previous next

Chapter 8:

The king of Spain baffled by the backwoodsmen of Virginia.


while congress unwillingly gave up the hope of dis-
Chap. VIII.} 1778.
lodging England from the continent of North America, the negotiations between the elder and the younger branch of the house of Bourbon changed the attitude of the belligerent powers.

‘I observe with pain,’ so reported Count Montmorin in October, and so he was obliged continually

to report, ‘that this government singularly fears the prosperity and progress of the Americans;1 and this fear, which was in part the cause of its excessive illhumor at our engagements with them,2 may often turn the scale to the side of the English. Spain will be much inclined to stipulate for such a form of independence as may leave divisions between England and her colonies.’3 [182]

The cabinet of Versailles rushed into the war to

Chap. VIII.} 1778.
cripple England. Spain prompted inquiry into the political consequences of American independence. Letters came from the United States filled with reports of their ineradicable attachment to England, which would be sure to show itself in future European wars; the calm reasonings of Turgot, that, from habit and consanguinity, their commerce would return to their mother country could not be forgotten; doubts gradually rose up in the mind of Vergennes of their firmness and fidelity.4 Florida Blanca, who persistently proposed to bridle the dreaded ambition of the United States, by a balance of power in which England should hold the post of danger, wished her to retain possession of Canada and Nova Scotia; for it would prove a perennial source of quarrels between the British and the Americans. ‘On our side,’ wrote Vergennes simultaneously, ‘there will be no difficulty in guaranteeing to England Canada and all other American possessions which may remain to her at the peace.’5 Spain desired that England after the peace might hold Rhode Island, New York, and other places along the sea; but Vergennes inflexibly answered: ‘To this the king cannot consent without violating the engagement contracted with the thirteen provinces, which he has recognised as free and independent states;6 for them only we ask independence, without comprehending other English possessions. We are very far from desiring that the nascent republic [183] should remain the exclusive mistress of all
Chap. VIII.} 1778.
that immense continent.’7

In the same spirit the French minister at Philadelphia zealously urged members of congress to renounce every ambition for an increase of territory. A spirit of moderation manifested itself, especially in the delegation from New York. Gouverneur Morris was inclined to relinquish to Spain the navigation of the Mississippi,8 and while he desired the acquisition of Canada and Nova Scotia asserted the necessity of a law for setting a limit to the American dominion. ‘Our empire,’ said Jay, the president of congress, ‘is already too great to be well governed, and its constitution is inconsistent with the passion for conquest.’9 Not suspecting the persistent hostility of Spain, as he smoked his pipe at the house of Gerard, he loudly commended the triple alliance of France, the United States, and Spain.

From the study of their forms of government, Vergennes in like manner represented to Spain that ‘there was no ground for seeing in this new people a race of conquerors;’ and he undervalued American patriotism and firmness.10 To quiet the Spanish court,

he further wrote in November: ‘Examine with reflection, collectively and in detail, the constitutions which the United States have given themselves. Their republic, unless they amend its defects, which from the diversity and even antagonism of their interests appears to me very difficult, will never be [184] anything more than a feeble body, capable of little
Chap. VIII.} 1778.

But the fears of Florida Blanca could not be allayed. He hoped security only from further negotiations; and the United States, he was persuaded, could never conclude a peace with Great Britain except under the auspices of France and Spain, and must submit to any terms which these two powers might enjoin. But first he would know what advantages France designed to exact for herself in the final treaty of peace. For a time Montmorin kept him at bay by vague promises.12 ‘In a case like this,’ said Florida Blanca, ‘probability will not suffice; it is necessary to be able to speak with certainty.’ And, without demanding the like confidence from Spain, Vergennes in October enumerated as the only conditions which France would require:13 the treaty of Utrecht wholly continued or wholly abrogated; freedom to restore the harbor of Dunquerque; the coast of Newfoundland from Cape Bonavista to Cape St. John, with the exclusive fishery from Cape Bonavista to Point Riche. The question of a right to fortify the commercial establishment of Chandernagor fell with the surrender of that post;14 the insinuation of a desire to recover Canada, Vergennes always repelled as a calumny.

As the horizon began to clear and Florida Blanca became sure of his power over France, he could not conceal his joy; and, having suffered from the irony of the Spanish ambassador at Paris, he now exclaimed: [185] ‘I submit cheerfully to the satires of Aranda

Chap. VIII.} 1778.
to gain for myself a reputation that shall never die.’ From this time he was in earnest in wishing Spain to take part in the war. But his demands in comparison with the moderation of France were so extravagant, that he was ashamed himself to give them utterance; and in November he requested Vergennes
Nov. 20.
to suggest to him the advantages which France would bind itself to secure to Spain before listening to propositions for peace.15 A confidential declaration that accompanied his letter marked his disposition to qualify the independence of the United States.16 To raise the price to be offered, the king of Spain simultaneously wrote to his nephew, Louis the Sixteenth, of his desire to avoid any part in the war; and his minister announced to the French embassy, that Spain could not be induced to engage in it, except for great objects. ‘You know, sir, his projects,’ wrote Montmorin to Vergennes; ‘the only way to bring him to a decision is to appear to adopt them.’17 The option was embarrassing. ‘Six months ago,’ reasoned Vergennes, ‘England was unprepared, and might have consented to purchase peace on conditions prescribed by the Bourbons. Now she has fortified herself on every side, and God only knows what can be attained.’ Yet, rather than remain in a state of isolation, Vergennes on the day before Christmas, 1778, offered the king of Spain carte blanche to frame a treaty which the ambassador of [186] France at Madrid should have full power to sign.18
Chap. VIII.} 1778.
But Florida Blanca reasoned, that France would be more strongly bound by articles of her own proposing, and therefore answered: ‘The Catholic king will not be behind the king, his nephew, in confidence. Count Vergennes may draft the convention as seems good to him, and it will certainly be signed here as soon as it shall arrive. The heart of the king, my master, knows how to reciprocate good treatment.’ To Montmorin he verbally explained his demands in both hemispheres. As to Europe, he said: ‘Without Gibraltar I will never consent to a peace.’19 ‘How are you to gain the place?’ asked Montmorin; and he replied: ‘By siege it is impossible; Gibraltar must be taken in Ireland or in England.’ Montmorin rejoined: ‘The English must be reduced very low before they can cede Gibraltar, unless the Spaniards first get possession of it.’ ‘If our operations succeed,’ answered Florida Blanca, ‘England will be compelled to subscribe to the law that we shall dictate.’ At the same time he declared frankly, that Spain would furnish no troops for the invasion of Great Britain; France must undertake it alone; even the junction of the fleets of Brest and Cadiz to protect the landing must be of short duration.

Vergennes might have hesitated to inaugurate the hard conditions required; but reflection was lost in joy at the prospect of the co-operation of Spain, even though that power opposed the independence of the new allies of France, and demanded French [187] aid to dislodge them from the valley of the Missis-

Chap. VIII.} 1779.

And yet disinterested zeal for freedom had not died out in the world. Early in February, 1779, Lafayette, after a short winter passage from Boston to Brest, rejoined his family and friends. His departure for America in the preceding year, against the command of his king, was atoned for by a week's exile to Paris, and confinement to the house of his father-in-law. The king then received him at Versailles with a gentle reprimand; the queen addressed him with eager curiosity: ‘Tell us good news of our dear republicans, of our beloved Americans.’21 His fame, his popularity, the social influence of his rank, were all employed in behalf of the United States. Accustomed to see great interests sustained by small means, he grudged the prodigality which expended on a single festival at court as much as would have equipped the American army. ‘To clothe it,’ said Maurepas, ‘he would be glad to strip Versailles.’ He found a ministry neglecting the main question of American independence, making immense preparations for trifling ends, and half unconscious of being at war. Public opinion in France had veered about, and everybody clamored for peace, which was to be hastened by the active alliance with Spain.

All the while the Spanish government, in its intercourse with England, sedulously continued its offers of mediation. Lest their ambassador at London should betray the secret, he was kept in the dark, [188] and misled; Grantham, the British ambassador at

Chap. VIII.} 1779.
Madrid, hoodwinked by the stupendous dissimulation of Florida Blanca, wrote home in January, 1779: ‘I really believe this court is sincere in wishing to bring about a pacification;’22 and, at the end of March, the king of England still confided in the neutrality of the court of Spain.23 In London there was a rumor of peace through Spanish mediation; Lord Weymouth, the ablest statesman in the cabinet, steadily repelled that mediation, unless France would cease to support the insurgent colonies. Acting independently and from the consideration of her own interests alone, Spain evaded the question of American independence, and proposed her mediation to England on the basis of a truce of twenty-five or thirty years, to be granted by the king of England with the concurrence of Spain and France.24 This offer, made without consultation with Vergennes, called forth his most earnest expostulations; for, had it been accepted by the British ministry, he must have set himself at variance with Spain, or been false to his engagements with the United States. But Lord Weymouth was superior to intrigue and chicane; and with equal resolution and frankness he put aside the modified proposal ‘as an absolute, if not a distinct, concession of all the rights of the British crown in the thirteen colonies, under the additional disadvantage of making it to the French, rather than to the Americans themselves.’25 If independence [189] was to be conceded to the new states, Lord Wey-
Chap. VIII.} 1779.
mouth held that it must be conceded ‘directly to congress, that it might be made the basis of all the advantages to Great Britain which so desirable an object might seem to be worth.’26 Uncontrolled by entangling connections, England reserved to itself complete freedom in establishing its relations with America, whether as dependencies or as states. This policy was so founded in wisdom, that it continued to be the rule of Great Britain for a little more than eighty years.

Meantime Vergennes, on the twelfth of February,

Feb. 12.
forwarded the draft of a convention which yielded to Spain all that she required, except that its fourth article maintained the independence of the United States. ‘In respect to this,’ he wrote, ‘our engagements are precise, and it is not possible for us to retract them. Spain must share them, if she makes common cause with us.’27 Yet the article was persistently cavilled at, as in itself useless, and misplaced in a treaty of France with Spain; and it was remarked with ill-humor how precisely the treaty stipulated, ‘that arms should not be laid down’ till American independence should be obtained, while it offered only a vague promise ‘of every effort’ to procure the objects in which Spain was interested. ‘Efface the difference,’ answered Montmorin, ‘and employ the same expressions for both stipulations.’ The Spanish minister caught at the unwary offer, and in this way it was agreed that peace should not [190] be made without the restoration of Gibraltar. Fired
Chap. VIII.} 1779.
by the prospect which now opened before him, the king of Spain pictured to himself28 the armies of France breaking in upon the English at their firesides; and Florida Blanca said to Montmorin: ‘The news of the rupture must become known to the world by a landing in England. With union, secrecy, and firmness, we shall be able to put our enemies under our feet; but no decisive blow can be struck at the English except in England itself.’29

All this time the Spanish minister avoided fixing the epoch for joint active measures. Towards the

end of March, Vergennes wrote impatiently: ‘How can he ask us to bind ourselves to everything that flatters the ambition of Spain, whilst he may make the secret reserve never to take part in the war, but in so far as the dangers are remote and the advantages certain? in one word, to reap without having sown? The difficulty can be excused only by attributing it to that spirit of a pettifogger which formed the essence of his first profession, and which we have encountered only too often. I cry out less at his repugnance to guarantee American independence. Nothing is gratuitous on the part of Spain; we know from herself that she wants suitable concessions from the Americans; to this we assuredly make no opposition.’30

Discussing in detail with Montmorin the article relating to the Americans, Florida Blanca said: ‘The king, my master, will never acknowledge their independence, [191] until the English themselves shall be forced

Chap. VIII.} 1779.
to recognise it by the peace. He fears the example which he should otherwise give to his own possessions.’ ‘As well acknowledge their independence as accord them assistance,’ began Montmorin; but the minister cut him short, saying: ‘Nothing will come of your insisting on this article.’31

Now that no more was to be gained, Florida Blanca himself made a draft of a convention, and suddenly presented it to Montmorin. A few verbal corrections were agreed upon, and on the evening of the twelfth

April 12.
of April the treaty was signed.

By its terms France bound herself to undertake the invasion of Great Britain or Ireland; if she could drive the British from Newfoundland, its fisheries were to be shared only with Spain. For trifling benefits to be acquired for herself, she promised to use every effort to recover for Spain Minorca, Pensacola, and Mobile, the bay of Honduras, and the coast of Campeachy; and the two courts bound themselves not to grant peace, nor truce, nor suspension of hostilities, until Gibraltar should be restored. From the United States Spain was left free to exact, as the price of her friendship, a renunciation of every part of the basin of the Saint Lawrence and the lakes, of the navigation of the Mississippi, and of all the land between that river and the Alleghanies.

This convention of France with Spain modified the treaty between France and the United States. The latter were not bound to continue the war till Gibraltar should be taken; still less, till Spain should have carried out her views hostile to their interests. They [192] gained the right to make peace whenever Great

Chap. VIII.} 1779.
Britain would recognise their independence.

The Mississippi river is the guardian and the pledge of the union of the states of America. Had they been confined to the eastern slope of the Alleghanies, there would have been no geographical unity between them, and the thread of connection between lands that merely fringed the Atlantic must soon have been sundered. The father of rivers gathers his waters from all the clouds that break between the Alleghanies and the furthest ranges of the Rocky mountains. The ridges of the eastern chain bow their heads at the north and at the south; so that long before science became the companion of man, nature herself pointed out to the barbarous races how short portages join his tributary rivers to those of the Atlantic coast. At the other side, his mightiest arm interlocks with the arms of the Oregon and the Colorado, and by the conformation of the earth itself marshals highways to the Pacific. From his remotest springs he refuses to suffer his waters to be divided; but, as he bears them all to the bosom of the ocean, the myriads of flags that wave above his head are all the ensigns of one people. States larger than kingdoms flourish where he passes; and, beneath his step, cities start into being, more marvellous in their reality than the fabled creations of enchantment. His magnificent valley, lying in the best part of the temperate zone, salubrious and wonderfully fertile, is the chosen muster-ground of the most various elements of human culture brought together by men, summoned from all the civilized nations of the earth, and joined in the bonds of common citizenship by the strong, invisible [193] attraction of republican freedom. Now that

Chap. VIII.} 1779.
science has come to be the household friend of trade and commerce and travel, and that nature has lent to wealth and intellect the use of her constant forces, the hills, once walls of division, are scaled or pierced or levelled; and the two oceans, between which the republic has unassailably intrenched itself against the outward world, are bound together across the continent by friendly links of iron.

From the grandeur of destiny foretold by the possession of that river and the lands drained by its waters, the Bourbons of Spain, hoping to act in concert with Great Britain as well as France, would have excluded the United States totally and forever.

While the absolute monarch of the Spanish dominions and his minister thought to exclude the republic from the valley of the Mississippi, a new power emerged from its forests to bring their puny policy to nought. An enterprise is now to be recorded, which, for the valor of the actors, their fidelity to one another, the seeming feebleness of their means, and the great result of their hardihood, remains forever memorable in the history of the world.

On the sixth of June, 1776, the emigrants to the

region west of the Louisa river, at a general meeting in Harrodston, elected George Rogers Clark and another as their representatives to the assembly of Virginia, with a request that their settlements might be constituted a county. Before they could cross the mountains, the legislature of Virginia had declared independence, established a government, and adjourned. In a later session, they were not admitted to seats in the house; but on the sixth of December the westernmost [194] part of the state was incorporated as a county
Chap. VIII.} 1776.
and named Kentucky. As on his return he descended the Ohio, Clark brooded over the conquest of the land to the north of the river. In the summer of 1777, he sent two young hunters to reconnoitre
the French villages in Illinois and on the Wabash; but neither to them nor to any one else did he disclose his purpose.

During all that summer an apprehension prevailed at Detroit of danger to the settlements in the Illinois,32 but only from the Spanish side of the Mississippi. On the first of October, 1777, Clark took leave of the woodsmen of Kentucky, who saw him depart for the east with fear lest, entering the army, he would never return. On the tenth of December he unbosomed to Patrick Henry his purpose of acquiring the territory north-west of the Ohio. The surrender of Burgoyne had given confidence; yet Patrick Henry hesitated; for, as success depended on secrecy, the legislature could not be consulted; but a few trusty men-George Wythe, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson —were taken to counsel, and the expedition was resolved upon. On the second of January, 1778, Clark

received his instructions and twelve hundred pounds in paper money. On the next day Wythe, Mason, and Jefferson pledged their influence to secure a grant of three hundred acres of land to every man who should engage in the expedition. On the fourth Clark left Williamsburg, clothed with all the authority he could wish. At Redstone-old-fort, he prepared boats, light artillery, and ammunition. For men he relied solely on volunteer backwoodsmen of south-western Pennsylvania, [195] and from what we now call East Tennessee,
Chap. VIII.} 1778.
and Kentucky. On the twenty-fourth of June, the day of an eclipse of the sun, his boats passed over the falls of the Ohio. After leaving a small garrison in an island near them, his party consisted of four companies only; but the men were freeholders, each of whom had self-respect, and confidence in every one of his companions. Their captains were John Montgomery, Leonard Helm, Joseph Bowman, and William Harrod. An attack on Vincennes was the first object of Clark, but he learned that its garrison outnumbered his forces.

In the north-west, Detroit was the central point of British authority. There Hamilton, the lieutenant-governor, summoned several nations of Indians to council; and from that post he sent abroad along the American frontier parties of savages, whose reckless cruelty won his applause as the best proofs of their attachment to British interests.33 Sure of their aid, he schemed attempts against the ‘rebel forts on the Ohio,’ relying on the red men of the prairies, and the white men of Vincennes. The reports sent to Germain made him believe that the inhabitants of that settlement, though ‘a poor people who thought themselves cast off from his Majesty's protection, were firm in their allegiance to defend Fort Sackville against all enemies,’ and that hundreds in Pittsburgh remained at heart attached to the crown.34

On the invasion of Canada in 1775, Carleton, to [196] strengthen the posts of Detroit and Niagara, had

Chap. VIII.} 1778.
withdrawn the small British garrison from Kaskaskia, and the government was left in the hands of Rocheblave, a Frenchman, who had neither troops nor money. ‘I wish,’ he wrote in February, 1778, ‘the nation might come to know one of its best possessions, and consent to give it some encouragement;’ and he entreated Germain that a lieutenant-governor might be sent with a company of soldiers to reside in Illinois.35

On the passage down the Ohio, Clark was overtaken by news of the alliance with France. Having learned from a band of hunters the defenceless condition of Kaskaskia, he and his party, landing three leagues below the mouth of the Tennessee, struck across the country on foot, approached Kaskaskia on the fourth of July, in the darkness of evening surprised the town, and without bloodshed seized Rocheblave, the commandant. The inhabitants gladly bound themselves to fealty to the United States. A detachment under Bowman was despatched to Kahokia, and received its submission. The people, of French origin and few in number, were averse to the dominion of the English; and this disaffection was confirmed by the American alliance with the land of their ancestors.

In a long conference, Giboult, a Catholic priest, dissuaded Clark from moving against Vincennes. His own offer of mediation being accepted, he, with a small party, repaired to the post; and its people, having listened to his explanation of the state of affairs, went into the church and took the oath of [197] allegiance to the United States. The transition from

Chap. VIII.} 1778.
the condition of subjects of a king to that of integral members of a free state made them new men. Planning the acquisition of the whole north-west, they sent to the Indians on the Wabash five belts: a white one for the French; a red one for the Spaniards; a blue one for America; and for the Indian tribes a green one as an offer of peace, and one of the color of blood if they preferred war, with this message: ‘The king of France is come to life. We desire to pass through your country to Detroit. We desire you to leave a very wide path for us, for we are many in number and love to have room enough for our march; for, in swinging our arms as we walk, we might chance to hurt some of your young people with our swords.’36

To dispossess the Americans of the Illinois country and Vincennes, Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton on the seventh of October left Detroit, accompanied by three hundred and fifty warriors, picked by their chiefs out of thirteen different nations. Arrived at Vincennes on the seventeenth of December, he took possession of the fort without opposition; and the inhabitants of the town returned to their subjection to the British king. After this exploit he contented himself for the winter with sending out parties; but he announced to the Spanish governor his purpose early in the spring to recover Illinois; and, confident of receiving re-enforcements, he threatened, that, if the Spanish officers should afford an asylum to rebels in arms against their lawful sovereign, [198] he would invade their territory and seize the fugi-

Chap. VIII.} 1779.

Hamilton was methodical in his use of Indians. He gave standing rewards for scalps, but offered none for prisoners. His continuous volunteer parties, composed of Indians and whites, spared neither men, nor women, nor children.38 In the coming year he promised that as early as possible all the different nations, from the Chickasaws and Cherokees to the Hurons and Five Nations, should join in the expeditions against Virginia; while the lake Indians from Mackinaw, in conjunction with the white men, agreed to destroy the few rebels in Illinois.39 Meantime, that he might be prepared for his summer's bloody work, he sent out detachments to watch Kaskaskia and the falls of the Ohio, and to intercept any boats that might venture up that river with supplies for the rebels.40 He never doubted his ability to sweep away the forts on the Kentucky and Kanawha, ascend the Ohio to Pittsburgh, and reduce all Virginia west of the mountains.

Over Clark and his party in Illinois danger hovered from every quarter. He had not received a single line from the governor of Virginia for near twelve months; his force was too small to stand a siege; his position too remote for assistance. By his orders, Bowman of Kentucky joined him, after evacuating the fort at Kahokia, and preparations were made for the defence of Kaskaskia. Just then Francis Vigo, by birth an Italian of Piedmont, a trader of St. Louis, [199] arrived from Vincennes, and gave information that

Chap. VIII.} 1779.
Hamilton had weakened himself by sending out hordes of Indians; that he had not more than eighty soldiers in garrison, nor more than three pieces of cannon and some swivels mounted; but that he intended to collect in spring a sufficient number of men to clear the west of the Americans before the fall.

With a courage as desperate as his situation, Clark instantly resolved to attack Hamilton before he could call in his Indians. On the fourth of February, he de-

Feb. 4.
spatched a small galley, mounting two four-pounders and four swivels, and carrying a company of men and military stores under Captain John Rogers, with orders to ascend the Wabash, take a station a few miles below Vincennes, suffer nothing to pass, and await further instructions. Of the young men of Illinois, thirty volunteered to be the companions of Clark; the rest he embodied to garrison Kaskaskia and guard the different towns. On the seventh of
February, he began his march across the country with one hundred and thirty men. The inclemency of the season and high water threatened them with ruin. In eleven days they came within three
leagues of Vincennes, on the edge of ‘the drowned lands’ of the Wabash river. To cross these required
five days more, during which they had to make two leagues, often up to the breast in water. Had not the weather been mild, they must have perished; but the courage and confidence of Clark and his troop never flagged.

All this time Hamilton was planning murderous expeditions. He wrote: ‘Next year there will be the greatest number of savages on the frontier that [200] has ever been known, as the Six Nations have sent

Chap. VIII.} 1779. Feb. 23.
belts around to encourage their allies, who have made a general alliance.’41 On the twenty-third, a British gang returning with two prisoners reported to him, that they had seen the remains of fifteen fires; and at five o'clock in the afternoon he sent out one of his captains with twenty men in pursuit of a party that was supposed to have come from Pittsburgh. Two hours after their departure, Clark and his companions got on dry land, and making no delay, with drum beating and a white flag flying, they entered Vincennes at the lower end of the village. The town surrendered immediately, and assisted in the siege of the fort, which was immediately invested. One captain, who lived in the village, with two Ottawa chiefs and the king of the Hurons, escaped to the wood, where they were afterwards joined by the chief of the Miamis and three of his people. The moon was new; and in the darkness Clark threw up an intrenchment within rifle shot of the fort. Under this protection, the riflemen silenced two pieces of cannon. The firing was continued for about fourteen hours, during which Clark purposely allowed La Motte and twenty men to enter the place. The riflemen aimed so well that, on the forenoon of the twenty-
fourth, Hamilton asked for a parley. At first Clark demanded his surrender at discretion. The garrison declared, ‘they would sooner perish to the last man;’42 and offered to capitulate on the condition that they might march out with the honors of war, and return to Detroit. ‘To that,’ answered Clark, [201] ‘I can by no means agree. I will not again leave it
Chap. VIII.} 1779.
in your power to spirit up the Indian nations to scalp men, women, and children.’ About twelve o'clock the firing was renewed on both sides; and, before the twenty-fourth came to an end, Hamilton and his garrison, hopeless of succor and destitute of provisions, surrendered as prisoners of war.43

A very large supply of goods for the British force was on its way from Detroit. Sixty men, despatched by Clark in boats well mounted with swivels, surprised the convoy forty leagues up the river, and made a prize of the whole, taking forty prisoners. The joy of the party was completed by the return of their messenger from Virginia, bringing from the house of assembly its thanks voted on the twentythird of November, 1778, ‘to Colonel Clark and the brave officers and men under his command, for their extraordinary resolution and perseverance, and for the important services which they have thereby rendered their country.’44

Since the time of that vote, they had undertaken a far more hazardous enterprise, and had obtained permanent ‘possession of all the important posts and settlements on the Illinois and Wabash, rescued the inhabitants from British dominion, and established civil government’ in its republican form.45

The conspiracy of the Indians embraced those of the south. Early in the year 1779, Cherokees and warriors from every hostile tribe south of the Ohio, to the number of a thousand, assembled at Chickamauga. [202] To restrain their ravages, which had ex-

Chap. VIII.} 1779.
tended from Georgia to Pennsylvania, the governments of North Carolina and Virginia appointed Evan Shelby to command about a thousand men, called into service chiefly from the settlers beyond the mountains. To these were added a regiment of twelve-months men, that had been enlisted for the re-enforcement of Clark in Illinois. Their supplies and means of transportation were due to the unwearied and unselfish exertions of Isaac Shelby. In the middle of April,
embarking in pirogues and canoes at the mouth of Big Creek, they descended the river so rapidly as to surprise the savages, who fled to the hills and forests. They were pursued, and forty of their warriors fell. Their towns were burned; their fields laid waste; and their cattle driven away.

Thus the plans of the British for a combined attack, to be made by the northern and southern Indians upon the whole western frontier of the states from Georgia to New York, were defeated. For the rest of the year the western settlements enjoyed peace, and the continuous flow of emigration through the mountains to Kentucky and the country on the Holston so strengthened them, that they were never again in danger of being broken up by any alliance of the savages with the British. The prowess of the people west of the Alleghanies, where negro slavery had not yet been introduced and every man was in the full possession of a wild but self-restrained liberty, fitted them for self-defence. The men on the Holston exulted in all the freshness and gladsome hopefulness of political youth and enterprise; and, in this year, Robertson with a band of hunters took possession of [203] the surpassingly fertile country on the Cumberland

Chap. VIII.} 1779.

Clark could not pursue his career of victories, for the regiment designed for his support had been diverted, and thus the British gained time to re-enforce and fortify Detroit.46 But Jefferson, then governor of Virginia, gave instructions to occupy a station on the Mississippi, between the mouth of the Ohio and the parallel of 36° 30′; and in the spring of 1780, Clark, choosing a strong and commanding situation five miles below the mouth of the Ohio, established

Fort Jefferson as the watch on the father of rivers. Could the will of Charles the Third of Spain defeat the forethought of Jefferson? Could the intrigues of Florida Blanca stop the onward wave of the backwoodsmen?

1 Montmorin to Vergennes, 19 Oct., 1778.

2 Ibid.

3 Montmorin to Vergennes, 15 Oct., 1778.

4 Vergennes to Montmorin, 2 Nov., 1778.

5 Vergennes to Montmorin, 17 Oct., 1778.

6 Ibid., and 2 Nov., 1778.

7 Vergennes to Montmorin, 30 Oct., 1778.

8 Gerard to Vergennes, 20 Oct., 1778.

9 Gerard to Vergennes, 22 Dec., 1778.

10 Vergennes to Montmorin, 2 Nov., 1778.

11 Vergennes to Montmorin, 27 Nov., 1778.

12 Montmorin to Vergennes, 29 Sept., 1778.

13 Vergennes to Montmorin, 17 Oct., 1778.

14 Ibid.

15 Florida Blanca to Vergennes, 20 Nov., 1778.

16 Confidential declaration of the court of Madrid to that of Versailles, 20 Nov., 1778.

17 Montmorin to Vergennes, 20 Nov., 1778; and compare Montmorin to Vergennes, 7 Dec., 1778.

18 Vergennes to Montmorin, 24 Dec., 1778.

19 Montmorin to Vergennes, 12 Jan., 1779.

20 Montmorin to Vergennes, 20 Nov., 1778.

21 I received this anecdote from Augustin Thierry, whom to name is to praise; he received it from the lips of Lafayette.

22 Grantham toWeymouth, Jan., 1779, (indorsed) received 1 Feb from the Marquis de Almodovar.

23 George the Third to Lord North, in Donne, II. 111.

24 Florida Blanca to De Almodovar, 20 Jan., 1779.

25 Weymouth to Grantham, 16 March, 1779.

26 Weymouth to Grantham, 16 March, 1779, and Ibid., 4 May, 1779.

27 Vergennes to Montmorin, 12 Feb., 1779.

28 Court of Spain to the court of France, 26 Feb., 1779.

29 Vergennes to Montmorin, 19 March, 1779.

30 Montmorin to Vergennes, 18 March, 1779.

31 Montmnoin to Vergennes, 29 March, 1779.

32 Hamilton to Germain, 14 July, 1777, and Ibid., 27 July, 1777.

33 Hamilton to Germain, 7 June, 1778.

34 Abbot (lieutenant-governor of Vincennes) to Germain, 3 April, 1778.

35 Rocheblave to Germain, 28 Feb., 1778.

36 Hamilton to Haldimand, 7 Oct., 1778.

37 Hamilton to the Spanish governor, 13 Jan., 1779.

38 T. J. Randolph's Jefferson, i. 456.

39 Hamilton to the commandant at Natchez, 13 Jan., 1779.

40 Ibid.

41 Hamilton to the commandant at Natchez, 13 Jan., 1779.

42 Hamilton to Captain Lemoult, 28 Feb., 1779.

43 Hamilton to Captain Lemoult, 28 Feb., 1779.

44 Girardin's History of Virginia, 319.

45 Butler's History of Kentucky, 113.

46 Butler's History of Kentucky, 113.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: