Winning the West, Volume 4.
Table of Contents
- IV. The Purchase of Louisiana; and Burr's Conspiracy, 1803-1807
- V. The Explorers of the Far West, 1804-1807
THIS volume covers the period which opened with the checkered but finally successful war waged by the United States Government against the Northwestern Indians, and closed with the acquisition and exploration of the vast region that lay beyond the Mississippi. It was during this period that the West rose to real power in the Union. The boundaries of the old West were at last made certain, and the new West, the Far West, the country between the Mississippi and the Pacific, was added to the national domain. The steady stream of incoming settlers broadened and deepened year by year; Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio became states, Louisiana, Indiana, and Mississippi territories. The population in the newly settled regions increased with a rapidity hitherto unexampled; and this rapidity, alike in growth of population and in territorial expansion, gave the West full weight in the national councils.
The victorious campaigns of Wayne in the north, and the innumerable obscure forays and reprisals of the Tennesseeans and Georgians in the south, so cowed the Indians, that they all, north and south alike, made peace; the first peace the border had known for fifty years. At the same time the treaties of Jay and Pinckney gave us in fact the boundaries which the peace of 1783 had only given us in name. The execution of these treaties put an end in the north to the intrigues of the British, who had stirred the Indians to hostility against the Americans; and in the south to the far more treacherous intrigues of the Spaniards, who showed astounding duplicity, and whose intrigues extended not only to the Indians but also to the baser separatist leaders among the Westerners themselves.
The cession of Louisiana followed. Its true history is to be found, not in the doings of the diplomats who determined merely the terms upon which it was made, but in the western growth of the people of the United States from 1769 to 1803, which made it inevitable. The men who settled and peopled the western wilderness were the men who won Louisiana; for it was surrendered by France merely because it was impossible to hold it against the American advance. Jefferson, through his agents at Paris, asked only for New Orleans; but Napoleon thrust upon him the great West, because Napoleon saw, what the American statesmen and diplomats did not see, but what the Westerners felt; for he saw that no European power could hold the country beyond the Mississippi when the Americans had made good their foothold upon the hither bank.
It remained to explore the unknown land; and this task fell, not to mere wild hunters, such as those who had first penetrated the wooded wilderness beyond the Alleghanies, but to officers of the regular army, who obeyed the orders of the National Government. Lewis, Clark, and Pike were the pioneers in the exploration of the vast territory the United States had just gained.
The names of the Indian fighters, the treaty-makers, the wilderness wanderers, who took the lead in winning and exploring the West, are memorable. More memorable still are the lives and deeds of the settler folk for whom they fought and toiled; for the feats of the leaders were rendered possible only by the lusty and vigorous growth of the young commonwealths built up by the throng of westward-pushing pioneers. The raw, strenuous, eager social life of these early dwellers on the western waters must be studied before it is possible to understand the conditions that determined the continual westward extension of the frontier. Tennessee, during the years immediately preceding her admission to statehood, is especially well worth study, both as a typical frontier community, and because of the opportunity afforded to examine in detail the causes and course of the Indian wars.
In this volume I have made use of the material to which reference was made in the first; beside the American State Papers, I have drawn on the Canadian Archives, the Draper Collection, including especially the papers from the Spanish archives, the Robertson MSS., and the Clay MSS. for hitherto unused matter. I have derived much assistance from the various studies and monographs on special phases of Western history; I refer to each in its proper place. I regret that Mr. Stephen B. Weeks' valuable study of the Martin family did not appear in time for me to use it while writing about the little state of Franklin, in my third volume.
Sagamore Hill, Long Island,
LOUISIANA AND AARON BURR
the purchase of louisiana; and burr's conspiracy,
A GREAT and growing race may acquire vast stretches of scantily peopled territory in any one of several ways. Often the statesman, no less than the soldier, plays an all-important part in winning the new land; nevertheless, it is usually true that the diplomatists who by treaty ratify the acquisition usurp a prominence in history to which they are in no way entitled by the real worth of their labors.
Ways in which Territorial Expansion may Take Place.
The territory may be gained by the armed forces of the nation, and retained by treaty. It was in this way that England won the Cape of Good Hope from Holland; it was in this way that the United States won New Mexico. Such a conquest is due, not to the individual action of members of the winning race, but to the nation as a whole, acting through her soldiers and statesmen. It was the English Navy which conquered the Cape of Good Hope for England; it was the English diplomats that secured its retention. So it was the American Army which added New Mexico to the United States; and its retention was due to the will of the politicians who had set that army in motion. In neither case was there any previous settlement of moment by the conquerors in the conquered territory. In neither case was there much direct pressure by the people of the conquering races upon the soil which was won for them by their soldiers and statesmen. The acquisition of the territory must be set down to the credit of these soldiers and statesmen, representing the nation in its collective capacity; though in the case of New Mexico there would of course ultimately have been a direct pressure of rifle-bearing settlers upon the people of the ranches and the mud-walled towns.
In such cases it is the government itself, rather than any individual or aggregate of individuals, which wins the new land for the race. When it is won without appeal to arms, the credit, which would otherwise be divided between soldiers and statesmen, of course accrues solely to the latter. Alaska, for instance, was acquired by mere diplomacy. No American settlers were thronging into Alaska. The desire to acquire it among the people at large was vague, and was fanned into sluggish activity only by the genius of the far-seeing statesmen who purchased it. The credit of such an acquisition really does belong to the men who secured the adoption of the treaty by which it was acquired. The honor of adding Alaska to the national domain belongs to the statesmen who at the time controlled the Washington Government. They were not figure-heads in the transaction. They were the vital, moving forces.
Victories with Which Diplomats Have no Concern.
Just the contrary is true of cases like that of the conquest of Texas. The Government of the United States had nothing to do with winning Texas for the English-speaking people of North America. The American frontiersmen won Texas for themselves, unaided either by the statesmen who controlled the politics of the Republic, or by the soldiers who took their orders from Washington.
Victories of Mixed Nature.
In yet other cases the action is more mixed. Statesmen and diplomats have some share in shaping the conditions under which a country is finally taken; in the eye of history they often usurp much more than their proper share; but in reality they are able to bring matters to a conclusion only because adventurous settlers, in defiance or disregard of governmental action, have pressed forward into the longed-for land. In such cases the function of the diplomats is one of some importance, because they lay down the conditions under which the land is taken; but the vital question as to whether the land shall be taken at all, upon no matter what terms, is answered not by the diplomats, but by the people themselves.
It was in this way that the Northwest was won from the British, and the boundaries of the Southwest established by treaty with the Spaniards. Adams, Jay, and Pinckney deserve much credit for the way they conducted their several negotiations; but there would have been nothing for them to negotiate about had not the settlers already thronged into the disputed territories or strenuously pressed forward against their boundaries.
Louisiana Really Acquired by the Western Settlers.
So it was with the acquisition of Louisiana. Jefferson, Livingston, and their fellow-statesmen and diplomats concluded the treaty which determined the manner in which it came into our possession; but they did not really have much to do with fixing the terms even of this treaty; and the part which they played in the acquisition of Louisiana in no way resembles, even remotely, the part which was played by Seward, for instance, in acquiring Alaska. If it had not been for Seward, and the political leaders who thought as he did, Alaska might never have been acquired at all; but the Americans would have won Louisiana in any event, even if the treaty of Livingston and Monroe had not been signed. The real history of the acquisition must tell of the great westward movement begun in 1769, and not merely of the feeble diplomacy of Jefferson's administration. In 1802 American settlers were already clustered here and there on the eastern fringe of the vast region which then went by the name of Louisiana. All the stalwart freemen who had made their rude clearings, and built their rude towns, on the hither side of the mighty Mississippi, were straining with eager desire against the forces which withheld them from seizing with strong hand the coveted province. They did not themselves know, and far less did the public men of the day realize, the full import and meaning of the conquest upon which they were about to enter. For the moment the navigation of the mouth of the Mississippi seemed to them of the first importance. Even the frontiersmen themselves put second to this the right to people the vast continent which lay between the Pacific and the Mississippi. The statesmen at Washington viewed this last proposition with positive alarm, and cared only to acquire New Orleans. The winning of Louisiana was due to no one man, and least of all to any statesman or set of statesmen. It followed inevitably upon the great westward thrust of the settler-folk; a thrust which was delivered blindly, but which no rival race could parry, until it was stopped by the ocean itself.
Pressure of the Backwoodsmen on the Spanish Dominions.
Louisiana was added to the United States because the hardy backwoods settlers had swarmed into the valleys of the Tennessee, the Cumberland, and the Ohio by hundreds of thousands; and had already begun to build their raw hamlets on the banks of the Mississippi, and to cover its waters with their flat-bottomed craft. Restless, adventurous, hardy, they looked eagerly across the Mississippi to the fertile solitudes where the Spaniard was the nominal, and the Indian the real, master; and with a more immediate longing they fiercely coveted the creole province at the mouth of the river.
The Mississippi formed no barrier whatsoever to the march of the backwoodsmen. It could be crossed at any point; and the same rapid current which made it a matter of extreme difficulty for any power at the mouth of the stream to send reinforcements up against the current would have greatly facilitated the movements of the Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee levies down-stream to attack the Spanish provinces. In the days of sails and oars a great river with rapid current might vitally affect military operations if these depended upon sending flotillas up or down stream. But such a river has never proved a serious barrier against a vigorous and aggressive race, where it lies between two peoples, so that the aggressors have merely to cross it. It offers no such shield as is afforded by a high mountain range. The Mississippi served as a convenient line of demarkation between the Americans and the Spaniards; but it offered no protection whatever to the Spaniards against the Americans.
Importance of New Orleans.
Therefore the frontiersmen found nothing serious to bar their farther march westward; the diminutive Spanish garrisons in the little creole towns near the Missouri were far less capable of effective resistance than were most of the Indian tribes whom the Americans were brushing out of their path. Towards the South the situation was different. The Floridas were shielded by the great Indian confederacies of the Creeks and Choctaws, whose strength was as yet unbroken. What was much more important, the mouth of the Mississippi was commanded by the important seaport of New Orleans, which was accessible to fleets, which could readily be garrisoned by water, and which was the capital of a region that by backwoods standards passed for well settled. New Orleans by its position was absolute master of the foreign, trade of the Mississippi valley; and any power in command of the seas could easily keep it strongly garrisoned. The vast region that was then known as Upper Louisiana—the territory stretching from the Mississippi to the Pacific—was owned by the Spaniards, but only in shadowy fashion, and could not have been held by any European power against the sturdy westward pressure of the rifle-bearing settlers. But New Orleans and its neighborhood were held even by the Spaniards in good earnest; while a stronger power, once in possession, could with difficulty have been dislodged.
Desire of the Settlers for it.
It naturally followed that for the moment the attention of the backwoodsmen was directed much more to New Orleans than to the trans-Mississippi territory. A few wilderness lovers like Boone, a few reckless adventurers of the type of Philip Nolan, were settling around and beyond the creole towns of the North, or were endeavoring to found small buccaneering colonies in dangerous proximity to the Spanish commanderies in the Southwest. But the bulk of the Western settlers as yet found all the vacant territory they wished east of the Mississippi. What they needed at the moment was, not more wild land, but an outlet for the products yielded by the land they already possessed. The vital importance to the Westerners of the free navigation of the Mississippi has already been shown. Suffice it to say that the control of the mouth of the great Father of Waters was of direct personal consequence to almost every tree feller, every backwoods farmer, every land owner, every townsman, who dwelt beyond the Alleghanies. These men did not worry much over the fact that the country on the farther bank of the Mississippi was still under the Spanish Flag. For the moment they did not need it, and when they did, they knew they could take it without the smallest difficulty. But the ownership of the mouth of the Mississippi was a matter of immediate importance; and though none of the settlers doubted that it would ultimately be theirs, it was yet a matter of much consequence to them to get possession of it as quickly as possible, and with as little trouble as possible, rather than to see it held, perhaps for years, by a powerful hostile nation, and then to see it acquired only at the cost of bloody, and perchance checkered, warfare.
Terror of the Spaniards.
This was the attitude of the backwoods people as with sinewy, strenuous shoulder they pressed against the Spanish boundaries. The Spanish attitude on the other hand was one of apprehension so intense that it overcame even anger against the American nation. For mere diplomacy, the Spaniards cared little or nothing; but they feared the Westerners. Their surrender of Louisiana was due primarily to the steady pushing and crowding of the frontiersmen, and the continuous growth of the Western commonwealths. In spite of Pinckney's treaty the Spaniards did not leave Natchez until fairly drowned out by the American settlers and soldiers. They now felt the same pressure upon them in New Orleans; it was growing steadily and was fast becoming intolerable. Year by year, almost month by month, they saw the numbers of their foes increase, and saw them settle more and more thickly in places from which it would be easy to strike New Orleans. Year by year the offensive power of the Americans increased in more than arithmetical ratio as against Louisiana.
Incursions of American Adventurers.
The more reckless and lawless adventurers from time to time pushed southwest, even toward the borders of Texas and New Mexico, and strove to form little settlements, keeping the Spanish Governors and Intendants in a constant fume of anxiety. One of these settlements was founded by Philip Nolan, a man whom rumor had connected with Wilkinson's intrigues, and who, like many another lawless trader of the day, was always dreaming of empires to be carved from, or wealth to be won in, the golden Spanish realms. In the fall of 1800, he pushed beyond the Mississippi with a score or so of companions, and settled on the Brazos. The party built pens or corrals, and began to catch wild horses, for the neighborhood swarmed not only with game but with immense droves of mustangs. The handsomest animals they kept and trained, letting the others loose again. The following March these tamers of wild horses were suddenly set upon by a body of Spaniards, three hundred strong, with one field-piece. The assailants made their attack at daybreak, slew Nolan, and captured his comrades, who for many years afterwards lived as prisoners in the Mexican towns. The menace of such buccaneering movements kept the Spaniards alive to the imminent danger of the general American attack which they heralded.
Spain's Colonial system.
Spain watched her boundaries with the most jealous care. Her colonial system was evil in its suspicious exclusiveness towards strangers; and her religious system was marked by an intolerance still almost as fierce as in the days of Torquemada. The Holy Inquisition was a recognized feature of Spanish political life; and the rulers of the Spanish-American colonies put the stranger and the heretic under a common ban. The reports of the Spanish ecclesiastics of Louisiana dwelt continually upon the dangers with which the oncoming of the backwoodsmen threatened the Church no less than the State.All the men in power, civil, military, and religious alike, showed towards strangers, and especially towards American strangers, a spirit which was doubly unwise; for by their jealousy they created the impression that the lands they so carefully guarded must hold treasures of great price; and by their severity they created an anger which when fully aroused they could not well quell. The frontiersmen, as they tried to peer into the Spanish dominions, were lured on by the attraction they felt for what was hidden and forbidden; and there was enough danger in the path to madden them, while there was no exhibition of a strength sufficient to cow them.
Spain Wishes a Barrier against American Advance.
The Spanish rulers realized fully that they were too weak effectively to cope with the Americans, and as the pressure upon them grew ever heavier and more menacing they began to fear not only for Louisiana but also for Mexico. They clung tenaciously to all their possessions; but they were willing to sacrifice a part, if by so doing they could erect a barrier for the defence of the remainder. Such a chance was now seemingly offered them by France.
Napoleon's Dreams of Empire.
At the beginning of the century Napoleon was First Consul; and the France over which he ruled was already the mightiest nation in Europe, and yet had not reached the zenith of her power. It was at this time that the French influence over Spain was most complete. Both the Spanish King and the Spanish people were dazzled and awed by the splendor of Napoleon's victories. Napoleon's magnificent and wayward genius was always striving after more than merely European empire. As throne after throne went down before him he planned conquests which should include the interminable wastes of snowy Russia, and the sea-girt fields of England; and he always dreamed of yet vaster, more shadowy triumphs, won in the realms lying eastward of the Mediterranean, or among the islands and along the coasts of the Spanish Main. In 1800 his dream of Eastern conquest was over, but his lofty ambition was planning for France the re-establishment in America of that colonial empire which a generation before had been wrested from her by England.
The Treaty of San Ildefonso.
The need of the Spaniards seemed to Napoleon his opportunity. By the bribe of a petty Italian principality he persuaded the Bourbon King of Spain to cede Louisiana to the French, at the treaty of San Ildefonso, concluded in October, 1800. The cession was agreed to by the Spaniards on the express pledge that the territory should not be transferred to any other power; and chiefly for the purpose of erecting a barrier which might stay the American advance, and protect the rest of the Spanish possessions.
The Right of Deposit Annulled.
Every effort was made to keep the cession from being made public, and owing to various political complications it was not consummated for a couple of years; but meanwhile it was impossible to prevent rumors from going abroad, and the mere hint of such a project was enough to throw the West into a fever of excitement. Moreover, at this moment, before the treaty between France and Spain had been consummated, Morales, the Intendant of New Orleans, deliberately threw down the gage of battle to the Westerners. On October 16, 1802, he proclaimed that the Americans had forfeited their right of deposit in New Orleans. By Pinckney's treaty this right had been granted for three years, with the stipulation that it should then be extended for a longer period, and that if the Spaniards chose to revoke the permit so far as New Orleans was concerned, they should make some other spot on the river a port of free entry. The Americans had taken for granted that the privilege when once conferred would never be withdrawn; but Morales, under pretence that the Americans had slept on their rights by failing to discover some other spot as a treaty port, declared that the right of deposit had lapsed, and would not be renewed. The Governor, Salcedo—who had succeeded Gayoso, when the latter died of yellow fever, complicated by a drinking-bout with Wilkinson—was not in sympathy with the movement; but this mattered little. Under the cumbrous Spanish colonial system, the Governor, though he disapproved of the actions of the Intendant, could not reverse them, and Morales paid no heed to the angry protests of the Spanish Minister at Washington, who saw that the Americans were certain in the end to fight rather than to lose the only outlet for the commerce of the West. It seems probable that the Intendant's action was due to the fact that he deemed the days of Spanish dominion numbered, and, in his jealousy of the Americans, wished to place the new French authorities in the strongest possible position; but the act was not done with the knowledge of France.
Anger of the Westerners.
Of this, however, the Westerners were ignorant. They felt sure that any alteration in policy so fatal to their interests must be merely a foreshadowing of the course the French intended thereafter to follow. They believed that their worst fears were justified. Kentucky and Tennessee clamored for instant action, and Claiborne offered to raise in the Mississippi territory alone a force of volunteer riflemen sufficient to seize New Orleans before its transfer into French hands could be effected.
Jefferson Forced into Action.
Jefferson was President, and Madison Secretary of State. Both were men of high and fine qualities who rendered, at one time or another, real and great service to the country. Jefferson in particular played in our political life a part of immense importance. But the country has never had two statesmen less capable of upholding the honor and dignity of the nation, or even of preserving its material well-being, when menaced by foreign foes. They were peaceful men, quite unfitted to grapple with an enemy who expressed himself through deeds rather than words. When stunned by the din of arms they showed themselves utterly inefficient rulers.
It was these two timid, well-meaning statesmen who now found themselves pitted against Napoleon, and Napoleon's Minister, Talleyrand; against the greatest warrior and lawgiver, and against one of the greatest diplomats, of modern times; against two men, moreover, whose sodden lack of conscience was but heightened by the contrast with their brilliant genius and lofty force of character; two men who were unable to so much as appreciate that there was shame in the practice of venality, dishonesty, mendacity, cruelty, and treachery.
Jefferson was the least warlike of presidents, and he loved the French with a servile devotion. But his party was strongest in precisely those parts of the country where the mouth of the Mississippi was held to be of right the property of the United States; and the pressure of public opinion was too strong for Jefferson to think of resisting it. The South and the West were a unit in demanding that France should not be allowed to establish herself on the lower Mississippi. Jefferson was forced to tell his French friends that if their nation persisted in its purpose America would be obliged to marry itself to the navy and army of England. Even he could see that for the French to take Louisiana meant war with the United States sooner or later; and as above all things else he wished peace, he made every effort to secure the coveted territory by purchase.
Beginning of Negotiations with France.
Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York represented American interests in Paris; but at the very close of the negotiation he was succeeded by Monroe, whom Jefferson sent over as a special envoy. The course of the negotiations was at first most baffling to the Americans. Talleyrand lied with such unmoved calm that it was impossible to put the least weight upon anything he said; moreover, the Americans soon found that Napoleon was the sole and absolute master, so that it was of no use attempting to influence any of his subordinates, save in so far as these subordinates might in their turn influence him. For some time it appeared that Napoleon was bent upon occupying Louisiana in force and using it as a basis for the rebuilding of the French colonial power. The time seemed ripe for such a project. After a decade of war with all the rest of Europe, France in 1802 concluded the Peace of Amiens, which left her absolutely free to do as she liked in the New World. Napoleon thoroughly despised a republic, and especially a republic without an army or navy. After the Peace of Amiens he began to treat the Americans with contemptuous disregard; and he planned to throw into Louisiana one of his generals with a force of veteran troops sufficient to hold the country against any attack.
Illusory Nature of Napoleon's Hopes.
His hopes were in reality chimerical. At the moment France was at peace with her European foes, and could send her ships of war and her transports across the ocean without fear of the British navy. It would therefore have been possible for Napoleon without molestation to throw a large body of French soldiers into New Orleans. Had there been no European war such an army might have held New Orleans for some years against American attack, and might even have captured one or two of the American posts on the Mississippi, such as Natchez; but the instant it had landed in New Orleans the entire American people would have accepted France as their deadliest enemy, and all American foreign policy would have been determined by the one consideration of ousting the French from the mouth of the Mississippi. To the United States, France was by no means as formidable as Great Britain, because of her inferiority as a naval power. Even if unsupported by any outside alliance the Americans would doubtless in the end have driven a French army from New Orleans, though very probably at the cost of one or two preliminary rebuffs. The West was stanch in support of Jefferson and Madison; but in time of stress it was sure to develop leaders of more congenial temper, exactly as it actually did develop Andrew Jackson a few years later. At this very time the French failed to conquer the negro republic which Toussaint Louverture had founded in Hayti. What they thus failed to accomplish in one island, against insurgent negroes, it was folly to think they could accomplish on the American continent, against the power of the American people. This struggle with the revolutionary slaves in Hayti hindered Napoleon from immediately throwing an army into Louisiana; but it did more, for it helped to teach him the folly of trying to carry out such a plan at all.
Report of Pontaiba.
A very able and faithful French agent in the meanwhile sent a report to Napoleon plainly pointing out the impossibility of permanently holding Louisiana against the Americans. He showed that on the Western waters alone it would be possible to gather armies amounting in the aggregate to twenty or thirty thousand men, all of them inflamed with the eager desire to take New Orleans. The Mississippi ran so as to facilitate the movement of any expedition against New Orleans, while it offered formidable obstacles to counter-expeditions from New Orleans against the American commonwealths lying farther up stream. An expeditionary force sent from the mouth of the Mississippi, whether to assail the towns and settlements along the Ohio, or to defend the Creole villages near the Missouri, could at the utmost hope for only transient success, while its ultimate failure was certain. On the other hand, a backwoods army could move down stream with comparative ease; and even though such an expedition were defeated, it was certain that the attempt would be repeated again and again, until by degrees the mob of hardy riflemen changed into a veteran army, and brought forth some general like "Old Hickory," able to lead to victory.
Views of Barbé Marbois.
The most intelligent French agents on the ground saw this. Some of Napoleon's Ministers were equally far-sighted. One of them, Barbé Marbois, represented to him in the strongest terms the hopelessness of the undertaking on which he proposed to embark. He pointed out that the United States was sure to go to war with France if France took New Orleans, and that in the end such a war could only result in victory for the Americans.
We can now readily see that this victory was certain to come, even had the Americans been left without allies. France could never have defended the vast region known as Upper Louisiana, and sooner or later New Orleans itself would have fallen, though it may well be only after humiliating defeats for the Americans and much expenditure of life and treasure. But as things actually were the Americans would have had plenty of powerful allies. The Peace of Amiens lasted but a couple of years before England again went to war. Napoleon knew, and the American statesmen knew, that the British intended to attack New Orleans upon the outbreak of hostilities, if it were in French hands. In such event Louisiana would have soon fallen; for any French force stationed there would have found its reinforcements cut off by the English navy, and would have dwindled away until unable to offer resistance.
Louisiana's Destiny Really by the Backwoodsmen.
Nevertheless, European wars, and the schemes and fancies of European statesmen, could determine merely the conditions under which the catastrophe was to take place, but not the catastrophe itself. The fate of Louisiana was already fixed. It was not the diplomats who decided its destiny, but the settlers of the Western states. The growth of the teeming folk who had crossed the Alleghanies and were building their rude, vigorous commonwealths in the northeastern portion of the Mississippi basin, decided the destiny of all the lands that were drained by that mighty river. The steady westward movement of the Americans was the all-important factor in determining the ultimate ownership of New Orleans. Livingston , the American minister, saw plainly the inevitable outcome of the struggle. He expressed his wonder that other Americans should be uneasy in the matter, saying that for his part it seemed as clear as day that no matter what trouble might temporarily be caused, in the end Louisiana was certain to fall into the grasp of the United States.
Tedious Course of the Negotiations.
There were many Americans and many Frenchmen of note who were less clear-sighted. Livingston encountered rebuff after rebuff, and delay after delay. Talleyrand met him with his usual front of impenetrable duplicity. He calmly denied everything connected with the cession of Louisiana until even the details became public property, and then admitted them with unblushing equanimity. His delays were so tantalizing that they might well have revived unpleasant memories of the famous X. Y. Z. negotiations, in which he tried in vain to extort bribe-money from the American negotiators; but Livingston, and those he represented, soon realized that it was Napoleon himself who alone deserved serious consideration. Through Napoleon's character, and helping to make it great, there ran an imaginative vein which at times bordered on the fantastic; and this joined with his imperious self-will, brutality, and energy to make him eager to embark on a scheme which, when he had thought it over in cold blood, he was equally eager to abandon. For some time he seemed obstinately bent on taking possession of Louisiana, heedless of the attitude which this might cause the Americans to assume. He designated as commander of his army of occupation, Victor, a general as capable and brave as he was insolent, who took no pains to conceal from the American representatives his intention to treat their people with a high hand.
Jefferson took various means, official and unofficial, of impressing upon Napoleon the strength of the feeling in the United States over the matter; and his utterances came as near menace as his pacific nature would permit. To the great French Conqueror however, accustomed to violence and to the strife of giants, Jefferson's somewhat vacillating attitude did not seem impressive; and the one course which would have impressed Napoleon was not followed by the American President. Jefferson refused to countenance any proposal to take prompt possession of Louisiana by force or to assemble an army which could act with immediate vigor in time of need; and as he was the idol of the Southwesterners, who were bitterly anti-federalist in sympathy, he was able to prevent any violent action on their part until events rendered this violence unnecessary. At the same time, Jefferson himself never for a moment ceased to feel the strong pressure of Southern and Western public sentiment; and so he continued resolute in his purpose to obtain Louisiana.
Napoleon Forced to Change
Louisiana Ceded to the United States.
It was no argument of Jefferson's or of the American diplomats, but the inevitable trend of events that finally brought about a change in Napoleon's mind. The army he sent to Hayti wasted away by disease and in combat with the blacks, and thereby not only diminished the forces he intended to throw into Louisiana, but also gave him a terrible object lesson as to what the fate of these forces was certain ultimately to be. The attitude of England and Austria grew steadily more hostile, and his most trustworthy advisers impressed on Napoleon's mind the steady growth of the Western-American communities, and the implacable hostility with which they were certain to regard any power that seized or attempted to hold New Orleans. Napoleon could not afford to hamper himself with the difficult defence of a distant province, and to incur the hostility of a new foe, at the very moment when he was entering on another struggle with his old European enemies. Moreover, he needed money in order to carry on the struggle. To be sure he had promised Spain not to turn over Louisiana to another power; but he was quite as incapable as any Spanish statesman, or as Talleyrand himself, of so much as considering the question of breach of faith or loss of honor, if he could gain any advantage by sacrificing either. Livingston was astonished to find that Napoleon had suddenly changed front, and that there was every prospect of gaining what for months had seemed impossible. For some time there was haggling over the terms. Napoleon at first demanded an exorbitant sum; but having once made up his mind to part with Louisiana his impatient disposition made him anxious to conclude the bargain. He rapidly abated his demands, and the cession was finally made for fifteen millions of dollars.
The Boundaries Undecided.
The treaty was signed in May, 1805. The definition of the exact boundaries of the ceded territory was purposely left very loose by Napoleon. On the east, the Spanish Government of the Floridas still kept possession of what are now several parishes in the State of Louisiana. In the far west the boundary lines which divided upper Louisiana from the possessions of Britain on the north and of Spain on the south led through a wilderness where no white man had ever trod, and they were of course unmapped, and only vaguely guessed at.
Blindness of the American Statesmen.
There was one singular feature of this bargain, which showed, as nothing else could have shown, how little American diplomacy had to do with obtaining Louisiana, and how impossible it was for any European power, even the greatest, to hold the territory in the face of the steady westward growth of the American people. Napoleon forced Livingston and Monroe to become the reluctant purchasers not merely of New Orleans, but of all the immense territory which stretched vaguely northwestward to the Pacific. Jefferson at moments felt a desire to get all this western territory; but he was too timid and too vacillating to insist strenuously upon anything which he feared Napoleon would not grant. Madison felt a strong disinclination to see the national domain extend west of the Mississippi; and he so instructed Monroe and Livingston. In their turn the American envoys, with solemn fatuity, believed it might impress Napoleon favorably if they made much show of moderation, and they spent no small part of their time in explaining that they only wished a little bit of Louisiana, including New Orleans and the east bank of the lower Mississippi. Livingston indeed went so far as to express a very positive disinclination to take the territory west of the Mississippi at any price, stating that he should much prefer to see it remain in the hands of France or Spain, and suggesting, by way of apology for its acquisition, that it might be re-sold to some European power! But Napoleon saw clearly that if the French ceded New Orleans it was a simple physical impossibility for them to hold the rest of the Louisiana territory. If his fierce and irritable vanity had been touched he might, through mere wayward anger, have dared the Americans to a contest which, however disastrous to them, would ultimately have been more so to him; but he was a great statesman, and a still greater soldier, and he did not need to be told that it would be worse than folly to try to keep a country when he had given up the key-position.
The Great West Gained against the Wishes of the American Diplomats.
The region west of the Mississippi could become the heritage of no other people save that which had planted its populous communities along the eastern bank of the river, it was quite possible for a powerful European nation to hold New Orleans for some time, even though all upper Louisiana fell into the hands of the Americans; but it was entirely impossible for any European nation to hold upper Louisiana if New Orleans became a city of the United States. The Westerners, wiser than their rulers, but no wiser than Napoleon at the last, felt this, and were not in the least disturbed over the fate of Louisiana, provided they were given the control of the mouth of the Mississippi. As a matter of fact, it is improbable that the fate of the great territory lying west of the upper Mississippi would even have been seriously delayed had it been nominally under the control of France or Spain. With the mouth of the Mississippi once in American hands it was a physical impossibility in any way to retard the westward movement of the men who were settling Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Debates in Congress.
Folly of the Federalists.
The ratification of the treaty brought on some sharp debates in Congress. Jefferson had led his party into power as the special champion of States' Rights and the special opponent of national sovereignty. He and they rendered a very great service to the nation by acquiring Louisiana; but it was at the cost of violating every precept which they had professed to hold dear, and of showing that their warfare on the Federalists had been waged on behalf of principles which they were obliged to confess were shams the moment they were put to the test. But the Federalists of the Northeast, both in the Middle States and in New England, at this juncture behaved far worse than the Jeffersonian Republicans. These Jeffersonian Republicans did indeed by their performance give the lie to their past promise, and thereby emphasize the unworthiness of their conduct in years gone by; nevertheless, at this juncture they were right, which was far more important than being logical or consistent. But the Northeastern Federalists, though with many exceptions, did as a whole stand as the opponents of national growth. They had very properly, though vainly, urged Jefferson to take prompt and effective steps to sustain the national honor, when it seemed probable that the country could be won from France only at the cost of war; but when the time actually came to incorporate Louisiana into the national domain, they showed that jealous fear of Western growth which was the most marked defect in Northeastern public sentiment until past the middle of the present century. It proved that the Federalists were rightly distrusted by the West; and it proved that at this crisis, the Jeffersonian Republicans, in spite of their follies, weaknesses, and crimes, were the safest guardians of the country, because they believed in its future, and strove to make it greater.
The Jeremiads of the Federalist leaders in Congress were the same in kind as those in which many cultivated men of the East always indulged whenever we enlarged our territory, and in which many persons like them would now indulge were we at the present day to make a similar extension. The people of the United States were warned that they were incorporating into their number men who were wholly alien in every respect, and who could never be assimilated. They were warned that when they thus added to their empire, they merely rendered it unwieldy and assured its being split into two or more confederacies at no distant day. Some of the extremists, under the lead of Quincy, went so far as to threaten dissolution of the Union because of what was done, insisting that the Northeast ought by rights to secede because of the injury done it by adding strength to the South and West. Fortunately, however, talk of this kind did not affect the majority; the treaty was ratified and Louisiana became part of the United States.
The French Prefect Laussat.
Meanwhile the Creoles themselves accepted their very rapidly changing fates with something much like apathy. In March, 1803, the French Prefect Laussat arrived to make preparations to take possession of the country. He had no idea that Napoleon intended to cede it to the United States. On the contrary, he showed that he regarded the French as the heirs, not only to the Spanish territory, but of the Spanish hostility to the Americans. He openly regretted that the Spanish Government had reversed Morales' act taking away from the Americans the right of deposit; and he made all his preparations as if on the theory that New Orleans was to become the centre of an aggressive military government.
Corruption of the Spanish Government.
His dislikes, however, were broad, and included the Spaniards as well as the Americans. There was much friction between him and the Spanish officials; he complained bitterly to the home government of the insolence and intrigues of the Spanish party. He also portrayed in scathing terms the gross corruption of the Spanish authorities. As to this corruption he was borne out by the American observers. Almost every high Spanish official was guilty of peculation at the expense of the government, and of bribe-taking at the expense of the citizens.
The Creoles not Ill-Satisfied with it.
Nevertheless the Creoles were far from ill-satisfied with Spanish rule. They were not accustomed to self-government, and did not demand it; and they cared very little for the fact that their superiors made money improperly. If they paid due deference to their lay and clerical rulers they were little interfered with; and they were in full accord with the governing classes concerning most questions, both of principle or lack of principle, and of prejudice. The Creoles felt that they were protected, rather than oppressed, by people who shared their tastes, and who did not interfere with the things they held dear. On the whole they showed only a tepid joy at the prospect of again becoming French citizens.
Preparations to Turn the Country Over to the United States.
Laussat soon discovered that they were to remain French citizens for a very short time indeed; and he prepared faithfully to carry out his instructions, and to turn the country over to the Americans. The change in the French attitude greatly increased the friction with the Spaniards. The Spanish home government was furious with indignation at Napoleon for having violated his word, and only the weakness of Spain prevented war between it and France. The Spanish party in New Orleans muttered its discontent so loud that Laussat grew alarmed. He feared some outbreak on the part of the Spanish sympathizers, and, to prevent such a mischance, he not only embodied the comparatively small portion of the Creole militia whom he could trust, but also a number of American volunteers, concerning whose fidelity in such a crisis as that he anticipated there could be no question. It was not until December first, 1803, that he took final possession of the provinces. Twenty days afterwards he turned it over to the American authorities.
Claiborne Made Governor.
Wilkinson, now commander of the American army,—the most disgraceful head it has ever had—was entrusted with the governorship of all of Upper Louisiana. Claiborne was made governor of Lower Louisiana, officially styled the Territory of Orleans. He was an honest man, loyal to the Union, but had no special qualifications for getting on well with the Creoles. He could not speak French, and he regarded the people whom he governed with a kindly contempt which they bitterly resented. The Americans, pushing and masterful, were inclined to look down on their neighbours, and to treat them overbearingly; while the Creoles in their turn disliked the Americans as rude and uncultivated barbarians. For some time they felt much discontent with the United States; nor was this discontent allayed when in 1804 the territory of Orleans was reorganized with a government much less liberal than that enjoyed by Indiana or Mississippi; nor even when in 1805 an ordinary territorial government was provided. A number of years were to pass before Louisiana felt itself, in fact no less than in name, part of the Union.
New Orleans Offers a Field For Sedition.
Naturally there was a fertile field for seditious agitation in New Orleans, a city of mixed population, where the numerically predominant race felt a puzzled distrust for the nation of which it suddenly found itself an integral part, and from past experience firmly believed in the evanescent nature of any political connection it might have, whether with Spain, France, or the United States. The Creoles murmured because they were not given the same privileges as American citizens in the old States, and yet showed themselves indifferent to such privileges as they were given. They were indignant because the National Government prohibited the importation of slaves into Louisiana, and for the moment even the transfer thither of slaves from the old States—a circumstance, by the way, which curiously illustrated the general dislike and disapproval of slavery then felt, even by an administration under Southern control. The Creoles further complained of Claiborne's indifference to their wishes; and as he possessed little tact he also became embroiled with the American inhabitants, who were men of adventurous and often lawless temper, impatient of restraint. Representatives of the French and Spanish governments still remained in Louisiana, and by their presence and their words tended to keep alive a disaffection for the United States Government. It followed from these various causes that among all classes there was a willingness to talk freely of their wrongs and to hint at righting them by methods outlined with such looseness as to make it uncertain whether they did or did not comport with entire loyalty to the United States Government.
Furthermore, there already existed in New Orleans a very peculiar class, representatives of which are still to be found in almost every Gulf city of importance. There were in the city a number of men ready at any time to enter into any plot for armed conquest of one of the Spanish American countries. Spanish America was feeling the stir of unrest that preceded the revolutionary outbreak against Spain. Already insurrectionary leaders like Miranda were seeking assistance from the Americans. There were in New Orleans a number of exiled Mexicans who were very anxious to raise some force with which to invade Mexico, and there erect the banner of an independent sovereignty. The bolder spirits among the Creoles found much that was attractive in such a prospect; and reckless American adventurers by the score and the hundred were anxious to join in any filibustering expedition of the kind. They did not care in the least what form the expedition took. They were willing to join the Mexican exiles in an effort to rouse Mexico to throw off the yoke of Spain, or to aid any province of Mexico to revolt from the rest, or to help the leaders of any defeated faction who wished to try an appeal to arms, in which they should receive aid from the sword of the stranger. Incidentally they were even more willing to attempt the conquest on their own account; but they did not find it necessary to dwell on this aspect of the case when nominally supporting some faction which chose to make use of such watchwords as liberty and independence.
Under such conditions New Orleans, even more than the rest of the West, seemed to offer an inviting field for adventurers whose aim was both revolutionary and piratical. A particularly spectacular adventurer of this type now appeared in the person of Aaron Burr. Burr's conspiracy attracted an amount of attention, both at home and in the pages of history, altogether disproportioned to its real consequence. His career had been striking. He had been Vice-President of the United States. He had lacked but one vote of being made President, when the election of 1800 was thrown into the House of Representatives. As friend or as enemy he had been thrown intimately and on equal terms with the greatest political leaders of the day. He had supplied almost the only feeling which Jefferson, the chief of the Democratic party, and Hamilton, the greatest Federalist, ever possessed in common; for bitterly though Hamilton and Jefferson had hated each other, there was one man whom each of them had hated more, and that was Aaron Burr. There was not a man in the country who did not know about the brilliant and unscrupulous party leader who had killed Hamilton in the most famous duel that ever took place on American soil, and who by a nearly successful intrigue had come within one vote of supplanting Jefferson in the presidency.
Burr's Previous Career in New York.
In New York Aaron Burr had led a political career as stormy and chequered as the careers of New York politicians have generally been. He had shown himself as adroit as he was unscrupulous in the use of all the arts of the machine manager. The fitful and gusty breath of popular favor made him at one time the most prominent and successful politician in the State, and one of the two or three most prominent and successful in the nation. In the State he was the leader of the Democratic party, which under his lead crushed the Federalists; and as a reward he was given the second highest office in the nation. Then his open enemies and secret rivals all combined against him. The other Democratic leaders in New York, and in the nation as well, turned upon the man whose brilliant abilities made them afraid, and whose utter untrustworthiness forbade their entering into alliance with him. Shifty and fertile in expedients, Burr made an obstinate fight to hold his own. Without hesitation, he turned for support to his old enemies, the Federalists; but he was hopelessly beaten. Both his fortune and his local political prestige were ruined; he realized that his chance for a career in New York was over.
When Beaten in New York he Turned to the West.
He was no mere New York politician, however. He was a statesman of national reputation; and he turned his restless eyes toward the West, which for a score of years had seethed in a turmoil out of which it seemed that a bold spirit might make its own profit. He had already been obscurely connected with separatist intrigues in the Northeast; and he determined to embark in similar intrigues on an infinitely grander scale in the West and Southwest. He was a cultivated man, of polished manners and pleasing address, and of great audacity and physical courage; and he had shown himself skilled in all the baser arts of political management.
It is small wonder that the conspiracy of which such a man was head should make a noise out of all proportion to its real weight. The conditions were such that if Burr journied West he was certain to attract universal attention, and to be received with marked enthusiasm. No man of his prominence in national affairs had ever travelled through the wild new commonwealths on the Mississippi. The men who were founding states and building towns on the wreck of the conquered wilderness were sure to be flattered by the appearance of so notable a man among them, and to be impressed not only by his reputation, but by his charm of manner and brilliancy of intellect. Moreover they were quite ready to talk vaguely of all kinds of dubious plans for increasing the importance of the West. Very many, perhaps most, of them had dabbled at one time or another in the various separatist schemes of the preceding two decades; and they felt strongly that much of the Spanish domain would and should ultimately fall into their hands—and the sooner the better.
He Misunderstands the Western Situation.
There was thus every chance that Burr would be favorably received by the West, and would find plenty of men of high standing who would profess friendship for him and would show a cordial interest in his plans so long as he refrained from making them too definite; but there was in reality no chance whatever for anything more than this to happen. In spite of Burr's personal courage he lacked entirely the great military qualities necessary to successful revolutionary leadership of the kind to which he aspired. Though in some ways the most practical of politicians he had a strong element of the visionary in his character; it was perhaps this, joined to his striking moral defects, which brought about and made complete his downfall in New York. Great political and revolutionary leaders may, and often must, have in them something of the visionary; but it must never cause them to get out of touch with the practical. Burr was capable of conceiving revolutionary plans on so vast a scale as to be fairly appalling, not only from their daring but from their magnitude. But when he tried to put his plans into practice, it at once became evident that they were even more unsubstantial than they were audacious. His wild schemes had in them too strong an element of the unreal and the grotesque to be in very fact dangerous.
The West Had Grown Loyal.
Besides, the time for separatist movements in the West had passed, while the time for arousing the West to the conquest of part of Spanish-America had hardly yet come. A man of Burr's character might perhaps have accomplished something mischievous in Kentucky when Wilkinson was in the first flush of his Spanish intrigues; or when the political societies were raving over Jay's treaty; or when the Kentucky legislature was passing its nullification resolutions. But the West had grown loyal as the Nineteenth Century came in. The Westerners were hearty supporters of the Jeffersonian democratic-republican party; Jefferson was their idol; they were strongly attached to the Washington administration, and strongly opposed to the chief opponents of that administration, the Northeastern Federalists. With the purchase of Louisiana all deep-lying causes of Western discontent had vanished. The West was prosperous, and was attached to the National Government. Its leaders might still enjoy a discussion with Burr or among themselves concerning separatist principles in the abstract, but such a discussion was at this time purely academic. Nobody of any weight in the community would allow such plans as those of Burr to be put into effect. There was, it is true, a strong buccaneering spirit, and there were plenty of men ready to enlist in an invasion of the Spanish dominions under no matter what pretext; but even those men of note who were willing to lead such a movement, were not willing to enter into it if it was complicated with open disloyalty to the United States.
Burr Begins his Treasonable Plotting.
Burr began his treasonable scheming before he ceased to be Vice-President. He was an old friend and crony of Wilkinson; and he knew much about the disloyal agitations which had convulsed the West during the previous two decades. These agitations always took one or the other of two forms that at first sight would seem diametrically opposed. Their end was always either to bring about a secession of the West from the East by the aid of Spain or some other foreign power; or else a conquest of the Spanish dominions by the West, in defiance of the wishes of the East and of the Central Government. Burr proposed to carry out both of these plans.
He Endeavors to Enlist the Foreign Powers.
The exact shape which his proposals took would be difficult to tell. Seemingly they remained nebulous even in his own mind. They certainly so remained in the minds of those to whom he confided them. At any rate his scheme, though in reality less dangerous than those of his predecessors in Western treason, were in theory much more comprehensive. He planned the seizure of Washington, the kidnapping of the President, and the corruption of the United States Navy. He also endeavored to enlist foreign Powers on his side. His first advances were made to the British. He proposed to put the new empire, no matter what shape it might assume, under British protection, in return for the assistance of the British fleet in taking New Orleans. He gave to the British ministers full—and false—accounts of the intended uprising, and besought the aid of the British Government on the ground that the secession of the West would so cripple the Union as to make it no longer a formidable enemy of Great Britain. Burr's audacity and plausibility were such that he quite dazzled the British minister, who detailed the plans at length to his home government, putting them in as favorable a light as he could. The statesmen at London, however, although at this time almost inconceivably stupid in their dealings with America, were not sunk in such abject folly as to think Burr's schemes practicable, and they refused to have anything to do with them.
He Starts West and Stays with Blennerhassett.
In April, 1805, Burr started on his tour to the West. One of his first stoppages was at an island on the Ohio near Parkersburg, where an Irish gentleman named Blennerhassett had built what was, for the West, an unusually fine house. Only Mrs. Blennerhassett was at home at the time; but Blennerhassett later became a mainstay of the "conspiracy." He was a warm-hearted man, with no judgment and a natural tendency toward sedition, who speedily fell under Burr's influence, and entered into his plans with eager zeal. With him Burr did not have to be on his guard, and to him he confided freely his plans; but elsewhere, and in dealing with less emotional people, he had to be more guarded.
How Far Burr's Allies were Privy to his Treason.
It is always difficult to find out exactly what a conspirator of Burr's type really intended, and exactly how guilty his various temporary friends and allies were. Part of the conspirator's business is to dissemble the truth, and in after-time it is nearly impossible to differentiate it from the false, even by the most elaborate sifting of the various untruths he has uttered. Burr told every kind of story, at one time or another, and to different classes of auditors. It would be unsafe to deny his having told a particular falsehood in any given case or to any given man. On the other hand when once the plot was unmasked those persons to whom he had confided his plans were certain to insist that he had really kept them in ignorance of his true intention. In consequence it is quite impossible to say exactly how much guilty knowledge his various companions possessed. When it comes to treating of his relationship with Wilkinson all that can be said is that no single statement ever made by either man, whether during the conspiracy or after it, whether to the other or to an outsider, can be considered as either presumptively true or presumptively false.
It is therefore impossible to say exactly how far the Westerners with whom Burr was intimate were privy to his plans. It is certain that the great mass of the Westerners never seriously considered entering into any seditious movement under him. It is equally certain that a number of their leaders were more or less compromised by their associations with him. It seems probable that to each of these leaders he revealed what he thought would most attract him in the scheme; but that to very few did he reveal an outright proposition to break up the Union. Many of them were very willing to hear the distinguished Easterner make vague proposals for increasing the power of the West by means which were hinted at with sinister elusiveness; and many others were delighted to go into any movement which promised an attack upon the Spanish territory; but it seems likely that there were only a few men—Wilkinson, for instance, and Adair of Kentucky—who were willing to discuss a proposition to commit downright treason.
Burr and Andrew Jackson.
Burr stopped at Cincinnati, in Ohio, and at one or two places in Kentucky. In both States many prominent politicians, even United States Senators, received him with enthusiasm. He then visited Nashville where he became the guest of Andrew Jackson. Jackson was now Major General of the Tennessee militia; and the possibility of war, especially of war with the Spaniards, roused his hot nature to uncontrollable eagerness. Burr probably saw through Jackson's character at once, and realized that with him it was important to dwell solely upon that part of the plan which contemplated an attack upon the Spaniards.
Threatened Hostilities with
Jackson's Eagerness to Assail Spain.
The United States was at this time on the verge of war with Spain. The Spanish Governor and Intendant remained in New Orleans after the cession, and by their conduct gave such offence that it finally became necessary to order them to leave. Jefferson claimed, as part of Louisiana, portions of both West Florida and Texas. The Spaniards refused to admit the justice of the claim and gathered in the disputed territories armies which, though small, outnumbered the few regular troops that Wilkinson had at his disposal. More than once a collision seemed imminent. The Westerners clamored for war, desiring above all things to drive the Spaniards by force from the debatable lands. For some time Jefferson showed symptoms of yielding to their wishes; but he was too timid and irresolute to play a high part, and in the end he simply did nothing. However, though he declined to make actual war on the Spaniards, he also refused to recognize their claims as just, and his peculiar, hesitating course, tended to inflame the Westerners, and to make them believe that their government would not call them to account for acts of aggression. To Jackson doubtless Burr's proposals seemed quite in keeping with what he hoped from the United States Government. He readily fell in with views so like his own, and began to make preparations for an expedition against the Spanish dominions; an expedition which in fact would not have differed essentially from the expeditions he actually did make into the Spanish Floridas six or eight years afterward, or from the movement which still later his fellow Tennessean, Houston, headed in Texas.
Burr and Wilkinson.
From Nashville Burr drifted down the Cumberland, and at Fort Massac, on the Ohio, he met Wilkinson, a kindred spirit, who possessed neither honor nor conscience, and could not be shocked by any proposal. Moreover, Wilkinson much enjoyed the early stages of a seditious agitation, when the risk to himself seemed slight; and as he was at this time both the highest military officer of the United States, and also secretly in the pay of Spain, the chance to commit a double treachery gave an added zest to his action. He entered cordially into Burr's plans, and as soon as he returned to his headquarters, at St. Louis, he set about trying to corrupt his subordinates, and seduce them from their allegiance.
Burr Visits New Orleans.
Meanwhile Burr passed down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where he found himself in the society of persons who seemed more willing than any others he had encountered to fall in with his plans. Even here he did not clearly specify his purposes, but he did say enough to show that they bordered on the treasonable; and he was much gratified at the acquiescence of his listeners. His gratification, however, was over-hasty. The Creoles, and some of the Americans, were delighted to talk of their wrongs and to threaten any course of action which they thought might yield vengeance; but they had little intention of proceeding from words to deeds. Claiborne, a straightforward and honest man, set his face like a flint against all of Burr's doings.
From New Orleans Burr retraced his steps and visited Wilkinson at St. Louis. But Wilkinson was no longer in the same frame of mind as at Fort Massac. He had tested his officers, to see if they could be drawn into any disloyal movement, and had found that they were honorable men, firm in their attachment to the Union; and he was beginning to perceive that the people generally were quite unmoved by Burr's intrigues. Accordingly, when Burr reached him he threw cold water on his plans, and though he did not denounce or oppose them, he refrained from taking further active part in the seditious propaganda.
Burr Returns to Washington.
After visiting Harrison, the Governor of the Indiana territory, Burr returned to Washington. If he had possessed the type of character which would have made him really dangerous as a revolutionist, he would have seen how slight was his hope of stirring up revolt in the West; but he would not face facts, and he still believed he could bring about an uprising against the Union in the Mississippi Valley. His immediate need was money. This he hoped to obtain from some foreign government. He found that nothing could be done with Great Britain; and then, incredible though it may seem, he turned to Spain, and sought to obtain from the Spaniards themselves the funds with which to conquer their own territories.
His Burlesque Proposals to Spain.
This was the last touch necessary to complete the grotesque fantasy which his brain had evolved. He approached the Spanish Minister first through one of his fellow conspirators and then in his own person. At one time he made his request on the pretence that he wished to desert the other filibusterers, and save Spain by committing a double treachery, and betraying the treasonable movement into which he had entered; and again he asked funds on the ground that all he wished to do was to establish a separate government in the West, and thus destroy the power of the United States to molest Spain. However, his efforts came to naught, and he was obliged to try what he could do unaided in the West.
His Second Trip to the West.
In August, 1806, he again crossed the Alleghenies. His first stop of importance was at Blennerhassett's. Blennerhassett was the one person of any importance who took his schemes so seriously as to be willing to stake his fortune on their success. Burr took with him to Blennerhassett's his daughter, Theodosia, a charming woman, the wife of a South Carolinian, Allston. The attractions of the daughter, and Burr's own address and magnetism, completely overcame both Blennerhassett and his wife. They gave the adventurer all the money they could raise, with the understanding that they would receive it back a hundred-fold as the result of a land speculation which was to go hand in hand with the expected revolution. Then Blennerhassett began, in a very noisy and ineffective way, to make what preparations were possible in the way of rousing the Ohio settlers, and of gathering a body of armed men to serve under Burr when the time came. It was all done in a way that savored of farce rather than of treason.
Again Visits Jackson.
There was much less comedy however in what went on in Kentucky and Tennessee where Burr next went. At Nashville he was received with open arms by Jackson and Jackson's friends. This was not much to Jackson's credit, for by this time he should have known Burr's character; but the temptation of an attack on the Spaniards proved irresistible. As Major General, he called out the militia of West Tennessee, and began to make ready in good earnest to invade Florida or Mexico. At public dinners he and his friends and Burr made speeches in which they threatened immediate war against Spain, with which country the United States was at peace; but they did not threaten any attack on the Union, and indeed Jackson exacted from Burr a guarantee of his loyalty to the Union.
His Experience in Kentucky.
From Nashville the restless conspirator returned to Kentucky to see if he could persuade the most powerful of the Western States to take some decided step in his favor. Senator John Adair, former companion-in-arms of Wilkinson in the wars against the Northwestern Indians, enlisted in support of Burr with heart and soul. Kentucky society generally received him with enthusiasm. But there was in the State a remnant of the old Federalist party, which although not formidable in numbers, possessed weight because of the vigor and ability of its leaders. The chief among them were Humphrey Marshall, former United States Senator, and Joseph H. Daveiss, who was still District Attorney, not having, as yet, been turned out by Jefferson. These men saw—what Eastern politicians could not see—the connection between Burr's conspiracy and the former Spanish intrigues of men like Wilkinson, Sabastian, and Innes. They were loyal to the Union; and they felt a bitter factional hatred for their victorious foes in whose ranks were to be found all the old time offenders; so they attacked the new conspiracy with a double zest. They not only began a violent newspaper war upon Burr and all the former conspirators, but also proceeded to invoke the aid of the courts and the legislature against them. Their exposure of the former Spanish intrigues, as well as of Burr's plots, attracted widespread attention in the West, even at New Orleans; but the Kentuckians, though angry and ashamed, were at first reluctant to be convinced. Twice Daveiss presented Burr for treason before the Grand Jury; twice the Grand Jury declared in his favor; and the leaders of the Kentucky Democracy gave him their countenance, while Henry Clay acted as his counsel. Daveiss, by a constant succession of letters, kept Jefferson fully informed of all that was done. Though his attacks on Burr for the moment seemed failures, they really accomplished their object. They created such uneasiness that the prominent Kentuckians made haste to clear themselves of all possible connection with any treasonable scheme. Henry Clay demanded and received from Burr a formal pledge that his plans were in no wise hostile to the Union; and the other people upon whom Burr counted most, both in Ohio and Kentucky, hastily followed this example. This immediate defection showed how hopeless Burr's plans were. The moment he attempted to put them into execution, their utter futility was certain to be exposed.
Friction with the Spaniards.
Meanwhile Jefferson's policy with the Spaniards, which neither secured peace nor made ready for war, kept up constant irritation on the border. Both the Spanish Governor Folch, in West Florida, and the Spanish General Herrera, in Texas, menaced the Americans. Wilkinson hurried with his little army towards Herrera, until the two stood face to face, each asserting that the other was on ground that belonged to his own nation. Just at this time Burr's envoys, containing his final propositions, reached Wilkinson. But Wilkinson now saw as cleanly as any one that Burr's scheme was foredoomed to fail; and he at once determined to make use of the only weapon in which he was skilled,—treachery. At this very time he, the commander of the United States Army, was in the pay of Spain, and was in secret negotiation with the Spanish officials against whom he was supposed to be acting; he had striven to corrupt his own army and had failed; he had found out that the people of the West were not disloyal. He saw that there was no hope of success for the conspirators; and he resolved to play the part of defender of the nation, and to act with vigor against Burr. Having warned Jefferson, in language of violent alarm, about Burr's plans, he prepared to prevent their execution. He first made a truce with Herrera in accordance with which each was to retire to his former position, and then he started for the Mississippi.
Burr Flees Down the Mississippi.
When Burr found that he could do nothing in Kentucky and Tennessee, he prepared to go to New Orleans. The few boats that Blennerhassett had been able to gather were sent hurriedly down stream lest they should be interfered with by the Ohio authorities. Burr had made another visit to Nashville. Slipping down the Cumberland, he joined his little flotilla, passed Fort Massac, and began the descent of the Mississippi.
The plot was probably most dangerous at New Orleans, if it could be said to be dangerous anywhere. Claiborne grew very much alarmed about it, chiefly because of the elusive mystery in which it was shrouded. But when the pinch came it proved as unsubstantial there as elsewhere. The leaders who had talked most loosely about revolutionary proceedings grew alarmed, as the crisis approached, lest they might be called on to make good their words; and they hastened to repudiate all connection with Burr, and to avow themselves loyal to the Union. Even the Creole militia,—a body which Claiborne regarded with just suspicion,—volunteered to come to the defence of the Government when it was thought that Burr might actually attack the city.
Collapse of the Conspiracy.
But Burr's career was already ruined. Jefferson, goaded into action, had issued a proclamation for his arrest; and even before this proclamation was issued, the fabric of the conspiracy had crumbled into shifting dust. The Ohio Legislature passed resolutions demanding prompt action against the conspirators; and the other Western communities followed suit. There was no real support for Burr anywhere. All his plot had been but a dream; at the last he could not do anything which justified, in even the smallest degree, the alarm and curiosity he had excited. The men of keenest insight and best judgment feared his unmasked efforts less than they feared Wilkinson's dark and tortuous treachery. As he drifted down the Mississippi with his little flotilla, he was overtaken by Jefferson's proclamation, which was sent from one to another of the small Federal garrisons. Near Natchez, in January, 1807, he surrendered his flotilla, without resistance, to the Acting-Governor of Mississippi Territory. He himself escaped into the land of the Choctaws and Creeks, disguised as a Mississippi boatman; but a month later he was arrested near the Spanish border, and sent back to Washington.
Thus ended ingloriously the wildest, most spectacular, and least dangerous, of all the intrigues for Western disunion. It never contained within itself the least hope of success. It was never a serious menace to the National government. It was not by any means even a good example of Western particularistic feeling. It was simply a sporadic illustration of the looseness of national sentiment, here and there, throughout the country; but of no great significance, because it was in no sense a popular movement, and had its origin in the fantastic imagination of a single man.
After-Effects in the West.
It left scarcely a ripple in the West. When the danger was over Wilkinson appeared in New Orleans, where he strutted to the front for a little while, playing the part of a fussy dictator and arresting, among others, Adair of Kentucky. As the panic subsided, they were released. No Louisianian suffered in person or property from any retaliatory action of the Government; but lasting good was done by the abject failure of the plot and by the exhibition of unused strength by the American people. The Creoles ceased to mutter discontent, and all thought of sedition died away in the province.
Sufferers from the Conspiracy.
The chief sufferers, aside from Blennerhassett, were Sebastian and Innes, of Kentucky. The former resigned from the bench, and the latter lost a prestige he never regained. A few of their intimate friends also suffered. But their opponents did not fare much better. Daveiss and Marshall were the only men in the West whose action toward Burr had been thoroughly creditable, showing alike vigor, intelligence, and loyalty. To both of them the country was under an obligation. Jefferson showed his sense of this obligation in a not uncharacteristic way by removing Daveiss from office; Marshall was already in private life, and all that could be done was to neglect him.
The Trial of Burr.
As for Burr, he was put on trial for high treason, with Wilkinson as state's evidence. Jefferson made himself the especial champion of Wilkinson; nevertheless the General cut a contemptible figure at the trial, for no explanation could make his course square with honorable dealing. Burr was acquitted on a technicality. Wilkinson, the double traitor, the bribe-taker, the corrupt servant of a foreign government, remained at the head of the American Army.
LOUISIANA AND AARON BURR
the explorers of the far west, 1804-1807.
The Far West.
THE Far West, the West beyond the Mississippi, had been thrust on Jefferson, and given to the nation, by the rapid growth of the Old West, the West that lay between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi. The actual title to the new territory had been acquired by the United States Government, acting for the whole nation. It remained to explore the territory thus newly added to the national domain. The Government did not yet know exactly what it had acquired, for the land was not only unmapped but unexplored. Nobody could tell what were the boundary lines which divided it from British America on the north and Mexico on the south, for nobody knew much of the country through which these lines ran; of most of it, indeed, nobody knew anything. On the new maps the country now showed as part of the United States; but the Indians who alone inhabited it were as little affected by the transfer as was the game they hunted.
Need for its Exploration.
Even the Northwestern portion of the land definitely ceded to the United States by Great Britain in Jay's treaty was still left in actual possession of the Indian tribes, while the few whites who lived among them were traders owing allegiance to the British Government. The head-waters of the Mississippi and the beautiful country lying round them were known only in a vague way; and it was necessary to explore and formally take possession of this land of lakes, glades, and forests.
Beyond the Mississippi all that was really well known was the territory in the immediate neighbourhood of the little French villages near the mouth of the Missouri. The creole traders of these villages, and an occasional venturous American, had gone up the Mississippi to the country of the Sioux and the Mandans, where they had trapped and hunted and traded for furs with the Indians. At the northern most points that they reached they occasionally encountered traders who had travelled south or southwesterly from the wintry regions where the British fur companies reigned supreme. The headwaters of the Missouri were absolutely unknown; nobody had penetrated the great plains, the vast seas of grass through which the Platte, the Little Missouri, and the Yellowstone ran. What lay beyond them, and between them and the Pacific, was not even guessed at. The Rocky Mountains were not known to exist, so far as the territory newly acquired by the United States was concerned, although under the name of "Stonies" their northern extensions in British America were already down on some maps.
The National Government Undertakes the Work.
The West had passed beyond its first stage of uncontrolled individualism. Neither exploring nor fighting was thenceforth to be the work only of the individual settlers. The National Government was making its weight felt more and more in the West, because the West was itself becoming more and more an important integral portion of the Union. The work of exploring these new lands fell, not to the wild hunters and trappers, such as those who had first explored Kentucky and Tennessee, but to officers of the United States army, leading parties of United States soldiers, in pursuance of the command of the Government or of its representatives. The earliest and most important expeditions of Americans into the unknown country which the nation had just purchased were led by young officers of the regular army.
Jefferson Entitled to the Credit.
The first of these expeditions was planned by Jefferson himself and authorised by Congress. Nominally its purpose was in part to find out the most advantageous places for the establishment of trading stations with the Indian tribes over which our government had acquired the titular suzerainty; but in reality it was purely a voyage of exploration, planned with intent to ascend the Missouri to its head, and thence to cross the continent to the Pacific. The explorers were carefully instructed to report upon the geography, physical characteristics, and zoology of the region traversed, as well as upon its wild human denizens. Jefferson was fond of science, and in appreciation of the desirability of non-remunerative scientific observation and investigation he stood honorably distinguished among the public men of the day. To him justly belongs the credit of originating this first exploring expedition ever undertaken by the United States Government.
Lewis and Clark Chosen.
The two officers chosen to carry through the work belonged to families already honorably distinguished for service on the Western border. One was Captain Meriwether Lewis, representatives of whose family had served so prominently in Dunmore's war; the other was Lieutenant (by courtesy Captain) William Clark, a younger brother of George Rogers Clark. Clark had served with credit through Wayne's campaigns, and had taken part in the victory of the Fallen Timbers. Lewis had seen his first service when he enlisted as a private in the forces which were marshalled to put down the whisky insurrection. Later he served under Clark in Wayne's army. He had also been President Jefferson's private secretary.
The young officers started on their trip accompanied by twenty-seven men who intended to make the whole journey. Of this number one, the interpreter and incidentally the best hunter of the party, was a half-breed; two were French voyageurs; one was a negro servant of Clark; nine were volunteers from Kentucky; and fourteen were regular soldiers. All, however, except the black slave, were enlisted in the army before starting, so that they might be kept under regular discipline. In addition to these twenty-seven men there were seven soldiers and nine voyageurs who started only to go to the Mandan villages on the Missouri, where the party intended to spend the first winter. They embarked in three large boats, abundantly supplied with arms, powder, and lead, clothing, gifts for the Indians, and provisions.
The starting point was St. Louis, which had only just been surrendered to the United States Government by the Spaniards, without any French intermediaries. The explorers pushed off in May, 1804, and soon began stemming the strong current of the muddy Missouri, to whose unknown sources they intended to ascend. For two or three weeks they occasionally passed farms and hamlets. The most important of the little towns was St. Charles, where the people were all Creoles; the explorers in their journal commented upon the good temper and vivacity of these habitants, but dwelt on the shiftlessness they displayed and their readiness to sink back towards savagery, although they were brave and hardy enough. The next most considerable town was peopled mainly by Americans, who had already begun to make numerous settlements in the new land. The last squalid little village they passed claimed as one of its occasional residents old Daniel Boone himself.
After leaving the final straggling log cabins of the settled country, the explorers, with sails and paddles, made their way through what is now the State of Missouri. They lived well, for their hunters killed many deer and wild turkey and some black bear and beaver, and there was an abundance of breeding water fowl. Here and there were Indian encampments, but not many, for the tribes had gone westward to the great plains of what is now Kansas to hunt the buffalo. Already buffalo and elk were scarce in Missouri, and the party did not begin to find them in any numbers until they reached the neighborhood of what is now southern Nebraska.
They Reached the Great Plains.
From there onwards the game was found in vast herds and the party began to come upon those characteristic animals of the Great Plains which were as yet unknown to white men of our race. The buffalo and the elk had once ranged eastward to the Alleghanies and were familiar to early wanderers through the wooded wilderness; but in no part of the east had their numbers ever remotely approached the astounding multitudes in which they were found on the Great Plains. The curious prong-buck or prong-horned antelope was unknown east of the Great Plains. So was the blacktail, or mule deer, which our adventurers began to find here and there as they gradually worked their way northwestward. So were the coyotes, whose uncanny wailing after nightfall varied the sinister baying of the gray wolves; so were many of the smaller animals, notably the prairie dogs, whose populous villages awakened the lively curiosity of Lewis and Clark.
Good Qualities of Lewis and Clark.
In their note-books the two captains faithfully described all these new animals and all the strange sights they saw. They were men with no pretensions to scientific learning, but they were singularly close and accurate observers and truthful narrators. Very rarely have any similar explorers described so faithfully not only the physical features but the animals and plants of a newly discovered land. Their narrative was not published until some years later, and then it was badly edited, notable the purely scientific portion; yet it remains the best example of what such a narrative should be. Few explorers who did and saw so much that was absolutely new have written of their deeds with such quiet absence of boastfulness, and have drawn their descriptions with such complete freedom from exaggeration.
Their Dealings with the Indians.
Moreover, what was of even greater importance, the two young captains possessed in perfection the qualities necessary to pilot such an expedition through unknown lands and among savage tribes. They kept good discipline among the men; they never hesitated to punish severely any wrong-doer; but they were never over-severe; and as they did their full part of the work, and ran all the risks and suffered all the hardship exactly like the other members of the expedition, they were regarded by their followers with devoted affection, and were served with loyalty and cheerfulness. In dealing with the Indians they showed good humor and common-sense mingled with ceaseless vigilance and unbending resolution. Only men who possessed their tact and daring could have piloted the party safely among the warlike tribes they encountered. Any act of weakness or timidity on the one hand, or of harshness or cruelty on the other, would have been fatal to the expedition; but they were careful to treat the tribes well and to try to secure their good-will, while at the same time putting an immediate stop to any insolence or outrage. Several times they were in much jeopardy when they reached the land of the Dakotas and passed among the various ferocious tribes whom they knew, and whom we yet know, as the Sioux. The French traders frequently came up river to the country of the Sioux, who often maltreated and robbed them. In consequence Lewis and Clark found that the Sioux were inclined to regard the whites as people whom they could safely oppress. The resolute bearing of the new-comers soon taught them that they were in error, and after a little hesitation the various tribes in each case became friendly.
Councils with the Indians.
With all the Indian tribes the two explorers held councils, and distributed presents, especially medals, among the head chiefs and warriors, informing them of the transfer of the territory from Spain to the United States and warning them that henceforth they must look to the President as their protector, and not to the King, whether of England or of Spain. The Indians all professed much satisfaction at the change, which of course they did not in the least understand, and for which they cared nothing. This easy acquiescence gave much groundless satisfaction to Lewis and Clark, who further, in a spirit of philanthropy, strove to make each tribe swear peace with its neighbors. After some hesitation the tribe usually consented to this also, and the explorers, greatly gratified, passed on. It is needless to say that as soon as they had disappeared the tribes promptly went to war again; and that in reality the Indians had only the vaguest idea as to what was meant by the ceremonies, and the hoisting of the American Flag. The wonder is that Clark, who had already had some experience with Indians, should have supposed that the councils, advice, and proclamations would have any effect of the kind hoped for upon these wild savages. However, together with the love of natural science inculcated by the fashionable philosophy of the day, they also possessed the much less admirable, though entirely amiable, theory of universal and unintelligent philanthropy which was embodied in this philosophy. A very curious feature of our dealings with the Indians, not only in the days of Lewis and Clark, but since, has been the combination of extreme and indeed foolish benevolence of purpose on the part of the Government, with, on the part of the settlers, a brutality of action which this benevolent purpose could in no wise check or restrain.
They Winter at the Mandan Villages.
As the fall weather grew cold the party reached the Mandan village, where they halted and went into camp for the winter, building huts and a stout blockade, which they christened Fort Mandan. Traders from St. Louis and also British traders from the North reached these villages, and the inhabitants were accustomed to dealing with the whites. Throughout the winter the party was well treated by the Indians, and kept in good health and spirits; the journals frequently mention the fondness the men showed for dancing, although without partners of the opposite sex. Yet they suffered much from the extreme cold, and at times from hunger, for it was hard to hunt in the winter weather, and the game was thin and poor. Generally game could be killed in a day's hunt from the fort; but occasionally small parties of hunters went off for a trip of several days, and returned laden with meat; in one case they killed thirty-two deer, eleven elk, and a buffalo; in another forty deer, sixteen elk, and three buffalo; thirty-six deer and fourteen elk, etc., etc. The buffalo remaining in the neighborhood during the winter were mostly old bulls, too lean to eat; and as the snows came on most of the antelope left for the rugged country farther west, swimming the Missouri in great bands. Before the bitter weather began the explorers were much interested by the methods of the Indians in hunting, especially when they surrounded and slaughtered bands of buffalo on horseback; and by the curious pens, with huge V-shaped wings, into which they drove antelope.
They Start Westward in the Spring.
In the spring of 1805, Lewis and Clark again started westward, first sending down-stream ten of their companions, to carry home the notes of their trip so far, and a few valuable specimens. The party that started westward numbered thirty-two adults, all told; for one sergeant had died, and two or three persons had volunteered at the Mandan villages, including a rather worthless French "squaw-man," with an intelligent Indian wife, whose baby was but a few weeks old.
From this point onwards, when they began to travel west instead of north, the explorers were in a country where no white man had ever trod. It was not the first time the continent had been crossed. The Spaniards had crossed and recrossed it, for two centuries, farther south. In British America Mackenzie had already penetrated to the Pacific, while Hearne had made a far more noteworthy and difficult trip than Mackenzie, when he wandered over the terrible desolation of the Barren Grounds, which lie under the Arctic circle. But no man had ever crossed or explored that part of the continent which the United States had just acquired; a part far better fitted to be the home of our stock than the regions to the north or south. It was the explorations of Lewis and Clark, and not those of Mackenzie on the north or of the Spaniards in the south, which were to bear fruit, because they pointed the way to the tens of thousands of settlers who were to come after them, and who were to build thriving commonwealths in the lonely wilderness which they had traversed.
Wonderful Hunting Grounds.
From the Little Missouri on to the head of the Missouri proper the explorers passed through a region where they saw few traces of Indians. It literally swarmed with game, for it was one of the finest hunting grounds in all the world. There were great numbers of sage fowl, sharp-tailed prairie fowl, and ducks of all kinds; and swans, and tall white cranes; and geese, which nested in the tops of the cottonwood trees. But the hunters paid no heed to birds, when surrounded by such teeming myriads of big game. Buffalo, elk, and antelope, whitetail and blacktail deer, and bighorn sheep swarmed in extraordinary abundance throughout the lands watered by the upper Missouri and the Yellowstone; in their journals the explorers dwell continually on the innumerable herds they encountered while on these plains, both when travelling up-stream and again the following year when they were returning. The antelopes were sometimes quite shy; so were the bighorn; though on occasions both kinds seemed to lose their wariness, and in one instance the journal specifies the fact that, at the mouth of the Yellowstone, the deer were somewhat shy, while the antelope, like the elk and buffalo, paid no heed to the men whatever. Ordinarily all the kinds of game were very tame. Sometimes one of the many herds of elk that lay boldly, even at midday, on the sandbars, or on the brush-covered points, would wait until the explorers were within twenty yards of them before starting. The buffalo would scarcely move out of the path at all, and the bulls sometimes, even when unmolested, threatened to assail the hunters. Once, on the return voyage, when Clark was descending the Yellowstone River, a vast herd of buffalo, swimming and wading, plowed its way across the stream where it was a mile broad, in a column so thick that the explorers had to draw up on shore and wait for an hour, until it passed by, before continuing their journey. Two or three times the expedition was thus brought to a halt; and as the buffalo were so plentiful, and so easy to kill, and as their flesh was very good, they were the mainstay for the explorers' table. Both going and returning this wonderful hunting country was a place of plenty. The party of course lived almost exclusively on meat, and they needed much; for, when they could get it, they consumed either a buffalo, or an elk and a deer, or four deer, every day.
First Encounters with the Grizzly Bear.
There was one kind of game which they at times found altogether too familiar. This was the grizzly bear, which they were the first white men to discover. They called it indifferently the grizzly, gray, brown, and even white bear, to distinguish it from its smaller, glossy, black-coated brother with which they were familiar in the Eastern woods. They found that the Indians greatly feared these bears, and after their first encounters they themselves treated them with much respect. The grizzly was then the burly lord of the Western prairie, dreaded by all other game, and usually shunned even by the Indians. In consequence it was very bold and savage. Again and again these huge bears attacked the explorers of their own accord, when neither molested nor threatened. They galloped after the hunters when they met them on horseback even in the open; and they attacked them just as freely when they found them on foot. To go through the brush was dangerous; again and again one or another of the party was charged and forced to take to a tree, at the foot of which the bear sometimes mounted guard for hours before going off. When wounded the beasts fought with desperate courage, and showed astonishing tenacity of life, charging any number of assailants, and succumbing but slowly even to mortal wounds. In one case a bear that was on shore actually plunged into the water and swam out to attack one of the canoes as it passed. However, by this time all of the party had become good hunters, expert in the use of their rifles, and they killed great numbers of their ursine foes.
Other Brute Enemies.
Nor were the bears their only brute enemies. The rattlesnakes were often troublesome. Unlike the bears, the wolves were generally timid, and preyed only on the swarming game: but one night a wolf crept into camp and seized a sleeper by the hand; when driven off he jumped upon another man, and was shot by a third. A less intentional assault was committed by a buffalo bull which one night blundered past the fires, narrowly escaped trampling on the sleepers, and had the whole camp in an uproar before it rushed off into the darkness. When hunted the buffalo occasionally charged; but there was not much danger in their chase.
The Scourge of Mosquitos.
All these larger foes paled into insignificance compared with the mosquitos. There are very few places on earth where these pests are so formidable as in the bottom lands of the Missouri, and for weeks and even months they made the lives of our explorers a torture. No other danger, whether from hunger or cold, Indians or wild beasts, was so dreaded by the explorers as these tiny scourges.
Pleasant Life in the Plains Country.
In the Plains country the life of the explorers was very pleasant save only for the mosquitos and the incessant clouds of driving sand along the river bottoms. On their journey west through these true happy hunting grounds they did not meet with any Indians, and their encounters with the bears were only just sufficiently dangerous to add excitement to their life. Once or twice they were in peril from cloud bursts, and they were lamed by the cactus spines on the prairie, and by the stones and sand of the river bed while dragging the boats against the current; but all these trials, labors, and risks were only enough to give zest to their exploration of the unknown land. At the Great Falls of the Missouri they halted, and were enraptured with their beauty and majesty; and here, as everywhere, they found the game so abundant that they lived in plenty. As they journeyed up-stream through the bright summer weather, though they worked hard, it was work of a kind which was but a long holiday. At nightfall they camped by the boats on the river bank. Each day some of the party spent in hunting, either along the river bottoms through the groves of cottonwoods with shimmering, rustling leaves, or away from the river where the sunny prairies stretched into seas of brown grass, or where groups of rugged hills stood, fantastic in color and outline, and with stunted pines growing on the sides of their steep ravines. The only real suffering was that which occasionally befell someone who got lost, and was out for days at a time, until he exhausted all his powder and lead before finding the party.
Crossing the Mountains.
Fall had nearly come when they reached the head-waters of the Missouri. The end of the holiday-time was at hand, for they had before them the labor of crossing the great mountains so as to strike the head-waters of the Columbia. Their success at this point depended somewhat upon the Indian wife of the Frenchman who had joined them at Mandan. She had been captured from one of the Rocky Mountains tribes and they relied on her as interpreter. Partly through her aid, and partly by their own exertions, they were able to find, and make friends with, a band of wandering Shoshones, from whom they got horses. Having cached their boats and most of their goods they started westward through the forest-clad passes of the Rockies; before this they had wandered and explored in several directions through the mountains and the foot-hills. The open country had been left behind, and with it the time of plenty. In the mountain forests the game was far less abundant than on the plains and far harder to kill; though on the tops of the high peaks there was one new game animal, the white antelope-goat, which they did not see, though the Indians brought them hides. The work was hard, and the party suffered much from toil and hunger, living largely on their horses, before they struck one of the tributaries of the Snake sufficiently low down to enable them once more to go by boat.
The Indians they Met.
They now met many Indians of various tribes, all of them very different from the Indians of the Western Plains. At this time the Indians both east and west of the Rockies, already owned numbers of horses. Although they had a few guns, they relied mainly on the spears and tomahawks, and bows and arrows with which they had warred and hunted from time immemorial; for only the tribes on the outer edges had come in contact with the whites, whether with occasional French and English traders who brought them goods, or with the mixed bloods of the northern Spanish settlements, upon which they raided. Around the mouth of the Columbia, however, the Indians knew a good deal about the whites; the river had been discovered by Captain Gray of Boston thirteen years before, and ships came there continually, while some of the Indian tribes were occasionally visited by traders from the British fur companies.
With one or two of these tribes the explorers had some difficulty, and owed their safety to their unceasing vigilance, and to the prompt decision with which they gave the Indians to understand that they would tolerate no bad treatment; while yet themselves refraining carefully from committing any wrong. By most of the tribes they were well received, and obtained from them not only information of the route, but also a welcome supply of food. At first they rather shrank from eating the dogs which formed the favorite dish of the Indians; but after a while they grew quite reconciled to dog's flesh; and in their journals noted that they preferred it to lean elk and deer meat, and were much more healthy while eating it.
Lewis and Clark reach the Pacific Coast.
They reached the rain-shrouded forests of the coast before cold weather set in, and there they passed the winter; suffering somewhat from the weather, and now and then from hunger, though the hunters generally killed plenty of elk, and deer of a new kind, the blacktail of the Columbia.
They Start Eastward Again.
In March, 1806, they started eastward to retrace their steps. At first they did not live well, for it was before the time when the salmon came up-stream, and game was not common. When they reached the snow-covered mountains there came another period of toil and starvation, and they were glad indeed when they emerged once more on the happy hunting-grounds of the Great Plains. They found their caches undisturbed. Early in July they separated for a time, Clark descending the Yellowstone and Lewis the Missouri, until they met at the junction of the two rivers. The party which went down the Yellowstone at one time split into two, Clark taking command of one division, and a sergeant of the other; they built their own canoes, some of them made out of hollowed trees, while the others were bull boats, made of buffalo hides stretched on a frame. As before they revelled in the abundance of the game. They marvelled at the incredible numbers of the buffalo whose incessant bellowing at this season filled the air with one continuous roar, which terrified their horses; they were astonished at the abundance and tameness of the elk; they fought their old enemies the grizzly bears; and they saw and noted many strange and wonderful beasts and birds.
The Adventure of Lewis and the Indians.
To Lewis there befell other adventures. Once, while he was out with three men, a party of eight Blackfoot warriors joined them and suddenly made a treacherous attack upon them and strove to carry off their guns and horses. But the wilderness veterans sprang to arms with a readiness that had become second nature. One of them killed an Indian with a knife thrust; Lewis himself shot another Indian, and the remaining six fled, carrying with them one of Lewis' horses, but losing four of their own, which the whites captured. This was the beginning of the long series of bloody skirmishes between the Blackfeet and the Rocky Mountain explorers and trappers. Clark, at about the same time, suffered at the hands of the Crows, who stole a number of his horses.
He is Shot by one of his Own Party.
None of the party were hurt by the Indians, but some time after the skirmish with the Blackfeet Lewis was accidentally shot by one of the Frenchmen of the party and suffered much from the wound. Near the mouth of the Yellowstone Clark joined him, and the reunited company floated down the Missouri. Before they reached the Mandan villages they encountered two white men, the first strangers of their own color the party had seen for a year and a half. These were two American hunters named Dickson and Hancock, who were going up to trap the head-waters of the Missouri on their own account. They had come from the Illinois country a year before, to hunt and trap; they had been plundered, and one of them wounded, in an encounter with the fierce Sioux, but were undauntedly pushing forwards into the unknown wilderness towards the mountains.
They Meet Two Hunters.
These two hardy and daring adventurers formed the little vanguard of the bands of hunters and trappers, the famous Rocky Mountain men, who were to roam hither and hither across great West in lawless freedom for the next three quarters of a century. They accompanied the party back to the Mandan village; there one of the soldiers joined them, a man name Colter, so fascinated by the life of the wilderness that he was not willing to leave it, even for a moment's glimpse of the civilization, from which he had been so long exiled. The three turned their canoe up-stream, while Lewis and Clark and the rest of the party drifted down past the Sioux.
They Return to St. Louis.
The further voyage of the explorers was uneventful. They had difficulties with the Sioux of course, but they held them at bay. They killed game in abundance, and went down-stream as fast as sails, oars, and current could carry them. In September they reached St. Louis and forwarded to Jefferson an account of what they had done.
After-Careers of Lewis and Clark.
They had done a great deed, for they had opened the door into the heart of the far West. Close on their tracks followed the hunters, trappers, and fur traders who themselves made ready the way for the settlers whose descendants were to possess the land. As for the two leaders of the explorers, Lewis was made Governor of Louisiana Territory, and a couple of years afterwards died, as was supposed, by his own hand, in a squalid log cabin on the Chickasaw trace—though it was never certain that he had not been murdered. Clark was afterwards Governor of the territory, when its name had been changed to Missouri, and he also served honorably as Indian agent. But neither of them did anything further of note; nor indeed was it necessary, for they had performed a feat which will always give them a place on the honor roll of American worthies.
Pike and his Explorations.
While Lewis and Clark were descending the Columbia and recrossing the continent from the Pacific coast, another army officer was conducting explorations which were only less important than theirs. This was Lieut. Zebulon Montgomery Pike. He was not by birth a Westerner, being from New Jersey, the son of an officer of the Revolutionary army; but his name will always be indelibly associated with the West. His two voyages of exploration, one to the head-waters of the Mississippi, the other to the springs of the Arkansas and the Rio Grande, were ordered by Wilkinson, without authority from Congress. When Wilkinson's name was smirched by Burr's conspiracy the Lieutenant likewise fell under suspicion, for it was believed that his south-western trip was undertaken in pursuance of some of Wilkinson's schemes. Unquestionably this trip was intended by Pike to throw light on the exact nature of the Spanish boundary claims. In all probability he also intended to try to find out all he could of the military and civil situation in the northern provinces of Mexico. Such information could be gathered but for one purpose; and it seems probable that Wilkinson had hinted to him that part of his plan which included an assault of some kind or other on Spanish rule in Mexico; but Pike was an ardent patriot, and there is not the slightest ground for any belief that Wilkinson dared to hint to him his own disloyalty to the Union.
He Ascends the Mississippi.
In August, 1805, Pike turned his face towards the head-waters of the Mississippi, his purpose being both to explore the sources of that river, and to show to the Indians, and to the British fur traders among them, that the United States was sovereign over the country in fact as well as in theory. He started in a large keel boat, with twenty soldiers of the regular army. The voyage up-stream was uneventful. The party lived largely on game they shot, Pike himself doing rather more hunting than anyone else and evidently taking much pride in his exploits; though in his journal he modestly disclaimed any pretensions to special skill. Unlike the later explorers, but like Lewis and Clark, Pike could not avail himself of the services of hunters having knowledge of the country. He and his regulars were forced to be their own pioneers and to do their own hunting, until, by dint of hard knocks and hard work, they grew experts, both as riflemen and as woodsmen.
Encounters with Indians.
The expedition occasionally encountered parties of Indians. The savages were nominally at peace with the whites, and although even at this time they occasionally murdered some solitary trapper or trader, they did not dare meddle with Pike's well armed and well prepared soldiers, confining themselves to provocation that just fell short of causing conflict. Pike handled them well, and speedily brought those with whom he came into contact to a proper frame of mind, showing good temper and at the same time prompt vigor in putting down any attempt at bullying. On the journey up stream only one misadventure befell the party. A couple of the men got lost while hunting and did not find the boat for six days, by which time they were nearly starved, having used up all their ammunition, so that they could not shoot game.
Winters on the Headwaters of the Mississippi.
The winter was spent in what is now Minnesota. Pike made a permanent camp where he kept most of his men, while he himself travelled hither and thither, using dog sleds after the snow fell. They lived almost purely on game, and Pike, after the first enthusiasm of the sport had palled a little, commented on the hard slavery of a hunter's life and its vicissitudes; for on one day he might kill enough meat to last the whole party for a week and when that was exhausted they might go three or four days without anything at all. Deer and bear were the common game, though they saw both buffalo and elk, and killed several of the latter. Pike found his small-bore rifle too light for the chase of the buffalo.
Council with the Sioux.
At the beautiful falls of St. Anthony, Pike held a council with the Sioux, and got them to make a grant of about a hundred thousand acres in the neighborhood of the falls; and he tried vainly to make peace between the Sioux and the Chippewas. In his search for the source of the Mississippi he penetrated deep into the lovely lake-dotted region of forests and prairies which surrounds the head-waters of the river. He did not reach Lake Itasca; but he did explore the Leech Lake drainage system, which he mistook for the true source.
Hoists the American Flag.
At the British trading-posts, strong log structures fitted to repel Indian attacks, Pike was well received. Where he found the British flag flying he had it hauled down and the American flag hoisted in its place, making both the Indians and the traders understand that the authority of the United States was supreme in the land. In the spring he floated down stream and reached St. Louis on the last day of April, 1806.
Returns to St. Louis and Starts Westward.
In July he was again sent out, this time on a far more dangerous and important trip. He was to march west to the Rocky Mountains, and explore the country towards the head of the Rio Grande, where the boundary line between Mexico and Louisiana was very vaguely determined. His party numbered twenty-three all told, including Lieutenant J. B. Wilkinson, a son of the general, and a Dr. J. H. Robinson, whose special business it was to find out everything possible about the Spanish provinces, or, in plain English, to act as a spy. The party was also accompanied by fifty Osage Indians, chiefly women and children who had been captured by the Potowatomies, and whose release and return to their homes had been brought about by the efforts of the United States Government. The presence of these redeemed captives of course kept the Osages in good humor with Pike's party.
Pike Journeys to the Osage and Pawnee Villages.
The party started in boats, and ascended the Osage River as far as it was navigable. They then procured horses and travelled to the great Pawnee village known as the Pawnee Republic, which gave its name to the Republican River. Before reaching the Pawnee village they found that a Spanish military expedition, several hundred strong, under an able commander named Malgares, had anticipated them, by travelling through the debatable land, and seeking to impress upon the Indians that the power of the Spanish nation was still supreme. Malgares had travelled from New Mexico across the Arkansas into the Pawnee country; during much of his subsequent route Pike followed the Spaniard's trail. The Pawnees had received from Malgares Spanish flags, as tokens of Spanish sovereignty. Doubtless the ceremony meant little or nothing to them; and Pike had small difficulty in getting the chiefs and warriors of the village to hoist the American flag instead. But they showed a very decided disinclination to let him continue his journey westward. However, he would not be denied. Though with perfect good temper, he gave them to understand that he would use force if they ventured to bar his passage; and they finally let him go by. Later he had a somewhat similar experience with a large Pawnee war party.
The Swarms of Game.
The explorers had now left behind them the fertile, tree-clad country, and had entered on the great plains, across which they journeyed to the Arkansas, and then up that river. Like Lewis and Clark, Pike found the country literally swarming with game; for all the great plains region, from the Saskatchewan to the Rio Grande, formed at this time one of the finest hunting grounds to be found in the whole world. At one place just on the border of the plains Pike mentions that he saw from a hill buffalo, elk, antelope, deer, and panther, all in sight at the same moment. When he reached the plains proper the three characteristic animals were the elk, antelope, and, above all, the buffalo.
The myriads of huge shaggy-maned bison formed the chief feature in this desolate land; no other wild animal of the same size, in any part of the world, then existed in such incredible numbers. All the early travellers seem to have been almost equally impressed by the interminable seas of grass, the strange, shifting, treacherous plains rivers, and the swarming multitudes of this great wild ox of the West. Under the blue sky the yellow prairie spread out in endless expanse; across it the horseman might steer for days and weeks through a landscape almost as unbroken as the ocean. It was a region of light rainfall; the rivers ran in great curves through beds of quicksand, which usually contained only trickling pools of water, but in times of freshet would in a moment fill from bank to bank with boiling muddy torrents. Hither and thither across these plains led the deep buffalo-trails, worn by the hoofs of the herds that had passed and re-passed through countless ages. For hundreds of miles a traveller might never be out of sight of buffalo. At noon they lay about in little groups all over the prairie, the yellow calves clumsily frisking beside their mothers, while on the slight mounds the great bulls moaned and muttered and pawed the dust. Towards nightfall the herds filed down in endless lines to drink at the river, walking at a quick, shuffling pace, with heads held low and beards almost sweeping the ground. When Pike reached the country the herds were going south from the Platte towards their wintering grounds below the Arkansas. At first he passed through nothing but droves of bulls. It was not until he was well towards the mountains that he came upon great herds of cows.
The prairie was dotted over with innumerable antelope. These have always been beasts of the open country; but the elk, once so plentiful in the great eastern forests, and even now plentiful in parts of the Rockies, then also abounded on the plains, where there was not a tree of any kind, save the few twisted and wind-beaten cottonwoods that here and there, in sheltered places fringed the banks of the rivers.
Lewis and Clark had seen the Mandan horsemen surround the buffalo herds and kill the great clumsy beasts with their arrows. Pike records with the utmost interest how he saw a band of Pawnees in similar fashion slaughter a great gang of elk, and he dwells with admiration on the training of the horses, the wonderful horsemanship of the naked warriors, and their skill in the use of bow and spear. It was a wild hunting scene, such as belonged properly to times primeval. But indeed the whole life of these wild red nomads, the plumed and painted horse-Indians of the great plains, belonged to time primeval. It was at once terrible and picturesque, and yet mean in its squalor and laziness. From the Blackfeet in the north to the Comanches in the south they were all alike; grim lords of war and the chase; warriors, hunters, gamblers, idlers; fearless, ferocious, treacherous, inconceivably cruel; revengeful and fickle; foul and unclean in life and thought; disdaining work, but capable at times of undergoing unheard-of toil and hardship, and of braving every danger; doomed to live with ever before their eyes death in the form of famine or frost, battle or torture, and schooled to meet it, in whatever shape it came, with fierce and mutterless fortitude.
Wilkinson Descends the Arkansas.
When the party reached the Arkansas late in October Wilkinson and three or four men journied down it and returned to the settled country. Wilkinson left on record his delight when he at last escaped from the bleak windswept plains and again reached the land where deer supplanted the buffalo and antelope and where the cottonwood was no longer the only tree.
Pike Reaches Pike's Peak.
The others struck westward into the mountains, and late in November reached the neighborhood of the bold peak which was later named after Pike himself. Winter set in with severity soon after they penetrated the mountains. They were poorly clad to resist the bitter weather, and they endured frightful hardships while endeavoring to thread the tangle of high cliffs and sheer canyons. Moreover, as winter set in, the blacktail deer, upon which the party had begun to rely for meat, migrated to the wintering grounds, and the explorers suffered even more from hunger than from cold. They had nothing to eat but the game, not even salt.
Sufferings from Cold and Hunger.
The travelling through the deep snow, whether exploring or hunting, was heart-breaking work. The horses suffered most; the extreme toil, and scant pasturage weakened them so that some died from exhaustion; others fell over precipices and the magpies proved evil foes, picking the sore backs of the wincing, saddle-galled beasts. In striving to find some pass for the horses the whole party was more than once strung out in detachments miles apart, through the mountains. Early in January, near the site of the present Canyon City, Pike found a valley where deer were plentiful. Here he built a fort of logs, and left the saddle-band and pack-animals in charge of two of the members of the expedition; intending to send back for them when he had discovered some practicable route.
He Strikes Across the Mountains on Foot.
He himself, with a dozen of the hardiest soldiers, struck through the mountains towards the Rio Grande. Their sufferings were terrible. They were almost starved, and so cold was the weather that at one time no less than nine of the men froze their feet. Pike and Robinson proved on the whole the hardiest, being kept up by their indomitable will, though Pike mentions with gratification that but once, in all their trials, did a single member of the party so much as grumble.
The Party almost Perishes from Starvation.
Pike and Robinson were also the best hunters; and it was their skill and stout-heartedness, shown in the time of direst need, that saved the whole party from death. In the Wet Mountain valley, which they reached mid-January, 1807, at the time that nine of the men froze their feet, starvation stared them in the face. There had been a heavy snowstorm; no game was to be seen; and they had been two days without food. The men with frozen feet, exhausted by hunger, could no longer travel. Two of the soldiers went out to hunt, but got nothing. At the same time, Pike and Robinson started, determined not to return at all unless they could bring back meat. Pike wrote that they had resolved to stay out and die by themselves, rather than to go back to camp "and behold the misery of our poor lads." All day they tramped wearily through the heavy snow. Towards evening they came on a buffalo, and wounded it; but faint and weak from hunger, they shot badly, and the buffalo escaped; a disappointment literally as bitter as death. That night they sat up among some rocks, all night long, unable to sleep because of the intense cold, shivering in their thin rags; they had not eaten for three days. But they were men of indomitable spirit, and next day trudging painfully on, they at last succeeded, after another heart-breaking failure, in killing a buffalo. At midnight they staggered into camp with the meat, and all the party broke their four days' fast. Two men lost their feet through frost-bite, and had to be left in this camp, with all the food. Only the fact that a small band of buffalo was wintering in the valley had saved the whole expedition from death by starvation.
Pike Reaches the Rio Grande.
After leaving this valley Pike and the remaining men of the expedition finally reached the Rio Grande, where the weather was milder and deer abounded. Here they built a little fort over which they flew the United States flag, though Pike well knew that he was in Spanish territory. When the Spanish commander at Santa Fé learned of their presence he promptly sent out a detachment of troops to bring them in, though showing great courtesy, and elaborately pretending to believe that Pike had merely lost his way.
Pike is Sent Home by the Spaniards.
From Santa Fé Pike was sent home by a roundabout route through Chihuahua, and through Texas, where he noted the vast droves of wild horses, and the herds of peccaries. He was much impressed by the strange mixture of new world savagery and old world feudalism in the provinces through which he passed. A nobility and a priesthood which survived unchanged from the middle ages held sway over serfs and made war upon savages. The Apache and Comanche raided on the outlying settlements; the mixed bloods, and the "tame" Indians on the great ranches and in the hamlets were in a state of peonage; in the little walled towns, the Spanish commanders lived in half civilized, half barbaric luxury, and shared with the priests absolute rule over the people roundabout. The American lieutenant, used to the simplicity of his own service, was struck by the extravagance and luxury of the Spanish officers, who always travelled with sumpter mules laden with delicacies; and he was no less struck with the laxity of discipline in all ranks. The Spanish cavalry were armed with lances and shields; the militia carried not only old fashioned carbines but lassos and bows and arrows. There was small wonder that the Spanish authorities, civil, military, and ecclesiastical alike, should wish to keep intruders out of the land, and should jealously guard the secret of their own weakness.
His Subsequent Career.
When Pike reached home he found himself in disfavor, as was everyone who was suspected of having any intimate relations with Wilkinson. However, he soon cleared himself, and continued to serve in the army. He rose to be a brigadier-general and died gloriously in the hour of triumph, when in command of the American force which defeated the British and captured York.
Lewis, Clark, and Pike had been the pioneers in the exploration of the far West. The wandering trappers and traders were quick to follow in their tracks, and to roam hither and thither exploring on their own accord. In 1807 one of these restless adventurers reached Yellowstone Lake, and another Lake Itasca; and their little trading stations were built far up the Missouri and the Platte.
The West Gradually Fills with Population.
While these first rough explorations of the far West were taking place, the old West was steadily filling with population and becoming more and more a coherent portion of the Union. In the treaties made from time to time with the Northwestern Indians, they ceded so much land that at last the entire northern bank of the Ohio was in the hands of the settlers. But the Indians still held Northwestern Ohio and the northern portions of what are now Indiana and Illinois, so that the settlement at Detroit was quite isolated; as were the few little stockades, or groups of fur-traders' huts, in what are now northern Illinois and Wisconsin. The Southern Indians also surrendered much territory, in various treaties. Georgia got control of much of the Indian land within her State limits. All the country between Knoxville and Nashville became part of Tennessee, so that the eastern and middle portions of the State were no longer sundered by a jutting fragment of wilderness, infested by Indian war parties whenever there were hostilities with the savages. The only Indian lands in Tennessee or Kentucky were those held by the Chickasaws, between the Tennessee and the Mississippi; and the Chickasaws were friendly to the Americans.
Power of the West.
Year by year the West grew better able to defend itself if attacked, and more formidable in the event of its being necessary to undertake offensive warfare. Kentucky and Tennessee had become populous States, no longer fearing Indian inroads; but able on the contrary to equip powerful armies for the aid of the settlers in the more scantily peopled regions north and south of them. Ohio was also growing steadily; and in the territory of Indiana, including what is now Illinois, and the territory of Mississippi, including what is now northern Alabama, there were already many settlers.
Dangers Threatening the West.
Nevertheless the shadow of desperate war hung over the West. Neither the northern nor the southern Indians were yet subdued; sullen and angry they watched the growth of the whites, alert to seize a favorable moment to make one last appeal to arms before surrendering their hunting grounds. Moreover in New Orleans and Detroit the Westerners possessed two outposts which it would be difficult to retain in the event of war with England, the only European nation that had power seriously to injure them. These two outposts were sundered from the rest of the settled Western territory by vast regions tenanted only by warlike Indian tribes. Detroit was most in danger from the Indians, the British being powerless against it unless in alliance with the formidable tribes that had so long battled against American supremacy. Their superb navy gave the British the power to attack New Orleans at will. The Westerners could rally to the aid of New Orleans much more easily than to the aid of Detroit; for the Mississippi offered a sure channel of communication, and New Orleans, unlike Detroit, possessed some capacity for self-defence; whereas the difficulties of transit through the Indian-haunted wilderness south of the Great Lakes were certain to cause endless dangers and delays if it became necessary for the Westerners either to reinforce or to recapture the little city which commanded the straits between Huron and Erie.
During the dozen years which opened with Wayne's campaigns, saw the treaties of Jay and Pinckney, and closed with the explorations of Lewis, Clarke, and Pike, the West had grown with the growth of a giant, and for the first time had achieved peace; but it was not yet safe from danger of outside attack. The territories which had been won by war from the Indians and by treaty from Spain, France, and England, and which had been partially explored, were not yet entirely our own. Much had been accomplished by the deeds of the Indian-fighters, treaty-makers, and wilderness-wanderers; far more had been accomplished by the steady push of the settler folk themselves, as they thrust ever westward, and carved states out of the forest and the prairie; but much yet remained to be done before the West would reach its natural limits, would free itself forever from the pressure of outside foes, and would fill from frontier to frontier with populous commonwealths of its own citizens.
THE END OF VOL. IV.
- Mexican towns. Pike's letter, July 22, 1807, in Natchez Herald; in Col. Durrett's collection; see Coue's edition of Pike's "Expedition," LII.; also Gayarré, III., 447.
- Church. Report of Bishop Peñalvert, Nov. I, 1795, Gayarré.
- Westerners. Gayarré, III., 456.
- Morales. Gayarré, III., 576. The King of Spain, at the instigation of Godoy, disapproved the order of Morales, but so late that the news of the disapproval reached Louisiana only as the French were about to take possession. However, the reversal of the order rendered the course of the further negotiations easier.
- Negotiations. In Henry Adams' "History of the United States," the account of the diplomatic negotiations at this period, between France, Spain, and the United States, is the most brilliant piece of diplomatic history, so far as the doings of the diplomats themselves are concerned, that can be put to the credit of any American writer.
- New Orleans. Pontalba's Memoir. He hoped that Louisiana might, in certain contingencies, be preserved for the French, but he insisted that it could only be by keeping peace with the American settlers, and by bringing about an immense increase of population in the province.
- Livingston. Livingston to Madison, Sept. 1, 1802. Later Livingston himself became uneasy, fearing lest Napoleon's wilfulness might plunge him into an undertaking which, though certain to end disastrously to the French, might meanwhile cause great trouble to the Americans.
- Negotiaters. Jefferson was guilty of much weak and undignified conduct during these negotiations, but of nothing weaker and more petty than his attempt to flatter Talleyrand by pretending that the Americans disbelieved his admitted venality, and were indignant with those who had exposed it. See Adams.
- Spanish American. Wilkinson's "Memoirs," II., 284.
- Spaniards. Adams, III., 221.
- Humphrey Marshall. For the Kentucky episode, see Marshall and Greene. Gayarré is the authority for what occurred in New Orleans. For the whole conspiracy, see Adams.
- New Orleans. Gayarré, IV., 180.
- Americans. Gayarré, IV., 137, 151, etc.
- Treachery. E. G. Cowles Meade; see Gayarré, IV., 169.
- George Rogers Clark. He had already served as captain in the army; see Coues' edition of the "History of the Expedition," lxxi.
- Fallen Timbers. See his letters, quoted in Chap. II. There is a good deal of hitherto unused material about him in the Draper MSS.
- Hunting. It so continued for three quarters of a century. Until after 1880 the region around the Little Missouri was essentially unchanged from what is was in the days of Lewis and Clark; game swarmed, and the few white hunters and trappers who followed the buffalo, the elk, and the beaver, were still at times in conflict with hunting parties from various Indian tribes. While ranching in this region I myself killed every kind of game encountered by Lewis and Clark.
- Colter. For Colter, and the first explorers of this region, see "The Yellowstone National Park," by Captain H. M. Chittenden.
- Pike. Pike's Journal, entry of November 16, 1805.
- Horse-Indians. Fortunately these horse-Indians, and the game they chiefly hunted, have found a fit historian. In his books, especially upon the Pawnees and Blackfeet, Mr. George Bird Grinnell has portrayed them with a master hand; it is hard to see how his work can be bettered.
Text Edited By
- Blake Hamblet
- Matthew Braud
- Chelsea Underwood
- Allyson Moore
Roosevelt, Theodore. The Winning of the West, Volume 4 Louisiana and the Northwest, 1791-1807. Statesman ed. New York and London: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1904. Print. Internet Archive. 14 May 2008. Web. 06 Nov. 2013. https:// archive.org/ details/ winning ofwest04roos.