A simple resolution of the Continental Congress in 1780 has proved of the highest consequence for the subsequent development of our country. It declared that all territorial land should be national domain, to be disposed of for the common benefit of the States, with the high privilege of itself growing into States coequal with the old Thirteen.
The treaty of 1783 carried this domain north to the Lakes, west to the Mississippi. The Ohio divided it into a northwestern and a southwestern part. The land to the west of themselves Virginia and North Carolina claimed, and it became Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively, erected into statehood, the one June 1, 1792, the other June 1, 1796, these being the fifteenth and sixteenth States in order. Vermont, admitted in 1791, was the fourteenth. Virginia never released Kentucky till it became a State. The Tennessee country, ceded to the United States by North Carolina in 1784, the cession revoked and afterward repeated, had already, under the name of Frankland, enjoyed for some time a separate administration. The nucleus of Kentucky civilization was on the northern or Ohio River border, that of Tennessee in the Cumberland Valley about Nashville; but by 1800 the borders of these two oases had joined.
United States land has since broadened westward to the Pacific, over the infinite areas which in 1800 belonged to Spain. From an early period there have been, as now, unorganized territory and also partially organized and fully organized territories, the last being inchoate States, ready to be admitted to full membership in the Union when sufficiently populous, on condition of framing each for itself a republican constitution.
[Illustration: Portrait] General Arthur St. Clair.
The great ordinance of 1787, re-enacted by the First Congress, forever sealing the same to civil and religious liberty, opened the Northwest for immediate colonization, twenty thousand people settling there in the next two years. The territory was organized and General St. Clair made governor. In 1788 Marietta was founded, named from Marie Antoinette, also Columbia near the mouth of the Little Miami. In the same year Losantiville, subsequently called Fort Washington, and now Cincinnati, was laid out, the first houses having gone up in 1780. Louisville, settled so early as 1773, contained in 1784 over one hundred houses. Emigrants in hundreds and thousands yearly poured over the mountains and down the Ohio. By the census of 1790 there were 4,280 whites northwest of this river, 1,000 at Vincennes, 1,000 on the lands of the Ohio Company, 1,300 on Symmes's purchase between the Great and the Little Miami, Cincinnati being part of this purchase. In 1800 these numbers had much increased. The settlements which had Pittsburgh for a nucleus had also greatly extended, reaching the Ohio. Northern and Central Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna Valley was yet a wilderness. St. Louis, in Spanish hands, but to become French next year, had been founded, and opposite it were the beginnings of what is now Alton, Ill.
The centre of United States population in 1790 was twenty-three miles east of Baltimore. It has since moved westward, not far from the thirty-ninth parallel, never more than sixteen miles north of it, or three to the south. In 1800 it was eighteen miles west of Baltimore; in 1810 it was forty-three miles northwest by west of Washington; in 1820, sixteen miles north of Woodstock, Va.; in 1830, nineteen miles west-southwest of Moorfield, W. Va.; in 1840, sixteen miles south of Clarksburg, same State; in 1850, twenty-three miles southeast of Parkersburg, same State; in 1860, twenty miles south of Chillicothe, 0.; in 1870, forty-eight miles east by north of Cincinnati; in 1880, eight miles west by south of that city; in 1890, twenty miles east of Columbus, Ind., west by south of Greensburg. It has never since been so far north as in 1790, and it has described a total westward movement of four hundred and fifty-seven miles.
The land system of the United States was at first a bad one, in tended to secure immediate revenue from the sale of immense pieces at auction, on long credit, at very few points, the land to find its way into the hands of actual settlers only through mercenary speculators. The honest pioneer was therefore at the mercy of these land-sharks, greedy and unpatriotic in the extreme.
The western movement aroused the Indians, of whom there were, in 1790, from 20,000 to 40,000 north of the Ohio. The idea of amalgamating or even civilizing these people had long been practically given up. Settlers agreed in denouncing them as treacherous, intractable, bloodthirsty, and faithless. So incessant and terrific were their onslaughts, the Ohio Valley had come to be known as "the dark and bloody ground." The British, still occupying the western posts, used their influence to keep up and intensify Indian hostility to the United States settlers and Government.
In September, 1790, Governor St. Clair sent Harmar against the Indians on the Miami and Maumee. He had about fifteen hundred men, two-thirds of them militia. The expedition was ill-managed from the first, and, after advancing as far as the present Fort Wayne, came back with great loss to itself, having exasperated rather than injured the red men. Harmar, chagrined, soon resigned.
The Indians south of the Ohio were perhaps twice as numerous as those north, and partly civilized. The Chickasaws and Choctaws, nearest the Mississippi, gave little trouble. Not so the Cherokees and Creeks, whose seats were nearer the whites. The Creeks claimed parts of Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas, justified herein by acts of the Continental Congress. However, the whites invaded this territory, provoking a fierce war, wherein the Cherokees allied themselves with the Creeks of Alabama and Georgia. This brave tribe had border troubles of its own with Georgia. These various hordes of savages, having the Florida Spaniards to back them with counsel, arms, and ammunition, were a formidable foe, which might have annihilated Georgia but for aid from the general Government. McGillivray, the half-breed chief of the Creeks, was enticed to New York, where the kindness of Washington and the evident desire of Congress to deal with his people fairly, resulted in a treaty, August 13, 1790, which secured peace to the Southwest for a long time.
Touching the northwestern redskins, Harmar's defeat had convinced Washington that mild measures were not yet the thing. A larger force was fitted out against them under St. Clair in person, whom, as an old Revolutionary comrade, Washington still trusted. General Butler was second in command. The two thousand regulars and one thousand militia rendezvoused at Cincinnati in the autumn of 1791. Part object of the expedition was to build a military road, with forts at intervals, all the way to the upper Wabash. Progress was therefore slow.
A fort was constructed on the present site of Hamilton, 0.; then one to the northwest, near Greenville, 0., close to the present Indiana line. From here the army pressed northwesterly still farther.
St. Clair was heroic, but incompetent through age and the gout. Some of his militia deserted. Chills and fever shook the remainder of his too slender host. His orders were not well obeyed. On November 9th, encamping by a small branch of the Wabash, St. Clair's force was most vehemently attacked by Indians, under the redoubtable Joseph Brant or Thayendanegea--famed for his bloody exploits against us during the Revolution--and well-nigh annihilated. Five high officers, including Butler, were killed, and as many more sank from wounds. Cannons, guns, accoutrements, in fact the whole equipment of the army, were lost. After a four hours' fight St. Clair, sick but brave as a tiger, horse after horse shot beneath him, part of the time carried in a litter, his gray locks streaming in the breeze, put himself at the head of the five hundred who remained unscathed, and hewed his way through walls of savages to the rear. Six o'clock that night found the survivors back at Greenville, twenty-nine miles from the scene of carnage. Had the Indians pursued instead of stopping to mutilate the slain, every soul must have perished.
[Illustration: Portrait.] Joseph Brant or Thayendanegea.
The announcement of this disaster called forth in the East a universal howl of rage at the unfortunate commander. Even Washington went beside himself: "To suffer that army to be cut to pieces, hacked, butchered, tomahawked, by a surprise--the very thing I guarded him against! O God! O God, he is worse than a murderer! How can he answer it to his country? The blood of the slain is upon him, the curse of widows and orphans, the curse of Heaven." St. Clair came East to explain. Hobbling into Washington's presence, he grasped his hand in both his own and sobbed aloud. He was continued as governor, but had to resign his major-generalship, which passed to Anthony Wayne.
Wayne was every inch a warrior. Cautiously advancing over the road St. Clair's fugitives had reddened with their blood, he reached Fort Jefferson, at Greenville, in June, 1793. Next year he advanced to the junction of the Au Glaize with the Maumee. The Indians fleeing, he pursued to the foot of the Maumee Rapids, where he encountered them encamped by a fort which the English, defying the treaty, still held, fifty miles inside our lines. Wayne, agreeably to Washington's policy, tried to treat. Failing, he attacked, routed the enemy, and mercilessly ravaged the country, burning crops and villages. Building Fort Wayne as an advanced post, he came back and made his headquarters at Fort Jefferson. The Indians' spirit and opposition were at last broken. Their delegates flocked to Wayne, suing for peace. Captives were surrendered. The whole Ohio Territory now lay open to peaceful occupation, and emigrants crowded northward from the Ohio in great companies.
The pioneer bought land wherever he found a vacant spot that pleased him, building his hut, breaking up any open land for crops, and as rapidly as possible clearing for more. His white neighbors, if any were near, lent their assistance in this work. His rough dwelling of logs, with one room, floored with puncheon, caulked with mud, and covered with bark or thatch, however uncomfortable from our point of view, made him a habitable home. When this primitive mansion was no longer sufficient, he was usually able to rear another out of hewn logs, with glass windows and a chimney. Then he felt himself an aristocrat, and who will deny that he was so? A large family grew up around him, neighbors moved in, the forest disappeared, the savages and wild beasts that at first harassed him slunk away, while the fruitful soil, with such exchanges and mail privileges as were speedily possible, yielded him all the necessaries and many of the comforts of life.
So rapid was the increase of population henceforth, that Congress, in 1800, divided the territory, the line running north from the junction of the Kentucky with the Ohio. All west of this was to be known as the Indiana Territory, William Henry Harrison its governor, and a territorial legislature to follow so soon as a majority of the inhabitants should desire.
On February 19, 1803, Ohio became a State. Mainly through Governor Harrison's exertions a better system of marketing public land was begun, in healthy contrast with the old. It allowed four land-offices in Ohio and Indiana. Lands once offered at auction and not sold could be pre-empted directly by private individuals on easy terms. Actual settlement and cultivation were thus furthered, speculation curbed, and the government revenues vastly increased.
[Illustration: Man wearing a gun and dog standing in a doorway.] Dugout of a Southwestern Pioneer
We have spoken mostly of the Northwest. The present States of Alabama and Mississippi north of 31 degrees, except a narrow strip at the extreme north owned by South Carolina, were claimed by Georgia, but the part of this territory south of 32 degrees 30 minutes the United States also claimed, as having before the Revolution been separated from Georgia by the king and joined to West Florida, so that it, like the Northwest, passed to the United States at the treaty of 1783. This section was organized in 1798 as the Mississippi Territory. In 1802 Georgia relinquished all claim to the northern part as well, which Congress added to the Mississippi Territory. At this date there were settlements along the Mississippi bluffs below the Yazoo bottom.
[Illustration: Portrait.] Robert Fulton