ANARCHY

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THE POST-WAR ANARCHY

 

Despite the official end to the war under the Treaty of Paris, the American Bottoms was far from being a secure territory of the United States. In 1785, the commandant at St. Louis was readying for an attack from the Royalists at Michilimackinac while the Americans in the Mississippi Valley were still at constant war with the pro-British Indians. The French, who enjoyed good trading relations with the Indians and were generally safe from Indian attacks, plainly wanted the Americans to leave. In fact, they believed that Great Britain had legal right to the area owing to a large British Michilimackinac Company trading post at Cahokia. Because Virginia was still in the process of passing over her western lands to Congress, the Mississippi Bottoms were without even the distant governmental control afforded during the war by representatives of the Virginia Commonwealth. It was the consensus of Illinois Americans that a visible United States government had to be established soon or the Illinois Country would be lost by default (Boggess 1908: 40-49).

Finally, in 1784, Virginia ceded the western lands to the United States under the following conditions:

  1. The territory should be formed into states of not less than one hundred nor more than one hundred and fifty square miles each;
  2. Virginia's expenses in subduing and governing the territory should be reimbursed by the United States;
  3. Settlers should have their possessions and titles confirmed;
  4. One hundred and fifty thousand acres, or less, should be granted to George Rogers Clark and his soldiers;
  5. The Virginia military bounty lands should be located north of the Ohio River, unless there should prove to be enough land for the purpose south of the river;
  6. The proceeds from the sale of the lands should be for the United States, severally

                                                                                                            --- (Boggess 1908:45-46).

In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance establishing a "territory" of the United States northwest of the Ohio River. The Ordinance provided for a governor, a secretary, and three judges, and allowed for an election of a house of representatives when the population reached "five thousand free male inhabitants of full age". Under the terms of the ordinance, from three to five states could be created as soon as an area attained a population of sixty thousand. Future state boundaries were placed on a line north from Vincennes and from the mouth of the Miami River. The sixth article declared: "There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory otherwise than for the Punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." This prohibition of slavery was a stipulation strongly supported by the Ohio Company, a land company composed of antislavery New Englanders who had been officers in General Washington's army (Howard 1972:62-64).

In 1788, Congress passed an act confirming French title to the land they had occupied with the decision that each family living in the district before 1783 was to be given a bounty of four hundred acres. In doing so the American government was acknowledging the inevitable changes increased settlement would have on the hunting and fur trapping tradition of the French inhabitants. In addition, claimed lands by settlers under French, British, or Virginia grants was to be investigated (Boggess 1908:56-57). This investigation would drag on for years. Since the government held up land sales until the claims were resolved, the area became a huge "squatters camp" as settlement preceded the official opening of the territory (Boggess 1908:58).

The Congressional acts making the Mississippi region a territory of the United States was a landmark event in the history of the Illinois area. Not only did it bring to a close the era of French domination on the east side of the river; it also ushered in a new economic and social ideology, founded in part by the influx of new people and ideas from the east and also by the expanding national and world market.

Prior to the initial American settlement during the Revolutionary War, the French had worked out a design for managing Indian relations and at the same time exploiting the fur resources of the hinterland. This was accomplished by fair trading, and a compact French settlement system that did not threaten Indian land reserves (Howard 1972:47). This system of closing off the Indian land to settlers and allowing only licensed fur traders to enter the vast reservation was adopted by the British after control passed to England in 1763, but was negated by the Revolutionary War and a subsequent influx of American settlers. The major difference between the British, French, and the Americans was that the former two were more interested in exploiting the resources through the Indian population within a fair reciprocal market system, whereas the Americans as a whole were less interested in the mercantile goals of the European countries and more interested in land. Since the mercantile system of Europe meant profit (of a sort) for the Indians while the land hungry schemes of the Americans meant displacement for the aboriginal population, it is easy to see why initial American settlement during the Revolutionary War was not without protest from the French, Spanish, British, and Indians (Boggess 1908:16, 30, 34, 47-50, 54). Though the fur trade would continue to be an important means of commerce for St. Louis in the decades to come, this trade would shift from a local base to the hinterlands of the northwest in the Missouri Valley and the Plains (Oglesby 1967:113). The influx of American settlers In the late 18th and early 19th centuries would begin the decline of the Indians and the fur trade era in Illinois.

 

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