George Upfold.

The life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames online

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Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldThe life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames → online text (page 2 of 9)
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political economy was drawn from the book of nature itself.

In this way he became the favourite of the people ; and in
the ensuing year, when the Territory was admitted to send a
delegate to Congress, he was the first man to fill that office,
though only twenty-five years old.t He had just arrived at
that age when, by the Constitution, he was able to hold a seat
in that body. He was, without doubt, the youngest man in
Congress ; yet we shall shortly see him grappling with the
most experienced and able, with signal credit and eminent

* Hall's Memoirs, p. 56. -J- Ibid. p. 58.



The domestic condition of the settlers of the West was
peculiarly distressing, owing to the abuses which had crept
into the mode of disposing of the public lands.

These abuses were twofold : First, the disposal of land in
tracts of not less than four thousand acres; and secondly, the
granting of large tracts of the best land to individuals or com-

The effect of these measures was to exclude the needy
settlers from the benefits offered by the sale of land. In gene-
ral, they were poor and unable to buy such quantities. The
wealthy speculator had it in his power to demand for them
what price he chose. There was left to the settler no alterna-
tive but compliance with these hard conditions, or to become
an impoverished tenant of some lordly landholder. Thus, those
who had conquered the forest, and subdued the savage, who
had purchased the soil with their blood, and witnessed its fer-
tilization by the bodies of their compatriots, friends, or relations,
as a reward for their sacrifices and sufferings, were delivered to
the tender mercies of a heartless speculator, whose only supe-
riority was the possession of wealth which he was either unable
or unwilling to defend.

Shortly after taking his seat at the session of the sixth Con-
gress, in December, 1799, Captain Harrison directed his
attention to this subject. He moved " for the appointment of
a committee to inquire into the existing mode of selling the
public lands," and was himself placed at the head of that com-
mittee. In due time, he introduced a bill regulating the sale
of the public domain. By this bill, the size of the tracts was
reduced to sections of six hundred and forty acres, and these
were subdivided into half and quarter sections. To speak of
the influence of this measure on the interests of the people of
the West, and on those of the government, would be superfluous.

The farmer, instead of being the tenant of a wealthy land-
lord, toiling for his benefit and liable to be dispossessed at his
pleasure, became the independent owner of the soil, and trans-
mitted it to his offspring. Emigrants poured into the West;
the population expanded; the forest gave place to smiling, cul-
tivated fields ; and the great valley of the Mississippi, instead
of being the haunt of the savage, has (thanks to Harrison !)


They remained in his hands for thirteen years; during which
time he administered the affairs of the Territory with so much
wisdom, justice and disinterestedness, that a vigilant and keen-
sighted political opposition has been unable to point out a single
act of wrong or abuse, of any kind whatever.

The power of granting titles to land was one peculiarly
liable to abuse. A dexterous, selfish man, would have con-
verted it into the instrument of amassing thousands, perhaps
millions, for himself and his family, and then defied, as he could
have done, all inquiry. Harrison, on the contrary, was as
poor on the day he left the Territory as he was when he entered
it. As a disciple of the school of Jefferson, he could not, like
some who claim popular favour, make his public situation sub-
serve the purpose of private gain ; as an officer, he could not
prostitute his power ; as a patriot, he could not sacrifice his
country's good on the altar of an unhallowed cupidity. At the
time of our writing, he is eating the bread of honest industry,
on the banks of the Ohio, with no solace save that of a heart
strong and cheerful in the consciousness of unyielding in-
tegrity. Had he been avaricious or ambitious, he also might
have ridden in his coach and four, covering with the dust of the
highway, and spattering with the slaver of his steeds, his less
fortunate democratic brethren. He also might have purchased,
from the corrupt, with gold, those plaudits which the dema-
gogue cannot wring from the admiration of the honest. He
also might have bowed or knelt in a foreign court, among
kings and dukes — been greeted by lords, and smiled on by-
ladies. But no ! he preferred simple fare and laborious em-
ployment to wealth, rank and power, when purchased at the
sacrifice of his honour. So rigid has been his honesty, that he
has always refused to avail himself of his intimate knowledge
of the country to speculate in lands; and to his honour be it
said, he has never owned an acre of land the title of which
could be traced to himself as Governor of Indiana. As Com-
missioner of treaties, he effected thirteen of the most import-
ant treaties ever made. By them upwards of sixty millions
of acres of the finest land ever owned by the United States,
were ceded to the government, and the aboriginal title finally
extinguished. They are now worth at least ONE HUNDREU



and, in the hands of farmers, at least TWENTY TIMES
THAT SUM. These acres are far more valuable than bars
of gold or filthy rags !

By one of these treaties with the Sacs and Foxes, he ob-
tained the cession of the whole of that extensive and valuable
region lying between the river Illinois and the Mississippi,
with a northern boundary, stretching from the head of Fox
river, to a point on the Wisconsin, thirty-six miles above its
mouth. Jind toho has done more than this? There lives not
one who has effected a tenth part as much for his country !
The wisest regulations of commerce, ever effected by one man,
in point of national benefit, cannot be compared to these acts
of William Henry Harrison. Through his wisdom and
prudence, the West was settled. He drew around our frontier
a chain of hardy, intelligent, brave and enterprising spirits,
which afforded a better security against the incursions of the
savage, than would the famed iron defence of Louis XIV.

His speeches and messages, as Governor, whilst they display
his wisdom and forecast, furnish the most finished and brilliant
specimens of eloquence and composition. If collected with his
other productions, they would fill several volumes.

In their frequent intercourse with Governor Harrison, the
Indians had learned to respect his undaunted firmness, and
were, at the same time, conciliated by his kindness of manner
and considerate forbearance. This, with his intimate knowledge
of the Indian character, is the true secret of the remarkable
success that has uniformly attended every treaty he has at-
tempted to negotiate.

The various and arduous duties of the Governor of Indiana,
required for this office, a man of very superior abilities and
qualifications, and of a rare temperament; one possessed of
stern integrity and prudent moderation, with wisdom in the
exercise of the extensive powers intrusted to him, accompanied
by the most unwavering firmness. Such a man Governor
Harrison, in the long course of his administration, fully proved
himself to be. The plainest evidence that can be presented to
those who are not familiar with the history of Indiana, during
this eventful period, of the peculiar fitness of Governor Har


rison for this important station, of the confidence reposed in
him, and of the great popularity he attained while in the ex-
ercise of so delicate a trust, is the unquestionable fact, that, for
thirteen years, at every successive expiration of his term of
office, he was re-appointed at the earnest solicitation of the
people of the Territory, and with the public expression of the
most flattering approbation on the part of our chief Executive.
And this too, notwithstanding the changes which had taken
place within that time, in the administration of the government.
He was twice appointed by the immortal Jefferson, "the father
of Democracy," and the author of the glorious Declaration of
Independence, and again by Mr. Madison, the " champion of
the Constitution."

The following extract from a resolution, unanimously passed
by the House of Representatives of Indiana, in the year 1S09,
requesting the re-appointment of Governor Harrison, will show
the estimate which a long acquaintance had taught them of
his worth : —

" They (the House of Representatives) cannot forbear recommending to, and re-
questing of, the President and Senate, most earnestly in their own names, and in the
names of their constituents, the re-appointment of their present governor, William
Henry Harrison, — because he possesses the good wishes and affection of a great
majority of his fellow citizens, — because they believe him sincerely attached to the
Union, the prosperity of the United States, and the administration of its govern-
ment, — because they believe him, in a superior degree, capable of promoting the
interest of our territory, from long experience and laborious attention to its concerns,
from his influence over the Indians, and wise and disinterested management of that
department; and because they have confidence in his virtues, talents, and re-

One of the leading objects in the view of Harrison, whilst
Governor, was the conciliation of the Aborigines. Jealo-usies
and heart-burnings had grown out of the intercourse between
the two races, differing as they did in every important charac-
teristic and quality. The complaints of the Indians were con-
stantly recurring. If the traders supplied them with rum, they
furnished the means of destruction. If they withheld it, it
was denounced as an arbitrary act, at once unjust and oppres-
sive. The traders were denounced as cheats and liars ; and
the ministers of the Gospel of Peace, as invaders of their heredi-
tary customs. This state of irritation continued until the year


1S06, and as the transactions of this period led to the war of
1811, it may be proper to give a very brief account of them.

The plan of uniting the savage tribes, along the whole fron
tier, against the whites, had been repeatedly tried previous to
this, but had always been defeated by the wisdom of Harrison.
Tecumseh and the Prophet, who were brothers, and chiefs of
the Shawanoese tribe, renewed the attempt with a better pros
pect of success. Tecumseh was a savage of the first order of
abilities. He was as wary and sagacious in council, as he was
bold and impetuous in the execution of his designs — and to
this was added a capacity for command of a very superior
order. As an orator, he was fluent in expression, subtle in al-
lusion, and acute in reasoning. He was accurately informed
of the grievances and complaints of every tribe, familiar Avith
all their passions and sympathies, and he used them with the
utmost skill to subserve his ends.

The Prophet was remarkable for nothing but a low cunning,
which sometimes distinguishes the savage character. He was
not renowned in arms, nor had he accomplished any feats as a
hunter. His name would have passed into oblivion, but for
the lofty and daring character of his brother. Tecumseh found
it necessary to enlist the superstition of the tribes in the pro-
motion of his purpose. With this view, he affected to treat
his brother as a being of a superior order, and by this artifice,
succeeded completely in deceiving them.

Tecumseh advised the tribes to abstain from using the sup-
plies furnished by the United States. This led to illicit trading
accompanied by fraud, cheating, violence, and sometimes mur-
der. Hostile»incursions, on the part of the Indians, at length
became frequent. Things remained in this state until the
year 1S11.

In September, 1S09, Harrison concluded a treaty with the
Dela wares, Miamies, and Patawatamies, for the cession of a
large tract of land on the Wabash. Tecumseh was absent
when this treaty was ratified, and on his return refused to ac-
knowledge it, alleging that the ceded land belonged to the
Shawanoese. He threatened to kill the chiefs who had siened
it, and declared his determination to prevent the lands from
being surveyed and settled.


Governor Harrison, on being apprised of his proceedings,
sent him a message, informing him " that any claims he might
have to the lairds which had been ceded, were not affected by
the treaty; that he might come to Vincennes and exhibit his
pretensions, and if they were found to be valid, that the land
would either be relinquished, or an ample compensation
made for it."* Accordingly, in the month of August, 1810, he
came down to Vincennes, attended by several hundred war-
riors, although Harrison, having no confidence in the savage,
had restricted the number to thirty. The meeting took place
in front of the Governor's house, on a day appointed to hear
the statement of Tecumseh, which it took him many hours
to make. He alleged that the Great Spirit had made this con-
tinent for the use of the Indians exclusively; that the white
people had no right to come here and take it from them ; that
no particular part of it was given to any tribe, but that the
whole was the common property of all ; and that any sale of
lands made without the consent of all, was not valid. In his
reply, the Governor observed, that the Indians, like the white
people, were divided into different tribes or nations, and that
the Great Spirit never intended that they should form but one
nation, or he would not have taught them to speak different
languages, which precluded them from understanding each
other ; and that the Shawanoees, who emigrated from Georgia,
could have no claims to the lands on the Wabash, which had
been occupied far beyond the memory of man by the Miamies.
The Governor having proceeded thus far, sat down for the
purpose of giving the interpreters time to explain what he had
said, to the -different tribes that were present. As soon as it
was interpreted in Shawanoese, Tecumseh interrupted the
interpreter, and said that it was "all false ;" and giving a sig-
nal to his warriors, they seized their knives, tomahawks and
war-clubs and sprang upon their feet.

For some minutes the Governor was in the most imminent
danger. He, however, preserved that presence of mind for
which he has ever been so much distinguished, and disengaging
himself from an arm-chair in which he was seated, drew his

* See McAfee's History of the Late War, p. 12, from which these facts are


sword and met the grim savages with an undaunted front. The
friendly chief Winnemack, cocked a pistol which he held in his
hand. A considerable number of the citizens of Vincennes were
present, all unarmed. Close at hand, however, there was a guard,
composed of a sergeant and twelve men, who were immediately-
brought up by an officer. The savages quailed beneath the
prompt and steady valour of Harrison. Tecumseh had ex-
pected an easy victim ; but he found the Governor, although
surrounded and surprised, as immovable as the earth on which
he stood — equally incapable of rash violence or cowering fear.
The moral influence of Harrison's position, and his unblenching
front, subdued this wild son of the woods. He told Tecumseh
that he was a bad man, and he would have no further inter-
course with him ; and directed him to retire to his camp, and
set out immediately on his return home.

As the Indians with Tecumseh greatly outnumbered the
citizens of the town and the regular troops there, two compa-
nies of militia were brought in during the night, and a large
number the next day. Ear4y, however, on the following morn-
ing, Tecumseh sent for the interpreter, apologised for his trea-
chery, and earnestly requested that he might have another
conference with the Governor. His request was at length
granted; but the Governor took care to be attended by a num-
ber of his friends, well armed, and to have the troops in the
town ready for action. In his speech on this occasion, Tecum-
seh said that he had been advised by some white persons to act
as he had done at the former interview ; but that it was not
his intention to offer any violence to the Governor. Harrison
then inquired whether he had any other grounds for claiming
the lands. He answered that he had not. Governor Har-
rison then remarked to him, that so great a warrior should
disdain to conceal his intentions; and desired to know whether
he really designed to wage a war against the United States, if
the lately purchased lands were not relinquished by them. He
answered, that it was decidedly his determination, and that he
would never burv the hatchet or intermit his labours, until he
united all the tribes upon the continent into one grand confede-
racy, and the pale faces were compelled to yield to his de-
mands. The council here ended, and Tecumseh withdrew.



Combination of Hostile Indians on the Western Frontier — Insidious policy of
Great Britain — Approach of war, and opposition to it — Harrison prepares for the
contest — Embodies a force and marches into the Indian Territory — Reaches the
Prophet's town — Treachery of the Prophet — Anecdote of General Harrison —
Battle of Tippecanoe — Heroism of Harrison in the Battle — Testimonials of
popular gratitude — Testimony of the illustrious Madison, &c. — Effects of the
victory of Tippecanoe — Difficulties between England and the United States.

Immediately after the council of Vincennes, the sagacious
and blood-thirsty Tecumseh entered vigorously on the fulfil-
ment of his menace made to Governor Harrison. It was his
intention to avoid all hostilities with the whites, until he should
effect a combination strong enough to resist them, or until the
expected war with Great Britain should commence.* For this
purpose he visited all the Northern and Southern tribes. His
purpose was thwarted, however, by the watchful and gallant

In the year 1S11, it became obvious that the cloud of war
which had so long darkened our Western frontier, must shortly
burst, and pour its contents of fury and desolation upon the
unprotected settlers.

The insidious enmity of the Indians, which had been kept
alive and nourished so long by the sinister policy of England,
began to assume a bolder aspect. Their murmurs were
changed into threats, their complaints to vows of vengeful re-
tribution. Great Britain also had strengthened the posts which
she had retained in her possession, contrary to all good faith,
and had placed Canada in a state of defence. Her outrages
upon our commerce had become such as a brave nation could
no longer palliate or excuse. The patience of the American
people became at length exhausted; and throughout, her wide
domain, the Democracy of the land demanded a vindication
of their rights. The prospect of war was viewed with enthu
siasm in the West.

* McAfee's History of the Late War, p. 15,
4 C



Opposed to the Democracy of the country, were a few
discontented and restless spirits, who did every thing to weaken
and cripple the administration of Mr. Madison, that a stub-
born enforcement of their fallacious objections to a redress of
our National Wrongs, could accomplish. They stigmatised
JACKSON, as paid emissaries of Napoleon — sought to excite
popular prejudice against them — to create a sympathy in be-
half of England, whom they styled our "kind mother" and the
"bulwark of our religion," and to precipitate the nation into a
war with France, our ancient ally, who had come to our aid in
the dreariest hour of the Revolution. And when our country,
roused by a sense of accumulated wrongs and injuries, became
engaged in the second war of independence, struggling for her
honour and her rights with a powerful foe, Martin Van Buren
was found associated with those who endeavoured to distract
and divide the democratic party, by introducing De Witt Clin-
ton as a candidate for the Presidency, in opposition to the
patriotic Madison.

But all these efforts proved unavailing. The People, lashed
into phrensy at the accumulated outrages of Britain, demanded
of their Representatives an immediate commencement of

Governor Harrison, always foremost in the hour of his
country's danger, applied to President Madison for authority
to prepare the Frontier for the approaching contest, stating to
him the efforts of Tecumseh who was leagued with the British,
and what would be the disastrous consequences if his design
was permitted to be matured. An armed force was instantly
furnished him from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, but he was
ordered "to abstain from hostilities, of any kind whatever, and
to any degree not indispensably required."

A more disadvantageous and trying position than that which
Harrison occupied, cannot well be conceived. Before him, was
arranged his enemy in open preparation for battle; behind him,
Jay a defenceless population, from which all the able-bodied
men had been drafted, or had volunteered to form the army :
on the right and left, stretched the forest, which it was impos-
sible to guard, and through which the foe could, at any mo-


ment, fall back upon the unprotected settlers in the rear, and
carry the torch and knife to the home and throats of every
family. General Harrison had not the authority to attack. Until
blood had stained the tomahawk, or the victim had writhed
beneath the torture, he could not even unsheath his sword.
Every advantage was conferred upon the enemy. In the defile
of the mountain, on the plain, by night or by day, in detach-
ments, or en masse, he might come on, when, where, and as
he chose. But a brief period elapsed before the grossest out-
rages upon the settlers, afforded abundant cause to strike.

The genius of Harrison—" the man who never lost a
battle," who has never yielded to his country's foes, was equal
to this crisis ; and by a master stroke of policy, he conquered
every disadvantage, and moved down with an army of eight
hundred men, upon the Prophet's town, where all the hostile
Indians were assembled, and before Tecumseh had returned
from his visit to the Southern Tribes.

As soon as it was known in Kentucky, that Harrison was
authorized to march with an army against the Indians, a num-
ber of volunteers were eager to join his standard. Many of
them were men of high standing at home, as military, civil and
literary characters. Of this number were Samuel Wells, a Major
General in former Indian wars ; Joseph H. Davies, an eminent
lawyer of great military ambition ; Col. Owen, a veteran in
the Indian war, Colonel Keiger and Messrs. Croghan, O'Fallon,
Thipp, Chum and Edwards, who afterwards distinguished
themselves as officers of the army of the United States.

In the latter part of September, 1811, Governor Harrison
commenced his march up the Wabash, with a force of about
eight hundred efficient men. The militia, who were all volun-
teers, had been trained with great assiduity and labour by the
Governor in person. Conformably to his orders from the Pre-
sident, he halted within the boundary of the United States, and
endeavoured, by the intervention of the Delaware and Miami
tribes, to induce the Prophet, Tecnmseh's brother, to deliver up
the murderers, and the many horses which had been stolen
from the white settlers. These messengers of peace were
received and treated with great insolence by the Prophet and
his council, and their demands rejected with disdain. To put


an end to all hopes of accommodation, a small war party was
detached by the Prophet, for the purpose of commencing hos
tilities. This party fired upon the American sentinels, and
wounded one of them severely. The Delaware chiefs informed
the Governor that it was in vain to expect that any thing but
force could obtain satisfaction for injuries committed, or secu-
rity for the future. He learned also from the same source, that
the strength of the Prophet was daily increasing by accessions
of the ardent and giddy young men from every tribe.

So soon, therefore, as his little army had recovered from their
sickness, occasioned by. the exclusive use of fresh food, .without
vegetables and a sufficient quantity of bread, Harrison deter-

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Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldThe life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames → online text (page 2 of 9)