Robert Livingston Schuyler.

The transition in Illinois from British to American government online

. (page 9 of 13)
Online LibraryRobert Livingston SchuylerThe transition in Illinois from British to American government → online text (page 9 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ably among the people. The typical American frontiers-
man and that was the class from which Clark's men had

83 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 287.

84 See dates of letters in Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 358 ; see also Colls.
III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 617. .

85 Ibid., Ixxix-lxxx.

80 He was killed in the Battle of the Blue Licks in 1782.

87 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 335.

88 Ibid., 302.

89 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxviii.

90 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 302, and Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib.,
II, Ixxix.


been recruited possessed many virtues. He was hardy,
self-reliant and brave. But he was not distinctively peace-
loving, or law-abiding. His passionate belief in himself
and in his race filled him with contempt for other peoples.
He was usually self-assertive and boastful. His fierce
individualism and aggressive democracy caused him to pay
little respect to constituted authority. He considered him-
self the equal of any American, and immeasurably superior
to men of other races. To him, no doubt, the gentler and
more refined qualities of the French Creoles suggested
effeminacy and cowardice. These people spoke, moreover,
a language he could not understand, and in religion there
was no common ground upon which the followers of Calvin
could meet the adherents of Loyola. Clark, popular with
both, had, no doubt, done much to ward off a clash between
them. But even he could not permanently have prevented
it, and when he took up his headquarters at the Falls of the
Ohio, his immediate influence was at an end.

As early as May 24, 1779, the court of the Kaskaskia
district addressed a memorial to Todd setting forth the
grievances of the people. The soldiers had been seizing
and killing their animals. Even beasts of burden had not
been spared. "We have always been ready," said the
memorialists, "to furnish animals for the garrison in so
far as it was in our power, and are still ready as far as
we have resources. If it is permitted that our beasts of
burden be killed, how can we cultivate our fields, and
furnish the needs of the garrison and those of our fam-
ilies?" The evil of trade in intoxicants with the Indians
was also complained of. Todd was requested to prohibit
this, and also to forbid traffic with slaves without their
masters' permission. 91 The first of these evils, the killing
of cattle, was the greatest, and of it we have constant com-
plaint from this time on. 92

91 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixvii-lxviii.

92 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 337-338; Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II,
Ixxx, 548; English, op. cit., II, 738; Cal. Va. St. Papers, II, 192-193,
Address to Congress from the French Inhabitants of Post Vincennes,
Kaskaskia, etc., 1788.


Conditions were bad enough while Todd remained in
Illinois. They became worse when he left. The methods
which had made Wallenstein's army the scourge of Ger-
many were regularly employed by the troops. The
worst features of militarism appeared. Tyranny and
brigandage was the rule of the day. 93 It was not only
from seizures of their property that the people suffered.
Troops were quartered in their homes, for whose board only
worthless notes were given. 94 In December, 1779, in
response to a petition from the inhabitants, the Kaskaskia
court demanded of Montgomery that the troops should be
prevented from seizing property without their order, and
threatened to appeal to the governor and assembly of Vir-
ginia. To this Montgomery paid no heed. He even
threatened to treat persons who refused supplies as
traitors "to the cause of America." 95

The troops were recalled from Cahokia in the autumn
of I779, 96 much to the joy of the inhabitants. Richard
McCarty, commander of the detachment stationed there, had
made himself odious to the people by playing the role of
military tyrant. 97 He wrote to Todd in October 1780,
". . . . we are become the hated beasts of a whole peo-
ple .... the people are now entirely alienated against us." 98
In January, 1780, Montgomery asked the people of Cahokia
for supplies. 99 The court agreed that a census should be
taken and the people forced to contribute according to their
capacity. 100 It is pathetic to find the Cahokians asking
Clark for aid, but expressing fears lest he should send more
men than they could support. 101

93 Colls. 111. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxx.

94 Ibid., 546.

95 Ibid., Ixxxi-lxxxii.
"Ibid., 546.

97 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 335.

98 Ibid., 337-338.

98 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 34.
100 Ibid., 34, 36.


It is evident that the civil authorities were unable to
remedy the evils of military oppression. Winston, Todd's
deputy, had never been popular with the French, 102 and was
suspected by them, as well as by the troops. He quarreled
with Montgomery, and accused him of attempting to bring
the county under military rule and to throw off the civil
authority altogether. 103 He was for a time actually impris-
oned by military order. 104 But he seems to have done
nothing to forward the interests of the people. 105 Many
of them suspected him of double dealing, and he was later
accused of instigating the troops against the people, while
at the same time urging the latter to resist. 106 He got into
a dispute with the Kaskaskia court on the subject of
arbitrary appointments. 107 A worse man to represent the
civil government could scarcely have been selected.

Corruption, moreover, seems to have found its way into
the Kaskaskia court. In the midst of general distress and
poverty, the justices took the opportunity to demand
higher pay. 108 The state's attorney accused them of laxity
in allowing new settlers, of whom nothing was known, to
take up land without subscribing to an oath of allegiance to
the United States. 109

The lawless example of the troops was followed by some
of the new settlers from the East, who helped themselves
to their neighbors' property. The Kaskaskia court tried
and punished several of them. 110 Tramps and other unde-
sirables, moreover, appeared in Illinois; Clark urged the
Kaskaskia court to proceed against them to the fullest
extent. 111

102 Ibid., cvii.

103 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 339.

104 English, op. tit., II, 736.

105 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxxvi.
l * Ibid., cxx-cxxi.

107 Ibid., cvi-cvii. For a view of the evil results of the activities of
Winston and McCarty, see John Rogers to Jefferson, 29 Apr., 1781,
Cal. Va. St. Papers, II, 77.

108 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxxiv.

109 Ibid., Ixxxiv-lxxxv.

110 Ibid., cvi.

111 Ibid., cix.


An emigration across the Mississippi had begun by
the close of 1779. The best class was leaving the country.
Cerre went before the end of the year. Gratiot, one
of Cahokia's leading citizens, unable to tolerate con-
ditions in Illinois, moved to St. Louis, 112 where he became
prominent. 113 Both of these men had rendered the Amer-
ican cause valuable assistance, and both continued to
entertain friendship for Clark personally. The people of
Illinois in general did not attribute the evils that had come
upon them to him. Indeed, they came to look back on his
administration as a period of comparative happiness. 114
This view seems to have been shared by the Americans as
well. 115 But many of the inhabitants were so disgusted with
the way Virginia government was working out, that they
would have welcomed even a restoration of British rule. 116

An episode which occurred in 1780 further illustrates the
growing hostility between the people of Illinois and the
Virginia authorities. In July of that year a Frenchman,
Augustin Mottin de la Balme by name, appeared in Vin-
cennes and shortly after in Kaskaskia. The purpose of his
presence in Illinois is not perfectly clear. He had held a
commission in the Continental army, but had resigned and
gone into business in Philadelphia. 117 He claimed to be in
the American service, 118 and was promoting an expedition
against Detroit, which, he hoped, if successful, would result
in a general rising of the Canadians against the English.
But the time when a joint enterprise of Americans and
French, like the expedition of February 1779 against Vin-
cennes, could have been possible, had passed. De la Balme
consequently devoted himself to arousing the French, and
ignored the Virginia authorities. He had nothing to say

112 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 556. See also Houck, op. cit., II,

113 Houck, op. cit., II, 383.

u4 Cal. Va. St. Papers, II, 192-193.

116 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 621.
118 Ibid., 562.

117 Ibid., xc, and authorities in note 2.

118 English, op. cit., II, 695.


to Montgomery. 119 He tried to show the people that Con-
gress was ignorant of the way they had been oppressed by
the Virginia troops, and urged them to ask the French
minister at Philadelphia to force Virginia to redeem the
paper money and withdraw the troops. 120 He also urged
them to undertake an expedition against Detroit, "which
will win the confidence of the honorable Congress." 121

De la Balme's hostility toward the Virginia government
in Illinois may be explained reasonably enough by that
government's complete failure. It has been suggested, in
the attempt to substantiate the theory that France was try-
ing to reconstruct her colonial empire, 122 that he was an
emissary sent by the French government to arouse the
Creoles for that end; 123 and it is true that in a manifesto
which he intended to publish after he got to Canada, no
mention was made of Congress or of the United States. 12 *
The British at Detroit, moreover, believed that his activities
were independent of the United States. 125 Another theory
to explain his presence in Illinois is that it was in further-
ance of a plan of Washington and Luzerne, the French
minister to the United States, to incite the Canadians to
throw off British rule. 126 His hostility towards Americans,
indeed, seems to have been confined to the Virginians. He
never spoke disrespectfully of Congress. Neither theory
has been proved.

The character of his reception by the French Creoles,
however, is not doubtful. They looked upon him as a Moses

119 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 620.

120 "An Address of De la Balme to the Inhabitants," ibid., xci.
Ibid., xcii.

m Seem/ra, ch. VII.

123 Turner, "The Policy of France toward the Mississippi Valley
in the Period of Washington and Jefferson," Am. Hist. Rev., X, 255,
note 2.

124 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxxix, note 3.
Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 581.

128 This explanation is offered by Mr. Alvord, Colls. III. St. Hist.
Lib., II, Ixxxix.


who would lead them out of a hateful bondage; they
received him as the Hebrews would have received the
Messiah. 127 It may well be that De la Balme thought an
expression of hostility towards Virginia would strengthen
him with the inhabitants. At any rate, he allowed them
to hope that the French king would again rule over Illi-
nois, 128 and he seems to have created the impression among
the Virginia officers that his mission was hostile to the
American cause. 129 It was even said that he had announced
that French troops would be in Illinois in the spring. 130

Having collected between fifty and one hundred volun-
teers, De la Balme started for Detroit under French
colors, 131 possibly because the Creoles would march under
no others. He attacked and captured the little British post
at the head of the Wabash (Miamitown), plundered, and
destroyed cattle. Indians, however, attacked his party and
killed about thirty. 132 His papers, including memorials
from the Illinois villages to Luzerne, were captured. 133
This unsuccessful and abortive expedition still further
increased the hostility of the Creoles towards the govern-
ment. Their hopes of a restoration to France were, for the
time at least, destroyed.

Another episode which has attracted some attention
followed De la Balme's activities in Illinois. Before start-
ing for Detroit he had instigated a party of Cahokians to
undertake an expedition against the small British post of
St. Joseph, in what is now the state of Michigan. They
succeeded in capturing a number of traders and carrying
off some property, but after leaving were overtaken by a
party of Indians who captured or killed nearly all of

127 Cal. Fa. St. Papers, I, 380.

128 "Memorial of the Inhabitants of Cahokia to De la Balme,"
Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 551.

29 McCarty's Journal, ibid., 618.

30 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 337-338.

31 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xcii and note.

32 Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 581.

33 Those from Cahokia and Vincennes are in the Canadian


them. 134 The Cahokians, eager for revenge, then raised a
party of about twenty men. Francisco Cruzat, who had
succeeded Leyba as commandant of St. Louis, was at the
same time organizing an expedition to attack British posts
east of the Mississippi. 135 The two enterprises appear to
have been united, and a mixed party of Spaniards, French
Creoles and Indians, under a Spaniard, Eugenio Pouree,
marched to St. Joseph in January, 1781. 136 They sacked
the fort and made good their escape. Nor could a sufficient
force of Indians be raised to pursue them. 137

This insignificant raid was magnified by the Spanish
officials into an important victory. A highly embellished
account of it was printed in the Madrid Gazette of March
12, 1782, in which it was stated that Pouree had taken
possession of the post of St. Joseph, with its "dependen-
cies," and of the Illinois river. 138 During the peace
negotiations in 1782, the Spanish ambassador to France
referred to this episode as a conquest which justified Spain
in claiming the Northwest. 139

In the spring of 1780, the situation in Illinois was as
gloomy as can well be imagined. Besides the grave
internal disorders already described, there was external
danger from anticipated British and Indian attacks. 140
British officials at the lake posts, indeed, were meditating the
capture of all Spanish and American settlements on the Mis-
sissippi. 141 Clark knew something of their designs, which,
he feared, might result in the loss of Illinois and Ken-
tucky. He could not maintain garrisons sufficient to defend
all the Illinois villages from such an attack as the British
and Indians were likely to deliver. The only way, in his
opinion, to hold the country was to evacuate his present

M M\ch. P. Colls., XIX, 591-592; Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 465.

185 Houck, op. cit., II, 42.

136 Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 465 ; Houck, op. cit., II, 42-43.

"Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 600.

"* Houck, op. cit., II, 44, note 106.

m See infra, ch. VII.

140 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 531 ; see also ibid., 547.

141 Houck, op. cit., II, 35.



posts and concentrate his forces near the mouth of the
Ohio ; he thought that a fort there could be reen forced by
Kentucky militia, and supported by families who might be
encouraged to emigrate thither by grants of land. 142

The plan of establishing a fort at the mouth of the Ohio
was not new ; Governor Henry had referred to it in his
instructions to Clark in January, 1778, and in a letter of
the same month to Governor Galvez of New Orleans.
Shortly after his arrival at Louisville, as the settlement in
Kentucky at the Falls of the Ohio was beginning to be
called, Clark indicated his intention of establishing such a
post and encouraging settlers to go there. 143 A fort and
settlement at the mouth of the Ohio would, it was hoped,
strengthen Virginia's claim to the Mississippi as her
western boundary, control an extensive trade, secure com-
munication with New Orleans, and serve as a barrier
against possible Spanish encroachments north of the
Ohio. 144

Todd, who retained his office though he had left Illinois,
favored Clark's plan. He did not believe in maintaining
the principal post at Louisville. 145 But a garrison at the
mouth of the Ohio could not be maintained without a
settlement to support it. He, therefore, granted four
hundred acres apiece to a number of families at a price
to be fixed by the assembly. Preparations were made to
withdraw the troops from the Illinois villages. Those at
Cahokia had already been recalled, and those at Vincennes
were withdrawn early in 1780, their place in garrison being
taken by militia. 146 On June 14, 1780, Governor Jefferson
wrote to the speaker of the house of delegates concerning
the establishment of a post near the mouth of the Ohio,
referring to the assembly the measures of Clark and Todd.

142 Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 338.
113 Ibid., 331-

144 Ibid., 338, 358; Henry to the governor of New Orleans, 14 Jan.,
1778, Bancroft MSS.; Butterfield, op. cit., So.
146 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 345.
118 Cal. Fa. St. Papers, I, 358.


Jefferson implied that the expense attending the support
of the troops in Illinois, and the trouble about paper money,
were the principal causes for withdrawing them south of
the Ohio. 147

The total evacuation of Illinois was prevented by the
receipt of information that a strong British and Indian
attack was imminent. 148 The British commandant at
Michilimackinac was organizing a large Indian force to
capture the Spanish and American posts on the Mississippi.
It was hoped that the capture of St. Louis would secure
for the English the fur trade of the Missouri river region,
which centered at that village. 149 The success of this expedi-
tion would have meant the total destruction of American
power in Illinois. 160 Clark, with a force of about one
hundred and twenty officers and men, was busy establishing
Fort Jefferson, a few miles south of the mouth of the Ohio,
when news came that Cahokia was menaced. 161 The
attack was made on St. Louis and Cahokia on May 26,
i/So. 162 But it was not unexpected. 153 Preparations
for defense had been made at St. Louis, 154 and both
Montgomery and Clark were able to bring aid to Cahokia
before it was attacked. 155 At St. Louis the Indians
were repulsed though several of its defenders were killed
or captured. 156 Clark planned a joint attack with the
Spaniards on the villages of the Indians who had composed
the expedition, but Montgomery, who was put in charge

147 Fergus Historical Series, No. 33.

148 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxxvii.

149 Houck, op. cit., II, 35-36.
Ibid., 37-

151 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 531.

162 Houck, op. cit., II, 38.

158 Colls. St. Hist. Soc. Wis., XI, 154.

* Houck, op. cit., II, 37-38.

155 Cal. Va. St. Papers, III, 442-443.

"* Houck, op. cit., II, 38-40. Houck has used the report of
Navarro, the Spanish intendant. A few documents from the
Canadian Archives relating to this attack on St. Louis are printed
in the Missouri Historical Society Collections, II, No. 6.


of the enterprise, effected nothing. 157 The southern part of
the British programme was defeated by the energy of
Governor Galvez, who succeeded in capturing West Florida.
Fort Jefferson did not enjoy a long or tranquil existence.
In July, 1780, it was attacked by a party of Indians, who
were, however, repulsed. But Indian depredations con-
tinued to be of frequent occurrence. The number of troops,
too weak to defend the fort adequately, was diminished
through frequent desertions. The people who had come to
settle in expectation of assistance from the Virginia govern-
ment found their hopes delusive, and many crossed the Mis-
sissippi into Spanish territory. Sickness and famine played
havoc with those who remained. In the general decline of
American credit, even necessary supplies could not be
procured. 158 Clark was absent from the post during a large
part of 1780, and the following year his attention and efforts
were concentrated on a proposed expedition against Detroit.
At the new fort affairs went from bad to worse. 159 Mont-
gomery stopped there in May, 1781, on his way back from
New Orleans to Illinois. "Want of provisions" he gave
as the main reason for the evacuation of the post, which
finally took place in June, I782. 160

When Montgomery left Illinois for a visit to New Orleans
in October, 1780, the few troops remaining in the country
were placed under the command of Captain Rogers. 161 The
further narrative of events in Illinois is a mournful com-
mentary on the utter failure of the Virginia regime. Rogers
fell under the influence of two cunning and unscrupulous
adventurers who appeared in Illinois in 1780. Thomas
Bentley, a former resident of Kaskaskia, had been arrested
during Rocheblave's administration, upon the latter's true

157 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 541.

158 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 330-334; Cal. Va. St. Papers, I,
382, 424-425.

"Ibid., 383.

Ibid., II, 313; HI, 443-444-

181 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xcv.


accusation that he was in correspondence with the rebels.
He had been sent to Quebec, where he was confined till
1780, when he escaped. 162 Returning to Kaskaskia, he
resolved to recoup himself for his sufferings and loss of
property, and punish the inhabitants who, he believed, had
been in league with Rocheblave against him. 163 He wrote
to Clark, expressing himself as friendly to the American
cause, and about the same time also to Haldimand, saying
that the Illinois villages could easily be captured, since the
people were discontented and would not resist British regu-
lars, though they would always fight Indians, if they were
sent, since they were in such fear of their cruelty. 164 Bentley's
correspondence proves the duplicity of his character. He
must have played his double game with skill, for the
Americans in Illinois had no suspicion of his correspondence
with the British, and Clark commended him as having "a
universal good character." 165

The other evil genius of Illinois was John Dodge, a native
of Connecticut. Early in the Revolution Dodge had been
engaged in trading in the Northwest. He had been
captured by the British, and taken first to Detroit and then
to Quebec, but escaped in I778. 166 Dodge impressed Wash-
ington as a man of intelligence, well acquainted with the
West and the Indians, who could be employed usefully
in any western enterprise that Congress might have in
view. 167

The monetary situation in Illinois at once appealed to
the mercenary instincts of this pair of Yankee minds, and
a sort of partnership was formed by them to buy up the
paper certificates held by the people. 168 It is probable that

Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 324 et seq.
163 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xcvi.
M Ibid., note 3, and Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 561-562.

165 Cal. Va. St. Papers, II, 153.

166 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xcv, and note 4 ; Official Letters to
the Honorable American Congress by Washington, II, 345-346.

167 Ibid., 346.

168 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 621.


they resorted to dishonesty in their operations. 169 Their
activities, at any rate, increased the hatred felt by the
Illinois Creoles towards the Virginia authorities, and were
probably a partial cause of the zeal with which the people
welcomed De la Balme. Some of the Americans also were
antagonized. McCarty, who had been a vigorous supporter
of the military regime and an opponent of Todd, changed
his attitude. He had been arrested by order of Mont-
gomery, before the latter left Illinois in 1780, and this fact
may partially explain his new point of view. But in a
letter written to Todd, McCarty implies that his change of
feeling was caused by the scandalous traffic of Bentley and
Dodge. 170 From this time on he sided with the inhabitants
and advised them to ' refuse supplies for the troops, 171 as
did Winston, who accused Dodge of promoting faction
and discord, of bribery, and of trying to overthrow the
laws of the state. 172

Rogers, on his side, entertained a lively hatred for the
representatives of the civil government, and expressed the
opinion that the people had been too leniently treated. He
professed to regard Winston and McCarty as instruments
of turbulence and sedition, inciting the people to "an
absolute state of rebellion." 173 Todd, who continued to
receive complaints from Illinois, believed that the "avarice
and prodigality" of the Virginia officers were chiefly
responsible for the sad condition of the country. "They

all," he wrote, "vent complaints against each other

I believe our French friends have the justest grounds of

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13

Online LibraryRobert Livingston SchuylerThe transition in Illinois from British to American government → online text (page 9 of 13)