Robert Livingston Schuyler.

The transition in Illinois from British to American government online

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ill NISI,








Instructor in History in Yale University



A II rights reserved

Copyright, 1909

Printed from type April, 1909







The purpose of the following study is to describe the
transition from British to American government, which
occurred during the period of the Revolution, in that
part of the West known as "the Illinois." It will be
understood that the word Illinois does not here exactly
correspond in territorial extent to the present state of that
name. The view presented is that the result of British
administration in the West was a decisive factor in the
abandonment of that territory, which, of course, included
Illinois, by the English ministry in 1782. Therefore a
discussion of British policy respecting the West in general
forms a suitable introduction to the subject in hand. An
attempt has been made to describe conditions in Illinois
during the period of British administration, to trace the
progress of events which resulted in the overthrow of
British rule and the substitution for it of government by
one of the American commonwealths, to show the operation
of that government, and to explain conditions in the country
at the close of the Revolution. The study concludes with
a consideration of the peace negotiations of 1782, so far
as they relate to the West, as completing the transition of
which it treats.

The materials upon which it is based are indicated in the
footnotes and bibliography. I desire to express my obliga-
tions to Dr. C. E. Carter of Illinois College, who courteously
allowed me to examine a part of his manuscript of a work
on British administration in Illinois. That monograph has
been awarded the Justin Winsor Prize of the American
Historical Association for 1908, and will be published in due
time. I gladly take this opportunity to record my indebted-
ness to Professor William R. Shepherd of Columbia Uni-
versity, under whose instruction I began the study of history


some ten years ago. His detailed knowledge of early west-
ern history and Spanish colonial policy has rendered his
criticisms especially valuable. Professor Herbert L. Osgood
of Columbia, also, has read my manuscript and furnished
suggestions. The work of Professor Clarence W. Alvord
of the University of Illinois on the records of the Illinois
villages has, in large measure, made the present study pos-
sible. To my father and mother I am under a debt of
gratitude of which they and I alone know the extent.

Yale University, April 2, 1909.




Colonial charters and the West Early Exploration Western
settlements and the French Western settlements and
the Fur Trade Importance of the Fur Trade Trad-
ers British Policy towards western settlements after
1763 Proclamation of 1763 Its objects and effects
Treaty of Lochabor Possibility of new colonies in
the West Vandalia Proposed colony in western lands
claimed by Connecticut The Quebec Act and its
effects Illegal settlements in West Their results
Trade conditions in the West Suggested remedies
Failure of British Administration 1-16



Boundaries of Illinois Population Villages Indians and
Slaves Occupations of the people Social classes
Attitude towards British government Inauguration
and nature of British government in Illinois Com-
munication with the eastern colonies Easterners in Illi-
nois Their activities Their attitude toward the
government Trade conditions in Illinois Illinois
joined to Canada, but left to its own resources
Troops withdrawn Rocheblave as British Agent His
problems, and relations with the eastern element in
Illinois Sympathy for the revolted colonists among the
French of Illinois Expectation of an American attack
on Illinois early in the Revolution. . . 17-33



Western claims of Virginia Creation of western counties
before the Revolution Western Indians Western
emigration Dunmor e's War Transylvania George


Rogers Clark Clark in Kentucky Delegate to the
Virginia Assembly Cherokee War of 1776 Kentucky
organized as a Virginia county The Revolution in the
West Henry Hamilton Possibility of an American
attack on British posts in the Northwest Clark's plan
Interview with Henry An expedition authorized. . . 34-50



Recruiting Corn Island French-American Treaty Clark's
route to Kaskaskia. The Taking of Kaskaskia Clark's
Policy Submission of the other Villages Reasons for
Clark's success Difficulties of his position Clark and
the Indians Relations with the Spaniards. . . . 51-61



Hamilton plans to recover Illinois He leads an expedition
from Detroit for that purpose His route Clark misled
concerning Hamilton's movements Hamilton captures
Vincennes His further plans Clark learns that Ham-
ilton is at Vincennes He decides to attack Hamilton
He captures Vincennes Effect of the capture of Ham-
ilton on the Indians Clark plans to attack Detroit, but
is unable to do so He takes up his headquarters at the
Falls of the Ohio 62-76



Illinois under Clark Clark's popularity with the inhabitants
County government for Illinois established by Virginia
Todd appointed County-Lieutenant Henry's instruc-
tions to him, to Clark, and to Montgomery Inauguration
of civil government by Todd Establishment of courts
Paper money Land speculation Support of the
troops Difficulties of Todd's position He leaves Illi-
nois Characteristics of American frontiersmen Griev-
ances of the people of Illinois Emigration of the better
class from Illinois De la Balme episode Expedition
against St. Joseph Fear of British and Indian attacks
on Illinois Plan to establish a fort at the mouth of
the Ohio Attack on Cahokia and St. Louis Fort


Jefferson Rogers, Bentley and Dodge Inhabitants of
Illinois left to their own resources Decline of Virgin-
ia's interest in Illinois Further activities of Bentley
Their results Clark instructed to lead an expedition
against Detroit Failure of the plan Possibility of
restoring British authority in Illinois Views of
Gerardin Virginia retains nominal possession of Illi-
nois till 1784 77-in



The Transition in Illinois completed by the Treaty of Paris
Rockingham Ministry Appointment by Congress of
Peace Commissioners Franklin and Oswald begin
informal negotiations Views of Congress respecting
the West Letter of Livingston Instructions to Jay
Franklin and Canada Fox and the Negotiations
Shelburne's Ministry The Policy of Spain The
Problem before the American Commissioners Prom-
inence of Jay in the Negotiations Franklin's Conditions
of Peace Aranda Rayneval Policy of Vergennes
Jay's independent move Shelburne's response Sepa-
rate negotiation between England and the United
States Arrival of Adams in France His attitude A
theory of French policy Provisional Treaty Explana-
tion of the abandonment of the West by Great
Britain. 112-140



The expression "the West" is here used specifically to
designate the territory between the Alleghanies and the
Mississippi, the Great Lakes and the Floridas. This terri-
tory did not become important in English colonial history
until the eighteenth century. It was included, however, at
least nominally, in one or another of the colonial charters
which emanated from the English crown in the seventeenth
century. By the Virginia charter of 1609 the territory of
that province was declared to extend "from sea to sea."
The grant made to the New England Council in 1620, the
Connecticut charter of 1662, the charter to the Lords
Proprietors of Carolina in 1663, and the Georgia charter
of later date, contained similar provisions. The Massa-
chusetts charter of 1691 declared that the territory of that
province should extend "towards the South Sea, or west-
ward as far as Our colonies of Rhode Island, Connecticut,
and the Narragansett country." With the exception of the
Georgia grant these charters were issued at a time when the
vaguest and most inaccurate ideas prevailed regarding the
configuration of the North American continent. The South
Sea was supposed to be not very remote from the Atlantic,
and the crown was quite ignorant of the real extent of
territory embraced in the grants. In many cases they over-
lapped, and conflicting claims resulted.

During the last quarter of the seventeenth century, the
French discoveries and explorations upon which Louis XIV
based his claim to sovereignty over the Mississippi valley
advanced geographical knowledge and disclosed something
of the true extent of the continent. Claimed by France,
the West assumed a real importance in the minds of British

The small beginnings of English colonial exploration
west of the Alleghanies date from the seventeenth century.


The journal of a party of Virginians sent in 1671 to dis-
cover "the ebbing and flowing of the water on the other
side of the Mountains, in order to the discovery of the
South Sea," has been preserved. 1 They probably reached
the Kanawha river. In the seventeenth century, also, the
possibilities of the fur trade were beginning to be realized,
especially in New York. In 1686 traders under license
from Governor Dongan went to the Great Lakes. 2

Governor Spotswood of Virginia took an intelligent
interest in the West and understood the danger from the
French power in Canada, on the Lakes, and on the Mis-
sissippi. He saw that it virtually surrounded the English
settlements, 3 and believed that, if unchecked, it could not
only monopolize the whole fur trade, but actually conquer
the English colonies. 4 In view of this menace he deemed
it of the greatest importance that settlements should be
made on the Great Lakes, and possession acquired of those
passes over the mountains necessary to safeguard com-
munication with them. 5 From what he learned while on
an expedition over the Blue Ridge in 1716, he believed that
the plan was practicable. Basing himself on the charter of
1609, he asserted that "most of the Lakes and great part
of the head branches of Mississippi" were included
within the limits of Virginia, while the French settlements
on the lower Mississippi fell within the boundaries of South
Carolina. 6

So long as the French power existed in the West the
British government was disposed to favor western settle-
ments, to urge that their charters carried the colonies
indefinitely westward, and to assert that the French were
trespassing on English territory. 7 In 1748, in connection

1 Fernow, The Ohio Valley in Colonial Days, 220 et seq.
1 Ibid., 66-67.

* Collections of the Virginia Historical Society, new series, II,
4 Ibid., 296.
6 Ibid., 296-297.
8 Ibid., 295.
'Force, American Archives, 4th series, I, 182.


with a proposed grant in the West to the Ohio Company,
the Lords of Trade reported that "the settlement of the
country lying to the westward of the Great Mountains in the
colony of Virginia, which is the center of all His Majesty's
provinces, will be for His Majesty's interest and advan-
tage .... inasmuch as his Majesty's subjects will be thereby
enabled to cultivate a friendship and carry on a more exten-
sive commerce with the nations of Indians inhabiting those
parts, and such settlements may likewise be a proper step
towards disappointing the views and checking the encroach-
ments of the French." 8 The claim that charters extended
the colonies to the South Sea, and the assertion that the
French claim to the Mississippi was not just, were made by
the president of the Virginia Council in I749- 9 Governor
Dinwiddie in 1756 advanced the most extensive territorial
claims for his province. Virginia, he said, was supposed
to include all lands west of the Alleghanies between the
northern boundary of Carolina and the southern boundary
of Canada. 10 He was willing, however, to consider settle-
ments which had been made near the Ohio as "the present
boundary to the westward." 11 He was convinced of the
necessity of erecting forts as a barrier against the French. 12
Governor Pownall desired the establishment of western
colonies for the same purpose. 13 This, also, was, no doubt,
the purpose of the recommendation made by the colonial
commissioners assembled at Albany in 1754 that measures
should be taken for the establishment of Protestant settle-
ments in the West. 1 * It was in Franklin's mind when in
the Albany Plan of Union he proposed the founding of
western colonies.

' Fernow, op. cit., 245-246.

9 Ibid., 259-260.

10 Colls. Va. Hist. Soc., new series, IV, 339.
u Ibid., Ill, 381.

11 Ibid., IV, 339-

" Pownall, Administration of the Colonies, 26. ed., London, 1765 ;
appendix, 47-48.
14 O'Callaghan, Documentary History of New York, II, 356.


Western settlements were favored not only as a barrier
against the French, but also because it was believed that
they would aid in the development of the fur trade. This
feature of western colonization was referred to by Spots-
wood early in the century. It was dwelt upon by Governor
Gooch of Virginia in 1747, in connection with the grant to
the Ohio Company, already referred to. 15 Dinwiddie was
fully aware of the possible profits of the fur trade, and
believed that it would be stimulated by western settlements. 16
But he thought that if the French remained in possession of
the Ohio, the English would be entirely deprived of the
trade. 17

The problem which confronted the British government
at the conclusion of the Seven Years' War was not easy.
By the Treaty of Paris in 1763 Great Britain came into
possession of the great peltry-bearing regions, Canada and
the West. The belief, indeed, seems later to have been
common among her revolted colonists that the desire to
control the fur trade had been a leading object of her
policy in prosecuting the French war. 18 An immense waste
of uninhabited country was a profitable acquisition only by
reason of its trade. 19 From this standpoint it was felt by
the nation to be an asset of distinct value. 20 The ministry,
moreover, had preferred the possession of Canada and the
West to that of the French West India islands. For politi-
cal reasons their choice had to be justified. 21 The new
possessions must be made profitable. This could be done
only by the monopolization and development of their sole
immediate source of wealth, the fur trade. Furs could be
secured in large quantities only by traffic with the Indians.
They belonged to the class of "enumerated" articles, which
could legally be exported from British colonies only to a

" Fernow, op. cit., 241.

18 Colls. Va. Hist. Soc., new series, III, 94-95.
17 Ibid., 217.

w Collections of the New York Historical Society for 1886, 272.

19 Annual Register for 1763, 6th ed., 18.
"Ibid., 18-19.

" Ibid., 19.


British port. If, therefore, the tribes refused to do business
with English traders, or if the latter illegally exported their
goods to foreign ports, the objects of mercantilist policy
would be frustrated. No benefit would be secured by the
British treasury, British manufacturers, British shipping
interests, or by the consuming public. The possession of
the peltry-bearing regions would be of no value.

A tactful and conciliatory attitude towards the Indians
became, therefore, a necessary policy for Great Britain.
The success of the French traders had been mainly due to
their consideration for the savages. Unfortunately, from
the British point of view, English traders had long since
acquired a bad name with the Indians. This seems to have
been chiefly due to the bad character of the average trader. 22
As early as the administration of Governor Spotswood
there is evidence that the Indians were being maltreated by
English traders. 23 In 1756 Dinwiddie attributed friction
with the Indians mainly "to the traders among them, who
are the most abandoned wretches in the world, and, in
respect to society, as uncivilized as the Indians themselves,
and less to be trusted in regard to truth and probity. 24 The
Albany commissioners in 1754 dwelt upon the evils of
unregulated traffic with the Indians, 25 and Franklin's Plan
sought to place Indian affairs under collective control. 26
In the opinion of the commissioners the trade should be
made subservient to public rather than to private interests. 27
The abuses practised by traders on the Indians were
referred to by Lieutenant-Governor Golden in 1764 as of
long standing. 28 The necessity for a comprehensive Indian
policy which would remove the evils of unregulated traffic,

11 Collections of the New York Historical Society, Publication
Fund Series, IX, 383. For a statement of the reasons for the
hostility of the Indians towards the English see Beer, British
Colonial Policy, I754-I?(>5, 253, 255.

23 Colls. Va. Hist. Soc., new series, II, 145.

"Ibid., IV, 340.

25 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 355.

28 Ibid.

"Ibid., 356.

28 Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc., Pub. Fund Series, IX, 383.


and extend British influence over the tribes, was felt several
years before the end of the Seven Years' War. 29

By 1763 British policy regarding western settlements had
undergone a decided change. One cause of the previous
desire for their establishment no longer existed. The
French power having been overthrown, such settlements
ceased to be needed as a barrier for protection. The prin-
cipal motive in causing the government to alter its policy
related, however, to the fur trade. 30 Everything that would
antagonize the Indians must be avoided.

As early as 1756 Sir William Johnson informed the Board
of Trade that the advance of white settlements was an
eyesore to the Indians, and "infected them with jealousy
and disgust towards the English." 31 The Board showed
itself awake to this danger. 32 The probability that advanc-
ing settlements would cause trouble with the Indians, and
prove injurious to the fur trade, was a commonplace among
British officials. "It does appear to us," wrote Hills-
borough, president of the Board of Trade, in a well-known
report in 1772, "that the extension of the fur trade depends
entirely upon the Indians being undisturbed in the posses-
sion of their hunting-grounds ; and that all colonization
does in its nature and must in its consequences operate to
the prejudice of that branch of commerce." 33 Towards the
close of the war the Board of Trade proposed that the
king should issue a proclamation establishing an Indian
reservation "within certain fixed bounds," such lands to
be reserved for the Indians and for purposes of trade. 3 *
From the British imperial point of view, then, unrestricted
western settlements and unregulated trade with the Indians
were evils which must be guarded against.

" O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 401, 409, 454.

50 Cf. Farrand, "The Indian Boundary Line," American Historical
Review, X, 782 et seq.

31 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 419.

"Ibid., 453-

" For the report see The Works of Franklin, Sparks' ed., IV, 303
et seq.

84 Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New
York, VII, 535-536.


Soon after the Seven Years' War the British government
addressed itself to the administration of its new territorial
acquisitions. On October 7, 1763, a royal proclamation was
issued creating civil governments for the four new British
provinces of Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and
Grenada. Under this proclamation civil government was
inaugurated in Quebec, the most important of the new
provinces, in 1764, and this document served as its con-
stitution till the Quebec Act went into operation in I775. 35
But the West was not then included within the limits of any
province or provided with any form of civil government. It
was reserved temporarily for the use of the Indians. In it
settlements and individual purchases from the Indians were
forbidden, and the governors of the eastern colonies were
ordered not to grant warrants of survey, or pass patents
for lands beyond the sources of the rivers which empty
into the Atlantic. Governors of the new provinces were
not to suffer any extension of settlements beyond their
respective limits. The serious consequences of Indian
hostility were forcibly impressed upon British officials by
the uprising associated with the name of Pontiac. It was
constantly asserted in the English newspapers that this
uprising had been caused by maltreatment of the Indians. 36
Had an attempt been made in 1763 to extend civil govern-
ment over the West, the result might have been disastrous.
If the English were to enjoy profits from the fur trade, if
the possession of the West was to be made lucrative,
measures of conciliation were imperative. This considera-
tion, it is believed, explains to a large extent those parts
of the proclamation which relate to the West and to the
Indians. The proclamation attempted, moreover, to prevent
the evil consequences of unregulated traffic with the savages.
Trade was declared to be open upon license to all British
subjects. But traders were required to give security that
they would observe such regulations as the crown or its

35 Coffin, "The Province of Quebec and the Early American
Revolution," Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, Economics,
Political Science and History Series, I, 275-277.

88 Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc., Pub. Fund Series, IX, 270.


commissioners might make. The proclamation was thus an
outgrowth of British experience and policy.

It had, however, other objects than those which per-
tained to the Indians and to the fur trade. In the report
referred to, Hillsborough mentions as purposes of the proc-
lamation, "the confining the western extent of settlements
to such a distance from the seashore as that those settle-
ments should be within reach of the trade and commerce of
this kingdom .... and also of the exercise of that authority
and jurisdiction which was conceived to be necessary for
the preservation of the colonies in a due subordination to
and dependence upon the Mother Country." According
to Dartmouth, it was the invariable policy of the govern-
ment to prevent settlements where they would provoke the
Indians, and where the settlers would be beyond the reach
of British control and protection. 37 Grenville's view, as
given by Franklin, 38 that the king's purpose would be accom-
plished as soon as the western lands were properly pur-
chased from the Indians, seems improbable. A possible
purpose of the proclamation in restricting settlements was
to discredit the charter claims of the colonies to the West.
It was coming to be felt that imperial interests demanded
an abridgement of these indefinite and often conflicting
claims, but no certainty was yet felt as to where the western
boundary of the colonies should be established. 39

Hillsborough thought that the proclamation line, that is,
the Alleghany watershed, should be permanently main-
tained as the western limit of colonial settlements, 40 but
the government did not follow this policy. The proclama-
tion line, confessedly temporary, involved a restriction of
settlements, but did not establish an ultimate boundary. 41

37 Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 4th series,

x, 725.

38 Works of Franklin, Sparks' ed., IV, 339-340.

39 Annual Register for 1763, 20-21.

40 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 577.

41 Attempts were later made to show that the proclamation made
the Alleghanies the western boundary of the Atlantic colonies. Cf.
Sparks, Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution,
VIII, 156-160; Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay,


Washington's view that it was a temporary expedient to
quiet the Indians, which did not extinguish the claims of the
colonies to the West, probably represents the better type of

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Online LibraryRobert Livingston SchuylerThe transition in Illinois from British to American government → online text (page 1 of 13)