efforts extended contacts up the M issouri as far as the M andan Villages but failed to halt what officials regarded as blatant British trespass on Spanish soil. In 1803, S t. Louis was a town o f perhaps 200 houses and fewer than 1.000 inhabitants, but it was clearly the civic and commercial center o f a m ajor frontier region and the portal to far greater possibilities. A s nearly all its people stayed on under yet another change o f flag, new Am erican interests had access to invaluable regional expertise. The transfer o f Louisiana to the U nited States magnified a chronic worry o f Spanish officials in North Am erica. They had always been obsessed with shielding the great riches o f M exico, the heart o f the empire, from foreign attack or any kind o f penetration. During their forty-year tenure o f Louisiana they had regarded it primarily as a buffer against British and Am erican encroachment. They were so concerned with defense that they had detached all the northern provinces from the direct jurisdiction o f M exico C ity and placed them under the Com m andancia General de las Provincias Internas. T his military governor, seated in Chihuahua, was ostensibly charged with defending the entire frontier from coastal California to Texas. W ithin such a scheme New M exico appeared as the great forward base for securing interior N orth Am erica, but it was so remote, its imperial resources were so lim ited, and the extent o f territory was so great as to be an impossible task (fig. 6). Santa Fe was the capital o f a substantial colony. By 1800 there were nearly 30.000 inhabitants in the upper Rio Grande Valley, two-thirds o f whom were indigenous H ispanic mestizos living in little villages and on forms amid the general area o f the Pueblo Indians, who were much reduced in number and extent. Beyond this nuclear region the Spanish situation had been affected by the emergence of

6. A View of North America, 1802. Shown is a major portion of a map of MLa America Septentrional," prepared by Isidro de Antillón y Marzo to accompany his course in geography and printed in Madrid. Warren L. Cook brought it to the attention of modem readers in his Flood Tide ofEmpire to display Ma graphic idea of the concepts being taught to young Spanish noblemen and officers about Madrid’s claims in western North America. " He notes how uastonishingly well proportioned and complete" it is. In comparison with a good many other maps of the day one might well emphasize how “honestly incomplete" it is, unafraid to leave unknown areas blank rather than full of mythical mountains and hypothetical rivers. Mackenzie’s conjecture about the upper Columbia is appropriately tentative, and the limits of Spanish knowledge about Louisiana are starkly apparent. (Courtesy of the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations)



armed and mounted Indian societies on all sides. These dangerous neighbors required careful diplom atic attention, and New M exican governors recurrently dispatched emissaries and gifts to cultivate the friendship o f the U te, Arapaho, Kiowa, Pawnee, and especially the Com anche (powerful newcomers to the south' em plains). Meanwhile, traders working out o f frontier villages beyond easy sur­ veillance, such as Abiquiu and Taos, carried on a minor traffic in furs and skins, ranging as far afield as the Green and Platte rivers. There had been occasional efforts to search out pathways across the plains to connect Santa Fe with San A ntonio, N atchitoches, and S t. Louis (m ost notably in the expeditions o f Pedro V ial), but local interest in the commercial possibilities o f such routes as alterna' tives to the costly tedium o f the only authorized connection by way o f Chihuahua and Vera Cruz was countered by bureaucratic caution. More common were the patrols sent out to intercept foreign trespassers, to keep the ‘G rande llanos“ as a desolate and dangerous barrier between the M ississippi Valley and the vital regions o f the empire. News o f the transfer o f Louisiana to the U nited States produced no immediate alteration o f policies. Spain did not accept Am erican definitions o f the area purchased and was prepared to insist on its claim to the upper M issouri country. W hen French traders carrying stocks o f merchandise arrived overland from S t. Louis early in 1804, Santa Fe officials detained them and sent them off to Chihuahua for interrogation. A t the same time, the general in command o f the Provincias Internas directed the governor in Santa Fe to hasten a force into the field to intercept an Am erican expedition reported to be headed up the M issouri. Meanwhile, 700 miles to the north o f S t. Louis a region o f new strategic and economic importance was emerging within the British sector. It was centered on a distinctive kind o f country: a parkland mixture o f woods and meadows and open grasslands, an obvious transition between the great wilderness o f forest and rock to the north and east and the vast plains opening out in a rising succession o f broad steps to the south and west. It was a land where the streams flowed slowly north' ward across the lacustrine plain, easing into the swampy margins o f broad sheets o f water that extended for 200 miles or more before draining off in rivers that tumbled jaggedly across the Shield into the shallow saucer o f Hudson Bay. T he richest fur country lay much farther to the north and west, in A thabasca, but its exploitation was becoming dependent on food from the plains. Pemmican (shredded dried buffalo meat mixed with tallow, flavored with berries, and packed in buffalo'skin bags o f about ninety pounds each) had become the staple food o f the fur trade in this great northern interior and its preparation part o f the great annual ritual o f the peoples o f the parkland. The system was still evolving. Hunting buffalo was pre­ sumably as ancient as people in Am erica, but hunting on horseback was a com plex trait that had spread from the margins o f Spanish America northward over the plains and was only becoming integrated into the routines o f the A ssiniboin



(northernm ost o f the Siouan people) and Plains Cree (a western Algonkian peo­ ple) toward the end o f the eighteenth century. By this time, also, the use o f guns (diffusing southward horn Hudson Bay) had largely replaced bows and arrows in the hunt. T he regularization o f this new econom ic relationship was associated with the emergence o f the m étis as a distinct regional society. A mixed-blood population had o f course begun to appear from the first sustained encounters between Euro­ peans and Indians long ago, and such people were to be found throughout the fur trade system. By 1800 an increasing number o f métis were congregating in the parklands as an autonomous group specializing in buffalo hunting and the prepara­ tion o f pemmican. A t this time a com petition between the great fur trade companies whose strat­ egies intersected in this general region intensified for several reasons: wars in Europe, which affected prices and policies; the contest for Athabasca and the reach toward the Pacific; the influx o f people out o f M ichilim ackinac, Prairie du C hien, and other posts south o f the Am erican border following Jay's Treaty; the intrusion o f aggressive new partnerships directly into this zone o f rivalry. During these years the N orth West Company abandoned Grand Portage (now on Am erican soil), worked over the Kam inistiquia route as an alternative between Lake Superior and Rainy Lake, and built Fort W illiam as its mam base o f operations in the west (fig. 7). In 1804 the company absorbed a new rival (which had been organized mainly by form er N or’westers, including Alexander M ackenzie) and began to press even more vigorously into new districts. Meanwhile, the Hudson’s Bay Company built Norway House (the name coming from a group o f Norwegian boat builders brought in to improve the transport system) near the foot o f Lake W innipeg, a pivotal position selected to serve the new aggressive policy by the old conservative com­ pany to follow the exam ple o f its great M ontreal rival in binding "the plains rich in meat to the forests rich in fur." Both companies had outposts in the parklands and prairies, but there was as yet no m ajor center, no civic focus, not even an official name for the area. Today we conveniently refer to the W innipeg basin or, more narrowly, the Red River country; in 1800 it was more commonly known as Assiniboia. T he Northwest C oast was another area o f intense com petition, with vigorous Indian participants, but it was a maritime rivalry narrowly confined to the sheltered anchorages in the fjordlands north o f the Strait o f Juan de R ica, a region apparently walled o ff from the interior by a solid mass o f high mountains. Nootka Sound on the west side o f Vancouver Island was the main focus, a rendezvous for ships plying rapidly extending Pacific circuits. A clash there between the Spanish and the English led to a diplom atic settlem ent that forced Spain to abandon its Nootka outpost and insistent claim to the area. By 1800 the Americans (“Boston Men”) had taken advantage o f their rivals' preoccupation with European upheavals to

7. The West. Only a selection of Indian nations is shown, relating to the activities noted in this section of the book.



become dom inant in the sensationally rich trade in sea otters. M eanwhile, the Russians had extended their A leutian'A laskan system to New Archangel (Sitka) on Baranof Island, the threshold o f some o f the richest waters (and most dangerous Indians, the T lingit, who soon sacked and burned this outpost; it was rebuilt in 1804). A t this moment in N orth Am erican history a remarkable geopolitical anomaly was discernible in this remote coastland: a field o f intense com petition but none o f it directed to the Colum bia River, a known feature o f incomparable strategic value, specified as the key to Mackenzie’s transcontinental program as it was in Jefferson's vision o f an Am erican version o f the same thing. But such views were projections from the East, extensions from existing operations anchored in M ontreal or New York. They were longer-term corporate strategies. A s yet, no one had set about to build a Pacific terminus for a commerce that did not exist. T hat must await dem onstration o f a feasible route across the continent. It is well-documented that Thom as Jefferson nurtured the idea o f a transconti­ nental traverse for many years (probably since boyhood). In 1793 he had been the leading sponsor o f a schem e to send the French naturalist André M ichaux, “to find the shortest and m ost convenient route o f com m unication between the U .S . & the Pacific ocean, within the tem perate latitudes.” In a letter to M ichaux he noted that the latest maps made it seem “as if a river called Oregon interlocked with the M issouri for a considerable distance" (cautioning, however, that “these maps are not to be trusted”). T he M ichaux effort was stillborn but Jefferson never gave up. Ten years later, during his first term as president and before there could be any thought o f purchasing the whole o f Louisiana, he asked Congress in a confidential message (for it would involve travel through foreign and disputed lands) for a m odest appropriation to pay for an expedition up the M issouri and across to the western ocean. Having obtained such support, preparations were soon under way, and so it was that Meriwether Lewis and W illiam Clark could begin their actual traverse o f Louisiana only a few weeks after the official transfer o f sovereignty in the spring o f 1804. Their m ain interest was in those “ interlocked” rivers. T h at was the com pelling concept, as it had been, broadly speaking, for centuries: a route to the Indies, a Northwest Passage. Jefferson’s instructions made that clear: “T he object o f your m ission is to explore the M issouri river, & such principal stream o f it, as, by its course and com m unication with the waters o f the Pacific ocean, whether the Colum bia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct & practicable water com m unication across this continent for the purposes o f com ­ m erce.” Twenty-eight m onths later the expedition arrived back in S t. Louis and Mer­ iwether Lewis had the great pleasure o f reporting by letter to his president: “In obedience to your orders we have penitrated the Continent o f N orth Am erica to



the Pacific O cean, and sufficiently explored the interior o f the country to affirm with confidence that we have discovered the most practicable rout which dose exist across the continent by means o f the navigable branches o f the M issouri and Colum bia Rivers. ” A sa human effort the entire affair was a triumph, appropriately recognized at the time and ever after as one the great explorations. A s a result o f their upenitrationHAm erican sovereignty was asserted across the ridgepole o f the continent to connect with the earlier Am erican claim to the Colum bia, and Am erican maps could detail the river and m ountain systems o f a broad swath o f country from sea to sea. In terms o f the declared objective, o f practical com m ercial strategies, the results were less clear. Only publication o f the journals o f the expedition, some years later, could reveal what a gloss on their actual experiences Lewis’s initial summation was. He did adm it that the Rocky M ountains were ua m ost formidable barrier,” and rather than an interlocking o f stream s there was a land passage o f 340 m iles between the navigable portions o f the M issouri and Colum bia systems, 140 miles o f which was over “tremendious m ountains. ” N evertheless, summer passage was feasi­ ble, as they had dem onstrated, and the difficulties o f the portage were offset by the availability o f horses *‘in immence numbers and for the most trivial considerations” from the Indians o f the plains country on either side o f the mountains. Thus he confirmed that such a route would afford “immence advantages to the fur trade,” but not quite in the pattern envisioned. W hereas Jefferson had assumed a reorien­ tation o f the Pacific coast fur trade eastward across the continent to A m erican ports, Lewis suggested the opposite. T he furs o f the upper M issouri (“richer in beaver and otter than any country on earth") and even o f the A ssiniboine and R ed rivers (served by British establishm ents) could be sent westward to the lower Colum bia and thence directly to C anton, a leading world mart. In return, certain kinds o f East Indies goods (“articles not bulky brittle nor o f a very perishable nature”) could be brought to the Colum bia and thence forwarded across to the U nited States. Because the season o f m ountain travel was short Lewis suggested an inland depot on the Clearw ater River at the western base o f the Rockies as the principal point o f exchange for such shipm ents. A n Am erican response to such possibilities was soon under way. In the opening years o f the nineteenth century John Jacob A stor, a wealthy Germ an-bom New York m erchant, was seeking to dom inate the fur trade o f North Am erica. W orking out o f M ichilim ackinac, his Am erican Fur Company soon brought such pressure on the British in the G reat Lakes region that a division o f territories was negoti­ ated. He tried but failed to lure the N orth West Com pany to join in creating a transcontinental system and therefore set about doing so him self (with the help o f some disgruntled N or’westers he enticed to staff his organization). H is scheme was a close variant o f that outlined by Meriwether Lewis: a Pacific headquarters and



depot on the Colum bia estuary; an annual shipm ent o f trade goods and essential supplies from New York via Cape Horn; the collection o f furs through outposts in the Colum bia interior and vessels trading up and down the coast; and the export o f furs to the Canton market to be exchanged for Chinese goods that would be conveyed to Europe and Am erica. A n overland route with protective forts and facilities would be established between New York and the Colum bia primarily as a line o f more rapid movement o f messages and personnel. Working parties to initiate this program were sent out by sea and by land. Thus in the spring o f 1811, A storia, the first Am erican outpost on the Pacific Slope, began to take shape at a deepwater anchorage on the south side o f the Colum bia estuary. During the next two years inland posts were set up, arrange' ments with various Indian tribes negotiated, and trading relations with the Rus­ sians in Alaska initiated. A feasible route across the continent had also been discovered, after some delay and difficulty. The original westbound land party had intended to follow the M issouri route o f Lewis and C lark, but news o f deadly opposition from the Blackfeet (generated in part by the one mortal clash the famous Am erican expedition had with Indians en route) diverted them more directly westward, and they barely survived a six-month struggle across terribly difficult country. T he search for an overland passage was renewed in 1812, when Robert Stuart and six companions went up the Colum bia from A storia to the W alla W alla River, then veered across the Blue M ountains to the Snake River Plain, around several short ranges into the open country o f the Wyoming Basin, passing over the continental divide at (or near) South Pass, from where they followed the Platte River to the M issouri and on to S t. Louis. There were no uinterlockingn rivers on this route either, but neither were there any forbidding obstacles, a fact emphasized in a S t. Louis paper (and widely reprinted): “By information received from these gentlem en, it appears that a journey across the continent o f N . Amer­ ica, m ight be performed with a waggon, there being no obstruction in the whole route th at any person would dare call a mountain in addition to its being much the most direct and short one to go from this place to the mouth o f the Colum bia river." Thereby not only the route but the concept o f an Oregon trail was set forth. W hile the A storians were preparing for their first expedition into the Colum bia interior in the summer o f 1811, they were surprised by the arrival o f David Thom pson, who had come down the Colum bia in a large cedar canoe. From him they learned that the North West Company already had several posts on the Pacific Slope and that he was in the last stages o f his assignment to sort out the baffling geography o f Pacific streams and determine the best route across the continent. O n his return journey from A storia he concluded that Athabasca Pass, a steep, short pathway connecting the Athabasca with the northernmost bend o f the Colum bia, would serve.



A s a result o f these two great efforts there was the prospect o f parallel transconti­ nental systems and head-on com petition between the British and the Am ericans in the far northwest (their posts stood within sight o f one another at Spokane and Kam loops). T his nascent rivalry was abruptly ended, however, by a distant rever­ beration o f the War o f 1812. In 1813 the Am ericans at A storia received word o f the impending arrival o f a British warship, and since they were already under passive siege from an encam pm ent o f N orth West Company personnel who had com e downriver from inland posts, they decided to sell out to the rival company rather than risk what appeared to be certain capture and possible destruction. Thus the only tangible Am erican hold on the Colum bia country was abandoned, the British claim to the whole area was reaffirmed, A storia was renamed Fort G eorge, and a disappointed John Jacob A stor turned his attention once again to the G reat Lakes (where having repelled the British he now set about to drive the official U nited States for trade “factories" out o f business). Even before this strategic triumph the North West Company had decided that costs would force it to im itate the A storians and work from a Pacific coast base rather than ship furs and supplies across the continent. The two systems were soon integrated, and the British company undertook vigorous exploitation o f a thousand-mile span o f the Pacific interior, reaching from the upper waters o f the Fraser River (New C aledonia) to the southeastern headwaters o f the Colum bia system (the Snake Country), as well as trade with the Russians in A laska and the Spanish in C alifornia, all brought into periodic focus at Fort George. T his British system soon underwent one more major m utation. East o f the Rocky M ountains the rivalry between the N orth West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company reached a clim ax. Here, too, there were duplicate posts and com­ petition for the allegiance o f the sam e Indians, as well as some new tactics. T he M ontreal company, suffering from the strains o f an extremely attenuated trunk line, laid plans for a legal challenge to the de facto monopoly o f its rival over the Hudson Bay route. A t the sam e tim e, the London-based Hudson’s Bay Com pany decided to consolidate its position in a critical region by planting an agricultural colony in A ssiniboia. T h is latter program was organized as a personal proprietor­ ship o f the earl o f Selkirk, a prominent stockholder and philanthropist who had been involved in a number o f schemes (Prince Edward Island, Upper C anada, western New York) to relieve the plight o f Scottish and Irish crofters being cleared off their hom elands. Selkirk was given a huge grant (five tim es the size o f Sco t­ land), “the bounds drawn w ith . . . m agnificent freehand embraced a great natural province, the central basin o f the northern m id-continent." He began sending colonists to Red River in 1812, and eventually came him self to supervise. Selkirk had tried in vain to gain approval o f his program from the North West Com pany, but the M ontreal firm and its m étis allies felt threatened by the whole concept and



deeply resented the intrusion o f immigrant colonists into such a vital area. There followed a tumultuous period o f harassm ents and property destruction that culm i' nated in a clash between two m ilitias, killing the local Selkirk governor and twenty-one settlers. W hile the ensuing political and legal battles dragged on, a sick and disillusioned Lord Selkirk (who had hurried in from M ontreal to restore peace) returned to Britain and soon died, but he left behind a new nucleus o f m ajor regional significance: a sm all colony o f farmers rooted in the rich black soil o f the Red River Settlem ent. The contest for A ssiniboia was merely one phase o f a struggle that became so ruinous and politicized that these two great British com­ panies merged in 1821, thus ending the ancient rivalry between the S t. Lawrence and Hudson Bay in the contest for northern Am erica. A s the surviving entity, the Hudson’s Bay Com pany now had a monopoly over the fur trade o f British N orth Am erica. T h e Hudson’s Bay Com pany was a striking exhibit o f a special British mode o f empire. It was a powerful com m ercial enterprise run by a corporate body o f stock­ holders, but it was also a surrogate government. In return for its License for Exclusive Trade it adm inistered all British territories west o f Upper C anada, with responsibility for law and order, local justice, and the proper treatm ent o f Indians— an instrument o f imperial control. U nder the energetic leadership o f George Sim pson, who soon became resident governor o f all Am erican operations, the entire system was rationalized with a keen eye for maximizing profits, geo­ graphic advantage, and British dom inion. T he old M ontreal-G reat Lakes network of the N o r’westers was set apart as the Southern Department, a depleted minor com ponent. T he m ain transcontinental line connected Hudson Bay to the lower Colum bia by way o f A thabasca Pass. East o f the Rockies all was focused on York Factory, where the London ships called during the few ice-free weeks o f late summer. A ssiniboia was expanded as the critical source o f provisions. Relations between colonists and the m étis eased, and the m étis became increasingly involved in stock raisin g and even farming while retaining their great role in buffalo hunting and pem m ican production. T he Red River Settlem ent remained a rather attenu­ ated and inform al affair, its narrow river lots strung out for 100 m iles along the Red and A ssin iboin e rivers; but farming, after many setbacks, began to prosper, there were new colonists (m ost notably French from Lower Canada) and several churches an d schools, and the cluster o f facilities near the river junction— Fort Garry, th e com pany experim ental farm, S t. Boniface Cathedral (Rom an C atholic) and S t. Jo h n ’s (A nglican)— gave a sem blance o f civic focus. O n the Pacific Slope, Fort G eorge (A storia) was replaced by a new and much larger post, Fort Vancouver, ninety m iles upriver across from the mouth o f the W illam ette Valley. Like C olvile on the upper Colum bia (replacing Spokane) and Langley on the lower Fraser, it was a site selected with an eye to agriculture as well as to the fur trade as part of



Sim pson’s policy to reduce costly imports o f food. Through the use o f packhorses New Caledonia was bound to the Colum bia system, and Sim pson expanded upon the N orth West Company practice o f sending out large trapping parties into the Snake Country. These forays reached C alifornia, the G reat Basin, the G reat S alt Lake, and east into the headwaters o f the Colorado and M issouri river systems. Such expeditions were designed to exhaust the resources o f a vast borderland, to create a “fur desert” as a barrier to Am erican expansion. Sim ilarly, Sim pson ex­ panded earlier coastal ventures, hoping to blunt the Russian advance southward, remain on good terms with the Spanish, and so undersell the Boston Men as to send Am erican vessels o ff to other seas in search o f gain. By 1830 the British were essentially unchallenged on the Pacific Slope. The “Oregon territory" o f the Americans was, operationally, the Colum bia Department o f the Hudson's Bay Com ­ pany. W hile S t. Louis trappers and New England traders pecked at the edges o f his domain and Am erican expansionists called for the occupation o f O regon, G over­ nor Sim pson could assure his London superiors that “we have little to apprehend from Settlers in this quarter, and from Indian traders nothing." T he Am ericans had set out to challenge the British in areas closer to home as well. O n his return, Meriwether Lewis reinforced a general feeling that A m erican interests must move “firmly and speedily" against British dom inance o f the upper M issouri country. In the very next year M anuel Lisa, a long-experienced S t. Louis trader, led a large party upriver, and the returns over this and the next few seasons were so encouraging that a group o f S t. Louis men (including Lisa, W illiam C lark, and the Chouteau brothers) formed the M issouri Fur Company to create an exten­ sive system o f operations reaching into the Rocky M ountains. But it was an unstable, undercapitalized organization and soon faced ruinous com petition from the British and murderous opposition from the Blackfeet. T he Am ericans were never wholly closed out o f the upper M issouri country, but for years trade proved so dangerous and disappointing as to preclude extensive exploitation. A few m ajor attem pts were made to stake out a firm Am erican position; but M ajor Stephen Long’s ponderous government-sponsored Yellowstone Expedition o f 1818-19, with all its troops and tonnage and h alf a dozen steam boats, never got above Council Bluffe, and W illiam Henry A shley’s large com m ercial party bound for the same sites a few years later was turned back by Indian attacks. Som e success eventually came through the resources and connections o f John Jacob A stor, who in the late 1820s bought into the M issouri fur business, put an old experienced N or’wester, Kenneth M cKenzie, in charge, and through McKenzie’s long friend­ ship with the Blackfeet, paved the way for the erection o f Fort U nion at the m outh o f the Yellowstone and some redirection o f trade. M eanwhile, attention had been concentrated on the middle reaches o f the M issouri, where trappers worked out from the broad terraces o f the m ain stream up



the W hite, Cheyenne, and other tributaries into the higher broken country and the crum bling crenellations o f the badlands (the m auvaises terres o f early Canadian explorers). T h is was the territory o f the Sioux, a loose association o f peoples who had been spreading westward on these plains for decades and whose friendship had been cultivated (in line with Jefferson’s instructions to Lewis) “because o f their immense power. " Like most horse-mounted Indians, they disdained spending their lives trapping for furs but were superb buffalo hunters, and as steam boats began to ascend the M issouri, bales o f buffalo robes soon became a m ajor export. T he most im portant Am erican developm ent was a derivation from these M is' souri operations. W hen A shley’s upriver expedition was thwarted in 1822, he sent Jedediah Sm ith to reconnoiter directly westward into the central Rockies. Sm ith rediscovered Stuart’s South P ass-P latte route, and his report resulted in a new direction and design for the Am erican trade. It was a system o f annual caravans o f trading goods, tobacco, and whiskey sent out from S t. Louis to some designated place within the m ountain country, where the trappers who had wintered in the wilderness and the Indians from a wide radius would meet to exchange goods and celebrate. A s Billington notes, it was a great success because it avoided the over* head costs, rigidities, and overt intrusions o f permanent posts and responded to Indian traditions o f periodic intertribal m eetings, elevating “trading from a purely com m ercial to a social function.” A s a result o f this “rendezvous system ,” by the late 1820s the m ain axis o f the Am erican fur trade was not the upper M issouri but the trail— soon widened into a road— from the lower M issouri, up the N orth Platte, across the low saddle at South Pass into the Wyoming Basin and the various sites in the recesses and high parks o f the W ind River, Teton, W asatch, and U inta ranges— the famous “holes” o f the m ountain men in the headwaters o f the G reen, Snake, and Bear rivers. The profits were great, and other outfits quickly moved in. A stor’s company had barely gotten started in the Blackfeet country before it was sending trappers southward up the Big Horn, and in 1832 it sent a caravan to com pete at the annual rendezvous. T he open, volatile character o f the Am erican system tended toward a ravage o f resources and chaos in Indian relations, and it was increasingly understood at the time that it was a destructive, ephemeral economy. W hat, if anything, m ight succeed it in such distant and difficult regions was not at all clear. In the southerly sectors o f Louisiana, developm ents took on quite a different pattern. A t the outset Jefferson was active here as well, squeezing sm all appropria' tions out o f Congress to finance explorations o f the Red and Arkansas rivers, but none o f these actually got very far. M uch more notable was a reconnaissance that in some sense got too far: that o f Lieutenant Zebuion M. Pike, who was sent out with a sm all party from S t. Louis in 1806 to cultivate good relations with the Indians on the plains and explore the western margins o f Louisiana. Pike followed the upper



Arkansas well into the Rockies, but suffering from winter privations he turned southward and crossed over the divide into the San Luis Valley o f the upper R io Grande. There he was arrested by a Spanish patrol, taken to Santa Fe, sent on to Chihuahua, and eventually escorted back to the U nited States via Texas and N atchitoches. Pike's experience did not in itself deter other Am ericans, but there was insufficient inducement to support much activity. Traders from S t. Louis had long been active with the O sage and occasionally ventured onto the open plains, but it was a bleak and dangerous country. Spanish patrols sent out by nervous New M exican governors deflated recurrent rumors in Santa Fe o f m ajor A m erican intrusions and arrested an occasional sm all party o f hunters and trappers. The decisive changes were geopolitical: first, the Adam s-Onis Treaty o f 1819, which erased Spanish claim s to the M issouri country and fixed the boundary o f Louisiana along portions o f the Red River and the Arkansas; second, the end o f Spanish rule and its rigid exclusions and control over imperial commerce. In 1821 M exicans came across several sm all parties o f Am ericans working the margins o f New M exico and invited them to com e on to Santa Fe and trade. News o f this revolutionary openness, avid interest, and financial success generated an immedi­ ate response in S t. Louis. T he first caravan set out the next year, and within three years the whole system o f the Santa Fe Trail was becoming routine. New towns upriver from S t. Louis, first Franklin, later Independence and W estport, becam e the “jum ping-off places" where the wagon trains were formed; Council G rove usually served as the last staging ground before the long trek across the open plains; the Cim arron cut-off became an alternate, though risky, route, avoiding the longer, heavier haul over R aton Pass; San M iguel del Bado was the custom s station and portal to New M exico. T he San ta Fe Trail was a two-way street, a connection o f mutual interest. Am erican agents and m erchants were soon resident in San ta Fe and Taos, and in time M exicans began to take caravans eastward and to m aintain a consul in S t. Louis. It was an international link o f commercial and cultural impor­ tance. In 1828 three veteran M issouri plainsm en built Bent’s Fort where the trait turned southwesterly from the Arkansas toward Santa Fe. A formidable adobe structure built by Taos laborers, it was a telling symbol o f the new borderland. Taos meanwhile became a favorite wintering place for Am erican trappers working the southern Rockies, and some o f them began to range on through the N avaho country to the west and across the rugged rimlands into the desert basins. Here, as in New M exico, they were drawing into Anglo-Am erican experience lands long fam iliar to H ispano-Am ericans. Through all these probings and connections, the “vast, flat surface o f con jec­ ture" gave way to the delineation o f the gross geographic features o f western N orth Am erica. By the 1830s the general patterns o f plains and mountains, rivers and valleys, o f a great salt lake and sinks and a broad barren interior basin where the



rivets faded into the desert (a concept foreign to Am erican geography in 1800) were becom ing reasonably d ear, as well as more detailed knowledge o f various traverses and districts. There was o f course a gap between the m ental maps o f m ountain men who knew all the nooks and crannies o f favorite territories and the maps available to officials and the public, but there were also some very direct connections between fur traders and cartographers, most notably in the person o f David Thom pson (who with his sextant, chronometer, and barometer impressed the A storians as "m ore like a geographer than a fur trader”). Having sorted out the Colum bia system, the N orth West Com pany gave him leave to prepare a detailed chart o f the river systems o f northern Am erica. Although that great map long remained on the wall at Fort W illiam , much o f its content, as well as information from other British explorers, was soon incorporated into the maps o f Aaron Arrowsmith, a leading London publisher, and such information was rapidly diffused through the A tlantic world (several Am erican firms published in partnership with Airow sm ith). T he most famous Am erican contribution was the map drawn by W illiam C lark. A s it was not readied for publication until 1810 (and not printed until 1814), C lark was able to incorporate the results o f some later explorations with his own. Pike's charts o f "the Internal Part o f Louisiana,” published in 1810, provided the first Am erican coverage o f the southern plains and m ountains, and these were accom panied by a map o f M exico apparently plagiarized from A lex­ ander von Humboldt, whose A das o f New Spain, based on his travels and research in M exico, was published in the following year. T he famed Germ an geographer had been eagerly welcomed to W ashington by Jefferson and others on his way home from M exico in the summer o f 1804, and his reports, books, and maps long rem ained a m ain source o f inform ation about large sectors o f the Am erican West. M apping was generally cum ulative, a business o f progressive extensions and refinem ents (with occasional lapses and aberrations) impressing an ever-greater m ental control upon territory. T he imprints o f commerce and politics were less secure. Strong initial projections and claim s might not be sustained by firm incor­ poration into the m ain body o f econom ic and political systems. During the twentyfive years following the sudden addition o f Louisiana, Am erican officials and private entrepreneurs were variously involved in binding that huge area to the nation and reaching beyond into even more distant lands, but the results were m ixed and remained uncertain in some im portant sectors. T h e m ain geopolitical accom plishm ent o f the U nited States was the establish­ ment o f an international definition o f Louisiana and a transcontinental claim to a Pacific frontage. It took about fifteen years to fix some formal lim its upon the “new, immense, unbounded world” o f Louisiana. In the Adam s-Onis Treaty settlem ent with Sp ain over the Floridas, the U nited States obtained formal definition o f its boundary w ith the Spanish Empire all the way from the G ulf o f M exico to the



Pacific O cean. T h is boundary line was drawn across the southern plains so as to skirt New M exico and thence across the continent along the Forty-second parallel. Such a line represented a large recession o f Spanish claim s but no serious infringe' ment on its settlem ent regions (this entire boundary was later reaffirmed by M exico). A fter the W ar o f 1812 the U nited States and G reat Britain agreed to negotiate amicably all territorial disputes. A com m ission was charged with establishing a division west o f Lake o f the W oods. During all the long imperial rivalries for N orth Am erica no official boundary had ever been drawn across the northern plains. There were precedents for asserting hydrographic definitions: the Am ericans (in succession to the French) to a Louisiana encom passing the western M ississippi basin; the British to a Rupert's Land including all the territory that drained into Hudson Bay. However, the latter claim had been compromised by the Hudson’s Bay Company long ago (1719) when, fearful o f the French thrust west from Lake Superior, the company had requested official British recognition o f the Forty'ninth parallel as the southern boundary o f its monopoly territory. N o such form al re­ sponse was ever given, and in its later actions the company did not observe any such lim itation (for exam ple, the Selkirk G rant), but such a line had shown up on maps frequently enough to provide a ready basis for an Am erican claim , and in 1818 it was accepted as the boundary without serious challenge. It was a geom etric line approxim ating the natural divide between the waters draining to Hudson Bay and those draining to the G u lf o f M exico, with the m ajor exception o f the northward-flowing Red River, which arose 200 miles south o f the boundary. The decision thereby cut off a large portion o f the Selkirk G rant (and led to cession o f those lands by the Selkirk estate) but placed only one sm all outpost and settle­ m ent, at Pembina (ju st south o f the line), within the U nited States. "Westward o f the Stony M ountains" (as the Rockies were still often called), however, no division could be agreed upon, and the negotiations concluded with a declaration that the country would be “free and open" to the “vessels, citizens, and subjects o f the two Powers” for a period o f ten years without prejudice to the claim s o f either side. The two powers were soon reminded that a third country claim ed a share o f northwest Am erica. T he Russians had been com petitors in explorations and trade for many years and continued to extend their activities. A plan o f 1807 to establish settlem ents at the mouth o f the Colum bia and in California and Hawaii foundered in shipwreck, but soon thereafter the Russian-Am erican Company was working near the G olden G ate, sending its A leut hunters after the seals on the Farallón Islands (they even sneaked into San Francisco Bay). In 1812 they set up a supply base seventy m iles to the north at Fort Ross (Rossiya) and shortly thereafter one on Kauai (from which they were soon expelled by the Hawaiians). In 1821 the czar claim ed exclusive rights for Russian hunters as far south as 5 1°N (ju st above



the north end o f Vancouver Island). G reat Britain and the U nited Stated chah lenged this assertion, and in subsequent (separate) treaties they got Russian Amer­ ica (east o f M ount S t. Elias) lim ited to a narrow coastal fringe extending only to 54°40'N . T h at was a marked recession, but the Russians were feeling overex­ tended, they had nearly exhausted the California sealery, and they were turning more to other A laskan districts. In 1827, after sparring over a boundary settlem ent, the U nited States and G reat Britain agreed to extend their join t arrangement on the Pacific Slope for an indefinite period. T he creation and continuance o f this formal geopolitical status may be considered a diplom atic triumph for the U nited States. Although Gray, Lewis and C lark, and the A storians had provided a basis for claim to some part o f this distant territory, there had been no substantial Am erican presence anywhere on the Pacific Slope since the collapse o f the A storian effort. Throughout the 1820s there were agitations in Congress to reestablish an Am erican hold upon Oregon. Lengthy reports were com piled, strategies devised, and bills debated, but no program was undertaken. T he topic was suffused with a mixture o f motives: the fur trade, whaling, Pacific commerce, support o f Am erican rights, the need to oust the British from their overbearing position. N ear the end o f the decade the impas­ sioned debate over a bill to establish a military post at the mouth o f the Colum bia exposed such conflicting evidence and such a paucity o f reliable information about Oregon that an amendment was proposed to “cause an exploring expedition to be organized and executed, to consist o f not more than eighty persons, including a corps o f geographers and topographers for the purpose o f collecting information in regard to the clim ate, soil, natural productions, civil and political conditions, harbors, and inhabitants, o f the territory o f the U nited States west o f the Rocky M ountains.” In the end, neither the amendment nor the bill was passed. Twentyfive years after Jefferson’s bold initiative, Am ericans chafed for some further expe­ dition to find out what it was that Lewis and Clark had given them a claim to on the Pacific Slope. Such was not the case with Louisiana. It had been not only pretty well fixed in place but extensively described by a sequence o f firsthand observers. T he broad physiographic character o f this huge territory was becoming common knowledge. A ttention was focused on the new kind o f country that lay beyond the fam iliar woodlands o f the M ississippi Valley. There was general agreement as to a westward sequence o f a land opening out from the forest margins to an expanse o f gently rolling prairies, grading on to higher, drier plains o f short grass— or little grass at all— extending to the base o f the great mountains. But if the existence o f these “immense plains" as a great “natural region" o f the continent was commonly understood, there remained a good deal o f imprecision and uncertainty. A s Ralph H. Brown noted, explorers and geographers from the East could routinely employ



their com passes and surveying instruments but found “that most sensitive o f instru­ ments, the language, did not fit the new land so w ell." The term G reat Plains had begun to appear on British maps, applied to the northernmost sector o f the famous m odem physical province, as early as the 1770s, but it did not take hold as a formal geographical designation until much later. Plains was d ea r enough as a descriptive term; and by the 1800s prairie was becom ing rapidly absorbed into the Am erican language. A ttesting to the French role in exploration o f so much o f interior N orth Am erica, and applied routinely at first to much smaller— but extensive by any European standard— openings in the eastern forest, the word was still often translated or explained as meadow; but that very English word must have increasingly seemed so inadequate for the scale and sense o f the Am erican scene (as in “Extensive Meadowes fill o f Buffaloes," on the fam ous M itchell M ap o f 1755) that the foreib.i word was welcomed as a useful addition (even though its original French meaning was more or less equivalent to the English term ). W idely applied to the eastern and northern portions o f the open country and most commonly first encountered by travelers in springtim e, when it presented a lush carpet o f grass and flowers, with woods along the stream s and the whole landscape teem ing with wildlife, this “prairie” belt rarely failed to excite adm iration as a fertile, well-watered country “perfectly susceptible o f cultivation ,” as Lewis and C lark put it. But the higher plains farther west were another matter. Wood was rare or nonexistent (“not a stick o f timber”), water scarce, and the experience o f the heat and dust and distance o f a midsummer crossing left powerful impressions o f difficul­ ties and dangers. Zebulon Pike’s prediction that "these vast plains o f the western hemisphere, may become in time equally celebrated as the sandy deserts o f A frica” was brought closer to reality after M ajor Stephen Long, leader o f the next official exploration (an offshoot o f his ill-feted Yellowstone Expedition), inscribed “ g r e a t d e s e r t ” boldly across his map, and in the official report his geographer, Edwin Jam es, stated: “In regard to this extensive section o f country, I do not hesitate in giving the opinion, that it is alm ost wholly unfit for cultivation, and o f course, uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence. A l­ though tracts o f fertile land considerably extensive are occasionally to be met w ith, yet the scarcity o f wood and water, alm ost uniformly prevalent, will prove an insuperable obstacle in the way o f settling the country.” It was an opinion widely reported, endorsed by other travelers, repeated in some form in various accounts for decades thereafter— and it continues as a controversial issue in the historiogra­ phy o f the G reat Plains. Problems o f interpretation were m anifest at the tim e, for if desert gave rise to visions based on the “sandy wastes” o f A frica or A rabia, such descriptions o f the country alm ost always included statem ents about “Innumerable Herds o f Buffaloes” (as inscribed on Pike’s map just above “not a stick o f tim ber”).



For this high, dry country could also teem with life, and these vast herds were by now a famous feature o f the Am erican scene. W hatever desert might imply, it could hardly be taken here to refer to a truly sterile wasteland. T h e m ost pertinent feature in these early reports was the general conclusion that much o f the plains could never become a “settled country” by an agricultural people. “T his G reat Desert is frequented by roving bands o f Indians who have no fixed place o f residence but roam from place to place in quest o f gam e,” wrote M ajor Long on his maps, and he and Pike and many others agreed that much o f Louisiana was best left to the “wandering and uncivilized aborigines o f the country.” T his general characterization o f these Indians was true enough, and it pointed to an im portant feature in the human geography o f N orth Am erica. Here roughly along the prairie margins o f the higher plains was a cultural boundary separating the agricultural societies on the east from the nonagricultural societies on the west. Tribes such as the O sage, Kansa, O to, and Om aha (and the outlying A nkara and M andan) represented the inland edge o f an agricultural system to be found throughout the Eastern W oodlands, whereas their neighbors to the west, such as the Com anche, Kiowa, A rapaho, and W estern Sioux, were hunters and gatherers dependent upon the buffalo for their mainstay (to the southwest, the Pueblo Indians were the northernm ost representatives o f an agricultural system that ex­ tended deep into M exico). T o refer to this basic difference in human ecologies as a “boundary” or an “edge,” however, risks a wrong impression. There was no such line to be seen on the ground. Indian farm ing along the M issouri was a scattering o f sm all fields and gardens around widely separated semipermanent villages, as it was in much o f the eastern U nited States. There was much land o f the sam e quality lying untilled, and that, too, was an im portant feature. In the common view o f Am ericans, the whole vast region was essentially empty. They had long ago convinced themselves that all Indians, even the largest o f the agricultural societies, were no more than casual occupiers o f territory, a people with little attachm ent to the soil. Certainly there seem ed to be plenty o f room for more people o f the sam e sort in these western lands. A nd so it was that a great geopolitical decision in 1830 designated these great prairie plains o f N orth Am erica as the receiving ground for all o f the Indians then living in the organized area o f the U nited States. A line would be laid down approxim ately along the eastern edge o f the prairies, and every tribe to the east o f it would be removed, under federal supervision, to an allotm ent o f lands to the west o f it. It was a national program to reshape the human geography o f the nation, to provide a clear and curative separation o f the two peoples. T h is decision to estab­ lish an Indian Am erica and a W hite Am erica was the enactm ent o f an idea set in m otion at the very inception o f an Am erican Louisiana.



5. Shoving the Indians Out of the Way Thom as Jefferson, in a letter accepting congratulations on the Louisiana Purchase, emphasized that this wonderful addition to the Republic (unot inferior to the old in soil, clim ate, productions & im portant com m unications”) could become “the means o f tem pting all our Indians on the East side o f the M ississippi to remove to the W est.” Suddenly, quite unexpectedly, there appeared to be a way out o f a vexing national problem. Like his predecessors, the third president o f the U nited States had been stru g' gling to formulate an effective Indian policy. O n that topic, Am erican leaders were confronted with a deep dilem m a: how to have “expansion with honor”; th at is, how to dispossess the Indians o f their lands with a clear conscience, how to get such people out o f the way without affronting the moral opinion o f mankind. There was little disagreement among officials or the general public about the basic objective or justification o f the matter. W hether one appealed to history, theology, logic, or common sense, Am ericans cam e to the same conclusion: one could not leave the continent to wandering bands o f savages. Europeans had heeded the biblical in­ junction to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”; history had shown drat the hunter and the casual tiller who cam p for a season must give way to the farmer fixed upon the soil. W hen that consummate frontier spokesm an, Joh n Sevier (“reputed the handsom est man and best Indian fighter in Tennessee”), stated that “by the law o f nations, it is agreed that no people shall be entitled to more land than they can cultivate,” he was merely echoing centuries o f European rationale. In Thom as More's famous Utopia (1516, first published in English in 1551), seizing the territory o f a people who “holdeth a piece o f grounde voyde and vacaunt to no good or profitable use” was “the most just cause o f warre” undertaken by an expanding nation. Such a succession had o f course been taking place on the North A m erican seaboard over a period o f 200 years, and the inevitability, rightness, and continu­ ing progress o f that triumph o f “civilization over savagery” was taken for granted. It was equally understood that there was an ugly and dangerous— and some would add poignant— side to this grand dram a, and it was generally agreed that a clear geographic separation o f Indians from W hites should be a basic tenet o f nation al Indian policy. T h at idea and practice were as old as English Am erica. Put into effect with the defeat and expulsion o f Indians from the Lower Neck o f V irginia after 1644, separation assumed a continental scale in the famous imperial Procla­ m ation Line o f 1763, which was, in turn, reaffirmed in principle by George W ash­ ington at the very beginning o f the Republic, when he stated that the Indians should be told that “the Country, is large enough to contain us a ll,. . .w e w ill. . . establish a boundary line between them and us beyond which we will endeavor to retain our people.”



It was o f course clear from all that history that such boundaries were not immutaMe. They were not intended to be; they were understood by those who imposed them to be geopolitical devices to effect orderly change, a m eans, so it was always argued, to allow die reasonable expansion o f the one people without the destruc­ tion o f the other. N evertheless, in any reflective mind these recurrent shifts west­ ward gave rise to a nagging conundrum: W hat, eventually, would become o f the Indian? T he Louisiana Purchase seem ed to offer a great release from the inexorable logic o f that sequence. Suddenly, by a single stroke o f diplomacy, those uillim itable regions o f the w est,” which had eased G eorge W ashington’s conscience in 1783, had miraculously reappeared; despite twenty years o f massive W hite expansion, the country once again seem ed “large enough to contain us a ll.” It is not at all surprising therefore that Jefferson would envision removal and separation on a grand scale as a means o f resolving the destructive consequences o f this inexorable collision between two unequal peoples. In the first flush o f exhilara­ tion he even proposed that the C onstitution be amended to confirm the Indians’ right o f occupancy and self-government under the protection o f the U nited States in lands west o f the M ississippi. But he found little support among his colleagues for that kind o f com m itm ent and rigidity. T he pressure o f events relating to the purchase made it expedient to avoid constitutional deliberations, and Jefferson was soon talking, as he had before, more about the need for rapid acculturation and eventual assim ilation than about such a com prehensive removal (although he instructed M eriwether Lewis, while Lewis was in S t. Louis preparing for his expedi­ tion across the continent, to ascertain how the W hite residents o f upper Louisiana m ight respond to inducem ents to remove to the east side o f the M ississippi so as to clear the area for eastern Indians). Like most Am ericans who voiced any concern for the Indians, it seem ed obvi­ ous to Jefferson that they must be pressured “to abandon hunting, to apply to the raising o f stock, to agriculture and to dom estic manufacture, and thereby prove to them selves that less land and labor will m aintain them . . . better than in their former mode o f living. ” T h at kind o f intensification o f their economy would allow them , indeed induce them willingly, to release their excess lands. Thus, to the extent that any possibility o f the Indians’ rem aining in their hom elands was of­ fered, it became the standard Am erican proposition that Indians must conform to the common Am erican rural pattern: that is, for each family to reside on a farm laid out within the federal rectangular survey (allotm ents o f 640 acres per head o f household, plus additional acreage for each child became common offerings), which land would be held in fee sim ple and the Indians become individual citizens subject to the laws o f the state o f residence. U nlike many Am ericans, Jefferson went further and accepted forthrightly the intrinsic equality o f the Indians as human beings. He regarded them simply as victim s o f history, people in a primitive stage overwhelmed by “the stream o f overflowing population“ from civilization



across the sea. He therefore advocated not only acculturation to European ways but assim ilation with European peoples (in this, too, he could have taken his cue from M ore). He was quite ready to prescribe this course to die Indians them selves, as for exam ple in his statem ent to a delegation o f chiefs from the Northwest in 1809: I repeat that we will never do an unjust act towards you—On the contrary we wish you to live in peace, to increase in numbers, to learn to labor as we do and furnish food for your ever increasing numbers, when die game shall have left you. We wish to see you possessed of property and protecting it by regular laws. In time you will be as we are: you will become one people with us; your blood will mix with ours: and will spread with ours over this great island. Under Jefferson the national adm inistration took an increasingly active role in fostering culture change among the Indians. In 1796 the government had estab­ lished two trading posts (“factories”) to provide the Cherokees and the Creeks w ith manufactured goods at reasonable cost and a regularized market for furs and skins. It was hoped that such installations would lure the Indians away from whiskey dealers and foreign traders and, more broadly, promote their amity and allegiance to the U nited States. T his system was subsequently expanded to serve all the m ajor Indian tribes, and the factors at such posts were encouraged to provide agricultural implements and blacksm iths and other craftsm en to assist the Indians in adapting to a settled, productive life. By 1822, when Congress yielded to pressures from private trading interests and abolished this factory system, twenty-two posts had been established, although no more than thirteen were in operation at any one time. But even shorn o f this specific com m ercial dim ension, Indian agents rem ain­ ing at these and other locations were charged with doing all they could “to prom ote civilization among friendly Indian tribes.” Furthermore, in 1815 an aggressive new superintendent o f Indian A ffairs began to foster a system o f regular schools, oper­ ated by various Protestant m issionaries. In so doing, the government enlisted willing allies and resources in a task Congress would never support with adequate fonds. A s Francis Paul Prucha has noted, this was accepted as a natural and necessary partnership: “It was quietly understood, by government officials as well as by church leaders, that the Am erican civilization offered to the Indians was Chris­ tian civilization, that Christianity was a component o f civilization and could n ot and should not be separated from it.” By the early 1820s there were about thirty schools in operation, partially subsi­ dized by the government, and their number soon increased as the enthusiasm for and urgency o f the task mounted. These ostensibly benign institutions o f commerce and philanthropy were not the principal instruments o f official Am erican presence and pressure. They existed within the framework and often within the very shadow o f frontier military posts, and the pattern and power o f these reflected m ajor changes in Indian-W hite



relationships. A fter the wars o f 1812-18 there could no longer be any doubt about the ability o f the U nited States to dom inate its own national territory. The devastation o f the Creeks and Sem inóles and expulsion o f foreign traders from the southern m ainland, and the defeat o f Tecumseh and the failure o f the British to further their designs upon the Northwest marked an obvious and decisive shift in what had been an uncertain balance o f power. T he Indians had been dispossessed o f huge portions o f their lands, but the pressures for more were unrelenting. In his first annual message to Congress, in 1817, President Jam es M onroe reaffirmed the age-old aggressor’s principle that “no tribe or people have a right to withhold from the wants o f others more than is necessary for their support and com fort,” and the idea o f com prehensive government-sponsored displacem ent now cam e strongly to the fore in discussions o f Indian policy. In this, too, the government and religious leaders were closely associated, as especially notable in the work o f the geographerclergyman Jedediah M orse and o f the Baptist missionary Isaac M cCoy, each o f whom undertook an extensive reconnaissance o f Indian tribes and western lands and presented elaborate proposals to federal officials. In December 1824, twenty-one years after Jefferson had envisioned it, President M onroe put before Congress a formal proposal for the removal o f Indians to a western sanctuary, together with a program to help them respond to the demands o f the m odem world: Between the limits of our present states and territories, and the Rocky Mountains and Mexico, there is a vast territory to which they might be invited, with inducements which might be successful. It is thought, if that territory should be divided into districts, by previous agreement with the tribes now residing there, and civil govern­ ments be established in each, with schools for every branch of instruction in litera­ ture, and in the arts of civilized life, that all the tribes now within our limits might be drawn there. T h e superintendent o f Indian A ffairs reported that about 130,000 Indians were dren residing within the organized states and territories, distributed among sixtyfour tribes or rem nants o f tribes (his enum erations are now generally considered to be som ewhat short o f the actual populations, but there remains much disagreement about specific cases). Those long encapsulated on tiny reserves in the eastern states were o f little concern, but even the sm allest groups west o f the m ountains were considered to be candidates for relocation. By this time the M ississippi River was no longer the obvious divide for such a separation o f peoples. T he State o f M issouri (1821) and the Territory o f Arkansas (1819) had been created west o f the river. North o f M issouri all was still Indian Country, and so, in effect, was much o f the area east o f the M ississippi. Although placed w ithin the bounds o f a vast M ichigan Territory in 1818, most o f the lands west o f Lake Huron and Lake M ichigan contained no Am erican settlers, and the



idea o f creating a formal Indian protectorate in this northwest region was now seriously advocated by various interests, governmental and private, Indian and W hite. Now that the foreign threat in this sector seemed elim inated (British traders were excluded and Am erican fur com panies had taken over all commerce and contact), these northern woods seemed an obvious possibility for an Indian refuge. Jedediah Morse strongly urged it, following his extensive tour o f 1820. H e envisioned the area studded with sm all communities o f Indians under the care o f "Education Fam ilies." Each settlem ent would have its own church, school, and industries under the tutelage o f dedicated m issionaries, teachers, and agents. E ven' tually there would be a “great central college” to serve the needs o f an Indian state. His concept has been likened to that o f the Spanish missions; he must have been directly influenced by the ready exam ples o f the Stockbridge and the O neida Indians. T he Stockbridge, made up o f remnants o f the M ahicans and others devastated in colonial and intertribal wars and long under Christian acculturation, had left their western M assachusetts village in 1783 and come to die O neidas in central New York. In 1818 m ost o f them had moved on to W isconsin, having negotiated with the W innebagos and M enominees for a tract near G reen Bay. Soon a faction o f the O neidas, under the influence o f a strong Episcopalian lay missioner, was preparing to do the sam e. Thus by the voluntary action o f the Indians them selves, the Northwest was already serving in a sm all way as a refuge area, and in his bill detailing Monroe’s general proposal, Secretary o f W ar John Calhoun formalized it as such. Calhoun’s successor, Jam es Barbour, did the sam e in the following year, specifying m ost o f M ichigan Territory west o f Lake Huron as an area as yet unsought and not likely to be strongly desired by W hite settlers. A side from a few rem nants o f Delawares and W yandots in O hio, the Indians considered most obviously appropriate for removal to such a Northwest protector' ate were those who still hung on to attractive lands along the southern margins o f that large region. The O hio Valley had been cleared o f Indian tenure in the years just before 1812. A fter the war (and Tecumseh’s death) Am erican pressures were strongly reasserted, and by 1821 most o f Indiana and Illinois and a large part o f M ichigan had been ceded. T h at left the Potawatomi, on the S t. Joseph and Kankakee rivers along the southern end o f Lake M ichigan, and the Sauk, anchored on the Rock River just to the west, as the obvious targets for the next phase o f Am erican expansionism , to which may be added sm all reserves o f the M iam i Indians along the W abash and two bands o f the Kickapoo who had ceded, but not wholly departed from, locales along the W abash and the Sangam on. These were Algonkian tribes o f generally sim ilar economy and society. They lived by summer agriculture and winter hunting, supplemented by fishing, fowling, and gathering, shifting with the seasons from their substantial villages along the rivers to tempo­ rary hunting cam ps, making use o f forest and prairie and open woodlands. In good



years the yields from such an economy could be more than adequate, and surplus maize and other foods as well as furs and skins might be traded to nearby W hites. A ll lived in active connection with the Am erican economy, dependent upon traders for took, arm s, cloth, and other supplies. A nd all were intent upon rem ain' ing Indian and sustaining their specific identity, even though every tribe was deeply divided as to how best to do so. There were extreme nativists and extreme civiliza' tionists and many gradations in between, as well as special kinds o f responses, such as the emergence o f charism atic religious leaders who preached new moral codes and special destinies. Several decades o f pressures and harassm ents had already produced what would become a characteristic Algonkian adaptation among the Shawnees and Kickapoo (and soon to be apparent among the Sauk, Fox, and the Siouan W innebago): a propensity to move, often long distances and necessitating severe econom ic and social adjustm ents, not just under direct W hite coercion but on their own volition in order to keep “out o f the meshes o f the settled life, where Am ericans d om in ated,. . . [to be] able to pick and choose what they wanted to add to their way o f life." (T he sketch o f Kickapoo displacem ents in figure 8 shows only the more prom inent relocations within a much more com plex, far-ranging sequence o f movements by a people unusually resistant to Am erican incorpora' tion .) T h e succession o f proposals to create a Northwest Indian Territory never got through Congress (although Calhoun's bill passed the Senate), and the fate o f the Indians in this region was decided in the usual Am erican way: by uncontrolled encounter, bloodshed, and coercion. The lead deposits in the Driftless A rea (an “island" o f rugged hill country that escaped the tremendous sm oothing forces o f the continental glacier) along the upper M ississippi, long known and casually worked, suddenly became the scene o f intense activity in the 1820s. T his had followed hard upon the opening o f m ost o f Illinois to land seekers and the well-advertised success o f a Kentucky promoter who had arrived in 1822 with a large retinue o f miners and slaves. T he town o f G alena, perched steeply on the terraces o f the Fever River with steam boat connections to S t. Louis, becam e the m ain focus o f a surge o f fortune seekers. Indian agents worked intently to gain cessions and arrange for the removal o f tribes to lands west o f the M ississippi, but they could not clear the way fast enough to avert collision. T he situation was com plicated by the return from Iowa of one faction o f the Sauk to their old homeland along the Rock River. By 1830, some 10,000 W hites had swarmed into the district; unrestrained by any territorial or national force, they trespassed widely on Indian lands and so wantonly pillaged villages and fields as to drive these Sauk into retaliation, which action dragged on into what was called the Black Hawk War, resulting in the killing o f several hundred W hites and the near annihilation o f that large part o f the Sauk tribe. By the tim e th is bloody mess was over an Indian Removal Bill had passed Congress,



and all the tribes o f the Northwest were pressured into a series o f large cessions that culm inated, after a long holdout, in the ousting o f the W innebago from central W isconsin. W ith that, two sm all enclaves negotiated by the O neidas and the Munsees and a scattering o f Chippewa bands in the remote northern woods were all



that remained o f the large de facto Indian territory and the prospective Northwest Indian protectorate o f twenty years earlier. In the Southwest (as the G eorgia'M ississippi area was often still called) the situation, sequence, and results o f Am erican-Indian relations were broadly sim ilar but with im portant differences in detail. M ost o f the some 60,000 Indians here were long experienced in dealing with W hites. They had been initiated by de Soto’s brutal foray through their territories in the 1540s; they had been partici­ pants, willing or unwilling, in the com plicated European rivalries for position and control on the G ulf C oast; they had been in sustained contact with W hite traders for at least 150 years. Inevitably, they had been deeply affected by such experi­ ences: they had incorporated many European items— plants, anim als, tools, tri­ fles, clothing, words, concepts— into their lives; their econom ies had been crit­ ically altered and in various degrees bound into the Euro-American system; they had received many European persons (as well as runaway A fricans) into their society, and the offspring o f such racial mixtures were often prominent leaders, members, and som etim es whole factions o f these nineteenth-century nations. They were the “Civilized Tribes,” a name bestowed upon them in recognition o f their native sophistication as well as their “progressive” response to European contact; it was also im plicit recognition that in spite o f all that contact and change they remained implacably Indian societies and formidable adversaries. T he decisive prelude to removal was the Creek wars o f 1812-14, which shat­ tered the largest confederation and forced great cessions o f lands from all the main tribes. But other antecedents also influenced the idea and geography o f relocation. In the afterm ath o f the Am erican Revolution, a few sm all bands o f Indians who had fought against the rebels had sought refuge across the M ississippi in Spanish Louisiana. In 1808 a delegation o f Cherokee leaders had visited Jefferson, and one conservative group (opposed to the cultural adaptation program then vigorously underway) had received the president’s strong encouragement (and subsidy) to inspect lands between the A rkansas and W hite rivers. N o concerted removal followed immediately, but a trickle began to flow west, and ten years later there were 2 ,0 0 0 -3 ,0 0 0 in what became known as the W estern Cherokee band in Arkansas Territory. Following the Creek wars, the U nited States and the State o f G eorgia renewed pressures and inducements to get the entire Cherokee nation to move to A rkansas, where a tract was now formally set aside for them. T he great majority firmly refused, but some accepted Am erican subsidies and went west. During these sam e years some o f those in Arkansas grew dissatisfied with turbulent conditions there and moved on southwesterly into Spanish Texas. Such shiftings and scatterings were o f course nothing new, they were simply further reverbera­ tions o f the kind that had been rumbling westward from the first violent encounters between Europeans and Indians in A tlantic Am erica.



By the early 1820s the great Indian nations rem aining in d ie O ld Southwest had been reduced to a hard core o f tribal territories: two in the east, the Creeks in the Piedmont country east o f the C oosa and the Cherokees just above in the southern A ppalachians; and two in the west, the Choctaw s in the rolling red lands o f central M ississippi and the Chickasaw s on the loessial blufflands just to the north. T hese were ancient hom elands, with intensive agricultural plots and sprawling villages in some o f the same valleys, terraces, and open woodlands where de Soto had found them nearly 300 years before. Just such continuity in place undergirded the Indians' argument against rem oval. W hen in 1823 the federal government, at G eorgia's prodding, tried to open negotiations once again about moving to a transM ississippi sanctuary, Cherokee chiefs responded that Mit is the fixed and unalter­ able determ ination o f this nation never again to cede one foot o f land. ” T h at rebuff brought a warning from Secretary o f War Calhoun: “You must be sensible that it will be impossible for you to rem ain, for any length o f tim e, in your present situation, as a distinct society or nation, within the lim its o f G eorgia, or any other S tate ." To which the Cherokee leadership forthrightly replied: Sir, . . . we beg leave to observe, and to remind you, that the Cherokees are not foreigners, but original inhabitants of America; and that they now inhabit and stand on the soil of their own territory; and that the limits of their territory ate defined by the treaties which they have made with the Government of the United States; and that the States by which they ate now surrounded have been created out of lands which were once theirs; and that they cannot recognize the sovereignty of any State within the limits of their territory. Such an exchange pointed to the fundam ental issue in what was a three-party dispute involving the Cherokees, the State o f G eorgia, and the U nited States. In 1802, in order to resolve a long drawn-out conflict over G eorgia’s western land claim s, the U nited States had agreed to extinguish the Indian title to all lands within the state “as early as the sam e can be peaceably obtained on reasonable term s.” Such a pact was open to conflicting interpretations. The Cherokees had made it clear that they were not willing to give up title to their lands “peaceably . . . on reasonable term s." G eorgia insisted that they be expelled, accusing the central government o f negligence and overt discrim ination against a member state o f the federal union in not pressing, as required by the agreement, to end form al Indian control over any part o f G eorgia territory. Federal officials were caught in between, and indeed, the whole nation became caught up in the controversy. T he expulsion o f these southern Indians and especially the Cherokees, became a politi­ cal and moral issue o f intense debate in the national press, as well as in party and sectional politics, and it seriously strained relations among the executive, legisla­ tive, and judicial branches o f the federal government, as well as between W ash­ ington and the states.



Central to this com plex issue was die character and response o f the Cherokees during this tim e o f stress. U ntil well after the Am erican Revolution the Cherokees had adhered as best they could to a policy o f insulation from W hite societies. They did not hold themselves aloof from all contact but tried to be selective o f traders, unwelcoming to m issionaries, and to fend off officials who sought to lure their support in extraneous political and m ilitary causes. They were not wholly success' ful; they had suffered serious defeat from C arolina forces in the 1760s, but they long remained a substantial force lodged in a mountainous country under no serious threat from Indian neighbors and at some distance from European societies on the seaboard. Eventually, o f course, Am erican speculators and settlers, armed and aggressive, pressed in upon their borderlands from the east and north, and the Cherokees had slowly, grudgingly, given ground, shifting south and west. Only in (he early 1800s did they establish numerous villages in northwestern G eorgia (although that area had been part o f their hunting ground for centuries). A s this pressure intensified and the power o f the federal and state governments became ever more apparent, the Cherokees made a conscious collective effort to alter their tactics and try to remodel their economy, society, and polity in such a way as to survive intact within the body o f the Am erican republic. There followed a remarkable cultural florescence in response to this stim ulus o f pressures and contact. T he Cherokees, like all these southern Indians, had long been relatively intensive agriculturists with a diet and dom estic economy richly supplem ented by hunting and gathering (fishing was minor compared with their neighbors on the coastal plain). To this indigenous com plex they had readily added European and A frican crops (such as watermelons, peas, sweet potatoes, and peaches) and, more slowly, anim als (hogs and, less extensively, horses and cattle). They now began to incorporate new products and activities: plows, drawn by oxen or horses; cotton, with gins, household loom s, and spinning wheels; gristm ills, saw m ills, and sm ithies. T hese were accom panied by alterations in labor practices, with m ales joining fem ales in farming and industry and the extensive use o f Black slaves, and by some m odification o f traditional concepts o f wealth and property (capitalism had seeped into Cherokee society 100 years before as a response to the C h arleston market for deerskins and Indian slaves). Programmed changes in social and p o litical organization and operations followed. M issionaries were invited to set up sch ools, and Cherokee leaders soon took advantage o f the remarkable syllabary, created on his own initiative by Sequoyah, to spread literacy in Cherokee as well as in English. T he political structure was radically reorganized. A long trend toward greater centralization o f power was accelerated; the N ational Council was strength' ened in 1817, a constitution modeled on that o f the U nited States was later adopted, laws were codified and elections held, and a new national capital was laid out at N ew Echota. Such features were not simple im itations; there was an attem pt



to adapt them to use within a polity still suffused with Indian values, to operate as much as possible on a basis o f harmony, consensus, and community with a distaste for hierarchy and individual power. T he Cherokees were living refutations o f all those deeply ingrained and widely propagated European and Am erican ideas o f Indians as prim itives, savages, fo o t' loose hunters— wild people. Their dom estic economy was certainly equal, and probably superior, to that o f most southern W hite pioneers; their society, though (fictionalized, was more orderly and less volatile; their official behavior sought to be scrupulously legal according to Am erican standards. Many federal officials and congressmen supported the Cherokees in their insistence that they could not be removed without their consent. But a quick sequence o f events decisively altered the situation. First cam e the election o f Andrew Jackson as president, soon fol­ lowed by the rush into the Dahlonega goldfields within the Cherokee lands, and the extension o f G eorgia law over all G eorgia territory, with specific provision to exclude all Indians and their properties from its protection. W hereas John Q uincy Adams had warned the State o f G eorgia not to press its jurisdiction upon Cherokee lands in violation o f federal treaties with the Indians, Jackson was an open advo­ cate o f rem oval, by coercion if necessary, dism issing such treaties as no more than a temporizing action now made obsolete by the strength o f the U nited States. T he Indian tribes east o f the M ississippi, he stated forthrightly, “are a conquered & dependent people,” and the federal principle required that the central government sustain any state in the exercise o f its right to regulate civil affairs within its own lim its. W ith such encouragem ent, G eorgia proceeded to exercise such rights, and the clash o f authorities together with the ensuing rush into the goldfields produced chaos. Am id this crisis (and extrem e pressures upon the other large southern tribes as w ell), Congress, after one o f the most impassioned debates in its forty years, passed (barely) the Indian Removal Bill in May 1830. Although that bill made no mention o f coercion, it was clear that the Jackson adm inistration would use what­ ever means necessary to expel the Indians from the bounds o f the southern states and territories. The subsequent history is not one that most Am ericans, then or thereafter, have cared to think about too closely. T he Cherokees appealed to the U nited States Supreme Court, to no avail. It was ruled that the Indians were “domestic depen­ dent nations” and had no legal right to bring suit for injunction against G eorgia laws; in a subsequent case it was decided that the Cherokees were indeed a nation, “a people distinct from others,” and were protected by federal treaties horn uncon­ stitutional infringements by G eorgia, but Jackson refused to enforce the court’s ruling. T he result o f this testing o f forces and wills was widespread plunder and seizure o f Cherokee villages, farms, and lands by local W hites, a splintering o f Cherokee resistance, a treaty o f cession o f all Cherokee lands extracted by federal



officials from a sm all minority group, rejection o f that treaty and continued refusal to move by the great majority, and eventual removal by the U .S . Army o f this main body o f the Cherokee nation to a western reserve. “Rem oval" was in detail a series o f forced expulsions and m igrations over a period o f several years, under harrowing circum stances that cost several thousand Cherokee lives, a melancholy drama that becam e fixed in Indian— and more recently, Am erican— history as the Trail o f Tears. A few Cherokees fled into the mountains and escaped military patrols and eventually settled down among the sixty or so fam ilies that had accepted individual allotm ents in ceded lands under the laws o f N orth Carolina and were thereby exem pt from the expulsion order. T his rem nant, a markedly conservative group long marginal to the main body, became the nucleus o f the Eastern Band o f the Cherokees that eventually secured a sm all reservation in the G reat Sm okies. In the west, three leaders who had signed the removal treaty were soon assassinated and the bitter factionalism would smolder for generations. T h e Cherokee case was the most notorious o f the time and region, made so by the unusual qualities and drama o f that nation’s attem pts to adapt and resist, and its failure and heavy human cost, but the pressures and results were not generally dissim ilar in the cases o f the Creeks, Choctaw s, and Chickasaws. These nations, too, claim ed to be distinct bodies o f peoples with formal treaty guarantees from the U nited States and not subject to the laws o f the states o f M ississippi or A labam a; they, too, rejected removal but soon found themselves under intolerable pressures, deliberately unprotected by the states, factionalized by intolerable choices. The Chickasaw s fared better than m ost by accepting temporary allotm ents in place and then selling out and moving west a few years later. T he Choctaw experience was more like that o f the Cherokees. They were skilled negotiators in W ashington but unable to stem the local forces arrayed against them. A bout a third o f this relatively large nation (20,000 or so people) chose to accept a treaty offer o f local allotm ents but were largely defrauded o f these by the local agent and other speculators. Eventually about two-thirds o f the Choctaw s were pressured out (and suffered severely from unseasonable weather en route west), and the thousands who re­ m ained scattered into the swamps, canebrakes, and backcountry in search o f refuge. T he experience o f the Sem inóles was significantly different. They had already been “removed” once, having been driven from northern Florida in 1816-18 into an official reserve in the center o f the peninsula on lands o f little attraction to W hites and shut off from the coast so as to preclude foreign contact. T h at proved to be such a niggardly environm ent and the plight o f the Indians was so severe that in response to their pleas the U nited States twice modified the northern boundary to give them a bit o f cultivable land. There could be no pretense about a primitive people holding valuable ground “to no good nor profitable use.” Nevertheless,



passage o f the Indian Rem oval Bill brought immediate pressure on the Sem inóles to cede these lands and move west. For the national government such action was simply a logical part o f a comprehensive program for "solving” the “Indian prob­ lem” with the added advantage o f clearing Florida o f such dissident peoples, for Florida was bordered by British and Spanish waters, and as a federal Indian agent remarked, “it was a misfortune to Florida as a frontier Territory and with her maritime exposure to have any Indians within her boundaries.” A s elsewhere, o f course, the m ain pressure was local, from those who wanted not only to get rid o f all Indians but, in this case particularly, “to gain possession o f the blacks among them and to close off Florida as a place to which their own slaves could escape and find refuge." Forays by W hites to retrieve runaways had been a chronic source o f irritation with the Sem inóles. T he Sem inóles repudiated a fraudulent treaty o f cession in 1832. Two years later the immediate threat o f forced removal induced them to kill a federal agent and ambush a company o f U .S . troops, and there ensued a guerrilla war in the thickets and swamps that lasted seven years, costing from battle, disease, and privation the lives o f 1,500 Am erican soldiers and probably that many Sem inóles, at an expense to the U nited States o f at least $20 m illion (som e say $30 m illion or more, but a staggering sum, whatever— more than the cost o f Louisiana, several tim es the cost o f Florida). T he Sem inole War became a national embarrassment, and to many Am ericans a national tragedy. A fter two years o f frustration the Am erican general in charge in the field concluded that removal was im practicable and the war a useless waste: “We have com m itted the error o f attem pting to remove them when their lands were not required for agricultural purposes; when they were not in the way o f white inhabitants; and when the greater portion o f their country was an unexplored wilderness, o f the interior o f which we were as ignorant as o f the interior o f C h in a.” But the secretary o f War replied that the treaty (ratified, as usual, under duress by a tiny minority) was the law o f the land and no authorization for the Sem inóles to remain in Florida could be made. T h at general was soon replaced by another, but none o f his successors could really finish the job. T he war never clearly ended (although in 1842 the U .S . Army declared that it had); it simply petered out as the resolute rem nant o f a few hundred Indians faded into the labyrinth o f hammocks, jungles, and swamps o f the southern peninsula (a truce signed with the descen­ dants o f that defiant group in 1934 was hailed as the official close o f hostilities— 100 years after they had begun). The result o f this protracted campaign was the capture, in total, o f about 3,200 Sem inóles, groups o f whom were from tim e to time shipped off to a concentration cam p in New O rleans, and eventually upriver to Little Rock and on to an assigned tract in the west. T his dribble o f Sem inole deportees was part o f the last phase o f government-



sponsored removal o f Indians from lands east o f the M ississippi. T he intent o f Jefferson’s vision o f "tem pting all our Indians . . . to the W est,” formalized in M onroe's proposal o f 1824, had been ruthlessly carried out by Jackson and his successor Van Buren in the 1830s. In such a sequence the election o f the aged W illiam Henry Harrison, famed warrior o f Tippecanoe, to the Am erican presidency in 1840, could be seen as a fitting finale to a great national project (even though he was the figurehead o f a new anti'Jacksonian party). Rem oval was o f course only h alf o f this immense project. There had to be a resettlem ent o f those removed— or, more exactly, o f those that survived the ex­ odus, the deadly "m iddle passage” across the Am erican states and territories. T he citizens o f M issouri and A rkansas deplored the idea o f adding more Indians to their western frontier but were eager to clear their own territories. Thus the first negoti­ ated removals undertaken by the federal government involved eastern Indians already west o f the M ississippi who had crossed the river years earlier (such as the C ape Girardeau Shaw nees). A t the sam e time the federal government pressured the Kansa and O sage tribes into further large cessions o f their traditional lands in order to make space for such relocations. T he western boundary o f M issouri had been drawn along a meridian passing through the mouth o f the Kansas River. In 1828 the western boundary o f Arkansas was shifted east and brought into an approxim ate continuation o f that line. T he original plan called for a longitudinal "neutral zone” five m iles wide between this western edge o f M issouri and Arkansas and th e "Perm anent Indian fron tier,” to be m aintained as a buffer and patrol path in w hich settlem ent by either W hites or Indians would be prohibited. T h at con­ cept was soon abandoned as unworkable. T he change in the western lim its o f A rkansas was made in conjunction with the creation o f a large reserve into which the W estern Cherokees, com ing under heavy pressure from W hites filling in the A rkansas Valley west o f Little Rock (some o f whom had been squatters there before the Cherokees had been given rights to the area), would remove altogether from A rkansas territory (fig. 9). By the time the general Indian Removal Bill had been enacted, therefore, a large sanctuary and program for resettlem ent had been defined and in some degree tested. In general terms there was to be latitudinal continuity: tribes from north o f die O h io River were to be relocated on tracts north o f the Osage reserve and those from south o f the O hio on tracts lying between the O sages and the Red River boundary with Texas. There was an obvious broadly deduced and often implied environm ental logic underlying this, but in fact the decisive factor was the in­ sistence by N orthern congressmen that Cherokees and Choctaws and other slaveholding southern tribes be confined to the southern sector o f this new western protectorate (though such tribes were not in fact held south o f the 36°30'N line designated in the perilous national compromise o f 1820).



The qualities o f this extensive range o f western country were much discussed during the fervent debates over rem oval, and the proposed exodus made biblical allusions irresistible: “It is true,” said Mr. Vinton o f O hio (a leading spokesman for the opposition) that “the children o f Israel were led out o f the wilderness, into a land flowing with milk and honey; but, contrary to the Divine exam ple, we propose to lead a whole People, nay, more, the rem nants o f forty different nations of men, out o f a land o f plenty, into the w ilderness." Such metaphors beclouded understanding. Although the exiled Indians could hardly be expected to regard their new lands as an equivalent o f their old, these western tracts were flu from being an unknown wilderness. Many traders and travelers were fam iliar with them, Isaac M cCoy filed reports, and the federal government gathered inform ation from various sources. In 1832 the War Depart­ ment dispatched a special com m ission to “exam ine the country set apart for the emigrating Indians” with an eye to locating them all “in as favorable positions as possible, in districts sufficiently fertile, salubrious, and extensive, and with bound­ aries, either natural or artificial, so clearly defined as to preclude the possibility o f dispute.” Their report in 1834 was accom panied by a new “Map o f the W estern Territory,” prepared by Lieutenant Hood o f the Topographic Bureau, on which a “W estern boundary o f habitable land” was laid down (on the basis o f M cCoy's assessm ents) delim iting a longitudinal belt about 200 miles wide between the Platte River on the north and the Red River on the south. It was widely agreed that this strip o f well-watered country, grading out from woodlands and tall prairies on the east through scattered groves and valley strips to open rolling prairie was eminently suitable for settlem ent. T he only deficiency, voiced by som e, was the scarcity o f timber in its western reaches. T h at the eastern Indians could survive on the resources o f such country without severe adjustm ent seemed apparent from the economies o f the O sage, Kansa, O to, and Om aha resident there. Indeed, some o f these Siouan tribes had them selves once lived well to the east in the wetter and more wooded environm ents o f the O hio and M ississippi valleys. A n im portant difference in subsistence patterns was the dependence o f these Indians on seasonal buffalo hunts, and by dividing this belt into latitudinal territories sim ilar access to the buffalo range could be given to the newly relocated Indians. In the 1830s, therefore, the U nited States formalized a large sector o f its western borderlands in unprecedented ways. A broad belt o f country between the Platte and the Red River was set apart as the “Indian Territory” or “W estern Territory" (a congressional denom ination o f “Neosho” for the whole area did not reach enact­ m ent) and subdivided into a set o f territorial allotm ents to accom modate a great variety o f Indian groups. These peoples were divided into two basic categories: “indigenous village” tribes and “emigrant” tribes. The former included the O sage, Kansa, and O to; the latter, by 1840, included about two dozen tribes removed from


U 4 "Permanent Indian Frontier"

White settlement c. 1840

-------- Slate/territorial boundary

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Emigrant tribes

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Ft. Towson Fulton

REPUBLICVOF. TEXAS 9. Western Territory, c. 1840. The numbers in the smaller areas refer to the Indians so identified in table 1.




lands to the east. A ll o f these allotm ents were anchored on the eastern margins o f this belt, giving rise to a series o f loose settlem ent dusters along the Nem aha, Kansas, upper O sage, middle N eosho, lower N eosho, Canadian, and Kiam ichi rivers. Each district was in a subagency serving one or more tribes, each had one or more licensed trading posts, m ission schools, and other facilities provided by the various removal and reduction treaties. The larger o f these reserves extended in long, narrow strips westward into buffalo country. There on the high open ranges lived the “Plains T ribes," notably the Com anche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, A rapahoe, and Pawnee, with whom the U nited States was only beginning to make official contact and had as yet negotiated no territorial cessions (other than an agreem ent by the Pawnees to withdraw, except for seasonal hunts, from south o f the Platte River). Such a drastic and intricate alteration o f human geography obviously required extensive oversight by the m anaging power. In this, too, beginnings had been made some years before the formal removal program. In 1808, Fort O sage had been established up the M issouri 200 m iles directly west from S t. Louis. For ten years it was the farthest Am erican outpost and a focal point o f diversifying W hite-Indian activities. In tim e, sim ilar outposts were set up to the south on the A rkansas and on the Red River, and farther up the M issouri to the north at Council Bluffs. A s the idea o f a permanent Indian frontier began to emerge, two substantial new posts were established: Fort Leavenworth on the M issouri (replacing Fort O sage and Council Bluffs), and Fort G ibson, near the head o f steam boat navigation on the Arkansas (replacing Fort Sm ith ). In the 1830s these became the principal im perial centers for the northern and southern sectors o f the newly defined Indian territory, and they thereby became pivotal posts within any larger strategic design (fig. 10). The need for such a design was generated by this unprecedented frontier situa* tion. In the succession o f proposals for expansion and rationalization o f the entire western defense system (which heretofore had been developed in piecem eal fash* ion), two quite different concepts emerged. O ne was essentially longitudinal, calling for a cordon o f posts from the border o f Texas to the upper M ississippi, connected by a good road to provide for routine patrols in the policing o f the border between the Indians and the W hites and the swift shifting o f troops to any imper* iled sector. T he com peting concept was primarily latitudinal in design, stressing the need to connect a series o f outposts by m ilitary road and steam boats (or railroads, as proposed by one percipient strategist o f 1838) with larger garrisons and depots secure within the body o f the nation at S t. Louis, M emphis, and Baton Rouge. O ut o f a welter o f discussions by various congressional com m ittees and W ar Department adm inistrations som ething o f both o f these designs was adopted. By the early 1840s a m ilitary road from Fort Towson on the border o f Texas to Fort Snelling had been com pleted, with Fort Scott positioned about midway between

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