The Winning of the West, Volume Four
Theodore Roosevelt

Part 4 out of 6

Western Feeling against the East.
The West in Close Touch with the South.

The inhabitants of Ohio Territory were just as bitter against St. Clair
as the inhabitants of Mississippi Territory were against Sargent. The
Mississippians did not object to Sargent as a Northern man, but, in
common with the men of Ohio, they objected to governors who were Eastern
men and out of touch with the West. At the end of the eighteenth
century, and during the early years of the nineteenth, the important
fact to be remembered in treating of the Westerners was their
fundamental unity, in blood, in ways of life, and in habits of thought.
[Footnote: Prof. Frederick A. Turner, of the University of Michigan,
deserves especial credit for the stress he has laid upon this point.]
They were predominantly of Southern, not of Northern blood; though it
was the blood of the Southerners of the uplands, not of the low coast
regions, so that they were far more closely kin to the Northerners than
were the seaboard planters. In Kentucky and Tennessee, in Indiana and
Mississippi, the settlers were of the same quality. They possessed the
same virtues and the same shortcomings, the same ideals and the same
practices. There was already a considerable Eastern emigration to the
West, but it went as much to Kentucky as to Ohio, and almost as much to
Tennessee and Mississippi as to Indiana. As yet the Northeasterners were
chiefly engaged in filling the vacant spaces in New England, New York,
and Pennsylvania. The great flood of Eastern emigration to the West, the
flood which followed the parallels of latitude, and made the Northwest
like the Northeast, did not begin until after the War of 1812. It was
no accident that made Harrison, the first governor of Indiana and long
the typical representative of the Northwest, by birth a Virginian, and
the son of one of the Virginian signers of the Declaration of
Independence. The Northwest was at this time in closer touch with
Virginia than with New England.

Homogeneity of the West.
Slavery in the West.

There was as yet no hard and fast line drawn between North and South
among the men of the Western waters. Their sense of political cohesion
was not fully developed, and the same qualities that at times made them
loose in their ideas of allegiance to the Union at times also prevented
a vivid realization on their part of their own political and social
solidarity; but they were always more or less conscious of this
solidarity, and, as a rule, they acted together. Most important of all,
the slavery question, which afterwards rived in sunder the men west of
the Alleghanies as it rived in sunder those east of them, was of small
importance in the early years. West of the Alleghanies slaves were
still to be found almost everywhere, while almost every where there
were also frequent and open expressions of hostility to slavery. The
Southerners still rather disliked slavery, while the Northerners did
not as yet feel any very violent antagonism to it. In the Indiana
Territory there were hundreds of slaves, the property of the old French
inhabitants and of the American settlers who had come there prior to
1787; and the majority of the population of this Territory actually
wished to reintroduce slavery, and repeatedly petitioned Congress to
be allowed the reintroduction. Congress, with equal patriotism, and
wisdom, always refused the petition; but it was not until the new century
was well under way that the anti-slavery element obtained control in
Indiana and Illinois. Even in Ohio there was a considerable party which
favored the introduction of slavery, and though the majority was against
this, the people had small sympathy with the negroes, and passed very
severe laws against the introduction of free blacks into the State, and
even against those already in residence therein. [Footnote: "Ohio," by
Rufus King. pp. 290, 364, etc.] On the other hand, when Kentucky's first
constitutional convention sat, a resolute effort was made to abolish
slavery within the State, and this effort was only defeated after a hard
struggle and a close vote. To their honor be it said that all of the
clergymen--three Baptists, one Methodist, one Dutch Reformed, and one
Presbyterian--who were members of the constitutional convention voted
in favor of the abolition of slavery. [Footnote: John Mason Brown,
"Political Beginnings of Kentucky," 229. Among the men who deserve honor
for thus voting against slavery was Harry Innes. One of the Baptist
preachers, Gerrard, was elected Governor over Logan, four years later;
a proof that Kentucky sentiment was very tolerant of attacks on slavery.
All the clergymen, by the way, also voted to disqualify clergymen for
service in the legislatures.]

In Tennessee no such effort was made, but the leaders of thought did not
hesitate to express their horror of slavery and their desire that it
might be abolished. There was no sharp difference between the attitudes
of the Northwestern and the Southwestern States towards slavery.

Features of Western Life.
The Farmer the Typical Westerner.

North and South alike, the ways of life were substantially the same;
though there were differences, of course, and these differences tended
to become accentuated. Thus, in the Mississippi Territory the planters,
in the closing years of the century, began to turn their attention to
cotton instead of devoting themselves to the crops of their brethren
farther north; and cotton soon became their staple product. But as yet
the typical settler everywhere was the man of the axe and rifle, the
small pioneer farmer who lived by himself, with his wife and his
swarming children, on a big tract of wooded land, perhaps three or four
hundred acres in extent. Of this three or four hundred acres he rarely
cleared more than eight or ten; and these were cleared imperfectly. On
this clearing he tilled the soil, and there he lived in his rough log
house with but one room, or at most two and a loft. [Footnote: F. A.
Michaux, "Voyages" (in 1802), pp. 132, 214, etc.]

Game Still Abundant.

The man of the Western waters, was essentially a man who dwelt alone in
the midst of the forest on his rude little farm, and who eked out his
living by hunting. Game still abounded everywhere, save in the immediate
neighborhood of the towns; so that many of the inhabitants lived almost
exclusively by hunting and fishing, and, with their return to the
pursuits of savagery, adopted not a little of the savage idleness and
thriftlessness. Bear, deer, and turkey were staple foods. Elk had ceased
to be common, though they hung on here and there in out of the way
localities for many years; and by the close of the century the herds of
bison had been driven west of the Mississippi. [Footnote: Henry Ker,
"Travels," p.22.] Smaller forms of wild life swarmed. Gray squirrels
existed in such incredible numbers that they caused very serious damage
to the crops, and at one time the Kentucky Legislature passed a law
imposing upon every male over sixteen years of age the duty of killing a
certain number of squirrels and crows every year. [Footnote: Michaux,
215, 236; Collins, I., 24.] The settlers possessed horses and horned
cattle, but only a few sheep, which were not fitted to fight for their
own existence in the woods, as the stock had to. On the other hand,
slab-sided, long-legged hogs were the most plentiful of domestic
animals, ranging in great, half-wild droves through the forest.

Fondness of the Westerners for the Lonely Life of the Woods.

All observers were struck by the intense fondness of the frontiersmen
for the woods and for a restless, lonely life. [Footnote: Crevecoeur,
"Voyage dans la Haute Pennsylvanie," etc., p. 265.] They pushed
independence to an extreme; they did not wish to work for others or to
rent land from others. Each was himself a small landed proprietor, who
cleared only the ground that he could himself cultivate. Workmen were
scarce and labor dear. It was almost impossible to get men fit to work
as mill hands, or to do high-class labor in forges even by importing
them from Pennsylvania or Maryland. [Footnote: Clay MSS., Letter to
George Nicholas, Baltimore, Sept. 3, 1796.] Even in the few towns the
inhabitants preferred that their children should follow agriculture
rather than become handicraftsmen; and skilled workmen such as
carpenters and smiths made a great deal of money, so much so that they
could live a week on one day's wage. [Footnote: Michaux, pp. 96, 152.]

The River Trade.

In addition to farming there was a big trade along the river. Land
transportation was very difficult indeed, and the frontiersman's whole
life was one long struggle with the forest and with poor roads. The
waterways were consequently of very great importance, and the
flatboatmen on the Mississippi and Ohio became a numerous and noteworthy
class. The rivers were covered with their craft. There was a driving
trade between Pittsburgh and New Orleans, the goods being drawn to
Pittsburgh from the seacoast cities by great four-horse wagons, and
being exported in ships from New Orleans to all parts of the earth. Not
only did the Westerners build river craft, but they even went into
shipbuilding; and on the upper Ohio, at Pittsburgh, and near Marietta,
at the beginning of the present century, seagoing ships were built and
launched to go down the Ohio and Mississippi, and thence across the
ocean to any foreign port. [Footnote: Thompson Mason Harris, "Journal of
Tour," etc., 1803, p. 140; Michaux, p. 77.] There was, however, much
risk in this trade; for the demand for commodities at Natchez and New
Orleans was uncertain, while the waters of the Gulf swarmed with British
and French cruisers, always ready to pounce like pirates on the ships of
neutral powers. [Footnote: Clay MSS., W. H. Turner to Thomas Hart,
Natchez, May 27, 1797.]

Small Size of the Towns.

Yet the river trade was but the handmaid of frontier agriculture. The
Westerners were a farmer folk who lived on the clearings their own hands
had made in the great woods, and who owned the land they tilled. Towns
were few and small. At the end of the century there were some four
hundred thousand people in the West; yet the largest town was Lexington,
which contained less than three thousand people. [Footnote: Perrin Du
Lac "Voyage," etc., 1801, 1803, p. 153; Michaux, 150.] Lexington was a
neatly built little burg, with fine houses and good stores. The leading
people lived well and possessed much cultivation. Louisville and
Nashville were each about half its size. In Nashville, of the one
hundred and twenty houses but eight were of brick, and most of them were
mere log huts. Cincinnati was a poor little village. Cleveland consisted
of but two or three log cabins, at a time when there were already a
thousand settlers in its neighborhood on the Connecticut Reserve,
scattered out on their farms. [Footnote: "Historical Collections of
Ohio," p. 120.] Natchez was a very important town, nearly as large as
Lexington. It derived its importance from the river traffic on the
Mississippi. All the boatmen stopped there, and sometimes as many as
one hundred and fifty craft were moored to the bank at the same time.
The men who did this laborious river work were rude, powerful, and
lawless, and when they halted for a rest their idea of enjoyment was
the coarsest and most savage dissipation. At Natchez there speedily
gathered every species of purveyor to their vicious pleasures, and the
part of the town known as "Natchez under the Hill" became a by-word for
crime and debauchery. [Footnote: Henry Ker, "Travels," p. 41.]

Growth of Kentucky.

Kentucky had grown so in population, possessing over two hundred
thousand inhabitants, that she had begun to resemble an Eastern State.
When, in 1796, Benjamin Logan, the representative of the old
woodchoppers and Indian fighters, ran for governor and was beaten, it
was evident that Kentucky had passed out of the mere pioneer days. It
was more than a mere coincidence that in the following year Henry Clay
should have taken up his residence in Lexington. It showed that the
State was already attracting to live within her borders men like those
who were fitted for social and political leadership in Virginia.

The Kentucky Gentry.
The Danville Political Club.

Though the typical inhabitant of Kentucky was still the small frontier
farmer, the class of well-to-do gentry had already attained good
proportions. Elsewhere throughout the West, in Tennessee, and even here
and there in Ohio and the Territories of Indiana and Mississippi, there
were to be found occasional houses that were well built and well
finished, and surrounded by pleasant grounds, fairly well kept; houses
to which the owners had brought their stores of silver and linen and
heavy, old-fashioned furniture from their homes in the Eastern States.
Blount, for instance, had a handsome house in Knoxville, well fitted, as
beseemed that of a man one of whose brothers still lived at Blount Hall,
in the coast region of North Carolina, the ancestral seat of his
forefathers for generations. [Footnote: Clay MSS., Blount to Hart,
Knoxville, Feb. 9, 1794.] But by far the greatest number of these fine
houses, and the largest class of gentry to dwell in them, were in
Kentucky. Not only were Lexington and Louisville important towns, but
Danville, the first capital of Kentucky, also possessed importance, and,
indeed, had been the first of the Western towns to develop an active and
distinctive social and political life. It was in Danville that, in the
years immediately preceding Kentucky's admission as a State, the
Political Club met. The membership of this club included many of the
leaders Of Kentucky's intellectual life, and the record of its debates
shows the keenness with which they watched the course of social and
political development not only in Kentucky but in the United States.
They were men of good intelligence and trained minds, and their meetings
and debates undoubtedly had a stimulating effect upon Kentucky life,
though they were tainted, as were a very large number of the leading men
of the same stamp elsewhere throughout the country, with the doctrinaire
political notions common among those who followed the French political
theorists of the day. [Footnote: "The Political Club," by Thomas Speed,
Filson Club Publications.]

The Large Landowners.
Open-air Life.

Of the gentry many were lawyers, and the law led naturally to political
life; but even among the gentry the typical man was still emphatically
the big landowner. The leaders of Kentucky were men who owned large
estates, on which they lived in their great roomy houses. Even when they
practised law they also supervised their estates; and if they were not
lawyers, in addition to tilling the land they were always ready to try
their hand at some kind of manufacture. They were willing to turn their
attention to any new business in which there was a chance to make money,
whether it was to put up a mill, to build a forge, to undertake a
contract for the delivery of wheat to some big flour merchant, or to
build a flotilla of flatboats, and take the produce of a given
neighborhood down to New Orleans for shipment to the West Indies.
[Footnote: Clay MSS., Seitz & Lowan to Garret Darling, Lexington,
January 23, 1797; agreement of George Nicholas, October 10, 1796, etc.
This was an agreement on the part of Nicholas to furnish Seitz & Lowan
with all the flour manufactured at his mill during the season of 1797
for exportation, the flour to be delivered by him in Kentucky. He was to
receive $5.50 a barrel up to the receipt of $1500; after that it was to
depend upon the price of wheat. Six bushels of wheat were reckoned to a
barrel of flour, and the price of a bushel was put at four shillings; in
reality it ranged from three to six.] They were also always engaged in
efforts to improve the breed of their horses and cattle, and to
introduce new kinds of agriculture, notably the culture of the vine.
[Footnote: _Do._, "Minutes of meeting of the Directors of the Vineyard
Society," June 27, 1800.] They speedily settled themselves definitely in
the new country, and began to make ready for their children to inherit
their homes after them; though they retained enough of the restless
spirit which had made them cross the Alleghanies to be always on the
lookout for any fresh region of exceptional advantages, such as many of
them considered the lands along the lower Mississippi. They led a life
which appealed to them strongly, for it was passed much in the open air,
in a beautiful region and lovely climate, with horses and hounds, and
the management of their estates and their interest in politics to occupy
their time; while their neighbors were men of cultivation, at least by
their own standards, so that they had the society for which they most
cared. [Footnote: _Do._, James Brown to Thomas Hart, Lexington, April 3,
1804.] In spite of their willingness to embark in commercial ventures
and to build mills, rope-walks, and similar manufactures,--for which
they had the greatest difficulty in procuring skilled laborers, whether
foreign or native, from the Northeastern States [Footnote: _Do._, J.
Brown to Thomas Hart, Philadelphia, February 11, 1797. This letter was
brought out to Hart by a workman, David Dodge, whom Brown had at last
succeeded in engaging. Dodge had been working in New York at a
rope-walk, where he received $500 a year without board. From Hart he
bargained to receive $350 with board. It proved impossible to engage
other journeymen workers, Brown expressing his belief that any whom he
chose would desert a week after they got to Kentucky, and Dodge saying
that he would rather take raw hands and train them to the business than
take out such hands as offered to go.]--and in spite of their liking
for the law, they retained the deep-settled belief that the cultivation
of the earth was the best of all possible pursuits for men of every
station, high or low. [Footnote _Do._, William Nelson to Col. George
Nicholas, Caroline, Va., December 29, 1794.]

Virginia and Kentucky.

In many ways the life of the Kentuckians was most like that of the
Virginia gentry, though it had peculiar features of its own. Judged by
Puritan standards, it seemed free enough; and it is rather curious to
find Virginia fathers anxious to send their sons out to Kentucky so that
they could get away from what they termed "the constant round of
dissipation, the scenes of idleness, which boys are perpetually engaged
in" in Virginia. One Virginia gentleman of note, in writing to a
prominent Kentuckian to whom he wished to send his son, dwelt upon his
desire to get him away from a place where boys of his age spent most of
the time galloping wherever they wished, mounted on blooded horses.
Kentucky hardly seemed a place to which a parent would send a son if he
wished him to avoid the temptations of horse flesh; but this particular
Virginian at least tried to provide against this, as he informed his
correspondent that he should send his son out to Kentucky mounted on an
"indifferent Nag," which was to be used only as a means of locomotion
for the journey, and was then immediately to be sold. [Footnote: _Do_.,
William Nelson to Nicholas, November 9, 1792.]


The gentry strove hard to secure a good education for their children,
and in Kentucky, as in Tennessee, made every effort to bring about the
building of academies where their boys and girls could be well taught.
If this was not possible, they strove to find some teacher capable of
taking a class to which he could teach Latin and mathematics; a teacher
who should also "prepare his pupils for becoming useful members of
society and patriotic citizens." [Footnote: Shelby MSS., letter of
Toulmin, January 7, 1794; Blount MSS., January 6, 1792, etc.] Where
possible the leading families sent their sons to some Eastern college,
Princeton being naturally the favorite institution of learning with
people who dwelt in communities where the Presbyterians took the lead in
social standing and cultivation. [Footnote: Clay MSS., _passim;_ letter
to Thomas Hart, October 19, 1794; October 13, 1797, etc. In the last
letter, by the way, written by one John Umstead, occurs the following
sentence: "I have lately heard a piece of news, if true, must be a
valuable acquisition to the Western World, viz. a boat of a considerable
burden making four miles and a half an hour against the strongest
current in the Mississippi river, and worked by horses."]

Prices of Goods.

All through the West there was much difficulty in getting money. In
Tennessee particularly money was so scarce that the only way to get cash
in hand was by selling provisions to the few Federal garrisons.
[Footnote: _Do_., Blount to Hart, Knoxville, March 13, 1799.] Credits
were long, and payment made largely in kind; and the price at which an
article could be sold under such conditions was twice as large as that
which it would command for cash down. In the accounts kept by the
landowners with the merchants who sold them goods, and the artizans who
worked for them, there usually appear credit accounts in which the
amounts due on account of produce of various kinds are deducted from the
debt, leaving a balance to be settled by cash and by orders. Owing to
the fluctuating currency, and to the wide difference in charges when
immediate cash payments were received as compared with charges when the
payments were made on credit and in kind, it is difficult to know
exactly what the prices represent. In Kentucky currency mutton and beef
were fourpence a pound, in the summer of 1796, while four beef tongues
cost three shillings, and a quarter of lamb three and a sixpence. In
1798, on the same account, beef was down to threepence a pound.
[Footnote: _Do._, Account of James Morrison and Melchia Myer, October
12, 17098.] Linen cost two and fourpence, or three shillings a yard;
flannel, four to six shillings; calico and chintz about the same; baize,
three shillings and ninepence. A dozen knives and forks were eighteen
shillings, and ten pocket handkerchiefs two pounds. Worsted shoes were
eight shillings a pair, and buttons were a shilling a dozen. A pair of
gloves were three and ninepence; a pair of kid slippers, thirteen and
sixpence; ribbons were one and sixpence. [Footnote: _Do._, Account of
Mrs. Marion Nicholas with Tillford, 1802. On this bill appears also a
charge for Hyson tea, for straw bonnets, at eighteen shillings; for
black silk gloves, and for one "Aesop's Fables," at a cost of three
shillings and ninepence.] The blacksmith charged six shillings and
ninepence for a new pair of shoes, and a shilling and sixpence for
taking off an old pair; and he did all the iron work for the farm and
the house alike, from repairing bridle bits and sharpening coulters to
mounting "wafil irons" [Footnote: _Do._, Account of Morrison and Hickey,
1798.]--for the housewives excelled in preparing delicious waffles and
hot cakes.

Holidays of the Gentry.

The gentry were fond of taking holidays, going to some mountain resort,
where they met friends from other parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, and
from Virginia and elsewhere. They carried their negro servants with
them, and at a good tavern the board would be three shillings a day for
the master and a little over a shilling for the man. They lived in
comfort and they enjoyed themselves; but they did not have much ready
money. From the sales of their crops and stock and from their mercantile
ventures they got enough to pay the blacksmith and carpenter, who did
odd jobs for them, and the Eastern merchants from whom they got gloves,
bonnets, hats, and shoes, and the cloth which was made into dresses by
the womankind on their plantations. But most of their wants were
supplied on their own places. Their abundant tables were furnished
mainly with, what their own farms yielded. When they travelled they went
in their own carriages. The rich men, whose wants were comparatively
many, usually had on their estates white hired men or black slaves whose
labor could gratify them; while the ordinary farmer, of the class that
formed the great majority of the population, was capable of supplying
almost all his needs himself, or with the assistance of his family.

Contrast of Old and new Methods of Settlements.

The immense preponderance of the agricultural, land-holding, and
land-tilling element, and the comparative utter insignificance of town
development was highly characteristic of the Western settlement of this
time, and offers a very marked contrast to what goes on to-day, in the
settlement of new countries. At the end of the eighteenth century the
population of the Western country was about as great as the population
of the State of Washington at the end of the nineteenth, and Washington
is distinctly a pastoral and agricultural State, a State of men who chop
trees, herd cattle, and till the soil, as well as trade; but in
Washington great cities, like Tacoma, Seattle, and Spokane, have sprung
up with a rapidity which was utterly unknown in the West a century ago.
Nowadays when new States are formed the urban population in them tends
to grow as rapidly as in the old. A hundred years ago there was
practically no urban population at all in a new country. Colorado even
during its first decade of statehood had a third of its population in
its capital city. Kentucky during its first decade did not have much
more than one per cent of its population in its capital city. Kentucky
grew as rapidly as Colorado grew, a hundred years later; but Denver grew
thirty or forty times as fast as Lexington had ever grown.

Restlessness of the Frontiersman. Boone's Wanderings.

In the strongly marked frontier character no traits were more pronounced
than the dislike of crowding and the tendency to roam to and fro, hither
and thither, always with a westward trend. Boone, the typical
frontiersman, embodied in his own person the spirit of loneliness and
restlessness which marked the first venturers into the wilderness. He
had wandered in his youth from Pennsylvania to Carolina, and, in the
prime of his strength, from North Carolina to Kentucky. When Kentucky
became well settled in the closing years of the century, he crossed into
Missouri, that he might once more take up his life where he could see
the game come out of the woods at nightfall, and could wander among
trees untouched by the axe of the pioneer. An English traveller of note
who happened to encounter him about this time has left an interesting
account of the meeting. It was on the Ohio, and Boone was in a canoe,
alone with his dog and gun, setting forth on a solitary trip into the
wilderness to trap beaver. He would not even join himself to the other
travellers for a night, preferring to plunge at once into the wild,
lonely life he so loved. His strong character and keen mind struck the
Englishman, who yet saw that the old hunter belonged to the class of
pioneers who could never themselves civilize the land, because they ever
fled from the face of the very civilization for which they had made
ready the land. In Boone's soul the fierce impatience of all restraint
burned like a fire. He told the Englishman that he no longer cared for
Kentucky, because its people had grown too easy of life; and that he
wished to move to some place where men still lived untrammelled and
unshackled, and enjoyed uncontrolled the free blessings of nature.
[Footnote: Francis Bailey's "Journal of a Tour in Unsettled Parts of
North America in 1796 and 1797," p. 234.] The isolation of his life and
the frequency with which he changed his abode brought out the
frontiersman's wonderful capacity to shift for himself, but it hindered
the development of his power of acting in combination with others of his
kind. The first comers to the new country were so restless and so
intolerant of the presence of their kind, that as neighbors came in they
moved ever westward. They could not act with their fellows.

The Permanent Settlers.
Efforts to Provide Schooling.

Of course in the men who succeeded the first pioneers, and who were the
first permanent settlers, the restlessness and the desire for a lonely
life were much less developed. These men wandered only until they found
a good piece of land, and took up claims on this land, not because the
country was lonely, but because it was fertile. They hailed with joy
the advent of new settlers and the upbuilding of a little market town in
the neighborhood. They joined together eagerly in the effort to obtain
schools for their children. As yet there were no public schools
supported by government in any part of the West, but all the settlers of
any pretension to respectability were anxious to give their children a
decent education. Even the poorer people, who were still engaged in the
hardest and roughest struggle for a livelihood, showed appreciation of
the need of schooling for their children; and wherever the clearings of
the settlers were within reasonable distance of one another a log
schoolhouse was sure to spring up. The school-teacher boarded around
among the different families, and was quite as apt to be paid in produce
as in cash. Sometimes he was a teacher by profession; more often he
took up teaching simply as an interlude to some of his other occupations.
Schoolbooks were more common than any others in the scanty libraries of
the pioneers.

The County-System in the West.

The settlers who became firmly established in the land gave definite
shape to its political career. The county was throughout the West the
unit of division, though in the North it became somewhat mixed with the
township system. It is a pity that the township could not have been the
unit, as it would have rendered the social and political development in
many respects easier, by giving to each little community responsibility
for, and power in, matters concerning its own welfare; but the
backwoodsmen lived so scattered out, and the thinly-settled regions
covered so large an extent of territory, that the county was at first in
some ways more suited to their needs. Moreover, it was the unit of
organization in Virginia, to which State more than to any other the
pioneers owed their social and governmental system. The people were
ordinarily brought but little in contact with the Government. They were
exceedingly jealous of their individual liberty, and wished to be
interfered with as little as possible. Nevertheless, they were fond of
litigation. One observer remarks that horses and lawsuits were their
great subjects of conversation. [Footnote: Michaux, p. 240.]

The Lawyers and Clergymen Forced to Much Travel.

The vast extent of the territory and the scantiness of the population
forced the men of law, like the religious leaders, to travel about rather
than stay permanently fixed in any one place. In a few towns there were
lawyers and clergymen who had permanent homes; but as a rule both rode
circuits. The judges and the lawyers travelled together on the circuits,
to hold court. At the Shire-town all might sleep in one room, or at
least under one roof; and it was far from an unusual thing to see both
the grand and petty juries sitting under trees in the open. [Footnote:
Atwater, p. 177.]

Power to Combine among the Frontiersmen.

The fact that the Government did so little for the individual and left
so much to be done by him rendered it necessary for the individuals
voluntarily to combine. Huskings and house-raisings were times when all
joined freely to work for the man whose corn men was to be shucked or
whose log cabin was to be built, and turned their labor into a frolic
and merrymaking, where the men drank much whiskey and the young people
danced vigorously to the sound of the fiddle. Such merry-makings were
attended from far and near, offering a most welcome break to the
dreariness of life on the lonely clearings in the midst of the forest.
Ordinarily the frontiersman at his home only drank milk or water; but at
the taverns and social gatherings there was much drunkenness, for the
men craved whiskey, drinking the fiery liquor in huge draughts. Often
the orgies ended with brutal brawls. To outsiders the craving of the
backwoodsman for whiskey was one of his least attractive traits.
[Footnote: Perrin Du Lac, p. 131; Michaux, 95, etc.] It must always be
remembered, however, that even the most friendly outsider is apt to
apply to others his own standards in matters of judgment. The average
traveller overstated the drunkenness of the backwoodsman, exactly as he
overstated his misery.

Roughness and Poverty of the Life.
Its Attractiveness.

The frontiersman was very poor. He worked hard and lived roughly, and he
and his family had little beyond coarse food, coarse clothing, and a
rude shelter. In the severe winters they suffered both from cold and
hunger. In the summers there was sickness everywhere, fevers of various
kinds scourging all the new settlements. The difficulty of communication
was so great that it took three months for the emigrants to travel from
Connecticut to the Western Reserve near Cleveland, and a journey from a
clearing, over the forest roads, to a little town not fifty miles off
was an affair of moment to be undertaken but once a year. [Footnote:
"Historical Collections of Ohio," p. 120; Perrin Du Lac, p. 143.] Yet to
the frontiersmen themselves the life was far from unattractive. It
gratified their intense love of independence; the lack of refinement
did not grate on their rough, bold natures; and they prized the entire
equality of a life where there were no social distinctions, and few
social restraints. Game was still a staple, being sought after for the
flesh and the hide, and of course all the men and boys were enthralled
by the delights of the chase. The life was as free as it was rude, and
it possessed great fascinations, not only for the wilder spirits, but
even for many men who, when they had the chance, showed that they
possessed ability to acquire cultivation.

One old pioneer has left a pleasant account of the beginning of an
ordinary day's work in a log cabin [Footnote: Drake's "Pioneer Life in
Kentucky." This gives an excellent description of life in a family of
pioneers, representing what might be called the average frontiersman of
the best type. Drake's father and mother were poor and illiterate, but
hardworking, honest, God-fearing folk, with an earnest desire to do
their duty by their neighbors and to see their children rise in the

Life in a Log Cabin.

"I know of no scene in civilized life more primitive than such a cabin
hearth as that of my mother. In the morning, a buckeye back-log, a
hickory forestick, resting on stone and irons, with a johnny-cake, on a
clean ash board, set before the fire to bake; a frying pan, with its
long handle resting on a split-bottom turner's chair, sending out its
peculiar music, and the tea-kettle swung from a wooden lug pole, with
myself setting the table or turning the meat, or watching the
johnny-cake, while she sat nursing the baby in the corner and telling
the little ones to hold still and let their sister Lizzie dress them.
Then came blowing the conch-shell for father in the field, the howling
of old Lion, the gathering round the table, the blessing, the dull
clatter of pewter spoons and pewter basins, the talk about the crop and
stock, the inquiry whether Dan'l (the boy) could be spared from the
house, and the general arrangements for the day. Breakfast over, my
function was to provide the sauce for dinner; in winter, to open the
potato or turnip hole, and wash what I took out; in spring, to go into
the field and collect the greens; in summer and fall, to explore the
truck patch, our little garden. If I afterwards went to the field my
household labors ceased until night; if not, they continued through the
day. As often as possible mother would engage in making pumpkin pies, in
which I generally bore a part, and one of these more commonly graced the
supper than the dinner table. My pride was in the labors of the field.
Mother did the spinning. The standing dye-stuff was the inner bark of
the white walnut, from which we obtained that peculiar and permanent
shade of dull yellow, the butternut [so common and typical in the
clothing of the backwoods farmer]. Oak bark, with copper as a mordant,
when father had money to purchase it, supplied the ink with which I
learned to write. I drove the horses to and from the range, and salted
them. I tended the sheep, and hunted up the cattle in the woods."
[Footnote: _Do_., pp. 90, in, etc., condensed.] This was the life of the
thrifty pioneers, whose children more than held their own in the world.
The shiftless men without ambition and without thrift, lived in laziness
and filth; their eating and sleeping arrangements were as unattractive
as those of an Indian wigwam.

Peculiar Qualities of the Pioneers.
Native Americans did Best.

The pleasures and the toils of the life were alike peculiar. In the
wilder parts the loneliness and the fierce struggle with squalid poverty,
and with the tendency to revert to savage conditions, inevitably produced
for a generation or two a certain falling off from the standard of
civilized communities. It needed peculiar qualities to insure success,
and the pioneers were almost exclusively native Americans. The Germans
were more thrifty and prosperous, but they could not go first into the
wilderness. [Footnote: Michaux, p. 63, etc.] Men fresh from England
rarely succeeded. [Footnote: Parkinson's "Tour in America, 1798-1800,"
pp. 504, 588, etc. Parkinson loathed the Americans. A curious example
of how differently the same facts will affect different observers may
be gained by contrasting his] The most pitiable group of emigrants that
reached the West at this time was formed by the French [Footnote:
observations with those of his fellow Englishman, John Davis, whose trip
covered precisely the same period; but Parkinson's observations as to
the extreme difficulty of an Old Country farmer getting on in the
backwoods regions are doubtless mainly true.] who came to found the
town of Gallipolis, on the Ohio. These were mostly refugees from the
Revolution, who had been taken in by a swindling land company. They were
utterly unsuited to life in the wilderness, being gentlemen, small
tradesmen, lawyers, and the like. Unable to grapple with the wild life
into which they found themselves plunged, they sank into shiftless
poverty, not one in fifty showing industry and capacity to succeed.
Congress took pity upon them and granted them twenty-four thousand acres
in Scioto County, the tract being known as the French grant; but no gift
of wild land was able to insure their prosperity. By degrees they were
absorbed into the neighboring communities, a few succeeding, most ending
their lives in abject failure. [Footnote: Atwater, p. 159; Michaux,
p. 122, etc.]

Trouble with Land Titles.

The trouble these poor French settlers had with their lands was far from
unique. The early system of land sales in the West was most unwise. In
Kentucky and Tennessee the grants were made under the laws of Virginia
and North Carolina, and each man purchased or preempted whatever he
could, and surveyed it where he liked, with a consequent endless
confusion of titles. The National Government possessed the disposal of
the land in the Northwest and in Mississippi; and it avoided the pitfall
of unlimited private surveying; but it made little effort to prevent
swindling by land companies, and none whatever to people the country
with actual settlers. Congress granted great tracts of lands to
companies and to individuals, selling to the highest bidder, whether or
not he intended personally to occupy the country. Public sales were thus
conducted by competition, and Congress even declined to grant to the men
in actual possession the right of pre-emption at the average rate of
sale, refusing the request of settlers in both Mississippi and Indiana
that they should be given the first choice to the lands which they had
already partially cleared. [Footnote: American State Papers, Public
Lands, I., 261; also pp. 71, 74, 99, etc.] It was not until many years
later that we adopted the wise policy of selling the National domain in
small lots to actual occupants.

Sullen Jealousy of the Pioneers.
Clouded Economic Notions.

The pioneer in his constant struggle with poverty was prone to look with
puzzled anger at those who made more money than he did, and whose lives
were easier. The backwoods farmer or planter of that day looked upon the
merchant with much the same suspicion and hostility now felt by his
successor for the banker or the railroad magnate. He did not quite
understand how it was that the merchant, who seemed to work less hard
than he did, should make more money; and being ignorant and suspicious,
he usually followed some hopelessly wrong-headed course when he tried to
remedy his wrongs. Sometimes these efforts to obtain relief took the
form of resolutions not to purchase from merchants or traders such
articles as woollens, linens, cottons, hats, or shoes, unless the same
could be paid for in articles grown or manufactured by the farmers
themselves. This particular move was taken because of the alarming
scarcity of money, and was aimed particularly at the inhabitants of the
Atlantic States. It was of course utterly ineffective. [Footnote:
Marshall, II., p. 325.] A much less wise and less honest course was that
sometimes followed of refusing to pay debts when the latter became
inconvenient and pressing. [Footnote: The inhabitants of Natchez, in the
last days of the Spanish dominion, became inflamed with hostility to
their creditors, the merchants, and insisted upon what were practically
stay laws being enacted in their favor. Gayarre and Claiborne.]

Vices of the Militia System.

The frontier virtue of independence and of impatience of outside
direction found a particularly vicious expression in the frontier
abhorrence of regular troops, and advocacy of a hopelessly feeble
militia system. The people were foolishly convinced of the efficacy of
their militia system, which they loudly proclaimed to be the only proper
mode of national defence. [Footnote: Marshall, II., p. 279.] While in the
actual presence of the Indians the stern necessities of border warfare
forced the frontiersmen into a certain semblance of discipline. As soon
as the immediate pressure was relieved, however, the whole militia
system sank into a mere farce. At certain stated occasions there were
musters for company or regimental drill. These training days were
treated as occasions for frolic and merry-making. There were pony races
and wrestling matches, with unlimited fighting, drunkenness, and general
uproar. Such musters were often called, in derision, cornstalk drills,
because many of the men, either having no guns or neglecting to bring
them, drilled with cornstalks instead. The officers were elected by the
men and when there was no immediate danger of war they were chosen
purely for their social qualities. For a few years after the close of
the long Indian struggle there were here and there officers who had seen
actual service and who knew the rudiments of drill; but in the days of
peace the men who had taken part in Indian fighting cared but little to
attend the musters, and left them more and more to be turned into mere
scenes of horseplay.

Lack of Military Training.

The frontier people of the second generation in the West thus had no
military training whatever, and though they possessed a skeleton militia
organization, they derived no benefit from it, because their officers
were worthless, and the men had no idea of practising self-restraint or
of obeying orders longer than they saw fit. The frontiersmen were
personally brave, but their courage was entirely untrained, and being
unsupported by discipline, they were sure to be disheartened at a
repulse, to be distrustful of themselves and their leaders, and to be
unwilling to persevere in the face of danger and discouragement. They
were hardy, and physically strong, and they were good marksmen; but here
the list of their soldierly qualities was exhausted. They had to be put
through a severe course of training by some man like Jackson before they
became fit to contend on equal terms with regulars in the open or with
Indians in the woods. Their utter lack of discipline was decisive
against them at first in any contest with regulars. In warfare with the
Indians there were a very few of their number, men of exceptional
qualities as woodsmen, who could hold their own; but the average
frontiersman, though he did a good deal of hunting and possessed much
knowledge of woodcraft, was primarily a tiller of the soil and a feller
of trees, and he was necessarily at a disadvantage when pitted against
an antagonist whose entire life was passed in woodland chase and
woodland warfare. These facts must all be remembered if we wish to get
an intelligent explanation of the utter failure of the frontiersmen
when, in 1812, they were again pitted against the British and the forest
tribes. They must also be taken into account when we seek to explain why
it was possible but a little later to develop out of the frontiersmen
fighting armies which under competent generals could overmatch the red
coat and the Indian alike.

Individualism in Religious Matters.
The Great Revival.

The extreme individualism of the frontier, which found expression for
good and for evil, both in its governmental system in time of peace and
in its military system in time of war, was also shown in religious
matters. In 1799 and 1800 a great revival of religion swept over the
West. Up to that time the Presbyterian had been the leading creed beyond
the mountains. There were a few Episcopalians here and there, and there
were Lutherans, Catholics, and adherents of the Reformed Dutch and
German churches; but, aside from the Presbyterians, the Methodists and
Baptists were the only sects powerfully represented. The great revival
of 1799 was mainly carried on by Methodists and Baptists, and under their
guidance the Methodist and Baptist churches at once sprang to the
front and became the most important religious forces in the frontier
communities. [Footnote: McFerrin's "History of Methodism in Tennessee,"
338, etc.; Spencer's "History of Kentucky Baptists," 69, etc.] The
Presbyterian church remained the most prominent as regards the wealth
and social standing of its adherents, but the typical frontiersman who
professed religion at all became either a Methodist or a Baptist,
adopting a creed which was intensely democratic and individualistic,
which made nothing of social distinctions, which distrusted educated
preachers, and worked under a republican form of ecclesiastical

Camp Meetings.

The great revival was accompanied by scenes of intense excitement. Under
the conditions of a vast wooded wilderness and a scanty population the
camp-meeting was evolved as the typical religious festival. To the great
camp-meetings the frontiersmen flocked from far and near, on foot, on
horseback, and in wagons. Every morning at daylight the multitude was
summoned to prayer by sound of trumpet. No preacher or exhorter was
suffered to speak unless he had the power of stirring the souls of his
hearers. The preaching, the praying, and the singing went on without
intermission, and under the tremendous emotional stress whole
communities became fervent professors of religion. Many of the scenes at
these camp-meetings were very distasteful to men whose religion was not
emotional and who shrank from the fury of excitement into which the
great masses were thrown, for under the strain many individuals
literally became like men possessed, whether of good or of evil spirits,
falling into ecstasies of joy or agony, dancing, shouting, jumping,
fainting, while there were widespread and curious manifestations of a
hysterical character, both among the believers and among the scoffers;
but though this might seem distasteful to an observer of education and
self-restraint, it thrilled the heart of the rude and simple
backwoodsman and reached him as he could not possibly have been reached
in any other manner. Often the preachers of the different denominations
worked in hearty unison; but often they were sundered by bitter jealousy
and distrust. The fiery zeal of the Methodists made them the leaders;
and in their war on the forces of evil they at times showed a tendency
to include all non-methodists--whether Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics,
or infidels--in a common damnation. Of course, as always in such a
movement, many even of the earnest leaders at times confounded the
essential and the non-essential, and railed as bitterly against dancing
as against drunkenness and lewdness, or anathematized the wearing of
jewelry as fiercely as the commission of crime. [Footnote: Autobiography
of Peter Cartwright, the Backwoods Preacher.] More than one hearty,
rugged old preacher, who did stalwart service for decency and morality,
hated Calvinism as heartily as Catholicism, and yet yielded to no
Puritan in his austere condemnation of amusement and luxury.

Good Accomplished.
Trials of the Frontier Preachers.

Often men backslid, and to a period of intense emotional religion
succeeded one of utter unbelief and of reversion to the worst practices
which had been given up. Nevertheless, on the whole there was an immense
gain for good. The people received a new light, and were given a sense
of moral responsibility such as they had not previously possessed. Much
of the work was done badly or was afterwards undone, but very much was
really accomplished. The whole West owes an immense debt to the
hard-working frontier preachers, sometimes Presbyterian, generally
Methodist or Baptist, who so gladly gave their lives to their labors and
who struggled with such fiery zeal for the moral wellbeing of the
communities to which they penetrated. Wherever there was a group of log
cabins, thither some Methodist circuit-rider made his way or there some
Baptist preacher took up his abode. Their prejudices and narrow
dislikes, their raw vanity and sullen distrust of all who were better
schooled than they, count for little when weighed against their intense
earnestness and heroic self-sacrifice. They proved their truth by their
endeavor. They yielded scores of martyrs, nameless and unknown men who
perished at the hands of the savages, or by sickness or in flood or
storm. They had to face no little danger from the white inhabitants
themselves. In some of the communities most of the men might heartily
support them, but in others, where the vicious and lawless elements were
in control, they were in constant danger of mobs. The Godless and
lawless people hated the religious with a bitter hatred, and gathered in
great crowds to break up their meetings. On the other hand, those who
had experienced religion were no believers in the doctrine of
nonresistance. At the core, they were thoroughly healthy men, and they
fought as valiantly against the powers of evil in matters physical as in
matters moral. Some of the successful frontier preachers were men of
weak frame, whose intensity of conviction and fervor of religious belief
supplied the lack of bodily powers; but as a rule the preacher who did
most was a stalwart man, as strong in body as in faith. One of the
continually recurring incidents in the biographies of the famous
frontier preachers is that of some particularly hardened sinner who was
never converted until, tempted to assault the preacher of the Word, he
was soundly thrashed by the latter, and his eyes thereby rudely opened
through his sense of physical shortcoming to an appreciation of his
moral iniquity.

The Frontiersmen Threaten the Spanish Regions.

Throughout these years, as the frontiersmen pressed into the West, they
continued to fret and strain against the Spanish boundaries. There was
no temptation to them to take possession of Canada. The lands south of
the Lakes were more fertile than those north of the Lakes, and the
climate was better. The few American settlers who did care to go into
Canada found people speaking their own tongue, and with much the same
ways of life; so that they readily assimilated with them, as they could
not assimilate with the French and Spanish creoles. Canada lay north,
and the tendency of the backwoodsman was to thrust west; among the
Southern backwoodsmen, the tendency was south and southwest. The
Mississippi formed no natural barrier whatever. Boone, when he moved
into Missouri, was but a forerunner among the pioneers; many others
followed him. He himself became an official under the Spanish
Government, and received a grant of lands. Of the other frontiersmen who
went into the Spanish territory, some, like Boone, continued to live as
hunters and backwoods farmers. [Footnote: American State Papers, Public
Lands, II., pp. 10, 872.] Others settled in St. Louis, or some other of
the little creole towns, and joined the parties of French traders who
ascended the Missouri and the Mississippi to barter paint, beads,
powder, and blankets for the furs of the Indians.

Uneasiness of the Spaniards.
Their Religious Intolerance.

The Spanish authorities were greatly alarmed at the incoming of the
American settlers. Gayoso de Lemos had succeeded Carondelet as Governor,
and he issued to the commandants of the different posts throughout the
colonies a series of orders in reference to the terms on which land
grants were to be given to immigrants; he particularly emphasized the
fact that liberty of conscience was not to be extended beyond the first
generation, and that the children of the immigrant would either have to
become Catholics or else be expelled, and that this should be explained
to settlers who did not profess the Catholic faith. He ordered, moreover,
that no preacher of any religion but the Catholic should be allowed to
come into the provinces. [Footnote: Gayarre, III., p. 387.] The Bishop
of Louisiana complained bitterly of the American immigration and of the
measure of religious toleration accorded the settlers, which, he said,
had introduced into the colony a gang of adventurers who acknowledged
no religion. He stated that the Americans had scattered themselves over
the country almost as far as Texas and corrupted the Indians and Creoles
by the example of their own restless and ambitious temper; for they came
from among people who were in the habit of saying to their stalwart boys,
"You will go to Mexico." Already the frontiersmen had penetrated even
into New Mexico from the district round the mouth of the Missouri, in
which they had become very numerous; and the Bishop earnestly advised
that the places where the Americans were allowed to settle should be
rigidly restricted. [Footnote: _Do_., p. 408.]

A Conflict inevitable.

When the Spaniards held such views it was absolutely inevitable that a
conflict should come. Whether the frontiersman did or did not possess
deep religious convictions, he was absolutely certain to refuse to be
coerced into becoming a Catholic; and his children were sure to fight as
soon as they were given the choice of changing their faith or abandoning
their country. The minute that the American settlers were sufficiently
numerous to stand a chance of success in the conflict it was certain
that they would try to throw off the yoke of the fanatical and corrupt
Spanish Government. As early as 1801 bands of armed Americans had
penetrated here and there into the Spanish provinces in defiance of the
commands of the authorities, and were striving to set up little bandit
governments of their own. [Footnote: _Do_., p. 447.]

Advantages of the Frontiersmen.

The frontiersmen possessed every advantage of position, of numbers, and
of temper. In any contest that might arise with Spain they were sure to
take possession at once of all of what was then called Upper Louisiana.
The immediate object of interest to most of them was the commerce of the
Mississippi River and the possession of New Orleans; but this was only
part of what they wished, and were certain to get, for they demanded all
the Spanish territory that lay across the line of their westward march.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the settlers on the Western
waters recognized in Spain their natural enemy, because she was the
power who held the mouth and the west bank of the Mississippi. They
would have transferred their hostility to any other power which fell
heir to her possessions, for these possessions they were bound one day
to make their own.

Predominance of the Middle West.

A thin range of settlements extended from the shores of Lake Erie on the
north to the boundary of Florida on the south; and there were out-posts
here and there beyond this range, as at Fort Dearborn, on the site of
what is now Chicago; but the only fairly well-settled regions were in
Kentucky and Tennessee. These two States were the oldest, and long
remained the most populous and influential, communities in the West.
They shared qualities both of the Northerners and of the Southerners,
and they gave the tone to the thought and the life in the settlements
north of them no less than the settlements south of them. This fact of
itself tended to make the West homogeneous and to keep it a unit with a
peculiar character of its own, neither Northern nor Southern in
political and social tendency. It was the middle West which was first
settled, and the middle West stamped its peculiar characteristics on all
the growing communities beyond the Alleghanies. Inasmuch as west of the
mountains the Northern communities were less distinctively Northern and
the Southern communities less distinctively Southern than was the case
with the Eastern States on the seaboard, it followed naturally that,
considered with reference to other sections of the Union, the West
formed a unit, possessing marked characteristics of its own. A
distinctive type of character was developed west of the Alleghanies, and
for the first generation the typical representatives of this Western
type were to be found in Kentucky and Tennessee.

The Northwest.

The settlement of the Northwest had been begun under influences which in
the end were to separate it radically from the Southwest. It was settled
under Governmental supervision, and because of and in accordance with
Governmental action; and it was destined ultimately to receive the great
mass of its immigrants from the Northeast; but as yet these two
influences had not become strong enough to sunder the frontiersmen north
of the Ohio by any sharp line from those south of the Ohio. The settlers
on the Western waters were substantially the same in character North and

The Westerners Formed One People.

In sum, the western frontier folk, at the beginning of the nineteenth
century, possessed in common marked and peculiar characteristics, which
the people of the rest of the country shared to a much less extent. They
were backwoods farmers, each man preferring to live alone on his own
freehold, which he himself tilled and from which he himself had cleared
the timber. The towns were few and small; the people were poor, and
often ignorant, but hardy in body and in temper. They joined hospitality
to strangers with suspicion of them. They were essentially warlike in
spirit, and yet utterly unmilitary in all their training and habits of
thought. They prized beyond measure their individual liberty and their
collective freedom, and were so jealous of governmental control that
they often, to their own great harm, fatally weakened the very
authorities whom they chose to act over them. The peculiar circumstances
of their lives forced them often to act in advance of action by the law,
and this bred a lawlessness in certain matters which their children
inherited for generations; yet they knew and appreciated the need of
obedience to the law, and they thoroughly respected the law.

Decadence of Separatist Feeling.

The separatist agitations had largely died out. In 1798 and 1799
Kentucky divided with Virginia the leadership of the attack on the Alien
and Sedition laws; but her extreme feelings were not shared by the other
Westerners, and she acted not as a representative of the West, but on a
footing of equality with Virginia. Tennessee sympathized as little with
the nullification movement of these two States at this time as she
sympathized with South Carolina in her nullification movement a
generation later. With the election of Jefferson the dominant political
party in the West became in sympathy with the party in control of the
nation, and the West became stoutly loyal to the National Government.

Importance of the West.

The West had thus achieved a greater degree of political solidarity,
both as within itself and with the nation as a whole, than ever before.
Its wishes were more powerful with the East. The pioneers stood for an
extreme Americanism, in social, political, and religious matters alike.
The trend of American thought was toward them, not away from them. More
than ever before, the Westerners were able to make their demands felt at
home, and to make their force felt in the event of a struggle with a
foreign power.



A great and growing race may acquire vast stretches of scantily peopled
territory in any one of several ways. Often the statesman, no less than
the soldier, plays an all-important part in winning the new land;
nevertheless, it is usually true that the diplomatists who by treaty
ratify the acquisition usurp a prominence in history to which they are
in no way entitled by the real worth of their labors.

Ways in which Territorial Expansion may Take Place.

The territory may be gained by the armed forces of the nation, and
retained by treaty. It was in this way that England won the Cape of Good
Hope from Holland; it was in this way that the United States won New
Mexico. Such a conquest is due, not to the individual action of members
of the winning race, but to the nation as a whole, acting through her
soldiers and statesmen. It was the English Navy which conquered the Cape
of Good Hope for England; it was the English diplomats that secured its
retention. So it was the American Army which added New Mexico to the
United States; and its retention was due to the will of the politicians
who had set that army in motion. In neither case was there any previous
settlement of moment by the conquerors in the conquered territory. In
neither case was there much direct pressure by the people of the
conquering races upon the soil which was won for them by their soldiers
and statesmen. The acquisition of the territory must be set down to the
credit of these soldiers and statesmen, representing the nation in its
collective capacity; though in the case of New Mexico there would of
course ultimately have been a direct pressure of rifle-bearing settlers
upon the people of the ranches and the mud-walled towns.

Diplomatic Victories.

In such cases it is the government itself, rather than any individual or
aggregate of individuals, which wins the new land for the race. When it
is won without appeal to arms, the credit, which would otherwise be
divided between soldiers and statesmen, of course accrues solely to the
latter. Alaska, for instance, was acquired by mere diplomacy. No
American settlers were thronging into Alaska. The desire to acquire it
among the people at large was vague, and was fanned into sluggish
activity only by the genius of the far-seeing statesmen who purchased
it. The credit of such an acquisition really does belong to the men who
secured the adoption of the treaty by which it was acquired. The honor
of adding Alaska to the national domain belongs to the statesmen who at
the time controlled the Washington Government. They were not
figure-heads in the transaction. They were the vital, moving forces.

Victories with Which Diplomats Have no Concern.

Just the contrary is true of cases like that of the conquest of Texas.
The Government of the United States had nothing to do with winning Texas
for the English-speaking people of North America. The American
frontiersmen won Texas for themselves, unaided either by the statesmen
who controlled the politics of the Republic, or by the soldiers who took
their orders from Washington.

Victories of Mixed Nature.

In yet other cases the action is more mixed. Statesmen and diplomats
have some share in shaping the conditions under which a country is
finally taken; in the eye of history they often usurp much more than
their proper share; but in reality they are able to bring matters to a
conclusion only because adventurous settlers, in defiance or disregard
of governmental action, have pressed forward into the longed-for land.
In such cases the function of the diplomats is one of some importance,
because they lay down the conditions under which the land is taken; but
the vital question as to whether the land shall be taken at all, upon no
matter what terms, is answered not by the diplomats, but by the people

It was in this way that the Northwest was won from the British, and the
boundaries of the Southwest established by treaty with the Spaniards.
Adams, Jay, and Pinckney deserve much credit for the way they conducted
their several negotiations; but there would have been nothing for them
to negotiate about had not the settlers already thronged into the
disputed territories or strenuously pressed forward against their

Louisiana Really Acquired by the Western Settlers.

So it was with the acquisition of Louisiana. Jefferson, Livingston, and
their fellow-statesmen and diplomats concluded the treaty which
determined the manner in which it came into our possession; but they did
not really have much to do with fixing the terms even of this treaty;
and the part which they played in the acquisition of Louisiana in no way
resembles, even remotely, the part which was played by Seward, for
instance, in acquiring Alaska. If it had not been for Seward, and the
political leaders who thought as he did, Alaska might never have been
acquired at all; but the Americans would have won Louisiana in any
event, even if the treaty of Livingston and Monroe had not been signed.
The real history of the acquisition must tell of the great westward
movement begun in 1769, and not merely of the feeble diplomacy of
Jefferson's administration. In 1802 American settlers were already
clustered here and there on the eastern fringe of the vast region which
then went by the name of Louisiana. All the stalwart freemen who had
made their rude clearings, and built their rude towns, on the hither
side of the mighty Mississippi, were straining with eager desire against
the forces which withheld them from seizing with strong hand the coveted
province. They did not themselves know, and far less did the public men
of the day realize, the full import and meaning of the conquest upon
which they were about to enter. For the moment the navigation of the
mouth of the Mississippi seemed to them of the first importance. Even
the frontiersmen themselves put second to this the right to people the
vast continent which lay between the Pacific and the Mississippi. The
statesmen at Washington viewed this last proposition with positive
alarm, and cared only to acquire New Orleans. The winning of Louisiana
was due to no one man, and least of all to any statesman or set of
statesmen. It followed inevitably upon the great westward thrust of the
settler-folk; a thrust which was delivered blindly, but which no rival
race could parry, until it was stopped by the ocean itself.

Pressure of the Backwoodsmen on the Spanish Dominions.

Louisiana was added to the United States because the hardy backwoods
settlers had swarmed into the valleys of the Tennessee, the Cumberland,
and the Ohio by hundreds of thousands; and had already begun to build
their raw hamlets on the banks of the Mississippi, and to cover its
waters with their flat-bottomed craft. Restless, adventurous, hardy,
they looked eagerly across the Mississippi to the fertile solitudes
where the Spaniard was the nominal, and the Indian the real, master; and
with a more immediate longing they fiercely coveted the creole province
at the mouth of the river.

The Mississippi formed no barrier whatsoever to the march of the
backwoodsmen. It could be crossed at any point; and the same rapid
current which made it a matter of extreme difficulty for any power at
the mouth of the stream to send reinforcements up against the current
would have greatly facilitated the movements of the Ohio, Kentucky, and
Tennessee levies down-stream to attack the Spanish provinces. In the
days of sails and oars a great river with rapid current might vitally
affect military operations if these depended upon sending flotillas up
or down stream. But such a river has never proved a serious barrier
against a vigorous and aggressive race, where it lies between two
peoples, so that the aggressors have merely to cross it. It offers no
such shield as is afforded by a high mountain range. The Mississippi
served as a convenient line of demarkation between the Americans and the
Spaniards; but it offered no protection whatever to the Spaniards
against the Americans.

Importance of New Orleans.

Therefore the frontiersmen found nothing serious to bar their farther
march westward; the diminutive Spanish garrisons in the little creole
towns near the Missouri were far less capable of effective resistance
than were most of the Indian tribes whom the Americans were brushing out
of their path. Towards the South the situation was different. The
Floridas were shielded by the great Indian confederacies of the Creeks
and Choctaws, whose strength was as yet unbroken. What was much more
important, the mouth of the Mississippi was commanded by the important
seaport of New Orleans, which was accessible to fleets, which could
readily be garrisoned by water, and which was the capital of a region
that by backwoods standards passed for well settled. New Orleans by its
position was absolute master of the foreign, trade of the Mississippi
valley; and any power in command of the seas could easily keep it
strongly garrisoned. The vast region that was then known as Upper
Louisiana--the territory stretching from the Mississippi to the
Pacific--was owned by the Spaniards, but only in shadowy fashion, and
could not have been held by any European power against the sturdy
westward pressure of the rifle-bearing settlers. But New Orleans and its
neighborhood were held even by the Spaniards in good earnest; while a
stronger power, once in possession, could with difficulty have been

Desire of the Settlers for it.

It naturally followed that for the moment the attention of the
backwoodsmen was directed much more to New Orleans than to the
trans-Mississippi territory. A few wilderness lovers like Boone, a few
reckless adventurers of the type of Philip Nolan, were settling around
and beyond the creole towns of the North, or were endeavoring to found
small buccaneering colonies in dangerous proximity to the Spanish
commanderies in the Southwest. But the bulk of the Western settlers as
yet found all the vacant territory they wished east of the Mississippi.
What they needed at the moment was, not more wild land, but an outlet
for the products yielded by the land they already possessed. The vital
importance to the Westerners of the free navigation of the Mississippi
has already been shown. Suffice it to say that the control of the mouth
of the great Father of Waters was of direct personal consequence to
almost every tree feller, every backwoods farmer, every land owner,
every townsman, who dwelt beyond the Alleghanies. These men did not
worry much over the fact that the country on the farther bank of the
Mississippi was still under the Spanish Flag. For the moment they did
not need it, and when they did, they knew they could take it without the
smallest difficulty. But the ownership of the mouth of the Mississippi
was a matter of immediate importance; and though none of the settlers
doubted that it would ultimately be theirs, it was yet a matter of much
consequence to them to get possession of it as quickly as possible, and
with as little trouble as possible, rather than to see it held, perhaps
for years, by a powerful hostile nation, and then to see it acquired
only at the cost of bloody, and perchance checkered, warfare.

Terror of the Spaniards.

This was the attitude of the backwoods people as with sinewy, strenuous
shoulder they pressed against the Spanish boundaries. The Spanish
attitude on the other hand was one of apprehension so intense that it
overcame even anger against the American nation. For mere diplomacy, the
Spaniards cared little or nothing; but they feared the Westerners. Their
surrender of Louisiana was due primarily to the steady pushing and
crowding of the frontiersmen, and the continuous growth of the Western
commonwealths. In spite of Pinckney's treaty the Spaniards did not leave
Natchez until fairly drowned out by the American settlers and soldiers.
They now felt the same pressure upon them in New Orleans; it was growing
steadily and was fast becoming intolerable. Year by year, almost month
by month, they saw the numbers of their foes increase, and saw them
settle more and more thickly in places from which it would be easy to
strike New Orleans. Year by year the offensive power of the Americans
increased in more than arithmetical ratio as against Louisiana.

Incursions of American Adventurers.

The more reckless and lawless adventurers from time to time pushed
southwest, even toward the borders of Texas and New Mexico, and strove
to form little settlements, keeping the Spanish Governors and Intendants
in a constant fume of anxiety. One of these settlements was founded by
Philip Nolan, a man whom rumor had connected with Wilkinson's intrigues,
and who, like many another lawless trader of the day, was always
dreaming of empires to be carved from, or wealth to be won in, the
golden Spanish realms. In the fall of 1800, he pushed beyond the
Mississippi with a score or so of companions, and settled on the Brazos.
The party built pens or corrals, and began to catch wild horses, for the
neighborhood swarmed not only with game but with immense droves of
mustangs. The handsomest animals they kept and trained, letting the
others loose again. The following March these tamers of wild horses were
suddenly set upon by a body of Spaniards, three hundred strong, with one
field-piece. The assailants made their attack at daybreak, slew Nolan,
and captured his comrades, who for many years afterwards lived as
prisoners in the Mexican towns. [Footnote: Pike's letter, July 22, 1807,
in Natchez _Herald_; in Col. Durrett's collection; see Coue's edition of
Pike's "Expedition," LII.; also Gayarre, III., 447.] The menace of such
buccaneering movements kept the Spaniards alive to the imminent danger
of the general American attack which they heralded.

Spain's Colonial system.

Spain watched her boundaries with the most jealous care. Her colonial
system was evil in its suspicious exclusiveness towards strangers; and
her religious system was marked by an intolerance still almost as fierce
as in the days of Torquemada. The Holy Inquisition was a recognized
feature of Spanish political life; and the rulers of the
Spanish-American colonies put the stranger and the heretic under a
common ban. The reports of the Spanish ecclesiastics of Louisiana dwelt
continually upon the dangers with which the oncoming of the backwoodsmen
threatened the Church no less than the State. [Footnote: Report of
Bishop Penalvert, Nov. I, 1795, Gayarre.] All the men in power, civil,
military, and religious alike, showed towards strangers, and especially
towards American strangers, a spirit which was doubly unwise; for by
their jealousy they created the impression that the lands they so
carefully guarded must hold treasures of great price; and by their
severity they created an anger which when fully aroused they could not
well quell. The frontiersmen, as they tried to peer into the Spanish
dominions, were lured on by the attraction they felt for what was hidden
and forbidden; and there was enough danger in the path to madden them,
while there was no exhibition of a strength sufficient to cow them.

Spain Wishes a Barrier against American Advance.

The Spanish rulers realized fully that they were too weak effectively to
cope with the Americans, and as the pressure upon them grew ever heavier
and more menacing they began to fear not only for Louisiana but also for
Mexico. They clung tenaciously to all their possessions; but they were
willing to sacrifice a part, if by so doing they could erect a barrier
for the defence of the remainder. Such a chance was now seemingly
offered them by France.

Napoleon's Dreams of Empire.

At the beginning of the century Napoleon was First Consul; and the
France over which he ruled was already the mightiest nation in Europe,
and yet had not reached the zenith of her power. It was at this time
that the French influence over Spain was most complete. Both the Spanish
King and the Spanish people were dazzled and awed by the splendor of
Napoleon's victories. Napoleon's magnificent and wayward genius was
always striving after more than merely European empire. As throne after
throne went down before him he planned conquests which should include
the interminable wastes of snowy Russia, and the sea-girt fields of
England; and he always dreamed of yet vaster, more shadowy triumphs, won
in the realms lying eastward of the Mediterranean, or among the islands
and along the coasts of the Spanish Main. In 1800 his dream of Eastern
conquest was over, but his lofty ambition was planning for France the
re-establishment in America of that colonial empire which a generation
before had been wrested from her by England.

The Treaty of San Ildefonso.

The need of the Spaniards seemed to Napoleon his opportunity. By the
bribe of a petty Italian principality he persuaded the Bourbon King of
Spain to cede Louisiana to the French, at the treaty of San Ildefonso,
concluded in October, 1800. The cession was agreed to by the Spaniards
on the express pledge that the territory should not be transferred to
any other power; and chiefly for the purpose of erecting a barrier which
might stay the American advance, and protect the rest of the Spanish

The Right of Deposit Annulled.

Every effort was made to keep the cession from being made public, and
owing to various political complications it was not consummated for a
couple of years; but meanwhile it was impossible to prevent rumors from
going abroad, and the mere hint of such a project was enough to throw
the West into a fever of excitement. Moreover, at this moment, before
the treaty between France and Spain had been consummated, Morales, the
Intendant of New Orleans, deliberately threw down the gage of battle to
the Westerners. [Footnote: Gayarre, III., 456.] On October 16, 1802, he
proclaimed that the Americans had forfeited their right of deposit in
New Orleans. By Pinckney's treaty this right had been granted for three
years, with the stipulation that it should then be extended for a longer
period, and that if the Spaniards chose to revoke the permit so far as
New Orleans was concerned, they should make some other spot on the river
a port of free entry. The Americans had taken for granted that the
privilege when once conferred would never be withdrawn; but Morales,
under pretence that the Americans had slept on their rights by failing
to discover some other spot as a treaty port, declared that the right of
deposit had lapsed, and would not be renewed. The Governor, Salcedo--who
had succeeded Gayoso, when the latter died of yellow fever, complicated
by a drinking-bout with Wilkinson--was not in sympathy with the
movement; but this mattered little. Under the cumbrous Spanish colonial
system, the Governor, though he disapproved of the actions of the
Intendant, could not reverse them, and Morales paid no heed to the angry
protests of the Spanish Minister at Washington, who saw that the
Americans were certain in the end to fight rather than to lose the only
outlet for the commerce of the West. [Footnote: Gayarre, III., 576. The
King of Spain, at the instigation of Godoy, disapproved the order of
Morales, but so late that the news of the disapproval reached Louisiana
only as the French were about to take possession. However, the reversal
of the order rendered the course of the further negotiations easier.] It
seems probable that the Intendant's action was due to the fact that he
deemed the days of Spanish dominion numbered, and, in his jealousy of
the Americans, wished to place the new French authorities in the
strongest possible position; but the act was not done with the knowledge
of France.

Anger of the Westerners.

Of this, however, the Westerners were ignorant. They felt sure that any
alteration in policy so fatal to their interests must be merely a
foreshadowing of the course the French intended thereafter to follow.
They believed that their worst fears were justified. Kentucky and
Tennessee clamored for instant action, and Claiborne offered to raise in
the Mississippi territory alone a force of volunteer riflemen sufficient
to seize New Orleans before its transfer into French hands could be

Jefferson Forced into Action.

Jefferson was President, and Madison Secretary of State. Both were men
of high and fine qualities who rendered, at one time or another, real
and great service to the country. Jefferson in particular played in our
political life a part of immense importance. But the country has never
had two statesmen less capable of upholding the honor and dignity of the
nation, or even of preserving its material well-being, when menaced by
foreign foes. They were peaceful men, quite unfitted to grapple with
an enemy who expressed himself through deeds rather than words. When
stunned by the din of arms they showed themselves utterly inefficient

It was these two timid, well-meaning statesmen who now found themselves
pitted against Napoleon, and Napoleon's Minister, Talleyrand; against
the greatest warrior and lawgiver, and against one of the greatest
diplomats, of modern times; against two men, moreover, whose sodden lack
of conscience was but heightened by the contrast with their brilliant
genius and lofty force of character; two men who were unable to so much
as appreciate that there was shame in the practice of venality,
dishonesty, mendacity, cruelty, and treachery.

Jefferson was the least warlike of presidents, and he loved the French
with a servile devotion. But his party was strongest in precisely those
parts of the country where the mouth of the Mississippi was held to be
of right the property of the United States; and the pressure of public
opinion was too strong for Jefferson to think of resisting it. The South
and the West were a unit in demanding that France should not be allowed
to establish herself on the lower Mississippi. Jefferson was forced to
tell his French friends that if their nation persisted in its purpose
America would be obliged to marry itself to the navy and army of
England. Even he could see that for the French to take Louisiana meant
war with the United States sooner or later; and as above all things else
he wished peace, he made every effort to secure the coveted territory by

Beginning of Negotiations with France.

Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York represented American
interests in Paris; but at the very close of the negotiation he was
succeeded by Monroe, whom Jefferson sent over as a special envoy. The
course of the negotiations was at first most baffling to the Americans.
[Footnote: In Henry Adams' "History of the United States," the account
of the diplomatic negotiations at this period, between France, Spain,
and the United States, is the most brilliant piece of diplomatic
history, so far as the doings of the diplomats themselves are concerned,
that can be put to the credit of any American writer.] Talleyrand lied
with such unmoved calm that it was impossible to put the least weight
upon anything he said; moreover, the Americans soon found that Napoleon
was the sole and absolute master, so that it was of no use attempting to
influence any of his subordinates, save in so far as these subordinates
might in their turn influence him. For some time it appeared that
Napoleon was bent upon occupying Louisiana in force and using it as a
basis for the rebuilding of the French colonial power. The time seemed
ripe for such a project. After a decade of war with all the rest of
Europe, France in 1802 concluded the Peace of Amiens, which left her
absolutely free to do as she liked in the New World. Napoleon thoroughly
despised a republic, and especially a republic without an army or navy.
After the Peace of Amiens he began to treat the Americans with
contemptuous disregard; and he planned to throw into Louisiana one of
his generals with a force of veteran troops sufficient to hold the
country against any attack.

Illusory Nature of Napoleon's Hopes.

His hopes were in reality chimerical. At the moment France was at peace
with her European foes, and could send her ships of war and her
transports across the ocean without fear of the British navy. It would
therefore have been possible for Napoleon without molestation to throw a
large body of French soldiers into New Orleans. Had there been no
European war such an army might have held New Orleans for some years
against American attack, and might even have captured one or two of the
American posts on the Mississippi, such as Natchez; but the instant it
had landed in New Orleans the entire American people would have accepted
France as their deadliest enemy, and all American foreign policy would
have been determined by the one consideration of ousting the French from
the mouth of the Mississippi. To the United States, France was by no
means as formidable as Great Britain, because of her inferiority as a
naval power. Even if unsupported by any outside alliance the Americans
would doubtless in the end have driven a French army from New Orleans,
though very probably at the cost of one or two preliminary rebuffs. The
West was stanch in support of Jefferson and Madison; but in time of
stress it was sure to develop leaders of more congenial temper, exactly
as it actually did develop Andrew Jackson a few years later. At this
very time the French failed to conquer the negro republic which
Toussaint Louverture had founded in Hayti. What they thus failed to
accomplish in one island, against insurgent negroes, it was folly to
think they could accomplish on the American continent, against the power
of the American people. This struggle with the revolutionary slaves in
Hayti hindered Napoleon from immediately throwing an army into
Louisiana; but it did more, for it helped to teach him the folly of
trying to carry out such a plan at all.

Report of Pontaiba.

A very able and faithful French agent in the meanwhile sent a report to
Napoleon plainly pointing out the impossibility of permanently holding
Louisiana against the Americans. He showed that on the Western waters
alone it would be possible to gather armies amounting in the aggregate
to twenty or thirty thousand men, all of them inflamed with the eager
desire to take New Orleans. [Footnote: Pontalba's Memoir. He hoped that
Louisiana might, in certain contingencies, be preserved for the French,
but he insisted that it could only be by keeping peace with the American
settlers, and by bringing about an immense increase of population in the
province.] The Mississippi ran so as to facilitate the movement of any
expedition against New Orleans, while it offered formidable obstacles to
counter-expeditions from New Orleans against the American commonwealths
lying farther up stream. An expeditionary force sent from the mouth of
the Mississippi, whether to assail the towns and settlements along the
Ohio, or to defend the Creole villages near the Missouri, could at the
utmost hope for only transient success, while its ultimate failure was
certain. On the other hand, a backwoods army could move down stream with
comparative ease; and even though such an expedition were defeated, it
was certain that the attempt would be repeated again and again, until by
degrees the mob of hardy riflemen changed into a veteran army, and
brought forth some general like "Old Hickory," able to lead to victory.

Views of Barbe Marbois.

The most intelligent French agents on the ground saw this. Some of
Napoleon's Ministers were equally far-sighted. One of them, Barbe
Marbois, represented to him in the strongest terms the hopelessness of
the undertaking on which he proposed to embark. He pointed out that the
United States was sure to go to war with France if France took New
Orleans, and that in the end such a war could only result in victory for
the Americans.

We can now readily see that this victory was certain to come, even had
the Americans been left without allies. France could never have defended
the vast region known as Upper Louisiana, and sooner or later New
Orleans itself would have fallen, though it may well be only after
humiliating defeats for the Americans and much expenditure of life and
treasure. But as things actually were the Americans would have had
plenty of powerful allies. The Peace of Amiens lasted but a couple of
years before England again went to war. Napoleon knew, and the American
statesmen knew, that the British intended to attack New Orleans upon the
outbreak of hostilities, if it were in French hands. In such event
Louisiana would have soon fallen; for any French force stationed there
would have found its reinforcements cut off by the English navy, and
would have dwindled away until unable to offer resistance.

Louisiana's Destiny Really by the Backwoodsmen.

Nevertheless, European wars, and the schemes and fancies of European
statesmen, could determine merely the conditions under which the
catastrophe was to take place, but not the catastrophe itself. The fate
of Louisiana was already fixed. It was not the diplomats who decided its
destiny, but the settlers of the Western states. The growth of the
teeming folk who had crossed the Alleghanies and were building their
rude, vigorous commonwealths in the northeastern portion of the
Mississippi basin, decided the destiny of all the lands that were
drained by that mighty river. The steady westward movement of the
Americans was the all-important factor in determining the ultimate
ownership of New Orleans. Livingston, the American minister, saw plainly
the inevitable outcome of the struggle. He expressed his wonder that
other Americans should be uneasy in the matter, saying that for his part
it seemed as clear as day that no matter what trouble might temporarily
be caused, in the end Louisiana was certain to fall into the grasp of
the United States. [Footnote: Livingston to Madison, Sept. 1, 1802.
Later Livingston himself became uneasy, fearing lest Napoleon's
wilfulness might plunge him into an undertaking which, though certain to
end disastrously to the French, might meanwhile cause great trouble to
the Americans.]

Tedious Course of the Negotiations.

There were many Americans and many Frenchmen of note who were less
clear-sighted. Livingston encountered rebuff after rebuff, and delay
after delay. Talleyrand met him with his usual front of impenetrable
duplicity. He calmly denied everything connected with the cession of
Louisiana until even the details became public property, and then
admitted them with unblushing equanimity. His delays were so tantalizing
that they might well have revived unpleasant memories of the famous X.
Y. Z. negotiations, in which he tried in vain to extort bribe-money from
the American negotiators [Footnote: Jefferson was guilty of much weak
and undignified conduct during these negotiations, but of nothing weaker
and more petty than his attempt to flatter Talleyrand by pretending that
the Americans disbelieved his admitted venality, and were indignant with
those who had exposed it. See Adams.]; but Livingston, and those he
represented, soon realized that it was Napoleon himself who alone
deserved serious consideration. Through Napoleon's character, and
helping to make it great, there ran an imaginative vein which at times
bordered on the fantastic; and this joined with his imperious self-will,
brutality, and energy to make him eager to embark on a scheme which,
when he had thought it over in cold blood, he was equally eager to
abandon. For some time he seemed obstinately bent on taking possession
of Louisiana, heedless of the attitude which this might cause the
Americans to assume. He designated as commander of his army of
occupation, Victor, a general as capable and brave as he was insolent,
who took no pains to conceal from the American representatives his
intention to treat their people with a high hand.

Jefferson took various means, official and unofficial, of impressing
upon Napoleon the strength of the feeling in the United States over the
matter; and his utterances came as near menace as his pacific nature
would permit. To the great French Conqueror however, accustomed to
violence and to the strife of giants, Jefferson's somewhat vacillating
attitude did not seem impressive; and the one course which would have
impressed Napoleon was not followed by the American President. Jefferson
refused to countenance any proposal to take prompt possession of
Louisiana by force or to assemble an army which could act with immediate
vigor in time of need; and as he was the idol of the Southwesterners,
who were bitterly anti-federalist in sympathy, he was able to prevent
any violent action on their part until events rendered this violence
unnecessary. At the same time, Jefferson himself never for a moment
ceased to feel the strong pressure of Southern and Western public
sentiment; and so he continued resolute in his purpose to obtain

Napoleon Forced to Change his Purpose.
Louisiana Ceded to the United States.

It was no argument of Jefferson's or of the American diplomats, but the
inevitable trend of events that finally brought about a change in
Napoleon's mind. The army he sent to Hayti wasted away by disease and in
combat with the blacks, and thereby not only diminished the forces he
intended to throw into Louisiana, but also gave him a terrible object
lesson as to what the fate of these forces was certain ultimately to be.
The attitude of England and Austria grew steadily more hostile, and his
most trustworthy advisers impressed on Napoleon's mind the steady growth
of the Western-American communities, and the implacable hostility with
which they were certain to regard any power that seized or attempted to
hold New Orleans. Napoleon could not afford to hamper himself with the
difficult defence of a distant province, and to incur the hostility of a
new foe, at the very moment when he was entering on another struggle
with his old European enemies. Moreover, he needed money in order to
carry on the struggle. To be sure he had promised Spain not to turn over
Louisiana to another power; but he was quite as incapable as any Spanish
statesman, or as Talleyrand himself, of so much as considering the
question of breach of faith or loss of honor, if he could gain any
advantage by sacrificing either. Livingston was astonished to find that
Napoleon had suddenly changed front, and that there was every prospect
of gaining what for months had seemed impossible. For some time there
was haggling over the terms. Napoleon at first demanded an exorbitant
sum; but having once made up his mind to part with Louisiana his impatient
disposition made him anxious to conclude the bargain. He rapidly abated
his demands, and the cession was finally made for fifteen millions of

The Boundaries Undecided.

The treaty was signed in May, 1805. The definition of the exact
boundaries of the ceded territory was purposely left very loose by
Napoleon. On the east, the Spanish Government of the Floridas still kept
possession of what are now several parishes in the State of Louisiana.
In the far west the boundary lines which divided upper Louisiana from
the possessions of Britain on the north and of Spain on the south led
through a wilderness where no white man had ever trod, and they were of
course unmapped, and only vaguely guessed at.

Blindness of the American Statesmen.

There was one singular feature of this bargain, which showed, as nothing
else could have shown, how little American diplomacy had to do with
obtaining Louisiana, and how impossible it was for any European power,
even the greatest, to hold the territory in the face of the steady
westward growth of the American people. Napoleon forced Livingston and
Monroe to become the reluctant purchasers not merely of New Orleans, but
of all the immense territory which stretched vaguely northwestward to
the Pacific. Jefferson at moments felt a desire to get all this western
territory; but he was too timid and too vacillating to insist
strenuously upon anything which he feared Napoleon would not grant.
Madison felt a strong disinclination to see the national domain extend
west of the Mississippi; and he so instructed Monroe and Livingston. In
their turn the American envoys, with solemn fatuity, believed it might
impress Napoleon favorably if they made much show of moderation, and
they spent no small part of their time in explaining that they only
wished a little bit of Louisiana, including New Orleans and the east
bank of the lower Mississippi. Livingston indeed went so far as to
express a very positive disinclination to take the territory west of the
Mississippi at any price, stating that he should much prefer to see it
remain in the hands of France or Spain, and suggesting, by way of
apology for its acquisition, that it might be re-sold to some European
power! But Napoleon saw clearly that if the French ceded New Orleans it
was a simple physical impossibility for them to hold the rest of the
Louisiana territory. If his fierce and irritable vanity had been touched
he might, through mere wayward anger, have dared the Americans to a
contest which, however disastrous to them, would ultimately have been
more so to him; but he was a great statesman, and a still greater
soldier, and he did not need to be told that it would be worse than
folly to try to keep a country when he had given up the key-position.

The Great West Gained against the Wishes of the American

The region west of the Mississippi could become the heritage of no other
people save that which had planted its populous communities along the
eastern bank of the river, it was quite possible for a powerful European
nation to hold New Orleans for some time, even though all upper
Louisiana fell into the hands of the Americans; but it was entirely
impossible for any European nation to hold upper Louisiana if New
Orleans became a city of the United States. The Westerners, wiser than
their rulers, but no wiser than Napoleon at the last, felt this, and
were not in the least disturbed over the fate of Louisiana, provided
they were given the control of the mouth of the Mississippi. As a matter
of fact, it is improbable that the fate of the great territory lying
west of the upper Mississippi would even have been seriously delayed had
it been nominally under the control of France or Spain. With the mouth
of the Mississippi once in American hands it was a physical
impossibility in any way to retard the westward movement of the men who
were settling Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Debates in Congress.
Folly of the Federalists.

The ratification of the treaty brought on some sharp debates in
Congress. Jefferson had led his party into power as the special champion
of States' Rights and the special opponent of national sovereignty. He
and they rendered a very great service to the nation by acquiring
Louisiana; but it was at the cost of violating every precept which they
had professed to hold dear, and of showing that their warfare on the
Federalists had been waged on behalf of principles which they were
obliged to confess were shams the moment they were put to the test. But
the Federalists of the Northeast, both in the Middle States and in New
England, at this juncture behaved far worse than the Jeffersonian
Republicans. These Jeffersonian Republicans did indeed by their
performance give the lie to their past promise, and thereby emphasize
the unworthiness of their conduct in years gone by; nevertheless, at
this juncture they were right, which was far more important than being
logical or consistent. But the Northeastern Federalists, though with
many exceptions, did as a whole stand as the opponents of national
growth. They had very properly, though vainly, urged Jefferson to take
prompt and effective steps to sustain the national honor, when it seemed
probable that the country could be won from France only at the cost of
war; but when the time actually came to incorporate Louisiana into the
national domain, they showed that jealous fear of Western growth which
was the most marked defect in Northeastern public sentiment until past
the middle of the present century. It proved that the Federalists were
rightly distrusted by the West; and it proved that at this crisis, the
Jeffersonian Republicans, in spite of their follies, weaknesses, and
crimes, were the safest guardians of the country, because they believed
in its future, and strove to make it greater.

The Jeremiads of the Federalist leaders in Congress were the same in
kind as those in which many cultivated men of the East always indulged
whenever we enlarged our territory, and in which many persons like them
would now indulge were we at the present day to make a similar
extension. The people of the United States were warned that they were
incorporating into their number men who were wholly alien in every
respect, and who could never be assimilated. They were warned that when
they thus added to their empire, they merely rendered it unwieldy and
assured its being split into two or more confederacies at no distant
day. Some of the extremists, under the lead of Quincy, went so far as to
threaten dissolution of the Union because of what was done, insisting
that the Northeast ought by rights to secede because of the injury done
it by adding strength to the South and West. Fortunately, however, talk
of this kind did not affect the majority; the treaty was ratified and
Louisiana became part of the United States.

The French Prefect Laussat.

Meanwhile the Creoles themselves accepted their very rapidly changing
fates with something much like apathy. In March, 1803, the French
Prefect Laussat arrived to make preparations to take possession of the
country. He had no idea that Napoleon intended to cede it to the United
States. On the contrary, he showed that he regarded the French as the
heirs, not only to the Spanish territory, but of the Spanish hostility
to the Americans. He openly regretted that the Spanish Government had
reversed Morales' act taking away from the Americans the right of
deposit; and he made all his preparations as if on the theory that New
Orleans was to become the centre of an aggressive military government.

Corruption of the Spanish Government.

His dislikes, however, were broad, and included the Spaniards as well as
the Americans. There was much friction between him and the Spanish
officials; he complained bitterly to the home government of the
insolence and intrigues of the Spanish party. He also portrayed in
scathing terms the gross corruption of the Spanish authorities. As to
this corruption he was borne out by the American observers. Almost every
high Spanish official was guilty of peculation at the expense of the
government, and of bribe-taking at the expense of the citizens.

The Creoles not Ill-Satisfied with it.

Nevertheless the Creoles were far from ill-satisfied with Spanish rule.
They were not accustomed to self-government, and did not demand it; and
they cared very little for the fact that their superiors made money
improperly. If they paid due deference to their lay and clerical rulers
they were little interfered with; and they were in full accord with the
governing classes concerning most questions, both of principle or lack of
principle, and of prejudice. The Creoles felt that they were protected,
rather than oppressed, by people who shared their tastes, and who did
not interfere with the things they held dear. On the whole they showed
only a tepid joy at the prospect of again becoming French citizens.

Preparations to Turn the Country Over to the United States.

Laussat soon discovered that they were to remain French citizens for a
very short time indeed; and he prepared faithfully to carry out his
instructions, and to turn the country over to the Americans. The change
in the French attitude greatly increased the friction with the
Spaniards. The Spanish home government was furious with indignation at
Napoleon for having violated his word, and only the weakness of Spain
prevented war between it and France. The Spanish party in New Orleans
muttered its discontent so loud that Laussat grew alarmed. He feared
some outbreak on the part of the Spanish sympathizers, and, to prevent
such a mischance, he not only embodied the comparatively small portion
of the Creole militia whom he could trust, but also a number of American
volunteers, concerning whose fidelity in such a crisis as that he
anticipated there could be no question. It was not until December first,
1803, that he took final possession of the provinces. Twenty days
afterwards he turned it over to the American authorities.

Claiborne Made Governor.

Wilkinson, now commander of the American army,--the most disgraceful
head it has ever had--was entrusted with the governorship of all of
Upper Louisiana. Claiborne was made governor of Lower Louisiana,
officially styled the Territory of Orleans. He was an honest man, loyal
to the Union, but had no special qualifications for getting on well with
the Creoles. He could not speak French, and he regarded the people whom
he governed with a kindly contempt which they bitterly resented. The
Americans, pushing and masterful, were inclined to look down on their
neighbours, and to treat them overbearingly; while the Creoles in their
turn disliked the Americans as rude and uncultivated barbarians. For
some time they felt much discontent with the United States; nor was this
discontent allayed when in 1804 the territory of Orleans was reorganized
with a government much less liberal than that enjoyed by Indiana or
Mississippi; nor even when in 1805 an ordinary territorial government
was provided. A number of years were to pass before Louisiana felt
itself, in fact no less than in name, part of the Union.

New Orleans Offers a Field For Sedition.

Naturally there was a fertile field for seditious agitation in New
Orleans, a city of mixed population, where the numerically predominant
race felt a puzzled distrust for the nation of which it suddenly found
itself an integral part, and from past experience firmly believed in the
evanescent nature of any political connection it might have, whether
with Spain, France, or the United States. The Creoles murmured because
they were not given the same privileges as American citizens in the old
States, and yet showed themselves indifferent to such privileges as they
were given. They were indignant because the National Government
prohibited the importation of slaves into Louisiana, and for the moment
even the transfer thither of slaves from the old States--a circumstance,
by the way, which curiously illustrated the general dislike and
disapproval of slavery then felt, even by an administration under
Southern control. The Creoles further complained of Claiborne's
indifference to their wishes; and as he possessed little tact he also
became embroiled with the American inhabitants, who were men of
adventurous and often lawless temper, impatient of restraint.
Representatives of the French and Spanish governments still remained in
Louisiana, and by their presence and their words tended to keep alive a
disaffection for the United States Government. It followed from these
various causes that among all classes there was a willingness to talk
freely of their wrongs and to hint at righting them by methods outlined
with such looseness as to make it uncertain whether they did or did not
comport with entire loyalty to the United States Government.

The Filibusters.

Furthermore, there already existed in New Orleans a very peculiar class,
representatives of which are still to be found in almost every Gulf city
of importance. There were in the city a number of men ready at any time
to enter into any plot for armed conquest of one of the Spanish American
countries. [Footnote: Wilkinson's "Memoirs," II., 284.] Spanish America
was feeling the stir of unrest that preceded the revolutionary outbreak
against Spain. Already insurrectionary leaders like Miranda were seeking
assistance from the Americans. There were in New Orleans a number of
exiled Mexicans who were very anxious to raise some force with which to
invade Mexico, and there erect the banner of an independent sovereignty.
The bolder spirits among the Creoles found much that was attractive in
such a prospect; and reckless American adventurers by the score and the
hundred were anxious to join in any filibustering expedition of the
kind. They did not care in the least what form the expedition took. They
were willing to join the Mexican exiles in an effort to rouse Mexico to
throw off the yoke of Spain, or to aid any province of Mexico to revolt
from the rest, or to help the leaders of any defeated faction who wished
to try an appeal to arms, in which they should receive aid from the
sword of the stranger. Incidentally they were even more willing to
attempt the conquest on their own account; but they did not find it
necessary to dwell on this aspect of the case when nominally supporting
some faction which chose to make use of such watchwords as liberty and

Burr's Conspiracy.

Under such conditions New Orleans, even more than the rest of the West,
seemed to offer an inviting field for adventurers whose aim was both
revolutionary and piratical. A particularly spectacular adventurer of
this type now appeared in the person of Aaron Burr. Burr's conspiracy
attracted an amount of attention, both at home and in the pages of
history, altogether disproportioned to its real consequence. His career
had been striking. He had been Vice-President of the United States. He
had lacked but one vote of being made President, when the election of
1800 was thrown into the House of Representatives. As friend or as enemy
he had been thrown intimately and on equal terms with the greatest
political leaders of the day. He had supplied almost the only feeling
which Jefferson, the chief of the Democratic party, and Hamilton, the
greatest Federalist, ever possessed in common; for bitterly though
Hamilton and Jefferson had hated each other, there was one man whom each
of them had hated more, and that was Aaron Burr. There was not a man in
the country who did not know about the brilliant and unscrupulous party
leader who had killed Hamilton in the most famous duel that ever took
place on American soil, and who by a nearly successful intrigue had come
within one vote of supplanting Jefferson in the presidency.

Burr's Previous Career in New York.

In New York Aaron Burr had led a political career as stormy and
chequered as the careers of New York politicians have generally been. He
had shown himself as adroit as he was unscrupulous in the use of all the
arts of the machine manager. The fitful and gusty breath of popular
favor made him at one time the most prominent and successful politician
in the State, and one of the two or three most prominent and successful
in the nation. In the State he was the leader of the Democratic party,
which under his lead crushed the Federalists; and as a reward he was
given the second highest office in the nation. Then his open enemies and
secret rivals all combined against him. The other Democratic leaders in
New York, and in the nation as well, turned upon the man whose brilliant
abilities made them afraid, and whose utter untrustworthiness forbade
their entering into alliance with him. Shifty and fertile in expedients,
Burr made an obstinate fight to hold his own. Without hesitation, he
turned for support to his old enemies, the Federalists; but he was
hopelessly beaten. Both his fortune and his local political prestige
were ruined; he realized that his chance for a career in New York was

When Beaten in New York he Turned to the West.

He was no mere New York politician, however. He was a statesman of
national reputation; and he turned his restless eyes toward the West,
which for a score of years had seethed in a turmoil out of which it
seemed that a bold spirit might make its own profit. He had already been
obscurely connected with separatist intrigues in the Northeast; and he
determined to embark in similar intrigues on an infinitely grander scale
in the West and Southwest. He was a cultivated man, of polished manners
and pleasing address, and of great audacity and physical courage; and he
had shown himself skilled in all the baser arts of political management.

It is small wonder that the conspiracy of which such a man was head
should make a noise out of all proportion to its real weight. The
conditions were such that if Burr journied West he was certain to
attract universal attention, and to be received with marked enthusiasm.
No man of his prominence in national affairs had ever travelled through
the wild new commonwealths on the Mississippi. The men who were founding
states and building towns on the wreck of the conquered wilderness were
sure to be flattered by the appearance of so notable a man among them,
and to be impressed not only by his reputation, but by his charm of
manner and brilliancy of intellect. Moreover they were quite ready to
talk vaguely of all kinds of dubious plans for increasing the importance
of the West. Very many, perhaps most, of them had dabbled at one time or
another in the various separatist schemes of the preceding two decades;
and they felt strongly that much of the Spanish domain would and should
ultimately fall into their hands--and the sooner the better.

He Misunderstands the Western Situation.

There was thus every chance that Burr would be favorably received by the
West, and would find plenty of men of high standing who would profess
friendship for him and would show a cordial interest in his plans so
long as he refrained from making them too definite; but there was in
reality no chance whatever for anything more than this to happen. In
spite of Burr's personal courage he lacked entirely the great military
qualities necessary to successful revolutionary leadership of the kind
to which he aspired. Though in some ways the most practical of
politicians he had a strong element of the visionary in his character;
it was perhaps this, joined to his striking moral defects, which brought
about and made complete his downfall in New York. Great political and
revolutionary leaders may, and often must, have in them something of the
visionary; but it must never cause them to get out of touch with the
practical. Burr was capable of conceiving revolutionary plans on so vast
a scale as to be fairly appalling, not only from their daring but from
their magnitude. But when he tried to put his plans into practice, it at
once became evident that they were even more unsubstantial than they
were audacious. His wild schemes had in them too strong an element of
the unreal and the grotesque to be in very fact dangerous.

The West Had Grown Loyal.

Besides, the time for separatist movements in the West had passed, while
the time for arousing the West to the conquest of part of
Spanish-America had hardly yet come. A man of Burr's character might
perhaps have accomplished something mischievous in Kentucky when
Wilkinson was in the first flush of his Spanish intrigues; or when the
political societies were raving over Jay's treaty; or when the Kentucky
legislature was passing its nullification resolutions. But the West had
grown loyal as the Nineteenth Century came in. The Westerners were
hearty supporters of the Jeffersonian democratic-republican party;
Jefferson was their idol; they were strongly attached to the Washington
administration, and strongly opposed to the chief opponents of that
administration, the Northeastern Federalists. With the purchase of
Louisiana all deep-lying causes of Western discontent had vanished. The
West was prosperous, and was attached to the National Government. Its
leaders might still enjoy a discussion with Burr or among themselves
concerning separatist principles in the abstract, but such a discussion
was at this time purely academic. Nobody of any weight in the community
would allow such plans as those of Burr to be put into effect. There
was, it is true, a strong buccaneering spirit, and there were plenty of
men ready to enlist in an invasion of the Spanish dominions under no
matter what pretext; but even those men of note who were willing to lead
such a movement, were not willing to enter into it if it was complicated
with open disloyalty to the United States.

Burr Begins his Treasonable Plotting.

Burr began his treasonable scheming before he ceased to be
Vice-President. He was an old friend and crony of Wilkinson; and he knew
much about the disloyal agitations which had convulsed the West during
the previous two decades. These agitations always took one or the other
of two forms that at first sight would seem diametrically opposed. Their
end was always either to bring about a secession of the West from the
East by the aid of Spain or some other foreign power; or else a conquest
of the Spanish dominions by the West, in defiance of the wishes of the
East and of the Central Government. Burr proposed to carry out both of
these plans.

He Endeavors to Enlist the Foreign Powers.

The exact shape which his proposals took would be difficult to tell.
Seemingly they remained nebulous even in his own mind. They certainly so
remained in the minds of those to whom he confided them. At any rate his
scheme, though in reality less dangerous than those of his predecessors
in Western treason, were in theory much more comprehensive. He planned
the seizure of Washington, the kidnapping of the President, and the
corruption of the United States Navy. He also endeavored to enlist
foreign Powers on his side. His first advances were made to the British.
He proposed to put the new empire, no matter what shape it might assume,
under British protection, in return for the assistance of the British
fleet in taking New Orleans. He gave to the British ministers full--and
false--accounts of the intended uprising, and besought the aid of the
British Government on the ground that the secession of the West would so
cripple the Union as to make it no longer a formidable enemy of Great
Britain. Burr's audacity and plausibility were such that he quite
dazzled the British minister, who detailed the plans at length to his
home government, putting them in as favorable a light as he could. The
statesmen at London, however, although at this time almost inconceivably
stupid in their dealings with America, were not sunk in such abject
folly as to think Burr's schemes practicable, and they refused to have
anything to do with them.

He Starts West and Stays with Blennerhassett.

In April, 1805, Burr started on his tour to the West. One of his first
stoppages was at an island on the Ohio near Parkersburg, where an Irish
gentleman named Blennerhassett had built what was, for the West, an
unusually fine house. Only Mrs. Blennerhassett was at home at the time;
but Blennerhassett later became a mainstay of the "conspiracy." He was a
warm-hearted man, with no judgment and a natural tendency toward
sedition, who speedily fell under Burr's influence, and entered into his
plans with eager zeal. With him Burr did not have to be on his guard,
and to him he confided freely his plans; but elsewhere, and in dealing
with less emotional people, he had to be more guarded.

How Far Burr's Allies were Privy to his Treason.

It is always difficult to find out exactly what a conspirator of Burr's


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