Robert Livingston Schuyler.

The transition in Illinois from British to American government online

. (page 2 of 13)
Online LibraryRobert Livingston SchuylerThe transition in Illinois from British to American government → online text (page 2 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

colonial opinion on the subject. He thought that the
restriction of settlements would be removed when the
Indians consented to the occupation of their lands. 42 There
is abundant evidence that the colonies were considered by
good authority to extend west of the Alleghanies after
I763. 43 The Board of Trade, it is true, advocated in 1768
a permanent boundary line between the colonies and the
western Indians, 44 but it does not seem to have been the
policy of the government permanently to reserve the whole
territory between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi for
the use of the Indians, as Burke in a rhetorical flourish

After the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, by which the
Six Nations ceded to the crown their claim to lands south
of the Ohio as far as the Tennessee river, then called the
Cherokee, 45 the government was willing to allow settle-
ments under authority of Virginia west of the Alleghanies.
By the Treaty of Lochabor in 1770, it was stipulated that
settlements under Virginia should be bounded on the west
by a line from the mouth of the Kanawha to some point
on the northern boundary line of North Carolina. 48 This
new line was, of course, much further west than the line
of 1763. Dunmore favored settlements even beyond the
new line, but was instructed not to allow them. 47

It is probable that but for the outbreak of the Revolution
new colonies would have been established in the West under

Johnston's ed., II, 390; Works of Franklin, Sparks' ed., IV, 324,
367; Writings of Thomas Paine, Conway's ed., II, 52.

41 Writings of Washington, Ford's ed., II, 396, and Maryland
Historical Society, Fund Publications, No. n, 73.

43 Archives of Maryland, XIV, 381, 479; O'Callaghan, op. cit., II,


44 Docs. Rel. Col. Hist. St. of N. Y., VIII, 22.

45 For the treaty see ibid., 1 1 1 et seq.

46 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 543. Colls. Mass. Hist. Soc., 4th series,
X, 725-726.

47 Ibid., 726-727.


royal charters. Both in the eastern colonies and in England
a growing interest was felt in the country beyond the
mountains. George Croghan, Sir William Johnson's
deputy, who was in London in 1764, reported that, at that
time, there was talk of the establishment of a colony near
the mouth of the Ohio. 48 Proposals were later made look-
ing towards the founding of colonies in Illinois, at
Detroit, and at the mouth of the Ohio, but the Board of
Trade opposed these schemes, and they were dropped.* 9
One reason for the Board's opposition was that such
colonies would be injurious to the fur trade. 50 That the
Board was willing, however, to open up portions of the
West for settlement is shown by the proceedings relating
to the proposed colony of Vandalia. 51 This project
encountered much opposition. Hillsborough's attitude is
well known. He felt that it was opposed to all sound
policy. 62 Dunmore had written to him that a colony at such
a distance could benefit neither the eastern colonies nor
England. No commercial communication with it would be
possible. Emigration thither, said Dunmore, would reduce
the value o'f lands in the eastern colonies. The establish-
ment of the colony, moreover, would probably involve an
Indian war. 53 Nevertheless the Board approved the petition
for the Vandalia grant, 54 and the charter had all but passed
the seals, when political agitation in the colonies made it
expedient to pause. Care, however, had been taken to
establish such boundaries for the proposed colony as would
not offend the Indians. 55 It is altogether unlikely that the
government would have allowed western settlements to

^Fernow, op. cit., 177-178.

48 Ibid., 181, and Alden, "New Governments West of the Alle-
ghanies before 1780," Bui. Univ. of Wis., EC., Pol. Sci. and Hist.
Series, II, 17-19.

"Docs. Rel. Col. Hist. St. of N. Y., VIII, 27 et seq.

"For the Vandalia proceedings see Alden, op. cit.

82 Works of Franklin, Sparks' ed., IV, 303 et seq.

M Fernow, op. cit., 276-277.

M O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 578 et seq.

BB Colls. Mass. Hist. Soc., 4th series, X, 726.


interfere with the fur trade. The sentiment expressed in
Hillsborough's report continued by many of the British to
be regarded as the proper solution of the problem: "Let
the savages enjoy their deserts in quiet. Were they driven
from their forests, the peltry trade would decrease." A
distinction has been suggested between the territory north
and that south of the Ohio. It may have been the govern-
ment's policy permanently to reserve the former for the
Indians. 56

On the eve of the Revolution an attempt was made to
establish a new settlement in the nature of a commonwealth
in that part of the Northwest claimed by Connecticut. On
April 2, 1774, Pelatiah Webster of Philadelphia, who under-
stood the potential value of the West and prophesied that
its population would in the future control the continent,
wrote to Silas Deane of Connecticut, pointing out the impor-
tance of the territory near the Great Lakes which was
claimed by Connecticut. 57 At about the same time Deane,
who had already become interested in the West, wrote to
Ebenezer Hazard of New York and Samuel H. Parsons
of Philadelphia, who were likewise interested. 58 In the
letter to Parsons, he suggested a settlement on the south-
west corner of Lake Erie or on the Mississippi. It would
be secure, he thought, whatever the result of the dispute
between England and the colonies. If arbitrary measures
were pursued, many would flee to this new asylum. In the
same year Hazard, Parsons, and Deane formed an associa-
tion, the rules of which were drawn up by Hazard. To
this others were to be admitted on payment of a small sum.
The money raised was to be used to purchase from the
Connecticut Assembly a quitclaim or release of all the rights
of that colony to lands between the western boundary of
Pennsylvania and the Mississippi. Every member was to
be entitled to one two-thousandth of the lands granted by

" Coffin, op. cit., 428-429.

57 Hinman, A Historical Collection from Official Records, Files,
etc., of the Part Sustained by Connecticut during the War of th\e
Revolution, 536.

58 Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, II, 131-133.


Connecticut to the association. Each was to pay his share
for defending the claim under authority of that colony if
it should be disputed, and to contribute his proportion of
money necessary to purchase the Indian title and to make
a settlement. Hazard, who was prepared to invest heavily,
went to Hartford in 1774 to procure the quitclaim, but his
petition was rejected 59 and the plan collapsed. The interest
of these men in the West, however, continued, and Deane
was one of the first of the revolutionists to advocate Con-
gressional control over it. 60

The year which witnessed this unsuccessful attempt at
western colonization marked the passage by Parliament of
the Quebec Act, which involved the most serious attack
ever made by the British government on charter claims to
the West. The act included all the Northwest, between
the Ohio, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi in the
government of Quebec. The main purpose of this extension
of the limits of that province will be discussed later.
It had the effect, of course, of nullifying all charter claims
of the eastern colonies to this territory. As was foretold
by the Opposition in the House of Commons, the bill
angered the colonists. Though it was not necessarily con-
nected with the coercive acts affecting Massachusetts passed
at the same session of Parliament, the most unfavorable
interpretation was placed upon it in the colonies. The Con-
tinental Congress declared it to be a violation of colonial
rights and demanded its repeal. 61 An unsuccessful attempt
was made in the Lords the following year to secure this.
The act was said to have unduly extended the limits of
Quebec and prevented the expansion of the eastern
colonies. 62 Since, however, it constituted one of the griev-
ances of the revolutionist party, its nullification of colonial
claims to the Northwest was by them considered invalid. 63

59 Colls. Conn. Hist. Soc., II, 133-134.

80 Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc. for 1886, 383-385.

81 Force, Am. Archives, 4th series, I, 912.

62 Ibid., 1823-1824, 1826.

63 Sparks, Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution,
III, 268 et seq.


During the Revolution, therefore, the states continued to
assert claims to this territory on the basis of their old
colonial charters.

By many of the colonists, and especially by the frontiers-
men, the proclamation of 1763 had been regarded as an
unjust attempt to deprive them of lands for which they had
fought. Its restrictive policy furnished one of the counts
which were later made against the home government by
the revolutionists. 64 The character of the American
frontiersmen was such that they could not be restrained
from hunting and building cabins in the forbidden terri-
tory. 65 Even the recollection of the horrors of Pontiac's
War did not deter them. 66 Among the squatters were men
of low character who persisted in selling rum to the sav-
ages. 67 The imperial machinery for enforcing the proc-
lamation was wanting. British sovereignty in the West,
it is true, was represented by garrisons stationed at a few
posts on the Great Lakes and on the Mississippi, and the sug-
gestion was made that these forces should be employed to
punish squatters and destroy their cabins. 68 But the number
of troops in the West was quite inadequate to perform this
work. Some of the governors, indeed, seem to have con-
scientiously tried to prevent illegal settlements. 69 But many
officials took a lax view of their duties. 70

Friction with the western tribes caused by these violations
of the proclamation was justly regarded as a matter of
imperial concern, since it was likely to involve a general
Indian war. Sir William Johnson warned General Gage
of the danger of the continued illegal settlements and

64 Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc. for 1886.. 270.

65 For evidence of the violation of the proclamation see Archives
of Md., XIV, 468, and Writings of Washington, Ford's ed., II, 221,

"Archives of Md., XIV, 211.

87 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 503.

68 Archives of Md., XIV, 362.

"Ibid., 199, 362.

70 Wharton, Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the
United States, V, 88; American State Papers, "Public Lands," II,


trade. 71 In 1766 the latter, then commander-in-chief of the
British forces in North America, was instructed to
cooperate with the civil power in enforcing the proc-
lamation; and colonial officials were urged to take every
measure to remove squatters and to conciliate the Indians. 72

In the administration of the West the policy of Great
Britain continued to be determined by the fur trade. To
develop this at the least expense, as advocated by Gage, 73
represented the attitude of the government. To prevent
unlicensed trading and smuggling in this vast territory, the
police power which the few troops in the West could
exercise was so inadequate as to be virtually negligible.
The results of these conditions, so far as they relate to
Illinois, will be considered in the next chapter.

Pontiac's War did not make the Indians more inclined
to trade with the English. Their preference to do business
with the French who remained in the Northwest after 1763
was known to British officials. 74 It was hoped, however,
that the establishment of British garrisons at the western
posts would do something to destroy French influence. 75
In the Northwest, competition between French and English
traders was sharp, and the former, many of whom carried
on unlicensed trade, enjoyed an advantage in the goodwill
of the Indians, and were able to go freely among the
tribes where Englishmen were not suffered. In short, the
area of English trade, as compared with the French, was
restricted, and mainly confined to the established posts. 76

But more important from the British standpoint was the
attitude of the English traders themselves. The natural
emporium for the commerce of the Mississippi valley was
New Orleans. La Salle had first developed a plan to ship
furs to Europe from the upper Mississippi down the river,

71 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 498, 503.

72 Archives of Md., XIV, 328-329, and Colls. Mass. Hist. Soc., 4th
series, X, 655.

73 Gage to Hillsborough, 10 Nov., 1770, Carter, MSS. Thesis.

74 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 476; Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc., Pub. Fund
Series, IX, 443.

76 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 476.
76 Ibid., 551, and Carter, op. cit.


instead of by way of the St. Lawrence. 77 This port, how-
ever, was in the possession of a foreign power, and hence
all shipments of fur to it were illegal. General Gage
thought that, while some British manufactures might be
disposed of in the West, so long as furs commanded a high
price in the New Orleans market, no peltry exchanged for
those manufactures would ever reach a British port. 78 His
observations induced him to believe that the Indian trade
would "always go with the stream." It would all go either
down the Mississippi or down the St. Lawrence. 79 Sir
William Johnson shared Gage's views. 80 Unless the natural
course of western trade could be diverted from New Orleans
up the Ohio, or down the St. Lawrence, British possession
of the West would be a flat failure.

In order to check smuggling and enforce payment of the
duties various measures were suggested. Golden outlined a
plan to the Board of Trade in 1764. In his opinion the
export duties on peltry ought to be paid in kind at a fixed
rate at the posts where the furs were procured. A certifi-
cate of the duty paid should be carried with every pack of
peltries and finally lodged in the customhouse of the port
from which they were exported. The goods thus paid in
kind as duty should be sent once a year to the customhouse
and sold at public vendue. This method, Golden thought,
would effectually prevent evasions of the duty. 81

Sir William Johnson thought that illicit traffic with New
Orleans might be prevented, if the northern trade were
strictly confined to the posts in communication with the
Great Lakes. In that way, he thought, the furs would go
down the St. Lawrence. As for the trade of the Mississippi,
it might be possible to divert that from New Orleans to
the British province of West Florida, where French traders
were known to be well supplied with goods for barter. 82

" Winsor, The Mississippi Basin, 21.
78 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 485, 486.
'"Ibid., 486.

80 Ibid., 488.

81 Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc., Pub. Fund Series, IX, 384.

82 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 488.


Gage believed that the traders ought to be restrained by
law. The only way to enforce regulations, in his opinion,
was to invest the officers commanding at the several posts
with judicial power to see that they were put in operation.
Something could be done, he thought, by erecting posts at
the mouths of the Ohio and Illinois and preventing all boats
from descending those rivers. The establishment of an
adequate number of posts and forts, however, would be
difficult and expensive. 83 Hillsborough expressed the same
opinion. 84

A possible means of preventing smuggling lay in the
capture of New Orleans from the Spaniards. If this
became an English port, the problem of western trade
would be solved. At the time of the dispute between Spain
and England over the Falkland Islands, when war seemed
likely, Hillsborough instructed Gage to mobilize an army
and prepare to attack New Orleans by way of the Ohio and
Mississippi. 85 But the controversy was settled without war,
and New Orleans was not molested.

By 1767 officials most conversant with conditions in the
West had concluded that British possession of that territory
would be unprofitable unless the illicit New Orleans trade
could be prevented. 86 "If our traders do not return with
the produce of their trade to the northward provinces by
way of the Ohio or the Lakes," wrote Gage, "it will not
answer to England to be at much expense about the
Mississippi." 87 By 1770, Hillsborough had entirely aban-
doned hopes of immediate commercial benefit from the
West. 88 It is significant that the possession of the West
has never been profitable to any European nation. 89

83 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 486, 488.

84 Hillsborough to Gage, 31 July, 17/0, Carter, op. cit.

85 Public Record Office, Am. and West Indies, vol. 127, Carter,
op. cit.

86 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 486, 499.
91 Ibid., 485.

88 Hillsborough to Gage, 31 July, 1770, Carter, op. cit.

89 Shepherd, "The Cession of Louisiana to Spain," Political
Science Quarterly, XIX, 439, 452.



As a geographical expression in common usage "the
Illinois" referred to a part of the territory which had been
ceded by France to England at the close of the Seven Years'
War. Under French rule it had formed a district of the
province of Louisiana, and then included territory on both
sides of the Mississippi between the lines of the Illinois and
Ohio rivers. 1 After the Seven Years' War the part west
of the Mississippi was known as Spanish Illinois, since it
was included in the territory ceded during the war by
France to Spain.

British Illinois itself was regarded as bounded by the
Illinois river on the north, the Wabash on the east, the
Ohio on the south, and the Mississippi on the west. 2 It
included the central and southern part of the present state
of Illinois, and some of northwestern Indiana. In the fol-
lowing narrative frequent mention will have to be made
of the Wabash posts, particularly Vincennes, and though
not usually considered as part of Illinois, they will here be
treated as such.

There was a considerable decrease of the white population
in eastern or British Illinois following the cession of the
country to England in 1763, and many French Creoles, pre-
ferring Spanish to British government, crossed the Mis-
sissippi into Spanish territory. St. Louis, founded by
Laclede in 1764, as a post for the Missouri river trade,
though in Spanish territory, remained under the control of
Laclede and a French successor till 1770, when the first
Spanish commandant arrived. This post and its neighbor-

1 Alvord, "Illinois in the Eighteenth Century," Bulletin of the
Illinois State Historical Society, I, No. I, 8.

1 Pittman, Present State of the European Settlements on the
Mississippi, reprint of the original edition, London, 1770; Hodder's
ed., 99.


ing settlements gained much in population from the emigra-
tion of the French from British Illinois. Laclede desired
to make St. Louis a refuge for them, and later the Spanish
authorities offered inducements to attract immigrants. 3
Another reason for this emigration from British Illinois
may have been the attitude of the Indians, who appear to
have become lawless after the removal of French control. 4
The exodus alarmed British officials, who feared that the
Spanish villages would monopolize the Mississippi trade. 5
The decrease in the population was partly offset, however,
by the entrance into the country of eastern traders and land

Throughout the British period the French inhabitants,
scattered among several villages, remained the largest ele-
ment in the population. The seat of government under the
French, and under the British till 1772, was Fort Chartres
on the Mississippi, reputed "the most commodious and best
built fort in North America." 6 In 1772 it was so badly dam-
aged by the waters of the Mississippi that it was abandoned,
and thenceforth Kaskaskia, situated on the river of that
name, about six miles above its confluence with the Mis-
sissippi, became the military and governmental capital of
British Illinois. 7 It was the most important village. At
the beginning of the period of British occupation it con-
tained, however, only about fifty families, 8 besides slaves
and a few transient merchants. Prairie du Rocher, about
seventeen miles north of Kaskaskia, at this time boasted of
only twelve dwelling houses, while farther north St.
Philippe was practically deserted. Still farther north

* Chittenden, Fur Trade in the Far West, I, 100, 102 ; Houck,
History of Missouri, I, 302, 304.

4 Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society for 1907,

6 Fernow, op. cit., 179.

6 Pittman, op. cit., 89.

7 Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, I, 291. For
the history of Fort Chartres see Mason, Chapters from Illinois
History, 212-249.

8 Trans. III. St. Hist. Soc., 1907, 217.


was Cahokia, situated on the Mississippi about eighteen
miles south of the mouth of the Missouri. Though
smaller than Kaskaskia, it was important for its Indian
trade. 9 On the lower Wabash was the village of Vincennes,
with a population probably somewhat larger than that of
Kaskaskia. 10 It, too, was an important post, since it was on
the chief commercial route between Canada and Illinois. 11
Farther north on the Wabash was the small trading station
of Ouiatanon. There were one or two small posts, also,
on the Illinois river.

A recent writer on Illinois history places the number of
whites in the villages near the Mississippi at the close of the
British period at something less than one thousand. 12
Dwelling in the neighborhood of Kaskaskia and Cahokia
were some four or five hundred Indians, regarded as more
or less debauched and degenerate. 13 Along the Wabash
dwelt the brave and warlike tribes of the Kickapoos,
Piankeshaws, and Menomenies. 14 There were also some
negro slaves in Illinois, especially in Kaskaskia. 15 The
large extent of territory, and the small number of settle-
ments, are thus facts of cardinal importance in a study of
this country.

The chief occupations of the people were trade, hunting,
and agriculture. The only place where agriculture was
pursued to any extent was Kaskaskia. The land along
the Mississippi, from the mouth of the Kaskaskia to that
of the Missouri, was and is exceedingly fertile, since it
receives the alluvial deposits washed down by the Missouri.
The soil yielded all kinds of European grains and fruits,

'For a description of these villages see Pittman, op. cit., 84-94.
For their populations in 1765, see Trans. III. St. Hist. Soc., 1907, 217.

10 Fernow, op. cit., 180.

11 Benton, "The Wabash Trade Route in the Development of the
Old Northwest." The Johns Hopkins University Studies in
Historical and Political Science, XXI, 7.

"Alvord, Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xv.

18 Ibid., xvi ; Pittman, op. cit., 97.

" Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society Collections, III, 16.

15 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xlviii.


and some produce had been shipped from Kaskaskia to New
Orleans during the French period. 16 The Creoles, however,
judged by English colonial standards, were not enterprising
agriculturists. 17 The excitement of the fur trade and of
the chase exercised greater fascination over their minds than
the routine pursuits of the farm. Most of them belonged
to the "habitant" or "coureur de bois" classes, resembling
in all essentials their Canadian brethren familiar to us in
the pages of Parkman. They had come mainly from
Canada, few from New Orleans and the lower Mississippi. 18
The social classes and distinctions of the old world were
not, of course, reproduced in Illinois, but neither was there
the complete social equality that existed among the Amer-
ican backwoodsmen. There were some prosperous and edu-
cated men, traders and landowners, who constituted the
natural aristocracy of the country. The lower classes, no
doubt, were illiterate and superstitious, 19 but less brutal than
the American frontiersmen.

Accustomed as they had been to despotic rule, the people
of Illinois were wholly unversed in the practices of self-
government and unfitted for the acceptance of democratic
institutions. While France held the country, they had been
happy under the absolutism of their commandant, and the
spiritual domination of the Jesuit priest, the most venerated
man among them. At the close of the Seven Years' War
they saw themselves abandoned by their king, but they did
not cease to love him. They never, indeed, felt any attach-
ment for the new government, which they always regarded

16 Thwaites, France in America, 85. Collins, "History of Ken-

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryRobert Livingston SchuylerThe transition in Illinois from British to American government → online text (page 2 of 13)