Imágenes de páginas

preparing for an attack on the little river fleet, when the ensign of freedom was discovered waving over the fort. The crew, although rejoicing in the triumph of their brethren who had preceded them by land, regretted exceedingly the circumstances which had denied them the privilege of participating in the reduction of the fort.

After taking Vincennes under obstacles which, by any other commander except Clark, would have been deemed insurmountable, this brilliant achievementwas only considered the stepping stone to other and richer conquests. Detroit was undoubtedly within the reach of the enterprising Virginian. "Fortune has thus twice placed this point in my power,” he writes to Gov. Henry. “ Had I been able to raise 500 men when I first arrived in the country, or 300 when at Vincennes, I should have attempted its subjugation." Intelligence was brought to him that the garrison at that time contained but 80 men, many of whom were invalids, and that the inhabitants of the town were so partial to the Americans as to rejoice exceedingly when they heard of Hamilton's capture. In view of these facts, Clark determined to make an attack upon the place, when receiving dispatches from the gov. ernor of Virginia promising a battalion of men, he deemed it most prudent to postpone operations till the reinforcements should arrive.

Leaving Capt. Helm in command at Vincennes, Clark embarked on board the galley and returned to Kaskaskia, where he found himself more embarrassed by the depreciated currency which had been advanced to him by the government of Virginia, than pre. viously by the British and Indians. While adjusting these diffi. culties, the war with England and the colonies terminated in the independence of the latter, and with it followed a suspension of the hostilities which had so long devastated the western frontier. Clark's services being no longer needed, at the instance of Gen. Harrison hė was relieved of his command, receiving the most hearty encomiums of Virginia's noblest statesmen for the valuable services he had rendered the country.

The advantages resulting from the capture of the military stations of Illinois cannot be over estimated. Hamilton, as intimated, had made arrangements to enlist all the southern and western Indians for his contemplated campaign the ensuing spring, and kad he not been intercepted, the entire country between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi might have been overrun, and thus have changed the whole current of American history. Jefferson said, in a letter to Clark, “Much solicitude will be felt for the result of your expedition to the Wabash ; if successful it will have an important bearing in determining our north-western boundary." Accordingly, as predicted by this great statesman, in the preliminary negotiations for peace and boundary of 1782 between the colonies and the three great rival powers of Europe, the conquest of Clark had a controlling influence in their deliberations. Spain claimed the entire region between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, on the pretense, that in the winter of 1781, sixty-five Spaniards and an equal number of Indians captured St. Joseph, a small English fort near the source of the Illinois, and took possession of the adjacent country in the name of their sovereign. Dr. Franklin, one of the negotiators, referring to the claim of this power, said it was the design of the Spanish court to restrict the United States to the Alleghanies, and he hoped that Congress would insist on the Mississippi as the western boundary. It was, however, found impossible to connect the Spanish possessions on the Lower Mississippi with the disputed territory, for Clark had built Fort Jefferson, below the mouth of the Ohio, and Virginia had actual possession between the two rivers. France, at the treaty of Paris, in 1763, had transferred all this vast region to England, and could make no claim. She, however, objected to the right of the Americans, hoping by this stroke of policy in favor of her jealous rivals, to gain some other point in the controversy where she was more directly interested.

Nor had England the presumption to contend, that it did not belong to the colonies, which had established themselves as the United States. The patent of Virginia covered most of the disputed territory; the army of Clark had subdued and permanently occupied it. Subsequently it had been organized as a county of the State, and consequently the English envoy could not claim it, with any more propriety than other parts of the commonwealth after the battle of Yorktown. He was too accurate a jurist to allow the claim of Spain, or to listen to the objections of France; but what would have been his decision looking to British aggran. disement, had it not been for the civil and military rule previously established by the Americans ?

In estimating the debt of gratitude we owe to Clark and his sturdy Virginia veterans, let us consider whether the great country of Louisiana, subsequently purchased by Jefferson from the First Consul, could have been obtained but for the service which they rendered. Nay, but for their valor, the magnificent national domain now stretching away to the Pacific, and promising to absorb the whole continent, might have been broken at the mountain's summit or the river's shore; and the Republic, now exerting controlling influence among the great nationalities of the world, would consequently have remained an inconsiderable power.

After his campaigns in Illinois, Clark engaged in a number of expeditions against the Indians; fought under Baron Steuben in the East against the traitor Arnold, and finally enlisted as a brigadier-general in the armies of France to operate against the Spanish possessions on the lower Mississippi. Before anything was effected, Genet, the French minister and leader of the enter. prise, was recalled, Clark's commission was annulled, and he retired to private life. During the latter years of his life he became an invalid, suffering intensely from rheumatic affections caused by exposure in his previous campaigns. With advancing age the disease assumed the form of paralysis, and terminated fatally, his death and burial occurring in 1818, at Locust Grove, near Louisville.

The rippling waters of the beautiful Ohio still murmura requiem over the grave which contains his dust, and his tireless energy still lives in the enterprise of the millions who dwell in the land he loved and defended. In other respects the innovations of time have ruthlessly effected a change.

Only the relics of the race which contended with him for the empire of the wilderness, can be found in the cabinet of the antiquary; forests, solitary and unproductive, have passed away,

[ocr errors]

and a new creation of fruitful fields and cultivated landscapes has taken their place; the untrained energies and stationary condition of savage life have been superceded by a civilization whose onward march is heard in the turmoil of rising cities, the din of railroad traius, or the panting steamboat lashing into foam the watery highways which bear it on the errands of commerce.



The French Take the Oath of Allegiance-Illinois County-American

ImmigrantsLa Balme's ExpeditionThe Cession of the Country, and Delays Incident Thereto-No Regular Courts of Law -Curious Land Speculation.

The respect shown by Clark and his followers for their property and religion, the news of an alliance between their mother coun. try, France, and the United States, and perhaps their hereditary hatred to the British, readily reconciled the French inhabitants of Kaskaskia and neighboring towns to the change of government over them. In October, 1778, the Virginia Assembly erected the conquered country, embracing all the territory northwest of the Ohio, claimed under this conquest and otherwise, into the County of Illinois, a pretty extensive county, which has since been carved, up into 5 large States, containing a population now exceeding 8,000,000 souls. A force of 500 men was ordered to be raised for its defence, an order which Clark had in part anticipated by enlistments made on his own reponsibility. Colonel Clark continued to be the military commander of all the western territory, both north and south of the Ohio, including Illinois.

Colonel John Todd, then residing in Fayette county, Kentucky, who, under Clark, had been the first man to enter Fort Gage, was appointed lieutenant-commandant of the County of Illinois. Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia, in his letter, dated Williamsburg, Virginia, December 12th, 1778, apprising Todd of his appointment, instructed him to cultivate and conciliate the affec. tions of the French and Indians, and inculcate the value of liberty; that on account of his want of acquaintance with the usages and manners of the people, to advise with the intelligent and upright of the country; to give particular attention to Colonel Clark and his corps, and co-operate with him in any military undertaking; to tell his people that peace could not be expected so long as the British occupied Detroit and incited the savages to deeds of robbery and murder; that, in the military line, it would be expected of him to over-awe the Indians, that they might not war on the settlers southeast of the Ohio; to consider himself as the head of the civil department, and see that the inhabitants have justice done them for any injury received from the soldiery, and quell their licentiousness; to touch not upon the subject of boundaries and lands with the Indians and arouse their jealousy; to punish every tresspass upon the same, and preserve peace with them; to mani.

fest a high regard toward His Catholic Majesty, and tender the friendship and services of his people to the Spanish commandant at St. Louis. A large discretion was given him in his administration of civil affairs, and monthly reports were asked.

In the spring of 1779, Colonel Todd visited Kaskaskia, and began at once to organize a temporary government for the colonies. On the 15th of June, he issued the following proclamation: Tuinois [County] to-wit :

" Whereas, from the fertility and beautiful situation of the lands bordering upon the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois and Wabash rivers, the taking up of the usual quantity of land heretofore allowed for a settlement by the government of Virginia, would injure both the strength and commerce of this country : I do, therefore, issue this proclamation, strictly enjoining all persons, whatsoever, from making any new settlements upon the flat lands of said rivers, or within one league of said_lands, unless in manner and form of settlements heretofore made by French inhabitants, until further orders herein given. And, in order that all the claims to lands, in said county, may be fully known, and some method provided for perpetuating, by record, the just claims, every inhabitant is required, as soon as conveniently may be, to lay before the person, in each district appointed for that purpose, a memorandum of his or her land, with copies of all their vouchers; and where vouchers have been given, or are lost, such depositions or certificates as will tend to support their claims :—The memorandum to mention the quantity of land, to whom originally granted, and when, deducing the title through various occupants to the present possessor. The number of adventurers who will shortly overrun this country, renders the above method necessary, as well as to ascertain the vacant lands, as to guard against tresspasses which will probably be committed on lands not ou record. Given under my hand and seal, at Kaskaskia, thel5th of June, in the 3rd year of the commonwealth, 1779.

JOHN TODD, JR." Many of the French inhabitants at Kaskaskia, Cahokia and Vincennes, readily took the oath of allegiance to Virginia. Not only these, but many of the chief men of the Indian tribes expressed sentiments of friendship for the United States government.

At the period of which we write, with the exception of the French along the Mississippi, and a few families scattered along the Ilinois and Wabash rivers, all within the present boundaries of Illinois was the abode of the nomadic savage. During the years 1779–80, the westward emigration from the Atlantic States took a very considerable start. Among the circumstances which gave it impetus, were the brilliant achievements of Col. Clark at Kaskaskia and Vincennes, which were the occasion of publishing abroad the fertile plains of Illinois; the triumph of the British arms in the south, and a threatened advance upon Virginia; and the liberal manner of the latter State, in inviting families to take possession of the public lands claimed by her in the western country. Three hundred family boats arrived at the Falls of Ohio in the spring of 1780, mostly destined for Kentucky.* Among the immigrants to Illinois, we note the names of James Moore, Shadrach Bond, James Garrison, Robert Kidd and Larken Rutherford, the two latter having been with Clark. They were from Virginia and Maryland. With their families, they, without molestation in those perilous times, crossed the Alleghanies, descended the Ohio, stemmed the Mississippi, and landed safely at Kaskaskia. James *Butler's Kentucky.

« AnteriorContinuar »