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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 
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- 
tucky," R. H. Collins' ed., I, 15. 

"Mich. P. Colls., X, 266. For an account of the agricul- 
tural possibilities of Illinois, as well as of the unenterprising 
character of the people, see a pamphlet written by a Kaskaskian, 
published in Philadelphia, in 1772. It is reprinted in Alvord and 
Carter, Invitation Serieuse aux Habitants des Illinois, by [sic] Un 
Habitant des Kaskaskias. 

"Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xvii, note 2. 

19 Alvord and Carter, op. cit., 15. 


as a "foreign yoke." 20 They hoped that they would some 
day be restored to France, but their habits of obedience 
were such that they never organized a revolt. 

The uprising of Pontiac, following the war with France, 
postponed the occupation of the country by British forces 
till 1765. It was believed by some that the Indian parties 
which ravaged the colonial frontiers during Pontiac's War 
were supplied with ammunition by the French at Fort 
Chartres. 21 The French in Illinois were supposed to be 
reaping great profit from their trade with the Indians, 22 and 
it was expected that they would not give up the country 
without a struggle. 23 It was regarded as very important 
that the influence exerted by them over the Indians should 
be brought to an end, 24 and it was hoped that the British 
occupation of the country would accomplish this result. 25 
Sir William Johnson considered Fort Chartres an important 
settlement for purposes of trade, 26 and Golden thought it 
necessary that a British post should be maintained there. 27 

In 1765 the last French commandant at Fort Chartres 
formally surrendered the post to his British successor. 28 
Thereafter, until the whole Northwest had been joined by 
the Quebec Act to the province of Quebec, the troops at 
Fort Chartres, and later at Kaskaskia, represented the 
British government in Illinois. The local commandant, 
subject to the commander-in-chief of the British forces in 
North America, ruled the country as despotically as his 
French predecessor had done. 29 

*"An Address to Congress from the French Inhabitants of Post 
Vincennes, Kaskaskia," etc., 1788; Papers of the Continental 
Congress, Library of Congress. 

21 Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc., Pub. Fund Series, IX, 336. 

22 Ibid. 

23 Ibid. 
"Ibid., 443- 

25 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 476. 
"Ibid., 478. 

27 Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc., Pub. Fund Series, IX, 380. 

28 Trans. III. St. Hist. Soc., for 1907, 211; Mason, Chapters from 
III. Hist., 235. 

28 Pittman, op. cit., 88. 


As soon as Illinois passed under British control, eastern 
colonists were attracted thither by the alluring prospects of 
fur trade and land speculation. A new element was added 
to the population. Communication was established between 
the eastern colonies and Illinois. 30 The easiest and most 
customary route was from Fort Pitt down the Ohio, 31 and 
boats were kept on that river to maintain communication. 32 
Another possible route was by Lake Erie, up the Maumee, 
and down the Wabash to the Ohio. 33 The all-water route 
by New Orleans was too long and expensive to be followed. 
Eastern firms, anxious to participate in the profits of the 
fur trade, established branches in the French villages and 
sent out agents. Speculation in Illinois land proved equally 
congenial to their commercial instincts. Land companies 
were formed and several tracts were bought from the north- 
western tribes. In 1773, apparently with the consent of 
Captain Lord, then British commandant at Kaskaskia, the 
Illinois Land Company purchased a large tract from the 
Indians. Another extensive purchase was made in 1775 
by the Wabash Land Company, in which Lord Dunmore, 
then governor of Virginia, was interested. 34 These pur- 
chases, in violation of the proclamation of 1763, were, of 
course, illegal. Consequently some of them were annulled 
by General Gage. 35 The military authorities, indeed, made 
a genuine effort to force the traders to deal fairly with the 
Indians ; 36 and their attitude discouraged similar enter- 
prises. The incorporation of the Northwest into the 
province of Quebec tended to lessen communication 
between Illinois and the eastern colonies. But, although the 
number of eastern traders declined after the Quebec Act 
went into operation in 1775, some remained. They played 

80 Alvord and Carter, op. cit., 7-8. 

81 Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc., Pub. Fund Series, IX, 381. 

82 Colls. Mass. Hist. Soc., 4th series, X, 724. 

38 Colls. N. Y. Hist. Soc., Pub. Fund Series, IX, 381. 

84 American State Papers, "Public Lands," I, 27. 

85 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xxx ; Report on Canadian Archives, 
1885, 201. 

M Ibid., 213 ; ibid., 1886, 512. 


a part in Illinois history before the Revolution similar to 
that played in Canada by the "old subjects," as the English 
inhabitants of the province were called, in distinction to 
the French, the "new subjects." In Illinois, as in Canada, 
this class was in the main in sympathy with the spirit which, 
in the eastern colonies, was soon to break out in open revolt. 
Their opposition to the military government can be 
explained partly by the fact that it stood for the principles 
of the proclamation of 1763, which conflicted with their 
trading and speculating enterprises. In Canada, the "old 
subjects" clamored for an assembly. 37 In Illinois, the 
easterners protested against the evils of military and urged 
the establishment of civil government. 38 A memorial was 
submitted in 1770 by Daniel Blouin, a French Creole, setting 
forth the disadvantages of the military regime, and request- 
ing the establishment of a civil government like that enjoyed 
by Connecticut. It was probably inspired, however, by 
English colonial merchants and traders in the country. 
Gage regarded Blouin not as a representative of the people 
of Illinois, but as a mouthpiece of the "republican" faction 
there. 39 The majority of the French inhabitants of Canada 
certainly did not desire the establishment of an assembly, 
and it. could hardly be supposed that the Illinois French 
would demand one. The attempt to secure civil government 
at this time failed. 40 The easterners, however, exercised an 
importance out of proportion to their numbers, for they 
were more intelligent, shrewd and enterprising than most 
of their Creole neighbors. Their presence in Illinois dur- 
ing the decade 1765-1775 made possible correspondence 
between that country and the Atlantic colonies, and prepared 
some, at least, of the inhabitants for the reception of 
American ideas, and, if they should come, of American 
troops. 41 

87 Coffin, op. cit., 319. 

88 Alvord and Carter, op. cit., xviii. 

39 Kept, on Can. Archives, 1884, 61. 

40 Alvord and Carter, op. cit., xxiii. 

41 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xxxi. 


Most of the opposition to the government of Illinois dur- 
ing the decade of military rule emanated from the English- 
speaking element. In 1765 Captain Stirling, the first British 
commandant, brought a proclamation from General Gage 
which served as a sort of constitution for ten years. 42 By 
the terms of this the liberty of the Catholic religion was 
granted to the inhabitants of Illinois, as it had been granted 
to those of Canada; all who chose were allowed to leave 
the country, and those who remained and became British 
subjects were to enjoy all the rights and liberties of the 
king's "old subjects." They were required to take an oath 
of fidelity and obedience, and to assist the British troops 
to take peaceable possession of the country. 

The task of the military commandant during the British 
period was evidently difficult. He was called upon to pre- 
side over the old French and the new English inhabitants 
of Illinois, two classes as inharmonious as could be 
imagined. The French had knowledge only of their own 
law, the "coutume de Paris." The easterners desired the 
establishment of English judicial institutions. In Novem- 
ber, 1768, a court on the English model was set up at Fort 
Chartres, consisting of seven judges, with civil jurisdiction. 
Juries were not employed. 43 At first, the majority of the 
judges were eastern colonists who had recently come into 
the country. Soon, however, the majority were French, 
but the court continued to be presided over by one of the 
most influential of the eastern traders, and it became the 
mouthpiece of the faction which was opposed to the military 
regime. In 1770, it ventured to protest against the arbitrary 
actions of the commandant, Colonel Wilkins, who responded 
by dissolving it. 44 The origin of an anti-governmental 
party in Illinois during the period of British rule, therefore, 

42 Am. St. Papers, "Public Lands," II, 209; or Brown, History of 
Illinois, 212-213. 

^Alvord, Illinois in the Eighteenth Century, 21. The colonial 
French seem always to have been opposed to juries; see Force, Am. 
Archives, 4th series, I, 189. 

44 Alvord and Carter, op. cit., xix. 


is traceable to the presence of this eastern element. Most 
of the influential French inhabitants, though not all, were 
passively on the side of the government. Gabriel Cerre. 
for example, who was decidedly the leading merchant of 
Illinois, supported it. 46 According to the testimony of 
Captain Lord, the people in general were opposed to the 
establishment of civil government. 46 

Throughout the period, conditions on the Wabash were 
little short of anarchical. It was felt necessary that some 
government should be established there, 47 but no official 
came to exercise authority till I///. 48 

The failure of British administration in the West has 
already been discussed, and its causes shown. The govern- 
ment hoped that the former commercial intercourse between 
Illinois and New Orleans would be terminated, and that 
the Illinois trade would be turned up the Ohio, by which 
channel it would reach the eastern colonial ports. But the 
English traders in Illinois followed lines of least resistance 
and greatest profit. They sent their furs to New Orleans, 
because it was far easier than to ship them to New York 
or Philadelphia, and because prices were higher than in 
English colonial markets. Gage was aware of this contra- 
band trade as early as I766. 49 It was his opinion that 
practically no peltries from Illinois reached eastern ports, 
that none ever would which passed through New Orleans, 
and that nothing but force or greater profits could change 
the natural course of trade. 50 It was estimated by a con- 
temporary that between 500 and 1,000 packs of peltries were 
shipped annually from Illinois to New Orleans. 51 The Mis- 
souri river trade, moreover, which, during the French 
period, had centered at Cahokia, was now diverted to the 
Spanish posts across the Mississippi. 

45 Trans. III. St. Hist. Soc., 1903, 275 et seq. 

48 Rept. on Can. Archives, 1886, 519. 

47 Fernow, op, cit., 181. 

* Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., I, 313. 

48 Carter, op. cit. 


51 Ibid. 


In 1768 Captain Forbes, then commandant at Fort 
Chartres, made an effort to prohibit the New Orleans trade 
by forcing traders to give a bond of 200 to ship their 
furs to a British port, 32 but he was unable to stop the 
illicit traffic. Sir William Johnson, in 1767, complained of 
the expense involved in the administration of Illinois, which, 
he said, was vastly more than he had expected. 53 

The British government came to feel that the Northwest 
must be annexed to some province. 5 * Some provision had 
to be made for the French villages. 55 To leave them with- 
out any government, or to establish separate colonies for 
them, was felt to be unwise. 56 Political considerations made 
it inadvisable to join that area to any of the eastern colonies, 
for this was the era of the Boston Tea Party and the 
Committees of Correspondence. It seemed most expedient, 
therefore, to annex it to the province of Quebec. This, 
according to Lord North, was the motive of the Lords in 
passing the Quebec Bill. 57 

The province of Quebec, including the whole Northwest, 
as established by the act of 1774, was a crown colony, with 
a governor and legislative council appointed by the king. 58 
On account of the small number of English inhabitants 
no provision was made for an assembly. 59 General Guy 
Carleton, who had been serving as governor of Quebec, 
was retained in office. The chief post in the "upper 
country," as the Northwest was called by the authorities 
at Quebec, was Detroit. Subordinate to Carleton, Lieu- 
tenant-Governor Henry Hamilton was sent to take com- 
mand of that post, where he arrived in November, I775. 60 
The Quebec Act, however, made little change in the govern- 

52 Carter, op. cit. 

53 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 499. 

84 Kept, on Can. Archives, 1884, 59, 61 ; ibid., 1885. 232. 

w Annual Register, for 1774, 76. 

68 Force, Am. Archives, 4th series, I, 181. 


88 Coffin, op. cit., 278. 

59 Parliamentary History of England, XVII, 1358. 

"Mich. P. Colls., X, 265. 


ment of Illinois, and the troops were retained there until 

The American invasion of Canada in 1775, and the sub- 
sequent course of the Revolution, made it impossible for the 
Quebec authorities adequately to provide for the govern- 
ment and defense of the whole province. Though Carleton 
always sought to keep himself informed of general, and 
particularly of military conditions in the Northwest, the 
posts in that territory were left largely to their own 
resources and self-defense. 61 

When the Quebec Act went into operation, Captain Lord 
was acting as commandant of the British troops at 
Kaskaskia. The next year they were withdrawn to Detroit, 
as a result of the American invasion of Canada, and also 
to save expense. 62 This event may be regarded as the 
termination of military government in Illinois. Upon leav- 
ing the country Captain Lord suggested Rocheblave as a 
suitable person to represent British interests. Rocheblave 
was a Frenchman who had come to Canada about 1748, 
taken up his abode in Illinois between 1770 and 1776, and 
become a British subject. 63 He tells us that Lord appointed 
him "judge and commander," with orders to keep the 
Indians faithful to Great Britain. 64 Carleton, however, 
stated that he employed Rocheblave "to have an eye on the 
proceedings of the Spaniards and the management of the 
Indians . . . ," 65 As military government had ceased, and 
as Rocheblave had no troops to command, we are to regard 
him not as Lord's successor, but merely as a British agent. 
The establishment under the Quebec Act of formal civil 
government for Illinois was prevented by the outbreak of 
the Revolution. 66 Rocheblave was allowed to draw a small 

"Ibid., IX, 343-344. 

62 Mason, Early Chicago and Illinois, 407 ; Mich. P. Colls., IX, 350. 

68 For a sketch of Rocheblave see Mason, Early Chic, and III., 

"Ibid., 396. 

"Ibid., 395. 

68 Captain Mathew Johnson was appointed lieutenant-governor of 
Illinois, and nominally held that position from 1775 to 1781. A 


sum on the treasurer at Quebec for necessary expenses, 67 
but he was inadequately provided for. Left in charge of 
a country without troops or money, it is small wonder that 
he did not succeed. 

The brief period of Rocheblave's residence as British 
agent in Illinois (1776-1778) was that in which the way 
was prepared for the overthrow of British rule in the 
country. He had a high opinion of the possibilities and 
strategic importance of Illinois, and thought that, if better 
known, it could be made a rich and prosperous colony. But 
he feared that it would become the center of communication, 
by way of the Ohio and Mississippi, between the eastern 
rebels and the Spaniards on the Gulf of Mexico and in 
Upper Louisiana. 68 Though affecting a position of neutral- 
ity in the early Revolution, Spain was secretly helping the 
colonists, 69 and Spanish officials in Louisiana were lending 
aid to them. 70 Rocheblave kept setting forth the danger 
of this communication, and it was understood by the 
authorities at Quebec. 71 But they could not furnish the aid 
which he asked for. His requests for troops were unheeded, 
and many of his drafts were protested. 72 

The disposition of the Indians, upon which the fate of 
Illinois to a large extent depended, was a matter of great 
concern to the British agent. He was expected to keep 
them friendly, and to prevent them from being seduced 
by rebel and Spanish agents. The only means of accom- 
plishing this, as he well knew, was a liberal and continuous 
bestowal of presents. Without adequate supplies, and with 
no troops, he found great difficulty in dealing with them. 73 

warrant for his salary for these six years was issued by the 
authorities at Quebec, but he never exercised the functions of the 
office. Rept. on Can. Archives, 1885, 337-338. 

87 Mason, Early Chic, and III, 382. 

^ Ibid., 407. 

69 Floridablanca to Marquis D'Ossun, 17 Oct., 1777 ; Stevens, 
Facsimiles of Manuscripts in European Archives Relating to 
America, 1773-1783, XIX. 

70 Houck, op. cit., I, 303. 

71 Mich. P. Colls., IX, 344. 

72 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 371, 407. 

73 Ibid., 417. 


In attempting- to check the evils produced by the sale of 
liquor to the Indians, Rocheblave seems to have aroused 
ill-feeling among the English-speaking- party. The danger 
caused by the presence in the villages of disorderly and 
intoxicated savages is obvious. The only power, however, 
which he could invoke was public opinion. He accordingly 
called an assembly of the people in April, 1776, to discuss 
Indian relations. It was decided to place them under col- 
lective control, and the inhabitants agreed not to sell intoxi- 
cants to the savages. The agreement was signed by most 
of the influential among the French, but by only one of 
the English-speaking party. 74 

Further friction developed between the agent . and this 
element of the population. They accused him of having 
taken oaths of allegiance successively to France, Spain and 
Great Britain, 75 and doubtless hated him as a renegade 
Frenchman, who was representing a government from 
which their friends and relatives in the east were revolting. 
They were eager to thwart him whenever possible. They 
constantly complained of his tyranny. They accused him 
of siding with the French against them in disputes, and of 
even acting as their counsel. They said that he paid no 
attention to protests and appeals, and was not an English- 
man's friend. They even addressed a petition to the 
governor of the province concerning his iniquities. 76 
According to the terms of the Quebec Act the French 
inhabitants of the province were to have their old law in civil 
cases, but in criminal cases the English law was to prevail. 77 
Political and judicial conditions during Rocheblave's 
agency, however, were almost chaotic. He acted as judge, 
and tells us that demands were constantly made that the 
English law should be followed, if it happened to favor 
the litigant, who might the very next day demand the 

74 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xxxii. 
n Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 324. 

76 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 385-388. 

77 Coffin, op. tit., 278. 


French law, if advantageous to him. 78 He complained bit- 
terly of the "reckless spirits," who thought that the govern- 
ment owed them everything while they owed the govern- 
ment nothing. 79 

In the legitimate performance of his duties the agent 
came into further conflict with the disaffected party over 
the question of aid given to the eastern rebels by the 
Spaniards at New Orleans and St. Louis. Boats laden with 
supplies came up the Mississippi and Ohio to Fort Pitt, then 
held by Virginia, and Governor Galvez at New Orleans was 
on very friendly terms with Oliver Pollock, an agent of 
Virginia and the United States in that city. The anti- 
British party in Illinois knew of this communication and 
beheld it with joy; 80 and they themselves traded and cor- 
responded with the rebels. 81 

Even among the French of Illinois sympathy for the 
Americans existed. 82 A condition somewhat similar is to 
be found in lower Canada, during the period of the early 
Revolution. In spite of the anti-Catholifir sentiments of the 
revolutionary party in the colonies, there was a decided 
feeling of sympathy among the Canadians, especially the 
lower class, for the "rebels," and some of the Jesuits, even, 
sympathized. Of the inhabitants of Illinois who were 
inclined to favor the Americans, the most important, on 
account of his great influence, was Father Pierre Gibault, 
the priest of Kaskaskia, who had instructed himself some- 
what in the questions at issue in the Revolution. 83 
Evidently the British hold on Illinois at the beginning of 
the Revolution was not strong. 

From about 1776 the pro- American party was expecting, 
and Rocheblave was fearing, an American expedition into 

78 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 391. 

79 Ibid., 416. 

80 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xxxiii. 

81 Ibid., I, 299; Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 324; Kept, on Can. Archives, 
1890 (State papers), 92. 

82 Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 417. 

83 For information concerning Gibault see English, Conquest of the 
Country Northwest of the River Ohio and Life of Gen. George 
Rogers Clark, I, 184 et seq. 


the country, 84 from the direction of Fort Pitt. This strate- 
gic point, at the confluence of the Alleghany and Monon- 
gahela rivers, "the gateway of the West," had been 
evacuated by order of General Gage in October, 1772, but 
had been re-garrisoned two years later by Major John 
Connolly under instructions from Dunmore. 85 Connolly was 
in command at Fort Pitt when the Revolution broke out. 
He speculated on the possibility of a body of rebels going 
down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to attack Kaskaskia, 
and wrote a letter to Captain Lord, then in command at 
that post, warning him of this danger. The letter, however, 
fell into the hands of the Americans, and probably called 
attention to the possibility of such an attack, 86 though this 
could scarcely fail to suggest itself, since intercourse 
between Fort Pitt and New Orleans had become frequent. 
In July, 1775, the garrison at Fort Pitt was disbanded, and 
Virginia militia took possession in September of the same 
year. 87 Their position, and the American hold on the Fort 
Pitt region, were greatly strengthened by a treaty of friend- 
ship made in 1775 with the Indians of the upper Ohio by 
commissioners of Congress and Virginia. 88 

In April, 1776, Congress appointed George Morgan agent 
for Indian affairs in the Middle Department, which 
included the West, with headquarters at Fort Pitt. 89 He 
was to cultivate the friendship of the Indians, and to do 
everything in his power to attach them to Congress. 
Morgan had been one of the first of the eastern traders and 

84 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xxxv; see also An Address 
to Congress from the French Inhabitants of Post Vincennes, 
Kaskaskia, etc., 1788. 

85 Thwaites and Kellogg, Documentary History of Dunmore 's War, 
53, note; Thwaites and Kellogg, The Revolution on the Upper 
Ohio, 17. 

84 Butterfield, History of George Rogers Clark's Conquest of the 
Illinois and the Wabash Towns, 1778 and 1779, 8. 

87 Thwaites and Kellogg, Rev. on the U. Ohio, 20. 

88 Ibid., 25 et seq. 

89 Journals of the Continental Congress, Ford's ed., IV, 268; 
Morgan's commission is in MSS. of the Library of Congress, Letters 
to Morgan. 


speculators to go to Illinois, where he had lived for several 
years. 90 He, of course, had friends and associates in Kas- 
kaskia, with whom he maintained correspondence after his 
appointment as Indian agent. 91 He was in communication, 
also, with the American party in Detroit, and with Governor 
Galvez of New Orleans. 92 He probably knew more about 
the West than any other man in the service of the United 
States. The American party in Illinois expected that 
Morgan would lead an expedition into the country. 93 It 
was this that Rocheblave feared. In a letter written in 
July, 1776, to one of his friends in Kaskaskia, Morgan 
desired "to know the exact situation of affairs at the Illinois, 
and what quantity of flour and beef you could furnish a 
company or two of men with at Kaskaskia the twenty-fifth 
of next December." 94 Rocheblave was thinking of such 
an attack when he wrote in July, 1777, to Stuart, British 
agent among the southern Indians, that he had learned that 
a number of boats were being prepared at Fort Pitt for the 
purpose of embarking a force, which could be intended only 
for Detroit, or for the banks of the Mississippi. 95 As early 
as the spring of 1776, indeed, Congress did contemplate an 
expedition against Detroit. 96 In view of the disaffection 
in Illinois, the well-known attitude of the Spanish power 
on the Mississippi, and the uncertainty felt about the 
Indians, it is not strange that Rocheblave concluded that 
his position was undesirable and his task doomed to failure. 
In May, 1777, David Abbott, a British commandant, 
arrived at Vincennes. 97 He tried to bring order out of 
chaos, formed militia companies, and erected a stockade, 

90 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xxviii ; for his activity in the fur 
trade in Illinois see Rept. on Can. Archives, 1886, 509. 

91 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xxviii, note 2. 

92 Houck, op. cit., II, 109. 

93 Calendar of Virginia State Papers, II, 675 ; Colls. Ill St. Hist. 
Lib., II, xxxv. 

94 Butterfield, op. cit., 518-519. 

95 Rocheblave to Stuart, 4 July, 1777; Bancroft MSS., N. Y. Pub. 

98 Journals Cont. Cong., Ford's ed., IV, 373. 
47 Butterfield, op. cit., 49 and his authorities. 


known as Fort Sackville. Rocheblave regarded Abbott as 
his superior and wanted him to come to Kaskaskia and 
assume command as Captain Lord's successor. 98 Abbott 
seems to have been welcomed by the French inhabitants of 
Vincennes. But the neighboring tribes had been tampered 
with by rebel emissaries, and his efforts to secure their 
friendship were not very successful." He was unable to 
make the necessary presents, and, to save expense, returned 
to Detroit in February, I778. 100 On his departure he left 
Legras, a French Creole, in command of the Vincennes 
militia. 101 

While Rocheblave was fearing a rebel attack on Illinois, 
British Indian agents in the south were expecting similar 
attacks on Pensacola and along the southern Mississippi. 102 
When he learned of the expedition of Captain James Will- 
ing, who had been sent in the spring of 1778 to attack the 
British posts in that quarter, he feared a comprehensive 
plan of the enemy to sweep the British power from the Mis- 
sissippi valley. A rumor reached him in March that a party 
of rebels was building a fort on the lower Ohio. "This 
being true," he wrote, "we are on the eve of great events 
in this country." 103 

98 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 391. 

99 Butterfield, op. tit., 50. 

100 Mich. P. Colls., IX, 488. 

101 Butterfield, op. tit., 50. 

102 Ross to Stuart, New Orleans, 5 Mar., 1778, Bancroft MSS. 
108 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 409. 



The western claims of Virginia, based on her old charter 
of 1609, have been referred to. This charter, it is true, was 
revoked in 1624 when Virginia became a royal province, 
and all ungranted and unsettled lands in royal provinces 
were subject to any disposition which the crown might see 
fit to make. 1 Extensive areas, carved out of the territory 
included within the boundaries of the grant of 1609, had 
been regranted, and removed from the jurisdiction of 
Virginia. This was the case with the provinces of Mary- 
land, Carolina and Pennsylvania. But the Old Dominion, 
though proud of its connection with the crown, cherished 
with tenacity the claims which were supposed to be derived 
from the charter, and regarded all territory included in the 
old grant, except those parts which had been specifically 
regranted, as rightfully within its jurisdiction. It was on 
this hypothesis that Virginia maintained her claims to the 
West before and during the Revolution. 2 

In 1720, the General Assembly took the first step, in the 
sphere of legislative action, in what may be called the move- 
ment of westward expansion. As already explained, the 
presence of the French on the Great Lakes and on the Mis- 
sissippi aroused interest in the country beyond the moun- 
tains. In that year, partly as a measure of defense against 
the French, Spotsylvania and Brunswick counties were 
established, including passes over the mountains within 
their boundaries. 3 In 1734, a division of Spotsylvania was 
made by the assembly to take effect the next year. The 

1 Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, III, 

2 Secret Journals of the Acts and Proceedings of Congress, III, 
169; Hening, Statutes at Large, X, 527. 

8 Hening, op. at., IV, 77. 


western part was formed into Orange County, which was 
bounded on the west by "the utmost limits of Virginia." 4 
As early as 1738 settlers from Virginia had crossed the 
Blue Ridge. This expansion of settlements was viewed with 
favor by the Virginia authorities as tending to safeguard 
the frontier. In that year all of Orange extending north, 
west and south, beyond the Blue Ridge "to the utmost 
limits of Virginia," was separated from the rest and erected 
into two counties. The northern was named Frederick, 
the southern Augusta. Each was to remain part of Orange 
till it contained a sufficient number of inhabitants to warrant 
the appointment of justices of the peace and the creation 
of county courts. 5 As has been shown, the proclamation 
of 1763 temporarily forbade settlements beyond the Alle- 
ghanies. But in 1770, by the Treaty of Lochabor, the line 
of permitted settlements was extended to the Kanawha. 
Beyond this river, however, the British government refused 
to permit the frontiers to be advanced. 6 Nevertheless in 
1769 the 'Virginia Assembly divided Augusta into two 
counties, the northern to retain the name of Augusta, while 
the southern was called Botetourt County, 7 and settlements 
"on the waters of the Mississippi" were mentioned as 
lying in Botetourt. These, the assembly declared, would 
probably soon be formed into a separate county. 8 Dunmore 
himself favored the extension of settlements beyond the 
Lochabor line, but his conduct in the matter called forth 
a reprimand from the home government. 9 In 1772, Fred- 
erick was divided into three counties, known as Frederick, 
Berkeley and Dunmore, 10 while Botetourt was curtailed by 
the formation of its western part into the county of 
Fincastle. 11 

4 Ibid., 450. 

6 Ibid., V, 78-79. 

6 Colls. Mass. Hist. Soc., 4th series, X, 727. 

7 Hening, op. cit., VIII, 395-396. 

8 Ibid., 398. 

* Colls. Mass. Hist. Soc., 4th series, X, 726-727. 

10 Hening, op. cit., VIII, 597-598. 

11 Ibid., 600. 



In the policy of restricting western settlement, Great 
Britain was aided by the presence in the country beyond 
the mountains of formidable Indian tribes. To the colonists 
these furnished a more potent argument against westward 
expansion than nullified edicts and unen forcible boundary 
lines. Between the Tennessee river and the Gulf of Mexico 
were the so-called Appalachian confederacies. Of these, 
the two most powerful and most exposed to the white 
advance were the Cherokees, dwelling in what is now east- 
ern Tennessee, northeastern Alabama and northwestern 
Georgia, and the Creeks, their southern neighbors. North- 
west of the Ohio dwelt the Algonquin tribes, less civilized 
but more warlike than the Cherokees. They were generally 
hostile to the southern Indians, and the uninhabited land 
between the Ohio and the Tennessee was in dispute between 
the two. Before the colonists could cross the mountains 
and settle in numbers, the Indian claims had to be 

The Treaty of Fort Stanwix was an important event 
in the westward expansion of Virginia. Into the country 
to which the Six Nations ceded their claims, Virginia 
pioneers found their way. The first cabin on the Watauga 
is said to have been built in 1769. The first attempt to 
colonize Kentucky was made by Daniel Boone in I773, 12 
and the following year a settlement was made at Harrods- 
burg. The Kentucky country was at this time included in 
Fincastle County. Before its settlement could progress, 
however, the inevitable conflict between the frontiersmen 
and the Indian tribes had to be fought out. In 1772, Hills- 
borough expressed the opinion that the extension of settle- 
ments beyond the line of 1763 would probably cause a 
general Indian war, since the right of the Six Nations to 
cede territory south of the Ohio was denied by other 
tribes. 13 

As early as 1768 persons from the different colonies, 
many apparently of dubious character, had made settlements 

12 Ranck, "Boonesborough," Filson Club Publications, No. 16, 146. 
18 O'Callaghan, op. cit., II, 577. 


on Redstone creek, an affluent of the Monongahela, which 
were, of course, in violation of the proclamation of 1763." 
From Fort Pitt as a center backwoodsmen began restlessly 
pushing down the Ohio. Acquiring no attachment to 
localities, they imagined that distant lands were better than 
those which they had reached. "The established authority 
of any government in America, and the policy of Govern- 
ment at home," wrote Dunmore, "are both insufficient to 
restrain the Americans." 15 Removed from the restrictions 
of civilization, the frontiersmen could not be brought to 
entertain a belief in the sanctity of treaties made with the 
savages, whom they considered "as but little removed from 
the brute creation." 16 The enmity of the Indians, which had 
not completely subsided since Pontiac's War, was revived. 17 
The Shawnees were especially dissatisfied with the Treaty 
of Fort Stanwix, and asserted claims to lands above the 
Kanawha south of the Ohio. 18 Conditions along the west- 
ern border were critical; it behooved the Virginia author- 
ities to assume a tactful attitude. 

Fort Pitt, as already explained, had been evacuated in 
1772, but was reestablished in 1774. Connolly, Dunmore's 
agent in the West, was denounced by the home government 
for his supposed unauthorized activities there. 19 It was 
learned with alarm that Virginians were injuring the 
Indians and arousing their resentment. 20 Affairs at Fort 
Pitt, indeed, were in dire confusion. Pennsylvania, claim- 
ing that it lay within her limits, 21 attempted to extend her 
authority over it by the creation of Westmoreland County. 
The authority of Virginia, also, was extended over it in 
I774. 22 Both claims were, of course, based on charters. 

"Archives of Md., XIV, 468. 

"Thwaites and Kellogg, Doc. Hist, of Dunmore's War, 371. 


"Ibid., 373- 

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

"Force, Am. Archives, 4th series, I, 774. 

20 Ibid. 

21 Ibid., 260. 

22 Ibid., 271. 


Connolly was arrested by the Pennsylvania authorities, 23 
but the latter were unpopular with the settlers, and in May, 
1774, between five and six hundred of them petitioned 
Virginia to take them under its protection. 24 Though the 
country was finally awarded to Pennsylvania, the home 
government was at this time inclined to favor Virginia's 
claim 25 and it was some years before the dispute was 

In the spring of 1774, rumors of a general Indian war 
were rife all along the frontiers. The panic became general 
when Connolly issued a circular asserting that a state of 
war existed and calling the borderers to arms. 26 On the 
last day of April occurred the murder of the family of 
the famous Mingo chief, Logan ; and on June 10, Governor 
Dunmore issued a circular letter, calling on the county- 
lieutenants in the western counties to mobilize the militia. 27 
In the same month he started for Fort Pitt to make an 
armed demonstration among the hostile tribes, for by this 
time the Shawnees of the Scioto valley had taken up the 
hatchet. 28 He wrote to Colonel Andrew Lewis, com- 
mander-in-chief of the southwestern militia, to meet him 
at the mouth of the Great Kanawha, or at Wheeling, with 
as many men as possible. 29 Early in October, Lewis arrived 
at Point Pleasant, near the mouth of the Great Kanawha, 
where, on October 10, the decisive battle of the war was 
fought. On both sides the losses were heavy, but the 
Shawnees, who had crossed the Ohio to attack Lewis, were 
forced to retire. 30 This battle was won by the western 
militia, not by British troops, and it was later believed, or 
at least stated, by members of the revolutionary party in 
Virginia, that Dunmore had not been pleased at the fron- 

23 Force, Am. Archives, 4th series, I, 275. 

24 Ibid., 275-276. 

28 Ibid., 252 et seq. 

26 Thwaites and Kellogg, Doc. Hist, of Dunmore' s War, xiii. 

27 Ibid., 33-35. 

28 Ibid., 383-385- 

29 Ibid., 97-98. 

80 For descriptions of the battle by participants see ibid., 253 et seq. 


tiersmen's victory. 31 The Shawnees gave hostages, and 
agreed to regard the Ohio as their southern boundary. A 
greater idea of colonial prowess was impressed upon their 
minds, and the victory had the important effect of keeping 
the northwestern tribes quiet during the early years of the 
Revolution and making possible the settlement of Kentucky. 
That it "extinguished the rancor" felt by the frontiersmen 
towards the Indians, as Dunmore hoped, 32 there is little 
reason to believe. 

The Six Nations and the Shawnees having thus aban- 
doned all claims to territory south of the Ohio, the way 
was paved for the enterprise associated with the name of 
Richard Henderson of North Carolina. In March, 1775, 
the Transylvania Company, of which he was the leading 
member, negotiated a treaty with the Cherokees, by which 
the latter ceded their claims to an extensive tract between 
the Tennessee and the Ohio, comprising a large part of the 
present state of Kentucky. 33 The name Transylvania was 
given to this purchase, and Henderson's desire was to erect a 
proprietary colony, with a legislature representing the inhabi- 
tants. 34 The Transylvania "House of Delegates" actually 
met in May, 1775, at the new settlement of Boonesborough, 
and its journal has been preserved. 35 Land was sold by 
the company. 36 Transylvania, however, did not enjoy a 
long existence. Before Henderson's treaty with the Chero- 
kees, the proposed purchase had been denounced as illegal 
by the governors of Virginia and North Carolina. 37 The 
company petitioned the Continental Congress to add the 
colony of Transylvania to the thirteen original colonies, and 
a delegate was actually sent to Philadelphia, 38 but Congress 

31 Bland Papers, I, 42. 

32 Thwaites and Kellogg, Doc. Hist, of Dunmore 's War, 386. 
83 The deed made by the Cherokees is in Ranck, op. cit., 151-156. 
For the Transylvania enterprise, see Alden, op. cit., 49 et seq. 

34 Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 307. 

35 Ranck, op. cit., 196-212. 

38 Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 282. 

"Ranck, op. cit., 147-150, 181-182. 

88 Colls. Conn. Hist. Soc., II, 318, note. 


could not grant such a request without exceeding its 
powers and angering Virginia, which claimed most of the 
territory in question. The petition was accordingly refused. 
The Virginia Assembly later declared Henderson's purchase 
null and void, 39 though it was held to be valid as against 
Indian claims. The company, however, had performed some 
real service in employing Boone to open up a route, the 
famous Wilderness Road, to the banks of the Kentucky. 
This long remained one of the most important lines of 
communication between the country east and west of the 
mountains. And in helping to extinguish Indian claims to 
Kentucky, they facilitated the western movement. Most 
of the Transylvania purchase was soon organized in the 
new county of Kentucky. 

Among the Virginia pioneers in the Ohio valley was a 
youth about to play an important role in the annals of 
the West. George Rogers Clark was born on November 
19, 1752, near Monticello, in Albemarle County, Virginia. 40 
He had a taste for mathematics, and his fondness for sur- 
veying exercised an important influence over his career; 
for it opened to him a calling in great demand at a time 
when settlement was rapidly expanding, and one calculated 
to bring him closely in touch with the westward march of 
civilization. He did not attend William and Mary, and 
from the standpoint of the tide-water planter he was a man 
of little cultivation. Indeed, the comparative culture of the 
older settlements had little attraction for him. He was by 
nature a pioneer and a pathfinder. His first journey west 
occurred in 1772, when he remained for several weeks as 
a member of an exploring party in the upper Ohio valley. 41 
Much of his time during the next few years was spent in 
this region, where he devoted himself to surveying, hunting, 
fishing, and locating for himself a tract of land near the 
modern city of Wheeling. By 1773 pioneers were settling 
as far down the Ohio as the mouth of the Scioto. 42 Clark 

39 Ranck, op. cit., 253. 

40 For Clark's early life see English, op. cit., I, ch. 2. 

41 Ibid., 60 et seq. 

42 Ibid., 63. 


became an expert with ax and rifle, and his craft as a woods- 
man was nearly equal to that of the Indian. Though he 
frequently visited the East, his real home was the wilder- 
ness, and his career became yoked with that of the new 
country. He was involved in some of the disturbances 
which led to Dunmore's War; and he joined the force led 
by the governor in person, in which he held a position of 
some importance. 

In 1775, after the war, Clark went to Kentucky, in the 
forefront of the tide of western migration. He was much 
impressed with the beauty of the blue-grass country, then 
virtually an unbroken wilderness, and with the fertility of 
the soil in the valley of the Kentucky river, and predicted 
a rapid growth of settlement. Becoming thoroughly 
acquainted with the whole region, he determined to make it 
his home, and returned east in the autumn of 1775 to settle 
up his affairs there. In Virginia he found the Transylvania 
enterprise viewed askance, and also heard doubts expressed 
whether Virginia could properly claim Kentucky. He was 
opposed to the company, and believed that their purchase 
from the Cherokees was worthless since, in his opinion, the 
latter had possessed no valid claim to the country. The 
company had opened a land office at Boonesborough, and 
were beginning to raise the price of land, which caused 
dissatisfaction among the settlers. 43 

Clark returned to Kentucky in the spring of 1776. That 
he played as important a part in frontier politics as his 
memoir, written by him years later, would lead one to 
infer, 44 may reasonably be doubted ; for Clark, in this docu- 
ment, was anxious to emphasize his own share in the events 
described. The majority of the Kentucky settlers, in the 
conflict which had begun between England and the colonies, 
were strongly on the patriot side. 45 If the settlements were 
to survive, immediate measures for their defense were 

43 Clark's Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 457. 

"See Butterfield, op. cit., 546-557, for the reliability of Clark's 

45 See Petition of the Committee of West Fincastle, Butterfield, 
op. cit., 29. 


imperative. A meeting of the Kentucky pioneers was held 
at the settlement of Harrodsburg in June, 1776. Delegates 
were chosen to petition the Virginia Assembly to take the 
Kentucky settlements under their protection. Clark, though 
he says that he "appointed" it, did not take an active part 
in the meeting. He tells us that he desired the appointment 
of "deputies" to treat with Virginia, and, if favorable 
terms were not secured, the establishment of "an indepen- 
dent government." 48 If this was really his desire, he made 
no serious effort to have his plan adopted. 47 He and John 
Gabriel Jones were selected as delegates to the Virginia 
Assembly, and soon started east for Williamsburg, where 
that body was in session. 

They arrived in the East only to learn that the 
assembly had adjourned. Clark remained to interview the 
governor, Patrick Henry. Jones returned west to the 
Watauga and Holston settlements, to take part in an Indian 
war which was just beginning. 

The growth of these settlements angered and alarmed 
the Cherokees, who replied by ravaging the American fron- 
tier, even invading Georgia and South Carolina. They 
were driven back, however, and their attacks on the 
Watauga and Holston were defeated by forces under James 
Robertson and John Sevier. The Cherokees ceded most 
of their claims between the Cumberland and the Tennessee ; 
and Kentucky was thus secured from Indian attacks from 
the south. This war of 1776, like that of 1774, stimulated 
the western movement. 

Governor Henry lay sick at Hanover, and thither Clark 
repaired with his credentials. 48 He asked for a supply of 
gunpowder, the article most immediately needed in Ken- 
tucky. The governor, realizing the importance of defending 
the Kentucky settlements, wrote to the executive council 
on the subject. The council hesitated to grant Clark's 
request, which would have been exceeding their powers. 

48 English, op. cit., I, 458. 

47 Ibid. 

46 Clark's Memoir, ibid., 461-462. 


Clark informed them that the situation in Kentucky was 
critical in view of probable Indian attacks, and that the 
settlements might be destroyed for want of the powder. 
Further hesitation on their part led to his blunt state- 
ment that a country which was worth claiming was 
worth protecting. The council finally yielded, and ordered 
five hundredweight of powder to be sent to Fort Pitt, 
delivered to the officer commanding there, and by him 
delivered to Clark or his order for the defense of 
Kentucky. 49 

The revolutionary government of Virginia had now 
acknowledged its responsibility for the defense of Ken- 
tucky. In spite of opposition from various sources, that 
territory, with its present boundaries, was erected into a 
county of Virginia in October, 1776. Henceforth it was 
entitled to representation in the Virginia Assembly, the laws 
of Virginia were extended to it, and it was included in the 
military and judicial systems of the state. A county court 
was commissioned by the governor of Virginia to take 
charge of internal administration. For the work of defense, 
Colonel John Bowman was commissioned county-lieuten- 
ant. 51 Clark was commissioned major of the Kentucky 
militia and had it enrolled by March 5, I777- 62 He was 
thus closely identified with the founding of Kentucky. 

So far as the Revolution on the western frontier was con- 
cerned, the conflict was between the American pioneers and 
the Indian tribes in alliance with the British government. 
Stuart, British agent among the Indians of the Southern 
District, with headquarters at Pensacola, was actively and 

* For the order of the council see Henry, Patrick Henry, Life, 
Correspondence and Speeches, I, 472. For Clark's relations with the 
council see his Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 462. 

"At the same time the rest of Fincastle was formed into the 
counties of Washington and Montgomery, and the name Fincastle, as 
applied to a county, became extinct. Hening, op. cit., VIII, 600, note. 

81 For the county organization of Kentucky, see Roosevelt, 
Winning of the West, I, 322. 

62 Clark's Diary, English, op. cit., I, 579. 


successfully negotiating with the southern tribes, 53 with 
whom American agents also had endeavored to treat. 54 
But the leader in the work of arousing and instigating the 
western Indians against the rebel frontiers was Lieutenant- 
Governor Hamilton at Detroit. The task imposed upon him 
was to keep the northwestern tribes firm in their attachment 
to England. But his zeal carried him further than this, 
and he suggested the employment of the tribes to harass 
the American frontiers. The British government author- 
ized such use of the Indians against the frontiers of Vir- 
ginia and Pennsylvania in March, I777; 55 and Stuart was 
instructed to instigate the Creeks to attack the frontiers of 
Georgia and the Carolinas. 56 The British government thus 
hoped to destroy all the American settlements west of the 
mountains. The belief that this policy of employing 
savages was favored by only a few of the most truculent 
of the British officers and officials is an error. Even so 
humane an officer as General Howe favored it. 57 

Early in September, 1777, Hamilton had more than eleven 
hundred warriors dispersed over the frontiers, seven hun- 
dred of whom received ammunition from Detroit. 58 About 
this time the management of the war upon the northwestern 
frontier was taken out of the hands of Carleton, then gov- 
ernor of Quebec, and intrusted directly to Hamilton, in 
whom the British government reposed great confidence. 59 

B3 Germain to Stuart, 7 Feb., 1777, Bancroft MSS. 

M Stuart to Knox, 10 March, 17/7, ibid. 

**Mich. P. Colls., IX, 346-348. 

88 Germain to Stuart, 2 Apr., 1777, Bancroft MSS. 

" Howe to Stuart, 13 Jan., 1777, Bancroft MSS. He says, ". . . 
the general revolt of the colonies justifies every measure that can 
be used to annoy and humble them, and, though I point out circum- 
stances under which I more particularly think the Indians should 
be brought to act, you must not infer from thence that I would have 
them restrained on any occasion when the propriety of such measures 
shall appear to His Majesty's Governor and yourself." Governor 
Tryon also favored this policy. See Tryon to Germain, 9 Apr., 1777, 
Bancroft MSS. 

58 Butterfield, of. cit., 46. 

"Mich. P. Colls., IX, 351. 


In June, 1777, he read a proclamation to the savages assem- 
bled at Detroit, setting them against the rebel frontiers. 
The first fruit of his activity was an Indian attack in 
September, 1777, upon Fort Henry at Wheeling, which 
greatly alarmed the whole frontier and threatened the 
annihilation of American settlements in the West. 60 

The nature of the revolting business upon which Ham- 
ilton was engaged is revealed by unimpeachable evidence, 
two letters of his, one to Carleton, and the other to Carle- 
ton's successor, General Haldimand. In the first of these 
Hamilton reported that the Indians had "brought in 73 
prisoners alive, 20 of which they presented to me, and 129 
scalps." In the second he stated that from May to Sep- 
tember, 1778, "the Indians in the district have taken 34 
prisoners, 17 of which they delivered up, and 81 scalps." 61 
Among all the British officers in the Revolution none was 
so universally execrated by the frontiersmen as Hamilton, 
nicknamed the "Hair-Buyer," because he was supposed 
to reward his Indian myrmidons according to the number 
of scalps they brought in. 62 

Early in the course of the Revolution, Congress, as 
already stated, was impressed with the desirability of send- 
ing an expedition against Detroit, 63 and realized that only 
by destroying British influence over the northwestern tribes 
could the frontiers enjoy peace. 6 * In November, 1777, 
Congress seriously considered such an enterprise. 65 The 
Indians of the upper Ohio, who had remained quiet since 
the Treaty of Fort Pitt in 1775, were becoming restless. 
The Americans could not furnish the articles necessary for 

80 Butter field, Washington-Irvine Correspondence, 13. 

61 Mich. P. Colls., IX, 476 et seq. The installment of Haldimand 
Papers printed in this volume give a clear idea of how Hamilton 
managed the Indians. 

82 For the general and correct belief in Hamilton's responsibility 
for Indian outrages along the frontiers, see Journals Cont. Cong., 
Ford's ed., IX, 942-944; Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 321-324. 

88 Journals Cont. Cong., Ford's ed., IV, 373. 

64 Ibid., IX, 942-944. 

65 Ibid. 


trade, and consequently the majority of the tribes would not 
fight the British, but waited to see which party would gain 
the upper hand. 66 General Hand, the Continental officer 
placed in command at Fort Pitt in 1777, was instructed to 
mobilize a militia force and attack those tribes that were 
hostile to the United States ; but a conflict of Congressional 
and state action arose and nothing was effected. 67 The 
possibility and desirability of an American expedition into 
the Northwest were thus generally understood early in the 

The year 1777 was critical in the history of the infant 
Kentucky settlements. The fury of the Indian attacks was 
such that the less resolute abandoned the country and 
crossed the mountains to the east. The few that remained 
held out bravely in the blockhouse forts at Harrodsburg, 
Boonesborough, and a few smaller stations. Their work, 
incessant and intense, consisted in defense, procuring provi- 
sions, caring for the wounded and burying the dead. Clark, 
who remained in Kentucky through the terrible autumn of 
1777, considered the possibility of saving the country by a 
counter attack on the British posts in the Northwest. While 
in eastern Virginia in 1776, he may have learned of the 
intercepted letter written by Connolly to Lord, 68 and this 
may have first suggested to him an expedition into the 
Northwest. It is just possible, too, that on his journey 
west in 1776 he had talked with Morgan, since he is known 
to have gone by way of Fort Pitt. 69 It is not likely, how- 
ever, for if he had, he would almost certainly have known 
later much more about conditions in Illinois. But he did 
know as well as Congress that the motive power directing 
and impelling the Indian raids on Kentucky was British 
influence, and that it was from Detroit, Michilimackinac, 

66 Hand to Yeates, Fort Pitt, 12 July, 1777. Emmet MSS., N. Y. 
Public Library. 

67 Henry, op. cit., I, 569 et seq. 

68 See Butterfield, History of George Rogers Clark's Conquest, 58. 

69 Clark's Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 463. For the view that he 
had talked with Morgan, see Butterfield, op. cit., 58. 


Niagara and Kaskaskia that England's forest allies were 
directed. And he knew that the salvation of Kentucky 
depended upon checking the Indian raids. 

He had apparently begun to think seriously of an attack 
on the British posts in the spring of 1777, for in the early 
summer of that year he sent two members of the Kentucky 
militia as spies to the Illinois villages, without disclosing 
his motives. These men went to Kaskaskia and returned 
with valuable information. 70 They told Clark that the 
militia, consisting mainly of French Creoles, officered by 
Englishmen, were trained and in good order ; that pains 
were taken to inflame the inhabitants against the "rebels," 
but that traces of goodwill towards the latter were to be 
discerned, and that there was no expectation of an American 
invasion. 71 Clark, encouraged by their report, continued 
speculating on the possibility of attacking the Illinois 

It has been asserted that he had got no further, while in 
Kentucky in 1777, than to think an expedition against 
Illinois would be possible; that when he went east, as he 
did in the autumn of that year, he had no developed plans 
in that direction, and that it was not till he had been east 
some time that he decided to encourage such an expedi- 
tion. 72 There is extant, however, a letter of his, written 
probably to Governor Henry not later than the autumn 
of 1777, which seems to place the conception of the 
definite plan to conquer Illinois in the period before 
he went east in October. 73 In this letter he wrote, 
"According to promise I haste to give you a descrip- 
tion of the town of Kuskuskies [Kaskaskia], and my 
plan for taking it The town of Kuskuskies con- 

70 Butterfield, op. cit., 60 and his authorities. 

71 The spies were misinformed in regard to this last fact (see above, 
ch. II, 30 et seq.), and they probably failed to get into communication 
with the pro-American party in Illinois. 

72 Butterfield, op. cit., 69, 71, 73. 

73 October is the date given in Clark's Memoir, and seems more 
probable than that given in his Letter to Mason. See Butterfield, 
op. cit., 69. 


tains about one hundred families of French and English. 
.... On the commencement of the present war the troops 

were called off to reenforce Detroit In June last I 

sent two young men there. The principal inhabitants are 

entirely against the American cause If it [Kaskas- 

kia] was in our possession it would distress the garrison 
at Detroit for provisions, it would fling the command of 
the two great rivers into our hands, which would enable 

us to get supplies of goods from the Spaniards 

I have always thought the town of Kuskuskies to be a place, 
worthy of our attention, and have been at some pains to 
make myself acquainted with its force, situation and 

strength Was I to undertake an expedition of this 

sort and had authority from Government to raise my own 
men .... I should make no doubt of being in [posses- 
sion] by April next I am sensible that the case 

stands thus that [we must] either take the town of Kus- 
kuskies, or in less than a twelve-month send an army against 
the Indians on Wabash, which will cost ten times as much, 
and not be of half the service." 74 

Clark had several reasons for going east in the autumn 
of 1777. There were some accounts of the Kentucky 
militia to settle, some private business to attend to, and the 
expedition to the Northwest to discuss. 75 He reached Wil- 
liamsburg early in November. After settling the militia 
accounts and visiting his father's home, he developed his 
plans to a few leading hien in the capital. These gentle- 
men approached the governor, but it was not till December 

74 Am. Hist. Rev., VIII, 491-494. 

n For an extended discussion of Clark's motives for going east see 
Butterfield, op. cit., 546-557. I cannot accept Butterfield's opinion 
that Clark, when he went east, had no serious thoughts of leading an 
expedition to Illinois, and that his desire. to do so was partially 
caused by the alarming nature of the situation he found in the East. 
Butterfield bases his opinion upon Clark's Letter to Mason (English, 
op. cit., I, 411-412). This account, however, should be modified by 
the conflicting one which CJark gives in his Memoir {ibid., 468). In 
reality, the state of affairs in the East, in the autumn of 1777, was 
better, not worse, than Clark had supposed, for Burgoyne's surrender 
had just taken place. 


10 that Clark had his first interview with Henry. The 
governor was impressed with the possibilities of the plan. 76 
He appreciated, however, the danger of dispatching a force 
to so great a distance and he understood the necessity of 
absolute secrecy. It would be unsafe to have the project 
discussed in the assembly, for in that case it would soon 
be talked of on the frontiers, and prisoners taken by the 
Indians would be sure to divulge it to the British. 77 An 
act passed in the autumn of 1777 gave the governor power, 
with the advice of the council, to order out the militia in 
an expedition against the western enemies. 78 Henry asked 
the advice of a few prominent men who were members 
of the assembly but not in the council, George Mason, 
George Wythe and Thomas Jefferson. This informal com- 
mittee deliberated over Clark's proposals and studied his 
plans of operation. Particular stress was laid upon the pos- 
sibility of a retreat from Illinois in case of disaster to the 
Spanish settlements across the Mississippi 79 where, it was 
believed, Americans would be well received. 80 The informal 
committee decided in favor of the expedition, and on Jan- 
uary 2, 1778, the plan was communicated to the council. 
They advised Henry to authorize the expedition as quickly 
and secretly as possible, to issue his warrant on the state 
treasurer for 1,200 payable to Clark, and to prepare 
instructions for him. 81 

These instructions were delivered to Clark on the same 
day. There were two sets, one public, and the other 
private. 82 By the former he was authorized to enlist with- 


78 English, op. cit., I, 468. 

"Henry, op. cit., I, 583-584. For text of this act, see Hening, 
op. cit., IX, 374-375- 
Clark's Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 468. 

80 The correspondence between Henry and Governor Galvez of 
New Orleans shows that the two were on friendly terms. Tran- 
scripts of these letters are in the Bancroft MSS. 

81 Henry, op. cit., I, 585. 

82 Both are printed in the appendix to Clark's Sketch of His Cam- 
paign in the Illinois, Cincinnati, 1869. 


out loss of time seven companies, to be recruited from any 
of the counties of Virginia. They were to proceed to 
Kentucky and obey his orders for the period of three 
months. If they remained on duty longer, they were to 
receive compensation. These instructions conveyed the 
impression that the recruits were for the defense of Ken- 
tucky only. The private instructions were longer. In 
these Clark was authorized to apply to the commanding 
officer at Fort Pitt for transportation down the Ohio, and 
to attack Kaskaskia, but he was to keep his real destina- 
tion secret. "Its success depends upon this." Kaskaskia 
was claimed as within the lawful boundaries of Virginia. 83 
Clark was to show humanity to British subjects, and, if 
possible, to conciliate them. His troops were to receive the 
pay of Virginia militia. The establishment of a post near 
the mouth of the Ohio was stated as in contemplation. In 
a letter writter by the governor to Clark a few days later, 
the latter was authorized to extend his operations from 
Kaskaskia to the enemy's settlements "above or across, as 
you may find it proper." The reference was probably to 
Detroit and Vincennes. He was also advised to consult 
with Colonel David Rogers, who was on his way to New 
Orleans with a letter from Henry to Galvez, and who had 
an extensive knowledge of conditions in the West. 84 The 
government of Virginia was thus committed to the support 
of Clark's plan. 

On January 3, a letter was written to him by the 
informal committee, and signed by Wythe, Mason and 
Jefferson. In this the conquest of territory was clearly in 
view. English and Indian aggressions were to be punished 
"by carrying the war into their own country." Clark was 
congratulated upon his appointment, and rewards were 
virtually promised, in case of success, to officers and men. 85 

83 The reference is to Virginia's charter claims. 

84 Am. Hist Rev., VIII, 494. A transcript of the letter from Henry 
to Galvez is in the Bancroft MSS. 

86 A facsimile of this letter is given in English, op. cit., I, 102-103. 



Clark, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, immediately 
left Williamsburg and hastened to the frontier. 1 Clothed 
with large discretionary power, in possession of 1,200 in 
depreciated Virginia paper currency, a request for powder 
and lead addressed to General Hand, and an authorization 
to draw for extra funds on Oliver Pollock at New Orleans, 
he set about the work of recruiting. 2 Before the end of 
January he had recruiting parties along the frontier from 
Fort Pitt to North Carolina. 3 He advanced 150 to Major 
William B. Smith to recruit on the Holston in the expecta- 
tion that Smith would join him in Kentucky. 4 Captain 
Leonard Helm of Fauquier County, and Captain Joseph 
Bowman of Frederick County, were each to raise a company 
and meet Clark at Redstone on the Monongahela, where he 
arrived early in February. 5 

Clark and his recruiting officers experienced many diffi- 
culties. As already explained, the country about Fort Pitt 
was in excitement over the rival claims to jurisdiction of 
Virginia and Pennsylvania, and there was much opposition 
in that vicinity to the recruiting of troops who were to be 
used, judging from Clark's public instructions, for the 
defense of a Virginia county. Helm reported that in his 
county there was opposition, "as no such service was known 

1 Probably on Jan. 4, 1778, as he says in his Memoir, English, 
op. cit., I, 469, not Jan. 18, as he says in the Letter to Mason. See 
Butter-field, op. cit., 86. 

* Butterfield, op. cit., 85-86. The statement in the Memoir 
(English, op. cit., I, 468), that he had an "order" on Hand is incor- 
rect, for Governor Henry could not issue orders to a Continental 

8 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 413. 

4 Clark's Memoir, ibid., 469. 

5 Ibid. 


by the Assembly." 6 While at Redstone, Clark had word 
from Smith that he would join him at the Falls of the Ohio 
with 200 men. By the middle of April he thought that 
six companies had been recruited, in addition to those of 
Helm and Bowman, which had joined him at Redstone, and 
that he would have his "full quota." 7 On May 12, he left 
Redstone with about 150 men, divided into three companies, 
and "set sail" for the Falls of the Ohio, General Hand 
having furnished him with all necessities. 8 At Fort Ran- 
dolph, at the mouth of the Great Kanawha, he was joined 
by a few Virginians under Captain James O'Hara. 9 He 
next touched at the mouth of the Kentucky, where dis- 
appointing news awaited him. Smith had experienced 
great difficulties from desertion, and from a Continental 
draft which interfered with his recruiting, and only a very 
few of the men he had promised had arrived in Kentucky. 10 
Clark feared this would prove fatal to his plans. He 
immediately wrote to County-Lieutenant John Bowman 
at Harrodsburg, asking him to join the expedition at the 
Falls with all the men he could spare. 11 Towards the close 
of May, Clark encamped his little force on Corn Island in 
the Ohio, opposite the modern city of Louisville, where the 
channel of the river was interrupted by falls. His object 
in choosing this island for a camp was better to control his 
troops and check desertion. 12 Here he was joined by a few 
men whom Bowman could spare from Kentucky, under 
Captain Montgomery, 13 and by a few of Smith's men from 
Holston under Captain Dillard. 14 He now made known 
his real destination. In spite of precautions, one lieutenant 

6 Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 469, Letter to Mason, ibid., 413. 

7 Clark to Hand, Redstone, 17 Apr., 1778. Emmet MSS. 
"Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 413. 

8 Butterfield, op. cit., 96. 

10 Am. Hist. Rev., VIII, 496; Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., 
I, 414, and Memoir, ibid., 471. 

11 Butterfield, op. cit., 98. 

12 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 414. 

13 Cal. Va. St. Papers, III, 441. 

14 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 414. 


and a few men of Dillard's company made good their 
escape; 15 but the sentiment of the majority was revealed 
by burning the lieutenant in effigy. 16 A number of families, 
who had followed Clark for the sake of protection, were 
found useful in guarding a blockhouse which he erected 
on the island. 17 

While here Clark acquired a piece of information most 
valuable to him in the coming campaign. He received a 
letter from Fort Pitt announcing the treaties which had 
recently been concluded between France and the United 
States. 18 The advantages which the French treaty would 
give him in dealing with the French of Illinois are 
obvious. 19 

On June 24, Clark's little army left Corn Island, shooting 
the Falls at a moment when the sun was in nearly total 
eclipse, an incident "which caused various conjectures 
among the superstitious." 20 His whole force was about 180, 
including officers. 21 The men were divided into four com- 
panies, commanded by Captains John Montgomery, Joseph 
Bowman, Leonard Helm and William Harrod. 22 This 
number fell far short of the "seven companies" which 
Governor Henry had authorized him to raise. 

Speed and secrecy alone, Clark believed, could make up 
for his numerical weakness. Accordingly, he rowed down 
the Ohio as quickly as possible till he reached an island in 
the mouth of the Tennessee. Here he landed on June 28 

is lbid. 

18 Memoir, ibid., 473. 

17 The presence of these families can scarcely be said to have given 
Clark's expedition a migratory character, as stated by Roosevelt, 
Winning of the West, II, 39. 

18 Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 474; Am. Hist. Rev., VIII, 497. 
"Professor Alvord (Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xlv) calls the 

French treaty Clark's "trump card." 

20 English, op. cit., I, 159-160, 473. 

"Bowman to Brinker, July 30, 1778, says, "about 175"; English, 
op. cit., I, 558. Governor Henry says, "one hundred and seventy 
or eighty," ibid., 245. See also, Butterfield, op. cit., 582. 

22 Clark's Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 473. 


to prepare for an overland march to Kaskaskia. 23 The 
water route down the Ohio to its mouth and up the Mis- 
sissippi would have been easier. But it could not have 
been followed with secrecy, for the Mississippi was 
patrolled. Clark understood the importance of delivering 
his attack from an unexpected quarter, and decided to fol- 
low the Ohio only as far as the site of old Fort Massac, 
near the mouth of the Tennessee, thence to march overland 
in a northwesterly direction and enter Kaskaskia by the 
back door. While in the mouth of the Tennessee, his men 
seized a boatload of strangers. They turned out to be 
hunters, who had recently been at Kaskaskia, and they 
seemed to favor the American cause. Their intelligence 
was not specially favorable to Clark, but they took 
an oath of allegiance to the United States and joined 
the expedition. 24 In the evening of the twenty-eighth 
Clark ran his boats into a creek near Fort Massac, and the 
next morning started on the trail for Kaskaskia, one hun- 
dred and twenty miles distant. 25 He had no wagons, pack- 
horses, or artillery. John Fiske's account of the early part 
of this campaign is singularly inaccurate. "Clark," he says, 
"had a hard winter's work in enlisting men, but at length 
in May, 1778, having collected a flotilla of boats and a few 
pieces of light artillery, he started from Pittsburg with 
1 80 picked riflemen, and rowed swiftly down the Ohio 
river a thousand miles to its junction with the Missis- 
sippi." 26 He had no artillery, did not start from Pittsburg 
with 180 men, and did not row down to the mouth of the 

For about fifty miles the march was difficult and fatigu- 
ing. Clark's men then reached the open, level prairies, 
where his greatest fear was the likelihood of detection, 

13 Butterfield, op. tit., 105. 

M Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 415. 

* For Clark's route to Kaskaskia see Hulbert, "Military Roads of 
the Mississippi Basin," Historic Highways of America, VIII, 18, 25 
et seq. Also Butterfield, op. cit., 591-594. 

w Fiske, American Revolution, II, 105. 


which would have spoiled his plans. 27 The march, however, 
was uneventful, save that once the guide lost his way. 
Towards the end, food gave out, but the spirit of the men 
remained excellent. 28 On the evening of July 4, after a 
six days' march, they reached the eastern bank of the Kas- 
kaskia river, opposite the village. Taking possession of 
a farmhouse, they found plenty of boats, and in two hours 
were all transported across the river. 29 Clark learned that 
there had been some suspicion in Kaskaskia of an Ameri- 
can attack, but that the people, having made no discoveries, 
had "got off their guard." 30 

The story of how he surprised the gay Creoles at a dance 
is mythical. Clark himself thus baldly describes the taking 
of Kaskaskia: "I immediately divided my little army into 
two divisions. Ordered one to surround the town. With 
the other I broke into the fort .... secured the governor, 
Mr. Rocheblave; in fifteen minutes had every street 
secured ; sent runners through the town ordering the people, 
on pain of death, to keep close to their houses, which they 
observed, and before daylight had the whole town dis- 
armed." 31 One of his captains describes the capture 
as follows : "About midnight we marched into the town 
without ever being discovered. We pitched for the fort 
and took possession. The commanding officer we caught 
in bed, and immediately confined him." 32 The fort men- 
tioned was Fort Gage, the residence of Rocheblave. It was 
now renamed Fort Clark. 33 With Rocheblave were captured 
the instructions and papers which he had received from 
Detroit and Quebec. 34 

ZT Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 415. 

28 Bowman to Brinker, ibid., 559. 

29 Letter to Mason, ibid., 416. Professor Alvord suggests (Colls. 
III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xlii, note) that these boats may have been placed 
here by members of the pro-American party in Kaskaskia, in expec- 
tation of an American attack. 

30 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 416. 

31 Ibid. 

32 Bowman to Brinker, ibid., 559. 

33 Butterfield, op. cit., 138. 

34 English, op. cit., I, 559, 564; Alvord, The Old Kaskaskia 
Records, 43. 


Clark describes in vivid but probably exaggerated lan- 
guage the abject terror of the Kaskaskians. 35 As a matter 
of fact, an American attack was not, as we have seen, 
unexpected. Persons friendly to the Americans supplied 
Clark's hungry troops with food, and urged the French to 
submit. 36 He himself was not long in learning of a pro- 
American sentiment in the town. 37 

The policy adopted by Clark in treating with the towns- 
men shows that he was gifted with true diplomatic insight. 
He summoned the leading citizens to a conference, told 
them he was sorry they had entertained so bad an opinion 
of Americans, and explained, after a fashion, the nature 
of the dispute between England and the United States. 
It was the American principle, he said, to make men free, 
not slaves, and if they would espouse the American cause, 
they should at once enjoy all the privileges of American 
government; but this favor was made to appear as a 
privilege extended to a people who, by the fate of war, 
were at his mercy. 38 Equally tactful was his treatment of 
the most influential inhabitants. Cerre, the leading mer- 
chant of Kaskaskia, who had been strongly opposed to the 
American cause, happened to be in Spanish Illinois on busi- 
ness. In spite of accusations made by his enemies, Clark 
gave him a hearing. Cerre took an oath of allegiance and, 
says Clark, "became a most valuable man to us." 39 Father 
Gibault became a zealous "Clark man" when informed that 
the church would be protected, and that under the laws of 
Virginia all religions enjoyed equal privileges. 40 The atti- 
tude taken by Clark, and the information he gave of the 
French treaty, brought the town completely to his feet. 41 

35 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 416-417; Colls. III. St. Hist. 
Lib., II, xliv. 

36 See, e. g., Cal. Va. St. Papers, II, 675, and Clark's Memoir, 
English, op. cit., I, 478. 

"Ibid., 477. 

88 Letter to Mason, ibid., 417. 

39 Clark's Memoir, ibid., 484-487; Am. Hist. Rev., VIII, 498-500. 
For a sketch of Cerre, see Trans. III. St. Hist. Soc., 1903, 275 et seq. 

40 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 418. 

"Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 536, and Letter to Mason, English, 
op. cit., I, 417. 


It may well be that hopes of a speedy restoration to France, 
the only government for which the Illinois Creoles felt any 
real attachment, partially explain the tameness of the sur- 
render of Kaskaskia. 42 With a few exceptions, Clark 
allowed any who chose to leave the country. 

On July 5, Bowman, with a detachment of thirty mounted 
men, and accompanied by a number of Kaskaskians, was 
sent to take possession of the northern towns of Prairie du 
Rocher and St. Philippe. 43 They surrendered immediately, 
and without resistance. 44 Within ten days about three hun- 
dred of the inhabitants of these northern towns took an 
oath of fidelity, and appeared to be attached to the 
American cause. 45 

Clark now turned his attention to the reduction of Vin- 
cennes. In the case of this town, a repetition of the attack 
on Kaskaskia was not possible, for the inhabitants were 
aware of his proximity and could not be surprised. 46 
Gibault's friendship was now found to be of the utmost 
service. His spiritual jurisdiction extended over Vincennes, 
and he offered to win the town for Clark by peaceful means. 
Though he had nothing to do with temporal business, he 
said, he would give the people such hints in the spiritual 
way as would be "very conducive to the business." 47 The 
priest, in company with Dr. Laffont, the principal of the 
Jesuit school at Kaskaskia, and a few others, soon started for 
Vincennes, taking with him a proclamation from Clark to the 
people. 48 His "hints" were effective. No resistance was 
made to the transfer of allegiance from England to the 

42 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 536. 

43 This party was mounted on Illinois horses ; Clark had brought 
none with him. 

44 Bowman to Brinker, English, op. cit., I, 559 ; Bowman to Kite, 
ibid., 564-565 ; Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 536. 

45 Bowman to Brinker, English, op. cit., I, 560 ; Bowman to Kite, 
ibid., 565. 

"Letter to Mason, ibid., 419. 

47 Ibid. For Gibault's services to Clark see Am. St. Papers, "Public 
Lands," I, 21. 

48 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 419, and Trans. III. St. Hist. 
Soc., 1907, 271 et seq. See also Am. Hist. Rev., XIV, 544 et seq. 


United States, and in a few days an oath of fidelity was taken 
by the people. 49 They had even less reason than the Kaskas- 
kians to feel attachment to Great Britain, 50 and their 
acquiescence in a change of masters is neither difficult to 
understand nor discreditable. Legras, who had been left 
by Abbott in command of the Vincennes militia, seems to 
have done nothing to stem the tide of pro-American senti- 
ment, and was later accused of treason by Hamilton. 51 The 
post of Ouiatanon soon followed the example of Vincennes, 
and came under American control. 52 Clark placed Captain 
Helm in charge at Vincennes as commandant and super- 
intendent of Indian affairs. 53 

In attempting to explain Clark's success in this expedition 
against Illinois, account must be taken of the secrecy and 
speed of his movements, his spirit of dauntless perseverance 
in the face of disappointment, the absence of- British troops 
in the country and the attitude of the inhabitants. The 
element of secrecy is especially emphasized by Clark him- 
self, 54 and by Captain Montgomery. 55 A few companies of 
British regulars could probably have held the country 
against any force which the Americans could have sent. 
This, at least, was the opinion of General Haldimand, Carle- 
ton's successor as governor of Quebec. 56 But the attitude 
of the inhabitants, it seems to me, was the decisive factor 
in the collapse of British rule in Illinois. Rocheblave 
attributed the failure of the people to defend themselves to 
Spanish intrigues, and to the treachery of the English- 
speaking merchants. 57 What Clark could have done, had 
military resistance been encountered, cannot be known, for 
there was none ; and consequently there was ho occasion for 

49 Trans. III. St. Hist. Soc., 1907, 270 et seq. 
60 Supra, ch. II. 

51 Butterfield, op. cit., 175. 

52 Ibid., 194. 

M Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 420. 

"Ibid., 415. 

BB Col. Va. St. Papers, III, 441. 

66 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 369. 

67 Ibid., 418. 


the display of great military ability. In other words, the 
explanation of his success in 1778 is to be sought for in con- 
ditions in the country before his arrival. The British 
regime fell mainly from internal causes. 

Within a few weeks Clark was in possession of the 
territory along the Mississippi from Kaskaskia to Cahokia, 
and on the Wabash from Vincennes to Ouiatanon. But 
he had not men enough to hold it securely. The time of 
his three months' recruits had expired and most of them 
were anxious to return. It was only with great difficulty, 
and by usurping authority, that he induced about one hun- 
dred to reenlist for eight months. 58 To preserve appear- 
ances and create an impression of greater strength, he gave 
out that he could at any moment secure reinforcements 
from the Falls of the Ohio. The several companies were 
soon filled by the enlistment of Creole volunteers, who were 
anxious to serve under him. 59 The men who insisted on 
returning were sent east under Captain Montgomery, who 
conveyed Rocheblave as a prisoner, and letters from Clark 
to the governor of Virginia informing him of the situation 
in Illinois and the necessity of more troops. 60 Garrisons 
were placed in Fort Clark at Kaskaskia, in Fort Bowman 
at Cahokia, and in Fort Sackville at Vincennes. 61 

The establishment of friendly relations with the neigh- 
boring tribes was a task which immediately confronted 
Clark. We have seen that it was primarily Indian attacks on 
Kentucky that had occasioned his expedition. 62 The counter- 
action of British influence among the northwestern tribes 
was, then, an essential part of his programme. His unex- 
pected appearance, and the position taken by the people of 
Illinois, greatly perplexed and alarmed the savages, most 
of whom had been hostile to the Americans. The French 
traders, who possessed great influence over the Indians, 

M Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 419. 
"Ibid., 420. 

^Ibid.; Clark's Memoir, ibid., 489; Cat. Va. St. Papers, III, 441. 
81 Clark's Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 489; Butterfield, op. cit., 138. 
81 Governor Henry to Virginia's Delegates in Congress, 14 Nov., 
1778, English, op. cit., I, 245. 


advised them to make their peace with Clark. By the middle 
of August they were flocking to Cahokia, some, Qark says, 
from a distance of five hundred miles, to smoke the pipe 
of peace with the "Big Knives," as they called the Virginia 
frontiersmen. 63 Clark did not believe in the methods com- 
monly employed by English colonists in dealing with Indians. 
Abundant use of presents and over-conciliatory speeches 
savored, in his opinion, of weakness. He seems, indeed, 
always to have held these views. 64 He determined, accord- 
ingly, to employ "harsh language"; in other words, bluff 
and braggadocio. During a five-weeks' residence at 
Cahokia he concluded treaties with ten or twelve tribes. 65 
At the same time Captain Helm at Vincennes was making 
treaties with several of the Wabash tribes. 

Hamilton realized the importance of maintaining British 
influence over the Wabash Indians, and thought they should 
be utilized as a barrier against rebel inroads towards 
Detroit. 66 As soon, therefore, as he learned of Clark's 
success in Illinois, he sent an agent named De Celoron, to 
hold these tribes firm in their alliance with Great Britain. 67 
De Celoron arrived at Ouiatanon about the time Helm 
reached Vincennes. The latter, with a detachment of Clark's 
men from Kaskaskia, started up the Wabash to capture the 
British agent, who fled at his approach, leaving Helm to 
negotiate a treaty with the Indians about Ouiatanon, which, 
however, did not long keep them on the American side. 68 
Hamilton later criticised De Celoron sharply, and accused 
him of treason. 69 Though Clark undoubtedly exaggerated 
the extent of American influence over the northwestern 

63 Letter to Mason, ibid., 420, 422. 

64 Cal. Va. St. Papers, III, 488. 

63 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 420-421, 426. 

"Mich. P. Colls., IX, 459. 

67 Ibid. 

88 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 427-428 ; Butterfield, op. cit., 
193-194, 197, 243. 

69 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., I, 359, and Colls, of the State Hist. Soc. 
of Wisconsin, XI, 181. 


tribes, his achievements in this direction were considerable 
enough to worry the British officials at the lake posts. 

He devoted some attention to cultivating friendly rela- 
tions with Francisco de Leyba, the Spanish commandant 
of Upper Louisiana. That Leyba was as glad to see Clark 
in possession along the Mississippi as the latter implies, 70 
seems doubtful, however, in view of later events. 

70 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 426. 



Meanwhile Hamilton was not inactive. He was in many 
respects an able and energetic soldier, and it was almost 
certain that he would attempt to drive the Americans 
out of Illinois. He learned of Clark's invasion in August, 
1778, and immediately informed Carleton. 1 Early in the 
same month the disconsolate Rocheblave wrote a dolorous 
letter to Quebec, stating the fact of his capture by 
"the self-styled colonel." 2 In September, General Haldi- 
mand, who had in June succeeded Carleton as governor of 
Quebec, 3 wrote to Germain, informing the British govern- 
ment that Illinois had been "overrun" by parties of 
rebels. 4 Haldimand thought that the Indians, if properly 
directed by Hamilton, might be able to clear Illinois of the 
Americans, 5 but he did 'not authorize Hamilton to under- 
take a regular expedition for this purpose. 6 The latter 
was, however, authorized by the British government to 
employ the Wabash Indians to dislodge the Americans, but 
this instruction could not have reached him, since it was 
not written till after he had started from Detroit against 
Clark'. 7 But Hamilton was eager to lead such an expedition. 
In the spring of 1778 he had been meditating an attack on 
Fort Pitt, which had, however, been disapproved by Haldi- 
mand. 8 He now began to plan the recovery of Illinois. 
But it was not a mere Indian raid which he had in mind. 

1 Mich. P. Colls., IX, 459. 
2 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 418-419. 

8 Haldimand to Sir Henry Clinton, received i Aug., 1778, Bancroft 

4 Haldimand to Germain, n Sept., 1778, ibid. 

5 Butterfield, op. cit., 163. 
8 Ibid., 163-164. 

7 For proof that he was ordered to try to recover Illinois see 
Germain to Stuart, 2 Dec., 1778, Bancroft MSS. 

8 Mich. P. Colls., IX, 398. 


He would lead the expedition in person. 9 He hoped 
first to recover Vincennes, and then to retake all the other 

He wrote Major De Peyster, commandant at Michili- 
mackinac, informing him of his plans, and asking for the 
cooperation of the Indians in that vicinity. 10 De Peyster 
had already sent a "belt" to the Illinois tribes to stir them 
up against the rebels, 11 and he tried to convince the tribes 
over whom he had influence that commercial considerations 
bound them to Great Britain. 12 He lent Hamilton his 
hearty cooperation, but the Indians about Michilimackinac 
were at that season so greatly dispersed that he was unable 
to dispatch a formidable party, 13 and his efforts to reenforce 
the lieutenant-governor were not successful. 14 

Hamilton's work of preparation was effected with speed 
and efficiency, 15 and on October 7, he started from Detroit 
for Vincennes at the head of about 230 men, regulars, 
irregulars, militia and Indians. 16 He was acting on his own 
responsibility, without orders from Haldimand. 17 The route 
followed by Hamilton was down the Detroit river to Lake 
Erie, on Lake Erie to the mouth of the Maumee, up the 
Maumee to its source, over a portage to a source of the 
Wabash, the "Petit Rivierre," and down the Wabash to 
Vincennes. The details of the journey need not be 
described. 18 It was about 600 miles in length, and consumed 
seventy-one days. During its progress Hamilton was joined 
by considerable numbers of Indians. 19 The journey down 

9 Butterfield, op. cit., 164. 

10 Mich. P. Colls., IX, 476. 

11 Ibid., 371. 

"Colls. St. Hist. Soc. Wis., XI, 117. 
"Ibid., 119. 

14 Ibid., 121-122, 124-125. 

15 Butterfield, op. cit., 170 et seq. 

18 For the numbers see ibid., 180, 648-652. 

"Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 474; Haldimand to Clinton, 26 May, 1779, 
Bancroft MSS. 

18 The longest primary source for this expedition is a letter written 
by Hamilton in 1781. See Mich. P. Colls., IX, 489-516. 

"Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., I, 220, and Butterfield, op. cit., 206. 


the Wabash was very difficult and slow, for the river was 
low and full of floating ice. 

On December 15 a party of scouts captured a small 
detachment sent out from Vincennes by Helm to recon- 
noiter. 20 From these men Hamilton learned that Helm 
depended for defense almost entirely on the militia of Vin- 
cennes, who, the former wrongly imagined, were in the pay 
of Congress. 21 Helm was isolated. Clark, it is true, had 
supposed that Hamilton would attempt the recovery of 
Illinois, 22 and he knew as early as September that the latter 
was trying to rouse the northern tribes. 23 But when his 
spies reported that the British commander was marching 
south by the Maumee, 24 he completely mistook his object. 

In May, 1778, Congress, ignorant of Clark's expedition, 
voted to raise three thousand men for western service. 
General Hand was succeeded at Fort Pitt by General 
Mclntosh, who arrived there in August. Mclntosh was 
instructed to lead an expedition against Detroit. 25 After 
spending some time in attempting to conciliate the Indians 
whose hunting-grounds he would have to traverse, he 
advanced thirty miles down the Ohio, where, at much loss 
of time, he erected Fort Mclntosh. The furthest point 
reached in this "campaign" was the headwaters of the 
Muskingum, where another fort was built. Leaving 150 
men there, Mclntosh returned in December to Fort Pitt, 
disbanded his militia and went into winter quarters. 26 
When certain information reached Clark that Hamilton was 
on the march, he supposed that he was moving against 
Mclntosh, "little thinking," he says, "that Mr. Hamilton 
had the same design on me that I supposed he had at Gen. 

20 Butterfield, op. cit., 216. 

21 Hamilton to Stuart, 25 Dec., 1778, Bancroft MSS. 

22 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 428. 

23 Henry, op. cit., Ill, 194. 

24 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 429. 

25 For the resolution of Congress leading to this expedition see 
Journals Cont. Cong., Ford's ed., XI, 588. 

26 Justin Winsor, Western Movement, 125. 


Mclntosh." 27 Clark cannot justly be blamed for not fore- 
seeing- Mclntosh's utter failure. The latter's inability to 
menace Detroit gave Hamilton a free hand, and he had 
actually captured Vincennes before Clark received accurate 
information of his whereabouts. 

After arriving in the neighborhood of Vincennes, Hamil- 
ton sent out parties to watch the lines of communication 
from that village to Kaskaskia and to the Falls of the Ohio, 
and sent word in advance to the inhabitants that no mercy 
would be shown them unless they abandoned the American 
cause. Helm's militia proved useless, and resolved to make 
as good terms as possible with Hamilton. Helm, indeed, 
said he had not four men upon whom he could depend; 
"not one of the militia will take arms, though before 
sight of the enemy no braver men." 28 He was hopelessly 
outnumbered, and could make no resistance to a party as 
large as that which was approaching. By this time it had 
been increased by the addition of Indians to about five 
hundred men. 29 On December 17, Helm surrendered Fort 
Sackville. In the town Hamilton encountered no resistance. 
The inhabitants laid down their arms to the number of 
22O. 30 On December 19, the people were summoned to the 
church, where Hamilton, after reproaching them for their 
past treachery, read an oath of allegiance, which was signed 
by more than 150 in a few days. 31 Those who had accepted 
American commissions gave them up, and all who took the 
oath received back their arms. Hamilton hoped that lenity 
shown to the people of Vincennes would have a good effect 
on those of Kaskaskia and the other villages. For his 
success thus far he alone deserved the credit. He had acted, 

27 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 429. 

28 Am. Hist. Rev., I, 90-91; English, op. cit., I, 233. 

29 Butterfield, op. cit., 225. Clark (Letter to Mason) exaggerates 
the number in placing Hamilton's force at 800. He comes nearer 
the actual figure in a letter to the governor of Virginia (Cal. Va. St. 
Papers, I, 315-316), placing it at 600. 

30 Hamilton to Stuart, 25 Dec., 1778.. Bancroft MSS. 

31 Butterfield, op. cit., 228-229. 


as has been said, on his own responsibility, without orders 
from his superior at Quebec. 32 

He at once put the fort, which he found " a miserable 
stockade," in better condition, and erected blockhouses and 
barracks. 33 Parties were sent out in every direction to bar 
intercourse between the Falls of the Ohio and the Illinois 
settlements, 3 * and means were taken to intercept boats on 
the Ohio. He deliberated on the project of an immediate 
advance on Kaskaskia. But it was the dead of winter, the 
route to be traversed (over 200 miles) was through a 
country subject to inundation, and it was necessary to 
maintain a garrison in Fort Sackville. These considerations 
induced the British commander to winter at Vincennes and 
postpone the attack on Kaskaskia till spring. 

He knew of the aid extended to the Americans by 
the Spaniards, and resolved, if possible, to put a stop 
to it. As early as January, 1779, he suspected that war 
had already broken out between Spain and England 
and regretted that he had no information which would 
justify him in taking the offensive against the Spaniards in 
the West, "as there would be so little difficulty in pushing 
them entirely out of the Mississippi." 35 In the same month 
he wrote to Galvez, briefly describing his capture of Vin- 
cennes. "Your Excellency," he said, "cannot be unac- 
quainted with what was commonly practised in the time of 
your predecessor in the government of New Orleans, I 
mean the sending supplies of gunpowder and other stores to 
the rebels then in arms against their sovereign. Though 
this may have been transacted in a manner unknown to the 
Governor by the merchants, I must suppose that under your 
Excellency's orders, such commerce will be positively pro- 
hibited I think it incumbent on me to represent to 

your Excellency that the rebels at Kaskaskia being in daily 
apprehension of the arrival of a body of men from the 

3 " Butterfield, op. cit., 226. 

88 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., I, 390. 

34 Hamilton to Stuart, 25 Dec., 1778, Bancroft MSS. 

35 Hamilton to Haldimand, 24-30 Jan., 1779, Bancroft MSS. 


upper posts accompanied by the savages from that quarter 
have declared that they will take refuge on the Spanish 
territory as soon as they are apprised of their 'coming. As 
it is my intention early in the spring to go towards the 
Illinois, I shall represent to the officers commanding several 
small forts and posts on the Mississippi for His Catholic 
Majesty the impropriety of affording an asylum to rebels 
in arms against their lawful sovereign. If after such a 
representation the rebels should find shelter in any fort or 
post on the Mississippi, it will become my duty to dislodge 
them, in which case their protectors must blame their 
own conduct, if they should suffer any inconvenience in 
consequence." 36 

But Hamilton was meditating something more momen- 
tous than the expulsion of the rebels from Illinois. He 
anticipated for the coming season the greatest gathering of 
Indians that had ever been collected on the American 
frontier. 37 Stuart was to incite the southern tribes ; Ham- 
ilton, who expected reinforcements from the commander- 
in-chief, would, with the northern Indians, as circumstances 
should decide, either first sweep the Americans from 
Illinois, or immediately attack Kentucky. 38 He hoped to 
capture the post at the Falls of the Ohio, and also to build 
a fort at the mouth of that river. 39 Concerted Indian action 
was to annihilate the American settlements west of the 
Alleghanies. The danger to the American cause in the West 
was never greater than at the opening of I779. 40 The 
center of hostile operations, moreover, had come nearer. 
It was now at Vincennes. 

By February 22, 1779, the fort at Vincennes, Hamilton 
says, was "in a tolerable state of defense." Scouting parties 
were kept on the alert. Most of his Indians, however, were 

86 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., I, 377 et seq. 

87 Hamilton to the commandant at Natchez, 13 Jan., 1779, Bancroft 

88 Ibid., and Hamilton to Stuart, 25 Dec., 1778, Bancroft MSS. 

m Colls. St. Hist. Soc. Wis., XI, 180, and Mich. P. Colls., IX, 477. 
40 Ibid., 497, and Butterfield, op. cit., 259-260. 


allowed to return to their homes, as were some volunteers 
from Detroit. The people of Vincennes never became 
attached to him, and were ready at a favorable moment to 
desert, if such desertion would not endanger their own 
safety. Haldimand later expressed astonishment that a 
competent officer would remain at Vincennes "when he 
knew the impracticability of my supplying him with pro- 
visions or assistance, and after he must have received notice 
of the rebels approaching toward Detroit." 41 Had Hamil- 
ton's antagonist, however, been a man of ordinary caliber, 
his own occupation of Vincennes would have been tolerably 

As late as Christmas, 1778, Clark was completely in the 
dark concerning Hamilton's whereabouts, and supposed 
that Mclntosh had taken Detroit. 42 Shortly after this, 
however, an inhabitant of Cahokia was detected in a 
treasonable correspondence with the British commander, in 
which the failure of Mclntosh and Hamilton's aggressive 
intentions were revealed, "but not so fully expressed .... 
as to reduce it to a certainty." 43 Clark was still misled by 
the supposition that the enemy's first attack would be 
directed against Kaskaskia rather than Vincennes. In this 
event he determined to recall the garrison from Cahokia 
and concentrate his forces at Kaskaskia. In January he 
started for the northern town to confer with the people and 
determine lines of policy. While he was on the way, a 
party sent out from Vincennes nearly succeeded in captur- 
ing him. Failing to do this, they spread the false report 
that Hamilton with 800 men was marching on Kaskaskia. 
Clark, believing the story, was forced to return post haste 
to that village, where his calmness prevented a panic. The 
Kaskaskians were thoroughly frightened, but the arrival of 
Bowman's troops and a company of volunteers from 
Cahokia reassured them. "I believe," says Clark, "had 
Mr. Hamilton appeared we should have defeated him with 

41 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., I, 446. 

42 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 429. 

43 Ibid. 


a good deal of ease, not so numerous, but the men being 
much better. 44 He soon learned from scouts that the 
"army" which gave the alarm consisted of only about forty 
whites and Indians "making their retreat as fast as pos- 
sible to St. Vincent [Vincennes], sent for no other purpose, 
as we found after, than to take me." 45 The enemy he now 
knew to be at Vincennes. 

Late in January, 1779, Francisco Vigo, 46 a merchant of 
St. Louis, whose business operations brought him into close 
contact with the Illinois and Wabash settlements, arrived 
in Kaskaskia from Vincennes with full information con- 
cerning that place, its capture by Hamilton, etc. From him 
Clark learned that no attack would be made on Kaskaskia 
till spring ; that Hamilton had sent most of his Indians out, 
and had only eighty men in garrison ; that belts and presents 
had been sent to all the tribes south of the Ohio, who were 
asked to meet at a general council at the mouth of the 
Tennessee and lay plans for the reduction of Illinois and 
Kentucky, and that Hamilton "made no doubt of clearing 
the western waters by the fall." 47 "It was at this moment," 
says Clark, "I would have bound myself seven years a slave 
to have had 500 troops." 48 

The situation was desperate. The only escape from dis- 
aster or immediate retreat from Illinois was to attack Ham- 
ilton before Hamilton attacked him. This would involve 
a march of over 200 miles in the dead of winter, over snow- 
clad prairies and drowned lands, concluded by the storming 

"For this episode see Letter to Mason, ibid., 430-435. 


49 Vigo was an important figure in the annals of the Northwest. A 
Sardinian by birth, he had served in the Spanish army and was 
stationed in Louisiana. Leaving the army he became a merchant. 
A friendship sprang up between him and Clark, and he transferred 
his allegiance to the United States. He was a financial power 
throughout the country and rendered Clark much pecuniary service. 
See English, op. cit., I, 267 et seq. 

"For the information brought by Vigo see Cal. Va. St. Papers, 
I. 3i5-3i6 ; English, op. cit., I, 395-402, 436, 568. 

*Ibid., 436. 


of a fort a task which Hamilton had decided was too diffi- 
cult for himself to attempt. "I was sensible," wrote Clark, 
"the resolution was as desperate as my situation, but I saw 
no other probability of securing the country." 49 It was 
nearly a year since he had heard from the Virginia authori- 
ties. He was thrown entirely on his own resources and 
responsibility. 50 He called a council of his officers and 
found that their sentiments coincided with his own. 51 An 
immediate march against Vincennes was agreed upon. All 
was to be risked in a single encounter. 52 The issue was 
thus expressed by Clark : "We must either quit the country 
or attack Mr. Hamilton." 53 

A large boat was rigged, equipped with two four-pound- 
ers and four swivels, and manned by forty-six men under 
command of Lieutenant John Rogers. Loaded with stores 
and ammunition, the "Willing," as she was called, left 
Kaskaskia on February 4. Rogers was instructed to take 
his boat down the Mississippi and up the Ohio and Wabash 
to within a few leagues of the town, and there to await 
further orders. If discovered, he was to do the enemy all 
the harm possible without losing his vessel, and if Clark 
was defeated, he was to join Colonel David Rogers on the 
Mississippi. 54 

Very gratifying to Clark was the enthusiastic manner in 
which the French inhabitants responded at this crisis, and 
the evidence which they gave of attachment to himself. 55 
Up to this time he had been doubtful of them, but they now 
proved their fidelity to the new regime. 56 Without their 
cooperation it is more than doubtful if he could have car- 

49 English, op. cit., I, 396. 
60 Cal Va. St. Papers, I, 315-316. 

31 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 436; Bowman's Journal, 
ibid., 568. 

52 Cal Va. St. Papers, I, 315-316. 

53 Ibid. 

"Ibid.; Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 436-437; Clark's 
Memoir, ibid., 520, Bowman's Journal, ibid., 568. 
65 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib.. II, 526. 
"Ibid., Iviii. 


ried out his plans. They contributed liberally, both in men 
and in money. 57 On February 4, a volunteer company from 
Cahokia under Captain Richard McCarty arrived at Kas- 
kaskia, and on the next day another one was raised under 
Captain Francis Charleville. 58 

With these two companies, and two companies of his 
troops, many of whom, it will be remembered, were Creoles, 
under Captains Bowman and Worthington, Clark left 
Kaskaskia for Vincennes on February 5. He had with him 
about 170 men. 59 "We were conducted out of the town," 
says Clark, "by the inhabitants and Mr. Gibault, the priest, 
who after a very suitable discourse to the purpose gave us 
all absolution, and we set out on a forlorn hope indeed, 
for our whole party, with the boat's crew, consisted of 
only a little upwards of two hundred." 60 There were a 
few pack-horses, but no tents or provision for shelter. 
Over muddy trails and drowned lands, Clark's greatest 
care was to keep up the spirits of his men. After much 
hardship caused by the weather, the condition of the country 
and the failure of provisions, he arrived in the immediate 
neighborhood of Vincennes on February 23. 61 

His approach seems to have been entirely unexpected by 
Hamilton. 62 The British commander could probably have 
defended himself in the fort for some time; and, in the 
event of a regular siege, reinforcements might arrive from 
Detroit and oblige Clark to retire. The latter, therefore, 
resolved to resort to diplomacy. His men had captured a 
prisoner, who turned out to be friendly to the Americans 

87 See English, op. cit., II, 1054, for sums collected by Clark from 
the French inhabitants. See also Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, li, note 
3, xlvi. 

58 Bowman's Journal, English, op. cit., I, 568. 


60 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 437. 

81 This famous march, which John Randolph compared with 
Hannibal's passage of the Trasimene Marsh, can be followed in the 
laconic journal of Captain Bowman (English, op. cit., I, 56$ et seq.). 
For the route taken, see Hulbert, op. cit., 34 et seq. 

62 Bowman's Journal, English, op. cit., I, 571-572. 


and gave valuable information. The people of Vin- 
cennes, Clark knew, were not attached to Hamilton or 
to the government which he represented ; there was, more- 
over, a chance that some of the Indians might abandon him. 
Clark accordingly sent on in advance by a prisoner a proc- 
lamation addressed "To the inhabitants of Post St. Vin- 
cent," requesting all friendly to the American cause to 
remain in their houses, and telling those who were opposed 
to it to repair to the fort and fight like men. Everyone 
found under arms would be treated as an enemy. 63 Before 
dark he appeared in sight of the town, which speedily sur- 
rendered. 64 A number of Indians joined him, and the 
inhabitants furnished his starving and half -naked men with 
food, clothing and powder. 65 A detachment of troops was 
sent to attack the fort, though Clark did not expect to be 
able to effect its reduction till the arrival of the artillery 
on the "Willing." 66 There was almost incessant firing 
for eighteen hours. 67 The hostile commanders held several 
conferences on December 24, and in the evening articles 
of surrender were signed. 68 The fort was delivered over 
to Clark, and the garrison became prisoners of war. The 
reasons given at this time by Hamilton for the surrender 
were remoteness from succor, the low state of pro- 
visions, the unanimity of officers and men in its expediency, 
and confidence in a generous enemy. 69 Clark's total casual- 
ties were one man wounded. Though the attitude of the 

63 Bowman's Journal, English, op. cit., I, 571-572. 

64 Ibid., 397- 

65 Mich. P. Colls., IX, 503. 
68 English, op. cit., I, 397. 

68 Bowman's Journal, English, op. cit., I, 573-575 ; Mich. P. Colls., 
IX, 504; Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 441-444; Clark's 
Journal, Am. Hist. Rev., I, 91-94. 

69 In view of the last reason, the story told by Hamilton of Clark's 
savage behavior (Mich. P. Colls., IX, 502) seems strange. Its 
truth becomes doubtful when we compare with it a letter written 
by Hamilton a few days after the surrender, in which he testifies to 
the honorable behavior of Clark's officers and men. See Hamilton to 
Lernoult, 28 Feb., 1779, Bancroft MSS. 


people of Vincennes must be taken into account as a factor 
of great importance in Clark's victory, he had undoubtedly 
throughout this campaign displayed military ability of a 
high order. He needs, perhaps, no greater praise than that 
accorded by Hamilton : "The difficulties and danger of Col. 
Clark's march from the Illinois were such as required great 
courage to encounter and great perseverance to overcome." 

On the morning of February 25, Fort Sackville was again 
occupied by Americans, and its name was changed to 
Fort Patrick Henry. Clark dispatched some troops to 
ascend the Wabash and capture a party which had been 
sent back by Hamilton to bring down stores from the port- 
age at the head of the river. Forty men and seven boats 
loaded with provisions, together with dispatches from 
Detroit, were captured. 70 

On February 27, the "Willing" arrived. During her 
voyage from Kaskaskia she had picked up a messenger with 
letters from the Virginia government to Clark. 71 He was 
notified of his promotion to the rank of full colonel, and 
reinforcements were promised. 

In a few days Hamilton, his officers and a few men, were 
sent under guard to Williamsburg, where they arrived in 
June. Hamilton was kept in confinement till October, 1780. 
General Haldimand protested against this, 72 but Governor 
Jefferson justified it on the grounds of "national retalia- 
tion," and "personal punishment" for his instigation of 
Indian atrocities. The terms of the capitulation, Jefferson 
asserted, did not guarantee Hamilton against confinement. 75 
After being exchanged, Hamilton finally reached England 
in 1781. In the account of these campaigns which he wrote, 
he attributes his failure "chiefly if not entirely to the treach- 
ery of persons whom I had reason to expect lenity and 
moderation would have gained." 

70 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 444. 

71 Bowman's Journal, ibid., 575, and Clark to the governor of 
Virginia, 29 Apr., 1779, ibid., 398. 

72 Haldimand to Washington, 29 Aug., 1779, Bancroft MSS. 
78 Writings of Jefferson, Ford's ed., II, 248 et seq. 


Upon the disposition of the Indians the effect of Ham- 
ilton's capture was great. It was to him they looked for 
guidance and instructions, and the disaster which befell 
him cooled their ardor for the British cause. 74 Haldimand 
called Hamilton's defeat a second "tour de Burgoyne." 75 
In the spring and early summer information reached Quebec 
from the lake posts that the spirit of the Indians was shaken. 
The friendship of the Illinois French for Clark contributed 
to the same result. 76 The attitude of the French in the 
lake posts and in Quebec, upon whom the French treaty 
of 1778 had its natural effect, alarmed the British authori- 
ties. Haldimand knew the Americans had not abandoned 
their designs on Canada. 77 Small parties were constantly 
entering the province and escaping unhurt. 78 The home 
government was aware of the importance and gravity of the 
situation in Canada. 79 Clark, indeed, had accomplished a 
more important work than he knew. Had Hamilton been 
able to maintain himself at Vincennes, and bring about the 
wholesale onslaught upon the American settlements which 
he had been contemplating, the American cause in the West 
would have suffered a disaster. 

Clark remained at Vincennes till March 20, when he 
returned to Kaskaskia. While at Vincennes, he concluded 
a number of treaties with the Wabash Indians, who flocked 
to the village to take the child of fortune by the hand. 80 

The dispatches brought to him by the "Willing," as 
has been explained, were encouraging, and he was led to 
hope for the reduction of Detroit. 81 They informed him 
that reinforcements would be sent from Virginia. He knew 

74 For the effect on the Indians of Hamilton's defeat, see Mich. P. 
Colls., IX, 382, 429; XIX, 383, 393. See also Kept, on Can. Archives, 
1885, 326. 

Rept. on Can. Archives, 1886, 471. 

"Mich. P. Colls., IX, 382. 

77 Haldimand to Clinton, 10 Nov., 1778, Bancroft MSS. 

78 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., I, 447-448. 

79 Germain to Clinton, 4 Nov., 1778, Bancroft MSS. 

80 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 445-448. 
"English, op. cit., I, 399. 


that the Illinois militia would turn out for an expedition 
against Detroit, and he believed that he could secure two 
or three hundred men from Kentucky. 82 The French 
inhabitants, moreover, manifested commendable zeal in the 
proposed enterprise. 83 Clark felt with true military instinct 
that the time to attack Detroit was before the enemy 
recovered from the shock of Hamilton's defeat. Three 
hundred men, he thought, would suffice to capture the place, 
weakened as it was both by the loss of Hamilton's force, 
and by the existence of a pro-American sentiment among 
the French inhabitants. 84 The commanding officer at 
Detroit, in expectation of an American attack, prepared 
himself as well as he could. 85 

When Clark returned from Vincennes to Kaskaskia he 
found his force strengthened by the arrival of a company 
from New Orleans under Captain Robert George. 86 But 
disappointments were in store. Captain Montgomery 
arrived from Virginia at the close of May, with, however, 
only half the men Clark had expected. 87 In July, instead 
of the two or three hundred promised him from Ken- 
tucky only about thirty arrived. 88 It was with genuine 
sorrow that he was forced temporarily to abandon the 
plan near to his heart. His settled conviction was that 
the frontiers could enjoy no lasting tranquility with Detroit 
in British hands. 89 The reason why it was never captured 
by the Americans was always the same, want of men. The 
narrative of Clark's further efforts to capture it is not 
germane to the present study. They will, therefore, be 

84 Ibid., 444. 

88 Bowman to Clark, 28 May, 1779, Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 611. 

"English, op. cit., I, 399, 449. For proof of the weakness of 
Detroit see Hamilton to Haldimand, 27 Sept., 1778, Mich. P. Colls., 
IX, 481. 

88 Ibid., 407. 

88 English, op. cit., I, 399. 

87 Cal. Va. St. Papers, III, 442 ; Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., 

I, 449- 
"Ibid., 450. 

88 Ibid., 400, 448. 


referred to only so far as necessary to understand the course 
of events in Illinois. 

In the summer Clark divided his small forces between 
Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Vincennes and the Falls of the Ohio, 90 
taking up his headquarters at the last-mentioned place "as 
the most convenient spot to have an eye over the whole." 91 
The post which he had established the previous year at 
Corn Island to secure communication between Kentucky 
and Illinois 92 had been garrisoned by the families who had 
followed him. In his absence they had crossed to the south 
side of the Ohio, where they were laying the foundations 
of Louisville. This post, strengthened and fortified by 
Clark, contributed to the further settlement of Kentucky. 93 
Montgomery was placed in general charge of the troops in 
Illinois, with headquarters at Kaskaskia. 9 * McCarty was 
put in command of the detachment at Cahokia, 95 while Helm 
was left in charge at Vincennes. 96 

90 Cal. Va. St. Papers, III, 433. 

81 Clark's Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 553. 

" 2 Cal. Va. St. Papers, III, 441. 

98 The town of Louisville was established by act of the General 
Assembly of Virginia in May, 1780 ; Hening, op. cit., X, 293. 

94 Cal. Va. St. Papers, III, 442, and Clark's Memoir, English, 
op. cit., I, 553. 

98 Colls. 111. St. Hist. Lib., II, 548. 

98 Clark's Memoir, English, op. cit., I, 550. 



The campaign which resulted in the capture of the 
British posts in Illinois was an enterprise planned and 
executed by Clark under authority of the State of Vir- 
ginia. Though many of the people of Illinois imagined that 
he was acting under authority of Congress, that view was, 
as has been shown, entirely erroneous. Clark, his captains, 
and most of his men were Virginians. His recruits were 
Virginia militia, and not on the Continental establishment. 1 

From July, 1778, to May of the following year the only 
government in Illinois was that exercised by him. The 
posts were held by his officers and Virginia's authority was 
sustained by his militia. In the secret instructions given to 
him by Governor Henry in January, 1778, he was directed 
to treat the inhabitants of Illinois as fellow-citizens, and see 
that their persons and property were secure, if they would 
"give undoubted evidence of their attachment to this state 
.... by taking the test prescribed by law." Clark was 
obliged to devote a large part of his time to civil administra- 
tion, pending the formal organization of a government by 
Virginia. It was his policy to attach the people to the new 
regime by making government mild. 2 Business was done 
without the imposition of fees. 3 He established "courts 
of civil judication" at Cahokia, Vincennes, and probably 
at Kaskaskia, with right of appeal to himself in certain 
cases. 4 The members of the courts were elected by the 
people. The Cahokia court began its sessions at least as early 

1 For the campaign as an example of state sovereignty see Van 
Tyne, "Sovereignty in the American Revolution," Am. Hist. Rev., 
XII, 54i. 

2 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 428. 

* Clark's Memoir, ibid., 498. 

4 Ibid., 484. Alvord (Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xlviii) thinks 
Clark may be mistaken about the establishment of a court at 


as October, 1778. It was composed almost entirely of 
Creoles. Clark was successful in winning the favor of the 
inhabitants, which he never wholly lost. The enthusiasm 
with which they rallied to his support in the Vincennes cam- 
paign proves at least that, at that time, they preferred him to 
the reestablishment of British control. 6 Clark appears to 
have taken a serious view of his duties, and to have tried to 
provide for the safety and welfare of the people. He was 
obliged to employ stringent measures to suppress disorders 
in Kaskaskia which were attributed to the slaves. Several 
murders had been committed. On December 24, 1778, he 
issued an order forbidding slaves to walk the streets after 
sunset without their masters' permission, and prohibited the 
sale of liquor to them. 7 

In the first flush of enthusiasm following his appear- 
ance and the news of the French-American alliance, listen- 
ing to the new talk of liberty, and many of them believing, 
they knew not how, that they would speedily be restored to 
France, the people of Illinois gave freely to Clark, receiving 
in return Continental paper money or drafts on the treasurer 
of Virginia or on Oliver Pollock. 8 The paper money was 
worth only a small fraction of its face value, but the unsus- 
pecting French for a while accepted it at par. 9 Pollock 
exerted himself to maintain the credit of Virginia, 10 but it 
was sinking rapidly. Had it not been for the assistance of 
the French, and the English-speaking merchants, Clark 
could not have maintained himself. 11 The financial basis 
of his government was unsound, and as soon as the enthu- 
siasm which had greeted his appearance subsided trouble 
was bound to arise. 

6 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 2. 

* For evidence of attachment to Clark at this time see ibid., 526. 

7 For this episode see ibid., xlviii-xlix, 13 et seq. 

8 A number of these drafts in payment for supplies for the troops 
furnished by the Creoles, are in Illinois Papers (MSS.) in the 
Virginia State Library. They were signed by Clark, and were drawn 
on Pollock, or the treasurer of Virginia, usually at thirty days. 

8 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 1, and notes. 

10 Evidence of this is in the Illinois Papers (MSS.). 

11 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, li, and notes. 


It is probable that when Montgomery escorted Rocheblave 
to Williamsburg, the letters which he carried from Clark to 
Governor Henry suggested the establishment of civil gov- 
ernment for Illinois. To Clark, who desired to concentrate 
his attention on military matters, civil affairs were distaste- 
ful. 12 The arrival of Montgomery's party in eastern Vir- 
ginia in the autumn of 1778 naturally aroused excitement 
and interest. A regular government had to be created for 
the French villages, for Illinois was something other than 
conquered territory which could be held under prolonged 
military rule. 

On November 14, Governor Henry wrote a letter inform- 
ing Virginia's delegates in Congress of the successful issue 
of Clark's expedition, and suggesting the possibility of his 
cooperation with measures which Congress might have in 
view respecting the West. 13 On November 19, Clark's 
communications were referred to a committee of the 
assembly, which prepared a bill for the establishment of 
county government for Illinois. 14 This was reported to the 
house of delegates on the thirtieth, and passed December 
9. A few days later it was passed by the senate. 15 

The preamble of the act declared that several British 
posts within the territory of Virginia had been captured by 
the militia of the commonwealth; that the inhabitants had 
taken an oath of fidelity and acknowledged themselves 
citizens of Virginia ; that they ought to be protected ; and 
that, since it might be impracticable to govern them imme- 
diately by the laws of the commonwealth, a temporary 
government should be established. All citizens of Virginia 
settled, or about to settle, west of the Ohio, including the 
Illinois French who had become citizens, were formed into 
a "distinct county," to be called "Illinois County." No 

12 Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 449. 

"English, op. cit., I, 245-247. November 16, the date given in 
English, is wrong. The original of this letter is in the Papers of the 
Continental Congress, Library of Congress, volume lettered "Vir- 
ginia State Papers," vol. I. 

14 Rowland, Life of George Mason, I, 307. 

15 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 9, note. 


definite boundaries were established. The governor, with 
the consent of the council, was empowered to appoint a 
county-lieutenant, to hold office during pleasure, who 
might appoint and commission deputy-commandants, militia 
officers and commissaries, during pleasure. The inhabitants 
were to enjoy their religion, civil rights and property. All 
civil officers to whom the people had been accustomed were 
to be chosen by a majority of the citizens, convoked by the 
county-lieutenant in the respective districts which might 
be established. They were to be commissioned by the 
county-lieutenant, paid in the customary manner, and were 
to conduct themselves according to the laws to which the 
people had been used. For the payment of officials to whom 
the people had not been accustomed, the governor, with 
the advice of the council, was empowered to draw warrants 
on the treasury of Virginia up to 500. The county-lieu- 
tenant might pardon any crime except murder or treason. 
In these he might respite execution, till the sense of the 
Virginia government was obtained. The governor was 
authorized to raise 500 men, to march immediately to 
Illinois. The act was put in force for twelve months, and 
thence "to the end of the next session of Assembly, and 
no longer." It was thus temporary in its nature and 
intended operation. 16 It was afterwards extended to 1781, 17 
when it legally expired; after that, till the enactment by 
Congress of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, there was no 
legal government in the country northwest of the Ohio. 18 
The act reveals a wise and conservative spirit, and a desire 
on the part of Virginia's legislators to make the transition 
to American government in Illinois as easy as possible. 

Governor Henry quickly took measures to set in motion 
the machinery for the establishment of civil government. 
He appointed John Todd, a Pennsylvanian by birth but a 
citizen of Virginia, as county-lieutenant. Todd had been 

16 For the text of the act see Hening, op. cit., IX, 552 et seq. 

17 Ibid., X, 303-304- 

18 For the civil organization of Illinois see Boyd, "The County of 
Illinois," Am. Hist. Rev., IV, 623 et seq.; English, op. cit., I, ch. IX. 


one of the first settlers of Kentucky, and had represented 
it as a county in the Virginia Assembly. The governor's 
choice was wise, for Todd, though he did not know 
French, 19 was acquainted with western life and conditions, 
and probably possessed more education and knowledge of 
the law than any other American frontiersman. 20 Henry's 
letter of instructions to him, dated December 12, 1778, is 
complete and judicious, and shows a realization by its 
author of the truth proclaimed by Burke, that "the temper 
of the people amongst whom he presides ought to be the 
first study of a statesman." 21 Todd was urged to improve 
upon the favorable condition existing in Illinois, and to 
cultivate the friendship of the inhabitants and the Indians. 
As he was "unacquainted in some degree with their genius, 
usages and manners, as well as the geography of the 
country," he was to consult and advise with the most 
intelligent of the inhabitants. He was to cooperate when- 
ever possible with Clark and to aid the military. "The 
inhabitants of the Illinois," wrote Henry, "must not expect 
settled peace and safety while their and our enemies have 
footing at Detroit, and can intercept or stop the trade of 
the Mississippi." Hope was expressed that the French of 
Detroit might be brought to cooperate with an expedition 
against that place, but if this was found impracticable, the 
new authorities in Illinois were to content themselves with 
measures of defense only. One advantage hoped for from 
the possession of Illinois was the cessation of Indian raids 
south of the Ohio. A close attention to the disposition and 
movements of the hostile tribes was therefore regarded as 
necessary. "I know of no better general direction to give 
than this," ran the instructions, "that you consider yourself at 
the head of the civil department and as such having command 
of the militia, who are not to be under the command of 

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

20 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, liv. 

"For these instructions see English, op. cit., I, 249, et seq., or 
Boyd, op. cit., Am. Hist. Rev., IV, 625 et seq., or Mason, Early Chic, 
and III, 289 et seq. 


the military until ordered out by the civil authority and 
to act in conjunction with them." The county-lieutenant was 
instructed to impress upon the people the value of their 
newly-acquired liberty. Hope was held out that in a short 
time they might expect "a free and equal representation .... 
together with all the improvements in jurisprudence and 
police which the other parts of the state enjoy." .... "Let 
it be your constant attention," urged Henry, "to see that 
the inhabitants have justice administered to them for any 
injury received from the troops, the omission of this may 
be fatal. 22 .... You will embrace every opportunity to 
manifest the high regard and friendly sentiments of this 
commonwealth towards all the subjects of His Catholic 
Majesty .... you will make a tender of the friendship 
and services of your people to the Spanish commandant 
near Kaskaskia and cultivate the strictest connection with 

him and his people A general direction to act 

according to the best of your judgment in cases where these 
instructions are silent, and the laws have not otherwise 
directed, is given to you from the necessity of the case, 
for your great distance from government will not permit 
you to wait for orders in many cases of great importance. 
.... The matters given you in charge are singular in their 
nature and weighty in their consequences to the people 
immediately concerned and to the whole state. They require 
the fullest exertion of your abilities and unwearied 

On the same day, the governor wrote an equally states- 
manlike letter to Clark, directing him to retain command 
of the troops already in Illinois, and to assume command 
of the five new companies to be raised under the recent 
act of the legislature. To prevent a continuation of 
Indian depredations south of the Ohio, Clark was instructed 
to establish such new posts as he saw fit. "I consider your 
further success," wrote Henry, "as depending upon the 
goodwill and friendship of the Frenchmen and Indians who 

K In view of subsequent events this injunction seems almost 


inhabit your part of the commonwealth. With their con- 
currence great things may be accomplished. But their 
animosity will spoil the fair prospects which your past 
successes have opened. You will therefore spare no pains 
to conciliate the affections of the French and Indians. Let 
them see and feel the advantages of being fellow citizens and 
freemen. Guard most carefully against every infringement 
of their property, particularly with respect to land, as our 
enemies have alarmed them as to that. Strict and even 
severe discipline with your soldiers may be essential to 
preserve from injury those whom they were sent to protect 
and conciliate." Clark was instructed to cooperate with the 
civil department when necessary. "Much will depend upon 
the mutual assistances you may occasionally afford each 
other in your respective departments, and I trust that a 
sincere cordiality will subsist between you." The possi- 
bility of attacking Detroit was dwelt upon. Clark was "to 
push at any favorable occurrences which fortune may pre- 
sent For our peace and safety are not secure while 

the enemy are so near as Detroit." He was also to cultivate 
the friendship of the Spaniards. Extensive discretionary 
powers were given to him. 23 

The governor, also on the same day, wrote a letter of 
instructions to Montgomery, who had been promoted to the 
rank of lieutenant-colonel. He was to superintend and 
hasten the recruiting of the five new companies. "Our 
party at Illinois," wrote Henry, "may be lost, together 
with the present favorable disposition of the French and 
Indians there, unless every moment is improved for their 
preservation." 24 As already explained, only a part of this 
additional force ever reached Clark. 25 We shall see that it 
was the very dangers which Henry feared that wrecked 
Virginia's government in Illinois. 

Todd arrived at Kaskaskia to take up the duties of 
county-lieutenant and head of the civil department in the 

** For the instructions to Clark see English, op. cit., I, 253, et seq. 
44 For the instructions to Montgomery see Henry, op. cit., Ill, 
216 et seq. 
M Cf. supra, ch. V. 



first half of May, I779- 26 His appearance was welcomed 
by the people and by Clark; the two men were already 
acquainted, and Clark was glad to be rid of civil affairs. 27 
Todd's first duty was to organize the militia under authority 
of Virginia. Clark had confirmed the Creole militia officers 
who had been serving during the period of British govern- 
ment. They were now for the most part retained. Richard 
Winston of Kaskaskia, a leading member of the eastern 
merchant class, was indeed appointed commandant of militia 
in that village. But Legras was retained in command of 
the Vincennes militia, 28 and all others commissioned by 
Todd bore French names. 29 

For civil administration, the county was divided into 
three districts : Kaskaskia, including Prairie du Rocher, 
St. Philippe, and the little village around Fort Chartres; 
Cahokia, including Prairie du Pont and Peoria; and Vin- 
cennes, including the lower Wabash valley. 30 

In Todd's instructions stress had been laid upon the 
administration of justice, and the act creating the county 
of Illinois had decreed that all civil officials to whom the 
people had been accustomed should be chosen by a majority 
of the citizens in their respective districts. 31 Under French 
government there had been no clear distinction between 
executive and judicial functions. 32 During most of the 
period of British administration, the military commandant, 
appointed, of course, from without, had acted as judge, 
with the assistance of justices in the villages. 33 Under 
neither regime had the inhabitants acquired any experience 
in self-government. But Clark had established courts 
elected by the people, which were in existence when Todd 

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

"Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 449. 

28 Am. St. Papers, "Public Lands," I, 10. 

39 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 294 ; Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ivi. 

30 Ibid., Ivii. 

31 Cf. supra. 

32 Alvord, Illinois in the Eighteenth Century, 16. 

33 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ivii. 


arrived. This model the county-lieutenant determined to 

Civil government under authority of Virginia was 
formally inaugurated on May 12, 1779. On that day the 
people of Kaskaskia were called together in an assembly in 
front of the church, always the meeting place and most 
important edifice in the French colonial village. Clark pre- 
sided. His address in French was written and read by an 
interpreter. He praised the people for their efforts in the 
Vincennes expedition, presented Todd as their governor, 
and urged them to elect the best persons as judges of their 
court. 34 A French speech by Todd, also read by an inter- 
preter, followed. 35 He expressed thanks for his reception, 
and declared that the State of Virginia was actuated only 
by pure motives. Distance, he said, made it imprac- 
ticable for the new county to send representatives to the 
Virginia Assembly, but representation, if desired, would 
be granted in the future. 36 

The assembly then proceeded to the election of the judges. 
Six men, all of them French, were chosen, headed by the 
most distinguished inhabitant, Gabriel Cerre. All of those 
elected had cordially accepted Clark's regime. A few 
days later, representatives in the court were elected from 
Prairie du Rocher and St. Philippe, bringing the number of 
justices for the Kaskaskia district up to nine. 37 On May 21, 
Todd commissioned these men, "justices of the peace for 
the District of Kaskaskia and judges of the court of the 
said district in cases both civil and criminal." Any four 
or more of them were authorized to constitute a court, 
before which should be cognizable all actions and cases of 
which the courts of the other counties of Virginia had 
cognizance. Their judgments were required to have the 
concurrence of at least a majority, and to be entered with 

34 Ibid., Ivii-lix. 

85 His later proclamations were regularly issued in French. See 
Todd's Record-Book, passim; Mason, Early Chic, and III., 289-316. 

86 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, lix-lx. 

87 Ibid., Ixi. 


the proceedings previous and subsequent, and recorded in 
books provided for the purpose. 38 The court chose a clerk, 
and Winston was appointed sheriff. 39 A prosecuting officer, 
or state's attorney, was appointed by Todd. 

The court for the district of Cahokia was soon established 
and was in session early in June. 40 Most of the justices 
who had served under Clark's authority were reflected. 41 
The Cahokia court appears to have numbered seven, four 
of whom were necessary for a quorum. 42 

In June, a similar court was established for the Vin- 
cennes district. 43 It consisted of nine justices, six of whom 
were elected from the village of Vincennes and the rest 
from the neighboring posts. 44 It resembled the other 
courts in essential features. 

In these courts, monthly sessions were the rule, though 
occasional special sessions were held. 45 The records were 
naturally kept in French. 46 Individual justices had juris- 
diction in civil cases up to twenty-five shillings, as elsewhere 
in Virginia. The law was French, the "coutume de Paris," 
somewhat modified by the laws of Virginia. Attempts were 
made to imitate English forms; but on the whole, as was 
to be expected in courts composed of French Creoles, French 
practice was followed. Juries, though employed in criminal 
cases 47 , were not popular. In civil cases litigants usually 
preferred to have the court decide. To the French it seemed 

38 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixi. 
89 Ibid. 
40 Ibid., 13. 
"Ibid., Ixii. 

42 Ibid., \vii. 

43 Am. St. Papers, "Public Lands," I, 10. 

44 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ivii, Ixii. 

45 Ibid., Ixii. 

48 Cf. "Cahokia Court Records," Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 
22-447, passim. Records in the courts established by Clark seem to 
have been kept in English, ibid., 4 ft seq. 

47 Ibid., 12-21. For a jury trial in the Cahokia court see ibid., 70. 
The statement that juries were not introduced till after the Ordi- 
nance of 1787 (Boyd, op. cit., Am. Hist. Rev., IV, 632) is wrong. 


juster than submission of facts to a jury. 48 Prosecutions 
were brought by the state's attorney. 49 The opinion that 
these courts did very little work 50 is disposed of by the care- 
ful records of the Cahokia court. 51 The scarcity of com- 
petent persons in Illinois accounts, no doubt, for the fact 
that the names of men holding militia commissions are 
encountered as judges. 

The problem confronting Todd was exceedingly difficult. 
He was called upon to preside over French Creoles and 
American merchants, traders and pioneers, a truly hetero- 
geneous population. The knowledge of the French-Ameri- 
can alliance and the enthusiasm felt for Clark and the 
United States had almost brought the French and the 
Americans together. But it was a temporary union. They 
differed not more in race, language and religion, than in 
temperament, taste and tradition. But other and more fatal 
difficulties were not slow in making their appearance. 

The paper money in which the Creoles had been paid for 
supplies furnished to Clark's men was a cause of endless 
trouble. As stated above, it was greatly depreciated, but 
was for a time accepted at par. The possibility of making 
profits out of it proved attractive to "Yankee" speculators, 
who arrived in Illinois in the spring of 1779, while Clark 
was on the Vincennes expedition. They outbid one another, 
offering fabulous prices, and the people woke up to the fact 
that they had been swindled and refused to accept the 
money. Clark would have been in a pitiable position, 
indeed, had not some of the merchants supplied him with 
necessaries. 52 The natural result was an enormous rise of 
prices, which was enhanced by the fact that the American 
occupation of Vincennes, blocking the most important com- 
mercial route between Illinois and Canada, caused a 

48 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixiii. 

49 Ibid., Ixi, 1 8 et seq. 

60 Boyd, op. cit., Am. Hist. Rev., IV, 632. When this was written, 
however, the Kaskaskia and Cahokia records had not yet been 
brought to light. 

51 See Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 22 et seq. 

62 English, op. cit., I, 400-401. 


scarcity of commodities. 53 The people of Illinois felt and 
continued to feel that they had been deceived and cheated 
by the Virginians. 

Before his arrival in Illinois, Todd learned that Congress 
had ordered the issues of Continental money dated May 20, 
1777, and April n, 1778, to be paid into the Continental 
loan offices by June i, 1779. Otherwise they would be 
worthless. 54 The hardship and injustice which this measure 
would work in Illinois can readily be imagined. Todd 
thought that a time extension should be given to the people, 
who had not only accepted the money, but had taken it at 
face value. He accordingly ordered all the paper of the 
called-in emissions to be removed from circulation and 
sealed up. 55 

For this he was blamed by some, on the ground that 
it was injurious, and even fatal to Virginia's credit. 56 
The people of Kaskaskia received certificates from Todd in 
exchange for the paper money. At Vincennes, Legras was 
instructed to see that all the money of the called-in emis- 
sions was sealed up, and to give the holders certificates. 
These Todd hoped Congress would some day redeem. 57 
About $15,000 of greatly depreciated paper was thus 
removed from circulation in and about Kaskaskia, but a 
great many notes of these issues remained in possession of 
the inhabitants and became worthless. 58 By the summer 
of 1779 it became almost impossible to purchase supplies 
for the troops. 59 Hence animosity was engendered between 
the military and civil authorities. The former seem 
to have thought Todd was responsible for the growing 
difficulty of procuring provisions and accused him of 

63 Col. Va. St. Papers, III, 501. 

64 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxi. For this resolution of Congress 
(2 Jan., 1779) see Pennsylvania Archives, VII, 156. 

55 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 317. 
00 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxiii. 

57 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 320-321. 

58 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxi. 
Ibid., 614-615. 


championing the French. 60 This was not true, for Todd, 
in trying to bolster up Virginia's credit, ordered the people 
to receive Continental money at a par with Spanish 
piasters. 61 In Vincennes several persons were imprisoned 
for refusing. 62 Todd's policy was, of course, equivalent to 
a system of forced loans. The legislature of Virginia 
finally committed itself to this policy by passing an act in 
March, 1781, ordering that all bills of credit emitted by 
Congress and the state of Virginia, as well as all bills of 
credit issued by the governor, should "to all intents and 
purposes" be considered as legal tender. 63 The unfortunate 
Creoles were also subjected to the evils of counterfeit 
money. 6 * 

Some of the acquisitive Easterners who reached Illinois 
in the summer of 1779 engaged in land speculation. 65 On 
June 14, Todd issued a proclamation relating to this 
subject. To protect just claims, every inhabitant was 
required to lay before persons chosen in each district for 
the purpose a memorandum of his land, with vouchers, 
depositions, or certificates to support his claim. The mem- 
orandum was to prove the title. New settlements on the 
"flat lands" of the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois and Wabash 
rivers, or "within one league of said lands," unless in the 
French form of settlement, were forbidden until further 
orders. 66 It was the policy of Virginia to confirm and protect 
the titles and property rights of her new citizens and to pre- 
vent private purchase of land from the Indians. 67 In May, 
1779, the Virginia Assembly passed an act declaring that the 
commonwealth had the exclusive right of purchasing lands 

80 For evidence of the breach between Todd and the military see 
ibid., 615-616. 

61 See a memorial of the people of Vincennes to the governor of 
Virginia, 30 June, 1781, English, op. cit., II, 738. 

82 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 328-329. 

"Hening, op. cit., X, 398. 

84 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 328-329. 

85 Ibid., 318-319- 

86 Proclamation relating to land, by Todd, 14 June, 1779, ibid., 301. 
67 Hening, op. cit., X, 161-162. 


from the Indians within its chartered limits. Private pur- 
chases both past and future, were declared void. 68 The 
assembly also forbade new settlements northwest of the 
Ohio. 69 Sometimes, if nobody could successfully claim it, 
land was adjudged to the state. 70 Todd believed that 
purchases by individuals from the Indians should be pre- 
vented under fine, and also that new settlements should be 
made only under certain regulations. 71 After his departure 
from Illinois, however, no attention was paid either to his 
proclamation or to the Virginia law. 72 The Vincennes 
court, with the concurrence of Legras, assumed authority 
to grant land, and kept on doing so for several years. They 
later sought to justify their course by saying that former 
commandants at Vincennes had exercised this power, and 
that they had done it with Legras' permission. 73 

But the support of the troops was probably Todd's most 
difficult problem. They required food and clothing. The 
people would no longer sell supplies for paper money, and 
many drafts on Virginia and on Oliver Pollock were pro- 
tested. 74 Unauthorized drafts seem to have been made on 
other sources. 75 On June 15, 1779, while the expedition 
against Detroit 76 was under discussion, Todd, anticipating 
an absence from Kaskaskia, instructed Winston to consult 
the members of the court regarding supplies which Clark 
might want. If the people, having it in their power, refused 
to dispose of their goods, Winston was authorized to impress 
provisions "valuing the property by two men upon oath." 
On no account was he to give the troops a pretext for 
"forcing" property. 77 On August n, Todd, by proclama- 

88 Hening, op. cit., X, 97-98. 

69 Ibid., 557, and Rowland, op. cit., I, 364-365. 

70 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 308. 

71 Ibid., 318. 

72 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixx. 

73 Am. St. Papers, "Public Lands," I, 10, 16, 71. 

74 Colls. Ill, St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxv. 

75 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 322. 

76 See supra, ch. V. 

77 Mason, Early Chic, and III, 302. 


tion, invited the people of Kaskaskia to contract with com- 
missaries appointed to procure provisions for the troops. 
"I hope," he said, "they'll use properly the indulgence of 
a mild government. If I shall be obliged to give the military 
permission to press, it will be a disadvantage, and what 
ought more to influence freemen, it will be a dishonor to 
the people." 78 On August 20, Colonel Montgomery pro- 
posed that one of the citizens of Kaskaskia be appointed 
to assess the inhabitants for the support of the troops. 79 
Evidently the former enthusiasm and self-denial of the 
people were now things of the past. 

On August 22, the county-lieutenant issued another 
proclamation enjoining the inhabitants of the county from 
exporting provisions for a period of sixty days, "unless I 
shall have assurances before that time that a sufficient stock 
is laid up for the troops, or sufficient security is given to 
the contractors for its delivery whenever required." Vio- 
lations of this order were to be punished by imprisonment 
for one month. 80 Measures were taken to put this proc- 
lamation in execution in the other villages as well as in 
Kaskaskia. 81 The Kaskaskia court levied assessments on 
the inhabitants and a considerable amount of supplies was 
thus secured for the time, with the natural result of widen- 
ing the breach between the people and the government. 

This breach was made irreparable by Todd's policy of 
supporting the troops on Virginia's credit, when her 
treasury was empty and her credit gone. Pollock at New 
Orleans found it increasingly difficult to borrow on the 
state's credit for the piirpose of negotiating bills drawn 
against himself. 82 Perhaps it would have been impossible 
for any man in Todd's position to have succeeded. In his 
instructions he had been told to aid the military and defend 
the rights and liberties of the people. These two injunc- 

78 Ibid., 305- 

79 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxvi-lxxvii. 

80 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 306. 

., 321. 


tions, with the development of circumstances, were incom- 
patible. The support of the troops, with conditions as they 
were, meant injustice to the people. Todd tried to do his 
duty, but his position was an impossible one. He soon 
became convinced of the hopelessness of it. As early as 
August 1 8, 1779, in a letter to the governor of Virginia, he 
asked permission to attend the legislature the following 
spring, and "get a discharge from an office which an 
unwholesome air, a distance from my connections, a lan- 
guage not familiar to me, and an impossibility of procuring 
many of the conveniences of life suitable, all tend to render 
uncomfortable." 83 In November of that year, he left Kas- 
kaskia for Kentucky, and arrived at the Falls of the Ohio 
in December. 84 He did not, however, resign his position 
as county-lieutenant, and returned for a short time in 
I78o. 85 Correspondence was continued between him and 
the people and officials in Illinois, and as long as he lived 86 
he took a lively interest in the affairs of the county. 87 
Before leaving, he appears to have abandoned his earlier 
opposition to "forcing" supplies, 88 for he gave a general 
consent to impressment by the troops of the property of the 
people. 89 After his departure Winston served as his 
deputy. 90 

Very early in the life of the court established by Todd 
at Kaskaskia we find the Creole judges championing the 
interests of the inhabitants against the troops. Probably 
the very qualities which had fitted Clark's men for the work 
they had accomplished unfitted them for dwelling peace- 
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 
dissatisfaction." 174 

The withdrawal of most of the troops from the Illinois 
villages threw the work of defense more upon the inhabi- 
tants. In July, 1780, the Kaskaskians defended themselves 

99 Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 381 ; Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xcvii, 481. 

70 Cal. Va. St. Pafers, I, 379-380. 

71 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, xcviii. 

72 Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 381. 
n Ibid., 11,77. 

74 Ibid., II, 45. 


successfully against an Indian attack. 175 In August the 
Cahokia court, in expectation of a similar attack, convoked 
the militia officers and principal inhabitants to deliberate on 
the best means to avoid a surprise. 176 They decided to move 
against the enemy, rather than stand an attack, and directed 
that provisions for a fortnight should be kept on hand. A 
reconnoitering party was sent up to the Illinois river to 
locate the enemy. 177 By the autumn of 1780, indeed, the 
idea was prevalent among the people that Virginia had 
practically abandoned Illinois. 

While the inhabitants, in constant apprehension of Indian 
attacks, were being robbed of their all by the officers and 
speculators, the troops themselves were suffering. The 
commissaries were inefficient and probably dishonest. In 
1779, the Virginia Assembly, appreciating the importance 
of holding Illinois, had passed resolutions that the civil and 
military establishments there ought to be supported and 
augmented, that the governor should be authorized to pro- 
cure credit for that purpose in New Orleans, and that the 
assembly would provide funds to fulfill any engagement 
which he, with the consent of the council, might enter 
into. 178 But Virginia's treasury was empty, and the only 
way to increase expenditures was to increase indebtedness. 
The fact is that the state could not support its troops in 
Illinois. The possession of the country, moreover, was felt 
to be extremely precarious. 179 The soldiers had to live off 
the land and the people as best they could. "The less you 
depend for supplies from this quarter," wrote Jefferson to 
Clark in 1780, "the less will you be disappointed." 180 How 
badly the troops fared can be imagined. From Louisville, 
Vincennes and Fort Jefferson came the same story of 
neglect and privation. 181 

n lbid., I, 368; Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxxviii. 
"Ibid., 59. 

77 Ibid., 61, 63. 

78 Rowland, op. cit., I, 345. 

78 Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Ford's ed., II, 345. 
80 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixvii. 
181 Cal. Va. St. Papers, II, 306-307, 313, 33& 


Then, too, Virginia's interest in her western county was 
declining. As early as 1777, the proposition that Congress 
should exercise sovereign powers over the West had been 
made by Maryland's delegates in Congress. 182 The western 
claims of Virginia and some of the other states seemed at 
that time likely to prove fatal to the formation of a con- 
federation, since the smaller states, whose cause Maryland 
was representing, considered themselves entitled to a right, 
in common with all the others, to the West. 183 In order to 
facilitate the unanimous ratification of the Articles of Con- 
federation, the Virginia Assembly, on January 2, 1781, 
resolved that the commonwealth would yield to Congress 
all its claims to territory northwest of the Ohio, upon cer- 
tain conditions. 18 * The prospect of this cession to Congress 
was in view by the Virginia authorities at least as early as 
the autumn of I78o. 185 Though it was not finally com- 
pleted until 1784, Virginia's interest in the Northwest 
naturally declined, and the county organization of Illinois, 
as has been said, was allowed to expire in 1781. 

In the autumn of 1780, a conflict arose between the 
Bentley-Dodge-Rogers clique and the Kaskaskia court. 
Bentley brought a suit in November, but the court refused 
to recognize his standing till he took an oath of fidelity to 
the United States and to Virginia. This he refused to do, 
but instead produced a certificate signed by Rogers which 
declared that he had taken the oath. The court refused to 
accept the certificate. The civil and military authorities thus 
collided, and Rogers addressed a bullying note to the court, 
threatening to set it aside. But that body, which was sup- 
ported by Winston, was not intimidated. Bentley left for 
the East in the spring of 1781 to carry his case before the 
governor and council, and also to get what he could for the 
certificates which he and Dodge had bought up. He was 

182 Adams, "Maryland's Influence in Founding a National Com- 
monwealth," Md. Hist. Soc. Fund Pub., No. u, 27-28. 

183 Hening, op. cit., X, 549. 

184 Ibid., $64. 

185 Writ, of Jef., Ford's ed., II, 347. 


accompanied by the latter and Rogers. In order to counter- 
act "aspersions" against himself while in command in 
Illinois, Rogers wrote to Governor Jefferson, blaming Win- 
ston and McCarty for the existing disorders and commend- 
ing the disinterested zeal and public spirit of Bentley. 186 
It is pleasant to learn that the latter failed to win the support 
of the Virginia government. The council refused to regard 
his claims, and implied that he was an imposter. 187 This 
called forth a letter from Bentley in which he appealed to 
Clark's expressed opinion of his character, and to testimony 
of Dodge and Montgomery regarding his services in behalf 
of the troops, and complained of his treatment by the 
court. 188 But the greater part of his claims were still unpaid 
when he died, probably in I783- 189 Rogers was back in Kas- 
kaskia in November, 1781, but we hear no more talk of his 
setting aside the court. 190 

The determination of Bentley to appeal from the court 
to the governor caused the people of Kaskaskia and Cahokia 
to send representatives to the Virginia government, to 
counteract the mischief that might be done and to present 
their claims and grievances. Early in April, 1781, the 
Cahokians chose Pierre Prevost to represent their interests, 
and the Kaskaskians chose Prevost and McCarty. 191 A 
memorial addressed to the governor was prepared and 
signed by a number of the Kaskaskians, and other papers 
were drawn up by the court. 192 A similar memorial was 
signed by inhabitants of Vincennes in June. 193 But 
McCarty was killed by Indians and his papers were taken 
to Detroit. They revealed to the British authorities the fact 
that the people of Illinois were suffering great misery 
and were heartily tired of the tyranny of the Virginia 

186 Cal. Va. St. Papers, II, 76-77. 

187 Ibid., 238. 

188 Ibid. 

189 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, cix. 
m lbid. 

191 Ibid., cii-ciii, 479, 481. 

182 Ibid., ciii. 

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


authorities. 194 Bentley, as we have seen, had made a similar 
statement to Haldimand the previous summer. 

After 1779, British authorities in the Northwest had 
never been wholly free from anticipations of an American 
attack on Detroit. 195 Of all Americans, Clark was the man 
best qualified to lead an expedition against that post. His 
preeminent fitness for the task was generally recognized, 198 
and the unbounded confidence reposed in him by the western 
frontiersmen was a matter of common knowledge. 197 As 
we have seen, he had desired to attack Detroit immediately 
after the successful issue of the Vincennes campaign in 
1779. But the favorable opportunity was lost for want of 
men. Even after Mclntosh's failure in 1778, Washington 
had the reduction of Detroit constantly in mind, 198 for only 
by this, in his opinion, could the frontiers secure peace. 199 
Jefferson took a similar view. 200 Military men most fami- 
liar with conditions in the West were keenly alive to the 
importance of effecting this object. 201 It was chiefly to 
discuss an expedition against Detroit that Clark went east 
in the autumn of 1780. 

Jefferson endorsed the plan and detailed instructions were 
prepared for Clark, who was to lead the expedition. 202 
Washington heartily ccooperated with the proposed enter- 
prise and directed Colonel Brodhead, the Continental com- 
mandant at Fort Pitt, to furnish Clark with supplies and 
as many men as he could spare. 203 But the British invasion 
of Virginia in 1781 prevented the governor from furnishing 
the intended number of men, 204 and Brodhead declined to 

194 Mich. P. Colls,, XIX, 646. 

195 Butterfield, op. cit., 481 ; Mich. P. Colls., XX, 3. 
198 Rowland, op. cit., I, 366. 

197 Butterfield, Washington-Irvine Corresp., 53 ; Writ, of Jef., 
Ford's ed., II, 347. 

198 Butterfield, Washington-Irvine Corresp., 53. 
M Ibid., 83. 

200 Writ, of Jef., Ford's ed., II, 346. 

201 Butterfield, Washington-Irvine Corresp., 79. 

202 Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 441. 

203 English, op. cit., II, 704-707. 

204 Cal. Va. St. Papers, II, 108-109. 


spare any. 205 The war had lasted so long that some of the 
earlier enthusiasm had worn off and a disinclination to 
enlist, was apparent. This and the decline of Virginia's 
credit made it impossible to raise the number necessary to 
insure success. 206 

By August Clark himself, who had started down the Ohio 
from Fort Pitt with what men he could collect, had almost 
despaired of success. 207 Intending to join him, a party of 
about one hundred militia, recruited from the western 
counties of Pennsylvania, followed down the Ohio. Their 
commander was Captain Archibald Laughery, county-lieu- 
tenant of Westmoreland County. They arrived at Wheeling 
on August 8. The chief Joseph Brant, with a party of 
Indians, was watching for Clark near the mouth of the 
Miami, 208 but Clark passed them in the night undetected. 
Laughery's party, however, was annihilated by Brant and 
his followers. 207 This disaster gave the coup de grace to 
the expedition against Detroit. Again Clark was baffled, 
and again for the same reason, lack of men. 

This proposed expedition, while not immediately con- 
nected with the internal history of Illinois, explains to some 
extent the fact that the British commandants at the lake 
posts were forced to act on the defensive, and dared not 
weaken their garrisons by sending troops to conquer 
Illinois. 210 For offensive operations they relied upon the 
Indians, who were held to their alliance only by presents, 
which, it was said, made them inactive and lazy, 211 and Indian 
attacks, on account of the cruelty that always accompanied 
them, the people of Illinois were sure to resist to the extent 
of their power. 212 Information similar to that revealed by 

**Ibid., 116. 

206 Ibid., 116, 131, 294-295, English, op. cit., II, 710-712. 

207 Cal. Va. St. Papers, II, 294-295. 

208 Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 655. 

209 For this massacre see Indiana Historical Society Publications, 
II, 106-107, 109-110; also Butterfield, Washington-Irvine Corresp., 
77; Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 658. 

Mich. P. Colls., XIX, 623, 629. 

211 Ibid., 622-623. 

212 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 561. 


the capture of McCarty's papers had, for some time, been 
coming to the ears of the British commandants in the North- 
west. It naturally aroused the hope that British authority 
might be reestablished over the Illinois villages by peaceful 

Early in the summer of 1781, Patrick Sinclair, who had 
been in command at Michilimackinac since October, I77Q, 213 
dispatched a small party under a man named Clairmont, 
with a letter to the inhabitants of Cahokia and Kaskaskia. 214 
The object of this mission was to promote friendship 
between the inhabitants and the British. 215 But Clairmont 
made the mistake of stopping at St. Louis. Since Spain 
was now openly at war with Great Britain, the Spanish 
commandant, Cruzat, caused Clairmont and his party to be 
arrested, and sent a copy of their letter to Major Williams, 
then in command of the few troops remaining at Kaskaskia. 
It is unlikely, however, that Cruzat was as well disposed 
towards the Americans as this action makes it appear. He 
certainly allowed two of the emissaries to proceed to 
Cahokia, where they were obliged by the court to find bonds- 
men answerable for them while they remained. 216 

That this mission might have succeeded in reestablishing 
British control in Illinois is possible. Considerable dissatis- 
faction, at any rate, was expressed in Cahokia and Kaskas- 
kia at the action of the Spanish commandant in arresting 
the emissaries. 217 Antoine Gerardin, one of the most 
influential men in Cahokia and a former member of the 
court, who undoubtedly knew the state of public opinion, 
wrote to Sinclair in November, 1781, that he thought the 
people, partly for commercial reasons, were ready to receive 

213 Colls. St. Hist. Soc. Wis., XI, 141, note. 

214 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 553, 557. Also Houck, op. cit., II, 49. 
!15 The three sources for this episode in Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., 

II, 552-563, differ as to the exact purpose of the mission. One says 
it was to put the people on their guard against the Spaniards ; 
another, to raise militia to be paid by the British, and the third, to 
negotiate a commercial treaty. 

218 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 95. 

217 Ibid., 555- 


the English and renew their allegiance to England. He 
offered his services, and agreed to prepare them to receive 
the English, provided they brought no savages with them. 218 
Had a British party of respectable strength, unaccompanied 
by Indians, been promptly sent, it is difficult to believe that 
it would not have succeeded, since Illinois by this time had 
been almost completely evacuated by the Virginia troops. 219 

But the military operations in Virginia in the autumn 
of 1781 decided the war and no such party was sent. Vir- 
ginia's nominal possession of Illinois survived the Revolu- 
tion, though legally the county organization of that 
territory, as explained above, expired in 1781. The Kas- 
kaskia court was abolished in I782. 220 The Cahokia court 
continued to sit till 1790, and conditions in that town were 
less anarchical than at Kaskaskia, possibly because there 
were fewer Americans in it. The Vincennes court con- 
tinued in existence till I787. 221 

The financial condition of Virginia made prudent what 
the termination of the war made possible, and the Illinois 
troops were disbanded. 222 In July, 1783, Clark was relieved 
of his command. 223 From the close of the Revolution till 
the establishment of government under the Northwest 
Ordinance the people of Illinois were cut off from associa- 
tion with the outside world, though they continued to regard 
themselves as subjects of Virginia. 224 But though relieved 
of the burden of the troops, confusion continued, and there 
was no tranquility or happiness for them. Hoping for 
better things, they learned in 1784 of their transference to 
the jurisdiction of Congress. 225 

518 Ibid., 559-563. 

m Cat. Va. St. Papers, III, 68, 198. 

220 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, cxvii. 

221 Am. St. Papers, "Public Lands," I, 10. 

222 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, ex. 
228 English, op. cit., II, 783. 

Address to Congress from the French Inhabitants of Post 
Vincennes, Kaskaskia, etc., 1788. 
225 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 567. 



'The actual establishment of American rule in Illinois was 
the work of the revolutionary government of Virginia. A 
legal title to the territory was secured by the treaty of peaceV, 
The scene shifts to the French capital, and the final step in 
the transition was made in the negotiations which concluded 
the Revolution. 

The surrender of Cornwallis in October, 1781, settled the 
question of American independence. In British official 
circles the feeling was strong that peace must be secured. 1 
Before Lord North's ministry fell, speculation was rife as 
to the extent of the surrenders which the government would 
have to make. Independence, it was hoped, would satisfy 
the United States. 2 France expected territorial and com- 
mercial gains. The policy of Spain will be discussed later. 
On March 20, 1782, Lord North, virtually forced out of 
office, handed in his resignation, and the king was reluc- 
tantly obliged to resort to the Rockingham Whigs. Under 
the Marquis of Rockingham, a ministry was formed whose 
avowed policy was to end the war. In his cabinet, the home 
and colonial departments were intrusted to Lord Shel- 
burne, while Mr. Charles James Fox took the foreign 

As early as September, 1779, Congress had appointed 
John Adams sole commissioner to discuss terms of peace 
with the British government. He was instructed to claim 
the Mississippi as the western boundary of the United 
States, and the cession of Canada was stated as desirable. 
He was to be governed by the terms of the French alliance. 3 

^rafton to Shelburne, 14 Nov., 1781, Bancroft MSS. Trans- 
cripts from the State Paper Office and Lansdowne House MSS., 
concerning Negotiations for Peace, 1781-1783. 6 vols. These 
documents will be referred to as Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotiations. 

2 Ibid. 

* Sparks, op. cit., IV, 339 et seq. 


But his relations with the French foreign minister, Ver- 
gennes, then regarded as the European sponsor of the 
United States, were not cordial, 4 and in June, 1781, Con- 
gress, influenced by Luzerne, annulled Adams' commission 
and issued another to him and four others. The additional 
commissioners named were Franklin, Jay, Laurens and 
Jefferson. 5 

Just as the Rockingham ministry was coming into power, 
Franklin, the only one of the American commissioners then 
in France, wrote to Shelburne, with whom years before he 
had had pleasant relations, expressing an earnest hope for a 
general pacification. 6 In response the colonial secretary 
sent Mr. Oswald, a Scotch merchant in whom he reposed 
great confidence and who had extensive interests in 
America, to interview Franklin in an informal manner. 7 
Shelburne attached great importance to this preliminary 
negotiation and said that, if it failed, the war would be 
vigorously carried on, since the nation at large was not 
reconciled to American independence. 8 It was his policy 
to reserve the concession of this as a valuable consideration 
to be offered to the colonies, and to foment difficulties and 
disagreements between America, France and Spain wher- 
ever their interests conflicted. 9 He was determined at all 
events that the United States, if independent, should be 
so of all the world, and should not become the protege and 
permanent ally of France. 10 He hoped, indeed, to detach 
the United States from the other enemies of England. 

4 Durand, New Materials for the History of the American 
Revolution, 232-233. 
8 Sparks, op. cit., Ill, 220. 
e Ibid., 381. 

7 Oswald had previously been consulted by Lord North on 
American affairs. For events leading to the decision of the Rocking- 
ham cabinet to open informal negotiations with Franklin see Fitz- 
maurice, Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, III, 175. 

8 Paper marked "Private, to be burnt," Shelburne to Oswald, no 
date, probably April, 1782. Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotiations. 

9 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 169. 

10 Memorandum to Mr. Oswald in conversation, 28 Apr., 1782. 
Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotiations. Cf. also Sparks, op. cit., X, 12. 


Franklin, however, feeling that a separate treaty between 
his country and Great Britain would be dishonorable, as 
well as contrary to the terms of the French-American alli- 
ance and Congress' instructions of 1781, at once informed 
Oswald that the United States would treat only in concert 
with France, 11 and that no definite action could be taken 
until his fellow-commissioners arrived. 12 

In order to secure the West as far as the Mississippi, 
Congress considered it necessary to show either that the 
states as individual sovereignties had succeeded to all 
rights which they had possessed when colonies, or that, 
when the king of Great Britain ceased to be king of the 
thirteen colonies, all vacant lands of which he was seised 
in that capacity passed to the United States collectively. 13 
In other words, Congress desired to secure the West on 
one principle or the other, and was apparently unwilling to 
commit itself to either. According to the second principle, 
the United States could claim the West, even if the procla- 
mation of 1763 were held to confine the individual colonies 
to lands east of the Alleghanies. 14 American statesmen, 
however, understood that abstract claims would be greatly 
strengthened by actual conquest and occupation. Jefferson 
had expressed the view that Clark's expedition would have 
an important bearing on the final establishment of the north- 
western boundary of the United States. 15 George Mason, 
who had also been concerned in Clark's enterprise, was of 
the same opinion. 16 They evidently considered it of great 
importance that, when the treaty of peace was finally made, 
the American commissioners should be able to argue the 
principle of "uti possidetis" with respect to the West. v 

u Sparks, op. cit., Ill, 381. 

" Moore, Digest of International Law, V, 634. 

18 Sec. Journ. of Cong., Ill, 170, 198. 

"For this national theory respecting the West, see Thomas Paine, 
"Public Good," Writ, of Paine, Conway's ed., II. Cf. also Pelatiah 
Webster's essay on Western Lands, in Political Essays on the 
Nature and Operation of Money, Public Finances, and other Sub- 
jects: Philadelphia, 1791. 

15 Bancroft, History of the United States: Boston, 1878, VI, 192. 

16 Rowland, op. cit., I, 365. 


In January, 1782, an important letter dealing with the 
question of the West in the coming peace negotiations was 
written to Franklin by the American foreign secretary, 
Robert R. Livingston. 17 '*.... Our western and northwest- 
ern extent," wrote Livingston, "will probably be contested 
with some warmth, and the reasoning on that subject be 
deduced from general principles, and from proclamations 

and treaties with the Indians I believe it will appear 

that our extension to the Mississippi is founded in justice, 
and that our claims are at least such as the events of the 
war give us a right to insist upon." The proclamation of 
1763, he argued, was a temporary measure which did not 
nullify the claims of any colony to western land. He even 
argued from the wording of the document itself that such 
was the case; otherwise it would not have been necessary 
to forbid colonial governors to make grants in the West, 
since they would have had no power to do so. The treaty of 
Fort Stanwix, in his opinion, constituted no obstacle to 
colonial claims. Arguments against American extension, he 
admitted, might be derived from the Quebec Bill, but as 
that was one of the laws that had occasioned the war, 
"to build anything upon it would be to urge one wrong 
in support of another." He referred to a map which had 
been made by the king's geographer, shortly after the 
Seven Years' War, on which Virginia and the Carolinas 
were represented as extending to the Mississippi. "The 
rights of the King of Great Britain .... to America," 
he said, "were incident to his right of sovereignty over 
those of his subjects that settled America and explored the 

lands he claims If we admit .... that the right 

of sovereignty over the people of America is forfeited, it 
must follow that all rights founded on that sovereignty are 

forfeited with it Upon this principle Great Britain 

is left without a foot of land in America beyond the limits 
of those governments which acknowledge her jurisdiction." 
To strengthen theoretical arguments, Livingston adduced 
the fact that actual settlements had been made in the West 

17 Sparks, op. cit., Ill, 268, et seq. 


by people who acknowledged the jurisdiction of the United 
States. In his opinion it would be impolitic as well as unjust 
to abandon them. In expectation, however, that there would 
be much dispute over the boundary, he unofficially suggested 
that, if the Mississippi could not be obtained, the territory 
between that river and the western limits assigned to the 
states should be left to the Indians under a joint guaranty 
of France, Spain, Great Britain and the United States. 
An analysis of this document shows that the American 
government was disposed to urge charter claims as ground 
for claiming the West and the Mississippi boundary, that 
the argument of actual settlement, and "the events of the 
war," were to be advanced to strengthen these claims, but 
that Congress would probably not insist upon the Mis- 

In the instructions given in 1780 by Congress to John 
Jay, when he was sent as American agent to Spain, 
the fact of actual settlement as ground for claiming the 
West was more emphatically stated. ". . . . The people 
inhabiting these states," ran the instructions, "while con- 
nected with Great Britain, and also since the Revolution, 
have settled themselves at divers places to the westward 
near the Mississippi ; are friendly to the Revolution, and 
being citizens of the United States, and subject to the laws 
of those to which they respectively belong, Congress can- 
not assign them over as subjects to any other power." 18 

During Oswald's first visit to Paris in April, 1782, Frank- 
lin had shown a disposition to talk matters over, and with 
the utmost sang-froid had suggested the cession of Canada 
to the United States as a measure likely to promote a true 
reconciliation. 19 If Canada were retained by Great Britain, 
he thought it would involve perpetual friction between that 
power and the United States. If ceded, the waste lands 
there could be sold to indemnify the royalists for confisca- 
tions, and to pay for some of the damage to American 
private property caused by the British and the Indians. 20 

"Sparks, op. cit., VII, 301-302; Sec. Journ. of Cong., Ill, 155. 

19 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 180-182. 

20 Moore, op. cit., V, 634-635. 


Oswald went back to England, and after a brief sojourn 
returned with a paper refusing the cession of Canada. 21 
He expressed his personal opinion, however, that a satis- 
factory settlement on that point might be reached. 22 Indeed, 
somewhat later, he went so far as to tell Franklin that he 
personally agreed with him concerning Canada. 23 Franklin, 
therefore, continued to hope for the acquisition of that 

On April 23, an important meeting of the Rockingham 
cabinet was held, a minute of which reads: ". . . . the 
principal points in contemplation are the allowance of 
independence to America upon Great Britain's being 
restored to the situation she was placed in by the treaty of 
I ?63-" 24 This meant that Canada was to be retained, and 
also, presumably, the country between the Alleghanies and 
the Mississippi, which had been relinquished by France in 
the treaty referred to. Independence, moreover, was not 
to be assumed as existing till granted by the proposed treaty. 

Fox, in whose department negotiations with foreign 
powers lay, sent Thomas Grenville, a son of the former 
premier, to Paris early in May. As is well known, he 
advanced the theory previously maintained by American 
statesmen 25 that the United States was already independ- 
ent. 26 Therefore, he argued, the conduct of negotiations 
with the American commissioners belonged to his depart- 
ment, since the United States was a foreign power. 27 Act- 
ing on this theory, he instructed Grenville to "sound" 
Franklin, and to inform him and Vergennes that independ- 

21 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 188-189. 

22 Ibid., 191. 

23 Ibid., 206. 

24 Ibid., 183-184. 

28 Sparks, op. cit., Ill, 42-43 ; VI, 129. 

28 This theory may be considered finally to have prevailed, for the 
treaty of peace was a recognition, not a grant of independence; see 
Moore, op. cit., V, 695. 

27 In this contention Fox was technically wrong ; till the independ- 
ence of the United States was recognized, negotiations with the 
American commissioners belonged to Shelburne's department, ibid., 


ence was to be the basis for negotiations. Grenville was 
to find out whether, if a general pacification proved impos- 
sible, there was any prospect of a separate peace between 
England and the United States. 28 Fox thought it would be 
easy to show the Americans that it was unreasonable that 
they should be incumbered and obstructed by "powers who 
have never assisted them during the war." 29 The foreign 
secretary could not believe, he said, that Congress was 
bound to support every claim set up by the court of Ver- 
sailles and its allies. 30 Grenville reported that Franklin 
earnestly desired peace, though he was determined to 
adhere to the treaty obligations into which the United 
States had entered; and that Vergennes would neither 
make overtures nor answer propositions till after com- 
munication with the allies of France. It was evident, 
however, that France would demand for her exertions 
in the war more than the independence of the United 
States. The acknowledgement of that would not be 
regarded by the French government as a favor con- 
ceded by Great Britain to France, for, Vergennes signifi- 
cantly observed, France had found and not made America 
independent. 31 He desired a treaty more just and durable 
than that of 1763, which he never could read without shud- 
dering ("sans fremir"). "Justice" and "dignity," he said, 
were the two chief points upon which his government would 
insist in the proposed treaty. 32 Grenville, accordingly, 
became convinced that the demands of France, and of Spain 
also, would be so extensive that it would be difficult, if not 
impossible, for Great Britain to accede to them. "It is from 

28 Fox to Grenville, 30 Apr., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotia- 

29 Fox to Grenville, 21 May, 1782; ibid. 

80 Fox to Grenville, 26 May, 1782, ibid. Fox, as a European states- 
man, wanted to end the American war quickly and isolate the 
Bourbon powers; see Wakeman, Charles James Fox, 70-71. 

81 Grenville to Fox, 10 May, 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotia- 
tions ; Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 192. 

"Grenville to Fox, 10 May, 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotia- 


the expectation the courts of Madrid and Versailles entertain 
of being supported by America in these claims," he wrote, 
"that they will derive the greatest confidence in making 
them." The obvious remedy for Great Britain to apply was, 
if possible, to detach the United States from France. 38 

The British foreign secretary, anxious for a speedy 
escape from the American war, authorized Grenville to offer 
independence "in the first instance, instead of making it 
a conditional article of a general treaty." 34 On June 10, 
he sent full powers to Grenville to treat with any of the 
enemies of Great Britain, 35 and on the thirtieth he moved 
in cabinet "that the independence of America should be 
granted even without a treaty for a peace." 36 He thus hoped, 
no doubt, to get the negotiations with the Americans com- 
pletely out of the colonial secretary's hands. The cabinet, 
however, decided against him and he resigned. 

On July i Rockingham died, and the next day the king 
offered the treasury to Shelburne, who accepted and formed 
a new ministry. 37 The home and colonial departments were 
given- to Thomas Townshend ; Lord Grantham took the 
foreign office. Shelburne informed Grenville that neither 
the resignation of Fox nor the death of Rockingham would 
make any difference in the government's policy, 38 but Gren- 
ville determined to retire with his chief, and "decline any 
further prosecution of this business." 39 Benjamin Vaughan 
was then sent to Paris to inform Franklin that the change 
of administration would make no change in the progress of 
the negotiations, and Alleyn Fitzherbert, British minister 
at Brussels, was appointed to succeed Grenville in represent- 
ing the British foreign secretary. Oswald remained the 
ministry's representative as far as America was concerned. 40 

33 Grenville to Fox, 14 May, 1782 ; ibid. 

34 Fox to Grenville. 26 May, 1782; ibid. 

35 Fox to Grenville, 10 June, 1782; ibid. 
m Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 219. 

37 Ibid., 222-223. 

38 Shelburne to Grenville, 5 July, 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace 

39 Grenville to Shelburne, 9 July, 1782; ibid. 

40 Moore, op. cit., V, 637. 


Meanwhile Franklin had been joined by John Jay, who 
reached Paris on June 23. Jay had been for several months 
in Madrid as diplomatic agent of the United States, trying 
to induce the Spanish government to recognize American 
independence. 41 His residence there, however, was informal, 
and did not bind Spain to recognize the United States as 
an independent power. 42 

The policy of Spain is a subject of importance in the 
peace negotiations so far as they relate to the West. As 
we have seen, that power had been secretly aiding the 
Americans from the beginning of the Revolution. The 
motives of the Spanish, like those of the French govern- 
ment, were, of course, wholly unconnected with sentiments 
of genuine friendship for the United States. Both powers 
were actuated by a spirit of revenge toward England. The 
Count of Floridablanca, the Spanish Minister of state, in 
particular, was suspicious of the Americans and entertained 
no belief in the integrity of Congress or its commis- 
sioners. 43 He feared, indeed, the success and independence 
of the United States. 44 Before the alliance of 1778 Ver- 
gennes had pointed out that the Americans, if independent, 
might turn conquerors and endanger Spanish America. 45 
Lafayette, to whose efforts the final recognition by Spain 
of the independence of the United States was partly due, 
wrote from Madrid in March, 1783, that in his opinion 
Spain feared the moral effect of that independence upon 
her own colonies. 46 

In April, 1779, Spain concluded a secret convention with 
France, by which the Bourbon Family Compact was 
renewed, and she bound herself to declare war on Eng- 

tt Corresp. and Pub. Papers of John Jay, Johnston's ed., II, 21. 
Moore, op. cit., I, 206-207. 

43 Floridablanca to Marquis D'Ossun, 17 Oct., 1777, Stevens, 
op. cit., XIX. 

44 Bancroft, History of U. S., VI, 176. 

45 Considerations, 12 March, 1776, by Vergennes, Stevens, op. cit., 
XIII, No. 1316. 

46 Sparks, op. cit., X, 34. 


land. 47 She did not, however, recognize the independence 
of the United States. Among the avowed objects which 
she expected to attain through her participation in the war 
were the recovery of Gibraltar, Minorca and East Florida, 
and the acquisition of Mobile. She desired to make the 
Gulf of Mexico a Spanish lake, and to control the naviga- 
tion of the Mississippi by possession of both banks at its 
mouth. Floridablanca, indeed, expressly declared that 
unless Spain could exclude all other nations from the Gulf, 
she might as well admit all. In his opinion, the exclusive 
navigation of the Mississippi was an essential feature of 
Spanish policy, more important even than the restoration 
of Gibraltar. 48 Spanish hopes of controlling the Mis- 
sissippi were naturally raised by the work of Galvez in 
Florida, for, before the end of the war, Spain actually held 
both banks of the river at its mouth. 

That at the time of this secret treaty the Spanish govern- 
ment desired to secure the possession of any territory in 
North America beside the provinces of East and West Flor- 
ida cannot be categorically asserted. While Spain was still 
nominally at peace with England, an agent, Juan de Miralles 
by name, was sent to the United States to have an eye to 
Spanish interests. In the instructions which were given to 
him nothing was said about the conquest of territory. In 
July, 1778, however, Gerard, the first French minister to the 
United States, wrote to Vergennes about Miralles and his 
mission. Gerard had not, indeed, seen his instructions, but 
the Spaniard's conduct and language seemed to him to indi- 
cate their nature. Among other objects of his mission he 
was trying to show, Gerard thought, that France should con- 
quer Canada, and that Spain should acquire all territory 

" Text of the convention in Doniol, Histoire de la Participation 
de la France a I'etablissement des Etats-Unis d'Amerique, III, 803 
et seq.; or Wharton, op. cit., I, 356 et seq. For a brief discussion of 
Spain's part in the war see Rousseau, "La Participation de 1'Espagne 
a la guerre d'Amerique," in Revue des Questions Historiques for 
1902, 444 et seq. 

48 Rives, "Spain and the United States in 1795," Am. Hist. Rev., 
IV, 64-65. 


received by England in 1763 in Florida and on the Missis- 
sippi. 49 Though he was mistaken concerning Miralles' 
instructions, his suppositions were not unnatural in view of 
the intirnations made by the Spaniard on his own responsi- 
bility. At all events, after the conquest of the Illinois vil- 
lages by Clark, there is no doubt that Miralles actually 
proposed the cession of Illinois to Spain, and, again without 
authorization, urged the abandonment of American claims to 
the Northwest. 50 As a result of the capture by Galvez of the 
English settlements on the lower Mississippi, the Spanish 
government itself began to view the situation in a different 
light. In 1780 Gerard's successor, Luzerne, informed Con- 
gress that the king of France, desiring an alliance between 
his two allies, Spain and the United States, had directed 
him to communicate to Congress conditions which the 
king of Spain regarded as important. Among these 
were, besides the possession of East and West Florida, 
a precise and invariable western boundary of the United 
States, the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi, and the 
possession of the lands on the east bank of that river above 
West Florida. In the opinion of the Spanish government, 
wrote Luzerne, the United States should extend no farther 
west than the proclamation line of 1763, and were entitled 
to no lands on the Mississippi. The territory on the east 
bank of that river was a possession of England, and a proper 
object of Spanish conquest. 51 From Luzerne's communica- 
tion to Congress we cannot avoid the conclusion that, what- 
ever her previous policy may have been, Spain now desired 
to acquire the whole east bank of the Mississippi's As 
late as February, 1783, after the provisional treaty between 
England and the United States had given the east bank of 
that river to the latter, Lafayette wrote from Madrid 
to Livingston that the Spaniards would "insist upon a pre- 

48 Gerard to Vergennes, 25 July, 1778, Doniol, op. cit., Ill, 293. 

50 For my information regarding Miralles' instructions and cor- 
respondence, I am indebted to Professor William R. Shepherd of 
Columbia University. 

81 Sparks, op. cit., X, 402-403. 


tended right to an extent of country all along the left shore 
of the Mississippi. Not that they mean to occupy it, but 
because they are afraid of neighbors that have a spirit of 
liberty." 82 But suspicions of Spanish designs on the West 
were not confined to officials connected with the French 
court. Clark, in establishing Fort Jefferson, thought that 
post would be useful in frustrating any plans which Spain 
might have formed for seizing the country north of the 
Ohio. Indeed, he believed that the Spaniards would have 
been glad to see the American posts in Illinois conquered 
by England, so that they might have the opportunity of 
reconquering them. Todd had not been in Illinois long 
before he, too, concluded that Spain had aggressive designs 
on the country. 53 The opinions of Clark and Todd were, of 
course, formed from their observations of the conduct of 
the Spaniards around St. Louis. 

Jay's mission to Spain was a failure. Floridablanca 
could not be induced to recognize the independence of the 
United States. In his attempts to come to an understanding 
with the Spanish minister, Jay was subjected to delay and 
mortification. He even complained that his mails were 
tampered with and sometimes destroyed. 54 Upon his arrival 
at Madrid, Floridablanca, according to Jay, implied that the 
Mississippi was to be regarded as the western boundary 
of the United States. 55 If the Spanish minister meant to 
convey this impression, he was misleading Jay, for he cer- 
tainly was unwilling that the United States should possess 
the left bank of the Mississippi. The slights which Jay 
received while in Spain convinced him that the colonial 
policy of that country was directly opposed to the interests 
of the United States. 

/ /Franklin, also, was suspicious of Spanish policy in the 
West. Before Jay's arrival in France, he wrote to the 

"Ibid., 26. 

53 Cal. Va. St. Papers, I, 338, 358. 

54 Corresp. and Pub. Papers of John Jay, Johnston's ed., II, 20, 
165, 186, 242. 

55 Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 203. 


American foreign secretary, expressing fear that Spain was 
trying to acquire the trans-Alleghany country at the expense 
of the United States, and that she was using every pretext 
to accomplish that end. 56 "I see by the newspapers," he 
wrote, "that the Spaniards having taken a little post called 
St. Joseph 67 pretend to have made a conquest of the Illinois 
country. In what light does this proceeding appear to 
Congress ? While they decline our proffered friendship, are 
they to be suffered to encroach on our bounds and shut us 
up within the Appalachian Mountains? I begin to fear 
they have some such project." Jay, also, read a version of 
the St. Joseph affair, published in a Spanish newspaper. 58 
He came to Paris full of suspicions of Spanish policy, and 
resolved that his country should not be at the mercy of the 
European powers^ 

The situation confronting the two commissioners was 
indeed serious. The treaty of 1778 bound the United States 
to make no peace independent of France, and Congress had 
supinely instructed its commissioners not to conclude any 
arrangements with the English without the approval of the 
French government. 59 "You are," ran the instructions, "to 
make the most candid and confidential communications 
upon all subjects to the ministers of our generous ally, the 
King of France, to undertake nothing in the negotiations 
for peace or truce without their knowledge and concur- 
rence." These instructions were, no doubt, highly proper 
and honorable so long as France was acting in the interests 
of the United States. Congress, indeed, expected that the 
French government would assist the United States in secur- 
ing the Mississippi boundary. 60 But the French-Spanish 
treaty of 1779, made without the knowledge of the United 
States, introduced another factor into the war. By this 

56 Sparks, op. cit., Ill, 339. 

67 For the episode see supra, ch. VI. 

58 Morton, "Robert R. Livingston, Beginnings of American 
Diplomacy," John P. Branch Historical Papers of Randolph-Mac on 
College, No. IV, 321. 

59 For the instructions see Sec. Journ. of Cong., II, 446. 

60 Sparks, op. cit., X, 87-88. 


treaty France bound herself not to make peace till Spain 
had accomplished her objects. The United States were 
surely not bound in honor to further the plans of a govern- 
ment which persistently refused to recognize their inde- 
pendence, especially when those plans, as the American 
commissioners were convinced, were opposed to their own 
interests. To argue that Spain for her own purposes could 
compel the United States to continue hostilities indefinitely 
would be a manifest absurdity. By experience and inclina- 
tion, no man was better qualified than Jay for the task of 
defeating Spanish designs. 

The first question on which his influence was decisive 
was whether Great Britain should treat with the United 
States as colonies, and acknowledge their independence in 
the treaty, or whether she should conduct negotiations with 
the United States as independent and sovereign. Shelburne, 
as already stated, was anxious to end the American war 
quickly. Parliament rose on July n, and he desired to be 
able to announce peace with America when next it met. 61 
Late in July a commission was sent to Oswald to treat with 
commissioners of "the colonies," authorizing him to con- 
cede independence. 62 Jay promptly expressed his dissatis- 
faction. Independence, he thought, should be no part of 
the treaty, but should have been expressly granted by Par- 
liament, and all troops withdrawn prior to any proposal for 
peace. Since this had not been done, he thought the crown 
should do it by proclamation. 63 Franklin, however, did not 
see much difference between independence granted before 
the treaty, or by it. 64 He held that Oswald's acceptance of 
the American commission, which described the commission- 

81 Moore, op. cit., V, 686. 

82 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 249-251. For the commission see 
Sparks, op. cit., X, 76-79. 

88 Minutes of conversation with the American commissioners, 7 
Aug., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotiations, and Fitzmaurice, 
op. cit., Ill, 251. 

84 Minutes of conversation, by Oswald, 11-13 Aug., 1782, Bancroft 
MSS., Peace Negotiations ; Corresp. and Pub. Papers of John Jay, 
Johnston's ed., II, 372. 


ers as ministers of the United States, was equivalent to an 
acknowledgment of independence. 65 Jay's position here 
corresponded to that of John Adams, who had said a year 
before, "There are no American colonies at war with Great 
Britain. The power at war is the United States of Amer- 
ica." 66 Vergennes, however, advised the American com- 
missioners to treat with Oswald under the commission 
which he had received, but Jay positively refused. 67 His 
firmness caused Oswald to write to Shelburne ". . . . 
Your Lordship will see that the American commissioners 
will not move a step until the independence is acknowl- 
edged." 68 

A decided difference of opinion was becoming manifest 
between the two American commissioners. Jay was a 
young man, a lawyer, and disposed to be somewhat assertive 
and dogmatic. The purity of his patriotism could never 
be questioned. Franklin, equally patriotic and equally dis- 
posed to peace, was an old man, versed in diplomacy and 
the ways of the world, benevolent and wise. He was on 
excellent terms with both Shelburne and Vergennes, and 
inclined to suspect neither. 

On July 6, Franklin had handed Oswald a paper contain- 
ing conditions of peace, some of which he regarded as 
necessary, others advisable. Among the former were the 
acknowledgment of entire independence, the extension of 
the United States to the Mississippi, and a curtailment 
of Canada to the extent it had possessed before the Quebec 
Act; i. e., so as not to include the Northwest. Among 
the latter he mentioned the cession of Canada. 69 Oswald 

65 Hale, Franklin in France, II, 125. 

66 Sparks, op. cit., VI, 129. 
"/&*., VIII, 128, 135. 

68 Oswald to Shelburne, 18 Aug., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace 
Negotiations. Dr. Wharton thought that Jay's attitude towards 
Oswald's first commission, while patriotic, tended to undermine the 
goodwill between England and the United States which Shelburne 
and Franklin were seeking to promote, and that, had Franklin been 
left to conduct matters in his own way, the United States would 
probably have acquired Canada ; Moore, op. cit., V, 638, 649. 

60 Ibid., 637. 


at once communicated these conditions to Shelburne. 70 In 
August, numerous conferences were held between Oswald, 
Jay and Franklin. The Americans sent to London for a set 
of maps in order to discuss the boundary question more 
intelligently. 71 Oswald concluded that to secure a lasting 
peace, the abandonment by Great Britain of the Northwest, 
which had been added to Canada in 1774, would be neces- 
sary. A refusal on this point, he thought, "would occasion 
a particular grudge," as the American commissioners would 
maintain that the ungranted and unappropriated lands in 
the West belonged to the states. He supposed this demand 
would be granted "upon certain conditions." 72 On Septem- 
ber i, Townshend authorized Oswald to concede Franklin's 
"necessary" articles, implying the abandonment by Great 
Britain of the West, and the curtailment of Canada to its 
extent before I774- 73 

/Viewing the peace negotiations as the last step in the 
transition of which this study treats, the great problem con- 
fronting the American commissioners was to defeat what 
they regarded as the hostile designs of Spain, supported 
as they were by France. Shortly after his arrival 
in Paris, Jay had a long interview with the Spanish ambas- 
sador to France, the Count of Aranda. The Spaniard, in 
discussing the status of the West, gave it as his opinion 
that this territory had belonged to France till 1763, when 
it became a distinct part of Great Britain's dominions, out- 
side of any existing colony, "until by the conquest of West 
Florida, and certain posts on the Mississippi and Illinois, 
it became vested in Spain." He went on to argue that even 
if Spain's right of conquest did not extend over all the West, 

70 Oswald to Shelburne, 10 July, 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace 

71 Minutes regarding the treaty, 29 Aug., 1782, Bancroft MSS., 
Peace Negotiations. 

"Minutes of conversation 11-13 Aug., 1782, by Oswald, Bancroft 
MSS., Peace Negotiations, and Minutes regarding the treaty, 
29 Aug., 1782, ibid. 

"Townshend to Oswald, i Sept., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace 


its real possessors would be the Indian tribes who dwelt 
there. 74 Aranda sent Jay a map on which he had indicated 
what he considered an appropriate western boundary for 
the United States. His line extended from the western con- 
fines of Georgia to the mouth of the Kanawha, thence 
around the western shores of Lake Erie, Huron and Michi- 
gan to Lake Superior. Jay and Franklin both considered 
this inadmissible. 75 Oswald believed that Spain wanted the 
country from West Florida "of a certain width quite up 
to Canada, so as to have both banks of the Mississippi clear, 
and would wish to have such a cession from England before 
a cession to the colonies takes place." 76 

Jay was now fully convinced that Spain and the United 
States could never agree on the boundary question, for 
Spain, he believed, would not consent to the possession of 
the east bank of the Mississippi by the United States. He 
came, moreover, to the further conclusion that France was 
in league with Spain to deprive his country of the Mis- 
sissippi. The views of the French government were 
expressed in a memoir written by M. de Rayneval, Ver- 
gennes' principal secretary, and handed by him to Jay. 
Rayneval denied that the country between the Alleghanies 
and the Mississippi formed part of the United States, 
and said that the proclamation of 1763 proved that it 
was a distinct part of Great Britain's possessions, beyond 
the limits of the colonies. He suggested a partition of the 
West between Spain, England, the Indians and the United 
States. By this arrangement the United States would not, 
at least south of the Ohio, extend to the Mississippi, 
and would be deprived of the navigation of that river in 
its lower course. The east bank, as far north as the mouth 
of the Ohio, was to be given to Spain. The southwestern 
Indians, whose lands were to intervene between the posses- 
sions of Spain and those of the United States, were to be 

74 Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 150; Corresp. and Pub. Papers of John 
Jay, Johnston's ed., II, 390. 

75 Ibid. 

78 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 258. 


divided into two zones or belts, the western under the pro- 
tection of Spain, the eastern under that of the United States. 
North of the Ohio, possession was to be determined as 
Great Britain and the United States decided. 77 Jay was 
justified in taking this paper as an authoritative expression 
of the policy of the French government. 

/ Though insisting on the independence of the United 
States, Vergennes was for keeping them under European 
tutelage. He opposed American claims to the West and 
denied their validity^ At the beginning of the French alli- 
ance in 1778 he had said that France insisted on independ- 
ence only for the thirteen United States exclusive of any 
of the British possessions which had not revolted.! 8 In 
a letter to Luzerne in September, 1779, he spoke of the 
pretended right of the United States to lands on the Mis- 
sissippi. 79 In October, 1782, in the midst of the peace 
negotiations, he wrote to that minister that according to 
Congress the English charters extended the territory of the 
United States from the Atlantic Ocean to the "South Sea," 
and that Jay was urging this theory as the basis of negotia- 
tions. "Such folly," he said, "does not deserve to be 
seriously refuted But I know, sir, all the extrava- 
gance of the American pretensions and theories." 80 Jay 

77 Carres p. and Pub. Papers of John Jay, Johnston's ed., II, 395 
et seq.; Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 156-160. 

78 Circourt, Histoire de faction commune de la France et de 
I'Amerique pour I'independance des Etats-Unis, par George Bancroft, 
III, 310. "Nous ne demandons I'independance que pour les treize 
etats de I'Amerique qui seroht unis entre eux, sans y comprendre 
aucune des autres possessions anglaises qui n'ont point participe a 
leur insurrection." 

79 Doniol, op. cit., IV, 357. 

80 Circourt, op. cit., Ill, 290. "Suivant le Congres, les chartes 
emanees de la couronne britanique etendent le domaine de I'Amer- 
ique depuis 1'ocean jusqu' a la mer du Sud. Tel est le systeme 
propose par M. Jay pour base de sa negotiation avec 1'Espagne. Un 

pareil delire ne merite pas d'etre refute serieusement Au 

surplus, je ne vois pas a quel titre les Americains formeraient des 
pretensions sur les terrains qui bordent le lac Ontario. Ou ces 
terrains appartiennent au sauvages, ou ils sont une dependance du 


evidently had reason for suspicion of the hostility of 
France toward the westward extension of the United States. 
"This court," he wrote in September, 1782, "as well as 

Spain will dispute our extension to the Mississippi 

Dr. Franklin does not see the conduct of this court in the 
light I do." 81 Pranklin, indeed, could not bring himself to 
share Jay's well-grounded suspicions of the French govern- 
ment. 82 Livingston, likewise, though aware of Spanish 
designs on the West, did not believe that the French min- 
ister was opposed to the expansion of the United States. 8J \ 
Jay was convinced that France would oppose this extension 
and the free navigation of the Mississippi by the United 
States, and believed, moreover, that she would support 
British claims to the Northwest. 84 

On September 9, shortly after receiving Rayneval's 
memoir, Jay learned of the departure of its author for 
England. He suspected that the purpose of the French- 
man's mission was to impress Shelburne with the deter- 
mination of Spain to possess the exclusive navigation 
of the Mississippi, and to suggest a partition of the 
West which would satisfy both Spain and England, 
leaving the territory north of the Ohio to the latter power. 85 
On September 10, the American commissioners learned 
of an intercepted dispatch, written by Marbois, secretary of 
the French legation at Philadelphia, advising that the 

Canada. Dans l'un ou 1'autre cas, les Etats-Unis n'y ont aucun droit. 
Mais je connais, monsieur, toute 1'extravagance des pretensions et 
des vues americaines." 

81 Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 126. 

82 Moore, op. cit., V, 687. Sparks thought Jay was mistaken in his 
suspicions of the French government, Dip. Corresp. of Am. Rev., 
VIII, 208-212; but the evidence in the third volume of Circourt's 
work shows that he was not. 

83 Morton, op. cit., John P. Branch Hist. Papers, I, No. IV, 321. 

84 Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 160. 

85 For Rayneval's mission to England, see Circourt, op. cit., Ill, 38 
et seq. His purpose was to "sound" the British government on the 
conditions on which peace would be made with Spain, and particu- 
larly to urge the surrender of Gibraltar. Not much was really said 
about the American boundaries, ibid., 46. 


United States be excluded from a share in the fisheries. 86 
This further aroused Jay, and he took a very important 
step. 87 Without Franklin's knowledge, he induced Ben- 
jamin Vaughan to return to England, in order to counter- 
act influences which he believed were being brought to bear 
on Shelburne, to suggest a separate negotiation between 
England and the United States, and to show the premier 
that it was England's interest to break the French-Amer- 
ican alliance. 88 Jay told Vaughan that the right of the 
United States to the West was proved by charters and 
"other acts of government." He declared himself ready 
to treat without prior acknowledgment of American inde- 
pendence, provided Oswald should receive a commission 
in which his country was referred to as the thirteen United 
States of America. This meant, of course, an abandonment 
of the instructions of Congress. Jay stood alone, for even 
now Franklin refused to believe that the destinies of the 
United States were not safe in Vergennes' hands. 89 

The information brought by Vaughan showed Shelburne 
that what he hoped for had come to pass : differences had 
arisen between France and the United States. The altera- 
tions in Oswald's commission necessary to meet Jay's 
requirements were quickly made, and a new one, authorizing 
him to treat with commissioners of the United States of 
America, was sent on September 24 and received early 
in October. 91 

Formal negotiations without the knowledge of the French 
minister were immediately begun between Oswald and the 

"Ibid., II, 226-227. 

87 Winsor, Narrative and Critical History of America, VII, 121-122. 

88 For the Vaughan mission, see Sparks, op. cit., VIII, 165 et seq. ; 
Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 267. John Fiske, Critical Period, ch. I, 
considers this the crucial point in the negotiations. Fitzmaurice 
thinks that from this point on Jay predominated over Franklin, Life 
of Shelburne, III, 258. 

89 Moore, op. cit., V, 687. 

"Townshend to Oswald, 24 Sept., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace 

"Oswald to Townshend, 2 Oct., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace 
Negotiations. For this commission to Oswald see Sparks, op. cit., 
X, 80-83. 



American commissioners, 92 for Franklin agreed to disre- 
gard his instructions so far as to conduct separate negotia- 
tions with the British government, though he continued to 
believe in the candor of Vergennes. On October 8 a series 
of articles was agreed upon by Oswald and the Americans, 93 
less than a week after Congress had solemnly resolved that 
it would listen to no propositions for peace, unless they were 
discussed "in confidence and in concert" with the French 
government. 94 Franklin feared that these articles would not 
be satisfactory to the British government and this proved 
to be the case. The boundaries and the West were not so 
troublesome as the fisheries, treatment of the loyalists, and 
debts in America due British creditors. Oswald, though 
a man of intelligence and considerable information, was no 
match as a diplomat for the American commissioners. His 
handling of the Canada question had been anything but 
diplomatic. Instead of making the most of Rodney's great 
victory in May, as a means of securing better terms for 
England, he had made the astonishing statement that she 
must have peace, that her enemies might do as they pleased, 
but it was hoped that they would show magnanimity. 95 
Much opposition to him was expressed in Shelburne's cabi- 
net, where Richmond and Keppel, leaders of the party 
which was less inclined to peace, were especially bitter 
against him. 96 Nevertheless, he was retained by the min- 
istry. Henry Strachey, however, was sent to join him as 
an additional envoy. 

' The repulse of the Spanish and French forces at Gibral- 
tar in September naturally caused the English to expect 
more favorable terms. Strachey, therefore, was to induce 

92 Wharton, op. cit., V, 748. 

93 Ibid., 805 et seq. 

M Sparks, op. cit., X, 87-88. 

95 Wakeman, op. cit., 75. Viscount Stormont, in criticizing the 
negotiations, declared that Oswald was outmatched by any one of the 
American commissioners, and described him as "a very extraordi- 
nary geographer and politician," Parliamentary History of England, 
XXIII, 397- 

* Moore, op. cit., V, 640 ; Rousseau, op. cit., 486. 


the Americans to modify their demands, and to urge Eng- 
land's claims to the trans-Alleghany country. 97 Shelburne 
may have felt that he had been too precipitate in conceding 
Franklin's "necessary" articles, he may have believed it 
politic to seem to abandon the West only as a great con- 
cession to the United States or he may have come to feel 
that the relinquishment of the whole West was too great 
an apparent surrender. There is preserved among his 
papers a letter written to him by an American Tory, which 
was received in September, pointing out the importance of 
the West, and saying that the cession of the Northwest to 
the United States would deprive England of the peltry 
trade, and render the part of Canada which was retained 
of small value. 98 At any rate, after the articles of October 
8 had been rejected and Strachey dispatched to Paris, Shel- 
burne took strong ground against the American claims to 
the West. "Independently of all the nonsense of charters," 
he wrote to Oswald, "I mean when they talk of extending 
as far as the sun sets, the soil is and has always been 
acknowledged to be the King's. 90 He suggested that the 
back lands might be used as a fund to compensate the loyal- 
ists for their losses. The commissioners later wrote to 
Livingston that the question of the West was discussed at 
length, and that the British commissioners advanced argu- 
ments for the retention of the whole province of Quebec 
as established by the act of I774. 100 

About the time Strachey reached Paris, another of the 
American peace commissioners, John Adams, arrived to 
participate in making the treaty. Adams came fresh from 
a diplomatic triumph at the Hague, where he had succeeded 
in negotiating a treaty between the United States and Hol- 
land. Jay told him what he firmly believed, that France 
was not playing fair, and that it was her policy to give her 
Bourbon ally the West, the Mississippi, and the whole Gulf 

97 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 281. 

88 Lieutenant-Colonel Connolly to Shelburne, endorsed September, 
1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace Negotiations. 

99 Shelburne to Oswald, 21 Oct., 1782 ; ibid. 

100 Sparks, op. cit., X, 117. 


of Mexico. He at once sided with Jay and refused to con- 
sider that the instructions of Congress bound himself and 
his colleagues in all respects to the will of the French min- 
isters. 101 In his opinion the instructions should be inter- 
preted by "such restrictions and limitations as reason, 
necessity, and the nature of things demand." 102 There is 
not much doubt that a strict adherence to the letter of the 
instructions would have meant the loss of the West for the 
United States. Any designs which Spain might have 
formed for the acquisition of territory in America would be 
strengthened rather than weakened by the repulse which had 
recently been inflicted upon her forces before Gibraltar. It 
was now, indeed, out of her power to secure the recovery 
of that fortress, and she might reasonably be expected to 
look elsewhere for compensation. If the American com- 
missioners were to secure the West and the Mississippi, "the 
nature of things" demanded a separate treaty with Great 
Britain. They must not be hampered by constant communi- 
cation with a government which was supporting the policy 
of Spain and was hostile to the object they had in 
view. "Had I not violated the instructions of Congress," 
Jay wrote, "their dignity would have been in the dust." 103 

That Vergennes was opposed to the extension of the 
United States to the Mississippi has been shown. The 
ultimate policy of the French government respecting Amer- 
ica is difficult to determine. Vergennes' position was not 
easy. France was at the head of a heterogeneous alliance, 
and was feeling severely the burdens imposed by the war. 
She needed peace. There was a feeling in Parisian circles 
that she had been duped by her allies 104 and that they would 
win the rewards which her exertions had made possible. 
She had agreed to further the territorial policy of Spain, 

101 Sparks, op. cit., VI, 437. 

102 For Adams' "Journal of the Peace Negotiations," see Wharton, 
op. cit., V, 845 et seq. 

103 Wharton, op. cit., V, 810. 

104 Fitzherbert to Grantham, 3 Oct., 1782, Bancroft MSS., Peace 


and Spain was opposed to the possession of the West by 
the United States and was clamoring for exclusive control 
of the Mississippi. Vergennes' attitude can be explained 
without assuming that he had any designs on the West for 
his own country. But he was not the statesman in whose 
hands Congress should have placed the destinies of the 
United States. 106 

Another and radical view of French policy has been 
advanced in a striking article by Mr. F. J. Turner. 106 He 
calls attention to a document written in 1777, the authen- 
ticity of which, however, is doubtful. It is entitled 
"Memoire Historique et Politique sur la Louisiane," and 
was written "par M. de Vergennes." If really written by 
the French minister, it would prove that he had in mind 
the reestablishment of the colonial empire of France. In 
the "Memoire" it is stated that the United States cannot 
rightfully claim the trans- Alleghany country on the basis of 
colonial charters, and it is proposed that Great Britain be 
obliged to restore to France at the close of the Revolution 
all the conquests she had made in the Seven Years' War. 
This revived colonial empire would involve the retrocession 
by Spain to France of Louisiana west of the Mississippi, 
a result which Vergennes actually tried to bring about. 107 
It will be noticed, too, that the contention of the "Memoire" 
respecting the invalidity of American claims to the West 
is in harmony with Rayneval's memoir, and Vergennes' 
views referred to above. Mr. Turner considers the subse- 
quent conduct of Vergennes, after the date of the 
"Memoire," as "entirely consistent" with the view that he 
was its author, and thinks that his anxiety to forward the 
interests of Spain between the Mississippi and the Alle- 
ghanies becomes more intelligible if we suppose that he 
expected France to supplant that power in the interior of 

105 For a temperate view of Vergennes' part in the peace negotia- 
tions, see McLaughlin, The Confederation and the Constitution, chs. 
I and II. 

'"The Policy of France towards the Mississippi Valley in the 
Period of Washington and Jefferson," Am. Hist. Rev., X, 249 et seq. 
., 254. 


North America. From this point of view, De la Balme's 
abortive attempt on Detroit 108 becomes part of a compre- 
hensive scheme of French policy. Mr. Turner thinks that 
Napoleon's efforts to reconstruct a French colonial empire 
in America were along the lines planned by Vergennes. 
His supposition regarding the latter's ultimate policy 
is, however, conjectural. By the treaty of 1778, it 
should be remembered, the king of France renounced for- 
ever the possession of any territory in North America then 
or previously belonging to Great Britain. Whatever the 
ultimate policy of Vergennes may have been, his immediate 
intention certainly was to prevent the acquisition of the 
Wst by the United States^ 

Although in October, 1782, Shelburne showed a disposi- 
tion to retain the West, he was not inclined to let the 
boundary question wreck the negotiations and lose the 
advantages which would come from a separate peace with 
the United States. After much deliberation and discussion 
a provisional treaty was signed at Paris on November 3O, 109 
by which the West, from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi, 
and from the Great Lakes to the 3ist degree, north latitude, 
was secured by the United States> The American commis- 
sioners who participated in making the treaty were Jay, 
Franklin and Adams. Laurens arrived just in time to sign 
it. Jefferson did not go to France at all. This territory 
was not ceded to the United States, but was recognized as 
included within their boundaries. To save the conscience 
of the American commissioners, and to give them a technical 
defense against France, these provisional articles were "to 
be inserted in and to constitute the Treaty of Paris," but 
the treaty was not to be concluded till England and France 
made peace. 110 On December 5, the king's speech 
announced to Parliament that a provisional treaty had been 
made with the American commissioners. 111 

108 Supra, ch. VI. 

109 Wharton, op. cit., VI, 96 et seq. 

110 Fitzmaurice, op. cit., Ill, 302. 

111 Par. Hist, of Eng., XXIII, 206. 


On November 29, Franklin wrote Vergennes that pre- 
liminary articles had been agreed upon with the British com- 
missioners. 112 The French minister was naturally surprised. 
He felt that the American commissioners in violating their 
instructions had acted towards France in a manner both 
boorish and dishonorable. 113 He does not appear, however, 
to have been displeased that the terms were so favorable 
to the United States. 114 Franklin admitted that he and his 
colleagues had neglected a point of "bienseance," but 
asserted that they had concluded nothing that was preju- 
dicial to France. 116 The truth is that the American com- 
missioners and the English government had stolen a march 
on the Bourbon courts. 

Historians have been puzzled to account for the very 
favorable terms secured by the Americans. So far as 
the acquisition of the West was concerned, the Ameri- 
can claims, based upon colonial charters or the right 
of succession of the United States collectively to the 
sovereignty over the West previously vested in the British 
crown, probably counted for as little as theoretical claims 
usually do. Laughed at by European statesmen, they can- 
not explain why Shelburne's government abandoned the 
domain which England had wrested from France a few 
years before. 

Another explanation has appealed strongly to a large 
number of writers. Clark's conquest and the establishment 
of Virginia government in the Northwest have frequently 
been pointed to as the decisive factor in the winning of 
that territoryN Clark has been metamorphosed into a con- 
scious empire-builder, and the state of Virginia represented 
as possessing in 1782 the entire territory from Lake 
Superior to the southern boundary of Kentucky. 116 Indeed, 
in the opinion of some of his contemporaries, Clark's work 

112 Complete Works of Benjamin Franklin, Bigelow's ed., VIII, 213. 

113 Moore, op. cit., V, 654. 

114 Sparks, op. cit., X, 120. 

115 Com. Works of Franklin, Bigelow's ed., VIII, 228, 234. 
n 'Fiske, Crit. Period, 18; Lodge, The Story of the Revolu- 
tion: New York, 1903, 337. 


was an argument of great importance in favor of Amer- 
ican claims to the Northwest. 117 /But if this were really the 
case, we should surely encounter frequent mention of that 
work and the establishment of Virginia government in Illi- 
nois in the documents relating to the peace negotiations. 
This we do not find. It may be that the American com- 
missioners intentionally refrained from referring to what 
had been done in the Northwest, for, as we have seen in 
the preceding chapter, the fair hopes aroused by Clark's con- 
quest in 1778 had been dissipated, and Virginia's govern- 
ment in Illinois had utterly collapsed. The Americans in 
1782 could scarcely with good grace argue the principle of 
"uti possidetis" as ground for claiming that territory. 118 

When we turn to the diplomatic situation confronting 
Shelburne, we find a more satisfactory explanation of his 
compliance with the American demands concerning the 
West. In Europe, France, Spain and Holland were at war 
with England. It was, of course, very much to his interest 
to make a speedy peace with the United States, which 
would place his government in a better position respecting 
its European enemies, and at the same time break the 
French-American alliance^ We have seen how eager he 
was to open discussion with Franklin, how readily he 
accepted the latter's "necessary" articles, and how com- 
pliantly he met Jay's advances for a separate negotiation. 
He was willing to concede much for the sake of peace, and 
the American commissioners stood firm on the Mississippi 

117 Rowland, op. cit., I, 365. 

118 Mr. Van Tyne naively argues thus, American Revolution, 
284 : "These posts [ Vincennes, Cahokia, and Kaskaskia] were 
sufficient to insure the American hold upon the Northwest, until, in 
the peace negotiations of 1782, the military prowess of Clark was 
followed up by the diplomatic triumph of Jay. Although no mention 
of Clark's work is found among the papers of the diplomats, yet the 
fact of 'possession must have had weight." The italics are mine. Mr. 
Van Tyne's statement is, of course, a mere conjecture. It would 
be indeed strange if the decisive factor in causing Great Britain to 
abandon the Northwest were not referred to in any of the documents. 
As a matter of fact, by 1782, the "American hold upon the North- 
west" amounted to nothing. 


boundary. To them, even more than to him, a separate 
treaty was of vital importance. In a general treaty it is 
difficult to see how they could have secured the West, to 
say nothing of other advantages; and from the point of 
view of later development, the acquisition of the West was, 
next to independence, the most important provision of the 
treaty. /To Jay belongs the chief credit for putting in 
motion the train of events which ended in the attainment 
of this object. He deserves to be called, as John Adams 
called him, the hero of the negotiations. 11 ^ Of Spanish 
designs on the Mississippi, Oswald, and, no doubt, Shel- 
burne, believed that they had evidence, and the premier 
probably felt that a separate treaty which would give up 
the West to the United States was preferable to a general 
treaty which would abandon it to Spain. 
^There remains another consideration to explain the relin- 
quishment of Illinois and the rest of the West by Great 
Britain. To me it seems the decisive factor in the case. 
The enjoyment and monopolization of the peltry trade was 
the leading object which Great Britain sought through her 
possession of that territory. In this purpose she had failed. 
Her chief motive for holding the country no longer 
existed. In a debate in the House of Lords in February, 
1783, critics of the peace asserted that by the boundaries 
conceded to the United States Great Britain had lost the 
fur trade. 120 Shelburne, defending the treaty which his 
ministry had made, pointed out that the fur trade was not 
abandoned, but only divided. He placed the annual imports 
from Canada to England at only 50,000, and declared that 
the preservation of this import of 50,000 had cost England 
800,000. 121 Secretary Townshend declared in the Com- 
mons that the possession of the Northwest had not been 
profitable. 122 "Suppose," said Shelburne, "the entire fur 
trade sunk into the sea, where is the detriment to this 

18 Sparks, op. cit., VI, 501. 

20 Par. Hist, of Eng., XXIII, 377, 381. 

n Jhid Ann 

1 Ibid., 409. 

* Ibid., 465. 


country? Is 50,000 a year imported in that article 
any object for Great Britain to continue a war of which 
the people of England by their representatives have declared 
their abhorrence?" Great Britain abandoned only that 
which it was unprofitable for her to retain^V 



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