During the American Revolution, when General Washington had asked General Wayne to undertake an extremely perilous enterprise – the storming of Stony Point, Wayne replied ‘General, I will storm Hell, if you will only plan it.’
By Gerald B. Therrien Jr.
Section 1 – The Western Frontier
1.1 – The British Refusal, February 28th 1786
Despite the signing of the Definitive Treaty of Peace, Britain still held on to the upper posts in Canada.
On May 1st 1783, Congress resolved ‘that the Secretary of War take the most effectual measures to inform the several Indian nations, on the frontiers of the United States, that preliminary articles of peace have been agreed upon, and hostilities have ceased with Great Britain, and to communicate to them that the forts within the United States, and in possession of the British troops, will speedily be evacuated; intimating also that the United States are disposed to enter into friendly treaty with the different tribes; and to inform the hostile Indian nations that unless they immediately cease all hostilities against the citizens of these states, and accept of these friendly proffers of peace, Congress will take the most decided measures to compel them’.
General Lincoln, the Secretary of War, sent Major Ephraim Douglass on a trip to Indian country, to meet with them, to tell them of the peace, and to convey to them the good intentions of Congress. Douglass left Fort Pitt on June 7th, arrived at Detroit on July 4th and met the British commander, De Peyster. At an Indian council on July 6th, De Peyster read Douglass’s instructions from Congress to the Indians but Douglass was not allowed to speak to them. Sailing from Detroit, Douglass arrived at Fort Niagara on July 11th, and met Maclean, the new British commander, and with John Butler of the British Indian Department and Joseph Brant of the Iroquois, but he wasn’t allowed to talk with any of the Indians or visit any of their villages.
On July 12th, General George Washington sent Baron von Steuben to Canada to confer with the British Governor of Canada, Haldimand, ‘for receiving possession of the posts now under his command within the territory ceded to the United States … and from which his Majesty’s troops are to be withdrawn’. On August 6th Steuben arrived at Sorel and met with Haldimand who refused to surrender the posts without instructions from the British ministry – fearing that if the British vacated the posts, there would be reprisals from the Indians who would feel abandoned, and Haldimand ordered the posts to be defended at all costs.
The British wished to maintain their control over the Indians and to forestall any councils of peace between the Indians and the Americans. Sir John Johnson, head of the British Indian Department, first met in July at Niagara with their Iroquois allies, assuring them of continued British patronage and seeking their aid in the establishment of a grand alliance of the western tribes. Travelling to Detroit to attend the grand council were Mr. Dease of the Indian Department accompanied by Joseph Brant and a Mohawk delegation. The council was attended by delegates of the Wyandot, Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo, Ottawa, Chippawa, Potawatomi, Creek and northern Cherokee nations. Presiding over the meeting on September 6th, Alexander McKee read aloud a letter from Johnson, that assured the Indians that the ‘right of Soil belongs to and is in yourselves as Sole Proprietor as far as the boundary line agreed upon … in 1768 at Fort Stanwix’. In other words, the British were recognizing the boundaries of the Quebec Act – as if 8 years of war and the treaty of peace had not changed a thing!!!
On November 27th, Haldimand wrote to Lord North, Secretary for the Colonies, that
in case things should proceed to extremities the event, no doubt, will be the destruction of the Indians but during the contest not only the Americans, but perhaps many of His Majesty’s subjects will be exposed to Great Distresses. To prevent such a disastrous event as an Indian war, is a consideration worthy of both nations and cannot be prevented so effectually as by allowing the Posts in the Upper Country to remain as they are for some time’.
On April 8th 1784, Sydney, the new Secretary for the Colonies, replied to Haldimand,
With regard to your refusing a compliance with the desire of Major General Baron de Steuben for delivering up to him the Posts within the Limits of the United States, you are certainly justified in every part of your proceedings, even if you had been in possession of the Definitive Treaty of Peace. The 7th Article stipulates that they shall be evacuated with all convenient speed, but no certain time is fixed, And as America has not, on her part, complied with even one Article of the Treaty, I think we may reconcile it in the present instance to delay the Evacuation of those Posts, at least until We are enabled to secure the Traders in the Interior Country and withdraw their Property. The management of the Indians requires great attention and address, in This Critical Juncture, but I am persuaded that our retaining possession of those Posts will not even be detrimental to America, and may be the means of preventing mischiefs which are likely to happen, should the Posts be delivered up whilst the resentment of the Indians continues at so high a pitch.’
Sydney wrote this letter, mere days before the British parliament ratified the Definitive treaty of peace on April 9th, showing that the British had already decided to hold onto the Posts, before they ratified the treaty.
The Continental Congress, in attempting to deal with the economic crisis, would try to establish a plan to bring the western territory into the union and to establish the way that the territory would be surveyed and sold, in order to raise the funds necessary to run the government and begin to payoff the enormous debt of the new nation.
But, firstly, they needed the individual states to cede to the United States those territories that they had claimed, and, secondly, they needed to establish peace with the Indian nations. On March 1st 1784, Congress received the report from the committee for the western territory, and Congress resolved on the Land Ordinance for the Ohio country on April 23rd.
On June 3rd the Committee of States of Congress sent Colonel William Hull to Canada, to deliver a letter from Henry Knox, the Secretary of War, to Governor Haldimand. On July 12th, Haldimand received the letter, dated June 13th, ‘in order to ascertain the precise time when of the forts within the United States, now occupied by the troops of his Britannic Majesty shall be delivered agreeable to the definitive treaty of peace’. On July 13th, Haldimand replied that
Tho I am now informed by his Majesty’s Ministers of the ratification of the definitive treaty of peace, I remain in other respects, in the same I then was, not having received orders to evacuate the Posts which are within the limits assigned the treaty of peace to this province. It is impossible therefore to ascertain the time when the evacuation of these Posts shall commence”.
On October 15th, Haldimand wrote to De Peyster, at Detroit,
Finding from different Reports which have been circulated here by means of American News Papers & Travellers from their States, that Preparations are making for taking Possession of the Posts in the Upper Country, and as it is highly probable that the execution of this Measure with Respect to the manner & time of doing it, will turn upon the Result of the Meeting they are now holding with the Indians, the complexion of which will soon declare itself to you, I think it necessary to recommend to you every precaution that Can be taken for the security of the several Posts in the District of your Command … altho’ the definitive Treat of Peace has been communicated to me, I have not yet received Instructions nor the least Authority for evacuating the Posts – I am therefore determined upon no Account whatever to give up the Posts until I have received His Majesty’s Order for that Purpose.”
On November 16th, Governor Haldimand sailed from Canada to return to London – where he was made a Knight of the Bath.
In London, on March 16th 1785, Haldimand would present to Lord Sydney, ‘Memorandums respecting Public Matters in the Province of Quebec’. In this memorandum, he wrote of his continued support for retaining the frontier posts –
1st. Means the most probable to retain the Six Nations and Western Indians in the King’s Interest. The Indians of the Six Nations, the Oneidas excepted, having taken an early, and very sanguine part with Government have, by the fate of the war, and Treaty of Peace, forfeited their country, and many of them have been entirely driven out of it, with the loss of valuable settlements and stock. Seeing the policy, as well as necessity of providing a retreat for them, I made a purchase of a tract of land for that purpose, from the Chippawa and Messessague Nations on the north side of Lake Ontario … This settlement should meet with every indulgence and encouragement from Government, not only in consideration of their past services but in proportion as it shall be thought necessary to preserve the friendship of the Indians, in other words, the possession of the Upper Country and the Furr Trade. And these measures should be taken without delay; that the Indians may be comfortably established, and experience the sweets of the King’s protection before the posts shall be evacuated by us; otherwise even should we take post on the north side of the river, they will assuredly abandon us, and return to their former settlements, which the Americans already hold out to them in order to detach them from us … The conduct of the Western Indians, (tho’ infinitely a more numerous people) will always be governed by that of the Six Nations, so nice a management of them may not, therefore, be necessary …”
Meanwhile, the United States Congress would continue to negotiate peace treaties with the Iroquois confederacy and with the Indian nations of the Ohio country. On October 22nd 1784, at Fort Schuyler, the commissioners from Congress – Oliver Wolcott, Richard Butler and Arthur Lee, signed a peace treaty with the Iroquois Confederacy, that stated,
The United States give peace to the Senecas, Mohawks, Onondagas, and Cayugas, and receive them into their protection … The Oneida and Tuscarora nations’ (who had allied with the Americans) ‘shall be secured in the possession of the land on which they are settled’. The United States sought to re-establish peace among the Six Nations (both those who fought with the British and those who fought with the Americans), and didn’t expel them but forgave them, restoring to them the lands that they held before the war.
On January 21st 1785, the commissioners from Congress – Richard Butler, Arthur Lee and George Clark met with representatives of the Wyandots, Delawares, Chippewas and Ottawas, at Fort McIntosh, near Fort Pitt, and signed a peace treaty, whereby the Indian nations
do acknowledge themselves and all their tribes to be under the protection of the United States and of no other sovereign whatsoever’, and established the boundaries of the Wyandot and Delaware nations – an area roughly bounded by the Cayahoga and Tuscarawas rivers on the east, by the St. Marys and the Maumee rivers on the west, and by a line drawn from the abandoned Fort Laurens (on the Tuscarawas river) to the destroyed post of Pickawillany (on the Great Miami river) – and that the lands to the south of this area belong to the United States.
On January 31st 1786, the commissioners of Congress – General George Clark and Richard Butler, signed a peace treaty at Fort Finney with some of the chiefs of the Shawanoe, who agreed to
acknowlege the United States to be the sole and absolute sovereigns of all the territory ceded to them by the treaty of peace, made between them and the king of Great Britain’ and agreed to the boundary allotted for their lands – continuing the southern boundary line (of the Wyandot and Delaware nations) to the river de la Panse and the Wabash river – and relinquished all the lands to the south of this boundary to the United States.
On May 20th, Congress resolved on a new Land Ordinance for the western territories.
Earlier, on March 7th 1785, Congress had agreed to permit Dr. Franklin to return home to America, and on March 10th had appointed Thomas Jefferson to succeed Dr. Franklin as minister plenipotentiary to the court of France. Also on March 7th, Congress had agreed to
Instructions for a Minister Plenipotentiary appointed to represent the United States of America at the Court of Great Britain. Sir, you will in a respectful but firm manner insist, that United States be put without further delay in possession of all the posts and territories within their limits which are now held by British Garrisons.’ On March 14th Congress had appointed John Adams to be the minister plenipotentiary to the court of Great Britain.
On November 30th 1785, Adams wrote a memorial on the Evacuation of the Posts to the Marquis of Carmarthen, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that
although a Period of three Years, has elapsed, Since the Signature of the Treaty and of more than two Years, Since that of the Definitive Treaty, the Posts of Oswegatchy, Oswego, Niagara, Presque Isle, Sandusky, Detroit, Michillimachinac, with others not necessary to be particularly enumerated, and a considerable Territory round each of them, all within the incontestable Limits of the Said United States, are Still held by British Garrisons to the Loss and Injury of the said United States. The Subscriber therefore in the name and behalf of the said United States, and in obedience to their express Commands, has the Honour to require of his Britannic Majestys Ministry, that all his Majestys Armies and Garrisons, be forthwith withdrawn from the Said United States; from all and every of the Posts and Fortresses herein before enumerated, and from every other Port, Place, and Harbour, within the Territory of the Said United States, according to the true Intention of the Treaties aforesaid.”
On February 28th 1786, Carmarthen replied to Adams, that
The Fourth Article of the same Treaties as clearly stipulates, that Creditors, on either Side, shall meet with no lawful Impediment to the Recovery of the full Value, in Sterling Money, of all bona fide Debts heretofore contracted. The little Attention paid to the fulfilling this Engagement, on the Part of the Subjects of the United States in general, and the direct Breach of it in many particular Instances, have already reduced many of the King’s Subjects to the utmost Degree of Difficulty and Distress … I flatter myself however, Sir, that Justice will speedily be done to British Creditors; and I can assure You, Sir, that whenever America shall manifest a real Determination to fulfil her Part of the Treaty, Great Britain will not hesitate to prove her Sincerity, to cooperate in whatever Points depend upon her, for carrying every Article of it into real and compleat Effect.”
Britain was officially refusing to hand over the British-held posts to the United States, using the demand of reimbursing the tory debt, as the new excuse to hold on to the western posts.
1.2. The Northwest Ordinance, July 13th 1787
In August 1785, at an Indian Council at Niagara, it was decided to send a message to Congress asking that a delegation be sent to the Seneca village at Buffalo creek, to hear their complaints about the treaty they had signed at Fort Stanwix in October 1784.
After the council ended, Joseph Brant left to travel to Quebec, and in October he met with John Johnson, who had returned to Canada with new instructions for the Indian Department. Despite attempts by both Johnson and Lt-Governor Hope to convince him otherwise, Brant left on his own trip to London, accompanied by Captain Houghton, who was assigned to oversee him on his trip.
On January 4th 1786, accompanied by officers of the Indian Department – including Guy Johnson, Daniel Claus and John Butler, Brant met with Lord Sydney ostensibly to argue in favour of compensation for the Mohawks for losses suffered during the war – “their sufferings, losses and being drove from that country which their forefathers long enjoyed’, but also to sound out the British minister on the amount of assistance that might be expected in the event of a general Indian war against ‘the American States, who have surveyed and laid out great part of the lands in our country, on our side of the boundary line fixed at Fort Stanwix in 1765, the last time we granted any territory to the King’. The British government would award £15,000 in compensation to the Mohawks and £12,000 in compensation to the rest of the Iroquois, for services past, that was a great deal more than the compensation received by the Tories. Brant would also later receive half-pay, when in 1787 all Indian Department officers who had been reduced at the war’s end were given half-pay.
(Interestingly, Brant was somehow able to make a short trip to Paris in his quest to delve into ancient Indian customs and arts and religion, thinking that there might be something in the French archives that might solve the mystery of the great mounds that he had seen in the Ohio country.)
After a meeting of the Privy Council, and after the February 28th reply to John Adams’s memorial on the evacuation of the western posts, on April 6th, Sydney replied to Brant concerning
the desire of the confederacy to be informed what assistance they might expect from this country in case they should be engaged in disputes with the Americans relative to their lands, situated within the territory to which His Majesty has relinquished his sovereignty … but His Majesty, in consideration of the zealous and hearty exertions of his Indian allies in the support of his cause, and as a proof of his most friendly disposition toward them, has been graciously pleased to consent that the losses already certified by his Superintendent-General shall be made good … His Majesty recommends to his Indian allies to continue united in their councils, and that their measures may be conducted with temper and moderation; from which, added to a peaceable demeanor on their part, they must experience many essential benefits, and be most likely to secure to themselves the possession of those rights and privileges which their ancestors have heretofore enjoyed.’
Sydney also sent new instructions concerning Indian affairs to Colonel Hope, Lt-Governor of Canada:
To afford them open and avowed assistance, should hostilities commence, must at all events in the present state of this country be avoided; but His Majesty’s Ministers at the same time do not think it either consistent with justice or good policy entirely to abandon them, and leave them to the mercy of the Americans, as from motives of resentment it is not unlikely that they might hereafter be led to interrupt the peace and prosperity of the Province of Quebec. It is utterly impracticable for His Majesty’s Ministers to prescribe any direct line for your conduct should matters be driven to the extremity, and much will depend upon your judgement and discretion in the management of a business so delicate and interesting, in which you must be governed by a variety of circumstances which cannot at this moment be foreseen’.
By not issuing ‘any direct line for your conduct’, the British were maintaining a case of plausible deniability should an Indian war against the Americans break out. Since the British had signed a peace treaty with the United States, and since no British army reinforcements to the upper posts were forthcoming, then the Indians would have to form a barrier to check any American settlement of the Ohio country – by maintaining a formidable Indian Confederacy, and by granting the Indians supplies for defence. Indian favour could be purchased, through the fur trade, with supplies and presents and Indian allegiance fostered by the retention of the upper posts.
However, the British did not want a war against the United States, but only to create constant instability in the northwest territories.
By arming and supplying the Indians to continue their raiding into Kentucky and the Ohio country, the British, in effect, were furthering the conditions that would make new settlements impossible and make the western territory ungovernable, and were stopping the surveying and sale of the western lands by the United States, and thus preventing Congress from raising the funds needed to begin to manage their enormous war debts – ‘financial warfare’.
Back in Canada, in July Brant travelled to Niagara, to first consult with Major Archibald Campbell, the new British commander, and to attend an Iroquois council at Buffalo creek to report on his trip to Britain – that they could expect no military help from the British. Also attending the council, were delegates of the Wyandots, Chippewas, Ottawas, Potawatomies, Shawnees, Mingoes and northern Cherokees, who wished to make a common cause with the Iroquois against the American peace treaties. Cornplanter, from the Senecas, read a message to the council from Congress. It was decided to wait until the arrival of the new Governor, Sir Guy Carleton, and his advice, and that another council was to be held in the fall in Shawnee country. Brant and a delegation of 57 Iroquois would travel to Detroit to attend this ill-fated council.
On April 9th, Henry Knox, the Secretary at War, wrote a letter to Congress as to:
the posts necessary to be established on the frontiers’ and that the ‘idea of a general council or meeting with the Indians … would probably be the wisest and most economical mode, not only of avoiding hostilities at present, but of laying the foundations of a firm and durable peace’.
On April 20th, the Secretary at War, presented his report to Congress on the intrusions into the western territory,
that if the disposition, to seize the public lands, be not curbed in the first instance, in a manner demonstrative of the fixed purpose of government all future attempts to remove intruders may be abortive. Their numbers may be so great as to defy the power of the United States.’ And on April 25th, Congress received the report of the Committee on Ordinance for disposing of the Western Territory, and that the delay, caused by ‘the danger to which the surveyors are liable from the Indians, prevent their proceeding except when they can be covered by troops’.
But when the Americans requested that the Wabash Indians, along with the Miami and other western Indians, meet at the mouth of the Miami river to negotiate a peace treaty, no Indian nations attended. Soon however, Indian raids began against the frontier settlements of Virginia, committing murders and depredations against the inhabitants. The raiding parties were being supplied with weapons, ammunition and provisions by Colonel Alexander McKee, the deputy agent of the British Indian Department at Detroit.
In May 1786, Clark wrote to Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, about the continuing Indian raids (induced by the British at Detroit) against the Kentucky settlements, that ‘before the assembly meets, or any assistance can be got from congress on your making application to them for it, I doubt great part of these beautiful settlements will be laid waste, without protected by volunteers penetrating into the heart of the enemy’s country. Nothing else will do.’
Hearing that a large army of Indians were gathering at the upper Wabash for an attack on the Kentucky settlements, a council of officers of the district of Kentucky met at Harrodsburg on August 2nd and decided to make a campaign, under General George Clark, against the hostile Wabash Indians. Another campaign, under Colonel Benjamin Logan, was decided upon at a meeting in Danville, against the Shawnee Indians. Governor Henry approved of the action.
At the end of September, Colonel Benjamin Logan assembled 800 men at Maysville, and marched north against the Shawnee villages on the Mad river. On October 8th, Logan’s army attacked Mackachack – most of the warriors were away at the gathering on the Wabash – and over the next two days, they proceeded to attack another eight villages nearby, including Wapatomika and Wapakoneta, and destroyed a large amount of foodstuffs and fields of corn, killing 22 Indians and capturing 33 prisoners, before returning.
By September 10th, General Clark had assembled over 1000 militia at the falls of the Ohio and then moved across the wilderness to Vincennes, where they were joined by a number of the inhabitants. After a delay due to the late arrival of the supplies, sent by water down the Ohio river from the falls, they marched up the Wabash, with a view to attacking the Indians, especially those in the vicinity of Ouiatenon. They travelled as far as the villages at the mouth of the Vermilion river, that the Indians had deserted on the army’s approach, and due to the fatigue of the march and a lack of provisions, Clark decided to return.
At Vincennes on October 8th, with the approval of a council of officers, Clark enlisted 140 men to remain there as a garrison, to hold the neighbouring Indians in check, and also to re-establish law, order and good feeling to the inhabitants in the Illinois country. Being wholly destitute of money, provisions and supplies, (again with the approval of the council of officers, and with the prior approval given by Governor Henry), Clark impressed the property of a Spanish merchant, that was receipted and accounted for by the commissary. In the course of a month, Clark was to bring the whole of the Wabash Indians to agree to cease hostilities, putting off the signing of a treaty until it could be known from Congress what articles to agree to.
Brant and his Iroquois delegates had been waiting at the Shawnee town of Wapakoneta to await the assembling of the Indian council, but luckily they were away hunting when it was attacked by Logan and his army, and Brant and all of his party were able to escape. With the Shawnee towns in ashes, the council was removed to the Huron Village at the mouth of the Detroit river at the end of November, attended by delegates from the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawnees, Ottawas, Chippewas, Potawatomies, Miamis, northern Cherokees and also delegates from the Wabash Indians – the Wea and the Piankashaw. On December 18th, the council sent a letter to Congress proposing a peace treaty be held in the spring.
Brant and his party returned to Niagara where, on February 10th 1787, they held a council of the Iroquois Confederacy. The British asked them whether they would help defend the western posts if the Americans attacked and attempted to take the posts by force. The Indians instead replied that they had not received an answer as to whether the British would assist them, in case they were attacked by the Americans. The British could not start a war in the Indians’ behalf, but needed their help to keep possession of the posts.
Brant also wrote to Major Mathews, Haldimand’s former secretary, for an answer. Mathews replied that they
must see it is in his Lordship’s intention to defend the posts; and that while these are preserved, the Indians must find great security therefrom, and consequently the Americans greater difficulty in taking possession of their lands; but should they once become masters of the posts, they will surround the Indians, and accomplish their purpose with little trouble’.
Lord Dorchester had arrived at Quebec as the new Governor – along with his voluminous instructions, on October 23rd 1786. (Guy Carleton had been made Lord Dorchester, and had been appointed Governor-in-chief of all the British North American colonies; his brother, Colonel Thomas Carleton was appointed as the first Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick; and his nephew (and brother-in-law) Christopher Carleton was made the freemasonic Provincial Grand Master of Quebec.)
In a reply to his initial dispatches, Carleton received a letter from Sydney, dated September 17th 1787, ‘… it was the firm opinion of the King’s servants that the retaining the Possession of the Posts was a measure perfectly justifiable, and from the conduct observed since that time on the part of the American States, they have no reason to their sentiments upon that point. It therefore becomes necessary that steps should be taken by putting them into a temporary state of defense, to resist any attack which the citizens of the states may meditate and the sooner it can be done, the better … His Majesty’s servants, considering that the protection of the fur trade, and perhaps the general security of the Province of Quebec may, in some degree, may depend upon the part these people (i.e. the Indians) may take, would rather submit to an augmentation of such supplies, than suffer them to be discontented or dissatisfied, particularly at this moment when their active assistance may possibly be called for and which must happen should the Posts be attacked. It is to be hoped that the Americans will not proceed to hostile measures but if they should avail themselves of any opportunity which may offer of seizing upon the Posts, it will become your Lordship’s duty to use every endeavour to regain the possession of them if you should find yourself sufficiently strong to be able to effect it.’ The letter also approved of establishing a militia and of procuring a sufficient number of seamen to compose the crews of the vessels to be employed upon the lakes.
By November 1787, Dorchester reported that in Canada there were over 2000 regular troops and over 30,000 militia – 1300 regular troops, 1000 British militia and 25,000 (enforced) Canadien militia in Quebec, 50 regulars at Mackinac, 230 regulars and 840 militia at Detroit, 300 regulars and 450 militia at Niagara, 60 regulars at Carleton island, 20 regulars and 840 militia at Cataraquai, 50 regulars at Oswego, and over 1000 militia at the new townships at New Johnstown and New Oswegatchie.
After another council at Buffalo creek in May 1787, the Iroquois considered the promise they made to Congress binding and that they would not stir against the Americans until an answer to their message was forthcoming. Brant sent an account of this council to Richard Butler, the superintendent of northern department of Indian affairs, at Fort Pitt. Butler received Brant’s letter in early summer – the same day that he received the letter to Congress from the council at Detroit in December! The delivery of that letter had been delayed due to a famine among the western Indians. These letters were finally received by the Secretary at War, Henry Knox, on July 17th and presented the next day to Congress. On July 21st, Congress resolved to invite the hostile Indians ‘in a friendly manner to a treaty with the United States to hear their complaints, to know the truth and the causes of their quarrels with those frontier settlers’.
Days earlier on July 13th, Congress had passed ‘An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States north west of the river Ohio’ that provided for the appointment of a Governor, a Secretary and a Legislative Council, and for the election of a General Assembly, that would include ‘the French and Canadian inhabitants and other settlers of the Kaskaskies, Saint Vincent and the neighbouring villages, who have heretofore professed themselves citizens of Virginia’. This 1787 Ordinance replaced the Land Ordinance of May 27th 1785.
The surveying had started in September 1785 – beginning at the point where the western boundary of Pennsylvania touched the Ohio river, but was stopped and the surveyors returned to Fort Pitt, because of word of Indian attacks in the area. Construction had begun in October 1785 on Fort Harmar, near the mouth of the Muskingum river; and construction also had begun in October 1786 on Fort Finney, that was relocated, rebuilt and renamed Fort Steuben. The surveyors returned and were protected by the soldiers of the First American Regiment(1) under Colonel Josiah Harmar, as they patrolled the Ohio river valley and were also charged with burning and destroying any illegal homesteads.
With the surveying of this area between Pennsylvania and the Muskingum river, called the Seven Ranges, completed by July 1787, land sales were undertaken in New York in September. In late 1787, the first settlement in the Seven Ranges was started by Captain Absalom Martin, who had been part of the survey team, at ‘Martin’s Ferry’ along the Ohio river opposite Fort Henry at Wheeling. With the cession of western land claims by New York, Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut, Congress was now able to sell 913,833 acres, north of the Ohio river and west of the Seven Ranges, to the Ohio Company for $500,000. In April 1788, the first settlers, led by General Rufus Putnam, would arrive at the mouth of the Muskingum river, opposite Fort Harmar, and begin building cabins and a stockade, calling the new settlement ‘Marietta’. Another land sale was made to John Symmes of New Jersey and his friends of the Miami Company, of 330,000 acres between the Great Miami and the Little Miami rivers. In November 1788, a party of settlers, led by Major Benjamin Stites, would arrive at the mouth of the Little Miami river and begin a new settlement called ‘Columbia’. Late in December 1788, another party led by Matthias Denman and Robert Patterson, would arrive at a site opposite the mouth of the Licking river (7 miles from Columbia) and begin to build a settlement called ‘Losantiville’.
In October 1789, Harmar would begin the construction of Fort Washington to protect the settlers at the Miami Purchase. And thousands of settlers were also arriving at Fort Nelson (at Louisville), and at Limestone on their way to the Kentucky settlements south of the Ohio river. Passage down the Ohio could be made aboard the river schooner, named the ‘May Flower’.
On October 5th 1787, Congress elected Arthur St. Clair to be the governor for the western territory, and resolved
that a general treaty be held with the tribes of Indians within the limits of the United States inhabiting the country north west of the Ohio and about lake Erie … for the purpose of knowing the causes of uneasiness among the said tribes and hearing their complaints; of regulating trade and amicably settling all affairs concerning lands and boundaries between them and the United States’.
On September 20th, Congress received from the Convention of the States (that had met from May 25th until September 17th) a report, that included a letter from its president (George Washington) to the president of Congress (Arthur St. Clair), with the convention’s resolution and the proposed constitution. On September 28th Congress resolved ‘unanimously that the said report … be transmitted to the several legislatures in order to be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof in conformity to the resolves of the convention’.
On October 27th in the Independent Journal, appeared an article, signed Publius and addressed to the People of the State of New York, that proposed
in a series of papers, to discuss the following interesting particulars: The utility of the union to your political prosperity; the insufficiency of the present confederation to preserve that union; the necessity of a government at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the attainment of this object; the conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government; its analogy to your own state constitution; and lastly, the additional security which its adoption will afford to the preservation of that species of government, to liberty, and to property.’
This first letter, written by Alexander Hamilton, was to become the introduction to the 85 letters, written over the following ten months by Hamilton, along with James Madison and John Jay, later known as ‘The Federalist Papers’.
1.3. The Treaty of Fort Harmar, January 9th 1789
On June 7th 1787, Colonel Harmar left Fort Harmar on the Ohio river and travelled with over 300 troops to Fort Knox at Vincennes, a town of ‘900 French souls and 400 American souls’, where he had published the resolve of Congress respecting intruders on the public lands (in both English and French). He also met a small party of Indians and assured them of the friendly disposition of the United States and sent them with a message inviting all the chiefs of the different tribes on the Wabash river to a council meeting with him. While waiting for the Indians to assemble, he travelled to visit the French villages of Kaskaskia with 192 ‘old men and young’, Cahokia with 239 men, the small villages of Prairie de Rocher and St. Philip, and the small stockades of La Belle Fontaine and Grande Ruisseau, inhabited by Americans without authority. He also visited the Spanish commandants at their settlements at St. Louis and St. Genevieve. Upon returning to Kaskaskia, 150 Wea and Piankishaw Indians arrived and met with him and ‘expressed their determination to preserve perfect peace and friendship with the United States, as long as the water flowed.’ Harmar left a garrison at Kaskaskia and returned with his troops to Fort Harmar, arriving on November 13th. (While he was gone, Colonel Harmar had been made a Brevet Brigadier General.)
On January 27th 1788, four weeks after returning from his trip to Fort Pitt, Governor St. Clair wrote to Henry Knox, Secretary of War, about his efforts to arrange a meeting with the Ohio country Indians, that ‘from all accounts, there is a great deal of uneasiness amongst them and it is clear to me that if it cannot be removed a very general war will ensue … the falls of the Muskingum is fixed upon for the place of treaty and invitations have been sent by the superintendent to the different nations to meet us there on the 1st of May’. But the council would be postponed, due to delays both by the Americans and the Indians.
Late in May at Fort Pitt, St. Clair authorized the shipment of provisions for the intended treaty to the Falls of the Muskingum, 70 miles north of Fort Harmar, with an escort 23 men to begin to prepare for the council, by clearing away the brush and constructing the needed log houses and council house. On July 12th, a Chippewa war party surprised and attacked the escort, killing two and wounding three of them before they were able to answer fire, and then retreated into the brush. The American troops then abandoned the Falls of the Muskingum and returned to Fort Harmar. St. Clair sent a message to Detroit, to be forwarded to the Indians’ council that was to assemble at the Maumee Rapids in September, that chastised them for disrespect and unprovoked hostility, and that the meeting place would now be changed to Fort Harmar.
On July 26th, Governor St. Clair ordered the creation of Washington county (between the western border of Pennsylvania and the Scioto river) and commissioned justices of the peace, court judges and officers of the county militia that ‘the said county of Washington shall have and enjoy all and singular the jurisdiction, rights, liberties, privileges, and immunities whatsoever to a county belonging’.
After a July meeting of the Iroquois at Buffalo Creek, to settle a land sale to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts, one delegation of Mohawks under Joseph Brant and another delegation of Senecas under Cornplanter, left to travel westward to attend the meeting with St. Clair. Cornplanter and 36 Senecas arrived at Fort Harmar on September 9th, ready to meet with St. Clair, while Brant and his 275 Mohawks first travelled to Detroit to attend meetings with the Wyandots, Chippewas, Ottawas and Potawatomies, before departing for the Maumee Rapids (along with an officer of the British Indian Department) for a council with the other tribes of the western Indian confederacy – the Miamis, Shawnees and Kickapoos, to discuss the proposed meeting with St. Clair.
At the Maumee Rapids council, some favoured war while some favoured peace, and some wanted to repudiate the former peace treaties and to reopen the question of the boundary. Joseph Brant wanted to propose to the Americans, that the Indians would cede all the land east of the Muskingum and Tuscarawas rivers, and that the Americans would cede all the land west of the rivers as Indian territory. While the Hurons, Chippewas, Ottawas, Potawatomies, and Delawares were willing to join in the compromise, however, the Shawnees, Miamis and Kickapoos, who got the greatest part of their living from plundering the settlements, insisted on the Ohio river as the boundary. (In August, Alexander McKee, of the British Indian Department, had held a council with the Shawnee and told them not to go to the conference with St. Clair.) The Shawnees, Miamis and Kickapoos would not attend the council with St. Clair but returned to their homes. Brant and his Mohawks, along with the delegates of the other Indian nations travelled to the Muskingum Falls and sent a message to St. Clair, with their compromise proposal and with a request that the meeting place be returned to the Muskingum Falls.
But St. Clair’s instructions from Congress stated that the treaties which have been made may be examined but must not be departed from, unless a change in boundary beneficial to the United States can be obtained’(2) and so, he could not accept their compromise. This plan, to make the Muskingum river the new boundary, would mean giving up all of the Ohio country except for a small strip between the western border of Pennsylvania and the Muskingum river! The sale of these lands was intended to help the United States deal with its enormous debt. Congress had promised land grants to the veterans of the Continental army. When there were no settlements north of the Ohio country, the Indian raids were launched against the settlements south of the Ohio river, so why would the British now stop the raids against the new settlements? In other words, using the threat of Indian raids, the British would get the United States to give up all of the Northwest territory! (Remember how Dr. Franklin and the peace negotiators in Paris refused to budge one inch on the western boundary!) There could be no compromise.
On September 14th, St. Clair wrote to Knox, the Secretary of War, concerning the prospects for peace, that although
it appears that the Wyandots are well disposed themselves’ … and ‘the other nations will be here’ … ‘but a war with the western tribes, at least, seems inevitable both from the circumstances that there is no reason to expect them at the treaty, and from the intelligence General Harmar received two days ago’ –
the attack on the escort party that was preparing for the meeting at Muskingum Falls. St. Clair replied to the Indians that he would not return the meeting place to the Falls and the proposal was altogether inadmissible, and (correctly) accused them of being under undue British influence. Cornplanter and a few Seneca warriors, travelled to Muskingum Rapids to speak to the Indians there, and to urge them to come to the meeting with St. Clair. But Brant and his Mohawks refused to attend and left to return to Detroit. Upon meeting any Indian delegates that were on their way to the meeting, Brant urged them not to attend and to turn back. While Brant and his Mohawks returned to Canada, and while the Shawnees, Miamis and the Wabash Indians retuned to their homes, over 200 Indians did attend the council with St. Clair at Fort Harmar – the Delawares, Wyandots, Ottawas, Chippewas, Potawatomies, and Sacs, who were joined by Cornplanter and the Senecas and other members of the Six Nations.
On January 9th 1789, a treaty was signed at Fort Harmar that renewed and confirmed the treaty and boundary line that had been agreed to at Fort McIntosh by the Ottawas, Chippewas, Wyandots and Delawares, that the United States would also take into their friendship and protection the Potawatomies and Sacs, and that St. Clair would distribute $6000 worth of goods to them. A treaty was also signed at Fort Harmar with the Five Nations (minus the absent Mohawks) that renewed and confirmed the treaty and boundary line that they had agreed to at Fort Stanwix in October 1784, and also that St. Clair would distribute $3000 worth of goods to them.
On June 25th, Dorchester wrote to Sydney, after having seen a copy of the treaty of Fort Harmar, and described the boundaries that had been agreed to.
But those Indian nations who refused to attend Governor Sinclair … seem now to be determined to remove and prevent all American settlements north west of the Ohio. They have dispatched war pipes to the different nations and sent a large deputation from the Wabash and the Miamis to Detroit to announce their determination for war, and demand a supply of ammunition’.
On October 20th, Grenville would reply to Dorchester that
in a former dispatch to your lordship dated the 5th of April 1787, I observe that the sentiments of his Majesty’s ministers at that time are fully explained to you respecting these people and nothing has since appeared that can induce them to propose any change of the general system of conduct therein directed to be pursued.’
On April 5th 1787, Sydney had written that,
your lordship has judged very wisely in exerting every means to confine the war between them and the Americans to as narrow a scale as possible, but if it should extend itself to the northward, which will most likely be the case, and the Americans should carry their threats into execution of attempting to gain the forcible possession of the posts in the upper country, we cannot but look upon the assistance to be derived from the Indians as extremely desirable, and perhaps the most effectual impediment to such an undertaking.’
Throughout 1789 and 1790, Indian war parties of Miamis, Shawnees and Cherokees, would again plunder, burn, steal horses, kill and take scalps and take prisoners, among the Kentucky settlements south of the Ohio river, and also among the small settlements north of the Ohio river. The British remained secure in the knowledge that Congress was too weak to oppose their plans.
That scheme would be overturned on April 10th 1789, with the inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States. On May 2nd, St. Clair presented the Fort Harmar treaties with the minutes of the meetings and the correspondence with the Indian nations, to President Washington in New York. Regarding his instructions ‘to endeavor at extending the northern boundary’, St. Clair wrote that he ‘found that any attempt to extend the limits at that time would be very ill received, if not defeated entirely, the settling a peace with them; it was, therefore, not proposed, and the boundaries remain as settled at the former treaties’.
During that summer, Congress was busy debating the structure of its new independent government. President Washington signed into law the Tariff Act(3) on July 4th, the creation of Department of Foreign Affairs on July 27th, Department of War on August 7th and Department of the Treasury on September 2nd, and appointed Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury on September 11th, Henry Knox as Secretary of War on the 12th, and Thomas Jefferson(4) as Secretary of State on the 29th – the last day of the first session of the first Congress of the United States. On the 28th, Congress also approved 12 amendments to the constitution (called the Bill of Rights) and submitted them for consideration to the legislatures of the several states.
On September 14th 1789, Governor St. Clair wrote to President Washington that
the constant hostilities between the Indians who live upon the river Wabash and the people of Kentucky must necessarily be attended with such embarrassing circumstances to the government of the Western Territory, that I am induced to request you will be pleased to take the matter into consideration, and give me the orders you may think proper’.
On September 16th, President Washington sent St. Clair’s letter to Congress, adding that
I think proper to suggest to your consideration the expediency of making some temporary provision for calling forth the militia of the United States, for the purposes stated in the Constitution, which would embrace the cases apprehended by the Governor of the Western Territory’.
On September 29th, Congress approved ‘an act to recognize and adapt to the constitution of the United States, the establishment of the troops raised under the resolves of the United States in Congress Assembled’, and was signed by President Washington.
On October 6th, President Washington wrote to Governor St. Clair that ‘
it is highly necessary that I should, as soon as possible, possess full information whether the Wabash and Illinois Indians are most inclined for war or peace. If for the former, it is proper that I should be informed of the means which will most probably induce them to peace. If a peace can be established with the said Indians on reasonable terms, the interests of the United States dictate that it should be effected as soon as possible. You will, therefore, inform the said Indians of the disposition of the General Government on this subject, and of their reasonable desire that there should be a cessation of hostilities as a prelude to a treaty. If, however, notwithstanding your intimations to them, they should continue their hostilities, or meditate any incursions against the frontiers of Virginia or Pennsylvania, or against any of the troops or posts of the United States … then you are hereby authorized and empowered in my name to call on the lieutenants of the nearest counties of Virginia and Pennsylvania for such detachments of militia as you may judge proper, not exceeding, however, one thousand from Virginia and five hundred from Pennsylvania … I would have it observed forcibly that a war with the Wabash Indians ought to be avoided by all means consistently with the security of the frontier inhabitants, the security of the troops, and the national dignity. In the exercise of the present indiscriminate hostilities, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to say that a war without further measures would be just on the part of the United States. But if, after manifesting clearly to the Indians the dispositions of the General Government for the preservation of peace, and the extension of a just protection to the said Indians, they should continue their incursions, the United States will be constrained to punish them with severity.’
President Washington further instructed St. Clair to ‘proceed, as soon as you can with safety, to execute the orders of the late Continental Congress respecting the inhabitants of St. Vincennes and at the Kaskaskia and the other villages on the Mississippi’. On August 29th 1788, Congress had resolved ‘that measures be taken for confirming in their possessions and titles the French and Canadian inhabitants and other settlers at Post St. Vincents who on or before the year 1783 had settled there and had professed themselves citizens of the United States’.
Early in January 1790, St. Clair was extending the law of the United States further into the Territory. On January 4th 1790, after arriving at Fort Washington, the headquarters for General Harmar, St. Clair ordered the creation of Hamilton County, on the lands purchased by Mr. Symmes between the Little Miami and Big Miami rivers, and appointed the court judges, justices of the peace and the officers for the county militia. St. Clair also changed the name of the settlement from Losantiville to Cincinnati. On January 8th, St. Clair arrived at Clarksville(5) and appointed William Clark the justice of the peace and captain of the militia.
Now, back at Fort Steuben, on January 23rd, St. Clair wrote to Major Hamtramck at Fort Knox (Vincennes) that
I have enclosed a speech to the Indians of the Wabash and those of the Miami village, which I must take the liberty to request you will get forwarded to them … It is much the wish of the general government that peace may be established with those people, and the trial to effect it must be made. Should it fail, there is no doubt but an attempt must be made to chastise them’.
And on January 26th, St. Clair wrote to Knox, the Secretary of War that
I have great confidence in the friendly disposition of the Wyandots and their influence over many of the tribes is considerable. The Miamis, and the renegade Shawanese, Delawares and Cherokees, that lay near them, I fear are irreclaimable by gentle means. The experiment, however, is worth the making; and, at any rate, I do not think we are yet prepared to chastise them’.
Hamtramck informed St. Clair that he had waited until the Indians on the Wabash had returned from their winter hunt, that on March 16th he had sent Captain Pierre Gamelin, with St. Clair’s speech, that he had gone as far as the villages on the Vermillion river, where the Indians there received it and gave a friendly answer, but when he received a threat to his life, he stopped his journey and instead returned to Fort Knox.
On April 1st Hamtramck dispatched a second messenger, Antoine Gamelin, who travelled to many villages where they were pleased to receive the speech concerning the peace, but who would not answer until they had heard from the Miami. Gamelin arrived at Miami-town on the 23rd and met with the Miamis, Shawnees and Delawares. At a meeting with Blue Jacket, the chief Shawnee warrior, he was told that ‘we are all sensible of your speech, and pleased with it, but, after consultation, we can not give an answer without hearing from our father, at Detroit’, and he returned to Fort Knox.
On May 1st St. Clair wrote to Knox, that since arriving at Kaskasia on March 5th he had been
much engaged … in receiving and examining the claims of the inhabitants, which has consumed more of my time than I had any idea would have been necessary; but they are the most ignorant people in the world. There is not a fiftieth man that can either read or write, the consequence of which has been that every thing where they were parties has languished extremely. Though they are ignorant, they seem to be the gentlest, well-disposed people that can be imagined, and their manners are better than might have been expected, considering their ignorance, the want of proper government, and the grievous oppression under which they have groaned since they fell under the American dominion … Of what is passing in your quarter, or in the European world, we know as little as the man in the moon. For pity sake, send some newspapers’.
Earlier at Cahokia on April 27th, Governor St. Clair had ordered the creation of St. Clair County for the inhabitants of the frontier settlements on the Mississippi river in the Illinois country, and appointed judges, justices of the peace and militia officers for the new civil government. He also informed Knox that
much mischief … has been done this spring upon the Ohio’ and that Hamtramck ‘ascribes the depredations all to the Miamies’. ‘The confidence they have in their situation, the vicinity of many other nations not very well disposed, and the pernicious counsels of the English traders, joined to the immense booty obtained by the depredations upon the Ohio, will most probably prevent them from listening to any reasonable terms of accommodation, so that it is to be feared the United States must prepare effectually to chastise them, and the consequence of not doing it may, very probably, be the defection of those who are now at peace with the entire loss of the affections of the people of the frontiers’.
Having now received Hamtramck’s report and the journal of Gamelin, St. Clair hurried to return to Fort Washington to meet with General Harmar. But he sent his secretary, Winthrop Sargent, to Vincennes, to create Knox County on July 13th and to appoint the civil and militia officers. St. Clair and Harmar met on July 15th and after assessing the situation with the Indians on the frontier, they agreed to a plan for an attack on the Miami villages. St. Clair then left to travel to New York to present this report to Secretary Knox.
On August 23rd, in New York, St. Clair presented his lengthy report on the Illinois country to President Washington, and presented his plan of attack to Secretary Knox.
Knox replied that
whilst the President regrets exceedingly the occasion, he approves of the measures you have taken for preventing those predatory incursions of the Wabash Indians which, for a considerable period past, have been so calamitous to the frontiers lying along the Ohio. The offers of peace, which have been made on principles of justice and humanity to the Wabash Indians and refused, will fully justify the conduct of the United States in the operations which have been directed for the prevention of future murders and robberies. It is the earnest desire of the President that the operation should be effectual, and produce in the Indians proper dispositions for peace … There are existing jealousies in the minds of the British officers in Canada of the designs of the United States respecting the posts to have been relinquished by the late peace. It will be a point, therefore, of delicacy, that you should take measures by sending some officer or messenger, at a proper time, to assure the commanding officer of the real object of the expedition’.
Further, Knox wrote to St. Clair on September 14th that the
establishment of a post at the Miami village … would not be compatible either with the public view or the public finances … (and) render the measure at this period inexpedient, and, therefore, not to be undertaken. The expedition will either incline the Indians to treat for peace, or it will induce them to wage open war in the ensuing spring. A further time is also required to know the intentions of the British court respecting the delivery of Niagara and Detroit. The decision of this point has an intimate connection with the peace of the frontiers’.
1.4. The Treaty of Peace and Friendship, August 7th 1790
While the British were manipulating and arming the Indians in the country north of the Ohio river by means of their trading posts run out of Detroit, a similar operation was also being run to manipulate and arm the Indians in the country south of the Ohio river.
In 1783, the trading firm of Panton, Leslie and Co. had been established at St. Augustine in British East Florida, by tories who were forced to leave their former homes in the United States. After East Florida was returned to Spain, nonetheless, the company continued to operate there, since there were no Spanish trading companies.
In 1786, Panton, Leslie and Co, which also operated in the Bahamas as agents for British merchants, was given a monopoly, by Spain, over all Indian trade in East and West Florida (!!!) through their Creek agent, Alexander McGillivray. And thus the British, with the Spanish, set up their southern Indian-manipulation operation, to stop any further settlements in the western frontier of Georgia and North Carolina.
Note on McGillivray: Lachlan McGillivray had become a wealthy trader in Georgia but remained an ardent loyalist and had returned to Scotland at the start of the revolution. His family property (valued at more than $100,000) was confiscated. His son Alexander returned to live with his mother (part French and part Creek) as a minor chief at a Creek Indian town. During the war, the British made Alexander a colonel and an Indian agent. After the war, in order to continue to keep the Creeks supplied with trade goods, he entered into an agreement with William Panton. Spain needed the allegiance of the Creeks as part of Spain’s (and Britain’s) plan to use the Creeks as a barrier against the American settlements, and they treated McGillivray as if he was the principal representative of the Creek nation. On June 1st 1784 at Pensacola, the Creeks agreed to a treaty with Spain, promising to make no treaties nor accept any gifts from foreigners in exchange for Spanish protection and gifts, and McGillivray was appointed Spain’s commissary – at a salary of $50 a month. At a meeting of the Creek chiefs in March 1786, it was decided to resort to arms to expel the Georgian invaders from Creek land beyond the Ogechee river. In July, McGillivray visited the Spanish governor in New Orleans, and obtained the issuance of 5,000 lbs. of powder, 10,000 lbs. of ball, along with guns, flints and other military items. Panton was to become the channel for the deliveries, and supplies were only to be issued with McGillivray’s requisition. McGillivray’s standing in the Creek nation rose dramatically.
On May 23rd 1789, Henry Knox (still acting as the old Secretary of War of the Continental Congress, and not being appointed as the new Secretary of War by President Washington until September 12th) presented his report to President Washington on the treaties of peace that had been reached with the northern tribes of Indians since the conclusion of the war with Great Britain; and on July 6th he presented his report on the treaties of peace reached with the southern tribes of Indians. On the 7th, he detailed, in three letters to the president, the situation in the south with the Creeks, the Cherokees, and the Chickasaws and Choctaws.
On August 21st, the Senate confirmed President Washington’s appointments of Benjamin Lincoln, Cyrus Griffin and David Humphreys as Commissioners Plenipotentiary ‘for negotiating and concluding treaties of peace with the independent tribes or nations within the limits of the united States, south of the river Ohio’.
On August 29th, after receiving the advice of the Senate, President Washington issued his instructions to the commissioners that
the united States consider it as an object of high national importance, not only to be at peace with the powerful tribes or nations of Indians south of the Ohio, but if possible by a just and liberal system of policy to conciliate and attach them to the Interests of the union’ – to which were added copies of treaties which had been made by the United States, with the Cherokees (November 28, 1785) the Choctaws (January 3, 1786) and the Chickasaws (January 10, 1786) … ‘The first great object of your commission is to negotiate and establish peace between the state of Georgia and the Creek Nation – the whole nation must be fully represented and solemnly acknowledged by the Creeks themselves to be so’(6).
The commissioners sailed from New York on August 31st, arrived at Augusta on September 17th, met with the governor of Georgia, continued on to Rock Landing on the Oconee river on the frontier of Georgia on the 20th, and on the 25th they met with McGillivray, along with over 2000 Creeks, with a proposed peace treaty. On September 26th, McGillivray sent the commissioners a letter that
the chiefs were in council until very late last night. The result appears to be that they are not entirely satisfied with all the parts of your talk; they object principally to the boundary marked out in your talk; however, it was my decision to let the matter stand as it was for the present – the hunting season being at hand. The chiefs should take care to prevent every act of hostility or depredation on the part of the warriors during the winter, and until we heard further from you on the part of the United States. They resolve to break up and depart’.
The commissioners returned to New York without any agreement and on November 20th submitted their report to Secretary Knox that
we made our communications to the Creek nation, and they refused to conclude a treaty of peace with the United States; and, as in this case, we are directed by our instructions to report such plans, both defensive and offensive measures, as may be thought best to protect the citizens of the United States on the frontiers’. But, they noted that ‘the predominating prejudices of the Creeks are certainly adverse to the Spaniards, particularly Mr. McGillivray has often mentioned and declared, that a connexion with the United States would be more natural to the Creek nation, if they could obtain such conditions of interest and friendship as would justify and induce them to break with the Spanish Government’.
On December 22nd 1789, the state of North Carolina ceded its claim of its western territory to the United States federal government – the lands west of the mountains between 35º and 36½º latitude north. After passing the House and Senate, on April 2nd 1790, President Washington signed the bill to accept the cession into the Western Territory. On May 26th, President Washington signed into law ‘an act for the government of the Territory of the United States South of the river Ohio’, and appointed William Blount as Governor of the Southwest Territory on June 8th. John Sevier was appointed Brigadier General of the militia of Washington District (the settlements in the northeast along the Watauga, Holston and Nolichucky rivers) and James Robertson was appointed Brigadier General of the militia of Mero District (the settlements near Fort Nashborough on the Cumberland river).
The Southwest Territory would be governed by the same laws as the Northwest Territory, as laid out in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. It was now vital to reach a peace treaty with the Creek and Cherokee nations to secure peace in this new territory.
On February 15th 1790, Secretary Knox wrote to President Washington that
the serious crisis of affairs, in which the United States are involved with the Creeks requires that every honorable and probable expedient that can be devised should be used to avert a war with that tribe – the untoward circumstances of the case are such, that no degree of success, could render a war either honorable or profitable to the United States’. Knox was worried that ‘the headlong passions of the young Creek warriors’ and ‘the corrosive conduct of the lawless whites’ … ‘may be easily fomented, and the flame of war suddenly lighted up without a possibility of extinguishing it, but by the most powerful exertions’ and that the United States ‘would seriously be embroiled with Spain’.
Knox wrote that he had been in repeated conversations with Senator Benjamin Hawkins of North Carolina ‘who is well acquainted with the influential characters of the Creeks’ and who thought that the designs of the Creek chief ‘are opposed to a war with the United States, and that he would at this time gladly embrace any rational mean that could be offered to avoid that event’. Knox now proposed an ‘experiment’ – to send ‘a man of real talents and judgement’, with a letter signed by Hawkins, to McGillivray inviting him ‘to repair to the seat of the general government, provided that every facility and security should be offered’.
On March 8th President Washington approved Knox’s plan, on the 10th spoke to Marinus Willett, ‘who was engaged to go as a private agent, but for public purposes, to Mr. McGillivray principal chief of the Creek Nation’, and on the 11th, signed a passport for Willett and McGillivray for their journey to New York.
Willett set out from New York on March 15th, arrived in Creek country on April 30th and soon was able to meet with McGillivray at the house of an Indian trader living at the Killebees. Willett delivered Senator Hawkin’s letter and President Washington’s message and spoke freely to McGillivray about the reasons for a peace treaty. McGillivray was concerned about keeping open a secure trading partner for the Creeks because during 1789 the Spanish had seized four British ships at Nootka Sound and now there was a danger of war between them. Panton’s trade goods – from the British Bahamas to the Spanish Floridas – would be dislocated and perhaps ruined.
Also, in 1788 an attempt had been made by the infamous Lord Dunmore, who was now the governor of the Bahama Islands, to replace Panton’s company with another company, Miller and Bonamy of Nassau, using William Bowles, a Tory who had lived among the Lower Creeks during the revolution. Bowles tried to establish a trading post there but was unsuccessful. In 1789, after lengthy meetings with Dragging Canoe of the Chickamaugas(7) to discuss coming under British protection and being furnished arms, ammunition and trade goods, Bowles then traveled, with 8 Lower Creek and Chickamauga chiefs, to Halifax and on to Quebec to meet the governor, and was then sent to London to meet with Grenville and other government ministers to try to convince them of Dunmore’s plan – to seize the Floridas, and then have Dunmore take over the trade with the southern Indians, should a war break out with Spain.
McGillivray was also concerned about Georgia, which was insisting upon the boundaries obtained in the treaties at Galphinton in 1785 and at Shoulderbone in 1788, but that the Creeks were claiming to be fraudulent. In 1789, Georgia agreed to sell 20 million acres, from the mouth of the Yazoo river(8) north to Georgia’s border with the Carolinas, and east of the Mississippi river, for $200,000 to three land companies. By dealing with President Washington and the national government (which wanted jurisdiction over the frontier territory(9) of Georgia), McGillivary could avoid a war with Georgia, over the people that were already settled on the contested lands.
Willett went to a council of the Creek chiefs at Oussitche and urged them to select a delegation to accompany McGillivray to the seat of government in New York. On June 1st, Willett and McGillivray along with 29 Creek chiefs left overland on the journey and were feted as they passed through Richmond, Fredricksburg and Philadelphia, and then by boat from Elizabethtown to New York, where they arrived on July 21st and were escorted by a military detachment to Secretary Knox’s house. They later met with President Washington, and also with New York Governor Clinton, and then they dined with the senators and representatives from Georgia, along with other prominent people. A reception was held on board the ship ‘America’, that had just arrived from Canton in China.
Also present in New York were Jose Viar – Spanish agent at the American capital, Carlos Howard – secretary of the East Florida governor, George Beckwith – the agent of the governor of Canada, and Thomas Dalton – agent for Lord Dunmore, who were all trying to influence McGillivray against signing a treaty.
On August 7th, a treaty was finalized by Secretary Knox and by McGillivray and 23 other Creek chiefs (6 chiefs did not sign due to the influence of the British and Spanish agents). The treaty read ‘that there shall be perpetual peace and friendship between all the citizens of the United States of America, and all the individuals, towns and tribes of Upper, Middle and Lower Creeks and Seminoles composing the Creek nation of Indians’. The Creeks acknowledged that they were ‘to be under the protection of the United States of America, and of no other sovereign whatsoever’. The treaty was signed in a ceremony a week later.
The boundary started at the head of the Appalachee river, and ran down that river, the Oconee river and the Altamaha river to the old boundary line, and down the old line to the river St.Mary’s. The United States guaranteed to the Creek Nation all their lands to the westward and southward of the boundary, and
‘in order to extinguish forever all claims of the Creek nation … to any of the land lying to the northward and eastward of the boundary … the sum of $1500 to be paid annually’. ‘No citizen or inhabitant of the United States shall attempt to hunt or destroy the game on the Creek lands; nor shall any such citizen or inhabitant go into the Creek country without a passport’.
There were also secret articles to the treaty, whereby, in case Spain entered into a war with Britain, the Creek should have the right to import goods of up to $50,000 in value per year, duty free, through the ports of the United States; and McGillivary, who took an oath of allegiance to the United States, would receive a commission as an agent of the United States and as a Brigadier-General, with a pension of $1800 per year. Also, the next year both sides would meet to begin to survey the boundary line.
The thoughts of President Washington concerning the policy that should be shown to the Indians, can be seen in Article 12,
‘that the Creek nation may be led to a greater degree of civilization, and to become herdsmen and cultivators, instead of remaining in a state of hunters, the United States will from time to time furnish gratuitously the said nation with useful domestic animals and implements of husbandry’.
After sending the Creek treaty to the Senate to be ratified, President Washington also sent to the Senate a letter on August 11th,
that the United States formed a treaty with the Cherokees in November 1785 – that the said Cherokees thereby placed themselves under the protection of the United States, and had a boundary assigned them. That the white people settled on the frontiers had openly violated said boundary by intruding on the Indian lands … I shall conceive myself bound to exert powers entrusted to me by the constitution in order to carry into faithful execution the treaty of Hopewell, unless it shall be thought proper to attempt to arrange a new boundary with the Cherokees embracing the settlements, and compensating the Cherokees for the cessions they shall make on the occasion’.
Upon assuming the office of the President, Washington’s mission had been to preserve the union and its independence. Its two greatest dangers were the Indian wars on its frontier and its financial debt crisis.
President Washington would show that he fully understood the British trap that was being set up – that the British were still intent on stopping the American settlement of the frontiers, using the Indian raids.
But the Indians were highly reluctant to start a shooting war with the Americans, without having the active assistance of British troops; and, due to the peace treaty, the British could not openly join the Indians in such a war, unless they were first attacked by the Americans. But, by keeping possession of their frontier posts, the British could continue their control of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence river; by maintaining an Indian ‘buffer zone’, they could deny the Americans access to the Mississippi river; and by orchestrating the Indian attacks on the frontiers, position themselves as the future mediators between the Americans and the Indians, a position from which to manipulate the impossibility for any possible peace settlement – forever.
And now, as if by divine providence, the threat of war between Spain and Britain over the Nootka crisis created an opportunity whereby both empires now sought the alliance of America against the other.
With the office of Secretary of State ‘not being at present filled’, President Washington wrote to Gouveneur Morris on October 13th 1789 ‘
to have inquiries made informally by a private agent … whether there be any, and what objections to now performing those articles in the treaty which remain to be performed on their part; and whether they incline to a treaty of commerce with the United States on any, and what terms’. Morris informed the Duke of Leeds of President Washington’s offer in March and he received a reply in a letter on April 28th. [This was at the same time as the British government learned of the Nootka affair.]
On May 6th 1790 in a secret letter to Dorchester, Grenville wrote that
relative to the possible inducements which Spain may hold out to the United States to prevail upon them to take a part against Great Britain in case of war … of hostile designs, if any such should be meditated against the forts or against Canada itself.’
Grenville added that
the object which we might hold out to them, particularly to the Kentucke and other settlers at the back of the old colonies, of opening the navigation of the Mississippi to them, is one at least as important as the possession of the forts, and perhaps it would not be difficult to show, that the former is much more easily attainable with the assistance of Great Britain against Spain, than the latter is by their joining Spain in offensive operations against this country’.
On January 8th 1790, to open the 2nd session of the 1st Congress of the United States, President Washington had delivered his first State of the Union address to the jointly assembled Senate and House of Representatives,
… Among the many interesting object, which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined … There was reason to hope, that the pacific measures adopted with regard to certain hostile tribes of Indians would have relieved the inhabitants of our Southern and Western frontiers from their depredations. But you will be perceived … that we ought to afford protection to those parts of the Union and if necessary to punish aggressors’.
Now, seven months later, President Washington had successfully concluded a peace treaty with the Creek nation on August 7th, and on August 11th had begun to arrange a peace treaty with the Cherokee nation.
On August 27th, Secretary Knox wrote instructions to William Blount, Governor of the Southwest Territory, to treat with the Cherokees.
Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, had concluded a peace treaty with the Delawares, Wyandots, Ottawas, Chippewas, Potawatomies, and Sacs, but could not reach a peace agreement with the Miamis and Wabash Indians. On August 24th, Knox wrote to St. Clair, with the President’s approval of his plan for a punitive expedition against the Miami Indians.
Also in that first State of the Union address, President Washington had stated that
The advancement of Agriculture, commerce and Manufactures, by all proper means, will not, I trust, need recommendation. But I cannot forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home … there is nothing, which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.’ And to the Gentlemen of the House of Representatives, the President stated that ‘I saw with particular pleasure, at the close of the last Session, the resolution entered into by you expressive of your opinion, that an adequate provision for the support of the public credit is a matter of high importance to the national honor and prosperity’.
Before Congress adjourned that first session on September 29th 1789, it had resolved on September 21st,
That this House consider an adequate provision for the support of the public credit, as a matter of high importance to the national honor and prosperity … That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to prepare a plan for that purpose, and to report the same to the House at its next meeting’.
The total debt of the United States was almost $80 million!!! The foreign debt owed to France was $8 million, to Holland was almost $4 million, and to Spain was $250,000. The domestic debt owed to officers and soldiers, and to farmers and businessmen, for furnishing supplies in the war, was $42 million. And the states’ debts were $25 million. The government’s source of revenue was tariff and tonnage duties. But 80% of government revenues would be needed to service the debt – with 40% for the interest alone!!!
During its recess, Secretary Hamilton prepared his report on public credit, and on January 14th 1790 he presented it to Congress. Although President Washington approved of Hamilton’s debt plan, an intense debate in Congress followed.
The opposition to Hamilton’s plan was led by James Madison, the congressman from Virginia, who earlier had worked closely with Hamilton in writing the Federalist Papers to defend the new constitution. Hamilton had recommended that the current holders of government certificates, that had been issued by the government to pay for their purchases during the war, should be paid in full – regardless of how or when they acquired them. Madison was in favour of ‘discrimination’ – finding the original holders of the certificates and paying them the difference between the current value and the full face value – a task that Hamilton said would be virtually insuperable. On February 22nd, the House voted 36 to 13 against Madison’s proposal.
Hamilton’s plan also called for the federal government to assume the debts incurred by the states in providing for their defence against invasions by the British during the war. Madison opposed this measure, since some states had paid off almost half of their obligations, while others had paid little or next to nothing of their debts. On April 12th, the House voted 32 to 29 against Hamilton’s proposal.
A compromise with Hamilton’s plan was reached. Jefferson, who had recently returned to the United States from France, and Madison would withdraw their opposition to the assumption and the payment of the debt, and Hamilton would support the relocation of the capital(10).
On July 16th, President Washington signed into law ‘An Act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the government of the United States’, whereby a few representatives changed their votes so that Hamilton’s debt plan (to assume the states’ debts) was approved.
President Washington signed into law ‘An Act making Provision for the Debt of the United States’ on August 2nd, and a new tariff ‘An Act making provision for the Reduction of the Public Debt’ on August 10th.
1.5. The Battle at Miami Town, October 22nd 1790
St. Clair arrived back at Marietta on September 15th, bringing with him the last of the Pennsylvania militia, which was deficient by 200 men, due to the deliberate neglect of Pennsylvania Governor Mifflin!
On September 19th, as instructed, St. Clair sent Return Meigs Jr. to deliver the letter to the British commander at Detroit ‘that the expedition about to be undertaken is not intended against the post you have the honor to command … but is on foot with the sole design of humbling and chastising some of the savage tribes whose depredations are become intolerable’. Meigs arrived at Detroit and on October 14th received the British commander’s answer (i.e. lie) that the Americans’ military preparations had caused no uneasiness and that they had given the Indians no encouragement or assistance in committing depredations along the Ohio. However, messengers were sent to the British traders at the Miami villages warning them of the imminent danger, and that they should aid and advise the Indians in their resistance to the greatest extent possible.
St. Clair’s plan of attack involved two separate thrusts. General Harmar would lead 320 federal troops along with 1133 militia from Kentucky and Pennsylvania in an attack on the Miami villages, while Major Hamtramck would lead 50 federal troops from Fort Knox along with 280 Kentucky militia, in an attack against the Indian villages on the Wabash river ‘to divert the attention of the Miamis to that quarter’. On September 30th, Hamtramck had left Vincennes with 330 men and marched along the Wabash river to attack the Indian village at the mouth of the Vermillion river. Arriving there on October 10th, they found an abandoned village. Estimating that there were about 750 Indian warriors in the area, and with a growing shortage of rations, on October 14th Hamtramck decided not to move on to attack the Wea villages, but to break camp and return to Vincennes, arriving back at Fort Knox on the 26th.
Harmar began to advance his army of 1453 men from Fort Washington on September 26th, placing Colonel Hardin in over-all command of the militia, with Colonel Trotter leading the 3 battalions of Kentucky militia and with Colonel Truby leading the single Pennsylvania militia battalion, opening a road for the artillery, as the army marched in three columns along the old trace along the Miami river (that was used by George Clark in his raid against the Shawanees in October 1782). Upon reaching the St. Marys river, about 35 miles from the Miami villages, a captured Shawnee spy informed Harmar that the Indians had, at first, planned to make a stand at the Miami villages, but with only 600 warriors present, they decided that since they were too few to confront Harmar’s army, they would prepare to abandon their villages and burn them.
Although Miami spies had watched the progress of Harmar’s columns closely, other Indian tribes were very slow in sending assistance and warriors to Kekionga – the main Miami town at the confluence of the Saint Marys and Saint Joseph rivers, that combine to form the Maumee river, and the site of the primary British trading post in the region for trading for furs and also for the horses and plunder from the Indian raids.
In March 1790, Alexander McKee had been appointed the British Indian agent at Detroit. He used two posts along the Maumee river – one at the rapids near its mouth at lake Erie, and the other at the Glaize river, to distribute arms, ammunition and provisions to the warring tribes of Shawnee and Miami Indians. While the Indians and the traders evacuated and moved to the British trading post at Miami Rapids, the Indians confiscated all the traders’ ammunition, and later burned the town.
After a council of war, Harmar now determined to quickly send one of his columns and strike the Indians at Miami Town before they could get away. On October 15th, Hardin and a 600-man force (including 50 regulars to provide support) entered an abandoned Kekionga, and then dispersed to search for any inhabitants and for plunder through the town and the other nearby villages. On October 17th, Harmar and his main army joined Hardin’s advance detachment. Although the Indians had abandoned the town, the 600 warriors were still close by, raiding the army’s packhorses and mounts during the night.
The next day, Harmar sent out a 300-man reconnaissance detachment under Colonel Trotter to discover the Indians’ camp, but by dusk they had to return to Harmar’s encampment, now at the nearby village of Chillicothe, without any success.
On October 19th, Colonel Hardin led 180 men, including 30 regulars under Captain Armstrong, on another reconnaissance mission and after travelling about 8 miles, discovered an abandoned Indian campsite, but which had been set up as a trap, by Little Turtle, the Miami chief whose village was 16 miles from Kekionga. Hardin’s men were now ambushed by Little Turtle and his 150 warriors, hidden in the timbers on both sides of the camp.
Upon being fired at from both sides, Hardin and the militia immediately retreated, but Armstrong and his regulars stood their ground and formed a line to fire on the Indians in the underbrush. After the regulars had fired a volley, Little Turtle ordered a charge, before the Americans had time to reload. The Americans met them with their bayonets but were soon overwhelmed, and 22 regular soldiers and a few remaining militia-men were slain, scalped and plundered. Hardin, Armstrong and the retreating force were able to make their way back to Harmar’s base at Chillicothe.
With provisions running low and with the loss of many packhorses, Harmar decide to begin preparation to return to Fort Washington. Five nearby Indian villages, including Chillicothe, were burned, along with vast piles of corn and hay, and the army began its return march on October 21st. That evening, believing that the Indians would severely harass his retreat unless checked, Harmar sent a strong detachment back to the ruined towns, in hope to surprise any Indians who had returned to the villages to salvage any provisions.
Major John Wyllys would lead 60 regulars, along with Hardin and 300 militia and 40 horsemen back to Kekionga. When they were within 2 miles of the town, Wyllys sent Colonel Hardin and 150 militia on a circuitous march westward to fall on the rear of the town, then sent Major McMillan and the other 150 militia to encircle the town from the east, while he and the 60 regulars and the 40 cavalry marched directly for Kekionga to surprise the returning Indians.
But chief Little Turtle, leading over 800 Indians, devised another ambuscade to meet Wyllys’s army. At sunrise, as Wyllys force was crossing the ford at the Maumee river at Kekionga, the Indians, hidden on the opposite shore above and below the ford, fired on the cavalry-men and horses in the lead. McMillan and the right flank soon swung back and arrived on the scene, and attacked the Indians, forcing them from the bushes to flee northward. The cavalry now were able to regroup and joined in the chase. Wyllys and his 60 regulars now crossed the Maumee and began to file past the ruins of Kekionga through a razed cornfield. Here in an open field with no cover, they were ambushed from both sides by Little Turtle and his main army. The regulars stood their ground, firing into the oncoming warriors, then using their bayonets, having no time to reload, but were soon defeated. Wyllys and 50 regulars were killed – only 10 men were able to escape.
Hearing the heavy firing, McMillan reformed his men and started back south, finding the few survivors of Wyllys’s men being chased by the Indians, and together they fought the Indians hand-to-hand and drove the Indians westward – into the approach of Hardin’s force that was encircling the town from the west. The warriors fled away through the underbrush, and it was estimated that over 100 were killed that day. In addition to the 50 regulars killed, the militia had 68 missing and presumed killed, and 28 wounded. The American troops, under Hardin, left their dead behind and made their retreat back to Harmar’s camp. Little Turtle was preparing another attack on the Americans when, that evening, a lunar eclipse occurred, which was viewed as a bad omen by many of the superstitious Indians who withdrew, and plans for any further action were abandoned. Harmar’s army marched back to Fort Washington, arriving on November 3rd.
St. Clair returned to Philadelphia to provide his assessment of the situation on the frontier, meeting with Secretary of War, Knox, who wrote to President Washington on December 10th, regarding his report of Harmar’s expedition and his proposal for a new expedition, that his
proposal of obtaining cession of territory from the Wabash Indians at this particular time, seems liable to several objections. 1st It is not for the interest of the United States to extend their territory at present … 2ndly To grasp at additional territory will give the expedition an avaricious aspect. In this point of view it will disgrace the government. The motives of the expedition ought to appear as they really are – A clear and uncompounded dictate of justice to punish a banditti of robbers, and murderers, who have refused to listen to the voice of peace and humanity. And as a terror to warn other tribes against the commission of similar crimes. It will not materially lessen the charge to assert the United States propose to pay the Indians for the lands – because it is a well known fact, that unless they could be civilized, and learn the arts of agriculture, the taking away their lands for the usual pitiful considerations, is taking away the means of supporting their lives’.
St. Clair also met with Secretary of State, Jefferson, who wrote to President Washington on December 14th, with his report respecting the lands of the inhabitants of Post Vincennes, that
The Resolution of Congress of August 29, 1788 had confirmed in their possessions & titles the French and Canadian & other settlers at that post, who, in or before the year 1783, had settled there, & had professed themselves citizens of the U.S. … and had made a donation to every head of a family, of the same description, of 400 acres of land’.
President Washington continued in his personal mission to preserve the union and its independence – to secure the defence of the western frontiers and to secure the nation’s financial health.
On December 8th 1790, President Washington had given his State of the Union address to Congress, to open the 3rd session of the 1st Congress –
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives … The abundant fruits of another year have blessed our country with plenty, and with the means of a flourishing commerce. The progress of public credit is witnessed by a considerable rise of American stock abroad as well as at home; and the revenues, allotted for this and other national purposes, have been productive beyond the calculations by which they were regulated … In conforming to the powers vested in me by acts of the last session, a loan of three millions of florins … has been completed in Holland.’
On February 25th 1791, Congress would receive ‘a communication from the Secretary of the Treasury explaining the terms on which the loan of 3 million florins … to have been negotiated’.
And also on that same day, President Washington would sign into law ‘An Act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States’.
Earlier, on December 23rd 1790, Congress received from Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, his Report on a National Bank. Hamilton had proposed to establish a national bank, to buy the promissory notes issued to soldiers, farmers and others, and also to exchange the old states’ debt for new Treasury debt. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson had opposed the creation of the national bank, hoping that the frontier land could be sold for a dollar an acre in government debt certificates and the whole national debt be paid with these proceeds. Hamilton, opposing Jefferson, did not want the future of the United States to be held hostage to the land speculators, and instead fought to establish a national bank to promote domestic manufactures and internal improvements.
Opposing this report, Madison gave a day-long speech, lecturing the congressmen that there was no mention of a bank in the constitution and therefore that it was never intended to give the federal government the right to create one. However, critics of Madison pointed out that during the Constitutional Convention, Madison had been the one to propose giving Congress the power to charter banks (even though the proposal was defeated); and also quoted Madison himself from his authorship of one of the Federalist Papers, where he insisted that there were implied powers in the constitution that gave Congress the ability to deal with many aspects of government. The House passed the bill to charter the Bank of the United States by 39 to 20.
While President Washington approved of Hamilton’s financial and economic plan, he nonetheless, asked Secretary of State, Jefferson, and Attorney General, Randolph, for their opinions on the constitutionality of the national bank. Jefferson wrote an essay denouncing the ability of the federal government to establish a national bank. At the president’s request, Hamilton answered both Madison’s and Jefferson’s arguments with a 15,000-word treatise that justified the creation of the bank. Pleased with Hamilton’s reply and now convinced of the constitutionality of the bank, President Washington signed the bill into law on February 25th 1791.
Continuing in his address, President Washington stated that ‘… Since your last Sessions I have received communications by which it appears that the District of Kentucky, at present a part of Virginia, has concurred in certain propositions contained in a law of that State; in consequence of which the District is to become a distinct member of the Union, in case the requisite sanction of Congress be added’. On February 4th 1791, President Washington would sign ‘An Act declaring the consent of Congress that a new state be formed within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and admitted into this Union, by the name of the State of Kentucky’. Later on February 18th, he would sign into law ‘An Act for the admission of the State of Vermont into this Union’.
Further in his address, President Washington stated that
It has been therefore known to Congress that frequent incursions have been made on our frontier settlements by certain banditti of Indians from the North West side of the Ohio … they have, instead of listening to the humane invitations and overtures made on the part of the United States, renewed their violences with fresh alacrity and greater effect … These aggravated provocations rendered it essential to the safety of the Western settlements that the aggressors should be made sensible that the Government of the Union is not less capable of punishing their crimes, than it is disposed to respect their rights and reward their attachments. As this object could not be effected by defensive measures it became necessary to put in force the Act which empowers the President to call out the Militia for the protection of the frontiers. And I have accordingly authorized an Expedition in which the regular troops in that quarter are combined with such draughts of Militia as were deemed sufficient’.
On January 24th 1791, President Washington would send to Congress a report he had received from Knox, that recommended
That it is to be apprehended, the late expedition against the Miami Indians will not be attended with such consequences as to constrain the said Indians to sue for peace; but on the contrary, that their own opinion of their success, and the number of trophies they possess, will probably not only encourage them to a continuance of hostilities, but may be the means of their obtaining considerable assistance from the neighbouring tribes.’ … ‘That it therefore appears … to be incumbent on the United States to prepare immediately for another expedition against the Wabash Indians, with such a decided force as to impress them strongly with the power of the United States.’ … ‘That a post established at the (Miami Village) as the consequence of a successful expedition, would curb and overawe not only the Wabash Indians, but the Ottawas and Chippewas and all others who might be wavering and disposed to join in the War … That it would therefore of consequence afford more full security to the territory of the United States Northwest of the Ohio. In this point of view it would assist, in the reduction of the national debt, by holding out a security to people to purchase and settle the public lands … The regular force upon the frontiers seems utterly inadequate for the essential purposes of the United States’.
On March 3rd 1791, President Washington would sign into law ‘An Act for granting lands to the inhabitants and settlers at Vincennes and the Illinois country in the Territory Northwest of the Ohio, and for confirming them in their possessions’. Also on March 3rd, he would sign ‘An Act for raising and adding another regiment to the military establishment of the United States, and for making further provision for the protection of the frontiers’ – to enlist 912 regulars for the 2nd regiment, and also 2000 6-month levies for the upcoming expedition to establish a post at the Miami Town. Secretary Knox now prepared his peace plan and a new expedition against the continuing British-manipulated Indian attacks upon the western frontier settlements.
On March 9th, he issued his instructions to Brigadier General Charles Scott to lead 500 mounted volunteers, to depart by the 10th of May – should no order be received by then to suspend the operation, and ‘to proceed to the Wea, or Ouiatanon towns of Indians, there to assault the said towns, and the Indians therein, either by surprise, or otherwise, as the nature of the circumstances may admit, sparing all who may cease to resist, and capturing as many as possible, particularly women and children’.
On March 11th, Knox issued his instructions to (Colonel) Thomas Procter, to
immediately repair to the Cornplanter’s residence … and make known to him your intentions … you are to endeavor, by all possible means, to induce the Cornplanter, and as many other of the chiefs as possible, to go with you upon your mission to the Miami and Wabash Indians … you will proceed by water or land … to Sandusky … where reside the Wyandot and Delaware tribes … these tribes are our friends and in treaty with us … you will inform them of the object of your journey and desire that they will appoint some chiefs to accompany you … you will proceed … to the Miami Town, where you will assemble the Indians together, and speak to them … The great object of your long journey is, to impress the said Miami and Wabash Indians with the candor and justice of the General Government. That the United States require only that they would demean themselves peaceably. That, if they should refuse to listen to this invitation, they will only be liable for the evil which will fall upon and crush them …’
Knox continued, that
If you succeed in persuading them to accompany you to Fort Washington, you will set out immediately with them, sending Captain Houdin and such chiefs of all the tribes present, as shall be agreed upon, to the Wea and Ouiatanon towns, on the Wabash, … in order to persuade them also to repair to a treaty at Fort Washington … But, if, after using all your arguments to induce the Miami Indians to repair to Fort Washington, you should fail, you must leave them, and with the friendly Indians who may accompany you, repair to Fort Washington’.
Knox warned Procter that ‘you must, if within the limits of possibility, be at Fort Washington by the 5th of May next, whether you succeed or not. This is of the highest importance, as it is connected with collateral arrangements’ – Scott’s expedition.
On March 21st, Knox issued his instructions to Governor St. Clair, who was appointed, on March 4th, a Major General,
‘with the chief command of the troops to be employed upon the frontiers during the ensuing campaign’, that ‘An Indian war, under any circumstances, is regarded by the great mass of the people of the United States as an event which ought, if possible to be avoided. It is considered that the sacrifices of blood and treasure in such a war far exceed any advantages which can possibly be reaped by it … The great policy, therefore, of the General Government, is to establish a just and liberal peace with all the Indian tribes within the limits and in the vicinity of the territory of the United States … the arrangements with the Senecas … together with the recent mission of Colonel Procter … will strongly evince the desire of the General government to prevent the further effusion of blood, and to quiet all disturbances…’
Knox added that
but, in the mean time, if the Indians refuse to listen to the messengers of peace sent to them, it is most probable they will, unless prevented, spread themselves along the line of frontiers, for the purpose of committing all the depredations in their power … In order to avoid so calamitous an event, Brigadier General Charles Scott, of Kentucky, has been authorized … to make an expedition against the Wea, or Ouiatanon towns … if the said expedition be not prevented, by you, on or before the 10th of May next, it is to proceed according to the instructions … it is confided to your discretion, whether there shall be more than one of the said expeditions … if no decisive indications of peace should have been produced, either by the messengers, or by the desultory operations, you will commence your march for the Miami village, in order to establish a strong and permanent military post at that place … for the purpose of awing and curbing the Indians in that quarter, and as the only preventive of future hostilities … Having commenced your march, upon the main expedition, and the Indians continuing hostile, you will use every possible exertion to make them feel the effects of your superiority; and after having arrived at the Miami village, and put your works in a defensible state, you will seek the enemy with the whole of your remaining force, and endeavor, by all possible means, to strike them with great severity’.
And on April 5th, Knox issued his instructions to General Richard Butler, to ‘immediately set off for the States of Virginia and Maryland, in order to put into immediate operation the measures necessary for the raising of the two battalions of levies’ for the expedition of St. Clair. (Other levies were being raised in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.) Knox made arrangements to obtain a rider to fort Pitt every Friday, so that he could maintain a weekly correspondence with both Butler and St. Clair.
1.6. The British – Indian War Agreement, August 15th 1791
On March 12th, a day after receiving his instructions from Knox, Colonel Procter, along with Captain Houdin, left Philadelphia to travel to meet with Cornplanter, a Seneca chief, who had earlier travelled to Philadelphia to present a list of grievances to the President of Pennsylvania on October 29th 1790. He had stayed in Philadelphia until February, in order to meet and correspond with President Washington, and he had offered to go to the Miami Indians ‘to endeavor to persuade them to peace’. On April 8th, Procter met with Cornplanter at Fort Franklin, where Cornplanter had taken sanctuary, after a party of militia that was seeking revenge for an earlier Indian raid, had seized his boat and canoes with the goods that the government had presented to him.
By an order from Knox, the boat, canoes and goods were returned to Cornplanter. After a council meeting, Cornplanter and the other 11 chiefs couldn’t agree to accompany him directly to the Miamis, but must determine on that business at full council at Buffalo Creek. That evening, Procter wrote to St. Clair that this delay ‘would be a means of exceeding the time limited by the Secretary of War for my meeting him at Fort Washington’.
On April 27th, Procter, accompanied by the Seneca and Delaware chiefs, arrived at the council fire at Buffalo Creek, noting that the Indians there were
‘far better clothed … owing entirely to the immediate intercourse they have with the British … supplied with almost every necessary they require, so much so as to make them indifferent in their huntings … And the chiefs, who are poor in general, have to look up to them for almost their daily subsistence, not only for provisions, but for apparel’.
A week earlier, the assembled Indian chiefs at Buffalo Creek had been visited by British Colonel Butler and Captain Brant ‘who desired of the chiefs, in private council, to pay no attention to what should say to them by me and advised them not to assist me in going to the Miamis, as the consequence would be fatal to those that should attend me’. Brant then received ‘private instructions from headquarters to set out to Detroit to carry instructions of some kind to the Indians at war with the United States’.
The council didn’t begin until the arrival of Captain Powell of the British Indian Department. Procter recounted the journey of Cornplanter and read the letters between him and President Washington; read the letters of Knox to the Six Nations, to the Delawares and Wyandots, and to the Miami and Wabash Indians; and explained the recent treaty with the Creek Indians. In answer to this, Red Jacket called for the council fire to be moved to Fort Niagara! Procter replied that
‘to move to Niagara, a British garrison, there to transact important business in which the United States were concerned, is of such a nature, that neither my principles nor commission would warrant me in such a transaction’. Red Jacket then sent for Colonel Butler to meet with them. Procter wrote that this ‘plainly demonstrates that most of the chiefs of the Six Nations are under the influence of the British; as no business of consequence will be undertaken, to the advantage of the United States, but what must be sifted by British counsel’.
On May 3rd, Butler arrived, not at Buffalo Creek, but at Fort Erie, where he desired a meeting with all of the chiefs – but without Procter!!! After the meeting, Procter was invited to dine with the chiefs and with the British officers. Butler reported that he and the other officers now had to return to Niagara to meet with and receive instructions from their commander, Colonel Gordon. He also reported, to the chiefs, that Brant and McKee, the agent for Indian affairs at Detroit, ‘were now preparing to go among the Indians at war with the Americans, to know what their intentions were, whether for war or for peace; advising them, by all means, to wait the information that would be received from them; and, should it not come as early as expected, they should not go without it, as thereby they would draw war upon their own nations’.
Procter argued that
‘the tenor of the Colonel’s advice being, to leave the whole of the treaty, and adjustment of the same, to the chiefs of Buffalo, Colonel Brant, and McKee, whom he should engage for, to accommodate the disputes between the Indians at war and the United States, and on no account to attempt the undertaking myself … that a peace could not be confirmed with the thirteen States, but with his Britannic Majesty’s subjects, in their behalf; that on the completion of this business, due honor would rest with the negotiators and … I should justly entail on myself lasting disrepute … That, for those reasons, the chiefs of the Six Nations must be decisive in their answers to me, within a few days’.
On May 5th, Butler returned to Fort Erie with
‘every public paper received by Cornplanter at Philadelphia, together with the message that I brought to the Six nations’ to be presented to Colonel Gordon. Procter then ‘wrote a letter to obtain permission from the commanding officer of Niagara, to freight one of the schooners upon the lake, to conduct me, and such Indians as were willing to go with me, to Sandusky’.
Finally(!) at a council on May 15th, Red Jacket spoke and named the sachems and chief warriors that would accompany Procter to the Miamis, but the Indians still wanted a response from Gordon – ‘your request is granted, and when we hear from our brothers, the British, then we shall know what time we can start’, and on the 17th, Procter again sent a request for passage in one of the vessels on lake Erie.
But on May 19th he received an answer from Gordon that ‘I am not authorized to comply with your request’ and Procter noted that ‘this unfriendly denial puts a stop to the further attempting to go to the Miamies’. The next morning, Procter met the chiefs in council and informed them of Gordon’s denial and ‘perceiving … that nothing farther can be done by us at this time, I must take my leave of the Six Nations’. After receiving their farewell speech, Procter left Buffalo Creek, arriving at Fort Pitt on May 26th and at Philadelphia on June 7th.
After receiving his orders on March 21st, St. Clair left Philadelphia on the 28th ‘in order to be in the northwest country as early as possible … to observe the motions of the Indians, that if any opportunity offered, means might be taken to induce them to peace’, and arrived at Fort Pitt on April 19th, and then proceeded to Lexington to meet with Scott.
On May 8th St. Clair directed Scott
‘not to hurry the muster, and as the distributing the ammunition and provisions would take some time, to contrive matters so that they might not be in readiness to move until the 24th, hoping that the Colonel (Procter) might arrive by that time’.
The 750 volunteers arrived at the mouth of the Kentucky river on May 19th to be transported across the Ohio river and, when there was still no account from Procter, on the 23rd the army began its march northwest. After marching 155 miles, on June 1st Scott observed two small Indian villages, and immediately detached Colonel Hardin with 60 mounted infantry and a troop of light horse to attack the 2 villages, while Scott and the main army proceeded toward the main town of Ouiatanon, on the banks of the Wabash river.
Upon arriving at a summit overlooking the Indian towns, Scott discovered the inhabitants ‘in great confusion, endeavouring to make their escape over the river in canoes’. Scott sent Wilkinson and the first battalion rushing down to the riverbank and, ‘regardless of a brisk fire kept up from a Kickapoo town on the opposite bank, they, in a few minutes, by a well directed fire from their rifles, destroyed all the savages (nearly 30 Indians) with which the 5 canoes were crowded’. In order to dislodge the Indians from the Kickapoo town, Scott then sent 2 companies down the river below the town to cross over and take post on the opposite bank, but when they were discovered, the village was abandoned.
That evening, Hardin and his troops returned to Ouiatanon to rejoin Scott, after having killed 6 Wea and taken 52 prisoners in their attack on the 2 villages. The next day, Scott sent Wilkinson and 360 men to attack the important town of Kethtipecanunk, at the mouth of the Eel river, 18 miles away. Upon their approach, the Indians fled across the river in canoes, and Wilkinson and his men burned the town and then marched back to rejoin Scott. ‘After having burned the towns and adjacent villages, and destroyed the growing corn and pulse’, Scott’s army began their march back to the rapids of the Ohio, arriving on June 14th, without the loss of a single man.
On June 24th, St. Clair wrote to the Committee of Kentucky, congratulating them ‘upon the success of the late expedition from Kentucky’ and that ‘as it will, however, be some time before the general and more systematic operations of the campaign can be put in motion, another expedition of the same nature, it appears to me, would be still of very great use’.
On July 31st, St. Clair wrote his instructions to Wilkinson, who was appointed by the Committee to lead the upcoming expedition, to proceed to the Indian village of Kikiah, situated at the junction of the L’Anguile or Eel river with the Wabash river, about 38 leagues above Ouiatanon,
‘and assault the same and the Indians therein, either by surprise or otherwise … saving all who cease to resist, and capturing as many as possible, particularly women and children’; and ‘whether the assault … should succeed or fail, you will proceed to such other Indian towns or villages upon the Wabash or in the prairies, to the destruction of which you shall judge your force adequate’.
On August 1st, Wilkinson and 523 volunteers left Fort Washington and for 3 days and 70 miles, marched north ‘feinted boldly at the Miami villages’ and then turned northwest, arriving at the Wabash river, about 2 ½ leagues above the mouth of the Eel river. Upon reaching the town, he discovered that ‘the enemy had taken the alarm and were fleeing’ and ordered a general charge across the river, ‘the enemy was unable to make the smallest resistance’ – 6 warriors were killed, 34 prisoners were taken, and 1 unfortunate captive was released, with 2 men killed and 1 wounded. Very few who were in town escaped, as all the warriors had earlier left the town and rode up the river to the French store to purchase ammunition, and Wilkinson sent some troops in quest of where the ammunition was stored but they were unable to locate it.
The next morning, Wilkinson left behind 3 of the prisoners with a short message, that ‘you may find your squaws and your children under the protection of our great chief and warrior General St. Clair at fort Washington. To him you will make all applications for an exchange of prisoners or for peace’, and after cutting up the corn and burning the cabins, he commenced the march for the Kickapoo town on the prairie. But after he ‘pushed forward, through bog after bog, to the saddle-skirts in mud and water, and … found myself environed on all sides with morasses, which forbade my advancing’, he changed course and returned to the towns that had earlier been destroyed by Scott, and he found that the corn had been replanted. Wilkinson ordered his men to destroy the corn and towns again. With many of his horses lame or tired, and with only 5 days provisions left, Wilkinson resumed the march on August 12th, following Scott’s return path, and arrived at the Falls of the Ohio on the 21st.
During August, Knox informed St. Clair of the ‘treaty of peace and friendship’ signed on July 2nd, by the Cherokee nation and William Blount, Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs of the territory south of the Ohio, that placed the Cherokee under the protection of the United States – with a solemn guaranty to all their lands not ceded; and that agreed to the boundary with the United States – with the United States having a free and unmolested use of a road from Washington district to Mero district and having the navigation of the Tennessee river. Knox wrote that ‘all is, therefore, quiet at the southward, excepting a few rascally Indians, probably Creeks, have been committing some depredations on the Cumberland settlements’.
Knox also informed St. Clair that Colonel Thomas Pickering had been sent to meet ‘with the Senecas and all the other Six Nations, excepting the Mohawks’, at Tioga Point ‘to conciliate the Indians, to prevent their listening to the invitations of the western hostile Indians, by withdrawing them to a greater distance from the theatre of war’. Pickering had met with over 1000 Indians from July 2nd to 17th, and although no treaty was agreed to, by cementing the friendships between the United States and the Five Nations of Indians, ‘it is to be expected the good effects flowing from this council will be hereafter manifested conspicuous’; and the Indians were invited to send a delegation to Philadelphia to meet with the United States government.
But while these efforts for peace with the Indians were progressing, Knox would warn St. Clair that
‘we must, by all means, avoid involving the United States with Great Britain, until events arise of such quality and magnitude as to impress the people of the United States, and the world at large, of the rank injustice and unfairness of their procedure. But a war with that power, in the present state of affairs, would retard our power, growth, and happiness, beyond almost the power of calculation’.
Earlier in April at the Indian council at Buffalo Creek, Brant’s proposal that he and other deputies should be sent to visit the Western Indians was accepted and they immediately left for Miami Town a few days before the arrival of Procter and Cornplanter. At the Maumee Rapids, Brant received a June 11th letter from Colonel Gordon at Niagara, repeating the desire of Britain to be the mediator between the Americans and Indians,
‘It must strike you very forcibly, that in all the proceedings of the different commissioners from the American States, they have cautiously avoided applying for our interference, as a measure they affect to think perfectly unnecessary … Had they, before matters were pushed to extremity, requested the assistance of the British Government to bring about a peace on equitable terms, I am convinced the measures would have been fully accomplished long before this time’.
McKee had also arrived at the Maumee Rapids to deliver the annual presents to the Indians and to tell them that
‘I am directed to consult with you what means could be fallen upon … to put an end to the fatal disputes between you and the United States … if it be in your Father’s power to assist in accomplishing it, he will be happy, that through his means, any misfortune to you may be avoided’. McKee wrote to Johnson that ‘in obedience to His Lordship’s command, I should use every possible means within the limits of my power, to be informed on what terms the unfortunate troubles between the western Indians and the American states could be terminated … (but) the continual alarms of the hostile intentions and preparations of America … has rendered it altogether impracticable to detain here a sufficient number of chiefs of the different nations for the purpose of deliberating on a question of that magnitude … the pressing importunities of the Shawanese and Miamies Indians to come to their assistance … hurried them off’ (to the Miami towns) … In case of the approach of an army, the safety of the King’s post at Detroit does require that troops should occupy a distant station, and without such aid the post and country will be in immediate danger of falling by surprise. The station which from experience and my best knowledge of the country I conceive to be the most proper and advantageous is the foot of the Miami Rapids’ – at McKee’s trading post!!!
The Indian council began on July 2nd, but the chiefs instead decided to send a delegation, with Brant as their spokesman, to Quebec to meet with Dorchester to ask if they could expect military aid from the British. The delegation travelled by boat to Fort Erie, crossed over to Buffalo creek, and proceeded by land to Fort Niagara, arriving on July 20th, where they met another American envoy, Captain Hendrick Aupaumut.
Captain Hendricks was a chief of the Stockbridge Indians and had lived among the Oniedas – allies of the Americans during the war. He had been at the council with Colonel Pickering at Tioga Point that ended a few days earlier, and had volunteered to travel to the western Indians to urge them to make peace. Brant advised the Indians not to talk or to listen to Hendrick. Brant also sent word to the Mohawks at Grand river, to stop Hendrick’s party from travelling west to the Miami country until his return from Quebec. By the end of July, Brant and his party left Niagara by boat to Kingston, and then travelled on to Quebec to meet with Governor Dorchester.
On August 14th, Brant and the 6 western chiefs met with Dorchester and with Indian Superintendent Johnson, asking
‘that a fort may be built at the Miamis Rapids for the protection of that country, Detroit, and the country about it, to which it is the key… that provisions may be ordered for the Great Council we are to have at the Miamis Rapids early in September to consider on our present situation … that we had pointed out a boundary line which we mean to abide by … that you will freely tell us in case of another attack which we have great reason to expect shortly, how far we can be assisted that we may know what to depend upon’.
On August 15th, Dorchester answered that ‘
when the King made peace and gave independence to the United States, he made a treaty in which he marked out a line between them & him; this implies no more, than that beyond this line he would not extend his interference … the posts would have been given up long since, according to the treaty, had the terms of it been complied with on the part of the states, but they were not; the King therefore remains in possession of the posts, and will continue to hold them, until all differences between him and the states shall be settled.’
Dorchester said that
‘But Brothers, this line which the King then marked out between him and the states, even supposing the treaty had taken effect, could never have prejudiced your rights … When the King your father discovered that notwithstanding his care there had been encroachments upon your lands by some of his people, that you were made uneasy, and that you had reason to complain, what did he do? He called the leading people of these colonies, between whom and you the differences had arisen, together, to meet your nations at Fort Stanwix to settle the dispute, and to fix a final boundary’.
(This referred to the treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, that was masterfully negotiated by William Johnson, that finally secured a boundary line for the colonies that was west of the Appalachians and south of the Ohio river, and for which Johnson was severely rebuked by the British – because that line was not in accordance with his instructions from the Board of Trade, but which was finally accepted by the British cabinet ‘rather than risk defeating the important object of establishing a final boundary line’. The line that the British were opposed to during the war, and that they would redraw – back to the Appalachians – had they won that war, was now the line that they were the great defenders of!)
At their final meeting with Dorchester on August 17th, Brant and the other chiefs marked onto a map ‘a line running from the confluence of the Cherokee (Tennessee) river with the Ohio to the mouth of the Muskingum, thence to the portage, which crosses to Cayahaga, from thence in a direct line across the country to Venango, where it joins the line agreed upon in 1768, from thence along the said line ‘til it strikes the line of purchase made by Pennsylvania in the year 1784’ and this boundary line was ‘examined by all the deputies present, who declared that the several nations, their constituents, had determined to abide by that line, and that this was their final resolution’.
In effect, Dorchester was telling the Indians that the British did not recognize the American treaties with the Indians, and was accepting their proposed boundary line for any coming negotiations with St. Clair.
The next day, on August 18th, having set this evil into motion, Dorchester sailed away to London, leaving Major General Alured Clarke in charge, and leaving Prince Edward, then in Canada, as second in command of the British forces in North America.
The western chiefs arrived back at Detroit on October 17th and proceed to the Miami Rapids. Brant returned to Grand river, where he met with Hendricks, who had been detained there but was still wanting to go to Detroit, and he asked Brant to accompany him. Brant refused to go, and Hendricks had to give up on his peace mission to the western Indians and he returned home.
7- The Battle of the Wabash, November 4th 1791
When St. Clair had finally arrived at his headquarters at Fort Washington on May 15th 1791, he found a garrison of only 85 men fit for duty, and he therefore called for the entire 1st Regiment from forts Harman, Steuben and Knox to reassemble at Fort Washington by July 15th.
He then ordered a draught of these 427 men to form a corps of artificers of smiths, carpenters, harness makers, colliers and wheelrights – to construct a laboratory to make up the ammunition for the expedition, and an armoury to repair the broken arms and to build new gun carriages; and to build the shops and tools to make the needed axes, kettles, canteens, cordage, knapsacks, and cartridge boxes. ‘Fort Washington had as much the appearance of a large manufactory on the inside, as it had of a military base on the outside’.
By August 7th, it became necessary, for the support of the cattle and horses, to move all the troops, except the artificers and a small garrison, to Ludlow’s station 6 miles away, where they would wait for the arrival of the rest of the troops. General Richard Butler had arrived at Fort Pitt on May 22nd, and was to assemble the troops as they arrived there and then to forward them down the Ohio river to Fort Washington. The 842 levies, under Colonels Darke and Gibson, had begun to arrive on May 16th, and on June 1st began to be sent to Fort Washington. Butler with the last of the troops arrived at Fort Washington on September 10th. On August 29th the regulars of the 2nd American Regiment, arrived at Fort Washington. But realizing that the force for the campaign would fall considerably short of what had been thought necessary, St. Clair travelled to Kentucky to meet with the county lieutenants on September 4th and agree to a draught of the militia.
On September 8th, Hamtramck led the troops (about 1000 regulars and 800 levies, and 75 cavalrymen and 45 artillerymen) north 18 miles to the Great Miami river to establish the first post of communication, while also constructing a road for the artillery to travel over, and then began the construction of a five-sided stockade with four blockhouses, enclosing storehouses and barracks for 100 men – named Fort Hamilton.
Here, Butler presided over a court of inquiry, requested by General Harmar, to examine his conduct in the expedition against the Miami Indians in 1790, where he was acquitted with honor. St. Clair had returned to Fort Washington on October 2nd to meet the arrival of 300 Kentucky militia under Colonel Oldham (less than the 750 he had hoped for) and he sent them forward to join the main army.
On October 4th, Butler led the army across the Great Miami river and marched north 45 miles, again while building a road to accommodate the artillery and baggage, and on October 13th began construction of a second fort, a square structure with 4 bastions, and with barracks and storehouses – named Fort Jefferson. Although a convoy with 6000 lbs. of flour arrived on the 18th, with the loss of some of the packhorses and the dwindling supply of forage, not enough healthy animals were on hand to carry more provisions, and St. Clair ordered the 300 (army-owned) baggage horses assigned to the contractor’s task of provisioning the army. Most of the troops’ baggage, that couldn’t be carried in a knapsack, had to be left behind at Fort Jefferson.
With the fear that the terms of service of the 6-month levies would soon be expiring (one Virginia company was discharged on October 20th) and with most of the work on the construction of the fort having been done while the remaining work could be completed by the 120 men left in garrison, as another convoy arrived with 1600 lbs. of flour and a small drove of cattle, St. Clair decided to resume the march on the 24th. The march was halted on the 25th to await the arrival of further provisions, resumed on the 30th, and halted on the 31st to again wait for provisions. When a band of militia deserted and threatened to plunder the expected convoy of provisions, St. Clair ordered Hamtramck and the 300 men of the 1st Regiment to march in pursuit of the deserters (and to discourage others from deserting) and to save the vital provisions. On November 2nd the march resumed and on the evening of the 3rd, the army, now about 1400 men, camped on the banks of a river, that was about 30 miles north of Fort Jefferson, with the regulars and levies on the eastern bank, and the militia in the advance camp on the western bank – there, to await the return of Hamtramck and the 1st Regiment. Unfortunately, St. Clair had thought that they were at the St. Mary’s river and were only 15 miles from Miami Town, but actually they were at the headwaters of the Wabash river and were still 50 miles away from their destination.
However, upon receiving intelligence of the coming American army, Little Turtle of the Miamis and Blue Jacket of the Shawnees left the Miami Town on October 28th and led 1000 warriors to the Wabash river, only 2 miles from St. Clair’s camp. Before daybreak on November 4th, Little Turtle deployed his warriors in a half-moon formation that would encircle the American camp – Wyandots (with Simon Girty) on the right, Shawnees, Miamis and Delawares in the center and Ottawas, Chippewas and Potawatomis on the left. While St. Clair’s men were leaving morning assembly to prepare breakfast and to gather the horses, Little Turtle launched their surprise attack. First, 300 warriors attacked the militia advance and scattered the 270 militia-men in confusion, and sent them rushing across the river into the main camp, causing much chaos and throwing disorder into the levies that were now ordered to form the front line, as the attacking Indians dodged from tree to tree and hid behind logs and stumps and fired at the standing ranks of the infantry. Although the 4 cannons began blasting at the attackers, because they were on the high ground it caused the shots to be too high, and soon created a blanket of thick smoke that obscured the soldiers vision, and the Indians began their encirclement of the main camp, leaving no route of escape.
St. Clair, who had been suffering from rheumatic asthma and from gout, had 2 horses killed as he was trying to mount them and finally, while in great pain, he shuffled over to the artillery to command his men. From the rear line, Darke with 300 men from the 2nd American Regiment and from the levies, behind 26 cavalrymen, charged southwest across the river and forced the Wyandots, under Simon Girty, to flee into a small, log-filled ravine where they continued to snipe at the soldiers. But a horde of Little Turtle’s warriors attacked the void that was left in the defensive perimeter by the cavalry charge and overran the rear line of artillery, killing and scalping them, before massacring the women and children huddled in the center of the camp. Darke’s troops then turned around, hurried back to camp and were soon attacked by the warriors.
St. Clair then sent a detachment under Gibson to ease the pressure on Darke, where they fought hand to hand to avert the collapse of the entire flank. The Indians continued firing from behind logs and trees (especially singling out and shooting the officers) and continually changed position so that they seldom fired twice from the same spot, making it impossible for the Americans to find them out or to know where to direct their fire. With mounting pressure on the thin line near the artillery, and fearing that the cannon would soon be overrun, another charge was ordered at the center of the Indian attack. But the Indians moved aside of the charge and fired from the flanks, forcing the charge to turn and run back before they were surrounded. The Indians then mounted a renewed attacked at the few remaining cannon yet in action, forcing the artillerymen to spike the cannons before being overrun by the advancing warriors.
St. Clair was now convinced that his army was overwhelmed by superior numbers and completely surrounded, and he sought to effect a retreat to the army-constructed road. The first charge to gain the road failed to break through. A second charge was directed not near the road but into the timber north of it along a parallel course, that surprised and scattered the Indians, and opened up an escape for the shattered army through the woods for a mile, before finally striking the wilderness road. The Indians pursued them for about 5 miles before returning to the camp to ransack the bodies, baggage, equipment and tents for any spoils.
Many of the wounded that were unable to escape were saved to be sold to the British or to kept as slaves, while others, especially the officers, were tortured and mutilated – a wounded General Butler who had to be left behind, was killed, scalped, his heart was cut out and eaten, and his body left for the wolves and ravens.
St. Clair and his straggling army struggled for 29 miles before reaching Fort Jefferson that evening and rejoining Hamtramck and the 1st Regiment. After being sent to escort the provisions convoy and finding that the convoy had not yet been sent, Hamtramck and his troops returned and had passed Fort Jefferson early on the morning of November 4th. Upon hearing the firing of the cannon, they fixed their bayonets and marched toward St. Clair and the main army, but after encountering several fleeing militiamen who informed them that the army had been totally destroyed, Hamtramck retreated to Fort Jefferson, reasoning that if the army had been defeated, Fort Jefferson was the nearest point of refuge and it must be secured.
But at Fort Jefferson, there was no meat and only a single day’s flour ration left for the garrison. Fearing that the Indians might soon invest the fort and cut off the convoy of provisions, St. Clair now convened an urgent council where it was decided that, except for a small garrison and the badly wounded, they should continue the retreat that evening, marching behind the 1st Regiment. After meeting the convoy, 50 horse-loads of provisions accompanied by 60 regulars were sent back to Fort Jefferson, while the remaining 66 horse-loads retreated with St. Clair and his army and they reached Fort Washington on November 8th. For the relief of Fort Jefferson, St. Clair authorized a provisions convoy with 50 men, along with a detachment of 100 men from the 1st American Regiment.
On November 9th, St. Clair penned a difficult letter to Knox, giving an account of the defeat of his army, and the loss of 657 men with 271 wounded. After leading the retreat of his army almost 70 miles to Fort Washington, St. Clair was so debilitated that he remained in bed for 2 weeks, and it was a month before he was able to travel, arriving on January 21st 1792 at Philadelphia to meet with the President.
News of the battle reached Detroit by November 12th, as a stream of prisoners and captured papers and documents began arriving there. Although the Indian chiefs had proposed that they move quickly to attack the new forts that St. Clair had built (forts Hamilton and Jefferson) the attack would never take place. McKee, at Detroit, wrote to Johnson, at Quebec, on December 5th, that ‘this circumstance will naturally lead you to consider the necessity of sending forward at as early a period as possible, all the supplies for the year as well as the extraordinaries, which will become indispensably necessary for so numerous a body of Indians, and more particularly as the deputies who were at Quebec have expressed, that Lord Dorchester promised them a supply of provisions, when the nations next met for considering on their affairs’.
McKee, from Miami Rapids, again wrote to Johnson, on January 28th 1792, that
‘the scarcity of corn among the Shawanese, Miamis, and Delawares, owing to the great consumption when the different nations assembled at their villages in the fall, and also to the loss of great part of their crop by the over flowing of the river, has compelled these tribes to hunt, for the support of their families, at a time when their services were wanted by the other nations to reduce the forts which were built by their enemies as they advanced … In order that they may in future be more collected and less subject to a surprise, they have resolved to abandon their old villages, called the Miami Towns, and are preparing to fix themselves, within half a day’s march of this place and their most earnest request to me is, that a sufficient quantity of corn may be provided, for the support of their families until they get crops from the lands, in the vicinity of this place which they mean to plant in the spring.’
Before the Indian force was dispersed it was decided that a great council would be held in the spring, at the foot of the Miami Rapids – near the new villages of the Miamis, Shawnees and Delawares, and the site of McKee’s British Indian Department trading post.
St. Clair’s report of his defeat reached President Washington at Philadelphia on December 9th 1791 and he sent it to Congress on December 12th. On January 11th 1792, President Washington presented to Congress two reports that had been prepared for him by Secretary of War Knox earlier on December 26th –
- “A summary statement of facts, relatively to the measures taken, in behalf of the United States, to induce the hostile Indians, northwest of the Ohio, to peace, previously to the exercise of coercion against them; and also a statement of the arrangements for the campaign of 1791”, and
- “Statement relative to the Frontiers Northwest of the Ohio … and also a plan of such further measures as the existing state of affairs, and the national interest, seem to require.”
In the second report, Knox wrote that
‘the principal causes of the failure of the expedition appear to have been as follows: 1st. The deficient number of good troops, according to the expectation, in the early part of the year. 2nd. Their want of sufficient discipline, according to the nature of the service. 3rd. The lateness of the season. … in addition thereto, another cause may be added, which was not originally estimated, to wit: an increased number of Indians: for information has been received, by three separate channels, that the Indian warriors who opposed our army may be estimated at a number somewhere about three thousand.’
Knox worried that
‘emissaries of the hostile Indians will be disseminated among the Southern tribes. Councils will be held, and the passions of the young men will be inflamed with the tales of prowess and glory acquired by the hostile Indians … it may become extremely difficult, if not impracticable, to restrain the young warriors of the south from aiding directly or collaterally with the hostile Indians of the West. To the danger of the Southern tribes joining the hostile Indians, may be added the danger from part of the Northern or Six Nations … it will appear that an Indian war, of considerable extent, has been excited, not only contrary to the interests and intention of the General Government, but by means altogether without its control. That it is the public interest to terminate this disagreeable war, as speedily as possible, cannot be doubted; and it will be important to devise and execute the best means to effect that end. That, upon due deliberation, it will appear that it is by ample conviction of our superior force only, that the Indians can be brought to listen to the dictates of peace, which have been sincerely and repeatedly offered them … Hence, it would appear, that the principles of justice as well as policy, and, it may be added, the principles of economy, all combine to dictate, that an adequate military force should be raised as soon as possible, placed upon the frontiers, and disciplined according to the nature of the service, in order to meet, with a prospect of success, the greatest probable combination of the Indian enemy.’
Knox’s plan was ‘that the military establishment of the United States shall, during the pleasure of Congress, consist of five thousand one hundred and sixty-eight non-commissioned, privates, and musicians.’ This army would be 5 regiments of infantry. Each regiment (of 912 men) would consist of 3 battalions, and each battalion would consist of 4 companies of 76 men each – and 1 battalion would be entirely riflemen. Additionally, there would be 1 squadron of cavalry, consisting of 4 troops of 76 men each; and 1 battalion of artillery, consisting of 4 companies of 76 men each. Knox estimated this plan would cost over $1 million.
In response, Congress passed an ‘Act for making further and more effectual provision for the protection of the frontiers of the United States’, that President Washington signed into law on March 5th.
On March 26th, St. Clair wrote to President Washington that
‘… while I am persuaded that every thing was done in the course of the last campaign that could be done, on my part, to answer the public expectation fully, yet it is denied by some, doubted by many, and known to but few out of the army. A wish to rectify the public opinion, and a duty that I conceive I owe to myself, induces me to request that an inquiry into my conduct may be instituted. When that is over, I may hope to be permitted to resign the commission of Major-General which I now hold.’
While the President could not open a court of inquiry, the House of Representatives, on March 27th, resolved that a committee be appointed into the causes of the failure of the late expedition under St. Clair. St. Clair received a letter from President Washington on April 4th, that
‘the reason you offer for retaining your commission until an opportunity should be presented, if necessary, of investigating your conduct, in every mode prescribed by law, would be conclusive of me, under any other circumstances than the present. But … the essential interests of the public require that your successor should be immediately appointed, in order to repair to the frontiers’.
On April 7th, St. Clair agreed and offered his resignation to the President, writing that
‘I will own to you, sir, that the desire of honest fame has ever been the strongest passion in my breast. I have thought that I had merited it, and it is all I have to compensate me for the sacrifice of a very independent situation and the last years of my life devoted to the public service, and the faithful application of my talents, such as they were, in every situation in which I have been placed, with a zeal bordering upon enthusiasm. I trust, sir, I shall yet enjoy it, while those who have attempted to disturb it will be forgotten, or remembered with indignation, and in their bosoms, if they have feelings, sensations may arise, something similar to what Milton has described to have seized upon Satan, when he discovered our first parents in paradise.’
On April 13th Anthony Wayne accepted the appointment to be Major General and commander of the proposed, new 5,000-man army on the frontier – the Legion of the United States – ‘which must inevitably be attended with the most anxious care, fatigue, and difficulty, and from which more may be expected than will be in my power to perform.’
On May 8th, the committee that was charged with investigating the failure of St. Clair’s expedition, released their report stating that ‘… the committee conceive it but justice to the commander-in-chief, to say that, in their opinion, the failure of the late expedition can, in no respect, be imputed to his conduct, either at any time before or during the action; but that, as his conduct, in all the preparatory arrangements, was marked with particular ability and zeal, so his conduct, during the action, furnished strong testimonies of his coolness and intrepidity.’
President Washington had been contemplating retiring to the tranquility of private life at Mount Vernon. He had wished to end his public career with a nation enjoying economic happiness and peace within its borders. During a brief vacation in May 1792, he invited Madison to visit him, where he asked him to compose a farewell address and to advise him on the best time to release it to the public. But the President was most concerned about a new problem – dissension in his cabinet – that was coalescing into two political parties.
Frustrated that Congress (and the President) had approved of Hamilton’s reports on public credit and on a national bank, Jefferson and Madison decided that it was time to do more than just voice their disapproval of Hamilton’s program. During May and June of 1791, Madison and Jefferson undertook a trip to northern New York, using the excuse of investigating the flora and fauna in that part of America. On the trip, they met with Robert Livingston, George Clinton and with Aaron Burr, to seek their support in defeating the policies of Alexander Hamilton. Livingston and Clinton had joined forces to defeat Philip Schuyler, the father-in-law of Hamilton, and to elect Aaron Burr as the United States Senator from New York.
It was shortly afterwards (quite suspiciously), during that summer of 1791, that Hamilton would become entrapped into having an affair with Maria Reynolds. (James Reynolds had been renting his stylish wife to various gentlemen, and then blackmailing them.)
Also, while on their trip to New York, Madison and Jefferson had met with Madison’s former college room-mate at Princeton, Philip Freneau, to convince him to come to Philadelphia and launch a newspaper that would express their mutual fear and detestation of Hamilton’s attempt to shape the federal government along ‘British’ and ‘monarchist’ lines. Freneau accepted, when Jefferson offered him a job as a French translator in Jefferson’s State Department. The National Gazette, under Freneau, printed its first issue on October 31st 1791. Over the next 12 months, Madison, in close consultation with Jefferson (who tried to appear to be neutral), would contribute 18 unsigned essays, in attacks on Hamilton`s program.
Madison would continue as a speech-writer for President Washington (when requested) – drafting the president`s annual message to Congress, while also chairing the committee that responded to it! Jefferson would give permission to Burr to examine the records of the Department of State, in the morning hours before it opened each day – until President Washington issued a peremptory order denying him further access.
Before this New York trip, Jefferson’s letter to the publisher of Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’, that warned ‘against the political heresies that have sprung up amongst us’, was used as an introduction to the book. Jefferson assured President Washington, who read this as an attack on his administration, that he never intended this letter to be made public, and claimed that he was actually criticizing essays of Vice-President John Adams! (A surprised Adams said that he had no recollection of ever discussing theories of government with Jefferson.) Jefferson later wrote to Madison claiming that this introductory letter ‘marks my opposition to the government’.
On July 4th 1791, shares in the Bank of the United States went on sale (at $400 a share). But, as a way for the less wealthy to acquire shares, you could pay $25 for a ‘scrip’, that entitled you to a share while having 18 months to pay in full. Some speculators began to drive up the price of these ‘scrips’, and by August 15th, the federal government’s Commissioners of the Sinking Fund (including Jefferson) authorized Hamilton to intervene in the open markets, and he ordered the purchase of $350,000 of United States government debt to stop the speculation. The Bank of the United States would later open its office in Philadelphia on December 12th.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was continuing his economic plan for the new nation – to promote the development of manufacturing in America and to free itself from its dependency on British manufactures. On September 5th, a ‘prospectus’ – that had been written by Hamilton and his assistant Tench Coxe – for a Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures was published in Philadelphia.
It received a charter in New Jersey on November 22nd, for a 6-mile area that would be located at the Falls of the Passaic River and later would become the city of Paterson. The SEUM’s stockholders elected William Duer as its governor. Hamilton would present to Congress his completed Report on Manufactures, on December 5th 1791. (Ten days later, Hamilton would receive his first blackmail letter from James Reynolds.)
Hamilton and Hamilton’s plans would now be attacked both in Philip Freneau’s National Gazette and also, in the General Advertiser, run by Benjamin Bache, Dr. Benjamin Franklin’s grandson – upon his death, Benny inherited his printing equipment and started The General Advertiser in October 1790. During his youth spent in Europe with his grandfather, Benny had attended school in Geneva(!!!) and was under the care of Philibert Cramer, the official publisher of Voltaire.
In March 1792, William Duer, Alexander Macomb and other speculators (men that a concerned Hamilton labelled ‘unprincipled gamblers’) tried to corner the market on government 6% bonds. But the federal government sued Duer for $240,000 – money that was missing in Treasury funds, while Duer was assistant secretary of the treasury in 1789-1790, either because of sloppy bookkeeping or embezzlement. Again, Hamilton was authorized by the Commissioners of the Sinking Fund (except this time, Jefferson opposed it! – because of his hatred of the Bank of United States, hoping, perhaps, that it would fail) to make purchases of government debt, in order to put a stop to the panic. This bankrupted the speculators, including Duer and Macomb who both ended up in prison.
Before President Washington, in May, asked Madison to compose a farewell address, he would receive three letters, warning him about his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson.
On January 3rd 1792, President Washington received an anonymous letter, concerning Jefferson’s ambition, that read
‘Beware. Be upon your guard. You have cherished in your Bosom a Serpent, and he is now endeavouring to sting you death. Under the Mark of a Democrat, he thinks he conceals his ambition which is unbounded. His vanity makes him believe that he will certainly be your Successor. But he can not wait with patience untill it shall please God to take you from this world. He wishes to precipitate his career by inspiring you with disgust against the Senate and thus induce you to retire at the expiration of your Four Years.’
On January 20th, President Washington received another letter from the same anonymous writer, concerning Jefferson’s opposition to the Senate and his opposition to the President’s military policy, that
‘Your S. of S. never loses an opportunity of promulgating doctrines of a different tendency. In his opinion the Senate ought to be deprived, by what he calls an amendment of the Constitution, of every thing except their legislative vote – and even that he says appears doubtful to him & to his little friend (i.e. Madison), since the French in their new Constitution have proved that the dangers to be apprehended from a single branch of the Legislature are unfounded & chimerical … You think that a regular, disciplined, military force is proper for the defence of this Country. Every man who understands the interest of this Country, thinks so too. When you ask the opinion of the S. of S., he affects great humility, & says he is not a judge of military matters. Behind your back he reviles with the greatest asperity your military measures, & ridicules the idea of employing any regular Troops. Militia he says ought alone to be depended on. By such artifices he renders your proceedings odious to a considerable number of the ignorant part of the community. His doctrines are strongly supported by his cunning little friend Madison, & by the Atty General, who has received a long Letter from his brother in law Colonel Nicholas in Kentucky, containing the severest strictures upon the military arrangemts & laying down a plan for committing the defence of the Country entirely to the militia of Kentucky.’
And finally, at the end of March, President Washington received a third anonymous letter, exposing Jefferson’s use of Freneau’s newspaper, that ‘
I do not believe you know that the National Gazette was established under the immediate patronage of Mr Jefferson and Mr Madison, and that Mr Freneau the Printer of it is a Clerk in the Secretary of State’s Office wth a Salary as Interpreter. Examine the productions wch appear in that Gazette. Is it proper that the Secretary of State should encourage the malevolent attacks wch are continually making against the Government? Be assured Sir that those Men are at the head of a most wicked Faction, chiefly composed of Virginians, but assisted by some other restless, ambitious Men. Their objects are to destroy Mr Hamilton, by making him odious in the public Eye, to place Mr Jefferson at the head of the Government, to make Mr Madison prime Minister, to displace the Vice President at the next Election, to lay this Country prostrate at the feet of France, to affront and quarrel wth England, to take advantage of the cry of the ignorant multitude in favor of Democracy, and thus to establish an absolute Tyranny over the minds of the populace by the affectation of a most tender regard to the rights of Man, and a more popular Government.’
After President Washington had received a draft of the farewell address from Madison, and had returned to Philadelphia, on May 23rd he received a frantic letter from Jefferson urging him to stay on and serve a second term.
Jefferson’s letter started with an attack on Hamilton’s plan for the public credit, that
‘a public debt, greater than we can possibly pay before other causes of adding new debt to it will occur, has been artificially created … that all the capital employed in paper speculation is barren and useless; producing, like that on a gaming table … that it nourishes in our citizens habits of vice and idleness instead of industry and morality; that it has furnished effectual means of corrupting such a portion of the legislature, as turns the balance between honest voters which ever way it is directed … that the ultimate object of all this is to prepare the way for a change, from the present republican form of government, to that of a monarchy of which the English constitution is to be the model’. Jefferson urges the president not to resign but to remain for a second term because ‘the confidence of the whole union is centred in you. Your being at the helm, will be more an answer to every argument which can be used to alarm and lead the people in any quarter into violence or secession’;
while as to himself resigning, Jefferson writes that
‘it is a thing of mere indifference to the public whether I retain or relinquish my purpose of closing my tour with the first periodical renovation of the government’(!?!) And he further adds that ‘I think it probable that both the Spanish and English negotiations, if not completed before your purpose is known, will be suspended from the moment it is known; and the latter nation will then use double diligence in fomenting the Indian war’.
On July 10th, President Washington met with Jefferson concerning this letter, saying
‘that the pieces lately published, and particularly in Freneau’s paper seemed to have in view the exciting opposition to the government … that they tended to produce a separation of the Union, the most dreadful of all calamities, and that whatever tended to produce anarchy, tended of course to produce a resort to monarchical government. He considered those papers as attacking him directly … that in condemning the administration of the government they condemned him … He did not believe the discontents extended far from the seat of government’.
When Jefferson told him that the two great complaints were that the national debt was unnecessarily increased, and that it had furnished the means of corrupting both branches of the legislature, President Washington ‘defended the assumption and argued that it had not increased the debt, for that all of it was an honest debt’. Even if the debtor states had instead been directed to pay their deficiencies to the creditor states, the president said that ‘still … it would be paid by the people’. Jefferson noted that ‘finding him really approving the treasury system, I avoided entering into argument with him on those points’.
On July 29th, President Washington wrote to Hamilton, that ‘wishing to have before me explanations of, as well as the complaints, on measures in which the public interest, harmony and peace is so deeply concerned, and my public conduct so much involved; it is my request, and you would oblige me in furnishing me, with your ideas upon the discontents here enumerated’. President Washington listed 21 ‘complaints’ – from Jefferson’s May 23rd letter.
On July 30th, Hamilton wrote to President Washington (but before he had received his July 29th letter), to urge him to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election,
‘that the affairs of the national government are not yet firmly established – that its enemies, generally speaking are inveterate as ever … that a general and strenuous effort is making in every state to place the administration of it in the hands of its enemies, as if they were its safest guardians … that if you continue in office nothing materially mischievous is to be apprehended – if you quit much is to be dreaded … in fine, that on public and personal accounts, on patriotic and prudential considerations, the clear path to be pursued by you will be again to obey the voice of your country’.
On August 18th, Hamilton answered Jefferson’s 21 complaints in a 14,000-word essay that
‘The public Debt was produced by the late war. It is not the fault of the present government that it exists … Little inequalities, as to the past, can bear no comparison with the more lasting inequalities, which, without the assumption, would have characterised the future condition of the people of the United States; leaving upon those who had done most or suffered most, a great additional weight of burthen … The Debt existed. It was to be provided for. In whatever shape the provision was made the object of speculation and the speculation would have existed. Nothing but abolishing the Debt could have obviated it. It is therefore the fault of the Revolution not of the Government that paper speculation exists … The idea of introducing a monarchy or aristocracy into this Country, by employing the influence and force of a Government continually changing hands, towards it, is one of those visionary things, that none but madmen could meditate and that no wise men will believe.’
Jefferson summoned James Monroe and James Madison to write a series of articles, under assumed names, in Freneau’s National Gazette, defending Jefferson while lambasting Hamilton. Hamilton responded by writing under a pen mane, in John Frenno’s Gazette of the United States, an assault on Jefferson’s character.
[Note: It should be remembered that Jefferson’s defence of the common people and his attacks on extravagance and luxury in America, came from a man who had returned to America from France with 5 servants – including a slave chef, James Hemings, whom he had taken to Paris for training, and a maitre d’hotel whom he brought with him from Paris – along with 86 crates of expensive French furniture, dinnerware, silver and paintings, plus 288 bottles of expensive wines.]
Section 2 – The Canadian Frontier
2.1- The Petition for a House of Assembly, November 24th 1784
After signing the Definitive Peace Treaty with the United States, the British ministers were also worried about how to control their Canadian subjects – both English and French.
After the evacuation of the ‘Tories’ from New York in 1783, about 35,000 ‘Loyalists’ arrived in the British province of Nova Scotia, more than tripling its previous population of 14,000. About 21,000 of them relocated to settlements on the peninsula, while nearly 14,000 of them relocated to settlements in the area near the St. John river. In response to a report from the British Board of Trade, by an order-in-council of June 18th 1784 (not by an act of the British parliament) the Privy Council split the Province of Nova Scotia into two parts – the one part consisting of peninsular Nova Scotia along with the islands of Cape Breton and Saint John, and the other western mainland part consisting of the new province of New Brunswick.
On August 18th 1784 Colonel Thomas Carleton (younger brother of Sir Guy Carleton) was appointed Governor of New Brunswick, with instructions to appoint an Executive Council, and ‘as the situation and circumstances of our province under your government will admit thereof and when as often as need shall require to summon and call general assemblies of the freeholders and settlers in the province’ – subject to Privy Council approval and veto, of course. The first elections were held in November 1785. [Nova Scotia had an elected assembly since 1758 and Saint John Island (P.E.I.) since 1773 – but never in Canada!]
Although the British had no intentions of granting an assembly to the 100,000 Canadiens, they were however concerned with the petition for an assembly by the 6,000 loyalists, now settled in the 13 townships west of the Ottawa river – something that they had granted to the ‘loyalists’ in New Brunswick.
In Canada, on April 22nd 1784, William Grant, of the (so-called) ‘reform’ group in the council, made a motion ‘that a Committee of this Legislative Council be immediately named to take into consideration and draw up a humble petition to His Majesty and Parliament praying that an assembly … shall be vested the usual Legislative Powers of an English Colonial Government …1st As the Quebec Act prohibits the Council from levying taxes … 5th That the power of raising revenue for the general welfare of the people is as essential to free government and the rights of British subjects as personal liberty and security”. The ‘reformers’ were a mixed bag.
Mostly it represented the ‘old’ subjects – the British merchants that had moved to Canada after the conquest in 1763, and although less than 2% of the population of Quebec, they controlled almost all of the appointed positions of government and almost all of the merchant trade. Some wished to Anglicize the province and to bring British law into the province; some wished to have the assembly that they were promised; some had supported the Americans during the revolutionary war; some were ‘tories’ and ‘loyalists’. Some of the French Canadiens, among whom was Joseph Papineau, wished for an assembly as a voice for the ‘Habitants’.
In response, St. Luc La Corne, a (so-called) ‘friend of government’ in the council, moved for an address to the Governor expressing “the great advantage which has accrued to the people of this Province, and to the tranquility and safety of it” (the Quebec Act) and that “the continuation of which law, the result of that generous and tolerating Spirit which distinguishes the British Nation, will be the means of rendering the people of this Province indissolubly attached to the Mother Country”, and it was passed by a vote of 12 to 5. The ‘friends of government’ represented the old seigniorial noble and church interests that wished to remain under French feudal law in order to maintain their power over the inhabitants.
On October 24th Hugh Finlay, the postmaster general of Canada and a member of the Legislative Council (and an ally of William Grant) wrote to Evan Nepean, the Permanent Undersecretary of the State for the Home Department, that “the advocates for a House of Assembly in this Province take it for granted that the people in general wish to be represented; but that is only a guess, for I will venture to affirm that not a Canadian landholder in fifty ever once thought on the subject and were it to be proposed to him, he would readily declare his incapacity to judge of the matter. Although the Canadian Peasants are far from being a stupid race, they are at present an ignorant people, from want of instruction – not a man in five hundred among them can read … Before we think of a house of assembly for this country, let us lay a foundation for useful knowledge to fit the people to judge of their situation, and deliberate for the well-being of the province. The first step towards this situation, and deliberate end, is to have a free school in every parish…”
On November 16th, Governor Haldimand sailed from Canada to return to London. The Lieutenant-Governor Henry Hamilton, the former commander at Detroit, was left in charge of Canada.
No sooner was Haldimand gone than on November 24th, a public meeting of the ‘reformers’ was held at the Recollet convent in Montreal and a petition, in English and in French, was presented and copies were made and carried about the country by messengers to gather signatures.
The Petition for a House of Assembly read,
1st That the House of Representatives or Assembly, be chosen by the Parishes, Towns and Districts of the Province, to be Composed of Your Majesty’s Old and New Subjects, in such manner as to Your Majesty’s Wisdom may seem most proper … 2nd That the Council consist of not less than thirty members … that the appointment of the members, may be during their residence in the Province and for Life … and that they serve as Councillors without Fee or Reward … and, 14th that from the proximity to the United States, who from Situation and Climate, have many advantages over them, the Internal Regulations for promoting the Trade, Agriculture and Commerce of this Province are now become more intricate and difficult … the Assembly may have the Power, of laying Taxes and Duties”.
On January 7th 1785, two addresses were presented to Lt. Governor Hamilton (1 in English – signed by 16 ‘ancient’ subjects, and 1 in French signed by 23 ‘new’ subjects) accompanying the petition signed with 496 names. [One of the signers, from Montreal, of the petition and the address, was Joseph Papineau.]
In opposition to this petition, the ‘friends of government’ sent a petition to the King, that
‘in the addresses which we have taken the liberty of transmitting to your Majesty, two points have the unanimous consent of our fellow citizens. The religion of our forefathers was for your new subjects, as to every people of the world, the essential point of our petitions … we are, most gracious sovereign, in urgent need of priests to carry on the work of the seminaries and missions of our province … Submissive and loyal, this people hope to receive from Your Royal Clemency, permission to bring from Europe, persons of this class. The second object … was that under whatever form of government might seem best to your majesty to establish in the province, your Catholic Canadian subjects, without distinction, might enjoy all the privileges, immunities and prerogatives, enjoyed by British subjects in all those parts of the globe, which are under your sway. From this second object follows our most earnest desire to see in the legislative council of our province a larger number of your new Catholic subjects in proportion to their numbers”.
A copy was sent to Haldimand in London by Francois Baby, that
“you know that unless we had taken up the cause of priests and religion, people of good will could not have induced the public to oppose these talkers who have employed all kinds of fantastic means to secure the adoption of their ideas for a new form of government”.
And finally, in December, Fleury Mesplet printed his Objections to the (reform) Petition, that “a House of Assembly should be granted us, to impose taxes … We, whose wants increase day by day; we, who every year despoil ourselves of our last farthing to pay for the supplies, which this Mother Country is compelled to furnish us, and which are already exhausted; we, who in spite of the enormous sums, which in consequence of the war have been left in this country, are still in arrears with the parent state, for the balance of a considerable sum … 1st That the Chamber be indifferently composed of the ancient and new subjects. This article requires more explanation; for, from this word indifferently, there might be as many and even more ancient than new Subjects in the House, which would be contrary to natural right, as there are twenty Canadians to one ancient Subject. What would become of our rights if they were entrusted to Strangers to our Laws … 2nd That the Council be composed of thirty members without salaries. This might be satisfactory if there were enough disinterested rich men to take the part of the people, the honest poor man being unable to give his time for nothing …”
14th For what community is there between our requirements & the proximity, the climate, and the situation of the United States which give them the advantage in trade over us? Would the imposition of taxes add three months to our summer, and make our river navigable for the whole year? No; then the advantage would still be on our neighbour’s side. Would taxes make our agriculture flourish? No; for the Seigniors to encourage agriculture, give the lands for three years, exempt from all dues, and the lands often lie uncultivated for lack of means to work them. What is it then that compensates for the advantages they possess over us? It is the peace that our rural districts have hitherto enjoyed; free from taxation, and in spite of the severity of the climate, they have seen the fruit of their labours, and have enjoyed it. To this may be urged that the rural districts are harassed by the billeting of troops and by Corvees. This is true, but would the imposition of Taxes exempt them from this burden? Let us see. When the King considers it necessary to send troops into this Colony for the safety of our possessions would any one oppose it? No; this is a right which the King possesses in all his Dominions, without even being obliged to give account of his action. Have we barracks in a condition for housing these troops? No. Can they live the whole year under canvas? No. Then we must either construct barracks or lodge them. Troops bring with them a considerable amount of ammunition, provisions, etc. Who is to transport these goods to their destination? Willing men, it will be said, who will be paid well. You can get willing men, it is true but at a rate so exorbitant that the Province would not have enough to pay for this one branch of defence. If you impose taxes upon them, you will no longer find them. So then, not to put a stop to works so indispensable, it will be necessary to commandeer; and in consequence we must have recourse to Corvees. But someone will perhaps say as has already been said, that what are called Volunteers will be raised in the country. Here then would be a band of Freemen condemned to Slavery. Is it not enough for fortune to have treated them so unkindly, without increasing their misery by slavery. This being inadmissible, taking everything into consideration it appears conclusive after mature deliberation that taxation cannot exempt us from the billeting of troops, or from corvees; and that consequently an assembly for imposing of taxes would be contrary to the interests of this impoverished colony”. [On August 25th 1785, Fleury Mesplet would start a new bilingual weekly – the Montreal Gazette, with Valentin Jautard as editor.]
In response to Mesplet’s objections, the ‘reformers’ printed a pamphlet, in French, in February 1785, that contained an address ‘Aux Citoyens et Habitants des Villes et des Campagnes de la Province de Quebec’ along with their November 1784 petition, and that was accompanied by an answer to the objections. [One of the signers of the answer to the objections was Joseph Papineau.]
Travelling to London that winter, were Sir John Johnson along with Colonel John Butler and other Provincial troop officers, who petitioned the King in favour of dividing Canada into two districts, as had been done in Nova Scotia in 1784, – by separating the English (tory) settlements from the French seigniories. The petition, dated April 11th 1785, asked that the new district would be ‘exempted from the Burdens of French Tenures’ and to be ‘distinct from the Province of Quebec under the Government of a Lieutenant Governor and Council, to be appointed by Your Majesty, with the necessary Powers of Internal Regulation, but subordinate to the Governor and Council of Quebec … This Territory will include all the Settlements made or intended to be made by the Disbanded Corps, and the Other Loyalists, while it leaves all French Canada and the French Seigniories as they were before … In consideration of the vast extent of this territory along an important and valuable communication, which is not only the channel of the fur trade, but the residence of those nations of Indians who took part in support of the Royal Cause, the security, growth and extension of these settlements, must evidently be an object of the utmost consequences, not only as it will essentially secure and promote that trade, but as it will preserve those Indians in their adherence to Your Majesty’.
During the summer of 1785, the British merchants of Montreal and Quebec, began a correspondence with the British merchants of London that were trading to Quebec, and at their recommendation, wrote to the loyalists in the western settlements to ask them to join with their petition. But the loyalists, ‘without finding any fault with the language or spirit of ours’, were of the opinion ‘that it will be more proper for them, to wait the result of that application, than to join in another, lest their interference should in some degree mitigate against the measures which their agents may be pursuing’.
On February 8th 1786, a Committee of the ‘Merchants of London Trading to the Province of Quebec’ sent a memorial to Baron Sydney, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, asking for the end of the mixture of French and English laws by which ‘the payment of debts are evaded and right and property is rendered uncertain and insecure’ and that ‘for the relief and redress of these evils and the many other defects of the present constitution of that government, a provincial Legislature or House of Assembly established on the principle as in every other British colony in America will be effectual … and to be governed by British laws to be made and administered according to the British constitution’.
At the same time in London, a ‘Draught of a Proposed Act of Parliament – For the Better Securing the Liberties of His Majesty’s Subjects in the Province of Quebec in North America’ was drawn up, to bring into force
‘all the laws of England relating to the protection of personal liberty by … the writ of Habeas Corpus’ and, for the ‘introduction of the trial by jury’. According to the London Chronicle, ‘Mr. Powis … had presented a petition from the principal inhabitants of Quebec, complaining of certain grievances in their legislative authority; it was then thought advisable to postpone the consideration of the subject as government would undoubtedly remedy the complaint. He was sorry however, to observe, that during that interval, there had been no appearance of Administration redressing the grievance of the petitioners; he therefore thought it a duty incumbent upon him to give notice, that he would … submit to Parliament a proposition for redress.’ On April 28th 1786, ‘after an interesting debate, the motion was defeated by 61 to 28’.
Hamilton wrote to Sydney on April 20th 1785, that
‘it might seem a hazarded opinion to advance that there are a few persons in this province who appear desirous that the Canadians should feel such restraints and bear such burthens under English government as shall keep their minds open to favourable impressions of their former situation under French laws and an arbitrary government. What other principle could operate to prevent the substitution of legal means to the odious partial services by corvees? Why have not the services been regulated and equalized? A principal object for the consideration of the legislature is the arrival in this province of numbers of Englishmen or descendants of Englishmen who must abhor their being subjected to an authority they have been unacquainted with, and to men whose language & customs they are as yet strangers to. Provision by law should be made to conciliate these people, and if possible prevent complaint by anticipating their grievances. Until this day the Militia Ordinance remains unamended, tho’ its defects are palpable & even acknowledged by those who might reform it’.
During the legislative council session of 1785, Lt. Governor Hamilton and the ‘reform’ group succeeded in amendments that allowed habeas corpus and the use of juries, but failed in amendments for the use of British commercial law or to reform the court of appeals.
When amendments to the militia law and to the corvee were defeated by the ‘friends of government’ (led by Colonel Henry Hope), Baron Sydney then decided to replace Hamilton with Hope, until on October 23rd 1786, Guy Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, returned to Quebec as the new British Governor-in-Chief of Canada.
2.2- The Petition against a House of Assembly, October 13th 1778
After having been absent from Canada for 8 years, Dorchester wished to be informed of the present state of affairs, and he assigned the Legislative Council, during its session from October 1786 to June 1787, to form four separate committees, that were to prepare their reports – on Commerce and the Police; on the Courts and Justice; on Population, Agriculture and the Settlement of the Crown Lands; and on the Militia, Highroads and Communities.
On June 3rd 1787, Dorchester sent these final reports on to Sydney and the British government in London. Included with these reports were:
(1) a copy of the petition of November 1784 from the ‘reformers’, that was again presented to Dorchester, that contained its request for a House of Assembly and for the introduction of English commercial law;
(2) a copy of the petition of December 1784 from the ‘friends of government’, that asked the British government ‘to disregard those demands of a House of Assembly’ or of any changes to the existing law;
(3) a copy of the 1785 petition from the newly-settled ‘loyalist’ in the western townships, along with a new petition that requested that ‘their lands (be) granted according to English Tenure’.
When the ‘reformers’ (the merchants of Montreal) presented their report to the committee of the legislative council, it contained a section: ‘A Prohibition to the bringing of Slaves into the Country’ that read
‘Slavery being alike contrary to the principles of humanity & to the spirit of the British constitution. This committee recommends that means be adopted to prevent the bringing of slaves into the province in future, but as to the few Negro or Indian slaves who are already in servitude, they conceive that they ought not in justice or policy to be emancipated; to many families there are of them valuable as property, and servants, and we have frequently seen instances of slaves being manumitted, soon becoming idle and disorderly, and finally a burthen to the public. We would further recommend that after years, all infants who shall be born of parents who are slaves be declared free’.
[This ‘reformers’ proposal, to prevent the importation of slaves into Canada, can be shown to be similar to the 1793 bills for banning importation of slaves – that was passed in Upper Canada, but not passed in Lower Canada.]
Dorchester wrote a separate letter to Sidney that
‘the English party has gained considerable strength of late years by the Loyalists, who have taken refuge in the province; and many more discover a strong inclination to follow, so that it is more than probable the desire for an Assembly will annually increase. But common prudence seems to require before an alteration of that magnitude should be attempted in a country composed of different languages, manners and religions, where nine tenths of the people are ignorant of the nature and importance of an Assembly, that the whole plan should be minutely unfolded and its effect upon the Legislature and the provincial economy clearly discerned … For my own part, I confess myself as yet at a loss for any plan likely to give satisfaction, to a people so circumstanced as we are at present’.
But, Dorchester did however recommend immediate alteration in the tenure of the western lands for the loyalist settlers, to change from
‘the manner every way similar to the tenure under the French government’, so as to allow him to grant lands ‘in free and common soccage, unimcumbered without any crown rent whatever’.
On September 20th, Sydney replied to Dorchester that
‘the King’s servants have no immediate thoughts of proposing any alteration in the Quebec Act. No plan of Assembly has been suggested by anyone, and indeed it would, under the present circumstances, be very difficult to form such a one as would not be liable to very great objections’.
In November, the ‘reformers’ sent Adam Lymburner to London as their agent to present their petition and to urge the government to amend the Quebec Act and to change their form of government.
On February 4th 1788, Lymburner, along with the British merchants of London trading to Quebec (including the infamous Phyn, Ellice & Inglis) wrote to Sydney, that after presenting their petitions of 1784 to Sydney in May 1785, they
‘in compliance with the wishes of his Majesty’s Ministers, recommended to their constituents, to defer bringing them forward in Parliament, until the necessary information could be received on the allegations contained therein … they now beg leave to submit as their opinion that the only effectual means of removing the evils complained of, restoring unanimity and promoting the prosperity of that province will be to grant them an Elective House of Assembly, the English Commercial Laws and to reform the Courts of Justice, as prayed for in their petitions’.
But these merchants were unable to obtain a meeting with Sydney, who replied on February 17th,
that he was not prepared to acquaint them with any determination upon the subjects contained in their application, which they expected he would do in that interview. That the papers transmitted from Quebec were extremely voluminous, and that they are at this moment in the hands of the law officers for their consideration … and that no decision whatever could be had, until their opinion had been given of the measures which appear to them to be proper and advisable to be taken. That with regard to the House of Assembly (he) expected farther information from Lord Dorchester upon the subject, and until that could be obtained, no opinion can be formed respecting a measure tending to so material a change of the present constitution, that as to the petition to Parliament, (he) cannot pretend to prescribe to the committee what conduct they should pursue, but that it was necessary they should understand that the Government, in case it should be presented, was not pledged to support it’.
Nevertheless, on May 16th 1788, Mr. Powys moved in the House of Commons that Lymburner be admitted, and he was able to ‘read a paper pointing out the defects of the system of laws then administered in the province and the need for a remedy’ and after he had withdrawn, a debate followed, where Mr. Powys stated that the Canadians ‘wished to have a House of Assembly instituted in the province, and the English laws in general extended to them … The petitioners wished to be put on the same footing with the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick’. He concluded with moving ‘that it is the opinion of this committee, that the petitions from Quebec merit the serious and immediate attention of the House’.
The Prime Minister would respond that he
agreed with the Hon. Mover, that the petitions deserved the serious attention of the House; but nothing could be done immediately in the business. Parliament, he said, was not ripe for the discussion of an affair of such magnitude as the framing of a constitution for a large, flourishing and growing province. A sufficient body of information had not been transmitted from that colony, to enable the House to determine upon the merits, of the subject contained in the petitions. As to the appointment of a House of Assembly, though he was inclined to recommend that mode of legislation, he had strong doubt whether it would be proper at this time when the province was in a state of heat & fermentation. A popular Assembly would not tend to allay that heat … He was not pleased with the motion in its present form’.
When a vote took place, 104 voted for the Minister’s motion, & 39 against it.’ Mr. Powys then moved that ‘the House will, early in the subsequent session, take into consideration the petitions from Quebec’.
On September 3rd 1788, Sydney would write to Dorchester that
your Lordship will have seen, by the proceedings which took place in Parliament in the course of the last session, the arguments which were made use of on the introduction of the petition brought by Mr. Lymburner from Quebec, for a change of the present constitution of the province, and the reasons which occurred to His Majesty’s Ministers for avoiding any decisions upon that very important subject. It will, however, be absolutely necessary that it should be resumed very shortly after the next meeting, and it will, of course, be a matter of great importance to His Majesty’s Servants, that they should be previously prepared to enter into a full discussion of the business, and to propose such arrangements as may be found to be expedient for removing every just and reasonable cause of complaint that may exist among His Majesty’s Subjects, of any description whatsoever, who are Inhabitants of that Province’.
Sydney continued to Dorchester, that
‘His Majesty’s Servants however, are desirous to give the matter a full consideration and that they may be better enabled to form a competent judgement of the steps advisable to be taken, they are solicitous of obtaining from your Lordship a full and impartial account of the different classes of persons who desire a change of government, as well as of those who are adverse to the measure, specifying, as nearly as it can be ascertained, the proportion of numbers and property on each side in the several districts; and that your Lordship at the same time should state in what manner, either the interests, or influence of the latter, might be affected by any alteration.’ Sydney did admit that the government was contemplating a division of the province – separating the ‘new subjects’ (the Canadiens), from the ‘old subjects’ (the disbanded troops and loyalists in the western townships), ‘as these people are said to be of the number desirous of the establishment of British Law’, and that it was the government’s intention ‘that the new settlers in that part of the province who now hold their lands upon certificates of occupation, shall, at all events, be placed upon the same footing in all respects, as their brethren in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, by having their lands granted in free and common soccage with a remission of quit rents for the first ten years … At the same time your Lordship will attend to the situation to which the old Canadian settlers at Detroit would be reduced, provided it may be found expedient … and … in what part of the province within the reserved limits, the settlers at Detroit, if they should be removed, might be accommodated with lands the best suited to their advantage’.
While Sydney had claimed he couldn’t meet with the Quebec delegates about their petition because he’d received too much information, Pitt had claimed he couldn’t agree with the petitioners because he hadn’t received enough information!!!
It would seem that the British ministers did not wish to solve the problem of dictatorial rule over the ‘inhabitants’ of Quebec, they simply wished to be ‘prepared to enter into a full discussion of the business’ – even though they had had over 25 years, since the occupation of Canada in 1763, to do something about it. There would no discussion whatsoever about what should be justly done, but the ministry simply wanted an intelligence profile of the different sides in the province, not to come to any solution, but to be able to play the different cards at different times in the game. The granting of free lands was only to be for the western loyalist settlements, as the Canadians in Quebec would remain under the old feudal seigniorial tenure. And there would be no Canadians in the western townships (at Detroit) that might ‘resist the application for any change of the constitution of the remaining part of the province’.
Sydney would send an ‘extraordinary packet boat’, upon whose return would be Dorchester’s answer.
Dorchester received this letter on October 29th, but
the season as well as the wish of his Majesty’s Ministers to receive my answer before the Christmas recess … does nor permit my detaining the packet longer than to the 8th instant, a short time indeed to do justice to the subject of his Lordship’s dispatch’.
He replied to Sydney in a letter on November 8th, that, in regards to the population,
the Canadians, or new subjects, occupy the districts of Quebec and Montreal, and some are also to be found in the districts of Gaspe and Hesse (Detroit). The three (western) districts … are inhabited only by the loyalists, or old subjects of the crown. The commerce of the country being chiefly carried on by the English, occasions a considerable mixture of inhabitants in the towns of Quebec and Montreal, nearly in the proportion of one British to two Canadians … the proportions of British and Canadians in the two districts of Quebec and Montreal, exclusive of the towns, may be about one to forty, in the same districts, inclusive of the towns, one to fifteen, in the district of Hesse one to three, in the district of Gaspe two to three, and in the whole province, taken together, about one to five’.
In regards to reform, Dorchester wrote that
A change of the laws and form of government, by the introduction of an assembly, is chiefly promoted by the commercial part of the community, in the towns of Quebec and Montreal. The Canadian Habitants, or farmers, who may be (styled) the main body of the freeholders of the country, having little or no education, are unacquainted with the nature of the question, and would, I think, be for or against it, according to their confidence in the representations of others. The clergy do not appear to have interfered. But the Canadian gentlemen in general are opposed to the measure … A division of the province, I am of opinion, is by no means advisable at present, either in the interests of the new, or the ancient districts … Indeed it appears to me, that the western settlements are as yet unprepared for any organization, superior to that of a county … Should a division of the province notwithstanding be determined by the wisdom of His Majesty’s Councils, I see no reason why the inhabitants of those western districts should not have an Assembly’.
Earlier on October 24th, Dorchester wrote to Sydney to inform him that Adam Lymburner was again being sent to London by the ‘reformers’, and he also enclosed a letter from the ‘friends of government’ with an new address to Lord Dorchester and a new petition to the King – dated October 13th 1788, that opposed the establishment of a Chamber of Assembly and any introduction of British laws.
On November 6th, the ‘reformers’ committee wrote to Dorchester, complaining of this new petition, that
Amable de Bonne, an advocate of Montreal, had with the assistance of some of his friends drawn up a petition to His Majesty or to your Lordship, in name of the Canadians and in a secret and unjustifiable manner procured thereto the signatures or marks of many of the inhabitants in various parts of the province, that among other objects urged to induce the ignorant part of the inhabitants to put their marks to the said petition, it has been held out to them that their religion was in danger of being abolished, that a House of Assembly was requested only for purpose of imposing numerous and oppressive taxes and of destroying the ancient laws of the country relative to real and personal property’.
On December 8th, the ‘reformers’ sent Dorchester an address, explaining that
His Majesty’s old and new subjects by their petition of 1784, praying for a house of assembly and the introduction of the laws of England regarding commerce, had not the most distant wish or intention to procure the abolition of the ancient laws and customs of Canada, as is asserted by their opponents; on the contrary, a continuation of the said laws and customs is expressly and particularly prayed for’.
Also sent were two memorials from the French Canadian ‘reformers’ – one from Montreal, December 4th [one of the signers was Joseph Papineau] and one from Quebec, December 5th – that objected to this new ‘friends’ petition.
The address and memorials were accompanied by 3 lists:
(1) a List of old subjects (British), Seigniors, Proprietors of Fiefs and Seigniories in the Province of Quebec (36 names) and the Value of these Seigniories in annual Rents and Revenues – £ 10,345;
(2) a List of Seigniories in the hands of new subjects (Canadians), not signers to the petition to His Majesty of October 13th 1788 (75 names) and the Value of their Seigniories in annual Rents and revenues – £ 9,060;
(3) a List of Seigniors subscribing to a petition to His Majesty of October 13th 1788 (51 names) and the Value of their seigniories in annual rent and revenue – £ 5998.
[This was meant to show that the ‘reformers’, having obtained support of the loyalists in the western districts, had also obtained the support of many of the French Canadian seigneurs.]
In answer to these, the ‘friends (of feudalism)’ sent Dorchester two memorials, one from Montreal, December 24th and one from Quebec, December 31st, that opposed the ‘reformers’ address and memorials, and tried to argue against the lists, by including the salaries of the government servants in their values!
All this was forwarded to Sydney, by Dorchester. But the scanty harvest of that year and the growing threat of famine (like that in France of that year) soon became the most important issue in Canada. However, Dorchester kept Sydney informed of any information he received of any other of Britain’s important plots.
On April 11th 1789, Dorchester wrote Sydney that
notwithstanding the favourable answer given by Congress to the demand of Kentucky to be admitted a sovereign state in the union, the people of that country have lately discovered a strong inclination to an entire separation … their apprehension that Congress will consent to give up the navigation of the Mississippi for twenty five years is one of the reasons which induces them to listen to the overture of Spain … But the general result of more private councils among them is said to be to declare independence of the federal union, take possession of New Orleans, and look to Great Britain for such assistance as might enable them to accomplish their designs’.
Sydney also received an intelligence report, from Silas Deane dated May 20th 1789, that included Deane’s earlier proposal to Dorchester for the construction of a canal on the Richelieu river in Quebec, that
the American states are at this time but little removed from anarchy and their credit, political as well as commercial, is reduced almost as low as possible … it will hardly be possible for these states to continue long united in one general confederation and whenever a disunion takes place, it will separate the strong from the weak, or the northern from the southern states … by opening a navigable canal from lake Champlain round the rapids at Falls at St. John’s into the navigable waters below them, and by opening a free trade with Vermont and the frontiers of New England and New York … it will at all times be in the power of Great Britain to send a naval force into that lake and command the navigation of it, and thence whatever may happen, it will not be in the interest of New England and New York to be on unfriendly terms with the British government’.
Dorchester had earlier forwarded to Sydney, a letter that he received from Ethan Allen in July 1788, that, in part, read
in the time of General Haldimand’s command, could Great Britain have afforded Vermont protection, they would readily have yielded up their independency, and have become a province of Great Britain. And should the United States attempt a conquest of them, they would, I presume, do the same, should the British policy harmonize with it’.
[Allen was hedging his bets, in case Vermont was not admitted to the union as a separate state.]
In the midst of digesting all of Dorchester’s observations, the intrigues in Kentucky and Vermont, and the various memorials and petitions, Sydney resigned as Home Secretary, and was replaced by William Grenville – son of former Prime Minister Grenville, nephew of former Prime Minister Pitt, and cousin of the current Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger
2.3- The Grenville Plan, October 20th 1789
On October 20th 1789, Grenville wrote to Dorchester that
‘it having been determined to bring under the consideration of Parliament early in the next session the propriety of making farther provision for the good government of the province of Quebec, I enclose to your lordship the draught of a bill prepared for this purpose … Your lordship will observe that the general object of this plan is to assimilate the constitution of that province to that of Great Britain, as nearly as the difference arising from the manners of the people and from the present situation of the province will admit.’
Grenville also proposed the division of the province into two districts,
to continue to them (French Canadians) the enjoyment of those civil and religious rights which were secured to them by the capitulation of the province (in 1763), or have since been granted by the liberal and enlightened spirit (!?!) of the British government … There will however be a considerable difficulty in the mode of describing the boundary between the District of Upper Canada and the territories of the United States, as the adhering to the line mentioned in the treaty with America would exclude the posts which are still in his Majesty’s possession, and which the infraction of the treaty on the part of the America has induced His Majesty to retain, while on the other hand the including them by express words within the limits to be established for the province by an act of the British Parliament would probably exert a considerable degree of resentment among the inhabitants of the United States and might perhaps provoke them to measures detrimental to our commercial interests. Probably the best solution for this difficulty might be to describe the Upper District by some general words.’
In a ‘private and secret letter’, Grenville wrote to Dorchester that
‘I am persuaded that it is a point of true policy to make these concessions at a time when they may be received as matter of favour, and when it is in our own power to regulate and direct the manner of applying them, rather than to wait till they shall be extorted from us by a necessity which shall neither leave us any discretion in the form, nor any merit in the substance of what we give … the state of France is such as gives us little to fear from that quarter in the present moment. The opportunity is therefore most favourable for the adoption of such measures as may tend to consolidate our strength, and increase our resources, so as to enable ourselves to meet any efforts that the most favourable event of the present troubles can ever enable her to make.’
Grenville also enclosed:
(1) a Plan for a House of Assembly drawn up by the Committee of Quebec and Montreal in November 1784, that was delivered by Lymburner to Grenville on July 24th 1789; and
(2) a Report to the Privy Council from the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations relative to the state of the Province of Quebec with regard to the House of Representatives, that was dated July 10th 1769 !?!
On February 8th 1790, Dorchester replied to Grenville with his observations and suggestions, along with suggestions from the Chief Justice of Canada, William Smith, but this dispatch was not received until April 18th, and ‘the session of Parliament was then so far advanced that it was not thought proper to bring forward at that time the proposed bill for regulating the government of Quebec, especially as several of the observations stated by your Lordship on the subject were of a nature to require previous consideration’.
On March 15th, Dorchester wrote to Grenville to propose persons for seats on the legislative and executive councils, and to propose Sir John Johnson ‘as the properest person for the government of Upper Canada’. In reply, Grenville wrote that before receiving this letter, Grenville had already submitted to his majesty the name of Lieutenant-Colonel John Graves Simcoe for the lieutenant-governorship. Simcoe was a good friend of Grenville’s brother George, the Marquis of Buckingham, and had stood for and won the election for St. Mawes in Cornwall, a seat that ‘belonged’ to Buckingham. But, who was Colonel Simcoe?
After a year under a military tutor at Exeter, Simcoe obtained a commission in 1770 as ensign in the 35th Foot, through the influence of his mother’s family. The regiment was sent to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1775, Simcoe arriving two days after the battle of Bunker Hill. During the siege of the town he purchased a captaincy in the 40th Foot, the regiment with which he was to serve in the Long Island campaign, the capture of New York City, and the New Jersey campaigns of 1776–77.
Convinced that the British army had no appreciation of light infantry and that no European army had properly organized light cavalry, he wanted to form a combined light corps that would be especially suited for service in America. After being refused permission to raise a corps from among the free blacks of Boston, he obtained command on Oct. 15th 1777 of the Queen’s Rangers with the provincial rank of major. The Rangers, a tory corps raised a year earlier, had suffered heavy losses. Simcoe brought them up to strength, mainly by recruiting tory refugees and American deserters. They served continuously for the duration of the war as reconnaissance and outpost troops: in the Pennsylvania campaign of 1778 and the subsequent retreat to New York, in Benedict Arnold’s raid on Richmond, Va., and in the Yorktown campaign. Their training gave little attention to formal drill, but insisted on physical fitness, rapid movement, bayonet fighting, and, most particularly, discipline in the field.
Simcoe was himself captured in an ambush in 1779 and spent six months as a prisoner. He was invalided home just before the surrender of Yorktown in 1781. The war had been for him a great personal success: he had risen in army rank from lieutenant to lieutenant-colonel; in action he had been one of the two or three most consistently successful of British regimental commanders; and he had acquired a reputation as a tactical theorist, which was soon enhanced by the publication at Exeter in 1787 of his Journal of the Operations of the Queen’s Rangers.
Simcoe was sent home on parole from which he was finally released when he was exchanged for an American prisoner of equal rank being held by the British. Simcoe’s parole discharge stated that as British government ministers had ‘earnestly desired that Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe on parole to the United States of America be released from his said parole, I do hereby absolve the parole.’ The parole was signed by Benjamin Franklin. He convalesced at the Devon home of Admiral Samuel Graves, his godfather, whose ward he married. Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim was a considerable heiress. She bought a 5,000-acre estate at Honiton in Devon, and built Wolford Lodge, which was to be the family seat until 1923. Simcoe’s own financial resources seem to have been trivial in comparison.
With the peace treaty signed with the United States, Simcoe pondered, what would be the fate of the remaining provinces of British North America? Canada, he recognized, would become the most vulnerable.
In a December 3rd 1789 letter to Evan Nepean, Under Secretary of State, he offered that
‘should Canada act upon the wise, enlarged, and just plan of annihilating at once every vestige of military government in her native colonies, and undermining by degrees the miserable feudal system of old Canada … I should be happy to consecrate myself to the service of Great Britain in that country.’
He stated that the chain of British forts along the Canadian border could not be kept “without an alliance with Vermont, and should they be given up, the loss of Canada ultimately and not very remotely must follow”. He proposed to unite Canada with Vermont and to secure the route into Canada via a canal on the Richelieu River.
His best chance of obtaining a public appointment being through active participation in politics, he was elected to the House of Commons in the government interest for the Cornish borough of St Mawes in 1790. In a brief and obscure parliamentary career, when he rose to speak, he addressed himself mainly to matters concerning Canada, and his only reported speeches were on the new Quebec government bill and on the resumed impeachment of Warren Hastings. The bill to reorganize and split Canada in 1791 was passed during the midst of the hearings and vote against abolishing slavery. Simcoe, who had wanted to recruit blacks for the British army, supported Wilberforce. Simcoe envisaged a fine settlement in Upper Canada populated by Loyalists, many of whom he had led as members of the Queen’s Rangers during the revolution. He loved the monarchy and the aristocracy and he could not imagine a society without rank, privilege and hierarchy.
Despite his professed hatred of the new republic to the south, he longed to be Britain’s first ambassador to the United States of America. In a letter dated March 16th 1791 to Evan Nepean, Simcoe inquired whether the Embassy in the United States, the original object of my wishes”, might be open to him. He was curtly informed that it was not. Consequently, the sovereign’s “trusty and well-beloved John Graves Simcoe” was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada on September 12th 1791.
On February 25th 1791, Prime Minister Pitt presented the House of Commons with 2 messages from the king – to divide the province of Canada into two separate provinces; and to provide for appropriation of lands for the support of the Protestant clergy. On March 4th, in response to the King’s messages, Pitt introduced an act to repeal parts of the 1774 Quebec Act and ‘to make further provision for the government’.
It would seem that the British government had a proposal for ‘exempting them from the obligation of subscribing the Declaration of Transubstantiation’, that banned Roman Catholics from being elected or from holding an office, and that it had, in fact, already drawn up their own plan for a Quebec Assembly, in 1769(!) – a plan that the British government had sat on for almost 20 years, and now suddenly were concerned about. The question is, what caused this sudden reversal of policy? Was it the situation in Vermont or in Kentucky, and the thinking that the United States would not be able to remain united for very long, and that Britain must be prepared for any possible, potential results. Or was it something hinted at by Grenville, when he wrote to Dorchester that ‘the state of France is such as gives us little to fear from that quarter in the present moment’? In order to understand this debate, one must look at the situation in France, and also in Britain and Ireland.
The disastrous harvest in France of 1788, and the actions of the Duke of Orleans to acquire the remaining supply of grain, ship it out of the country to Britain and store it on the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, led to a threat of famine, chaos and confusion. After the King called for the meeting of the Estates General, for the first time since 1614, it was transformed into the National Assembly under the leadership of Bailly. A plot was organized by the Duke of Orleans and Jacques Necker(11), with the collaboration of British Intelligence agents such as Marat(11), to assassinate Louis XVI, to eliminate the National Assembly and to install the Duke as king. This counter-revolution began on July 20th 1789 with the storming of the Bastille.
On August 26th 1789, the French National Assembly approved the Declaration of the Rights of Man, as a preamble to their new constitution, now under debate (that would be approved on September 3rd 1791.) This declaration was the cause of great concern in the British Empire’s ruling circles – to prevent these revolutionary ideas from spreading into Britain. In England, the Society for Constitutional Information was formed to repeal the Test Act – that excluded Catholics and protestant non-conformists from holding any official positions. In Ireland, the Society of United Irishmen was founded to unite the Catholics and Dissenters in a demand for equal rights for all. Would these revolutionary ideas also spread to Canada? How could granting rights to Catholic Canadians be done, without addressing those in Ireland and in Britain? (A Roman Catholic Relief Act would be passed in Britain in 1791 and in Ireland in 1793.)
Jean-Paul Marat was not Swiss, but was born in Boudry, in Neuchatel, a principality that was ruled by the King of Prussia. After his father converted to Calvinism he moved the family to Geneva. Neuchatel became part of the Swiss confederacy in 1814.
Baron Besenval of Bronstadt, who commanded the foreign troops at the Bastille, was born in Solothurn in the Swiss confederacy, but his real pedigree can be traced to his serving as the aide-de-camp to the Duke of Orleans during the Seven Years War.
On November 1st 1790, Edmund Burke had published ‘Reflections of the Revolution in France’, and in response to Burke, on March 16th 1791, Thomas Paine succeeded in publishing ‘Rights of Man’ (part 1). When Paine’s pamphlet was printed in America, it was prefaced by a letter to the publisher from Jefferson, that said ‘I am extremely pleased to find that it is to be re-printed here, and that something is at length to be publicly said, against the political heresies which have sprung up among us. I have no doubt our citizens will rally a second time round the standard of Common Sense’.
John Quincy Adams answered in 11 anonymous letters, by Publicola, to the Columbian Centinel of Boston from June 8th to July 27th 1791, writing that
‘I am somewhat at a loss to determine, what this very respectable gentleman means by political heresies. Does he consider this pamphlet of Mr. Paine’s as the canonical book of political scripture? As containing the true doctrine of popular infallibility, from which it would be heretical to depart in one single point? … two pamphlets, founded upon very different principles, appear to have been received with the greatest avidity, and seem calculated to leave the deepest impression. The one written by Mr. Burke, which is one continued invective upon almost all the proceedings of the National Assembly since the Revolution, and which passes a severe and indiscriminating censure upon almost all their transactions: The other the production of Mr. Paine, containing a defence of the Assembly, and approving every thing they have done, with applause as undistinguishing as is the censure of Mr. Burke.’
During April and May 1791, Grenville’s Quebec bill was debated and passed in the House of Commons. The bill provided that, after his Majesty had split the province of Quebec into Upper Canada and Lower Canada,
‘his majesty … shall have power … by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Assembly … to make laws for the peace, welfare and good government … and that all such laws, being passed by the Legislative Council and Assembly … and assented to by his majesty … or assented to in his majesty’s name … are declared to be … valid and binding to all intents and purposes’.
The legislative council would consist of not fewer than 7 members in Upper Canada, and not fewer than 15 members in Lower Canada; and members would serve for life, and include anyone having a hereditary title conferred upon them. The assembly would consist of not less than 16 members in Upper Canada, and not less than 50 members in Lower Canada; where members must possess lands or tenements of a yearly value of 40 shillings sterling, and chosen by voters possessing a dwelling house or lot of ground of a yearly value of 5 pounds sterling. Tithes were to be continued, and land grants provided for the protestant clergy. All lands were to be granted, hereafter, in free and common soccage. No taxes would be imposed, except as it may be expedient to impose for the regulation of commerce.
This false independence – ‘the Carlisle option’ – that was rejected by the United States and later was given to Ireland, was now proposed for imposition upon Canada.
Note: On June 6th 1778, the Continental Congress received three acts of the British parliament, the Conciliatory bills. The third act, ‘An Act for removing all Doubts and Apprehensions concerning Taxation by the Parliament of Great Britain, in any of the Colonies, Provinces, and Plantations in North America and the West Indies’, repealed the 1773 Tea Act and declared that Britain would not impose any taxes except to regulate commerce. This third act was incorporated into the 1791 Quebec government Act.
On June 11th 1778, Congress was informed that the Earl of Carlisle, Mr. Eden and Governor Johnstone, the commissioners for restoring peace between Great Britain and America, are arrived at Philadelphia and on June 13th, a letter from the commissioners was read in Congress, which stated that their purpose was
‘in short, to establish the power of the respective legislatures in each particular state, to settle its revenue, its civil and military establishment, and to exercise a perfect freedom of legislation and internal government, so that the British states throughout North America, acting with us in peace and war, under our common sovereign, may have the irrevocable enjoyment of every privilege that is short of a total separation of interest.’
But their proposal was rejected because it lacked ‘an explicit acknowledgement of the independence of these states’.
In December 1780, in response to the Irish ‘Volunteer’ movement, the Earl of Carlisle was appointed the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with Mr. Eden as secretary (the same Carlisle and Eden sent to America in June 1778 as peace commissioners) in order to provide Ireland with the same peace proposal that was rejected by the United States Congress. After the ‘volunteer resolutions’ were passed in the Irish parliament, on May 17th 1782, a resolution introduced in the British House of Lords by Shelburne and in the British House of Commons by Charles Fox, was passed whereby the British parliament gave up its authority over the Irish parliament but whose laws were still subject to approval by the King’s Privy Council.
The Grenville plan was simply that there would be no American Revolution in France – or in Canada! On June 8th 1791, Grenville became the new Foreign Secretary and Henry Dundas replaced Grenville, to become the new Home Secretary – in charge of the colonies.
On August 18th, Lord Dorchester left Quebec, to return to London to settle his personal affairs, while on September 22nd, Simcoe had left London and arrived in Canada on November 11th, but due to severe weather, Simcoe spent the winter at Quebec.
On March 16th 1792, Dundas wrote to Alured Clarke, lieutenant-governor of Lower Canada, and to John Simcoe, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, that
I transmit you inlosed copies of Lord Grenville’s letter to Mr. (George) Hammond and mine to Lord Dorchester respecting the views of his majesty’s servants as connected with the present disputes subsisting betwixt the Indians and the American States. You will observe that Mr. Hammond is authorized to propose his majesty’s good offices for the establishment of a permanent peace between them, on the principle of securing to the latter such a territory as in those letters is particularly stated’ – the British policy of the ‘Indian buffer state’.
In his letter to Lord Dorchester, he wrote of the ‘intentions of his majesty’s servants to endeavour to secure what may operate as an effectual and lasting barrier between the territories of the american states and his majesty’s dominions.’
‘The idea suggested was that his majesty and the American states should join in securing exclusively to the Indians a certain portion of territory lying between and extending the whole length of the lines of their respective frontiers.’ ‘Although in consequence of such a cession, the frontier posts now in his majesty’s hands would be given up … the objection to this measure would be much lessened by the circumstance of their not being to come into the possession of the American states, but to be ceded for the express purpose of becoming part of such territory as is to be reserved for the undisturbed and independent possession of the Indians’.
McKee, the British Indian Department agent at Detroit, travelled to Montreal and met with Simcoe. On June 21st, Simcoe wrote to Dundas that
‘I have been most industriously employed in concert with Colonel McKee and the Indian Department in procuring every possible information to substantiate the claims of the Indian Americans to such lands as his majesty’s ministers have thought it proper in their wisdom that they should retain’.
Simcoe and McKee worked out a hypothetical boundary division with the creation of an Indian buffer state, that would include all the lands north of the Ohio river and west of the Muskingum river (as agreed by Dorchester and Brant), and also a strip of land 2 leagues deep, from the Miami Rapids eastward along the south shore of lake Erie.
And the British-held frontier posts would become part of the Indian Territory, not part of the United States! This was a plan to completely seal off the British possessions in Canada from United States territory and thereby, to deny the Americans any access to the great lakes! And, while the British were planning on manipulating the Indians to form their buffer state in the Northwest territory, there was also the border between Canada and New York state, along lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence river, to manipulate, using the traitor and spy, Aaron Burr.
Note: On April 1st 1788, Massachusetts had sold the rights to their 6 million acre territory within New York state to Phelps and Gorham, provided they could purchase the title to the lands from the Iroquois. On July 8th Phelps and Gorham were able to secure the title to 2.25 million acres, and while they resold some of plots, they were unable to make their payments to Massachusetts, and defaulted. The unsold 1.25 million acres were then sold to Robert Morris on August 10th 1790, who sent Temple Franklin to London as his agent. Pulteney Associates purchased the 1.25 million acres, and in 1792 would sent Captain Charles Williamson (of British intelligence!) to the United States as their land agent. Phelps and Gorham were also unable to secure from the Iroquois the title to the remaining 3.75 million acres, and in May 1791, Massachusetts sold the rights to this area to Robert Morris, who resold the 3.75 million acres to the Holland Land Company, and their agent, Theophilus Cazenove, on July 20th 1793. In 1792, a financially troubled New York State sold over 4 million acres, lying on the east shore of lake Ontario and on the south shore of the St. Lawrence river, to Alexander Macomb and William Duer. New York Attorney General Aaron Burr was the lawyer and confidante of Captain Williamson, and the lawyer for the Holland Land Company, and for Macomb.
News would reach Simcoe on May 8th of the failure of 12 capital houses in New York, with Macomb and Duer in prison. Macomb and Duer, along with Edgar and Governor Clinton
‘are the chief proprietors of that great tract of land from Oswego to St. Regis … It must now be resold to pay creditors. What an opportunity for England (by her agents) to become the purchaser of it. It will give us a good footing in the state of New York (as we would move a few troops into it), where we have a great many friends. Both sides of the St. Lawrence would then belong to your government … The ruin of America appears unavoidable as Jonathan will now be in a hurry to turn all his scrip, bank-notes, and every other species of paper currency into cash. The National Bank will not be able to stand the run upon it.’
However, the run on the Bank of the United States, caused by the speculators, was stopped by Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton.
Now, in the midst of the French revolution – while plans were being made for an insurrection and a foreign invasion of France; and plans made for an Indian buffer-state to halt American frontier settlements, the British decided to give an elected assembly to Canada – 30 years after it was initially promised.
Elections were held in June 1792 and the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada began its first session on December 17th. Of the 16 English Canadian delegates – 12 had signed the ‘reform’ petition while 1 had signed the ‘friends’ petition, and 3 had signed neither; and of the 34 French Canadien delegates – 12 had signed the ‘reform’ petition while 13 had signed the ‘friends’ petition, and 9 had signed neither.
Section 3- A Short Addendum on Slavery, Canada, and Saint-Domingue
3.1 – Franklin and Sharp
pily) begins by exposing a myth about John Newton, the composer of that infamous hymn – Amazing Grace.
After having worked in the slave business of Western Africa for a few years, while returning to England, Newton had his great conversion after surviving a severe North Atlantic gale. The following year, 1749, as first mate, and the next four years as captain, Newton was engaged in the triangle trade – carrying trading goods to Africa, then slaves to the Caribbean, and finally sugar, coffee, rice and rum back to Britain. Ten years after leaving the sea, 1764, he was ordained an Anglican minister. “Yet during the better part of a decade in the slave trade, and for some thirty years afterwards, John Newton seems never to have heard God say a word to him against slavery.”
Popular along the rivers and canals of southern England at this time, was chamber music played from a large barge, towed slowly by a pair of horses on a waterside path. At the centre of this orchestra were eight brothers and sisters of the Sharp family; most notable were William, Surgeon to the King, who played the organ and the french horn, and his younger brother Granville (who signed his name as a G-sharp on the treble clef), who played the clarinet, oboe, kettledrum, plus an unusual harp of his own making.
In 1765, an African slave, Jonathan Strong, was severely beaten by his owner and left on the streets. Strong somehow found his way to William Sharp, who gave free treatment to the poor every morning at his office. After patching him up, the brothers, William and Granville, got him admitted to a hospital to recover, gave him money for food and clothes, and found him a job. Two years later, his former owner saw him recovered, sold him to a Jamaican planter, hired two men to kidnap him, and had him jailed until he could be shipped to Jamaica. Strong was able to contact Granville Sharp, who sought the Lord Mayor, who after a hearing, declared Strong free.
“The thirty-two year-old Granville Sharp became by default the leading defender of blacks in London, and indeed one of the few people in all of England to speak out against slavery”. To defend himself and his brother against a new suit filed by Strong’s new owner, Sharp would write one of his pamphlets – ‘On the Injustice and dangerous Tendency of tolerating Slavery’. Dr. Benjamin Franklin joined with his friend in the debate, by writing ‘A Conversation on Slavery’ in January 1770. Sharp would win several other cases, by proving that an owner had freed or abandoned a slave before changing his mind, or that the victim’s status as a slave was otherwise unclear.
In 1772, James Somerset, an African slave from Virginia, brought to England by his owner, had escaped, been recaptured and rushed on board a ship bound for Jamaica, but temporarily freed until his case had been decided. Sharp would take up his defence, to test whether slavery itself was unlawful in England. Lord Mansfield determined that the state of slavery could only be introduced by ‘positive law’ and that since slavery had never been authorized by statute in England, ‘I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged’. Mansfield ruled that a person, regardless of being a slave, could not be removed from England against their will. Though Somerset won the case, it was such that Somerset was freed without automatically freeing other slaves.
Sharp’s next famous case was in 1783, when 132 slaves were thrown alive into the sea from an English slave ship, the Zong, by the captain to try to collect the insurance on the slaves, as a way to make his trip profitable. Although Mansfield ruled that the insurers were not liable from the losses, and despite Sharp’s efforts, no crew member was prosecuted for murder.
However, in between these two cases occurred something that would tell us about the real Granville Sharp. He had already written a pamphlet insisting that Americans should not be taxed without being represented in Parliament and had given 250 copies to his friend, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, then living in London (Franklin lived in England 1757-62, and 1764-75). Thousands more had been eagerly reprinted in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. Now he was disturbed to find that his work at the Ordnance Office involved sending cannon and other materiel to British troops fighting the rebels. “I cannot return to my ordnance duty whilst a bloody war is carried on, unjustly as I conceive, against my fellow-subjects,” he wrote to his superiors, and resigned.
3.2 – The British during the American Revolution
In April of 1775, two important events occurred – the battles of Concord and Lexington, and the starting of the first American anti-slavery society in Philadelphia. The British, however, viewed slavery as something that could simply be used and manipulated as part of their plan to crush the rebellion.
‘Rough Crossings’, by Simon Schama, recounts how, “by the summer and early autumn of 1775 a full-scale panic about the imminence of a black uprising, armed and sustained by the British, was under way from tidewater Virginia to Georgia.”
In fact, for several months the governors of Virginia and North Carolina, Lord Dunmore and Josiah Martin, along with General Thomas Gage in Massachusetts, and in full consultation with Lord North’s government in London, had been considering exactly such a strategy” (i.e. an armed slave rebellion).
“Whatever damage would be done to the property of wicked rebels would be repaired and restored after the war, Dunmore supposed, along with their right allegiance. There was never any question in his mind, after all, of freeing the slaves of loyalists.”
“During the debate on the throne in October 1775, William Lyttelton, who had been governor of South Carolina during the French and Indian War of 1756-60, had said forthrightly that, as far as he was concerned, should a ‘few regiments’ be sent to America ‘the negroes would rise and embrue their hands in the blood of their masters’, making pretty smart work of rebellion.”
On November 7th 1775, Dunmore declared martial law and issued his proclamation to “declare all indented Servants, Negroes or others (appertaining to Rebels) free that are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His Majesty’s Troops.”
On the 30th of June 1779 at Philipsburgh, Sir Henry Clinton had issued a proclamation warning that negroes taken in arms fighting for the rebels would be bought for public works.”
At least the African-American soldiers were decently fed, dressed and, most important of all, inoculated. On the British side, however, in mid-October 1781 at Yorktown, Cornwallis, who had already cast off the sickest to fend for themselves in the woods, and who had ordered the slaughter of horses to pre-empt their death by starvation, now took the brutal decision to expel the freed African ex-slaves from the camp, driving them back to face the reward of their former masters.
Even after Yorktown, the British Lord Dunmore endorsed plans to mobilize and equip no fewer than ten thousand African slave troops, drawn from the estates of the enemy, as well as from loyal masters who would be compensated, and General Leslie carried out British cavalry actions to stop slaves on loyalist plantations from being taken by the Americans and to take other slaves from rebel plantations.
By the end of the war, at least fifteen thousand and perhaps as many as twenty thousand African-Americans were living in the three British enclaves – New York, Charleston and Savannah. Carleton issued a directive that all slaves would be returned to their American masters except those who, for whatever reason, had rendered themselves obnoxious to their owners (i.e. runaways) or those who had been granted their freedom by the Crown for wartime service. This agreement quickly broke down.
The British evacuated Savannah and Charleston in July to December 1782. Loyalists who had been given slaves from confiscated rebel estates were determined to resist demands for their restitution from southern American planters who were petitioning Congress and demanding restoration of their property. Instead the African-American slaves were to be taken, still enslaved, to wherever the loyalists ended up.
Other freed African-American emigrants were tragically misled and cynically exploited by profiteers, who packed them on ships and resold them in the West Indies.
With the draft treaty of peace ready for signing (in November 1782), the American negotiators – Jay, Franklin, and Adams – were belatedly joined by Henry Laurens, who insisted on inserting an additional article, specifying that the British withdrawal was to be effected ‘without the destruction or carrying away of American property, Negroes, etc.’ Previously, Laurens had been taken from a ship bound for France and had spent fifteen months in the Tower of London until granted bail pending a prisoner exchange, for Cornwallis.
Laurens may have been influenced by one of his more frequent visitors in the Tower: ‘so-called’ friend to America, Richard Oswald, who was appointed by the Rockingham-Shelburne government to negotiate the peace treaty with Franklin, Jay and Adams. It had been Oswald who, with a word in the ear of the powerful, had expedited Laurens’ release.
Oswald had another life – that of a slave trader who had made a cool fortune from his domination of the slaving entrepot of Bance Island at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River. And when those human cargoes had docked at Charleston on route to being auctioned for the low country plantations of South Carolina, it was none other than Henry Laurens who took a nice 10 percent on the transactions. However, after the war, Laurens manumitted all of his 260 slaves!
When the evacuation of New York to Nova Scotia was finished in November 1783, loyalists there would not permit their servants to be uncoupled from their bondage, free African-Americans would be forced into indentures so punitive that they might as well be in chains, and land promised them was not delivered.
1783 “marked the beginning of a boom in the British slave trade, for with the end of the American Revolutionary War, slave ships could sail unimpeded once again”.
3.3 – Sierra Leone
London’s poor ex-slaves, who had been granted their freedom for fighting for the British against the Americans, received little or no compensation for losses suffered during the rebellion, and, also did not qualify under the Poor Law – because it should have been enough for them that they received their freedom and been permitted to come to Britain and their attitude should have been one of un-alloyed gratitude and devotion (!?!)
In January 1786, the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor was started by a British philanthropist Jonas Hanway, along with others such as George Peters, governor of the Bank of England (!?!), and John Julius Angerstein, who owned slaves in Grenada and was one of the major Lloyds’ underwriters (!?!), to provide them with some food and a little allowance to survive the winter. As spring arrived and the queues got longer (since the relief was not intended to be permanent), Hanway mooted the idea that perhaps the ex-slaves might be better off somewhere else (perhaps joining fellow ex-slave loyalists then in Nova Scotia).
Henry Smeathman, an expert on ants, had been sent by the future president of the Royal Society, Joseph Banks, to Sierra Leone for three years (1771-74) to collect specimens for Banks’ collection. Smeathman, in his ‘Plan of Settlement’, now proposed that the climate and soil there made it ideal for the cultivation of cash crops, such as cotton and sugar, and was an ideal place for settling these ex-slaves.
These staples might be produced by free labour and (in harmony with Adam Smith’s and David Hume’s economic and philosophical arguments), since the steep rise in the price of slaves was notorious, more cheaply than by slave labour”.
However, just the year before, Smeathman, before a parliamentary committee, had advised AGAINST using Gambia as a suitable location for a penal colony (of British prisoners) because of the deadliness of the climate – “without a physician and drugs, not one in a hundred would be alive in six months”. The Royal Navy, which was to transport the colonists, with provisions for (only) four months, was at the same time assigned to protect the busy British slave-trading depot on Bance Island, a little up-river from the proposed settlement!
(Perhaps the British Empire’s motive was “to be rid of the blacks as irksome beggars, petty criminals and a threat to the purity of white womanhood (since inter-racial marriages were becoming commonplace and noticed)”. The Committee then placed a deadline, after which the allowance would be discontinued, unless agreeing to be settled on the Grain Coast of Africa, when required.
Granville Sharp, meanwhile, in correspondence with his friends in America had read that some of the recently freed Africans in New England had expressed a desire to re-establish themselves in liberty in their native Africa. For this other reason, Sharp now joined the Sierra Leone project, after Smeathman died in July 1786, and Hanway died in September 1786. Sharp donated 25 guineas for the ‘present’ to be given to the King of the Temne, in exchange for land at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River (400 sq. mi.) and spent £800 redeeming pawned goods for the ex-slaves, and paying off arrears of debt to get them out of jail.
In May 1787, 380 free ex-slave Britons arrived at Sierra Leone, along with some (British) artisans and professionals. However, the slavers at Bance Island had been told to ‘make trouble’. The fierce storms, tornadoes and deadly fevers took their toll. With supplies gone, the colonists traded their tools and clothes with the slavers. Most of the British tradesmen/settlers left to take work at Bance Island. Some of the ex-slave colonists were abducted and resold as slaves. In the summer of 1788, Sharp spent £900 outfitting a ship to bring relief supplies and 50 new settlers to the settlement. In November 1789, due to actions of the British navy, the King of the Temne ordered the burning of the settlement (called Granville Town).
At the end of 1790, Sharp again dispatched a ship with tools and equipment for the colonists. Then Sharp would meet Thomas Peters, who had heard of the Sierra Leone project and had travelled to London, commissioned by fellow ex-slaves in Nova Scotia, to voice their grievances that fewer than half of the 3,500 ex-slaves had been given any land (although two-thirds of the loyalists relocated to Nova Scotia were ex-slaves), that they were given only enough food to last 80 days instead of the promised three years (and this only to those who agreed to work building roads) and that this was deliberately engineered so that the loyalists could exploit the ex-slaves as cheap labour (since being made landless and hungry, they were forced into indentures). Peters would return to Nova Scotia in October 1791 with John Clarkson (brother of Thomas Clarkson) to recruit settlers for Sierra Leone, eventually leaving there January 1792 with a 15 ship convoy of almost 2,000 tons, carrying 1,196 people (!).
Meanwhile in 1791, the British government would agree to provide passage to Africa for free ex-slaves, but the British would incorporate a new company – the Sierra Leone Company – to run the new settlement – to be called Freetown, and have the control they needed to remove Sharp’s influence and end the dreams of an African republic.
Note: In 1800, the directors of the company would finally move to put an end to democracy and the settlers’ discontent by writing a new charter and sending 550 Moroons from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone, who were then used to crush the settlers’ revolt. The Moroons had been escaped slaves in Jamaica that had fought against the colonial government in 1796 and had been deported to Nova Scotia – to villages emptied by those ex-slaves who had departed for Sierra Leone in 1792, and now the Moroons themselves were sent to Sierra Leone.
3.4 – The English Abolitionist Movement
n 1785, the Cambridge Latin essay contest, ‘Is it lawful to make slaves of others against their will?’ was won by Thomas Clarkson, who “had relied heavily on the writings of an American Quaker, Anthony Benezet”. The essay was translated into English and published by James Phillips, a Quaker, and “when that was published the American abolitionist sympathizer Benjamin Rush sent a copy to the governor of every state”. Phillips would introduce Clarkson to Granville Sharp. At Phillips’s house, a group of Quakers and Clarkson agree to form a new organization. A committee of a dozen men, nine Quakers – including James and Richard Phillips, and William Dillwyn (a Quaker businessman from Pennsylvania who had gone to the American South to study slavery firsthand, then lobbied the New Jersey legislature for slave freedom, and then moved to London); and three Anglicans – including Thomas Clarkson, and Granville Sharp, who as elder statesman of antislavery efforts would be chairman, would meet on May 22, 1787, as the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
As the movement’s sole full-time organizer, Clarkson would travel to find witnesses, organize sympathizers, and gain information from the two big slave ports of Bristol and Liverpool. A new member was Josiah Wedgwood, who asked one of his craftsmen to design a seal for stamping the wax used to close envelopes. It showed a kneeling African in chains, lifting his hands beseechingly, encircled by the words ‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother?’ The image was reproduced everywhere. Dr. Benjamin Franklin declared the impact of the image ‘equal to that of the best written pamphlet’.
The Marquis de Lafayette, recently returned from helping the American colonists fight for liberty, sent word that he was starting an abolition group in Paris, the ‘Societe des Amis des Noirs’. This would answer the objection that if British slaves stopped carrying slaves, the French would simply pick up the business.
Clarkson, in one of his many meetings, joined M.P. William Wilberforce to the cause. Wilberforce was ready to raise the issue of the slave trade in Parliament’s 1788 session. But before he could do so, he fell ill. Then, with Wilberforce recovering, their plans were again derailed by illness – King George III went mad, bringing British political life to a virtual halt towards the end of 1788 and continuing into the next year, when he recovered. All legislation was put on hold, because no bill passed by Parliament became law until signed by the King.
Meanwhile, Clarkson found his best support in the manufacturing centre of Manchester. The antislavery spirit was so strong in Manchester that the people wanted to send a petition to Parliament, which they did containing ten thousand names, one out of every five people in the city. They also resolved that a letter be sent to the mayor or other chief magistrate of every principal town throughout Great Britain urging similar anti-slave trade petitions. They also wrote to respectable individuals around the country. They placed notices of their unprecedented petition in newspapers in the capital and throughout the British Isles.
By the time the 1788 session of Parliament adjourned, 103 petitions for abolition or reform of the slave trade had been signed by between 60,000 and 100,000 people. During the 1788 session, hearings began before the ‘Committee on Trade and Plantations’ of the Privy Council (and would continue for a year, until the Privy Council finally issued an 850-page report in April 1789). It was during these hearings that Clarkson and other committee members presented the now-famous, top-down schematic view of the ‘Brookes’ slave ship.
It was only now, in 1788, with the anti-slavery movement coming to life around him, that John Newton (whose church was two blocks from Phillips’s printing house) would write a pamphlet, ‘Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade’. “That Newton shuddered now is a testimony to the way a strong social movement can awaken a conscience”.
With the King now considered sane, in May 1789, Wilberforce made his speech in Parliament against slavery, and hearings were to be held by the House of Commons. With the fall of the Bastille in July, and Lafayette becoming leader of the National Guard, Clarkson was sent to Paris for six months, to coordinate with the French abolitionists, in hope of banning the slave trade in France (since France had 675,000 slaves in its Caribbean islands to produce sugar). “Over dinner at Lafayette’s house, Clarkson met Vincent Oge, a free mulatto and goldsmith from the French colony of St. Domingue, and five other mulattos, (who) had arrived to demand seats in the new assembly”. Later, Clarkson would provide Oge with the money for his return trip to St. Domingue, where he led a mulatto revolt in October 1790, in response to which the National Assembly of France granted political rights to all mulattos who were born of free parents.
When the parliamentary hearings ended two years later, in early 1791, Clarkson helped edit the 1,700 pages of testimony and the 850 pages of the Privy Council report of 1789, into an account that was short enough to give to each British Member of Parliament. When in April 1791, the House voted 163 to 88, AGAINST abolishing the slave trade, the response was to organize a boycott of sugar. Abolition petitions now flooded into parliament – 159 petitions bearing at least 390,000 names. Debate began in April 1792 and the House passed an amended proposal to end the slave trade by 1796. The House of Lords, which also had to pass any measure, wanted no abolition at all, and insisted on their own lengthy hearings and effectively stopped any bill from becoming law.
However, all eyes were now on France. Clarkson tried to raise money to support the French National Assembly, and spent a few weeks in France in the summer of 1792. After the execution of Louis XVI, France declared war against Britain in February 1793. With this war, the prospects for abolition disappeared. Political repression would paralyze local abolition organizing. The British government pushed through the Seditious Meetings Act and the Treasonable and Seditious Practices Act, that targetted abolitionists and others who advocated for universal male suffrage and other reforms. The group in Manchester, once the most vigorous outside the capital, would not meet after 1792. In London, the abolition committee itself gave up its office space in 1794.
Note: In early 1796, Clarkson married, and moved to the Lake District to take up farming, becoming fond of his new neighbours – Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth.
3.5 – Upper Canada
In the midst of the 1791 hearings and vote on abolishing the slave trade, a bill was also passed to reorganize Britain’s colonies in North America. The Constitutional Act of 1791 resulted in the division of Quebec into two provinces: Upper and Lower Canada. John Graves Simcoe, a member of the House of Commons that approved the act, envisaged a fine settlement in Upper Canada populated by Loyalists, many of whom he had led as members of the Queen’s Rangers during the revolution. The ‘trusty and well-beloved John Graves Simcoe’ applied for and was appointed to the position of lieutenant-governor of the colony in the wilds of the new world, a commission he compared to a ‘species of banishment’ – at a salary of 2000 pounds a year, to be effective on December 24th, 1791.
Due to the war in Europe, mass emigration from the British Isles to Canada had so far been prohibitive. The newly acquired Upper Canada (Ontario) and also Nova Scotia, would be populated by the exodus of loyalists leaving America – those from Savannah and Charleston not going to the British West Indies, and those from New York not returning to Britain. In Nova Scotia, with a population approaching 30,000, the empire thought they had solved the ‘negro problem’ there by shipping them off to Sierra Leone in 1792. Upper Canada’s population of about 10,000, was almost all made up of newly-arrived loyalists, with their (estimated) 500 slaves.
In July 1792, the new lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, Simcoe, issued a Royal Proclamation to divide the province into 19 counties to elect a 16-member legislative assembly. Of the 16 members, 13 were of loyalist origins. Of the 3 remaining, one was John White, a barrister who had been living in Wales when appointed to be Simcoe’s Attorney-General, and had been elected from Leeds and Frontenac (Kingston).
During the first assembly, in June 1793, a bill (to end slavery) was introduced by White to amend an act passed in Britain in 1790 – ‘An act for encouraging new settlers in His Majesty’s colonies and plantations in America’ – that encouraged settlers from United States to the West Indies, or to Quebec, and permitted them to bring their slaves with them. Many of the other members bitterly opposed the amendment, as loyalist farmers stated that slaves were necessary to carry on their industry; and a compromise was finally arranged to abolish the further importation of slaves. The bill was passed by the first democratically-elected legislative assembly in Upper Canada.
The bill’s preamble read that ‘whereas it is unjust that a people who enjoy freedom by law should encourage the introduction of slavery in this province, and whereas it is highly expedient to abolish slavery in this province so far as the same may gradually be done without violating private property’. No further slaves were to be brought into the province and the children of slaves were to be freed when they reached the age of twenty-five (older slaves were to be freed if they outlived their owner). But White’s advocacy of the Act prevented him from obtaining a seat in any subsequent provincial assembly.
Note: White died in January 1800, after being shot in a duel with John Small, the clerk of the Upper Canada Executive Council. Simcoe left Canada in 1796 and returned to Britain on sick leave, but he was then assigned to Saint-Domingue – to lead the British fight against Toussaint Louverture and the slave revolt, arriving in January 1797.
Simcoe had been a British member of parliament for St. Mawes in Cornwall, from 1790 until he resigned in 1792 to leave for Canada, and he was present, in April 1791, during the hearings and vote against the abolition of the slaver trade. He had supported the bill because, like Wilberforce, he felt it would be best for the British Empire.
Note: When Wilberforce in 1816 chaired a public dinner at Freemasons’ Tavern for something called the African and Asiatic Society, the handful of Africans and Asians present ate at one end of the room, behind a screen. ‘Taught by Christianity, they will sustain with patience the sufferings of their actual lot … and will soon be regarded as a grateful peasantry’. Completely banning the use of the whip, for instance, he felt was going too far. Instead slave whippings should be done only ‘at night after the day’s work’. Wilberforce wrote that ‘the progressive rise of Wages’ was ‘an evil … sufficient to accomplish the ruin … of the whole commercial greatness of our country’. The poor should know, he declared, ‘that their more lowly path has been allotted to them by the hand of God; that it is their part … contentedly to bear its inconveniences’. (from ‘Bury the Chains’)
This is from the so-called great abolitionist, Wilberforce, who was also a founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Perhaps, the two causes looked the same to him – since the morality of the lords of the British Empire had no love for mankind, only pity. Perhaps, John Newton should have written ‘Amazing Pity’.
3.6 – Lower Canada
While slaves from Africa were earlier being sold to the Caribbean plantations by the Spanish, British, Dutch and French, it was not until 1685 that Louis XIV issued the edict ‘Code Noir’ to officially sanction slavery in the French West Indies, and it was not until 1689 that he approved slavery in New France. Although no slave ship would ever arrive in New France, African slaves were brought there to be sold.
In the book ‘Canada’s Forgotten Slaves’, by Marcel Trudel, over 4000 total slaves are shown to have lived in New France/Canada – 2683 Amerindian slaves (called Panis by the French Canadiens) and 1443 African slaves. The French fur traders in New France bought both furs and Amerindian slaves at their fur-trading posts in the west.
In June 1791, the Quebec Gazette reported accounts of the April 1791 debate on abolishing the slave trade that was defeated in the British House of Commons. In June 1792, the Quebec Gazette reported on the April 1792 debates on abolishing the slave trade that passed the House of Commons but was defeated in the House of Lords.
1783 was the year that, roughly, saw the end of the Amerindian slave trade, and also saw a large increase in the African slave trade, as the loyalists arrived in Canada from the United States with their African slaves.
In January 1793, Pierre-Louis Panet brought to the newly elected Legislative Assembly ‘a bill tending to abolish slavery in the province of Lower Canada’. After passing the second reading, Panet moved that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the bill. But an amendment by Pierre-Amable Debonne, that proposed to adjourn debate on the bill, passed by a vote of 31 to 3, and Panet’s bill died.
Note: When the Legislative Council in Canada held hearings in 1787, included in the Montreal merchants (reformers) address was the section: ‘A Prohibition to the bringing of Slaves into the Country’ that read ‘Slavery being alike contrary to the principles of humanity & to the spirit of the British constitution. This committee recommends that means be adopted to prevent the bringing of slaves into the province in future, but as to the few Negro or Indian slaves who are already in servitude, they conceive that they ought not in justice or policy to be emancipated; to many families there are of them valuable as property, and servants, and we have frequently seen instances of slaves being manumitted, soon becoming idle and disorderly, and finally a burthen to the public. We would further recommend that after years, all infants who shall be born of parents who are slaves be declared free’. The census of Lower Canada taken in 1784 showed 304 slaves – 212 in the District of Montreal, 88 in the District of Quebec, and 4 in the District of Three Rivers.
However, while slavery was still allowed in Lower Canada, the courts would prove otherwise.
On February 24th 1794, William Osgoode was appointed the chief justice of Lower Canada. Osgoode had previously been appointed the first chief justice of Upper Canada in 1791, and had nominated John White to become the province’s first attorney general. The bill to ban the further importation of slaves into Upper Canada had been co-written by White and Osgoode, and was introduced into the legislative assembly by White.
In 1794, a slave had fled the United States and found refuge in Montreal. His former owner came to Montreal and claimed the slave as his. The judge ruled that the ex-slave could not be taken out of the province because slavery was not known ‘under the laws of England’ – the 1772 Mansfield ruling in the Somerset case.
In 1798, a slave named Charlotte left the service of her owner, was later arrested and was jailed when she refused to return to her mistress. Since the court was then on holidays, Chief Justice Osgoode discharged the woman without requiring any future appearance before the court. After Charlotte’s discharge, another slave, Judith, fled her master, who had her arrested and jailed. She appeared before the judge, William Osgoode, who had her discharged and who declared that ‘he would, upon Habeus Corpus, discharge every negro, indented apprentice, and servant who should be committed to gaol under the Magistrates Warrant in the like cases’.
Later, a slave named Manuel, who had recently been sold, fled his new owner, who now refused to pay the previous owner the debt owing from the sale of the slave. Osgoode ruled that the previous owner could not prove that he had a right to sell the slave, and that the new owner could not prove his ownership of the slave, and that the sale was null and void, and Manuel was free to go.
Since no law in Lower Canada prohibited slavery, and with the Chief Justice freeing escaped slaves on the grounds that he did not consider them to legally be slaves, the keeping of slaves was considered ‘precarious and uncertain’. Accordingly, in April 1799, a petition was presented to the Legislative Assembly by Joseph Papineau, that since inhabitants of Montreal ‘have purchased for a valuable consideration, a considerable number of Panis and Negro slaves’, and diverse persons, formerly subjects of the United States, had imported Negro slaves into the province, and that under the circumstances, justices had no power to compel absconding slaves to return to the owner’s service, while the owners had no power to enforce obedience, the petitioners foresaw alarming consequences. The petition asked the Assembly to enact legislation that provided for jailing of slaves who deserted their owners, in the same way as indentured apprentices and servants were jailed in Britain, or, that ‘a law may be made declaring that there is no slavery in the province; or such other provision, respecting slaves as this House in its wisdom shall think proper’. The Assembly ordered only that the petition ‘do lay upon the table for the consideration of the members’.
As in Upper Canada, this would have formally recognized slavery and the property rights of slave owners over their slaves (to satisfy the loyalist slave owners who were promised, under the 1790 ‘act for encouraging new settlers in His Majesty’s colonies and plantations in America’ that they could bring their slaves into Canada); and it would also have allowed for restrictive measures, if necessary, on the importation of new slaves into the province (to satisfy the abolitionists).
Again, in April 1800, Joseph Papineau presented a petition – ‘to provide laws for the proper regulation and government of such a class of men as come within the description of slaves’, that was brought up and read. This petition was referred to a five-member committee that reported its resolution – ‘that there are reasonable grounds for passing a law to regulate the condition of slaves, to limit the term of slavery, and prevent the further introduction of slaves in this province’. The resolution was approved by the Assembly, and the bill was read twice, before a Committee of the Whole was formed to debate it, but the bill died when the House adjourned at the end of the session before a third reading.
After the general election and a new session of the Assembly, in January 1801, a new bill was presented to regulate the condition of slaves and to limit the term of slavery. Again, after two readings, a Committee of the Whole was formed to debate the bill, but again, the bill was not debated, when the session ended. In March 1803, another bill went through two readings, but, again, died in committee. After 1803, no act concerning slavery would ever appear in the House of Assembly of Lower Canada. Slavery was simply allowed to wither away on its own.
Note: The last deed of sale of a slave is dated May 13th 1797; and the last advertisement for a slave sale was printed in the Montreal Gazette on January 29th 1798. After 1799, records in Lower Canada list only 19 slaves. The last Pani, a woman named Marie-Marguerite, died in Montreal in 1821.
3.7 – The United States
Before the start of the American Revolution, most slaves arrived in the 13 colonies on British slave ships, and slaves arriving on American ships were bought from the Royal African Company on the west coast of Africa. In 1774, the non-importation agreement to ban all imports from Britain included a ban on the importation of slaves. By 1787, when the Confederation Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance to prohibit slavery in the new territory, slavery had already been abolished in Rhode Island (1774), in Vermont (1777), in Pennsylvania (1780), in Massachusetts (1781), in New Hampshire (1783) and in Connecticut (1784).
When the Constitutional Convention met in 1787, in order to ensure that South Carolina and Georgia would ratify the new constitution, it was agreed, in a provision, that the federal government could not prohibit the importation of slaves into America for 10 years – until 1807.
In Madison’s Notes on the Convention, during the debate,
‘General Pinckney [from South Carolina] declared it to be his firm opinion that if himself and all his colleagues were to sign the Constitution and use their personal influence, it would be of no avail towards obtaining the assent of their constituents. South Carolina and Georgia cannot do without slaves. As to Virginia, she will gain by stopping the importations. Her slaves will rise in value, and she has more than she wants. It would be unequal to require South Carolina and Georgia to confederate on such equal terms.’
‘Mr. Sherman [from Connecticut] said it was better to let the southern states import slaves than to part with them, if they made that a sine qua non. He was opposed to a tax on slaves imported as making the matter worse, because it implied they were property. He acknowledged that if the power of prohibiting the importation should be given to the general government that it would be exercised. He thought it would be its duty to exercise the power’.
Note: At that time, Dr. Franklin was president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery; and John Jay was president and Alexander Hamilton was secretary of the New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves.
By 1787, the importation of slaves had already been banned in Delaware (1776), in Virginia (1778), in Maryland (1783), in New Jersey (1786), in North Carolina (1786), and in South Carolina (1787), and would later be banned in New York (1788) and in Georgia (1793).
And in 1794, President Washington would sign into law ‘an act to prohibit the carrying on the slave trade from the United States to any foreign place or country’ – banning American ships from engaging in the slave trade.
In other words, by 1793 – when the act to ban the importation of slaves into Upper Canada was passed – six states had already banned slavery and all the other states had banned the importation of slaves. But, the support for banning the importation of slaves was not necessarily support for the abolition of slavery.
However, the Upper Canada bill, as well as banning the importation of slaves, also provided for the gradual emancipation of slaves (as would later be done in New York in 1799 and in New Jersey in 1804).
Also, in 1793, the British invaded the French colony of Saint-Domingue, to try to suppress the slave revolt – in order to stop the slave rebellion from spreading to their slave plantations in Jamaica.
3.8 – The Slave Revolt in Saint-Domingue, August 22nd 1791
In 1787, the French colonies in the West Indies were the islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Tobago and Saint Lucia, and Saint-Domingue – the western end of the (Spanish) island of Santo Domingo. The most important colony economically was, by far, Saint-Domingue, with its 398 cotton and indigo plantations, its 1,962 coffee plantations, and its 655 sugar plantations – contributing two-thirds of France’s tropical produce and one-third of France’s foreign trade. Saint-Domingue was administered by a governor and a small group of bureaucrats, lawyers and soldiers.
The majority of the plantation owners (called grands blancs) lived on the plantations (a minority of absentee-landlords lived in France) along with a middle class of merchants and small shopkeepers, and a lower class of plantation overseers, artisans and mechanics (called the petits blancs), and together they made up about 35,000 of the colony’s inhabitants. The mulattoes and free blacks (called gens de couleur) owned about one-third of the plantations and about one-fourth of the slaves in the colony, had to face social and racial discrimination, were not allowed to ‘hold any public office, trust, or employment’, and made up about 25,000 of the inhabitants. But, the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants in the colony were the almost half a million slaves, imported from slave colonies in Africa, who laboured on the plantations – about 2% of the slaves died each year.
After King Louis XVI had called for the Estates-General to be convened in May 1789, the grand blancs of Saint-Domingue formed a committee and selected 37 delegates to be sent to attend the Estates-General, where they were allowed to sit provisionally with the Third Estate. When the National Assembly was formed, the Societe des Amis des Noirs contested their right to 37 delegates – because they only represented the grand blanc portion of the population, and not any of the gens de couleur portion. In July, Saint-Domingue was allowed to seat six (grand blanc) delegates.
On March 8th 1790, the National Assembly decreed that the colonies were allowed to form their own local system of government. But the grand blanc delegates opposed giving active citizenship to the petit blancs.
On March 28th, the National Assembly issued their instructions, that all taxpayers and proprietors, over the age of 25, had the right to participate in colonial assemblies.
In Saint-Domingue, each province elected its own Provincial Assembly and its own National Guard, and a general Colonial Assembly was called to meet. But, in April 1790, in a revolt against the bureaucratic authority, National guards from the North province marched to Port-au-Prince to seize the Intendant, Francois Barbe-Marbois, who was able to flee back to France. Colonel Mauduit, commander of a regiment of French regulars, led the bureaucracy and administrative caste in maintaining their authority and opposed the general assembly. Mauduit would support the gens de couleur against both the grand blancs and petit blancs, who refused to include the gens de couleur in the March 28th instructions.
On May 28th, the Colonial Assembly (dominated by the petit blancs – calling themselves the Patriots) drafted a constitution, that recognized the king as the supreme authority and that the National Assembly could not decree laws concerning the internal regime of Saint-Domingue. The grand blancs now feared that the petit blancs would seize control of the colony, and the grand blancs of the North Province seceded and returned to their provincial assembly. Manduit would now ally with the grand blancs – to split the grand blancs and petit blancs, and to restore bureaucratic authority and control.
On June 29th, the Patriots of Port-au-Prince captured a government patrol but were then dispersed by Manduit’s forces. The Colonial Assembly then sent a delegation of 85 members, who eluded Manduit, to France to present its case to the National Assembly, and they arrived at Brest on September 21st. However, led by Barnave, the National Assembly instead censured the Patriot address, and annulled the Colonial Assembly on October 12th.
Vincent Oge, a leader of the ‘Colons Americains’ – a group of mulattoes living in France, who was angered at the refusal of the National Assembly to listen to their complaints or to seat mulatto delegates, now left France and on October 21st, arrived back in Saint-Domingue where he gathered together a force of 700 mulattoes at Grand Riviere. (After the adoption of the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizens, the gens de couleur demanded full citizenship.) On October 29th, Oge sent a letter to the Provincial Assembly of the North demanding that the gens de couleur be included in the Instructions of March 28th. Mauduit, and the French regulars, defeated Oge’s force and drove them into the mountains. Oge and his lieutenant, Chavannes, fled to St. Jago in Spanish Santo Domingo. The two were later captured by Spanish troops and were extradited back to Saint-Domingue, where they were tried, found guilty and hanged on March 9th 1791.
Earlier that March, 2 French regiments had arrived as reinforcements in Port-au-Prince. The troops, however, soon mutinied and joined with the Patriots’ National Guard, who vowed to avenge the defeat they had suffered under Manduit. Manduit tried to appease the mutineers and as a gesture of good will, returned the captured colours of the National Guard. But, on March 4th, during the proceedings to return the colours, Manduit was attacked and murdered.
The National Assembly, in France, now passed the Decrees of May 13th and 15th 1791, that stated that the National Assembly shall make no law on the status of unfree persons in the colonies except at the specific and unprompted request of the colonial assemblies; but also, that the colonial assemblies will admit people of colour, born of free fathers and mothers, if they otherwise have the required status. This last motion affected only a very small percentage of the 25,000 mulattoes in Saint-Domingue (perhaps no more than a few hundred).
However small such a concession was to the gens de couleurs, the Colonial Assembly at Saint-Domingue now worked to see that the May Decree should not be enforced, and the colonial deputies at the National Assembly in Paris worked for the repeal of the decree. But all of that would change on August 22nd 1791, when Boukman led a revolt of 100,000 slaves in the North Province that destroyed over 300 plantations.
Note: Boukman had been a slave in Jamaica and had been called ‘Book Man’ because he had taught himself to read and write. After he had attempted to teach other slaves how to read, he was sold by his British master to a French slave owner in Saint-Domingue, and his name became ‘Boukman’. At one of the slaves’ regular night meetings, on August 14th, the assembled slaves, led by Boukman, swore an oath to break their chains or die. A week later, the revolt began.
3.9 – The British Invasion of Saint-Domingue, September 23rd 1793
Fleeing to Le Cap Francois for safety were 10,000 grand blancs and petit blancs, along with many gens de couleur, where they were besieged by over 40,000 slave and mulatto Insurgents. With the defences of the city secured to withstand the Insurgent onslaughts, the grand blanc and petit blanc troops made sallies against the Insurgent positions – taking no prisoners, and killing any and all Insurgents – including Boukman.
In the South Province, the mulattoes revolted and joined with the slaves in attacking the planters, and laying siege to Les Cayes. In the West Province, the mulattoes revolted and were joined by thousands of slaves, destroying plantations and defeating a detachment sent from Port-au-Prince. On September 13th, 4,000 mulattoes laid siege to Port-au-Prince. But the gens de couleur, fearing that the slaves might gain equality with them, now offered to join with the grand blancs, and formed an agreement to suppress the Insurgents.
On September 20th, the Colonial Assembly recognized the May Decrees and applied it to all mulattoes. The petit blancs in the West Province however refused to honour the agreement, and the mulattoes again revolted, at the same time that 20,000 Insurgents were moving to attack Port-au-Prince. By the end of October, a new alliance between the mulattoes and grand blancs was formed and took control of Port-au-Prince.
However, in France, upon learning of the slave rebellion, the National Assembly voted to repeal the May Decree and to send three peace commissioners along with an expedition of 18,000 troops.
Upon learning of the National Assembly’s repeal, the Colonial Assembly rejected its pledge of equality for mulattoes. On November 21st, when a mulatto who had been sentenced to death, was about to be executed, the gens de couleur rioted and abandoned Port-au-Prince, after much of the city had been destroyed. But, many of the grand blancs defected and joined with the gens de couleur, in fighting against the petit blancs that remained in the city.
In early December, the three peace commissioners from France arrived, but with only 6,000 troops (not the promised 18,000), and declared a general amnesty for those who would cease fighting.
Following the death of Boukman, the Insurgent leaders, on December 8th, sent two emissaries with a letter to the Colonial Assembly, offering to have their followers return to the plantations, in exchange for freedom for their 50 senior leaders. But the Colonial Assembly refused to even receive the emissaries, and demanded that the Insurgents must surrender first, and then they would be shown ‘the known clemency of their proprietors’.
On December 22nd, a delegation of the Insurgents met with the commissioners at the Saint-Michel plantation, and it was agreed to an amnesty for the Insurgents – with the Insurgents surrendering their weapons, freeing all their prisoners and the returning of all rank-and-file to the plantations.
However, the Colonial Assembly refused to abide by the agreements, and secretly planned to massacre the Insurgents, once they had given up their weapons. But the Insurgents somehow found out about the plot, the fighting resumed, and the chance for peace collapsed as the commissioners returned to France.
In the North Province, the Insurgents continued their attacks and siege on Le Cap Francois; in the South Province, the mulattoes and Insurgents continued their attacks and siege of Les Cayes; and in the West Province, the strange alliance of Insurgents, mulattoes and grand blancs laid siege to Port-au-Prince.
On March 24th 1792, the National Legislative Assembly – the new government of France after the adoption of the constitution on September 3rd 1791 – now voted to grant full citizenship to all mulattoes, to appoint a new governor, and to send three new peace commissioners to Saint-Domingue, along with 7,000 troops. This decree was signed into law by the King on April 4th, and the three commissioners arrived at Saint-Domingue in September.
But before the commissioners arrived with their instructions from the Legislative Assembly, a new revolutionary commune had seized control of Paris, the Tuileries had been stormed and the King imprisoned, and the National Convention was elected, becoming the new government of France.
In October, the Colonial Assembly held its last meeting and was replaced with the Intermediate Commission. Sonthonax, the leader of the new commission, decreed that slavery should be protected in Saint-Domingue, that it recognized only two distinct and separated classes: free men without distinction of colour, and slaves – as was stated by the Legislative Assembly in its March decree – and that the institution would be safe after the expulsion of ‘agitators’. Sonthonax established Jacobin clubs throughout the colony, and in attempting to rout out royalism, he deported many leading military men (and bribed those remaining), and attempted to build an alliance with the gens de couleur.
The Insurgents were soon beaten badly by the French troops and were driven from the Plaine de Nord and into the mountains. The Insurgents there joined with the Spanish, who supplied them with aid and encouragement. France had recently declared war against Spain, and Spain now saw an opportunity to regain the western end of the island. The Insurgents now renewed their attack on Le Cap Francois in the North Province.
General Galbaud arrived at Le Cap Francois as Saint-Domingue’s new governor on May 7th 1793, but his authority was challenged by Sonthonax – since Galbaud owned a local plantation, he was violating a French law that prohibited a proprietor from governing the colony. Sonthonax ordered Galbaud to embark and leave on the French fleet in port.
While Sonthonax and the other commissioners left to prepare the defences at Port-au-Prince in the West Province, Galbaud conspired with the planters at Le Cap Francois in the North Province to deport the commissioners and to return Saint-Dominigue to the conditions before the Legislative Assembly’s March decree. Galbaud convinced 2,000 sailors from the French fleet to join him and the French troops.
Sonthonax rushed back to Le Cap Francois with a force of free men from Port-au-Prince and battled Galbaud, with much destruction and loss of life. During the night of June 20th 1793, Sonthonax promised freedom ‘to all Negro warriors who will fight for the Republic under the orders of the Civil Commissioners’. Encamped just outside of Le Cap Francois was the 15,000-man Insurgent army, that accepted the terms of freedom and attacked the city. In the battle, the city was destroyed, over 10,000 people in total were killed, and thousands fled the city to escape as the fleet sailed to cities on the coast of the United States.
With this promise, Sonthonax had not intended to abolish slavery, but that most slaves could expect improved conditions, with some hope of gradual freedom. The Insurgents however believed that this promise was intended to abolish slavery completely.
But, now, with the Spanish army and its Insurgent allies preparing to attack Le Cap Francois, and with the British navy preparing to come to the aid the remaining petit blancs, Sonthonax decreed the abolition of slavery in the North Province, on August 29th, asking the former slaves to ‘return to your workshop or to your former owner; you will receive the wages of your suffering. You will no longer be subjected to the humiliating correction that was once inflicted on you; you will no longer be the property of another; you will remain masters of your own, and you will live happy’. Two weeks later, Polverel extended the abolition of slavery to the South and West Provinces.
While the British would be content to leave the fighting on the continent, against France, to Austria and Prussia, and to orchestrate the internal chaos in Paris, however, with France’s declaration of war against Britain, the British now could seek to capture the West Indien colonies of France. The British ministry, under Prime Minister Pitt and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Grenville, had already been preparing its move.
Three days after the declaration of war in February 1793, instructions were sent to the British navy at Barbados – resulting in the seizure of Tobago in April 1793, Martinique in March 1794, and of St. Lucia and Guadeloupe in April 1794. But, in September 1793, Britain would invade Saint-Domingue.
On September 23rd 1793, the British navy began an invasion of its key target – Saint-Domingue – both to capture France’s most important colony and to stop the slave revolt there from spreading to Britain’s most important colony, Jamaica – ‘to prevent a circulation in the British colonies of the wild and pernicious Doctrines of Liberty and Equality’.
General Williamson led the British invasion on September 20th 1793, and seized Jeremie in South Province and Mole Saint Nicolas in North Province, while blockading Sonthonax at Port-au-Prince in West Province. By the end of 1793, with over 5,000 regulars and colonial militia, the British had captured Jean Rabel, Saint Marc, Arcahaie and Leogane from Laveaux’s 2500 man army.
The British offensive captured Tiberon in January and L’Acul in February, and forced the surrender of Les Cayes in April and of Port-au-Prince on June 1st 1794.
In June 1793, the Spanish invaded from Santo Domingo in the east, with 14,000 men under General Moreno, along with thousands of Insurgents. By July 1794, they had captured Fort Dauphin and controlled most of the North Province, except for Le Cap Francois and Port-de-Paix.
With the British invasion along the western coast, and with the Spanish pressing from the east, the French defeat seemed only a matter of time.
3.10 – The British withdrawal from Saint-Domingue, 1798
On February 4th 1794, the National Convention of France would declare ‘the slavery of the blacks abolished in all the colonies; consequently all men irrespective of colour living in the colonies are French citizens and shall enjoy all the rights provided by the Constitution.’
In May 1794, upon hearing of the Convention’s declaration, Toussaint Louverture, an Insurgent leader whose army had been previously allied with the Spanish, would decide to switch sides – to fight alongside of the French against both the Spanish and the British – a decision that would change the course of history.
Note: Toussaint Louverture had been born, as a slave, on November 1st (as his name implies) in 1743, and was freed in 1776. He had worked overseeing the livestock, and later acted as coachman to the manager of the plantation, Bayon de Libertat.
Louverture now claimed that the Spanish refused to liberate the slaves and ‘have caused us to fight each other to diminish our numbers and to overwhelm the remainder with chains’. Louverture met with Laveaux in July, and officially joined forces with the French. (Sonthonax had been recalled to France by the National Convention, and on June 15th, he had sailed from Saint-Domingue, leaving Laveaux in charge of the remaining French forces.)
Louverutre drove the Spanish back eastward, drove the British back towards the coast, and soon controlled most of the Artibonite Valley. Laveaux and Villatte, the commander of the mulatto fighters in North Province, were able to lift the siege of Port-au-Paix and Le Cap Francois in North Province; and Rigaud, the commander of the mulatto fighters in South Province, attacked the British forces in the south, regaining Leogane and Tiburon.
In July 1795, the French National Convention would promote Louverture to Brigadier General, along with Villatte (the mullato commander of Le Cap Francois), Rigaud and Beauvais (the mullato commander at Jacmel).
Also in July, Spain withdrew from the Coalition fighting against France in Europe, and Spain also ceded all of Santo Domingo to France. As the Spanish now withdrew from the fighting in Saint-Domingue, Louverture would gain control over most of North Province and West Province, and most of the Insurgents who had fought under the Spanish would join the ranks of Louverture’s army.
The British offensive waned, as yellow fever and malaria began its attack on the troops, and by June 1795, they held only Saint Marc and Port-au-Prince in West Province, Jeremie in South Province, and Mole Saint Nicolas in North Province. In September, the British would capture Mirebalais, that opened an important supply line to the Spanish Central Plateau, and Louverture would wage a guerrilla war against the British, trying to regain Mirebalais. And in August, the British faced a Maroon rebellion in Trelawny Parish in Jamaica. When the Moroons surrendered, instead of relocating them to another parish in Jamaica, as promised, the British instead deported the 500 Maroons to Nova Scotia.
In December, the British ministry decided to launch ‘the great push’, sending General Ralph Abernathy with an force of 30,000 men in 200 ships, in its attempt to conquer Saint-Domingue and the rest of the French west indies, that arrived at Barbados in March 1796.
Abernathy dispatched Gordon Forbes to Port-au-Prince with a force that, by June, would number 10,000 men. Forbes first launched an attack against Rigaud at Leogane, with 20 ships bombarding the town for 9 hours before attacking the city. The attack failed and the British were forced to retreat.
Forbes then moved his forces to Saint Marc in an attempt to push back Louverture, but that offensive also failed, Louverture counter-attacked, and the British became bottled up at Port-au-Prince and Saint Marc, as yellow fever and malaria continued to take their toll.
The British meanwhile, had secretly been encouraging Villatte to depose Laveaux, whose support they believed was the basis of Louverture’s strength. On March 20th 1796, 100 mulatto fighters entered the government palace at Le Cap Francois, seized the governor, beat him, dragged him through the streets, and threw him in prison. Louverture immediately sent 10,000 men to Le Cap Francois demanding that Laveaux be released or he would storm the city. Laveaux was released and Villatte and 600 of his followers had to flee.
On April 1st, Laveaux made Louverture the Lieutenant Governor and the next day, Louverture increased his army with 5 new regiments – now commanding an army of over 20,000 men.
On May 11th, Sonthonax returned to Saint-Domingue. In 1794, Sonthonax and Polverel had been ordered to return to France by Robespierre to answer charges. By the time they arrived back in France, Robespierre was gone and the Terror was over. After a year of proceedings, in October 1795, Sonthonax was vindicated, and three months later, he was appointed as the head of a five-man Commission sent by the Directory, the head of the new government of France – to survey the administration and application of French law in the colony; to keep Saint-Domingue both French and free; and to restore its economic prosperity based on a system of general emancipation.
Now, in order to obtain military support from the two main commanders, Louverture and Rigaud, and also to win mulatto support in his efforts to eradicate all class and racial distinctions, Sonthonax first deported Villatte and his close followers to France, and secondly sent two delegates to meet with Rigaud in the South Province.
But the delegation proved to be a disaster, and the delegates had to flee to (Spanish) Santo Domingo, and the South Province remained semi-independent of Sonthonax and French authority in the north.
In September, elections were held to chose Saint-Domingue’s representatives to the French National Assembly. Two of the elected representatives were Laveaux and Sonthonax. Laveaux left to take up his duties in France in October, but Sonthonax remained, writing letters to the government in France, requesting his recall, before he would leave for France.
In April 1797, Louverture finally recaptured Mirebalais from the British, and their new commander, General John Graves Simcoe, who had arrived on February 28, 1797. After taking Mirebalais, Louverture then threatened the British at Port-au-Prince, but was forced to retreat. Simcoe sent Dessources, the grand blanc ally of the British, to advance from Saint Marc with 2000 men and attack Louverture at Verrettes, while at the same time he sent General Churchill to retake Mirebalais. Louverture moved with 10,000 men to face Dessources and annihilated his army. Louverture now launched an attack on Saint Marc, but the attack failed, forcing Louverture to retreat. However, the British realized that if Saint Marc fell, Mirebalais could then easily be retaken, and Simcoe recalled his forces from Mirebalais to defend Saint Marc, and Louverture reoccupied Mirebalais.
Note: Ironically (or karma, perhaps) Lt-Governor Simcoe, who had signed into law the act to end the importation of slaves into Upper Canada, left Canada in 1796 and returned to Britain on sick leave, but he was then re-assigned by the British ministry to Saint-Domingue – to lead the British fight against Louverture, arriving in January 1797.
In June, he would inform London that with 6,000 troops he could take the whole colony. He returned to Britain that August because he was frustrated by the failure of the government to provide the troops and supplies that he felt were necessary.
He then resigned his Saint-Domingue commission and his lieutenant-governorship in Upper Canada.
For his success in the campaign, Sonthonax promoted Louverture to Commander in Chief of all the French forces in Saint-Domingue. Louverture and Sonthonax now tried to restore the plantation economy with freedmen’s labour. However, friction developed between them, when Sonthonax refused to allow any emigre to return to Saint-Domingue, while Louverture urged the return of many of the grand blancs, who had fled in 1793 – as he felt their knowledge and skills were essential to the restoration of the plantations. Louverture would authorize the return of Bayon de Libertat – the manager of the plantation where Louverture had worked. (During Bayon’s exile in the United States, Louverture had sent him the proceeds from his plantations in Saint-Domingue.)
In July 1797, Sonthonax sent Louverture an angry letter, protesting Bayon’s return – with a copy of the law ‘which condemns to death the emigres who return to the territory of the Republic after having been banished, and condemns those who have aided or favored their return to four years in irons’. Louverture would write to the Directory in Bayon’s defence. However, since no official list of emigres existed for Saint-Domingue, none of these plantations could be legally sold to anyone, but instead were leased to temporary managers – many of them to members of Louverture’s officers.
On August 19th and 20th, Louverture met with Sonthonax, accusing him of having earlier plotted for independence for Saint-Domingue, and demanded that Sonthonax return to France. (Louverture would relate this conversation to two of the other commissioners, who wrote it down, and he sent it to the French minister of marine.)
On August 20th, Sonthonax received a letter from Louverture and signed by the other generals and officers, telling him that
‘named deputy of the colony to the Legislative Corps, commanding circumstances made it your duty to remain for some time still in our midst; then your influence was necessary, troubles had disturbed us, it was necessary to settle them. Today, when order, peace and zeal for work, the reestablishment of agriculture, our success against our external enemies and their impotence permits you to present yourself to your function – go tell France what you have seen, the prodigies to which you have been witness. Be always the defender of the cause which we have embraced, of which we will be the eternal soldiers.’
Sonthonax stalled, to see if he might find any military support among the garrisons at Le Cap Francois. Meanwhile, Louverture gathered his forces outside the town and sent a message to the commissioners that ‘if your colleague has not left before sunrise, I will enter Le Cap with my dragoons and embark him by force.’ Sonthonax sailed for France on August 24th.
Louverture wrote to Laveaux, listing his complaints against Sonthonax, and Laveaux would defend him to the French legislature from the accusations by Sonthonax. Louverture also wrote to the Directory that
could men who have once enjoyed the benefits of liberty look on calmly while it is ravished from them! They bore their chains when they knew no condition of life better than that of slavery. But today when they have left it, if they had a thousand lives, they would sacrifice them all rather than to be subjected again to slavery. But no, the hand that has broken our chains will not subject us to them again. France will not renounce her principles … But if, to restore slavery in Saint Domingue, you were to do so, then I declare to you, that would be to attempt the impossible; we knew how to face danger to win our liberty, and we will know how to face death to keep it.’
In March 1798, General Thomas Maitland, who had returned to London with Simcoe last August, now arrived back at Saint-Domingue, with a mandate for a withdrawal.
During the 5 years of the British invasion of Saint-Domingue, while earning more than £500,000 from exports, it had cost more than £7 million!!! As well as over 20,000 casualties!!! And, during those 5 years, the British army had purchased 13,400 slaves, to raise African slave regiments to do their fighting for them – which probably made them the largest single buyer of slaves in the Caribbean.
On April 22nd, Maitland began negotiations with Louverture – the British would withdraw from Port-au-Prince, Saint Marc, Arcahaye, and Croix-des-Bouquets (leaving all military installations intact) and in exchange, Louverture would promise to protect the lives and property of those who would remain and not leave with the British.
On April 30th the agreement was signed, and within the week, the British troops had left. Louverture and his troops entered Port-au-Prince in triumph, and now controlled all of West Province.
The special agent of the French government, General Theodore Hedouville – the ‘pacifier of the Vendee’, arrived at Saint-Domingue, on April 20th at Le Cap Francois – with the Directory’s plan to lull the Insurgents into an invasion of Jamaica – to export the slave revolt to the British plantations. Louverture realized that such a plan would destroy him and that ‘the old system might then be restored in St. Domingo and slavery re-established’.
Maitland would soon also learn of the French plan. Maitland, however, wanted to stop any attempt of a French invasion of Jamaica, from Saint-Domingue, and launched an offensive to secure the western tip of the peninsula of South Province – the most probable place from which such an invasion might occur.
In June, Maitland’s forces broke through the encirclement of the British-held port of Jeremie, and pushed back Rigaud’s mulatto army into Tiburon, and began a naval bombardment of Tiburon. Louverture rushed aid to Rigaud, and at the same time, began attacks on Mole Saint Nicolas, the other remaining British-held port, forcing Maitland to draw off some of his forces from the south, and his offensive soon collapsed.
Maitland now began new negotiations with Louverture – the British would withdraw from its remaining ports, surrendering Jeremie to Rigaud and surrendering Mole Saint Nicolas to Louverture; Britain would continue to trade with Saint-Domingue and trade with the United States would have British support; and Britain would promise not to invade the French colony again, if, in return, Louverture would promise never to attack Jamaica.
On August 31st the agreement was signed, and by early October, the last of the remaining British troops left Saint-Domingue. But, Louverture rejected the offer from Maitland – that if Saint-Domingue would declare independence, they would receive the protection of the British navy from the French.
Conflict now arose between Louverture and Hedouville over the emigres and over work policy. Hedouville declared that all emigres must leave the colony and give up their property, while Louverture (as he had promised Maitland) instead pardoned those grand blancs that were left behind after the British withdrawal, because he needed their skills and experience in rebuilding the plantation economy. Hedouville announced his work policy that required all field workers to engage themselves to their plantations for three years, while Louverutre said that this sounded too much like slavery.
In mid-October, fighting broke out at Fort Liberte, near Le Cap Francois, between one of Louverture’s regiments, under his adopted nephew Moyse, and some of the planters in the area. Hedouville declared Moyse an outlaw, replaced him with Manigat, who was protected by a small force of ‘petit blanc’ troops, and ordered Louverture to march to the fort and seize Moyse. Instead, Louverture amassed his army, and along with the thousands of field workers, marched to Le Cap Francois, threatening to storm the city. Hedouville and his followers left Saint-Domingue in three ships and fled to France, on October 22nd.
On November 15th, Louverture issued a proclamation that all able-bodied inhabitants of the colony who were not attached to the army were required to return to work for wages on the plantations; and that the work policy would be enforced by the military officers, rather than the planters.
Louverture wrote to the Directory, denying any ambition for independence and blaming the trouble on Hedouville. He also wrote to Laveaux that ‘whatever may be the injustices of the agents of the government, I shall be no less constant in my principles and no less obedient to the authorities of the motherland.’
Section 4 – Peace on the Frontier
4.1- The Treaty at Vincennes, September 27th 1792
Earlier, on December 19th 1791, Colonel Pickering had written to the Five Nations Indians that
in the last speech I made to you at the council at Newton, I proposed that a small number of the chiefs should come to Philadelphia after the Corn Harvest to see the Great Chiefs and the Great Council of the United States in order to fix with them the time and manner of introducing among you the knowledge of farming, of smiths and carpenters work, of spinning and weaving, and of reading and writing.’
On December 20th, Knox wrote to Samuel Kirkland asking him to send runners to the several chiefs, who were named by Pickering in his letter, to appoint Geneseo as the meeting place, and for him to accompany them on their trip to Philadelphia.
On January 7th 1792, Knox wrote to Cornplanter and the chiefs of the Seneca nation on the waters of the Allegheny river, inviting them to meet Kirkland and the other chiefs at Geneseo, and to also come to Philadelphia.
On January 9th, Knox sent instructions to Captain Peter Pond and William Steedman that
‘no doubt can exist that our strength and our resources are abundant to conquer, and even to extirpate the Indians, northwest of the Ohio. But this is not our object. We wish to be at peace with those Indians – to be their friends and protectors – to perpetuate them on the land. The desire, therefore, that we have for peace, must not be inconsistent with the national reputation. We cannot ask the Indians to make peace with us, considering them as aggressors: but they must ask a peace of us. To persuade them to this effect is the object of your mission. Repair to Niagara and Detroit, without suffering your business to escape you, until proper time. When at Detroit, assume the characters of traders with the Indians – a business Mr. Pond is well acquainted with. Mix with the Miami and Wabash Indians. Find their views and intentions, through such channels as your discretion shall direct. Learn the opinions of the more distant Indians. Insinuate, upon all favourable occasions, the humane disposition of the United States; and if you can by any means ripen their judgement, so as to break forth openly and declare the readiness of the United States to receive, with open arms, the Indians, notwithstanding all that is past, do it. If such declaration should be made, at the Miami or Wabash, and be well received, you might persuade some of the most influential chiefs to repair to our posts on the Ohio, and so, from post to post, to this place.’
However, when Pond and Steedman arrived at Niagara, the British commander, Colonel Gordon, refused permission for them to travel any further, and Pond and Steedman were forced to return home.
On January 31st, Colonel Gordon, along with Indian agent Butler and Joseph Brant, attended a council with the chiefs of the Five Nations Indians at Buffalo Creek, and gave a speech that
tho this invitation from Colonel Pickering is dated at Philadelphia, eight days after they had received accounts of the defeat of their army in the Miami country, yet they take not the least notice of that affair. Your own good sense will point out to you, why they have concealed it and the same good sense will cause you to discover for what purpose so many of your chiefs and sachems are now invited to Philadelphia … I think it will be imprudent in you to attend this invitation.’
The chiefs at this council then met (without Gordon or Butler) and decided not to accept the invitation, and they sent a runner to Geneseo ‘to stop any, should they be inclined to go (to Philadelphia), until the council meets at Buffalo creek.’ When the chiefs at the Geneseo council (with Kirkland) received this message, Red Jacket then spoke that it was evident that the design in calling the Indians to Buffalo creek was to extinguish the Geneseo council fire, and to prevent anyone from going to Philadelphia; but this was contrary to their ancient usages to extinguish or remove a council fire by lighting another, until the purpose of the first had been decided at the appointed place.
The Geneseo council chiefs agreed, and sent a message to the Buffalo creek council, inviting them to come to assist in answering the invitation to meet with the Congress of the thirteen fires. The entire Buffalo creek council agreed (except for Brant, Fish Carrier and Great Sky) to set out for Geneseo. The Geneseo council ended on February 20th, and every influential chief accepted the invitation to go down with Kirkland and Cornplanter – a company upwards of fifty, and they reached Philadelphia on March 13th.
On March 23rd, the Indian delegation was welcomed by President Washington, who asked Congress that
the United States, in order to promote the happiness of the Five Nations, will cause to be expended, annually, the amount of one thousand five hundred dollars, in purchasing for them clothing, domestic animals and implements of husbandry, and for encouraging useful artificers to reside in their villages’.
Israel Chapin was appointed as the United States’ deputy agent to the Five Nations of Indians. Some of the chiefs proposed ‘to attend the great council of Western Indians, soon to be held near the west end of lake Erie’ and they were authorized ‘to assure those Indians of the sincere disposition of the United States to make peace with them’. Before they departed, 22 of the most respectable chiefs dined with President Washington on April 22nd.
Earlier, at a meeting of the heads of the executive departments on March 9th, the president and his cabinet were informed of a letter from Kirkland that an Indian delegation was on its way, and also, of the report of Pond and Steedman that their mission was forced to end; after which President Washington then asked ‘shall a person be sent to the Northwest Indians by way of Fort Pitt and Vincennes to propose peace?’
In response to the president, on April 3rd, Knox wrote to Major Alexander Trueman that he should repair to Fort Washington (with a speech for the western Indians), disclose to Lieutenant Colonel Wilkinson the object of your mission, and to concert with him the proper means of carrying it into execution – to repair to the Miami village ‘to affect a peace with the hostile Indians on the terms of humanity and justice’.
Prior to this, Wilkinson had already sent 3 men on April 3rd with a message to the western Indians, inviting them to send some of their chiefs to Fort Washington for a peace council. It would be later learned that the men met with some Indians, who were to accompany them to the Miami towns, but the Indians decided the men were spies and they were killed and scalped. Wilkinson now would send Colonel John Hardin to the Wyandot towns along the Sandusky river with a message for peace. On May 21st, Trueman and Hardin, along with their guides and interpreters, left Fort Washington and travelled together for a week before they split – Trueman travelled to the Miami towns and Hardin to the Sandusky towns. The next day, both missions were met by small Indian hunting parties, that surprised and killed them – sending their scalps back to Detroit.
On May 21st, Joseph Brant wrote to Gordon at the British fort at Niagara, and then to Knox that he would accept the invitation to visit the government at Philadelphia. Knox had tried earlier, through letters from Pickering and Kirkland and himself, to have Brant accompany the chiefs of the Five Nations on their visit to Philadelphia in March, but Brant refused until he could first send messengers to the western Indians to ask their advice. When the messengers returned, Brant then decided to go, leaving his home at Grand river in Upper Canada, travelling to New York, and arriving at Philadelphia on June 20th.
Brant met with President Washington and with Knox, arguing for a new boundary line between the United States and the western Indians, running along the Ohio and Muskingum rivers – the line that had been agreed to by the Indians and Lord Dorchester in August 1791. Knox told Brant that
the United States require no Indian lands but those which have been ceded by treaties … if, however, it should hereafter be made to appear, either that the compensation then given was inadequate, or that other than the parties who made it have any just claims on the lands ceded thereby, that we shall be willing to give them a just compensation’.
Knox hoped that when Brant repaired to the soon-to-be-assembled council of Indian nations at the Maumee river of lake Erie, he would ‘fully and truly unfold to them those things which may conduce to their happiness’. Brant left Philadelphia on June 28th and returned to Niagara.
On May 22nd, Knox wrote his instructions to Brigadier General Rufus Putnam
you have, at the request of the President of the United States, agreed to attempt to be present at the general council of the hostile Indians about to be held on the Miami river of lake Erie, in order to convince the said Indians of the humane dispositions of the United States, and thereby to make a truce or peace with them … And that there should be no mistake as to the boundaries claimed by the United States, by virtue of the said several treaties, you have herewith delivered to you a map, whereon the boundaries are clearly marked … The United States are desirous, in any treaty, which shall be formed in future, to avoid all causes of war, relatively to boundaries, by fixing the same in such a manner as not to be mistaken by the meanest capacity. As the basis, therefore, of your negotiation, you will, in the strongest and most explicit terms, renounce, on the part of the United States, all claim to any Indian land which shall not have been ceded by fair treaties, made with the Indian nations… You will make it clearly understood, that we want not a foot of their land, and that it is theirs, and theirs only; that they have the right to sell, and the right to refuse to sell, and that the United States will guaranty to them their said just right. That all we require of the Indians is a peaceable demeanor; that they neither plunder the frontiers of their horses, or murder the inhabitants; that the United States are bound to protect the inhabitants at the risk of every inconvenience of men and money.’
Putnam was to be assisted by Major Trueman and his ‘ardent zeal’; by
the chiefs of the Five Nations who were lately in this city (and) have agreed to repair to the Great Council … well impressed with the justice and humanity of the United States and … to use their highest exertions to effect a peace’; by Colonel Louis of the Caynawagas of the Seven Castles in Canada who ‘had been invited to the council to be held at the Miami river of lake Erie … being also convinced of the justice of the United States, promised to use his influence towards a peace; by Captain Hendrick Aumauput, chief of the Stockbridge Indians, ‘specially charged to prepare your reception and to meet you at fort Jefferson’; and also by Brigadier General Wilkinson and Major Hamtramck.
Putnam arrived at Fort Washington on July 2nd, and he was informed by Wilkinson that on June 25th about 50 Indians had attacked a party of 15 men cutting hay at Fort Jefferson, killing four and taking the others as prisoners.
In a message he had sent earlier from Fort Pitt, Putnam had told the Indians that he would be at Fort Jefferson on the 24th, and Putnam realized that he was probably the true object of the attack. Putnam also learned, from reports that had been received from some American prisoners who had escaped from the Indians, of the deaths of Trueman and Hardin, and their guides and interpreters.
Putnam was also informed by Hamtramck that he had met with some of the Wea and Eel River chiefs at Fort Knox on March 14th who said that they wished to be at peace with the United States, and that they had signed an agreement that “measures may be speedily taken to conclude a solid and everlasting treaty of peace between the Wabash Indians and the United States and that the treaty shall be held in Vincennes.’ Putnam ‘was soon convinced that the Indians who met at the great council were determined on war, and that it was in vain to make any further attempt to bring them to treat of peace at present’ and on July 22nd wrote to Knox ‘(that) my tarrying here much longer, can be of no service whatever … (that) there is a prospect that most, if not all the western tribes, may be detached from those nations who have originated the war, and return to, or be kept in a state of peace … (and) that this is the only remaining channel by which there is the least prospect of my being able to speak with the more hostile tribes … For these reasons, sir, I have been induced to form the resolution of going to Post Vincent, for the purpose of holding a treaty with the western tribe.’
On August 16th, Putnam and his party left Fort Washington, along with about 60 Indian prisoners that had been held there, arrived at Fort Knox on September 13th and released the prisoners to their Indian friends. Blankets and clothes were handed out to the 686 Indians that assembled there, and that included 31 chiefs from the Potawatomi, Piankashaw, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Wea and Eel River nations. The council started on the 24th and a treaty was signed on September 27th that the Wabash and Illinois Indians
‘acknowledge themselves to be under the protection of the United States of America, and stipulate to live in amity and friendship with them … The United States solemnly guarantee to the Wabash, and Illinois nations, or tribes of Indians, all the lands to which they have a just claim; and no part shall ever be taken from them, but by a fair purchase, and to their satisfaction … The said kings, chiefs and warriors, solemnly promise, on their part, that no future hostilities or depredations shall be committed by them.’
After the council ended, Putnam invited one or two chiefs of each tribe to visit General Washington in Philadelphia. Captain Abner Prior and a small company of soldiers accompanied 16 of the Wabash Indians to Philadelphia, but while travelling through southern Pennsylvania, smallpox broke out among their ranks. Several died, the rest were inoculated, and when they recovered their health, the remaining delegation were finally able to meet with President Washington on February 1st 1793.
4.2- The Indian Council at the Glaize, October 8th 1792
Putnam also asked the Wabash Indians to ‘send a speech to the Miamis, Delawares, Shawanoes and the other tribes, who have hitherto stopped their ears, and refused to speak with the United States’, and told them that he ‘proposed to send one speech more, requesting them to open a road to some place or other, where we may meet and speak to one another.’ Putnam dispatched William Wells, along with several Eel River Indians as witnesses of the treaty, to travel to the Miami river Indian villages. They departed on October 7th – the same day that the great council of the western Indians at the Glaize had ended.
On September 23rd 1792, with all of the invited Indian nations assembled, and with the final arrival of the Six Nations at the Glaize – a Shawnee village at the junction of the Maumee river and the Auglaize river, Alexander McKee was sent a message that the Indians wished for his attendance, and after he and his British Indian department deputies had arrived (with their own private intentions for the Indians) the council began.
On August 30th, Simcoe had written to McKee
to propose to you the hazarding of a measure that seems most likely to effect that Indian boundary, or somewhat like it, which we sketched out when I had the pleasure of seeing you at Montreal. It is to endeavour to impress the Indians, now meeting from the farthest parts of Canada, of themselves to solicit the King’s good offices. It is to be extremely desired that this solicitation should be the result of their own spontaneous reflections. In all cases it will be advisable, after the repeated assurances of our neutrality which we have given to Congress, that there should appear on our part nothing like collusion or any active interference to inspire them with such a sentiment; a suspicion of that tendency would infallibly tend to defeat the accomplishment of our object. It will be also essential that all the Indian tribes bordering on the British possessions, should concur in the solicitation not only as so numerous a confederacy would present to the Americans the appearance of an increased accumulation of hostile force; but also as a consolidation of the Indian territorial claims and rights is requisite to the formation of so extensive a barrier, as we have in contemplation.’
This would be the British scheme for the council of the Shawanoes, Delawares, Connoys, Ottawas, Chipeways, Cherokees, Sawkies, Ouiawatanons, Wyandots, Miamis, Nantokokes, Potawatomas, Creeks, Reynards, the Six Nations, and the Seven Nations of Canada.
After the initial ceremonies, the council began on October 2nd, as the western nations greeted the Six Nations, and Messquakenoe, a Shawnee chief, spoke that ‘when we last met four years ago, it was your advice to us, to be all united and strong as if one nation. We are so. We have followed your advice … but we have not seen you since that time. We suppose you have been constantly trying to do us some good, and that was the reason of your not coming sooner to join us.’ A Six Nations chief would answer that “our father, the king, was defeated by the Americans and then made a peace and left us alone – our father then desired us to speak to the Americans for as good a peace as we could get for ourselves. We have been trying to do so in the best manner we could, and we now desire you to do the same and to join us in our best endeavours for that purpose.’ A chief from the Seven Nations of Canada next spoke that ‘as the Americans are now wanting to speak with us, let us put our heads together and join as one nation, and if they do not agree to what we shall determine on: Let us all strike them at once.’
Messquakenoe replied to the Six Nations ‘but you did not speak to the real purpose you come upon to this council fire … when you left your villages to come here, you had a bundle of American speeches under your arm. I now desire you brothers to lay that bundle down here and explain what you have been talking with them these last two years.’ Cow Killer, a Seneca chief, told of the Six Nations’ travel to Philadelphia ‘where they met the 13 states and Washington … Washington asked us what was the cause of the uneasiness of the Western Nations. We told him it was in regard to their lands. He then told us he would satisfy the owners of the lands, if it had been sold by people who were not the real owners thereof; but he wishes for a council with all the nations, for that purpose. He did not say he would give up the lands, but that he would satisfy the Indians for them. That he wanted nothing so much as the friendship of all his brothers the Indians throughout this island. He then desired us to come to you with his speeches, and tell you all he said, and he added that if the forts he had made in the country gave uneasiness he would remove them.’
On October 7th, Messquakenoe, as spokesman for the western Indians, gave the council’s decision, asking the Six Nations that ‘as you were sent here by the Americans to tell us what they say, we now tell you brothers to go the same road you came and inform them’, that ‘the boundary that was made between us, and the English and the Americans when they were one people … was the river Ohio … (and) that the boundary line then fixed on is what we want’ (i.e. the Fort Stanwix treaty boundary of 1768!!!); that ‘we do not want compensation; we want a restitution of our lands which he holds under false pretenses’; and that ‘if the Americans want to make peace with us, let them destroy these forts, and we will meet them next spring at Lower Sandusky, where all the parties who formerly settled the boundary line, must be present’. This demand of the council – that some of the King’s servants should also be present at Sandusky – was Simcoe’s and McKee’s plan for British mediation!!!.
Ironically, McKee had been an British Indian agent involved in the negotiations for the 1768 Fort Stanwix treaty, when the British spent £1200 on presents for the Ohio Indians, and £1300 for presents to the Six Nations, and then gave £10,000 in goods and money to the Six Nations for the lands ceded by them by the treaty – the British considered the Ohio country to be a part of the Six Nations territory. While the British planned to use this treaty to stop all frontier settlements of the colonies into the Ohio country, the Americans, on the other hand, sought to use this treaty to gain an access to the Ohio river and an opening to the west. (And so it would seem, that with the British, the more things change, the more they stay the same.)
The next day, instructions were given to the Six Nations, to ask Simcoe to attend the Sandusky council in the spring, and to bring with him a copy of the treaty that was made at Fort Stanwix. Although McKee had written Brant to attend the Indian council, because of his ill health, Brant did not arrive at the Glaize until October 8th, where he met in council with the Shawnee and Delaware chief delegates.
When Brant, and those delegates from the Six Nations that had attended the council at the Glaize, returned to fort Niagara, an Indian council was then held on November 16th with the Buffalo creek Indians, along with Colonel Butler, the British Indian agent, and with Israel Chapin Jr. (the son of the American Indian agent) to report on the recent resolves of the Western Indians grand council. The Americans were invited to send agents to the spring council – ‘men of honesty, not proud land jobbers, but men who love and desire peace … accompanied by some Friend or Quaker’. Butler and Simcoe were invited to be at the conference between the Indians and the American commissioners, set to begin in the spring, at Sandusky. Simcoe answered the council, that the British would accept their proposal to attend the spring meeting!
After the ending of the Indian council at the Glaize, and having freshly received their annual supplies and ammunition from McKee, Little Turtle led 200 Shawnee and Miami warriors to attack the American frontier forts west of the Ohio. Crossing the Maumee in late October, they arrived at Fort Hamilton on November 3rd and seized 3 soldiers, from whom they learned that a large supply convoy, escorted by 100 Kentucky militiamen, had recently gone to Fort Jefferson and was soon due to return. By attacking the convoys, the Indians hoped to be able to stop the transport of forage and supplies to the frontier posts, and inflict a major setback on the American army.
On the evening of November 5th, the convoy was camped outside of Fort St. Clair, a fort that was constructed earlier that March, half the distance between forts Hamilton and Jefferson. Little Turtle and his warriors had quietly surrounded the convoy, and just before dawn, when Major Adair called in the sentries, they launched their surprise attack. In the dark and confusion, the men had to race for the safety of the fort. In the fighting, the Indians had 2 warriors killed, but the Kentuckians had 6 killed, 5 wounded and 4 missing. Afterwards the Indians took every article of provision they could find that was left in the camp, and then they inflicted the greatest loss on the packhorses – 26 were killed, 10 were wounded, over 40 were captured, and only 23 strays were able to be rounded up later.
Major General Anthony Wayne, who was camped with his army at Legion Ville, received the report from Knox, of the results of the Indian council at the Glaize, on December 7th, and of the Indian attack upon Adair at Fort Jefferson, on December 28th.
Wayne had earlier arrived at Fort Pitt on June 14th, with only 40 new recruits, a ‘corporal’s command’ of dragoons, and orders from Knox, that ‘of the intention of some of the frontier people to strike at San Dusky … you will, in the name of the President of the United States, positively forbid any such incursion, until the effects of the pacific overtures be known.’ Due to the shortage of men, and not wanting the expense of using the county militias, Wayne kept ‘a strong patrol, superior to insult, constantly passing between here (fort Pitt) and fort Franklin … with orders to chastise any hostile Indians that may be found lurking on our borders.’ With the use of harsh discipline to instill order, cleanliness and proper appearance in his undisciplined and inexperienced men, who were mostly poor and uneducated, he practiced the army incessantly in offensive and defensive drills – using Baron Steuben’s blue Book. And his experiments with improvements in the muskets ‘will cause each musket to prime itself with more certainty in action than the common mode, the eye of the soldier will therefore be constantly upon his enemy, and he can pursue and load in full trot without danger of loosing any part of his powder.’ Wayne saw that ‘if the present overtures of peace are treated with contempt or neglect, we must not suffer another defeat.’
On November 9th, Wayne reported to Knox on his plans for the augmentation of the garrisons for the forts Hamilton, St. Clair and Jefferson, that would be needed as escorts for the provisions required to be in the advance for any ‘effective offensive operation.’ On November 17th Knox replied to Wayne that ‘if a treaty should be held with the said Indians, it would be improper to erect the posts during the treaty – But if they should resolve upon war, the posts ought certainly to be established.’
On November 24th, Knox instructed Wayne, who was preparing to winter his troops, that ‘it will be proper therefore that the troops consider themselves as under orders to move, on a short notice during the winter or early in the spring according to events and circumstances … that at that period it is probable Headquarters will be removed to Fort Washington and a great portion of the troops assembled at that post.’ On December 1st, Knox reiterated to Wayne that ‘it must be clearly understood that no new ground be taken or posts established in the Indian country advanced of Fort Jefferson in the interim between this time and the time fixed upon for treating.’
On November 28th, with almost 800 men, Wayne moved his army away from Fort Pitt, 20 miles down the Ohio river to a new camp near Big Beaver river, to be called Legion Ville.
On December 12th, Knox wrote an answer to the western Indians, agreeing to send commissioners to attend the council at Sandusky, and that ‘we shall prevent any of our parties going into the Indian country, so that you may with your women and children, rest in full security; and we desire, and shall expect, that you call in your warriors, and prevent their going out again. It will be vain to expect peace, while they continue their depredations on the frontiers.’ He also wrote that ‘the United States will endeavour to furnish by way of Canada and the lakes, a full supply of provisions during the treaty.’
Alexander Hamilton wrote to George Hammond on December 29th, that ‘from the opinion you have been so obliging as to express that arrangements may probably be made in Upper Canada for procuring a supply, from that quarter, of the Indians, expected to assemble at O’Glaise in the ensuing spring for the purpose of holding a treaty with this government. I have the honor to inform you that I have concluded to send an agent into the territory of Upper Canada to endeavour to effect contracts for the above mentioned supplies; and as you have authorized me to do, shall count on your good offices to facilitate the object of his mission.’ But Governor Simcoe objected to the American offer and refused permission to the American agent, General Hull, to enter Upper Canada.
On January 21st 1793, Simcoe wrote to George Hammond at Philadelphia, that
‘I decline the giving permission to agents of the States, to purchase provisions in this colony for the supply of the Indian meeting … Colonel Butler having assured me that it would be indispensably necessary for him and Colonel McKee at all events to have a certain quantity of provisions to entertain the Indians with during the frequent applications which may be expected to be made to them for advice … I am certain that (the Indians) will never suffer the United States to forward a supply thro their country, of which they have hitherto been extremely jealous.’
Simcoe also wrote to McKee on January 23rd that
‘(the Americans) expect that they shall be permitted to furnish what provisions may be wanting from the nearest posts to the Indian country; it is evident therefore that they mean to establish provisions and magazines, under that pretext upon the line, by which they are advancing their posts between Fort Washington and that fortress which the letters intercepted at St. Clair’s defeat mention, they mean to erect at the Miami Rapids; I cannot but fear from these circumstances, that some collusion is intended.’
On February 4th, Simcoe set out on a hurried, 250-mile journey over the frozen wilderness (!!!), from the British fort at Niagara to Detroit – not wanting to wait until spring. At the Ouze (Grand) river, he met Joseph Brant, who accompanied him half-way before returning to attend an Indian council at Buffalo creek. Simcoe and his party of soldiers and Indians continued by way of the La Tranche (Thames) river to meet with McKee at Detroit, regarding the upcoming Indian council at Sandusky with the Americans. Upon his return, Simcoe would write to Clarke at Quebec on May 31st, of this ‘internal line of communication’, and of ‘rendering the road between Burlington Bay and the River Thames (where it first becomes navigable for bateaux) sufficiently commodious as a military communication, if such shall be the necessity, between Detroit and Niagara.’ And to better protect Detroit from possible attack and to secure the shipping on lake Erie, Simcoe proposed establishing a post (between Long Point and the Grand river) opposite Presque Isle – fearing that ‘Presqu’Isle is immediately to be settled by the State of Pennsylvania and provision is made for its becoming an arsenal, dockyard and fortification whenever such shall be required by the United States.’
Simcoe made his plan based on the thinking that
‘considering therefore all the garrisons & fortifications of Detroit, Niagara & Oswego, as totally inadequate to self-defence or general protection, and that they are especially retained as hostages for performances of an incomplete treaty, rather than from any idea of maintaining dominion over them; that they are the anxious object of jealousy of the government of the United States – a government founded upon the basis of popular opinion and floating with its very breath!’
On January 24th, after being informed by Knox that ‘the motion (in Congress) for the reduction of the troops … failed, twenty for, and thirty-six against it’, Wayne replied that
(I) am pleased to find that the good sense of so respectable a majority has defeated the machinations of a restless juncto … The late decision which shews a stability in our councils, the brilliant and rapid success of the arms of France, together with the complexion of affairs in Ireland & Scotland, affords a favorable & happy opportunity to demand in very pointed terms, the surrender of the posts on the margin of the lakes – agreeably to treaty … but should they eventually comply with the requisition, we then shall have it in our power to dictate terms to those haughty savages – or to exterminate them at our pleasure. I have already established a strong post at Cussawaga, within forty miles of Presque Isle & two others on the Allegheny at intermediate distances between Fort Franklin & Pittsburgh. Nor shall we have occasion for any more except at Le Boeuf & Presque Isle, the only & best harbour on the west side of lake Erie, between that and Sandusky. I must acknowledge that I have always had a predilection in favor of that route, & in fact I have a strong propensity to attend the next grand council either at the rapids of the Miami, or such other place, on the waters of lake Erie, as the savages may think proper to fix upon, attended with about Twenty-five Hundred Commissioners, properly appointed advancing by this smooth path – leaving Wilkinson to follow upon that which is mirey & bloody, among whom I do not wish to have a single Quaker.’
On March 5th, Knox informed Wayne that
‘a conference will be held with the hostile Indians about the first day of June next, at the lower Sandusky … If after every effort shall be made, it shall be found that peace is unattainable but by the sacrifice of national character and honor, it is to be hoped that the public will have but one mind as to the vigor with which the war shall be pursued.’
On April 13th Know wrote to Wayne that
as the commissioners will be unprotected by troops their lives will depend upon an absolute restraining of all hostile or offensive operations during the treaty – For most indisputably if any incursions into the Indian country should be made, while the treaty is progressing, the commissioners would be sacrificed – It may therefore be highly proper that you should issue a proclamation informing of the treaty and forbidding all persons whatever from making any irruptions into the Indian Country until the event of the treaty shall be known and permission given for that purpose.’
On April 20th, Knox wrote to Wayne
that in case of a successful treaty the commissioners will inform you directly thereof – but that in case of an unsuccessful issue … that you are to have everything prepared for vigorous operations and in perfect readiness to move forward from the Ohio … a strong post (is) to be established at the Miami Village with a large garrison of at least a thousand efficient troops with chains of subordinate posts of communication down the Miami river of lake Erie on the right to as far as the rapids.’
On April 30th, General Wayne and the 1200-man Legion of the United States began the move down the Ohio river from Legion Ville to Fort Washington. Wayne would construct a broad road between the forts Washington, Hamilton, St. Clair and Jefferson – in order to be able to adequately supply the advance posts.
In the midst of all of these government peace initiatives with the hostile Indian nations, the citizens of the United States went to vote in the second election for president – between November 2nd and December 5th 1792. The electoral college met on February 13th 1793, and General Washington, who had reluctantly agreed to run again for president was unanimously elected as president for a second term. Now, President Washington would hear of a new danger to the United States, coming from their former ally – France.
4.3- France Declares War on Britain, February 1st 1793
King Louis XVI had convened the Estates General on May 5th 1789, and the Third Estate met separately, calling itself the National Assembly. With the Tennis Court Oath of June 20th, the delegates swore ‘not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established’, and they renamed themselves the National Constituent Assembly. On August 11th, the Constituent Assembly published the August Decrees, that abolished feudalism and abolished tithes, that abolished the selling of judicial and municipal offices, that abolished privileges in the payment of taxes, and that made all citizens of France eligible for any office in civil and military service. On August 26th, the Constituent Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Following these decrees, many nobles and aristocrats would flee the country, with some forming an émigré army that was financed by foreign powers, and that aimed to invade France and restore the monarchy.
Due to a grain shortage caused by the unregulated grain market, on October 5th, a mob of ten thousand people was incited to march to the Hotel de Ville in Paris to demand bread. In a replay of the storming of the Bastille, and led by some of the same agitators, the mob marched to the Versailles Palace and occupied the hall where the Constituent Assembly was meeting, and stormed the King’s residence. The king agreed to accept the decrees and the declaration, and agreed to move his court and the assembly from the Versailles Palace to the Tuileries Palace in Paris – only blocks from the Palais-Royal of the Duc d’Orleans, the headquarters of those wealthy nobles who had paid to join the Jacobin club!
On the night of June 20th 1791, Louis XVI unsuccessfully tried to escape from the Tuileries Palace. The Constituent Assembly issued a decree on July 15th, that Louis XVI could remain king if he would accept the new constitution (that was then being finalized). On July 17th, the Cordeliers(12) orchestrated a demonstration at the Champs de Mars for the signing of a petition, that opposed the decree and that called for the abdication of the king. When 50,000 people gathered, Bailly, the mayor of Paris, declared martial law, and Lafayette and the National Guard dispersed the crowd. When the crowd returned later that night, and the National Guard again attempted to disperse them, the crowd then threw rocks at the Guard, causing the Guard to fire warning shots into the air and then into the crowd – killing or wounding an estimated 50 people. In the aftermath, both Lafayette and Bailly would resign their posts, and the Jacobins(13) would split into two – a group led by Barnave(13) that had opposed the Cordeliers petition, and a group led by Brissot(13) that had supported the petition.
The new constitution was approved by the Constituent Assembly on September 3rd and new elections were to be held for a National Legislative Assembly. On September 29th, the last day before the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, the Feuillants proposed bills to curb the clubs – ending affiliations between clubs, ending attacks on deputies of the assembly, and to curb the press. The bills passed but were never enforced, and they were later ignored by Petion, who defeated Lafayette and replaced Bailly as the new mayor of Paris. The Legislative Assembly was made up of 265 Feuillants who sat on the right side of the assembly, 135 Jacobins who sat on the left side, and 345 unaffiliated delegates who sat in between in the center of the assembly – forming the left/right designations still used today.
A campaign was launched in the assembly and in the press by the Jacobins, led by Brissot, to claim that the cause of France’s problems was the 1756 treaty of Versailles with the Emperor, and that France’s real enemy was Austria and not Great Britain. Charles-Maurice Talleyrand was sent to London by the Legislative Assembly on a diplomatic mission in January – March 1792, and again in April – July 1792, to attempt to maintain the neutrality of Britain and, if possible, to seek an alliance. Britain issued a declaration of neutrality on May 25th. Talleyrand would travel to London once more in September, before seeking asylum in America in summer 1793.
By December, Duportail(14) was replaced as Minister of War by someone in favour of war – Narbonne, and the émigré army became the excuse for Brissot’s demands for war against Austria – while Britain sat quietly by, attempting to orchestrate the internal chaos.
On February 7th 1792, Prussia(15) and Austria(15) formed a military alliance threatening to invade France and to overthrow the French constitution. On April 20th France declared war on Austria. At the same time that the alliance invaded France in July, an insurrection (like that at the Champs de Mars) was launched.
On June 16th, Lafayette, who had been appointed one of the three generals of the army to defend France from a foreign invasion, had written a letter to the Assembly to defend the constitution and to warn of the despotism of the Jacobin club.
On June 20th, a crowd of 30,000 armed protesters forced their way into the Assembly and then into the apartments of the King to demand approval of decrees that he had vetoed. On June 28th, Lafayette travelled to Paris and spoke to the Assembly, urging them ‘to destroy a sect which invades the national sovereignty, tyrannizes over citizens and of which the public debates leave no doubt of the atrocity of those who direct it.’
On August 10th, the Insurrectional C
ommune dissolved the Paris municipal government, took control of the city and launched an attack on the Tuileries palace, killing 600 Swiss Guards, all the courtiers and palace staff, and imprisoned the royal family. Half the Assembly fled and those remaining voted to recognize the Commune, suspend the king and convene a national convention to draft a new constitution. On August 14th, Danton, the new minister of justice, put out a warrant for Lafayette’s arrest – forcing him to flee France for the Netherlands in hopes of seeking asylum in America(16). During his escape, he was stopped at Rochefort, an Austrian army outpost, where he was arrested and imprisoned.
Elected to the new National Convention, on September 20th 1792 were the majority of 389 unaffiliated delegates and 360 Jacobins – who had again split into two factions. Brissot and his 160 delegates became known as the Girondins – because the original group were 12 deputies from the Gironde district. The other faction of 200 delegates, led by Robespierre, were called the Montagnards (the Mountain), because they would sit in the highest rows of the Assembly. The Duc d’Orleans would sit with the Montagnards! The unaffiliated delegates, that sat between the two factions, were called the Marais (the Plain). Whoever could sway the Plain’s votes in their favour, could control the government committees.
The Austrian/Prussian army under the Duke of Brunswick began their planned invasion of France and march towards Paris, by first laying siege to Longwy, whose garrison surrendered on August 23rd, and to Verdun that surrendered on September 2nd. When Brunswick’s forces were stopped by France’s Army of the North at Valmy on September 20th, Brunswick retired back across the French border. With the French victory at Jemappes on November 6th, by November 14th the French army had captured Brussels(17). The French Army of the Rhine, under General Custine, invaded the Palatinate to disperse the émigré army that was gathered there, and after a 3-day siege, captured Mainz(18) on October 21st and the Archbishop and his court fled the territory.
The National Convention wished to invade and liberate the United Provinces (Netherlands) from the House of Orange, and needed Great Britain to cease its interference in Dutch affairs. In response, the British government said that they would not see France as sovereign of the Low Countries.
On December 3rd the National Convention voted to try King Louis XVI for treason. On January 15th 1793, 693 deputies voted guilty, while none voted innocent. On January 17th the Convention voted to sentence the king – 394 (including Duc d’Orleans) voted for death and 321 voted for life imprisonment. Louis XVI was executed on January 21st. After Britain expelled Chauvelin, the French ambassador, on January 24th, the National Convention voted, on February 1st, to declare war on Great Britain and the United Provinces, and on February 16th, the French army crossed the Rhine and invaded the United Provinces.
But, by the end of March, there had begun an anti-republican uprising in the Vendee; General Custine had been forced to evacuate his army and retreat back across the Rhine; and General Dumouriez had been driven out of Belgium and the Dutch Republic. On April 5th, Dumouriez betrayed his army and fled to the Austrians, taking with him Duc d’Orleans’ son (the future Louis-Philippe). And due to the massive printing of money and the laissez-faire policies of the government, the ‘assignat’ had lost 50% of its original value.
All these troubles were to be blamed on the Girondins that had controlled the Convention. On June 2nd, 80,000 armed sans-culottes surrounded the National Convention, whose deputies were not allowed to leave until it had voted to arrest 29 leading Girondins. The Montagnard faction now controlled the Convention. Brissot and 20 other Girondins would be guillotined on October 31st – beginning the Reign of Terror.
In May 1792, Russia would invade the Republic of Poland to end the new Polish constitution of May 3rd 1791. (Prussia and Russia would later sign a treaty in January 1793 to partition Poland.)
4.4- The Proclamation of Neutrality, April 22nd 1793
After France had declared war on Spain on March 7th 1793, Spain and Britain formed an alliance against France on May 25th – an alliance that the British had first approached Spain about, earlier in January.
But, would this alliance now also involve a concert of actions against America’s western frontier settlements, where the entire United States western territories could face a potential coordinated attack by the Indians, from the Mississippi river in the west to the great lakes in the north – actions that might serve to draw the United States into the quagmire of the war in Europe?
Note: Earlier, in 1791, Spain had begun construction of Fort Nogales, near the junction of the Yazoo river with the Mississippi river, which Spain considered to be their northern boundary line with the United States. Fort Nogales was 100 miles north of the 31st degree of latitude – which the United States considered to be their southern boundary line with Florida.
That same year, when William Bowles (and the Lower Creek and Chickamauga chiefs) had returned to New Providence, from their meetings in London with British colonial officials, he wanted to continue his plan with Lord Dunmore, the British governor of the Bahamas, to challenge the Spanish control of trade with the Indians through Florida. He returned to the Lower Creek towns and began to create resentment against Alexander McGillivray, leader of the Upper Creeks, who had signed a peace treaty with President Washington in August 1790; and he succeeded in stopping the surveying of the boundary line between the Creek Indians and the state of Georgia, that had been agreed to at the 1790 treaty in New York. Bowles then led a band of Lower Creeks, in January 1792, to attack and plunder the Appalachee store of Panton, Leslie and Co., to establish a new trading system among the Indians – directly with the British.
The Spanish responded by sending a ship, whose captain deceived and captured Bowles on February 25th. With Bowles now sent to a Cuban prison as a pirate, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Carondelet, began to form his own plan of uniting the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee nations into a confederation – under Spain’s protection. Spain would build Fort Confederacion on the Tombigbee river – at the same latitude as Fort Nogales! But, George Wellbank, one of Bowles chief supporters and assistants, assumed leadership of Bowles party to continue the Dunmore plan, and sought refuge among the Chickamaugas – who were conducting raids against the settlers in the Southwest Territory, where he sought to renew their support for building an alliance with the British. (The Chickamaugas had sent delegates with Bowles to London in 1789.)
After the council of the western Indians at the Glaize in October 1792, a delegation of Shawnee had travelled south to encourage the southern Indians to unite in a general war against the United States and to assure them of the assistance of the British government with arms and ammunition, and they stopped at the Chickamauga towns. Wellbank, accompanied by several chiefs, now undertook the journey to Detroit, to attend the great council of the western Indians at the Miami Rapids in the spring of 1793. Also, in the spring of 1793, Governor Simcoe would send his aide, Captain Charles Stevenson, to London to request reinforcements of men and supplies to protect Canada. In his written request to the new Colonial Secretary, Henry Dundas, Stevenson suggests that ‘a communication with the ocean by way of the Mississippi, if the Spanish power would let you hold Pensacola … will give you both flanks of America; two such glorious communications with the ocean as the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi, with the back-country ours, must ever keep the Americans in subjection.’
On January 17th 1793, 2 weeks before the declaration of war against Britain, the Provisional Executive Committee of the National Convention (under Brissot and the Girondins) had drafted the instructions for their new minister to the United States with hopes that the United States would join with France in expanding the ‘Empire de la Liberté’. France envisioned the prompt payment in advance of about two-thirds of the estimated $4,400,000 that was still outstanding on America’s Revolutionary War debt to France, and the purchase with this money of arms and food supplies in the United States for the French Republic; anticipated the use of the United States as a base for French privateering by insisting on strict compliance with articles in the 1778 commercial treaty; and planned to use United States territory as a base for French efforts to liberate Canada from Great Britain, and Louisiana from Spain.
Upon Genet’s arrival at Charleston, South Carolina on April 8th, he began to recruit and arm American privateers who would join in French expeditions against British ships. He began planning a three-pronged attack against Spain – an attack from Charleston against Florida, and a joint attack by Kentucky frontiersmen and the French fleet on Louisiana. Genet also wanted an attack on Canada, and he composed and sent a letter to Canada – ‘The Free French to their Canadian Brothers’, encouraging the French Canadians to rid themselves of the ‘arbitrary decrees of the court of London; of this perfidious court which granted Canada a shade of constitution only by fear that it would follow the virtuous example of France and America; that by shaking its yoke it would base its government on the imprescriptible rights of man.’
In America, since many French soldiers had shed their blood in the revolutionary war against Britain, and since Britain still held the frontier posts and were inciting the Indians to attack the frontier settlements, most people initialled sympathized with France. But, if the American government adhered to the articles of their 1778 treaty of alliance with France, they would be drawn into the labyrinth of foreign entanglements, and possibly, war.
Hoping that nothing would draw the United States into a war, President Washington convened a meeting of his cabinet and asked them, ‘should the United States issue an official proclamation of neutrality?’ While Jefferson argued that it wasn’t necessary, that they should stall and make countries bid on their neutrality, Hamilton insisted that it was necessary and that American neutrality was not negotiable.
On April 22nd, President Washington issued the Proclamation of Neutrality
‘that whatsoever of the citizens of the United States shall render himself liable to punishment or forfeiture under the law of nations, by committing, aiding, or abetting hostilities against any of the said powers, or by carrying to any of them those articles which are deemed contraband by the modern usage of nations, will not receive the protection of the United States, against such punishment or forfeiture.’
Freneau’s National Gazette launched a series of articles attacking the President, criticizing his foreign policy, praising Citizen Genet and demanding America’s total support for the French Revolution. Hamilton began a campaign, writing under the name of Pacificus, of 7 letters (from June 29th to July 27th) to defend the President’s Proclamation of Neutrality from the attacks, and to answer the criticisms from the National Gazette. Jefferson asked Madison to answer Hamilton’s letters, writing on July 7th (after the publication of the 3rd Pacificus letter) that ‘for God’s sake, my dear Sir, take up your pen, select the most striking heresies, and cut him to pieces in the face of the public’. Madison, under the name of Helvidius, would write 5 letters (from August 24th to September 18th). Madison would also meet with Monroe to plan to overturn the proclamation, in the next Congress.
While Jefferson communicated the President’s instructions to Genet in his official capacity as the nation’s chief diplomat, in private meetings with Genet, he was secretly disagreeing with almost everything he was communicating. Jefferson was thrilled when a French frigate captured a British merchant-ship, but later informed Genet that the ship would have to be returned to her owners because it had illegally been seized in American waters. Jefferson was pleased and excited by Genet’s plan to organize an expedition down the Mississippi river to capture New Orleans, and encouraged him in his plans by providing him with letters of introduction to Kentucky Governor, Isaac Shelby – until President Washington asked Jefferson to find out if there was any substance to the Spanish commissioners’ complaint that some people were plotting to attack the Spanish dominions of the Mississippi, and if so, he should tell Governor Shelby to end the scheme, with threat of legal action.
At Philadelphia, when Genet began converting a captured British ship, the Little Sarah, into a privateer, installing cannon and recruiting American seamen, Governor Mifflin of Pennsylvania warned Genet that he was violating the Neutrality Proclamation; summoned a detachment of militia, to prevent the ship from being put out to sea; and sent a message to Jefferson. After meeting with Genet, Jefferson told Mifflin to dismiss the militia (Jefferson said he was trying to avoid any spilling of blood). Both Hamilton and Knox wanted to erect a battery of cannon on Mud island, to stop the ship from leaving, but Jefferson objected that firing on the ship might infuriate France and possibly lead to war! (Remember that Jefferson had been trying to ally the United States with France in its war against Great Britain, and had accused Hamilton of trying to drag the United States into a war against France!) But later that day, it was learned that the ship had already left her dock at Philadelphia, had moved down the Delaware river, past Mud island and was now anchored at Chester.
Genet had also informed Jefferson that France’s West Indies fleet of 20 men-of-war was sailing to the United States to escape the hurricane season there. (This was the same reason that De Grasse used, when he had sailed north in 1781 to rendezvous with General Washington’s army to help to trap the British army at Yorktown!) If the Americans used force to stop the Little Sarah, would Genet order the French fleet to support the overthrow of President Washington and his administration!?!
On July 11th, President Washington had just returned to Philadelphia, from Mount Vernon, and found this packet of papers, about the Little Sarah, on his desk – and found that the Secretary of State, had left Philadelphia and retreated to his house in the country (claiming he had a fever) and left the whole mess in the president’s lap. President Washington wrote an angry letter to Jefferson, that ‘Is the minister of the French Republic to set the acts of this government at defiance with impunity and then threaten the executive with an appeal to the people? What must the world think of such conduct, and of the government of the United States for submitting to it?’ While President Washington waited for an opinion from the Supreme Court on this affair, the Little Sarah slipped away out to sea, and began seizing British merchant-ships.
At a cabinet meeting on July 23rd, President Washington proposed,
that in his own opinion, his (Genet’s) whole correspondence should be sent to Gouverneur Morris with a temperate but strong representation of his conduct, drawing a clear line between him and his nation, expressing our friendship to the latter, but insisting on the recall of Genet, and in the mean time that we should desire him either to withdraw or cease his functions.’
Hamilton spoke ‘
that we were now in a crisis whereon the continuance of the government or it’s overthrow by a faction depended, that we were still in time to give the tone to the public mind by laying the whole proceedings before them, and that this should be done in addition to what he had proposed.’
Hamilton had learned that on July 4th, Genet and his followers, had founded a ‘Democratic Society’ in Philadelphia, modeled on the Jacobin Clubs of Paris with plans to create similar clubs throughout the nation, to help change the public mind about the Proclamation of Neutrality. Hamilton would now write 9 letters, under the name of No Jacobin, (from July 31st to August 28th) to attack these Democratic Clubs.
Jefferson protested that the ‘Democratic Society’ was only meant for electing their candidate as governor of Pennsylvania, and that after the election they would go out of business. And, Jefferson opposed publishing the correspondence with Genet because it would show the disagreements in the cabinet – ‘will be same differences of opinion in PUBLIC as in our cabinet … will be same differences in Congress’, and it would invite Genet to write his appeal to the people. (While Jefferson was willing to sacrifice Genet, he would do anything to keep close American ties with France). Knox would then display a recent copy of Freneau’s National Gazette, that featured a cartoon – ‘the Funeral Dirge of George Washington’, showing the president being condemned for his aristocratic pretensions, and thrust under the blade of a guillotine – which inflamed the President ‘into one of those passions when he cannot command himself’. After a pause, President Washington made his decision, that his proposal – that a letter asking for Genet’s recall, along with his correspondence, be sent to Morris in Paris – ‘should be put into a train of execution’, but that ‘events would show whether the appeal would be necessary or not’.
On July 31st, Jefferson would write to President Washington, that he wished to resign, at the end of September. At a meeting with the President on August 6th, Jefferson told him that (first, lyingly) ‘without knowing the views of what is called the Republican party … or having any communication with them … (and, second, half-truthfully) that I believed the next Congress would attempt nothing material but to render their own body independent; that that party were firm in their dispositions to support the government; that the measures of Mr. Genet might produce some little embarrassment, but that he would be abandoned by the Republicans the moment they knew the nature of his conduct, and that on the whole, no crisis existed which threatened anything’. Jefferson would agree to President Washington’s request for him to remain in office until the end of December.
On August 11th, Jefferson wrote to Madison, ‘which must be sacredly kept to yourself’, a report that ‘may enable you to shape your plan for the state of things which is actually to take place’ when Congress would next meet: ‘It would be the moment for dividing the Treasury between two equal chiefs’ – one to supervise the customs, the other to oversee internal taxes – to lessen the power of Hamilton; ‘a declaration of the true sense of the Constitution on the question of the (National) bank, will suffice to divorce that from the government’; and a vote to censure Hamilton on some of the Treasury’s practices that had emerged in failed attempts by Congressman Giles. ‘With respect to the Proclamation, as the facts it declared were true, and the desire of neutrality is universal, it would place the republicans in a very unfavorable point of view with the people’. Jefferson urged him to ‘abandon G(enet) entirely, with expressions of strong friendship and adherence to his nation and confidence that he has acted against their sense … In this way we shall keep the people on our side by keeping ourselves in the right`.
On August 23rd the cabinet approved the letter to be sent to the American Ambassador to France, Gouverneur Morris, along with all the correspondence between Genet and Jefferson and other necessary documents, asking for the recall of Genet. When Genet was later recalled, he feared being sent to the guillotine and he sought asylum in America. Genet retired to New York, where he later married the daughter of Governor George Clinton! France, in turn, asked for the recall of America’s ambassador, Gouverneur Morris. With Jefferson`s resignation, Freneau also had to resign, and Freneau`s National Gazette closed, publishing its last issue on October 27th 1793.
4.5. The aborted treaty at Sandusky, August 13th 1793
On March 2nd 1793, Benjamin Lincoln, Beverley Randolph and Thomas Pickering had been appointed as the United States commissioners to meet with the western Indians at Sandusky. On April 26th, Secretary Knox issued them their instructions that
you must be well aware of the extreme dislike of the great majority of the citizens of the United States to an Indian war, in almost any event; and with how much satisfaction they would embrace a peace upon terms of justice and humanity … that the treaty of fort Harmar, made in January 1789, is regarded as having been formed on solid grounds – the principle being that of a fair purchase and sale. The Government considers the Six Nations, who claimed the lands by virtue of former conquests, lying between the Ohio and lake Erie, which were ceded and confirmed to the United States by the said treaty, together with the Wyandots and Delawares, and Ottawas, and other Western Indians, who were the actual occupants of the lands, as the proper owners thereof; that they had a right to convey the said lands to the United States; and that they did accordingly make the said conveyance, with their free consent and full understanding … You will observe that the space between the tracts of land granted to the particular companies, and the Indian boundary, established by the treaty at fort Harmar, will render it extremely difficult, if not impracticable, to relinquish any lands in the said space, without establishing a cause of perpetual discussions and hostilities between the whites and Indians.’
On April 27th, Lincoln set out from Philadelphia, by way of New York, to Albany, and along the Mohawk river to Oswego, with the stores and baggage under his care.
On April 30th, Randolph and Pickering left Philadelphia by way of the Wyoming valley in Pennsylvania, arrived on May 17th, at Queenstown on the Niagara river, and at the invitation of Governor Simcoe, they took lodgings at his home at Navy Hall, in the village of New Ark, about a mile from the British fort Niagara.
The commissioners received a letter from McKee, at Detroit, that advised the commissioners to delay their trip to Sandusky until the end of June because the Indians would be late in returning from their wintering grounds and be unable to assemble themselves before then. Lincoln would arrive at Queenstown with his bateaux from Oswego on May 25th. On June 3rd, the commissioners sent their interpreter, William Wilson, who had just arrived from Pittsburgh, to fort Erie, ‘to embark for Detroit, whence, if practicable, he was to proceed to the Miami Rapids, where he might gain useful information.’ The next day, the commissions sent Captain Hendricks (along with four of his men, Rev. Heckewelder and Dr. McCoskry, and six Quakers) to embark for Detroit, and instructed him that ‘after discoursing with the hostile Indians about the treaty, and hearing their claims with respect to the boundary, which they propose should be the Ohio, it may be expedient for you to suggest some things for their consideration, as of yourself, in order to discover how far they may be persuaded to depart from their rigid demands.’
On June 6th, the commissions invited General Chapin, the American superintendent to the Six Nations, who was present at that time at Niagara, to accompany them and to attend the treaty at Sandusky.
On June 7th, the commissioners wrote to Simcoe that they had received an ‘
unfounded report … of a Mohawk from Grand river, that Governor Simcoe advised the Indians to make peace, but not to give up any of their lands.’ They added that ‘the views of the United States being thus fair and liberal, the commissioners wish to embrace every means of making them so appear to the Indians, against any contrary suggestions. Among these means, the commissioners consider the presence of some gentlemen of the (British) army to be of consequence: for although the Indians naturally look up to their superintendents as their patrons, yet, the presence of some officers of the army will probably induce them to negotiate with greater confidence on the terms of peace.’
On June 29th, the commissioners proceeded to fort Erie to embark for Sandusky, but had to wait for favourable winds. On July 5th, Colonel Butler and Captain Brant with a deputation of 50 Indians, arrived from the Miami Rapids and requested to confer with the American commissioners in the presence of Simcoe. When they had assembled at Simcoe’s residence at Navy Hall on July 7th, Brant spoke to ‘inform you why we have not assembled at the time and place appointed for holding the treaty with you … because there is so much of the appearance of war in that quarter … and now we request an explanation of these war-like appearances’. (He was referring to Wayne’s construction of the road to fort Jefferson for supplying all of the advance posts – ‘for it is but three days’ journey from thence to the Glaize.’) ‘We have come to speak to you for two reasons: one, because your warriors, being in our neighborhood have prevented our meeting at the appointed place; the other, to know if you are properly authorized to run and establish a new boundary line between the lands of the United States, and of the Indian nations.’
It was later reported that Simcoe had locked the Indian delegates up in a room in his house and warned them against relinquishing any part of their country! Brant told Simcoe that the Shawnees had agreed to give up some land that had been settled by the Americans, but Simcoe replied that he had heard nothing of the sort from McKee and that McKee had written that the Indians were still demanding the Ohio boundary. Simcoe ‘endeavoured more strongly to fix upon Brant’s mind the necessity of that Union, which I trust will in the result will be the safeguard of the Indian Nations and highly beneficial to Great Britain.’
The next day, concerning the boundary line, the commissioners added that ‘we answer explicitly that we have that authority. Where this line should run, will be the great subject of discussion at the treaty between you and us; and we sincerely hope and expect, that it may then be fixed to the satisfaction of both parties. Doubtless some concessions must be made on both sides.’ The commissioners added that ‘our great chief, General Washington, has strictly forbidden all hostilities against you, until the event of the proposed treaty at Sandusky shall be known. Here is the proclamation of his head warrior, General Wayne, to that effect … The proclamations of the governors of Virginia and Pennsylvania we have here in our hands.’
On August 8th, Wayne would reply to Knox regarding the Indians’ fear of his ‘war-like appearances’ and to answer the ‘idle and fallacious reports of hostile savages’, that I
‘have only to regret that those preparatory arrangements should have been occasioned such unnecessary alarms and apprehensions in the minds of the commissioners and the hostile Indians … there was but 10 days rations of flour at fort Jefferson for the aggregate of the army – in place of 60 – & but little more than one days allowance at (fort) St. Clair … I had ordered the Quarter Master General & the contractors to increase their means of transport and they have just got into operation, when I am under the necessity of calling them in, agreeably to your positive orders .’ He added that ‘I shall now beg leave to state the exact additional number of troops to the garrisons for the advanced posts – these garrisons were sanctioned by you: Fort Hamilton – 200; Fort St. Clair – 200; Fort Jefferson – 350; Total = 750
Total aggregate of these posts – 937
Excess or surplus = 187 men
This sir is that tremendous additional force & army which has occasioned those serious alarms and apprehensions. This was the reinforcement which Colonel Strong had with him on the road cutting party …
‘In obedience to your orders … I have obeyed with promptitude, by ordering General Wilkinson to withdraw the 187 officers and men from the advance post & to send them together with all the waggons teams & pack horses in the Quarter Master General’s & contractors’ employ to this place’.
On July 14th, with the wind favorable, the commissioners set sail for the mouth of the Detroit river – beyond this point the British commander of the Detroit garrison at fort Lernoult refused to let them advance. They disembarked on the north shore of the lake on July 21st and took quarters at the home of McKee’s deputy, Captain Matthew Elliot. The commissioners wrote to McKee that ‘you may add to our obligations, by sending us the earliest notice when we may expect the Indian nations will arrive at Sandusky, that we may be there at the same time.’ Also on July 14th, Wellbank with his party of Creeks and Cherokees, arrived at the Miami Rapids, and ‘conceiving that his dispatches for your excellency may be of consequence’, the British Commandant at Detroit, Colonel Richard England, sent him by ship to meet with Simcoe at Niagara.
By July 21st, Brant and the Indian delegates had arrived back at the Miami Rapids with the answer of the commissioners, that they were authorized to establish a boundary line between the United States and the Indian nations. While most of the assembled Indian nations had been in favour of peace with the Americans, the Miamies, Shawanese and Delawares were now for war – demanding the Ohio river as the boundary. Brant thought ‘the claim of the Muskingum Boundary if acceded to by the States, would be ample for the Indian Nations, and if refused, would reunite them.’ The Indian nations had changed their minds while Brant was away. McKee had been threatening the Indians that they would not get so much as a needleful of thread from the Americans if they gave in to them. Brant wrote to Simcoe on July 28th, that ‘this great change may be owing to advice from the Creek country.’ (Ironically, Wellbank had arrived at Niagara on July 24th and was meeting with Simcoe at the same time as Brant was writing his letter!) Brant wrote that ‘I think it is almost certain that no peace will take place … that the Ohio ought to be the boundary as far up as the Muskingum and this is the line the Confederacy have contended for … but I am afraid the steps they are now taking will have a contrary effect’ and asked for Simcoe ‘to assist us with your advice.’ Simcoe answered that ‘the Indians are the best judges on what terms a peace may be made that shall secure their interests … (and) since the government of the United States have shown a disinclination to concur with the Indian Nations, in requesting of His Majesty, the permitting me to attend as a mediator at Sandusky, it would be highly improper and unreasonable in me to give any opinion relative to the proposed boundaries with which I am not sufficiently acquainted’ (!?!) This reply had come after Simcoe and McKee had already sent their proposal of the new boundary to London, and had worked out their strategy to have the British (i.e. Simcoe) become mediators between the Americans and the Indians – because, to become the arbitrators, or mediators, in the American-Indian conflict, and to gain advantages for the empire, was the ultimate British goal.
However, Brant was concerned only with the security of the Indians, and did not trust the British to back them fully in a war, preferring instead a boundary proposal that would at least lead to a meeting with the commissioners, at which time a permanent boundary line and a treaty could be negotiated with the Americans. The British did not want the meeting to take place, and wanted the treaty attempt to fail; but at the same time, they needed the Indian confederacy to remain intact, and, with possibly another Indian victory, to make the Americans more amenable to British mediation. After a week of private meetings that Brant and the Six Nations were not invited to, a new delegation was appointed and sent to the commissioners.
On July 29th, Elliot arrived with a deputation of upwards of 20 Indians from the Miami Rapids, and the next day, Simon Girty read the speech from the Indian council that
‘You know very well that the boundary line, which was run between the white people and us, at the treaty of fort Stanwix, was the river Ohio. If you seriously design to make a firm and lasting peace, you will immediately remove all your people from our side of the river. We therefore ask you, are you fully authorized by the United States to continue, and firmly fix on the Ohio river, as the boundary line, between your people and ours?’
The next day, the commissioners replied that we are ‘desirous of meeting your nations in full council, without more delay. We have already waited in this province sixty days beyond the time appointed for opening the treaty.’ They then spoke of the previous treaties between the United States and the Indian nations, that ‘at the treaty of Fort Stanwix, twenty-five years ago, the river Ohio was agreed on, as the boundary line between you and the white people of the British colonies’; but, that after the quarrel between Great Britain and the United States was ended by the treaty of Peace, treaties with the Indian nations were held at fort Stanwix, fort McIntosh, fort Finney and at fort Harmar; and ‘the great council of the States, supposing them satisfactory to the nations treated with, proceeded to dispose of large tracts of land thereby ceded, and a great number of people removed from other parts of the United States, and settled upon them … that for the reasons here stated to you, it is impossible to make the river Ohio the boundary, between your people and the people of the United States.’ … The United States wish to have confirmed all the lands ceded to them by the treaty of fort Harmar, and also a small tract of land at the rapids of the Ohio, claimed by General Clarke.’
This would be in exchange for a large sum in money or goods, at once, and a large quantity of goods each year. If all the lands cannot be delivered up to the United States, then they would treat and agree with the Indian nations on a new boundary line, with a generous compensation to be paid at once, and a yearly rent for their benefit forever; with this concession: that while they acknowledge the right of soil to be in the Indian nations, they claim the sole right of purchasing of the Indian nations disposed to sell their lands.
On August 1st, the Indian delegates replied that ‘we are sorry we cannot come to an agreement; the (Ohio river boundary) line has been fixed long ago’. The commissioners were asked to remain there, while the delegation returned to the Indian council for its answer.
On August 8th, the commissioners received a letter from Captain Hendricks about ‘the disposition of the Indian nations relative to peace and war’, and that ‘it appeared, that all the Indians were for peace, except the Shawanese, Wyandots, Miamies, and Delawares.’
On August 13th, having still not received any answer from the Indian council, the commissioners decided to
take measures to obtain that reply, or to ascertain whether we ought any longer to expect it. For this purpose we judge it proper to proceed ourselves to the Miami bay or river, that the necessary communication with the Indians may be easy and expeditious; for it is time that the business of our mission be brought to an issue.’
But the commissioners were refused permission by the British commander to sail to the Miami bay, and were forced to remain at Elliot’s home where, the next day, they sent a message to the Indian nations at the rapids, and another letter to McKee, asking them whether or not there was to be a treaty. (Wellbank had returned to Detroit and dined with the American commissioners on August 13th.)
On August 16th the commissioners received a message that was sent on August 13th from the Indian council, and that was signed by the nations of the Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanese, Miamies, Ottawas, Chippewas, Senecas of the Glaize, Pattawatamies, Connoys, Munsees, Nantekokies, Mohicans, Messasagoes, the Seven Nations of Canada, and the Creeks and Cherokees. The Six Nations did not sign.
The message stated that ‘we shall be persuaded that you mean to do us justice, if you agree that the Ohio shall remain the boundary line between us. If you will not consent thereto, our meeting will be altogether unnecessary’. The council’s message also stated that the treaty at fort Harmar with St. Clair, was made with
a few chiefs of two or three nations only … who were in no manner authorized to make any grant or cession whatever’; and that ‘we never made any agreement with the King, or with any other nation, that we would give to either the exclusive right of purchasing our lands; and we declare to you, that we consider ourselves free to make any bargain or cession of lands, whenever and to whomever we please’.
[Note: All previous treaties between the Americans and the Indian nations agreed, that with regard to all of the territories that were ceded to the United States by the treaty of peace with Great Britain, the Indians acknowledged themselves to be under the protection of the United States and no other sovereign whatsoever. The demand ‘to whomever we please’ meant the Indian nations were rejecting American sovereignty of the Northwest Territory, and claiming their right to sell any of the Indian lands in that territory to the British !?!]
The commissioners determined that this message must have been devised by British Indian agents, and not by the Indians’ council. The commissioners replied on August 16th that ‘your answer amounts to a declaration, that you will agree to no other boundary than the Ohio. The negotiation is therefore at an end.’
The commissioners departed and arrived back at fort Erie on August 23rd, where they wrote to Knox that ‘the Indians have refused to make peace. We have not been admitted to an interview with them, except by their deputations.’ They also wrote to General Wayne to inform him that they did not effect a peace.
On September 16th Wayne received a letter from Knox, with the commissioners’ message enclosed, telling him that
‘you are now to judge whether your force will be adequate to make those audacious savages feel our superiority in arms. Every offer has been made to obtain peace by milder terms than the sword – the efforts have failed under circumstances which leave nothing for us to expect but war.’
Wayne answered Knox that he had ordered
the Quarter Master General and the contractors to collect their whole force or means of transportation, which were unfortunately widely scattered and deranged just as they had got into operation in consequence of the alarming letter from the commissioners … however that was not the only instance in which British intrigue & policy has been practiced with success upon them during their mission’.
Wayne wrote to Knox on October 3rd that
knowing the critical situation of our infant nation, and feeling for the honor and reputation of government – which I will support with my latest breath, you may rest assured that I will not commit the Legion unnecessarily and unless more powerfully supported than I at present have reason to expect, I will content myself by taking strong position advanced of (fort) Jefferson, and by exerting every power and endeavour to protect the frontiers and to secure the posts and army during the winter – or until I am honoured with your further orders.’
Wayne also informed Knox that he had called upon General Scott and the Kentucky militia (which, at present, amounted to 36 guides and 360 mounted volunteers), that part of his army was recovering from influenza and smallpox and that after leaving the necessary garrisons at the frontier posts, he expected to proceed to fort Jefferson with an army of not more than 2600 men.
Wayne and his legion left their camp, called Hobson’s Choice, situated 1 mile down the Ohio from fort Washington, and on October 13th arrived and encamped at ‘the head of the line’ (where the constructed road had ended, 6 miles north of fort Jefferson) and named it Greene Ville, in honour of General Nathaniel Greene. The whole encampment was enclosed by an enormous stockade.
At the beginning of October, Little Otter and 40 Ottawa warriors had left the Glaize villages to check on reports of Wayne’s advance, arriving in the vicinity of fort Jefferson on October 14th to find the presence of the entire American army. After moving south to Twenty-Nine Mile Creek (7 miles north of fort St. Clair) they lay in ambush for the army’s supply convoy.
Early morning on October 17th, the convoy of 20 wagon-loads of corn was attacked, causing most of the 90 infantry-men to panic and flee, while of those who stood and fought, 15 were killed and 10 were taken prisoner. Although the wagons and corn were later recovered, about 70 horses, that had been removed from the wagons, were either killed or carried off.
On November 4th, Wayne ordered Scott and his 980 Kentucky militia-men to attack a small town of Delawares, near the headwaters of White river, but on receipt of these orders, nearly half of the volunteers deserted back to Kentucky, and the 488 remaining volunteers left on the journey without encountering any Indians before returning to fort Washington on November 14th. Minus the auxiliary militia force, Wayne now had
‘the greatest difficulty which at present presents … that of providing a sufficient escort to secure our convoys of provision and other supplies from insult and disaster, and at the same time to retain a sufficient force in camp to sustain and repel the attacks of the enemy, who appear to be desperate and determined!’
Wayne detached 1 troop of dragoons and 1 company of light infantry to reinforce the 4 companies of infantry, under Colonel Hamtramck, that were escorting the convoy of wagons and pack horses. All ‘public’ horses in the camp, including those belonging to the officers, were to be sent to the Quarter Master General – for convoy duty. The first convoy from fort Washington arrived safely at Greene Ville on December 2nd, and a second convoy with 800 head of cattle arrived on December 22nd. The escorts had not seen a single Indian.
On December 23rd, with 8 companies of infantry and a detachment of artillery-men, Wayne began a rapid march of 23 miles to the site of St. Clair’s defeat in 1791, arriving on Christmas day and the legion pitched their tents on the battle ground, strewn with skeletons and broken muskets.
The next day, all the remains, including 600 skulls, were interred, and a four-blockhouse fortification with a 15-foot stockade was built and named fort Recovery. Three of the field guns, that had been buried by the Indians after the battle, were located, cleaned and remounted inside the fort. Leaving behind a company of riflemen and a company of artillery-men to garrison the new fort, Wayne and his men returned to Greene Ville on December 28th.
4.6. Dorchester’s Call for War, February 10th 1794
On September 24th 1793, the 69 year-old Lord Dorchester arrived back at Quebec from London, after a two year absence. On October 25th, Dorchester wrote to Dundas, sending him the messages between the United States commissioners and the western Indians from their failed treaty attempt, along with the letters from McKee and Simcoe showing the split in the Indian confederacy. He was very upset at the present situation – the Americans ‘have it in contemplation to occupy the mouth of the Sodus on lake Ontario, and also to form a settlement at Presque Isle on lake Erie, and if permitted will soon establish other posts on this lake nearer to Detroit, in order to distress the Indians and render our communication with them more difficult.’ Dorchester understood that if this occurred, the British would lose their control of the great lakes and soon wouldn’t be able to keep control of their upper posts (that were on American territory, which meant they would lose their ability to manipulate the Indians!!!
Simcoe, who had been away in September and October, on a trip from Humber bay to lake Simcoe to Matchetache bay, to view the harbour at Penetanguashin as a potential port for the British navy, would pen a long letter to Dorchester, on November 10th, to explain the situation with the Indians and the results of the council at the Miami Rapids – this was mainly to provide a plausible story of events that could account for any discrepancies he might hear from any reports from Brant against McKee, and to lay all the blame on Brant for the break in the Indian confederacy (i.e. to cover his and McKee’s asses).
On October 10th, an Indian council of the chiefs of the Six Nations was held at Buffaloe Creek, attended by John Butler, the British Indian Department deputy-superintendent, and Israel Chapin, the American Indian Affairs superintendent.
Joseph Brant spoke about the cause of their parting from the proposed meeting at Sandusky, that
‘when the first deputation from the Confederate Indians met the commissioners of the United States, everything seemed to promise a friendly termination of the treaty, but before their return to the council fire, messengers from the Creek nation had arrived there and brought authentic information of the White People having encroached upon that part of the Confederacy. This intelligence at once gave a change to the face of our proceedings and probably was the sole cause of the abrupt termination of the negotiation for peace.’
Brant made another proposal to Chapin, that ‘about 5 years ago we agreed upon a line of demarcation with the United States (the treaty of fort Harmar in January 1789) which you know as the Muskingum, and notwithstanding the various accidents that have occurred since, we still adhere to that boundary. We think the United States will agree to that line, which will show that they act with that sincerity and justice they always profess for Indians. Should they agree to this, we sincerely hope that peace will still take place.’ Brant declined all further meeting unless this boundary was agreed to for the purpose of negotiation.
On February 7th 1794, a council of the Six Nation Indians was held at Buffaloe Creek, with Major Littlehales and officers of the British Indian Department, and with General Chapin of American Indian Affairs, where they were to hear the reply of the American government to their proposal of last October.
The reply from President Washington, written on December 24th, was read to the council that
the same principles of moderation and humanity which before dictated the offers to the Indians, and a sincere friendship for the Six Nations, have induced your Father, the President, to consider attentively your propositions for a new boundary, although the lines you mention are considered as liable to considerable objections, yet it hoped, when all difficulties shall be discussed at a treaty or conference, by moderate men with upright views that some agreement may be made which would lead to a general peace; on this ground the President consents that a conference should be held at Venango (fort Franklin), on the fifteenth or middle of next May. It is expected that the chiefs of the Six Nations and Chippawas will attend and the chiefs of all such of the western tribes as the said Six Nations and Chippawas may invite, and if the hostile tribes should think proper to attend they will be well received and treated as people ought to be who are holding friendly treaties, but it cannot be unknown to you, by the late abortive efforts to negotiate, the American Army was restrained from offensive operations against those tribes who appear deaf to the voice of reason and peace, such a conduct will not be observed by the United States again.’
The Indians then removed to their castle, to take it into their private consideration. On February 9th, they met again in council to give Chapin and President Washington their reply. Brant again spoke that
‘the speech you have brought us has given us great uneasiness, we are entirely at a loss how to act, we fully expected a direct answer to our proposals of a boundary line, now we are much distressed that you have brought but half an answer to our proceedings. The kindling a council fire at a distant place is what we are not prepared to give you a reply to … in consequence of the importance of your speech containing very weighty matters, we must deliberate seriously upon it, we cannot give you an immediate answer, we must have a general council of all the chiefs … we have two months and a half to consider of your speech, and by that time we will give you a final answer.’
At the same time at Quebec, on February 10th, Dorchester was meeting with ‘the Indians of the seven villages of Lower Canada as deputies from all the nations who were at the Great Council held at the Miamis’, who wished to learn of his views concerning British Indian policy, following his return from London.
Dorchester told them that
‘you reminded me on your part of what passed at the Council Fire held at Quebec just before my departure to England … I remember that they pointed out to me the line of separation which they wished for between them and the States, and with which they would be satisfied and make peace … I flattered myself with the hope that the line proposed in the year Eighty-three, to separate us from the United States, which was immediately broken by themselves as soon as the peace was signed, would have been mended, or a new one drawn in an amicable manner … since my return, I find no appearance of a line remains; and from the manner in which the people of the States push on, and act, and talk on this side, and from what I learn of their conduct towards the sea, I shall not be surprized if we are at war with them in the course of the present year; and if so, a line must then be drawn by the warriors.’
Beginning his preparations for war, on February 17th Dorchester wrote to Simcoe concerning the
‘accounts received by Lieutenant-Colonel England, of Mr. Wayne’s intention to close us up at Detroit … self defence therefore requires we should prevent similar evils from extending further, and that for our own security at the Detroit, we should occupy nearly the same posts on the Miami river which we demolished after the peace … you will therefore order such force from Detroit to the Miamis river as you may judge sufficient for the service … with the artillery requisite for that service.’
On March 25th Simcoe left York and arrived at Grand river to meet with Brant, before he proceeded to Detroit, arriving on April 2nd.
Upon arriving at the foot of the Miami Rapids on April 8th, that same day, he received a letter from Carondelet, the Spanish governor of Louisiana.
Carondelet informed him of France’s intention against the colonies of Spain – that General Clark was to raise a corps of 5,000 men to attack the Spanish Illinois at fort New Madrid and fort St. Louis, hoping that with the artillery that they found in these forts, to attack the rest of Louisiana.
[Note: Genet had commissioned George Clark to be ‘major-general in the armies of France and commander-in-chief of the revolutionary legions on the Mississippi’. Clark had hoped that this would open the Mississippi river to use by the American frontier settlers, that had been denied by Spain.]
Persuaded that the interest of Britain required that the Illinois remained with Spain, and that Britain didn’t want to see the commerce of the Spanish settlements pass between the hands of France or the United States, Carondelet sought to obtain Britain’s absolutely indispensable assistance – to send 500 men to St. Louis, and cause the designs of the enemy to fail.
Simcoe replied that
‘in case the army of the United States now under the command of General Wayne should, as it menaces, invade the British possessions … it is impossible for me to afford the assistance to your post at St. Louis that you require … the co-operation of the forces of the two crowns in this country would be of decisive consequence, should they be compelled into a war by the United States in consequence of the maritime principles they have mutually adopted in respect to France and which from a late speech of Lord Dorchester’s in answer to the Indian nations I think very probable.’
[Note: On May 7th at an Indian council at the Miami Rapids, a message was brought from the ‘Spanish Settlements on the Mississippi’, that ‘a large force (from Kentucky) was assembling on the Shawanoe (Cumberland) river to invade our country’ and that ‘we should strike them together’. Also they were told that ‘the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws and Chickasaws … (are) now on their feet with the hatchet now in their hands ready to strike them.’]
But, already, on March 24th 1794, President Washington, again fearing that the United States would be drawn into war, issued a proclamation to prohibit and forbid any person to enlist any citizen or to levy troops or to assemble an armed force ‘for the purpose of invading and plundering the territories of a nation at peace with the United States’. This action together with the recall of Genet, caused the Kentucky expedition against New Orleans to be abandoned.
Simcoe now gave instructions for construction of the new fort at the Miami Rapids to the engineer, Lieutenant Pilkington, and instructions to Colonel England at Detroit that 120 regulars of the 24th regiment and 10 artillerists (to man the 4 nine-pound and 4 six-pound cannons) were to be sent to serve as the garrison, and Simcoe returned to Fort Erie on April 27th.
Continuing with his preparations for war, on April 14th, Dorchester wrote to Simcoe that
‘the appearance of hostilities with our neighbours, which the intrigues and influence of France seem to render inevitable, will necessarily draw your attention to the upper part of the river St. Lawrence … a station should be chosen where the craft of all kinds and the stores might receive some protection; this must be within the river as near lake Ontario as circumstances will permit.’
On April 16th, he wrote that
‘Upper Canada should fit out, man, and arm gun boats, particularly for the bay of Quinte, and of the rivers St. Lawrence, Niagara and Detroit … a system of defence by gun boats, to cooperate with your militia might be formed which would afford security to your settlements against predatory parties’.
On April 18th, he wrote that
‘for greater dispatch, I send from hence Lieut. Bryce of the engineers, to see what can be done to put Niagara in a condition to resist an immediate siege. The present hostile appearances rendering it necessary that Upper Canada for its own defence should be enabled to bring forth its full strength on any sudden emergency, I beg to be informed of the force, condition and disposition of your militia … and how they are armed and prepared to resist invasion.’
On April 21st the Six Nations met in council with Colonel Butler and General Chapin to hear their reply to Knox’s proposal to meet at Venango. Brant gave a long speech saying that ‘the answer you have brought us is not according to what we expected … it is not now in our power to accept your invitation.’
Chapin wrote to Knox that ‘
I had every reason to suppose, that the Six Nations had fully made up their minds, previous to the meeting of the council, to hold a treaty, agreeable to the wishes of the United States, in order to bring about a general peace. But the inflammatory speech of Lord Dorchester, which was interpreted to them by Colonel Butler, together with the presents heaped on them by the British, on this occasion, induced them to give up that friendly intention.’
On April 8th the state of Pennsylvania had approved ‘an act for laying out a town at Presqu’ Isle’ (Erie) that ‘would promote the settlement of the neighboring country and thereby place the frontiers of Pennsylvania in a safer situation.’ President Washington was worried that this would cause a rupture of the relations with the Six Nations, and advised ‘to suspend, for the present, the establishment at Prequ’ Isle.’
[Note: The old French trade route to the forks of the Ohio river, had been to sail from Canada to fort Presque Isle on lake Erie, to proceed across a 12-mile portage to fort Le Boeuf on French creek, down the creek to fort Machault (now, fort Franklin) on the Allegheny river, and down that river to fort Dusquesne (now, fort Pitt) on the Ohio river. The Americans were using this same route – but in reverse, to gain access to the great lakes.]
On May 25th, Governor Mifflin wrote to President Washington that
‘I am apprehensive, indeed, that it is too late to prevent the execution of the measures, which, under the authority of the law of Pennsylvania, were concerted relatively to that object, and of which, I had the honor, regularly, to appraise you. But, ever anxious to promote the views of the general government, and to avoid increasing the dissatisfaction of the Six Nations, or, in any other manner, extending the sphere of Indian hostilities, I shall consider your interposition and request as a sufficient justification for attempting, even at this late period, to arrest the progress of the commissioners in laying out the town of Presqu’ Isle, conformably to those directions of the Legislature, which I could not, on any less authority, venture to supersede.’
On June 18th, the Six Nations again invited General Chapin, along with Mr. Johnson from the British Indian Department, to attend a council at Buffaloe Creek. Captain O’Bail, a Seneca chief, spoke to Chapin about the establishing of a garrison at Presqu’ Isle, that ‘we now expect that you will exert yourself in removing those people off our lands. We know very well what they are come for, and we want them pushed back. We now wish that you and Mr. Johnson would now go together and remove those people back over the line which we have marked out upon the map.’ Chapin agreed to go to Presqu’ Isle for a meeting but warned that ‘I can do no more to those people than to give them my advice. It is not in my power to drive them off.’
Andrew Ellicot and Captain Denny had been to fort Franklin – that ‘appeared to be in such a defenceless situation … that we remained there for some time, and employed the troops in rendering it more tenable.’ Then they went to fort Le Boeuf to begin to strengthen the works ‘so as to render it a safe deposit for military and other stores’, when a letter arrived from General Chapin, that he and Mr. Johnson would be at fort Le Boeuf with a deputation from the Six Nations for a meeting on June 26th.
At the meeting, O’Bail repeated his speech from June 18th at Buffaloe creek. Ellicot delivered the reply that
the lands which you have requested us to move off have for several years been purchased by the State of Pennsylvania from the Six Nations, and the lines bounding the same were opened and marked with their consent and approbation … your brethren of Pennsylvania have fairly and openly made the purchase of all the lands to which they claim, and have sold those lands to such people as chose to settle and work them; they think it now their duty to protect such settlers from the depredations of all such persons as may attempt to molest them.’
Ellicot later would write to Governor Mifflin that
the line described by the Indians, on the map, will take away from the State of Pennsylvania the Cassewago settlement, being part of the purchase of 1784, and the whole of the purchase of 1788. But, with respect to this claim, they can be serious only so far as encouraged by the British agents.’
On July 4th, the delegation reported back to the Six Nation council at Buffaloe creek on their meeting at fort Le Boeuf. O’Bail spoke that ‘we are determined now, as we were before, that the line shall remain … If you do not comply with our request, we shall determine on something else, as we are a free people … the Six Nations has always been able to defend ourselves.’
Acting upon the advice of Chapin, President Washington appointed Timothy Pickering as a commissioner, to be assisted by Chapin,
‘to notify the Six Nations of Indians that their father, the President of the United States is deeply concerned to hear of any dissatisfaction existing in their minds against the United States and therefore invites them to a conference to be held at Canandaigua (on September 15th) … for the purpose of amicably removing all causes of misunderstanding and establishing permanent peace and friendship between the United States and the Six Nations.’
On July 11th, Dorchester wrote to Simcoe that ‘should they (Americans) persevere in forming an establishment on any of the lakes, or near any of our posts, you will send an intelligent person to make a demand by what authority the establishment is ordered, and to require them to desist from such aggressions.’ Dorchester was again worried about the Americans gaining an access to lake Ontario at Sodus.
[Note: In the spring of 1794, Charles Williamson had built a road from Phelpstown to Sodus Point, with a written announcement of plans to survey ‘a town between Salmon Creek and Great Sodus Bay … and mills are to be built at the falls on Salmon Creek.’ Williamson was the agent for Pulteney & Associates, that had purchased and were settling 1.25 million acres, west of the Genesee river, in New York State.]
Simcoe then directed Captain Schoedde, commandant of fort Ontario at Oswego, to inform him ‘of the actual settlers who have located themselves in the vicinity of (his) post within the last two years.’ Schoedde reported back on April 15th that ‘the first settler is 10 miles distant … the number of settlers I have not been able to learn, but altogether including the workmen they amount to about 200’ and that, from the Onondago river ‘there is a carrying place of 10 miles to the Big Sodus, which is an excellent harbour fit for the building of vessels.
Schoedde further reported on June 27th that Generals Steuben and Gansevoort ‘are arrived at the salt works of Onondago to lay out fortifications there and at Big Sodus.’ On August 10th, Simcoe sent Lieutenant Sheaffe to Sodus to hand Williamson the protest against that establishment, but Williamson answered that he would pay no attention to it, but prosecute his settlement, the same as if no such paper had been delivered to him; that if any attempt should be made forcibly to prevent him from doing so, that attempt would be repelled by force.
Williamson later wrote letters, sending Simcoe’s protest, to Edmund Randolph, the new Secretary of State, to Henry Knox, the Secretary of War, and to George Clinton, the Governor of New York.
4.7. Jay’s Mission to London, August 19th 1794
On December 2nd 1793, the Third Session of the United States Congress opened. On December 4th, the Senate received from President Washington, all of the papers, instructions, journals and correspondence relating to the negotiations that the executive had been conducting, between the sessions of Congress, with the hostile Indians and the failure to reach a peaceable settlement.
On December 5th, President Washington placed before them the full correspondence between the United States and Great Britain and France, regarding neutral rights – including the dismissal of Genet, and the state of negotiation with Britain over the issues arising from the 1783 treaty of peace – showing Britain’s disinclination to continue the negotiation or at any time to evacuate the posts.
As he had earlier informed President Washington, Thomas Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State in President Washington’s cabinet and left office on December 31st. However, before he left, Jefferson submitted to Congress, on December 16th, his long-delayed report (from 1791) on the restrictions and discriminations by foreign nations against the commerce of the United States, especially the results of British tariff and navigation laws. Hamilton said that he ‘threw this firebrand of discord’ into the Congress and then ‘instantly decamped for Monticello’. Jefferson’s report was considered by a Committee of the Whole in the House on January 1st 1794. Madison now re-introduced his 1791 resolutions calling for reciprocal duties and restrictions on foreign shipping. And, a report prepared by Hamilton, that was also written in 1791 – to oppose Jefferson’s report, was now given to Congressman William Smith, from South Carolina, who fashioned from it the opposition to Madison’s resolutions.
[Note: Madison had first introduced these resolutions in February 1791, after the failure of the Morris mission to London, and it was at this time, that Jefferson had initially prepared his report. But, following reports that a British minister to the United States was to be appointed, Madison dropped his resolutions, and Jefferson’s report was pigeon-holed, in hope that something might come out of the negotiations with George Hammond, the new minister. And also, back in 1791, Hamilton had prepared a report intended to controvert the conclusions anticipated from Jefferson’s report, and as long as Jefferson’s report was held back, so was Hamilton’s report.]
Smith compared the 12 leading trade goods of the United States – flour, tobacco, rice, wood, fish, potash, salted meat, indigo, live animals, flaxseed, naval stores and iron, showing that except for fish and meats, the trade system of Great Britain was more favourable to the United States than the French system. Smith pointed out that for the year 1792, America’s exports to Great Britain were $8,260,462, and exports to France were $5,243,543; while America’s imports from Great Britain were $15,285,426 and imports from France were $2,069,348 – showing that America’s commercial interests were far more dependent on Great Britain than on France.
Hamilton was worried that while only 1/7 of Britain’s commerce was with United States, 3/4 of American trade was with Britain – a trade war with Britain would be far more injurious to the United States.
This debate, continuing the Hamilton-Jefferson battle over the future course of the United States, lasted until February 5th, when the unresolved debate was postponed until March, without passing any of Madison’s resolutions. But now, chilling news began to be received of the Caribbean capture of American vessels made under the British Order-in-council (of November 6th 1793).
On March 8th, Hamilton wrote to President Washington that ‘the present situation of the United States is undoubtedly critical and demands measures vigorous though prudent. We ought to be in a respectable military posture, because war may come upon us, whether we choose it or not, and because to be in a condition to defend ourselves and annoy any who may attack us will be the best method of securing our peace.’ Hamilton laid out his plan ‘to fortify the principal ports … to raise 20,000 Auxiliary troops … (and) the legislature ought to vest the President of the United States with a power to lay an embargo, partial or general, and to arrest the exportation of commodities, partially or generally’.
On March 10th, a group of senators – King (NY), Ellsworth (CT), and Cabot and Strong (MA) – met and then sent Ellsworth to meet with President Washington to urge him to
‘adopt vigorous methods to put the country in a posture of defence … fortifying out principal commercial ports … organizing an auxiliary military force … filling our arsenals’, and to propose that ‘an envoy extraordinary should be appointed and sent to England to require satisfaction for the loss of our property and to adjust those points which menaced a war between the two countries’.
On March 12th, Congressman Theodore Sedgwick (MA), a ‘Federalist’ supporter of Hamilton, introduced a resolution that there be raised, armed and equipped 15 regiments of auxiliary troops, to consist of 1000 men, rank and file, each; that the President be authorized, if in his judgement the safety or welfare of the United States shall require it, to lay an embargo, generally or particularly, upon ships in the ports or harbour of the United States, and also to prohibit, generally or particularly, the exportation of commodities from the United States.
On March 13th, Madison’s resolutions were again brought up for debate in Congress, but during the debate, ‘Federalist’ Congressman Fisher Ames (MA) stated that ‘we should always say peace to the last extremity; and, if war threatens, strain every sinew to prepare for it. The resolutions say nothing – they say worse than nothing; they are built on partiality for one nation – they have French stamped on the very face of them. If we feel that the English have injured us, let us put the country in a state of defence; the resolutions can do nothing towards this. It is folly to think of regulating a commerce that calls for protection, and to encourage the increase of navigation, when what shipping we have, is in jeopardy’. The debate ended and Madison’s resolutions were never considered again!
President Washington would sign into law ‘an act to provide for the defence of certain ports and harbours in the United States’ on March 20th; ‘an act making appropriations for the support of the Military Establishment of the United States for the year 1794’ on March 21st; ‘an act to provide a naval armament’ on March 27th; and ‘an act to provide for the erecting and repairing of arsenals and magazines’ on April 2nd.
[Note: On March 22nd, President Washington signed into law ‘an act to prohibit the carrying on the slave trade from the United States to any foreign place or country’. On January 20th, Congress had received a memorial of the people called Quakers, ‘praying that Congress would adopt such measures as in their wisdom may be deemed expedient and effectual for the abolition of the slave trade’. On January 28th Congress had also received a memorial of the delegates from the several societies formed in different parts of the United States for promoting the abolition of slavery, at their recent meeting, ‘praying that Congress may adopt such measures as shall be the most effectual and expedient for the abolition of the slave trade’.]
On March 25th, President Washington sent to Congress two letters, received from Fulwar Skipwith, the United States consul to the French isle of Martinique, reporting that up to 250 American vessels, that were carrying cargo to the ports of the French West Indies, had been captured, their cargoes had been seized and sold, and their crews had been stripped of their possessions and their freedom, by the British navy.
On March 26th, the Senate and the House of Representatives resolved ‘that an embargo be laid on all ships and vessels in the ports of the United States, bound to any foreign port or place, for the term of 30 days’; and it was approved by President Washington. However, on March 27th, Congressman Jonathan Dayton (NJ) now submitted a resolution that ‘provision ought to be made, by law, for the sequestration of all the debts due from the citizens of the United States to the subjects of the King of Great Britain.’
News now began to be received of Lord Dorchester’s inflammatory speech of February 10th to the Indians. On March 31st, the House of Representatives began debate on resolutions that ‘effectual measures ought to be adopted to complete the present Military Establishment of the United States’; ‘that an additional corps of artillery (800 men) … ought to be raised for garrisoning the fortifications, which are or may be erected, for the defence of the sea coasts’; ‘to organize and hold in readiness to march at a moment’s notice, 80,000 effective militia’; and ‘that provision ought to be made, by law, for organizing and raising a military force … of 25,000 men’.
On April 4th, President Washington sent to the Senate and to Congress, three letters from Thomas Pinckney, the American ambassador to Great Britain, that the British government had announced another order-in-council of January 8th 1794, to revoke the order-in-council of November 6th 1793, and to substitute new restrictions on trade with the French West Indies. However, on April 7th, Congressman Abraham Clark (NJ) submitted a resolution that ‘until the government of Great Britain shall cause restitution to be made for all losses and damages sustained by the citizens of the United States from armed vessels … and also until all the posts now held and detained by the King of Great Britain, within the territories of the United States, shall be surrendered and given up, all commercial intercourse between the citizens of the United States and the subjects of Great Britain … shall be prohibited’.
A great debate started over this non-intercourse resolution on April 9th. It was opposed by Sedgwick who stated ‘
that injuries unprovoked and inexcusable had been inflicted by Great Britain on this country, was acknowledged by all … although all combined in opinion that our injuries were great, that they must be redressed, yet no one had suggested that war should precede negotiation’.
On April 14th, Hamilton wrote to President Washington that
‘a course of accurate observation has impressed on my mind a full conviction, that there exist in our councils three considerable parties – one decided for preserving peace by every effort which shall any way consist with the ultimate maintenance of the national honor and rights and disposed to cultivate with all nations a friendly understanding – another decided for war and resolved to bring it about by every expedient which shall not too directly violate the public opinion – a third not absolutely desirous of war but solicitous at all events to excite and keep alive irritation and ill humour between the United States and Great Britain, not unwilling in the pursuit of this object to expose the peace of the country to imminent hazards.’
‘… The views of the first party … favour the following course of conduct – To take effectual measures of military preparation, creating in earnest force and revenue – to vest the President with important powers respecting navigation and commerce for ulterior contingencies – to endeavour by another effort of negotiation confided to hands able to manage it and friendly to the object, to obtain reparation for the wrongs we suffer and a demarkation of a line of conduct to govern in future – to avoid till the issue of that experiment all measures of a nature to occasion a conflict between the motives which might dispose the British Government to do us the justice to which we are intitled and the sense of its own dignity – If that experiment fails then and not till then to resort to reprisals and war.’
‘… The views of the second party … favour the following courses of conduct – to say and to do every thing which can have a tendency to stir up the passions of the people and beget a disposition favourable to war – to make use of the inflamation which is excited in the community for the purposes of carrying through measures calculated to disgust Great Britain and to render an accommodation impracticable, without humiliation to her, which they do not believe will be submitted to – in fine, to provoke and bring on war by indirect means without declaring it or even avowing the intention; because they know the public mind is not yet prepared for such an extremity and they fear to encounter the direct responsibility of being the authors of a War.’
‘… The views of the third party lead them to favour the measures of the second – but without a perfect coincidence in the result. They weakly hope that they may hector and vapour with success – that the pride of Great Britain will yield to her interest – and that they may accomplish the object of perpetuating animosity between the two countries without involving War.’
‘… Preparation for War in such cases contains in it nothing offensive … But acts of reprisal speak a contrary effect … Such are the propositions which have lately appeared in the House of Representatives for the sequestration or arrestation of British Debts – for the cutting off of all intercourse with Great Britain till she shall do certain specific things. If such propositions pass they can only be regarded as provocatives to a Declaration of War by Great Britain.’
Hamilton advised him
‘to nominate a person, who will have the confidence of those who think peace still within our reach, and who may be thought qualified for the mission as envoy extraordinary to Great Britain… to make a solemn appeal to the justice and good sense of the British Government to avoid if possible an ulterior rupture and adjust the causes of misunderstanding between the two Countries … Mr. Jay is the only man in whose qualifications for success there would be thorough confidence and him whom alone it would be adviseable to send.’
On April 15th, President Washington wrote to Edmund Randolph that
My objects are, to prevent a war – if justice can be obtained by fair & strong representation (to be made by a special Envoy) of the injuries which this Country has sustained from G.B. in various ways – To put it in a complete state of military defence. And to provide eventually, such measures as seem to be now pending in Congress for execution, if negotiation, in a reasonable time proves unsuccessful.’
That same day, President Washington met with Jay, to ask him to undertake this mission.
On April 16th, President Washington wrote to the Senate and nominated Jay ‘as envoy extraordinary of the United States to his Britannic Majesty’. Jay’s appointment was confirmed by the Senate on April 19th.
On April 18th, the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed to a resolution that the present embargo be continued until the 25th day of May next; and it was approved and signed by President Washington.
However, on April 18th, the debate was continued in the House of Representatives on the bill to prohibit all commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain. Some congressmen opposed the resolution ‘
on the ground that an envoy had been nominated by the executive to negotiate with Great Britain; that the adoption of this resolution, at the present time, would be a bar to those negotiations, an infringement on the right of the executive to negotiate, and an indelicacy towards that department; and that, since it leads to war, other measures should procede its adoption’.
Madison now proposed an amendment to the resolution, to suspend all commercial intercourse – but without specifying on what conditions the intercourse shall be restored (!!!), and it was passed by the House. A bill was now prepared ‘to suspend the importation of certain goods, wares, and merchandise’, the bill was passed by a vote of 58 to 34, and it was then sent to the Senate. In the Senate, a vote on the bill resulted in a tie, 13 to 13, and when Vice President John Adams ‘determined the question’ and voted ‘in the negative’, Madison’s bill died.
Jay would depart the United States on May 12th and would arrive in Britain on June 12th.
4.8. The Battle of Fallen Timbers, August 1794
On March 31st 1794, Knox sent to Wayne the proceedings of the Indian council at Buffaloe creek in October 1793, President Washington’s answer of December 24th, the reply of the Indians on February 7th, and also Dorchester’s speech to the Indians on February 10th, and wrote to him that
‘on mature consideration, to be of a nature not to encourage the hopes of a peace, excepting on principles of relinquishments, which are utterly inadmissible … In the events of either peace or war the President of the United States considers it of great importance that you should proceed as far into the country as shall in your own judgement be consistent with the security of your force and the certainty of supplies. The establishment of posts at the Miami Villages and perhaps at the Au Glaize and combining a communication down the Wabash is considered of such importance as to justify your calling for an adequate number of mounted militia from Kentucky … with a well calculated assurance of being able to maintain the advance posts you may assume. A retrograde movement would be attended with very ill effects.’ Knox also instructed Wayne that ‘the late intention of some restless people of the frontier settlements to make hostile inroads into the dominions of Spain, renders it indispensible that you should immediately order as respectable a detachment as you can to take post at fort Massac and to erect a strong redoubt and block house with some suitable cannon from fort Washington.’
[Note: Unknown to Wayne, his subordinate, General James Wilkinson, had been on the Spanish payroll since 1792 – receiving a $2000 annual pension, while helping in their plan to induce Kentucky to separate from the United States and seek an alliance with Spain! Wilkinson even claimed to have spent $8,640 in breaking up the proposed expedition of General George Clark against New Orleans, and was reimbursed! Wilkinson also sent letters to Knox, accusing Wayne of high crimes!]
On June 7th, Knox again wrote to Wayne that it is
‘the anxious desire of the President of the United States to terminate, if possible, the Indian war in your scene in the course of the present year. It is however to be apprehended that the establishment which it is understood has been made by British troops at the rapids of the Miami may be giving new confidence and support to your Indian enemies, require more force and greater exertions than otherwise would have been necessary … you are to proportion your force so as to effect the end intended with as little risque as circumstances will admit … If therefore in the course of your operations against the Indian enemy, it should become necessary to dislodge the party at the rapids of the Miami, you are hereby authorized in the name of the President of the United States to do it … But no attempt ought to be made unless it shall promise complete success – an unsuccessful attempt would be attended with pernicious consequences.’
On June 10th, Wayne replied to Knox that
hence I am placed in a very delicate & disagreeable situation; the very point at which I had premeditated a severe stroke, ie. the centre of the hostile tribes, the British are now in possession of – probably with a view to provoke what they would with avidity declare an aggression upon our part were we now to make an attempt against that quarter, although not in their occupancy until surreptitiously & nefariously obtained the other day.’
Wayne’s plans were complicated by the slowness and inadequate supply by the private contractors of the surplus rations needed for any offensive action – that was being sabotaged by Wilkinson, who maintained a secret correspondence with one of the contractors on what, when and how to supply the army! The convoys were also under attack by Indian raids. The patience and persistence of Wayne would now be put to the test. [Note: Wayne’s aide-de-camp was Lieutenant William Henry Harrison.]
Blue Jacket had gone forth to bring the northern-area Indians, along with the lake-area Indians to the great Indian council that was gathering at the Glaize. On June 16th, with 1,600 warriors at the Glaize, the council assembled to formulate a plan of action – to move against Wayne’s convoys, and to drive the Americans out of the country. While leaving behind a group of Delawares to guard against a sudden American attack against the villages, almost 1200 warriors, along with a detachment of British Indian Department agents, British traders and a few British regulars – all disguised and dressed as Indians, left the Glaize on June 19th and marched toward the frontier posts. On observing a large convoy of packhorses laden with supplies headed for fort Recovery, the Indian forces moved to lay in ambush near the fort.
Fort Recovery was commanded by Captain Alexander Gibson and garrisoned by 200 men, and defended by 6 recovered cannons (of the 8 cannons that had been captured and buried there by the Indians after the battle and defeat of St. Clair’s army in November 1791). Major McMahon, with an escort of 50 dragoons and 90 riflemen were escorting 360 packhorses with 1200 kegs of flour from Greene Ville and arrived at fort Recovery on the evening of June 29th.
In the morning the herd of packhorses had been moved forward a half-mile from the fort to graze, before beginning the return journey to Greene Ville, when the Indians discovered the vanguard of the herd and attacked, capturing 3 drivers and quickly scattering the horses. Upon hearing the shots, McMahon quickly led the 50 dragoons to protect the valuable herd and charged into the Indian attack, but were soon driven back, past the advancing 90 riflemen, who were soon overwhelmed and also forced to retreat by the pursuing Indians.
Gibson now sent forward every man he could to support McMahon’s troops, and after firing a volley at the charging Indians, retreated back to the fort with the dragoons. While only 3 Indians had been killed, the Americans had suffered 40 casualties and were now surrounded on all sides, by an overwhelming force. A group of Indians ran toward the fort in an attempt to storm the walls, but the riflemen fired back from their loopholes and also fired their six-pounders. The Indians kept up the attack on the fort until nightfall, with another dozen Indians killed and an equal number injured. By the next morning, due to deficiencies of ammunition and want of provisions, the siege ended and the Indians retreated back north. Disarray among the Indian ranks caused 800 of the lake-area Indians to leave to return home.
When a division of 720 Kentucky mounted militia volunteers arrived at Greene Ville on July 25th with another division of 800 to follow with the heavy ordnance, Wayne began to prepare his 2,000-man legion to move forward, and on July 28th he started his decisive trek northward to the Grand Glaize, in anticipation that ‘the issue may probably be tried in the course of a few days.’ Marching 10 to 12 miles a day, the legion reached the Saint Marys river on August 1st where they stopped and built a small two-blockhouse fortification, named fort Adams.
On the afternoon of August 3rd, while he was resting, a large beech tree crashed onto his tent, landing mere inches from where he lay. Wayne considered his escape incredible, but ‘probably premeditated’ – perhaps someone of the Wilkinson faction planned to murder him. That evening, the second division of the Kentucky volunteers arrived with a large supply of provisions. Leaving behind a 40-man garrison, on August 4th the legion moved on. Upon arriving at the Upper Delaware creek, an Indian war party’s camp was discovered nearby but a detachment was not allowed to be sent after it. Learning the lesson of St. Clair’s defeat, Wayne would only commit his legion as a single unit.
On August 7th, they arrived at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize rivers, to find that the extensive villages had been totally abandoned, leaving vast cultivated fields of corn, beans and vegetables. The Indians of those villages had fled, with whatever they could carry, to the British fort Miami, and were now in need of more ammunition and fresh provisions. Wayne ordered the construction of a four-blockhouse fortification, to be named fort Defiance.
In the absence of any Indian resistance, having only discovered a few scouts reconnoitring his army, Wayne estimated that the Indians must be in great disarray and on August 13th he sent a messenger with an offer for peace to the Indians that
‘actuated by the purest principles of humanity and urged by pity for the errors into which bad and designing men have led you … invite each and every of the hostile tribes of Indians to appoint deputies to meet me and my army without delay … in order to settle the preliminaries of a lasting peace … the arm of the United States is strong and powerful but they love mercy and kindness more than war and desolation … Brothers, be no longer deceived or led astray by the false promises and language of the bad white men at the foot of the rapids, they have neither the power nor the inclination to protect you.’
Runners had been again sent to the lake-area Indians to ask their assistance with the advance of Wayne’s army, and more than 600 began to arrive. On August 12th, Colonel England sent 100 unarmed Canadian militia(21) to fort Miami to serve as workmen to complete the defences before Wayne arrived, and sent an additional 50 armed Canadian militia to assist the Indians.
On the night of August 14th a grand council met to discuss the offer of Wayne. Little Turtle, a Miami war chief, feared the lack of British commitment and was sceptical of any direct British military involvement, and proposed sending a delegation to talk to Wayne. This was contrary to the advice and demands of McKee, Elliott, Girty and the other British agents. Blue Jacket, the Shawnee war chief, spoke next, belittling Little Turtle, and appealing to the war spirit of the other Indians, telling them how Wayne’s army was rich in everything that the Indians desired – horses, blankets, clothing, guns and ammunition, and how the British were close at hand to assist them. In order to deceive the Americans and ‘to gain a few days time in hopes that the Indians about Detroit may increase their strength so as to enable them to meet him (Wayne) with a prospect of advantage’, they sent a message to Wayne to propose a truce – that he should stay where he was for 10 days and to build no forts in their towns, and that they would stay where they were and at the expiration of the time he should see them coming with a flag as he desired.
On August 15th, Wayne’s messenger returned the message – while the Indians’ war preparations continued in earnest at fort Miami. Wayne determined not to send an answer, and leaving behind a 90-man garrison at fort Defiance, Wayne resumed his march and crossed the Maumee river, with one wing of the army on the north side and the other wing on the south side, but the next day, marched east with the entire army on the north shore until they arrived at Roche de Bout, the head of the rapids, about 10 miles from the enemy camp near fort Miami.
On August 19th, Wayne directed the construction of a temporary place of deposit for heavy baggage, so that the Legion could advance more rapidly – the soldiers would only carry a blanket and 2 days’ rations.
Leaving behind a 100-man garrison at Camp Deposit, on the morning of August 20th, Wayne’s army marched forward, led by Major Price’s 180 mounted Kentucky militiamen, followed on the left wing by Colonel Hamtramck with the 2nd and 4th Sub Legions and flanked on his left by a brigade of mounted militia; and on the right wing by General Wilkinson with the 1st and 3rd Sub Legions, and flanked on his right by the Miami river. The dragoons and artillery and the rest of the Kentucky mounted militia followed in the rear.
The 1200 Indian warriors were formed in one single line about ¾ mile long and were waiting in ambush at Fallen Timbers, an area about 5 miles west of fort Miami, where some years earlier a tornado had caused downed trees and tangled thicket to produce a natural abatis. As Wayne’s advance troops rode east along the river, upon reaching the Fallen Timbers, they were attacked by the concealed Indians. A part of the centre of the Indian line charged at the mounted militia, causing them to flee. Being impracticable for the cavalry to operate effectively in this abatis, Wayne then ordered Scott to gain and turn the enemy’s right flank, using the whole of the mounted militia, and ordered the Legion cavalry to turn the enemy’s left flank. Wayne now brought up the Legion infantry and formed them into two lines to fire at the charging Indians.
After stopping their charge, Wayne then ordered a charge with bayonets, easily forcing the thin Indian line to retreat, falling back from ravine to ravine. After taking heavy fire from the 60 Canadian militia and traders on the left, a brigade of unmounted militia moved through the swampy terrain to outflank the Canadian militia, sending them reeling in disorder. With some of the officers wary of being led into another ambush, the dragoons charged ahead, the Indians were unable to offer any resistance and they fled back to fort Miami.
Upon seeing the scattered Indians streaming out of the woods and heading for the fort, and ‘not knowing at what moment we might be attacked’, Major Campbell ordered the garrison under arms and the gates closed. Astounded and confused, the Indians were outraged at the sudden withdrawal of the fort’s protection. Despite McKee’s efforts to rally them, the disorganized Indians continued their flight to Swan creek where their families were camped and where they would now have to rely on the British for provisions.
The battle lasted a little over an hour, with Wayne suffering 33 killed and 100 wounded, while it was estimated that the Indians suffered twice as many casualties. After having the ground in front reconnoitered for the entire distance to the British fort, Wayne advanced his army to within a mile of fort Miami and encamped for the evening. The next morning, Campbell sent a message to Wayne asking
‘in what light I am to view your making such near approachs to this garrison … I know of no war existing between Great Britain and America.’ Wayne answered that ‘were you intitled to an answer, the most full and satisfactory one was announced to you, from the muzzels of my small arms yesterday morning in the action against the hoard of savages in the vicinity of your post.’
The following day, Campbell replied that
‘should you continue to approach my post … my indispensable duty to my king and country and the honor of my profession will oblige me to have recourse to those measures, which thousands of either nation may hereafter have cause to regret.’ Wayne answered that ‘taking post far within the well known and acknowledged limits of the United States, and erecting a fortification in the heart of the settlements of the Indian tribes now at war with the United States … appears to be an act of the highest aggression and destructive to the peace and interest of the Union … I do hereby desire and demand in the name of the President of the United States that you immediately desist from any further act of hostility or aggression, by forbearing to fortify and by withdrawing the troops, artillery and stores under your orders and directions forthwith, and removing to the nearest post occupied by his Britannick Majesty’s troops at the peace of 1783.’
Lastly, Campbell replied that
‘being placed here in the command of a British post and acting in a military capacity only, I cannot enter into any discussion either on the right or impropriety of my occupying my present position … I certainly will not abandon this post at the summons of any power whatever until I receive orders to that purpose … (I) desire that your army or individuals belonging to it will not approach within reach of my cannon without expecting the consequences attending it.’
With 20 howitzers the only artillery on hand, Wayne considered the fort too strong to take by assault or siege, and, most importantly, he did not want to fall into the British trap of starting an engagement with British regulars, which could then be used by the British to declare war on the United States. However, he did want to show the Indians that the British had neither the power nor the inclination to protect them and he ordered the destruction of all of the Indians huts and houses (including the storehouses of McKee and the other traders) in the vicinity of the fort, and of all the surrounding cornfields, gardens and haystacks.
On August 23rd, Wayne turned his army around and, 4 days later, arrived back at fort Defiance, remaining there to strengthen the fort and gather corn and vegetables from the fields nearby. With the fort completed, garrisoned and supplied, on September 14th Wayne marched his Legion westward along the north bank of the Maumee river to the head of the river, and the site of Harmar’s defeat in 1790, and on the 17th began building a fort that was named Fort Wayne. Leaving Hamtramck in command of the garrison, on October 28th Wayne marched his Legion and arrived back at Greene Ville on November 2nd.
News of Wayne’s victory would change everything.
After Simcoe received reports of Wayne’s army advancing to the Glaize, on August 17th (three days before the battle of Fallen Timbers) he wrote to McKee that ‘it is obvious that if Wayne attacks the Miamis Post that a war commences between Great Britain and the United States in which case his distance from all supplies will, I hope, ultimately occasion the destruction of his army.’ He also wrote to Dorchester, that if the Americans should occupy Presqu’ Isle or should occupy a post at Buffaloe creek, in order to supply Wayne’s army, that his plans would be that the British would destroy such armaments and would prevent any American occupation on the coast of lake Erie, and that the British would have to drive the troops of the United States from fort Recovery, that led to fort Miami, and from fort Franklin on the Alleghany, that led to Presqu’ Isle. His war plan also called for seizing Sodus Point, for occupying the communication between Oswego and Three River Point and occupying the smaller lakes of the Genesee with gun-boats, and for destroying the entire Genesee settlement. (This plan was consistent with Simcoe’s and McKee’s original plan of June 1792 – that the American must not have any access to the great lakes.) Simcoe also planned that Brant would hurry to Detroit with as many warriors as he could, and that he, himself, would proceed to Detroit with all the force that he could muster.
Before he could assemble his troops and leave, Simcoe received reports of Wayne’s victory at Fallen Timbers, of his confrontation at fort Miami and of his subsequent retreat back to fort Defiance. Putting his war plans back on the shelf, Simcoe now undertook a trip to Detroit because ‘the Indians may disperse and all my hopes of reuniting them may be lost.’ Simcoe arrived at fort Miami on September 27th and toured the battlefield and the destroyed Indian villages. Here he also met with Brant, who had arrived with 97 Mohawk warriors.
Simcoe held a council on October 11th at Big Rock, at the mouth of the Detroit river, with delegates from the Six Nations, Wyandots, Delawares, Shawanees, Miamis, Potawatomies, Chippawas, Ottawas, Cherokees and Munseys. The Indians spoke of their want of arms and ammunition, and asked ‘whether it is in your power to assist us now’. Simcoe replied that ‘I can only assure you that he (the King) will uniformly fulfill all his engagements with you, his arms will at all times be ready to receive you, and his territory open to protect and defend you from all his enemies.’ Brant then proposed that there should be a great council assembled at Big Rock in the spring. Simcoe left Detroit and arrived back at fort Erie on October 18th.
By October 25th, over 1600 Iroquois had assembled at Canandaigua for the conference with Commissioner Pickering. William Johnson, a British Indian Department agent, had been invited to attend the conference by Cornplanter, but Pickering refused,
‘I am instructed by the President not to suffer a British agent to attend this council fire’. Pickering recounted to the Iroquois how the British had sabotaged the convening of the conference at Sandusky and said that ‘the United States have never asked the mediation of the British, and we never shall ask it, until they give some proof of their sincerity … What has prevented a peace between us and the western nations? I answer without hesitation, the British prevented it.’
On October 27th when news was received that General Wayne had defeated the western Indians in battle, it was then decided that it would be in the best interest of the Six Nations to begin negotiations with the Americans – and without the British.
On November 11th, a treaty was signed with the Five Nations (no Mohawks attended the conference) – ‘peace and friendship are hereby firmly established, and shall be perpetual, between the United States and the Six Nations.’ The United States acknowledged the lands reserved to the Oneida, Onondaga and Cayuga Nations in their respective treaties with the State of New York; agreed to the boundaries of the land of the Seneca Nation – that excluded the triangular piece of land in the State of Pennsylvania, that was around Presqu’ Isle, that the Senecas had been trying to claim. The United States delivered to the Five Nations $10,000 worth of goods, and increased their yearly allowance to $4,500 for purchasing clothing, domestic animals, implements of husbandry and other utensils.
4.9. Subduing the Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania, November 13th 1794
Earlier in July 1794, an insurrection broke out in western Pennsylvania, supposedly, because of the excise (whiskey) tax, that threatened the authority of the President and of the federal government itself.
[Note: As shown by historian, Jacob E. Cooke, the insurrection was not about whiskey. For example, on June 23, 1794, the Democratic Society of the County of Washington met and adopted four resolutions which expressed their grievances – not one of them dealt with the whiskey tax; on April 26, 1794, delegates from Allegheny County expressed their complaints in a series of resolutions, not one of which mentioned the excise tax. The issues which dominated these meetings, as well as others, were: 1. acquiring the navigation of the Mississippi River; 2. retention of Western posts by the British; 3. Washington’s refusal to allow Pennsylvania to lay out a town at Presqu’ile; 4. insufficient energy in the prosecution of war against the Indians.
Hamilton wrote in 1792,
‘that more money has, in the course of the last year, been sent into the Western country, from the treasury, in specie, and bank bills, which answer the same purpose, for the pay of the troops and militia, and for quartermaster’s supplies, than the whole amount of the tax in the four western counties of Pennsylvania, and the district of Kentucky, is likely to equal in 4 or 5 years’.]
On July 15th, the Revenue Inspector, (General) John Neville and the United States Marshall David Lenox finished serving processes against distillers who had not registered (in the fourth survey of western Pennsylvania). On July 17th, a mob of 500 armed men attacked and burned the home and property of Neville. The next day, Neville was forced to resign as inspector, and Lenox was ordered to surrender the writs he had served. But, with the help of Major Butler, the commandant at fort Fayette at Pittsburgh, Neville and Lenox were able to escape, and they arrived at Philadelphia on August 8th.
On July 26th, the mail from Pittsburgh that was destined for Philadelphia, was stopped and seized by some of the rebels, to try and find out what was being written to persons in the government.
On August 2nd, President Washington and his cabinet (Secretary of State Edmund Randolph, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox and Attorney General William Bradford) met with government officials from Pennsylvania (Governor Thomas Mifflin, Chief Justice Thomas McKean, Attorney General Jared Ingersoll and Alexander Dallas, the secretary of the commonwealth). The President presented them with a packet of letters – from Inspector Neville, from his son (Colonel) Presley Neville, the inspector of militia for Allegheny county, from Marshal Lenox, and from Major Butler; and a deposition of the Post Rider whose mail had been stopped – informing them of the events that had occurred in western Pennsylvania, and he asked their advice.
expressed it as his positive opinion, that the judiciary power was equal to the task of quelling and punishing the riots, and that the employment of a military force, at this period, would be as bad as anything that the rioters had done – equally unconstitutional and illegal’. Hamilton replied to that argument and ‘insisted upon the propriety of an immediate resort to military force … that the crisis was arrived when it must be determined whether the government can maintain itself, and that the exertion must be made, not only to quell the rioters, but to protect the officers of the Union in executing their offices, and in compelling obedience to the laws’.
On August 4th Knox wrote to President Washington that ‘the interests of humanity and good order will be combined by preventing the deluded people from entertaining hopes of a successful resistance. The power of the government to execute the laws will be demonstrated both at home and abroad’, and advised him on the number of troops that would be necessary, and on the proclamation to be issued. And on August 5th, Hamilton wrote a lengthy report to President Washington providing a detailed history of the opposition to the excise laws in the four most western counties of Pennsylvania.
On August 5th, Randolph wrote to President Washington of his objections to military coercion by the militia, and to
‘banish every idea of calling them into immediate action’. And on August 5th, Mifflin wrote to President Washington that ‘the Military power of the Government ought not to be employed until its Judiciary authority, after a fair experiment, has proved incompetent to enforce obedience, or to punish infractions of the law.’
But, on August 4th, Justice James Wilson of the Supreme Court had submitted the opinion to the President that
‘from evidence, which has been laid before me, I hereby notify to you, that in the counties of Washington and Allegheny, in Pennsylvania, laws of the United States are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the marshal of that district’.
Armed with Wilson’s opinion of the court, President Washington issued a proclamation on August 7th, that
‘it is in my Judgment necessary under the circumstances of the case to take measures for calling forth the militia in order to suppress the Combinations aforesaid and to cause the Laws to be duly executed, and I have accordingly determined so to do, feeling the deepest regret for the occasion, but withal the most Solemn conviction, that the essential interests of the Union demand it, that the very existence of Government and the fundamental principles of social order are materially involved in the issue, and that the patriotism and firmness of all good Citizens are seriously called upon, as occasion may require, to aid in the effectual suppression of so fatal a Spirit’, or force would be used ‘to suppress such combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed’.
On August 8th, United States Senator from Pennsylvania James Ross (who was elected to replace Albert Gallatin after he had been removed), Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Jasper Yates and Attorney General William Bradford were appointed commissioners ‘to proceed to the scene of the insurrection, and to confer with any bodies of men or individuals, with whom you shall think proper to confer, in order to quiet and extinguish it.’
They were instructed that
‘you are to declare that, with respect to the excise law, the President is bound to consider it as much among the laws which he is to see executed, as any other. That as to the repeal of it, that being a subject consigned by the Constitution to the Legislature, from whom alone a change of legislative measures can be obtained. The President continued ‘that he is willing to grant an amnesty and perpetual oblivion for everything which has past… but upon the following conditions: that satisfactory assurances be given that the laws be no longer obstructed in their execution … and that the offenders against whom process shall issue for a violation of or an opposition to the laws, shall not be protected from the free operation.’
President Washington had tolerated much criticism and personal attacks on himself and on his administration, from the ‘republican’ party and their press, but, it must be remembered, that for the past forty years, he had been a leading part of the fight to secure the Ohio country as America’s gateway to the west, and with the threat of a war with Britain and a war with the western Indians, he must have a united nation behind him in order to deal with this crisis. An insurrection against the federal government could not be allowed, or allowed to spread.
On August 14th, 226 delegates from Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette counties (including 6 delegates from Ohio county in Virginia) met at Parkinson’s Ferry, and ‘a committee of three members from each county be appointed to meet any commissioners that have been or may be appointed by the government’. (Gallatin was chosen as the committee’s secretary.)
On August 17, the commissioners wrote to Randolph, concerning the Parkinson’s Ferry meeting, that
there appears to us to have been three parties … one of which was at that time disposed to renounce all connection with the Government and to maintain their present opposition by violence without further appeals to Congress. This was not numerous, nor open … A second party is disposed to remain a part of the nation, but at the same time to resist at all hazards, the execution of the excise acts. These were numerous and violent, and evidently overawed the third or moderate party, which consisted of men of property, who whatever might be their opinions of the excise, are disposed to submit to the national will, rather than hazard the convulsions of a civil contest … One of them had prepared resolves demanding a repeal of the excise acts, an act of oblivion, and a suspension of all measures of coercion until the sense of Congress was known, as the most moderate measure that could have been carried.’
On August 21st, the committee met, at Pittsburgh, with the government commissioners, who had been joined by two commissioners sent from the governor of Pennsylvania, and it was agreed that if the committee of safety of the four counties shall give satisfactory assurances to the commissioners that
they will at all times be obedient and submit to the laws of the State, and also of the United States of America’ and if the people ‘shall keep the peace, and be of good behavior’ then they would be promised ‘an act of free and general pardon and oblivion of all treasons, insurrections, arsons, riots, and other offences.’
From August 23rd to September 2nd, Hamilton wrote 4 letters to the American Daily Advertiser, signed Tully, that exposed those ‘republicans’ who, while opposing the ‘disorderly conduct of the insurgents’, instead placed the blame on the excise laws, ‘pernicious things, very hostile to liberty … that the government had been imprudent enough to pass laws so contrary to the genius of a free people’. And to those ‘republicans’ who opposed any use of force by the federal government ‘because the execution of it will produce civil war’, he wrote that ‘Civil War is undoubtedly a great evil. It is one that every good man would wish to avoid, and will deplore if inevitable. But it is incomparably a less evil than the destruction of Government … This would be to give a Carte Blanche to ambition – to licentiousness; to foreign intrigue; to make you the prey of the gold of other nations – the sport of the passions and vices of individuals among yourselves. The Hydra Anarchy would rear its head in every quarter.’
On August 25th, Hamilton (acting as Secretary of War, while Knox was absent on family matters in Maine) wrote to Governor Henry Lee of Virginia, that the 3,300 Virginia militia should assemble at fort Cumberland, Maryland, on the last day of September, where they would be joined by the 2,350 Maryland militia, under Governor Thomas Lee; (the 2,100 New Jersey militia, under Governor Richard Howell, and the 5,200 Pennsylvania militia, under Governor Thomas Mifflin, would assemble at Carlisle, Pennsylvania); and that President Washington requested that ‘
you will come forth in the command of the Militia … against the Insurgents in the Western parts of Pennsylvania … You will have the command of the whole force that may be employed upon that Enterprise.’
On August 26th, President Washington had written to Lee that
‘I consider this insurrection as the first formidable fruit of the Democratic Societies; brought forth I believe too prematurely for their own views, which may contribute to the annihilation of them. That these societies were instituted by the artful & designing members (many of their body I have no doubt mean well, but know little of the real plan,) primarily to sow the Seeds of Jealousy & distrust among the people, of the government, by destroying all confidence in the Administration of it; and that these doctrines have been budding ever since, is not new to anyone who is acquainted with the characters of their leaders, and have been attentive to their maneuvers. I early gave it as my opinion to the confidential characters around me, that if these Societies were not counteracted (not by prosecutions, the ready way to make them grow stronger) or did not fall into disesteem from the knowledge of their origin, & the views with which they had been instituted by their father, Genet, for purposes well known to the Government; that they would shake the government to its foundation.’
On August 28th, the committee reported the results of their meeting to the delegates’ committee of safety, and it was approved by a vote of 34 to 23. A new committee of conference was appointed to again meet with the commissioners, to ask for ‘an indemnity to all persons as to the arrearages of excise’ and, to ask them to give ‘to the 11th day of October next, to take the sense of the people at large … whether they will accede to the resolution’.
On September 1st, the committee met with the government commissioners. The commissioners stated that assurances from the committee of safety ‘
of their explicit determination to submit to the laws of the United States … have not been given … Our expectations have been unfortunately disappointed; the terms required have not been acceded to. You have been sent hither to demand new terms … It is difficult to decide what manner the said declarations and determinations of the people to submit peaceably, should be taken and ascertained. We … are fully satisfied that a decision by ballot will be wholly unsatisfactory, and that it will be easy to produce by these means an apparent but delusive unanimity … It remains with you to say … the manner in which the sense of the people may be publicly taken, and written assurances of submission obtained … you request … that an indemnity shall be granted, as to the arrears of excise to all persons that have not entered their stills to this date. If it were proper to remit all arrears of duty, we cannot conceive why those who have entered their stills should not receive a similar indulgence with those who have refused to do so; nor why you demand peculiar favors for the opposers of the acts, while you abandon those who have complied to the strictness of the laws’.
They also stated that
‘you require also that time be given until the 11th day of October, in order to ascertain the sense of the people. That is wholly inadmissible. On the day of the conference, the time allowed was deemed sufficiently long; and we are sorry to perceive that delay only tends to produce an indisposition to decide … Nothing is required but a declaration of that duty which every man owes to his country, and every man before this day must have made up his mind on the subject’.
The next day, the committee agreed
that it is the interest and duty of the people of the western counties of Pennsylvania to submit to the execution of the laws of the United States, and of the State of Pennsylvania, upon the principles and terms stated by the commissioners … we are ready to enter into detail with you of fixing and ascertaining the time, place and manner of collecting the sense of the people upon this very momentous subject’.
An agreement was reached, to hold township meetings by September 11th, and to openly propose to the people assembled the following questions,
‘Do you now engage to submit to the laws of the United States, and that you will not hereafter, directly or indirectly, oppose the execution of the acts for raising the revenue upon distilled spirits and stills? And do you also undertake to support, as far as the laws require, the civil authority in according the protection due to all officers and other citizens? Yea, or nay?’
On September 24th, the commissioners submitted their report of their conferences, and of the results of the township meetings and the test of submission, to the President. In their report, the commissioners wrote that
with extreme regret, find themselves obliged to report, that in the returns made to them, no opinions are certified that there is so general a submission in any one of the counties, that an office of inspection can be immediately and safely established therein, on the contrary … But notwithstanding these circumstances, (we) believe that there is a considerable majority of the inhabitants in the fourth survey (the western counties of Pennsylvania) who are now disposed to submit to the execution of the laws, at the same time, they conceive it their duty explicitly to declare their opinion that such is the state of things in that survey, that there is no probability that the acts for raising a revenue on distilled spirits and stills can at present be enforced by the usual course of civil authority, and that some more competent force is necessary to cause the laws to be duly executed, and to ensure to the officers and well-disposed citizens that protection which it is the duty of government to afford.’
On September 25th, President Washington issued a second proclamation that
Now therefore, I, George Washington, President of the United States, in obedience to that high and irresistible duty consigned to me by the Constitution “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed” … but resolved … to reduce the refractory to a due subordination to the law … do hereby declare and make known … that a force, which according to every reasonable expectation is adequate to the exigency, is already in motion to the scene of the disaffection’.
President Washington left Philadelphia on September 30th, accompanied by Secretary Hamilton, ‘having determined from the Report of the Commissioners, who were appointed to meet the Insurgents in the Western Counties in the State of Pennsylvania, and from other circumstances – to repair to the places appointed for the Rendezvous’ of the Militias. That evening, he received letters ‘from Genl. Wayne & the Western Army containing official & pleasing accounts of his engagement with the Indians near the British Post at the Rapids of the Miami of the Lake and of his having destroyed all the Indian Settlements on that River in the vicinity of the said Post quite up to the grand Glaize – the quantity not less than 5000 acres – and the Stores &ca. of Colo. McGee the British Agent of Indian Affairs, a mile or two from the Garrison.’ President Washington arrived at Carlisle on October 4th, reviewed the assembled troops and met with Governor Mifflin of Pennsylvania and Governor Howell New Jersey.
On October 2nd, the delegates of the western Pennsylvania townships had again met and appointed William Findley and David Redick as commissioners to the President, to give assurances of submission, and to explain the state of the western country, ‘in order to enable him to judge whether an armed force would be necessary to support civil authority in the western counties’.
On October 9th, Findley and Redick arrived in camp with the resolutions, and met with the President, along with Hamilton and Howell. After listening to what both men had to report, President Washington told them that
‘as I considered the support of the Laws as an object of the first magnitude, and the greatest part of the expense had already been incurred, that nothing Short of the most unequivocal proofs of absolute Submission should retard the March of the army into the Western counties, in order to convince them that the government could, & would enforce obedience to the laws—not suffering them to be insulted with impunity.’
And, he stated further, that
I assured them that every possible care should be taken to keep the Troops from offering them any insult or damage and that those who always had been subordinate to the Laws, & such as had availed themselves of the amnesty, should not be injured in their persons or property; and that the treatment of the rest would depend upon their own conduct. That the Army, unless opposed, did not mean to act as executioners, or bring offenders to a Military Tribunal; but merely to aid the civil Magistrates, with whom offences would lie.’
On October 10th, the Pennsylvania and New Jersey militia began its march from Carlisle to rendezvous at Bedford, Pennsylvania. President Washington left Carlisle and travelled to Cumberland, Maryland, arriving on the 16th, reviewed the Maryland and Virginia militias that had rendezvoused there, and then travelled back to Bedford, with General Lee.
On October 20th, President Washington, in a letter to Lee, wrote a farewell address to the militia army,
no citizens of the United States can ever be engaged in a service more important to their country. It is nothing less than to consolidate and to preserve the blessings of that revolution which, at much expense of blood and treasure, constituted us a free and independent nation … that the essential principles of a free government confine the province of the military when called forth on such occasions, to these two objects. First – to combat, and subdue all who may be found in arms in opposition to the National Will and authority. Secondly – to aid and support the civil magistrate in bringing offenders to justice.’
The President ‘prepared for my return to Philadelphia in order to meet Congress, and to attend to the Civil duties of my Office’, arriving there on August 28th.
Hamilton prepared the final instructions to the commander-in-chief, General Lee, that
‘the objects for which the militia have been called forth are: 1. To suppress the combinations which exist in some of the western counties of Pennsylvania, in opposition to the laws laying duties upon spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills; 2. To cause the laws to be executed. These objects are to be effected in two ways: 1. By military force; 2. By judicial process, and other civil proceedings. The objects of the military force are two-fold: 1. To overcome any armed opposition which may exist; 2. To countenance and support the civil officers in the means of executing the law.’ And that ‘the objects of judiciary process and other civil proceedings shall be: 1. To bring offenders to justice; 2. To enforce penalties on delinquent distillers by suit; 3. To enforce the penalties of forfeiture on the same persons by the seizure of their stills and spirits. The better to effect these purposes, the Judge of the district, Richard Peters, Esq., and the Attorney of the district, William Rawl, Esq., accompany the army.’
Findley and Redick had returned, and on October 24th, the delegates were again called to a new meeting at Parkinson’s Ferry to hear their report of their mission and of their meeting with the President. The delegates then passed resolutions that ‘the civil authority is now fully competent to enforce the laws’, that ‘all persons who may be charged, or suspected of having committed any offence … ought immediately to surrender themselves to the civil authority’, and that ‘offices of inspection may be immediately opened’. Four delegates were appointed to deliver these resolutions to the President, but since the President had returned to Philadelphia, the resolutions were presented to General Lee.
On November 1st, Lee answered the delegates that
‘the resolutions… manifest strongly a change of sentiment in the inhabitants of this district. To what cause may truly be ascribed this favorable turn in the public mind, it is of my province to determine. Yourselves, in the conversation last evening, imputed it to the universal panic which the approach of the army of the United States had excited in the lower order of the people. If this be the ground of the late change … the moment the cause is removed, the reign of violence and anarchy will return … I shall therefore, as soon as the troops are refreshed, proceed to some central and convenient station, where I shall patiently wait until the competency of the civil authority is experimentally and unequivocally proved.’
The militia army would travel in two wings, the left wing, the militia of Virginia under General Daniel Morgan and the militia of Maryland under General Smith; and the right wing, the militia of New Jersey under Governor Howell and the militia of Pennsylvania under General Irvine. After having crossed the mountains, the two wings converged upon the Youghiogheny river, near Parkinson’s Ferry, where Peters and Rawl began the process of making preliminary investigations, obtaining witnesses and testimony.
It was estimated that 2,000 men had fled the country upon the approach of the army. Fearing another exodus from the country, if arrests were made in a haphazard fashion, a concerted effort would have to be made. Lists of suspects and witnesses were sent to army officers in the various sections where the arrests were to be made.
On November 13th, about 200 suspects were arrested, and sent to be confined by the garrison at Pittsburgh, until they were to appear before the judiciary. Of these, 17 men were sent as prisoners to stand trial in Philadelphia.
On November 19th, the army began its return march to Philadelphia, with General Morgan remaining behind with 1200 men. The army arrived at Philadelphia on December 25th with the 20 prisoners, who were put in prison, with 5 other insurgents. Of these 25 men, only 10 would be tried for treason, and 2 would be found guilty, to be hung. (On November 2nd President Washington would pardon both of them.)
In his speech on the opening of Congress on November 19th, President Washington was able to inform them of the commencement, progress and putting down the insurrection in western Pennsylvania (with a condemnation of certain self created societies) and also to announce, with great satisfaction, the successful campaign of General Wayne against the hostile Indians northwest of the Ohio.
The Senate’s reply to the President’s speech echoed his attack on the self created societies, that
‘our anxiety arising from the licentious and open resistance to the laws in the western counties of Pennsylvania has been increased by the proceedings of certain self created societies … founded in political error, calculated, if not intended, to disorganize the government, and which, by inspiring delusive hopes of support, have been influential in misleading our fellow citizens in the scene of insurrection … our warm and cordial acknowledgements are due to you, Sir, for the wisdom and decision with which you arrayed the militia, to execute the public will.’
The House of Representatives’ reply to the President’s address (written by Madison) made no mention of placing blame on the self created societies, but instead expressed their concern, regret, grief, lamenting and deploring that the insurrection happened, that
‘we learn, with the greatest concern, that any misrepresentations whatever, of the government and its proceedings, either by individuals or combinations of men, should have been made … we feel, with you, the deepest regret at so painful an occurrence … as men regardful of the tender interests of humanity, we look with grief at scenes which might have stained our land with civil blood. As lovers of public order, we lament that it has suffered so flagrant a violation; as zealous friends of republican government, we deplore every occasion which, in the hands of its enemies, may be turned into a calumny against it.’
Madison wrote in a letter to James Monroe on December 4th,
‘that you will readily understand the business detailed in the newspapers, relating to the denunciation of the ‘Self created Societies’. The introduction of it by the President was perhaps the greatest error of his political life. For his sake, as well as for a variety of obvious reasons, I wish’d it might be passed over in silence by the H. of Reps. The answer was penned with that view.’
Jefferson wrote in a letter to Madison on December 28th, a diatribe against the attack on the societies that,
‘the denunciation of the democratic societies is one of the extraordinary acts of boldness of which we have seen so many from the faction of Monocrats. It is wonderful indeed that the President should have permitted himself to be the organ of such an attack on the freedom of discussion, the freedom of writing, printing & publishing … the excise-law is an infernal one. The first error was to admit it by the constitution. The 2d. to act on that admission. The 3d. & last will be to make it the instrument of dismembering the Union, & setting us all afloat to chuse which part of it we will adhere to.’
Between January 19th and April 1st 1795, Randolph would write 13 letters, signed Germanicus, to the American Daily Advertiser, that defended the government’s actions and attacked the Democratic societies.
4.10. The Signing of the Treaty of Greenville and of Jay’s Treaty, August 1795
On November 19th 1794, a ‘Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation’ – of 28 articles – was signed in London, by John Jay and William Grenville, the American and British negotiators.
Upon receiving news of Jay’s mission to London, the Spanish government became very worried about a possible British-American alliance – ‘England was already acting as if she intended to declare war on us (Spain) on some pretext or other, as soon as she should have taken possession of the enemy (French) islands and all the commerce of France, and to throw herself on our possessions in America … if they (United States) were with us against England, in addition to insuring our possessions on that continent and depriving the English of the great assistance which they got from those provinces in the war before the last, could enable us to count on them for our own defence, and for offence against the enemy.’ The king of Spain was now willing to settle the boundary question and of the navigation of the Mississippi on the basis of a Spanish-American alliance. (This was occurring even while the Spanish attache in Philadelphia was conspiring with the ‘whiskey’ rebels.)
On November 21st, in response to a request from Spain that they were ready to treat with the United States but that it was impossible to conclude anything with the current commissioners, William Short and William Carmichael, President Washington nominated Thomas Pinckney to be the United States Commissioner Plenipotentiary to Spain ‘for the purpose of negotiating of and concerning the navigation of the river Mississippi, and such other matters relative to the confines of their territories.’
On December 1st, Alexander Hamilton would resign as the Secretary of the Treasury, but not before he had presented to Congress, on January 20th 1795, his plan for the further support of public credit as a continuation of the financial system that he had designed for the nation. Oliver Wolcott was appointed the new treasury secretary.
On December 28th 1794, Henry Knox would resign as the Secretary of War – ‘the natural and powerful claims of a numerous family will no longer permit me to neglect their essential interests.’ Timothy Pickering was appointed the new secretary of war.
On February 17th 1795, President Washington sent to Congress ‘two acts of the State of Georgia (passed on December 28th 1794 and January 7th 1795) for appropriating and selling the Indian lands within the territorial limits claimed by the state’. The first act laid out the process for sale and survey of six new districts – one district in the Tallassee country, lying between the rivers Altamaha and St. Mary’s; and five districts in the territory lying between the rivers Oconee and the Oakmulgee. It also enacted that ‘the Representatives and Senators of the state of Georgia, in the Congress of the United States, ‘to apply for a treaty to be held with such tribes or nations of Indians who may claim the right of soil to such lands’ and ‘that three commissioners be appointed to attend any treaty to be held under the authority of the United States, for the purpose of extinguishing the Indian claims to the territory’.
However, the second supplementary act asserted that ‘the right of pre-emption to vacant and unappropriated lands lying westwardly and southwestwardly of the present Indian temporary line … is in the state of Georgia only’. And therefore, that the state of Georgia could sell 34 million acres of land for a cent and a half per acre to four companies – the Upper Mississippi Company, the Tennessee Company, the Georgia Mississippi Company and the Georgia Company (for $250,000) – for $500,000.
In response to these acts, on February 27th, the Senate passed an act ‘to prevent depredations on the Indians south of the river Ohio’, but the act was rejected by the House of Representatives. And, on March 2nd the House passed an act to ‘authorize the President of the United States to obtain a cession of claim to certain territory’ in the state of Georgia, but the act was not passed in the Senate.
On March 5th, President Washington wrote to Pickering that
‘Congress having closed their late session without coming to any specified determination with respect to the Georgia sale of Lands and the application for the extinguishment of the Indian rights to those Lands … it has become indispensably necessary for the Executive to take up the subject upon a full & comprehensive scale, that some systematic plan may be resolved on, & steadily pursued during the recess.’
Before the Senate adjourned on March 3rd, President Washington had asked the Senate to attend a special session on June 8th, to deal with ‘certain matters affecting the public good’, by which time he hoped that the treaty that was negotiated by Jay would have arrived. Four days later, after a long delay caused by a harrowing, three-month voyage, on March 7th 1795, President Washington received a copy of the treaty that was negotiated by Jay. (Jay conceded to President Washington that ‘to do more was impossible.’)
One of the articles stated that ‘His Majesty will withdraw all his troops and garrisons from all posts within the boundary lines assigned by the treaty of peace to the United States … to take place on or before the 1st day of June, 1796.’ It also agreed to negotiations to establish the north-west boundary between the Lake of the Woods and the source of the Mississippi; and the north-east boundary line between Maine and New Brunswick. Americans would be reimbursed for the ships and cargoes that had been seized by the order-in-council, but (article 12) they would be allowed to trade with the West Indies, but only in ships of 70 tons and under.
Jay arrived back in New York on May 28th, and found that during his absence in London, he had been elected Governor of New York. In consequence, he resigned the office of Chief Justice of the United States. Thomas Pinckney had been the American minister to Great Britain and he had assisted Jay in whatever way he could with his treaty negotiations. After Jay left London on April 12th 1795 to return to the United States, Pinckney, who was now the United States Commissioner Plenipotentiary to Spain, left London on May 15th to travel to Madrid to begin negotiations with the Spanish court, under Manuel de Godoy, Duque de la Alcudia.
When the Senate returned for the special session on June 8th, President Washington asked that they would ‘in their wisdom, decide whether they will advise and consent that the said treaty be made between the United States and his Britannic Majesty’. Because there was considerable danger that opposition to Article 12 might prevent the approval of the entire treaty, on June 17th, a motion was proposed
that they do consent to, and advise the President of the United States, to ratify the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, concluded at London, the 19th day of November, 1794, on condition that there be added to the said Treaty an article whereby it shall be agreed to suspend the operation of so much of the 12th article as respects the trade which his said Majesty thereby consents may be carried on between the United States and his Islands in the West Indies, in the manner, and on the terms and conditions therein specified. And the Senate recommend to the President, to proceed without delay, to further friendly negotiations with his Majesty, on the subject of the said trade, and of the terms and conditions in question.’
On June 22nd, after another week of debate on this motion, Aaron Burr proposed ‘that the further consideration of the treaty concluded at London … be postponed, and that it be recommended to the President of the United States, to proceed without delay to further friendly negotiations with his Britannic Majesty, in order to effect alterations in the said treaty’. After debate on this motion, it was defeated by a vote of 20 to 10.
Then, on June 24th, a motion was made to postpone a vote on the first (June 17th) motion and instead to vote ‘that the Senate will not consent to the ratification of the treaty of amity, commerce and navigation.’ But a vote was now taken on the original June 17th motion – the first paragraph, to consent to ratify the treaty, was agreed to by the necessary two-thirds majority, by a vote of 20 to 10; and the second paragraph, to recommend further negotiations, was unanimously agreed to. The Senate adjourned on June 26th and the President now had to decide, whether or not he should sign the treaty; but also, whether or not he could sign the treaty – whether or not the treaty would have to be re-negotiated.
On June 25th, President Washington also informed the Senate that he was acceding to the request from the State of Georgia for a treaty to be held with the Indians, on condition that ‘any cession or relinquishment of the Indian claims shall be made in the general terms of the treaty of New York (of August 7th 1790); and he nominated Benjamin Hawkins, George Clymer and Andrew Pickens as commissioners.
On June 29th, one of the senators sent a copy of Jay’s treaty to be published in a leading opposition paper in Philadelphia – Benny Bache’s ‘Aurora’. Organized opposition to the treaty now came from the ‘republican’ party, with meetings being held in a number of cities, to demand ‘no’ to its ratification.
On July 3rd, President Washington wrote to Hamilton, (and included with the letter, a copy of the treaty and of the Senate resolution), to ask his opinion of Jay’s treaty, that
‘It is not the opinions of those who were determined (before it was promulgated) to support, or oppose it, that I am sollicitous to obtain; for these I well know rarely do more than examine the side to which they lean; without giving the reverse the consideration it deserves; possibly without a wish to be apprised of the reasons, on which the objections are founded. My desire is to learn from dispassionate men, who have knowledge of the subject, and abilities to judge of it, the genuine opinion they entertain of each article of the instrument; and the result of it in the aggregate’.
Hamilton immediately replied to the President in three letters, written July 9th to 11th, giving his reasoning of the treaty – article by article, which was then followed by a general conclusion. Regarding the controversial article 12, he wrote that
‘this article is in my judgment an exceptionable one. The principle of a restriction upon anything which is not the produce of the Treaty itself is unprecedented & wrong. Had it been confined to articles from the British Islands it would have been justified, but extending to articles from other Countries and according to the letter to one which is the growth of our own Country, it appeared to me from the beginning inadmissible … I do justice to Mr. Jays reasoning on this subject … that it was of importance by a formal Treaty to establish the precedent of a breach in the navigation system of Great Britain which might be successively widened.’
Hamilton concluded that
‘the truly important side of this Treaty is that it closes and, upon the whole as reasonably as could have been expected, the controverted points between the two Countries – and thereby gives us the prospect of repossessing our Western Posts, an object of primary consequence in our affairs – of escaping finally from being implicated in the dreadful war which is ruining Europe – and of preserving ourselves in a state of peace for a considerable time to come … It is conceived therefore upon the whole to be the true interest of the United States to close the present Treaty with Great Britain in the manner advised by the Senate.’
The situation now became more complicated when it was reported that the British navy had begun to capture cargoes of grain in American ships sailing to France, under the new British order-in-council of April 25th. On July 12th, Randolph proposed to President Washington that he would inform Hammond, the British minister to the United States, that the President was willing to sign the treaty without submitting the new version of article 12 to the Senate, but that he would not sign it as long as the new British order-in-council remained in effect. The President approved this plan, and Randolph met with Hammond the next day.
On July 15th, President Washington left for Mount Vernon, without having taken any action on the treaty. On July 22nd President Washington wrote to Randolph that
‘My opinion respecting the treaty is the same now that it was, namely, not favorable to it, but that it is better to ratify it in the manner the Senate have advised, and with the reservation already mentioned, than to suffer matters to remain as they are, unsettled.’
On July 22nd, Hamilton began writing 28 letters (along with 10 other letters written by Rufus King) signed Camillus, and published in the New Daily Advertiser and, later, the New York Herald, to answer the ‘republican’ opposition to the treaty. In the first ‘Defence’, Hamilton noted that
‘there are three persons prominent in the public eye as the successor of the actual President of the United States in the event of his retreat from the station: Mr. Adams, Mr. Jay, Mr. Jefferson. No one has forgotten the systematic pains which have been taken to impair the well earned popularity of the first gentleman. Mr. Jay has been repeatedly the objects of attacks with the same view.’
On July 29th, President Washington wrote to Hamilton that
‘I have seen with pleasure, that a writer in one of the New York papers under the Signature of Camillus, has promised to answer – or rather to defend the treaty which has been made with Great Britain. To judge of this work from the first number, which I have seen, I auger well of the performance; and shall expect to see the subject handled in a clear, distinct and satisfactory manner’.
On July 31st, the Secretary of War, Timothy Pickering, wrote to President Washington, who was at Mount Vernon, to entreat ‘that you return with all convenient speed to the seat of government’. The President arrived in Philadelphia on August 11th and was shown a dispatch from the French minister, related to the western insurrection.
[Note: A dispatch to his government, written by Jean Antoine Joseph Fauchet, the French minister to America, had been found on board a French corvette, that had been captured by a British frigate on March 28th, and which was transmitted to the British government. Lord Grenville, finding that it contained passages relating to the intercourse of Mr. Randolph, the American secretary of state, with Mr. Fauchet, had sent it to Mr. Hammond, the British minister in Philadelphia. Hammond put it into the hands of Mr. Wolcott, the secretary of the treasury, who had shown it to the secretary of war, Mr. Pickering, and the attorney general, Mr. Bradford. The translation read
‘Two or three days before the proclamation was published, and of course before the cabinet had resolved on its measures, the secretary of state came to my house. All his countenance was grief. He requested of me a private conversation. It was all over, he said to me; a civil war is about to ravage our unhappy country. Four men, by their talents, their influence, and their energy, may save it. But, debtors of English merchants, they will be deprived of their liberty if they take the smallest step. Could you lend them instantaneously funds to shelter them from English prosecution?’]
On August 12th, President Washington met with his cabinet about the question of immediate ratification of Jay’s treaty. All the members were in favor, excepting Randolph, who pronounced it unadvisable until the British order-in-council was revoked, and there should be an end of the war between France and England. After a debate on what should be done, and since Hammond was set to leave the United States on August 15th to return to London, the cabinet agreed to send a letter to Hammond that ‘the President … has after duly appreciating the importance of closing all differences, determined to ratify the treaty in the manner advised and consented to by the Senate’.
On August 14th, President Washington ‘having seen and considered the Treaty and additional Article aforesaid, do in pursuance of the aforesaid advice and consent of the Senate of the United States of America, by these presents, ratify, accept and confirm the said Treaty and the said Additional Article’ (i.e. to suspend part of the 12th article), signed the treaty of amity, commerce and navigation between the United States and Great Britain.
On August 19th, with the matter of the treaty being settled, when Randolph entered the cabinet, the President handed Randolph the intercepted dispatch and asked for an explanation. Randolph would not answer until he should have time to examine the letter at his leisure, but observed that after the treatment he had experienced (that the inquiry had not first been made of him in private), that he could not think of remaining in office a moment longer, and on August 20th, Randolph resigned as Secretary of State.
Then, on September 11th, President Washington would be informed by Pickering of the welcome news that Wayne had negotiated a peace treaty with the western nations of Indians.
The winter of 1794-95 had been extremely hard for the Miamis and Shawanees, whose villages and corn-fields along the Maumee river valley had been destroyed by Wayne’s Legion, and who were now huddled together (2500 of them) at Swan creek, and receiving inadequate provisions from the depleted stores of the British Indian Department at Detroit. Even after their meeting at Big Rock with Simcoe, they had a growing distrust of any promises of military assistance from the equivocating British, and a growing desire to negotiate a peace with Wayne and the United States. A message was sent to Wayne from some of the chiefs and sachems at Sandusky ‘to know their sentiments from the bottom of their hearts and upon what terms they would make peace with us the Indians.’
Wayne sent back a message that
‘the promise you make that you will tell your warriors to lay down their hatchets and not to strike us any more is very pleasing to me. I will now on my part order my warriors not to strike any of your peaceable people but to receive them with friendship and treat them with kindness … In order to convince you how you have been imposed upon by Governor Simcoe, Colonel McKee and others at the Foot of the Rapids of the Miamis of the Lake, I herewith transmit to you a copy of a letter from Lord Dorchester the British Governor of all Canada dated Quebec 6th October 1794 … you will see that what Governor Simcoe, Colonel McKee and Captain Brant told you on or about the 10th of the same month at the Big Rock at the mouth of the Detroit river was not true, you therefore cannot come forward too soon in order to agree with the chiefs of other nations upon the time of holding a general treaty, for the purpose of removing all causes of controversy, and establishing a permanent peace between the United States of America and the Indians northwest of the Ohio.’
On January 19th 1795, a delegation of Chippewas, Potawatomies, Sacs and Miamis arrived at Greene Ville for a conference with Wayne. The delegates were feted and given gifts of clothing for themselves and their wives. They agreed that ‘until articles for a permanent peace shall be adjusted, agreed to, and signed, all hostilities shall cease’ and they would meet at Greene Ville on June 15th to consult and conclude upon terms of amity and peace.
On February 7th, Blue Jacket, the Shawnee war chief, along with 50 of his warriors from Swan creek arrived at Greene Ville to meet Wayne, signed the preliminary treaty to end hostilities and agreed to the conference in June.
By the middle of June, Brant arrived at the Huron village at Big Rock for the council with the western Indian confederacy, but no one was there – all the important men of the tribes had gone to the council at Greene Ville. Brant realized that he would have no influence with the western Indians and he returned home.
By early June, a number of Delaware, Ottawa, Potawatomie, and Eel River Indians had begun arriving at Greene Ville and General Wayne met them in general council for the first time on June 16th. More delegates arrived each day and were again greeted by Wayne. After the celebrations on the 4th of July, the council was again held on July 9th and it was agreed to await the arrival of the Wyandots of Sandusky, who arrived on the 12th, and the Shawanese, who arrived on the 18th, led by Blue Jacket. The council finally began on July 20th.
Wayne opened by reading his message to the northwest Indians of August 13th 1794, and he read and explained to them the treaty of fort Harmar. Wayne later also read the part of the treaty of 1783 showing that Great Britain had surrendered this land to the United States; and read the part of Jay’s treaty where the British promised to retire from all places south of the lakes. On July 17th, Wayne read and commented upon the articles of the proposed treaty, and the Indian delegates began their deliberations. There were now over 1130 Indians present – 240 Potawatomie, 180 Wyandot, 381 Delaware, 143 Shawanee, 73 Miami and Eel River, 45 Ottawa, 46 Chippewa, 12 Wea and Piankeshaw, and 10 Kaskaskia.
On August 3rd the treaty was signed that ‘henceforth, all hostilities shall cease; peace is hereby established, and shall be perpetual; and a friendly intercourse shall take place between the said United States and Indian Tribes.’ The boundaries were agreed to and the United States delivered to the Indian tribes a quantity of goods to the value of $20,000, and promised every year like useful goods of the value of $9,500.
4.11. The Recall of Monroe, July 8th 1796
Often the President had sought the help of Madison when he was preparing his address to Congress, but no longer having that same confidence in Madison’s opinion, this time he turned instead to Hamilton for assistance. On August 31st, President Washington wrote to Hamilton that ‘Altho’ you are not in the Administration – a thing I sincerely regret – I must, nevertheless, (knowing how intimately acquainted you are with all the concerns of this country) request the favor of you to note down such occurrences as, in your opinion, are proper subjects for communication to Congress at their next Session; and particularly as to the manner in which this treaty should be brought forward to that body; as it will, in any aspect it is susceptible of receiving, be the source of much declamation; and will, I have no doubt, produce a hot Session.’ Hamilton replied that ‘I beg Sir that you will at no time have any scruple about commanding me. I shall always with pleasure comply with your commands.’
On October 29th, President Washington provided Hamilton with an outline of subjects for his address at the opening of Congress. He would also ask Hamilton’s advice on appointing a new Secretary of State – since the resignation of Randolph on August 20th, Pickering was acting (ad interim) Secretary; and on appointing a new Attorney General – William Bradford suddenly died on August 23rd.
On December 8th, President Washington addressed Congress and reported that
‘the termination of the long, expensive, and distressing war in which we have been engaged with certain Indians northwest of the Ohio is placed in the option of the United States by a treaty which the commander of our army has concluded provisionally with the hostile tribes in that region’; that ‘the Creek and Cherokee Indians, who alone of the southern tribes had annoyed our frontiers, have lately confirmed their pre-existing treaties with us, and were giving evidence of a sincere disposition to carry them into effect by the surrender of the prisoners and property they had taken’; that ‘the Emperor of Morocco announces to me his recognition of our treaty with his father, the late Emperor, and consequently the continuance of peace with that power’; that ‘the latest advices from our envoy at the Court of Madrid give, moreover, the pleasing information that he had assurances of speedy and satisfactory conclusion of his negotiation’; that you ‘are apprised of a treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation has been negotiated with Great Britain, and that the Senate have advised and consented to its ratification upon a condition which excepts part of one article’; and that ‘the part of our country which was lately the scene of disorder and insurrection now enjoys the blessings of quiet and order. The misled have abandoned their errors, and pay the respect to our Constitution and laws which is due from good citizens to the public authorities of the society.’
[Note: After Spain and France signed a secret treaty of Peace at Basle on July 22nd, that effectively ended the Spanish-British alliance, Godoy quickly began negotiations with Pinckney, and a ‘Treaty of Friendship, Limits and Navigation’ was signed on October 27th at San Lorenzo. The treaty gave United States a southern boundary at the 31st degree latitude, and a western boundary of the Mississippi river, and that all Spanish garrisons and troops within the American territory would be evacuated. The treaty also provided the United States with the free navigation of the Mississippi river ‘in its whole breadth from its source to the Ocean.’ The treaty would be ratified by the Senate on March 7th 1796.]
The President invited Congress ‘to join with me, in profound gratitude to the Author of all Good, for the numerous and extraordinary blessings we enjoy’, and ‘to unite our efforts to preserve, prolong, and improve our immense advantages. To cooperate with you in this desirable work is a fervent and favorite wish of my heart’, and he ended by stating that ‘temperate discussion of the important subjects which may arise in the course of the session and mutual forbearance where there is a difference of opinion are too obvious and necessary for the peace, happiness, and welfare of our country to need any recommendation of mine’. His hopes of uniting and cooperating, with temperate discussion and mutual forbearance, would not be accepted by the ‘republicans’.
Earlier on September 21st 1795, Jefferson had written to Madison that he had received 6 dozen copies of Jay’s treaty and that he also was concerned about a piece in the newspapers written by ‘Curtius’, that
‘it is evidently written by Hamilton, giving a first & general view of the subject that the public mind might be kept a little in check till he could resume the subject more at large, from the beginning, under his second signature of ‘Camillus’ … Hamilton is really a colossus to the antirepublican party. Without numbers, he is an host within himself. They have got themselves into a defile, where they might be finished; but too much security on the Republican part, will give time to his talents & indefatigableness to extricate them. We have had only midling performances to oppose to him. In truth, when he comes forward, there is nobody but yourself who can meet him … For god’s sake take up your pen, and give a fundamental reply to Curtius & Camillus.’
On October 12th 1795, a lengthy petition, that was drafted by Madison and that listed the republicans’ objections to the treaty with Great Britain, was presented to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, asking ‘that such measures towards a remedy may be pursued.’
In December, Virginia’s General Assembly resolved on four proposals for amendments to the constitution, one of which was that ‘no treaty containing any stipulation upon the powers vested in Congress by the 8th section of the 1st article of the Constitution shall become law without approval of the House of Representatives.’ These proposals were sent to the other 14 states, but found little favour. But, this argument would now become the basis for an attempt to challenge Jay’s treaty from becoming the law of the land, as proclaimed by President Washington.
On March 1st, President Washington sent copies of the ratified treaty with Great Britain to both Houses of Congress.
[Note: Because John Jay had returned to New York, and Thomas Pinckney had been sent to Spain, the exchange of treaty ratifications that was to occur in London on October 20th 1795, was left in the hands of William Deas, Pinckney’s secretary. President Washington sent instructions to John Quincy Adams, the American minister at the Hague, to go to London to attend to the exchange of ratifications and the ensuing negotiations. Adams did not receive the instructions until October 19th and would not reach London until November 11th. Deas exchanged the treaty ratifications.]
On March 2nd, Edward Livingston (NY) moved a resolution that
the President be requested to lay before this House a copy of the instructions given to the Minister of the United States who negotiated the treaty with Great Britain … together with the correspondence and other documents relative to the said treaty’. Those opposed to this resolution requested that he give the reason ‘why the application for papers was to be made’,
wanting to know if the real motive was for impeachment or for inquiry into fraud, and questioning the constitutionality of the doctrine that the House had a right to adjudge, to adopt or to reject treaties. Livingston sophistically answered that
‘he did it for the sake of information’ and that ‘it was impossible, however, to say’ to what point this information was to apply, ‘without a recurrence to those very papers’.
This resolution was intensely debated for 14 days, from March 7th until March 24th, when they voted in favour of the resolution, by 62 to 37, and the resolution was sent to the President.
Regarding this debate over the powers of Congress, Jefferson wrote to Madison on March 27th that
‘I see no harm in rendering their sanction necessary, and not much harm in annihilating the whole treaty making power, except as to making peace. If you decide in favor of your right to refuse cooperation in any case of treaty, I should wonder on what occasion it is to be used, if not on one where the rights, the interest, the honor & faith of our nation are so grossly sacrificed, where a faction has entered into conspiracy with the enemies of their country to chain down the legislature at the feet of both; where the whole mass of your constituents have condemned this work in the most unequivocal manner, and are looking to you as their last hope to save them from the effects of the avarice & corruption of the first agent, the revolutionary machinations of others, and the incomprehensible acquiescensce of the only honest man who has assented to it. I wish that his honesty and his political errors may not furnish a second occasion to exclaim “curse on his virtues, they’ve undone his country”.’
On March 30th, President Washington answered the House resolution that
‘the nature of foreign negotiations requires caution; and their success must often depend on secrecy … the necessity of such caution and secrecy was one cogent reason for vesting the power of making treaties in the President with the advice and consent of the Senate … To admit, then, a right in the House of Representatives to demand, and to have, as a matter of course, all the papers respecting a negotiation with a foreign power, would be to establish a dangerous precedent.’
He continued that ‘
it does not occur that the inspection of the papers asked for can be relative to any purpose … except that of an impeachment; which the resolution has not expressed … I have no disposition to withhold any information … and, in fact, all the papers affecting the negotiation with Great Britain were laid before the Senate, when the treaty itself was communicated for their consideration … it is essential to the due administration of the government, that the boundaries fixed by the constitution between the different departments should be preserved – a just regard to the constitution and to the duty of my office, under all the circumstances of this case, forbid a compliance with your request’.
In response to the President’s message, on April 7th, the House passed 2 resolutions, that
‘the constitution has vested the power of making treaties exclusively in the President and the Senate and that the House of Representatives do not claim an agency in making or ratifying them when made’; and that ‘when a treaty is made, which requires a law or laws to be passed to carry it into effect, that, in such case, the House of Representatives have a constitutional right to deliberate the propriety or impropriety of passing such laws, and to act thereon as the public good shall require’.
On April 13th, Congressman Sedgwick proposed the resolution that ‘provision ought to be made by law for carrying into effect, with good faith, the treaties lately concluded between the Dey and Regency of Algiers, the King of Great Britain, the King of Spain, and certain Indian tribes northwest of the Ohio’. On April 15th, resolutions were passed by the Committee of the Whole to carry into effect the treaties with King of Spain, with the Indian tribes and with the Dey and Regency of Algiers. After 12 days of debate (April 15th to 29th) the resolution to carry into effect the treaty with Great Britain was voted on and the House was divided, 49 to 49; and Chairman Muhlenberg broke the tie and voted for the resolution. A bill to make appropriations for expenses was then passed by the House on May 3rd and by the Senate on May 4th.
On May 6th, President Washington signed into law 4 acts – making appropriations to carry into effect the treaty with the King of Great Britain, the treaty with the King of Spain, the treaty with the Dey and Regency of Algiers, and the treaty with certain Indian tribes northwest of the Ohio.
On June 13, 1796, Pickering informed the President that he had written a letter to Pierre Auguste Adet, French Minister to the United States, that
‘the merchants of Philadelphia are extremely alarmed by the conduct of a small Privateer called the Flying Fish, bearing, it is understood, a Commission from the French republic … on the 9th instant, she seized on the Ship Mount Vernon … took possession of all her papers, and forced the master, mate, and all her crew, save two men to leave her’.
On June 14th Bache’s ‘Aurora’ published an article from ‘a Citizen’ (as an apology or hypothesis for the actions of the French privateer) that
‘the dispositions of France towards us are sufficiently known to convince us that it is neither their wish nor their interest to engage in hostilities with this country, but from the dissatisfaction and evident disgust which they have manifested at our late treaty with Great Britain and other acts of our government, we ought to be on our guard against such measures (short of actual hostility) as their resentment might induce them to pursue.’
On June 16th, Hamilton wrote to Washington about a conversation he had with a client of his who had seen a letter of Sonthonax (the French commissioner at Santo Domingo) that
‘a plan was adopted to seize all American vessels carrying to any English Port provisions of any kind to conduct them into some French Port … with a view to retaliate the conduct of Great Britain, to keep supplies from her, and to obtain them for themselves, and was also bottomed on some political motives not necessary to be explained.’
Hamilton added that
‘it seems to become more and more urgent that the U States should have some faithful organ near the French Government to explain their real views and ascertain those of the French. It is all important that the people should be satisfied that the Government has made every exertion to avert Rupture as early as possible’.
On June 24th, President Washington wrote to Pickering, sending a copy of the letter from Hamilton stating that
‘the information contained … may serve as a comment upon the conduct of the owner of the privateer Flying Fish; and as a development also of the intentions of the French government so far as it relates to the Commerce of the United States with Great Britain’; and also commenting that ‘the communications in the last numbers of the Aurora (that I have seen) afford still further evidence of this system, and are calculated most evidently to prepare the public mind for this event, at the same time that they labour to make it appear that the Treaty with that Country is the cause of such conduct in France.’
He asked Pickering that the cabinet ‘after mature deliberation, to report to me your opinions of the measures which you conceive ought to be adopted under such information and circumstances.’
On July 2nd, Pickering reported to the President of the cabinet’s opinion to recall Monroe, that ‘the great interests of the United States require that they have near the French Government some faithful organ to explain their real views and to ascertain those of the French.’
Pickering also enclosed a copy of a private letter from Monroe that had been received in confidence, writing that ‘this letter corresponds with other intelligence of his political opinions & conduct. A minister who has thus made the notorious enemies of the whole system of the government his confidential correspondents in matters which affect that government, cannot be relied on to do his duty to the latter.’
[Note: This letter, written by Monroe to George Logan on June 23rd 1795 (and also to other recipients, that included Aaron Burr, Edward Livingston, George Clinton and Thomas Jefferson), was printed in Bache’s ‘Aurora’ as ‘A letter from an American gentleman in France’ on August 31st 1795. This showed that Monroe was the author of the ‘anonymous’ letters from France that would appear in the ‘Aurora’.]
Additionally, earlier, on June 9th, one of the articles in Bache’s ‘Aurora’ (articles that sought to damage the president’s reputation by presenting evidence that the administration was following a vitriolic, anti-French policy) had included an unauthorized copy of a memorandum of 13 questions on neutrality and the alliance with France that President Washington had confided to his Cabinet on April 18th 1793, just prior to the publication of the Proclamation of Neutrality.
On June 19th, Jefferson wrote to President Washington (to deny any involvement in providing Bache with the private cabinet memo, and to try to cover-up his part in Madison’s attempt to abort the treaty with Great Britain) that
‘I attest everything sacred and honorable to the declaration, that it has got there neither thro’ me nor the paper confided to me … No mortal ever knew from me that these questions had been proposed … from a very early period of my life, I had laid it down as a rule of conduct never to write a word for the public papers. From this I have never departed in a single instance … I can say with truth that not a line for the press was ever communicated to me by any other: except a single petition referred for my correction; which I did not correct however, tho the contrary, as I have heard, was said in a public place, by one person through error, thro’ malice by another. I learn that this last has thought it worth his while to try to sow tares between you and me, by representing me as still engaged in the bustle of politics, and in turbulence and intrigue against the government.’.
[Jefferson was trying to provide his excuse for his involvement with Madison’s petition to the Virginia assembly. Although true, that he did not write political articles, he wrote political letters in abundance.]
On July 6th, President Washington, no longer concealing his true feelings to Jefferson, replied that
‘if I had entertained any suspicions before, that the queries which have been published in Bache’s Paper proceeded from you, the assurances you have given of the contrary, would have removed them; but the truth is, I harboured none … As you have mentioned the Subject yourself, it would not be frank, candid, or friendly to conceal, that your conduct has been represented as derogating from that opinion I had conceived you entertained of me. That to your particular friends & connexions, you have described, and they have announced me, as a person under a dangerous influence; and that, if I would listen more to some other opinions all would be well.’
‘My answer invariably has been … that if he would retrace my public conduct while he was in the Administration, abundant proofs would occur to him, that truth and right decisions were the sole objects of my pursuit; that there were as many instances within his own knowledge of my having decided against, as in favor of the opinions of the person evidently alluded to; and moreover, that I was no believer in the infallibility of the politics, or measures of any man living. In short, that I was no party man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.’
‘To this I may add, and very truly, that, until within the last year or two, I had no conception that Parties Would, or even could go, the length I have been witness to; nor did I believe until lately, that it was within the bounds of probability – hardly within that of possibility, that while I was using my utmost exertions to establish a National character of our own, independent, as far as our obligations, and justice would permit, of every Nation of the earth; and wished, by steering a steady course, to preserve this Country from the horrors of a desolating war, that I should be accused of being the enemy of one Nation, and Subject to the influence of another; and to prove it, that every act of my Administration would be tortured, and the grossest, & most insiduous misrepresentations of them be made (by giving one side only of a subject, and that too in such exagerated, & indecent term as could scarcely be applied to a Nero; a notorious defaulter; or even to a common pickpocket).’
[This would be the last personal letter that President Washington would ever write to Jefferson.]
On July 8th, President Washington replied to Pickering that
‘after that serious consideration which the subject required, I have determined to recall the American Minister at Paris; and am taking measures to supply his place … By this I mean one, who will promote, not thwart the Neutral policy of the government, and at the same time will not be obnoxious to the People among whom he is sent.’
After Charles Pinckney had accepted the offer from President Washington to be the new minister to France, on August 22nd, Pickering wrote to Monroe to inform him of his recall. Monroe wrote an infuriated reply to Pickering, and then began work on a book to attack President Washington’s reputation.
4.12. Washington’s Farewell Address, September 19th 1796
On April 8th, President Washington had sent to Congress, a message that he received from William Blount, Governor of the Territory south of the Ohio, with a return of the enumeration of its inhabitants and a printed copy of the constitution and form of government on which they have agreed – on January 11th, the General Assembly of the territory of the United States south of the river Ohio, had met to form a constitution for the permanent government of the State of Tennessee – to seek admission as a state into the Congress of the United States.
On June 1st, President Washington signed into law ‘an act for the admission of the state of Tennessee into the Union’ and Tennessee became the 16th state of the United States of America.
Also, on that same day, June 1st, as agreed to in Jay’s treaty, Dorchester issued orders for the evacuation of the British frontier posts situated on American territory – forts Ontario, Niagara, Miami, Detroit and Mackinac.
On June 6th, Lieutenant Colonel Hamtramck, commandant of fort Wayne, along with a 500-man force camped at fort Deposit on the Miami river, to be ready to occupy forts Miami, Lernoult and Mackinac. On July 7th, Hamtramck sent Captain Moses Porter and a detachment of 65 men on two schooners to Detroit. Captain Porter’s detachment marched into fort Lernoult at Detroit and took command, on July 11th, the same day that Hamtramck sent a detachment of troops to march into fort Miami and to take command. Two days later, Hamtramck arrived at Detroit and became the new commandant of fort Detroit.
[Note: Since almost all of the inhabitants of Detroit and the nearby settlements were French Canadian, the five-foot five-inch Jean Francois (John Francis) Hamtramck was well suited to be the new commandant, as he was born in Canada, joined the Continental army in 1775 and fought throughout the Revolutionary war.]
Fort Ontario at Oswego was evacuated on July 15th and fort Niagara was evacuated on August 10th. General Wayne left Greene Ville on July 16th to inspect forts Miamis and Lernoult, and he arrived at Detroit on August 13th. On August 19th, Major Burbeck was sent from Detroit with a 110-man detachment to fort Mackinac, taking command there on September 6th.
On July 25th, McHenry informed President Washington that the 3 commissioners – Hawkins, Clymer and Pickens, had negotiated a treaty of peace with the Creek Indians on June 29th. The treaty would honour the treaty of New York of August 7th 1790; a boundary line would be drawn from the Currahee mountain to the source of the main south branch of the Oconee river, and down the middle of that river; and the President would have power to establish a military post on the south side of the Altamaha river, to prevent the violation of any of the provisions or regulations. The Creeks relinquished all claims to any part of the territory, inhabited or claimed by the citizens of the United States, according to the treaties of Hopewell (with the Choctaws and Chicksaws) and Holston (with the Cherokees). The commissioners would give goods to the value of $6,000 and would send 2 blacksmiths, to be employed for the Upper and Lower Creeks, with the necessary tools. All animosities, for past grievance, should cease, except for persons now under arrest in the State of Georgia, for a violation of the treaty of New York.
On September 20th, Wayne was now able to proudly write to the new Secretary of War, James McHenry,
to announce to you the complete possession of all the posts on the American side of the line of demarcation agreeably to treaty, viz. Michilimackinac, Detroit, Miamis, Niagara & Oswego with their dependencies inclusive, which have all been surrendered up to the troops of the United States, by the respective British Commandants … An event that must naturally afford the highest pleasure and satisfaction to every friend of order and good government, and I trust will produce a conviction to the world – that the measures adopted and pursued by that great and first of men, the President of the United States – were founded in wisdom, and that the best interests of his country have been secured by that unshaken fortitude, patriotism and virtue, for which he is so universally and justly celebrated (a few Democrats excepted – and even they in their hearts must acknowledge his worth)’.
After the battle of Fallen Timbers, both Dorchester and Simcoe asked for leave to return to Britain. Dorchester left Quebec on July 9th 1796. Simcoe was to leave Quebec on August 16th, when it was learned that the ship that was carrying Dorchester had wrecked off Anticosti island (without loss of lives) and a schooner had taken them to Gaspe bay. The ship that was to take Simcoe, was now dispatched to Gaspe to take Dorchester to Halifax, where he could then take another ship to Britain. When the dispatched ship returned, Simcoe finally left Quebec on September 10th 1796.
Before returning to Pittsburgh for the winter, on November 13th Wayne left Detroit to sail on lake Erie to visit Presqu’ Isle, [the great lakes were now open to the Americans] arriving on the 18th. Wayne was stricken by his recurring gout and an intestinal disorder at Presqu’ Isle, where the General passed away on December 15th 1796.
[Note: In 1765, 20 year-old Anthony Wayne was sent by Benjamin Franklin to work for a year surveying land in Nova Scotia and he assisted with starting a settlement the following year at the Township of Moncton.]
Earlier on May 15th, President Washington had written to his trusted friend, Alexander Hamilton, to ‘redress a certain paper which you had prepared’. This referred to his earlier farewell address that Madison had written for him in June 1792. No longer having the confidence in Madison, he now asked Hamilton to help in preparing a new address, to include the changes that had taken place since 1792. By July 30th, Hamilton had sent him his first draft.
On September 19th 1796, in the Daily American Advertiser of Philadelphia, President Washington had published an address to the people of the United States (his ‘Farewell Address’) that
‘for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States … I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.’
He wrote that
‘the unity of government … is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence … In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations – northern and southern – Atlantic and western … Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened. As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit.’
He added, at length, that
‘permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded and that in place of them just and amicable feelings toward all should be cultivated … Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake … Hence therefore it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her (Europe’s) politics or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities … In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of the 22nd of April 1793 is the index to my plan … that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take – and was bound in duty and interest to take – a neutral position … With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.’
Between November 4th and December 7th 1796, the citizens of the United States voted in their third presidential election. Each of the 138 electors voted twice (at that time they did not specify which vote was for president and which vote was for vice-president), and John Adams received 71 votes, Jefferson 68, Thomas Pinckney 59 and Aaron Burr 30.
On March 4th 1797, in a peaceful transfer of power between citizens, Adams was sworn in as President and Jefferson as Vice-president, and the now, private citizen, George Washington, would retire to his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia.
On December 14th 1799, he passed away, at the age of sixty-seven. When news of his death was announced, Congress immediately adjourned. The next day, the House of Representatives resolved to shroud the Speaker’s chair and have members wear black during the remainder of the session, and a monument was planned for the capital city of Washington. A funeral procession was organized through the streets of Philadelphia, the current capital city, where soldiers fired minute guns for one hour, while church bells tolled, and musicians performed Handel’s ‘Dead March’. The oration was delivered by Congressman Henry Lee, that General Washington was ‘first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen’.
Public testimonials of grief and reverence were displayed in every part of the Union – as many as 300 ceremonies. Jefferson would not attend any of the memorial services !?!
Of all the American presidents who were slaveholders, only President Washington freed all of his own slaves – by Virginia law, he could not free those slaves that his wife had inherited. Martha Washington signed the deed of manumission for her deceased husband’s slaves and they became free on January 1st 1801.
On November 1st 1753, twenty-one year-old Major George Washington, on orders from Governor Dinwiddie, left Virginia to travel to fort Le Boeuf to demand that the French remove their forts from the Ohio country, on a journey that would begin the American fight for the Ohio, and would become the fight for independence. On March 1st 1803 – 50 years later – Ohio would become the 17th state of the United States of America.
Note: In 1772, Charles Willson Peale painted a portrait of the 40 year-old George Washington – the only likeness of him before the Revolutionary War. In his front pocket is a paper headed ‘Order of March’ – from Governor Dinwiddie.
At his side is the same sword that he was to wear when he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief in 1783, and when he was inaugurated as president in 1789.
(1) On June 3rd 1784, the Continental Congress authorized the establishment of a 700-man army, the First American Regiment, to be stationed at the various posts along the Ohio river to protect the frontier settlements.
(2) A quick glance at the boundary line of the treaties, would appear to indicate that the American Congress intended to proceed with settlements along all the rivers that flowed south into the Ohio river, while reserving for the western Indian nations, all of the lands along those rivers that flowed north into the Great lakes.
(3) ‘for the support of government, for the discharge of the debts … and the encouragement and protection of manufactures’
(4) After John Jay had refused the appointment as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, he continued to serve as the temporary Secretary until Jefferson, who was in France, returned to the United States, finally arriving in New York on March 22nd 1790.
(5) At the Falls of the Ohio, Louisville and Fort Nelson, on the south side of the Ohio river, were part of Kentucky county Virginia. But Clarksville was on the opposite shore, on the north side of the Ohio river and therefore part of the Northwest Territory.
(6) On November 17th 1785, the Indian Commissioners, sent by Congress, could not treat with the Creeks because chiefs from only 2 towns (out of the almost 100 Creek towns) were present. The commissioners from Georgia however, signed a treaty with these two delegates – but the treaty was not recognized as legitimate by McGillivray or the chiefs of the Creek nation.
(7) Dragging Canoe and his band of Cherokees, who supported the British in the Revolutionary war, had moved westward and away from the other Cherokee towns and settled near Chickamauga Creek, and were afterwards referred to as the Chickamaugas.
(8) While the United States considered their southern boundary with Spanish Florida to be 31º at Natchez, Spain considered the boundary to be 32º 22` – at the mouth of the Yazoo river. Georgia’s Yazoo land sales used the border claimed by Spain (perhaps to avoid any conflict until a settlement could be reached).
(9) South Carolina ceded its frontier territory to the federal government in 1787, and North Carolina ceded its territory in 1789, but Georgia would not cede its frontier territory until 1804.
(10) Philadelphia would become the federal capital for the next 10 years, while a new capital was being built on 100 square miles of land near the mouth of the Potomac river – land that was ceded to the federal government by the states of Virginia and Maryland. In 1846, the United States government agreed to return the ceded land southwest of the Potomac river, back to the state of Virginia.
(11) Jacques Necker was not Swiss, but was a citizen of Geneva. Geneva was an oligarchically-controlled city-state that did not become a member of the Swiss confederacy until 1815, as part of the settlement of the Congress of Vienna. Jean-Paul Marat was not Swiss, but was born in Boudry, in Neuchatel, a principality that was ruled by the King of Prussia. After his father converted to Calvinism he moved the family to Geneva. Neuchatel became part of the Swiss confederacy in 1814.Baron Besenval of Bronstadt, who commanded the foreign troops at the Bastille, was born in Solothurn in the Swiss confederacy, but his real pedigree can be traced to his serving as the aide-de-camp to the Duke of Orleans during the Seven Years War.
(12) Society of Friends of the Rights of Man met at the former monastery of the Franciscans – called cordeliers due to their corded belts. The leaders (Marat, Danton and Desmoulins) lived in the Cordeliers section, and the club became known as the Cordeliers.
(13) Society of Friends of the Constitution met at the former monastery of the Dominicans – called Jacobins because their original residence had been on Rue de St. Jacques, and the club became known as the Jacobins. Barnave and the new group met at the former monastery of the Feuillant monks and became known as the Feuillants. Brissot had lived for a few years in London (1782-84) where he met Jeremy Bentham.
(14) Duportail had been the chief engineer of the Continental army under General Washington.
(15) Earlier in October 1787, the Austrian army had invaded the United Belgian States to suppress the revolt against Hapsburg rule, and in October 1790 the Prussian army had invaded the Netherlands to crush the Patriots and to restore the House of Orange. In May 1792, Russia would invade the Republic of Poland to end the new Polish constitution of May 3rd 1791. (Prussia and Russia would later sign a treaty in January 1793 to partition Poland.)
(16) President Washington would send 2310 guilders to Amsterdam, for Lafayette’s wife, to assist them.
(17) France would annex the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) in February 1793.)
(18) After elections from 130 cities to the Rhenish German National Convention, the President, Andreas Hofmann proclaimed the Rhenish-German Free State on March 17th 1793.)
(19) At the first alarm of Wayne’s approach, all 108 Canadians deserted and fled back to Detroit.
Treason in America, by Anton Chaitkin
Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio 1778-1783, by William English
The Ohio Country between the years 1783 and 1815, by Charles Slocum
President Washington’s Indian War, the Struggle for the old Northwest 1790-1795, by Wiley Sword
A Man of Distinction Among Them, Alexander McKee and the Ohio Country Frontier, by Larry Nelson
John Graves Simcoe, by Mary Fryer and Christopher Dracott
Joseph Brant, Man of Two Worlds, by Isabel Kelsay
William Augustus Bowles, by J. Leitch Wright
McGillivray of the Creeks, by John Coughey
Anthony Wayne, a Name in Arms, by Richard Knopf
The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair, by William Smith
Life of George Washington, volume 5, by Washington Irving
Pinckney’s Treaty, by Samuel Flagg Bemis
Jay’s Treaty, by Samuel Flagg Bemis
Citizens, by Simon Schama
Canada’s Forgotten Slaves, by Marcel Trudel
The Haitian Revolution, by Thomas Ott
Bury the Chains, by Adam Hochschild
Rough Crossings, by Simon Schama
Library of Congress – Journals of Congress & American State Papers: Indian Affairs
Michigan Pioneer & Historical Society – Historical Collections, volume 20, 24 & 25, edited by Agnes Burton
Territorial Papers of the United States – volume 2 & 4, edited by Clarence Carter
Correspondence of Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe – volume 1,2 & 3, edited by E. A. Cruikshank
Great Britain Colonial Office: Canada, formerly British North America, Original Correspondence (CO 42)