Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

McGillivray. With a tribe so constituted and commanded it was not difficult to bring on trouble, as soon proved to be the case. Georgia had claimed and seized certain lands under treaties which she alleged had been made, whereupon the Creeks denied the validity of these treaties and went to war, in which they were highly successful. The Georgians had already asked assistance from their neighbors, and they now demanded it from the new general government. Thereupon, under an act of Congress, Washington appointed as commissioners to arrange the difficulties, General Lincoln, Colonel Humphrey, and David Griffin of Virginia, all remote from the scene of conflict, and all judicious selections. The Creeks readily met the new commissioners, but when they found that no lands were to be given up, they declined to treat further, and said they would await a new negotiation. Washington attributed this failure, and no doubt correctly, to the intrigues and influence of Spain. On the day the report of the commissioners went to Congress, he wrote to Governor Pinckney of South Carolina: “For my own part I am entirely persuaded that the present general government will endeavor to lay the foundations for its proceedings in national justice, faith, and honor. But should the government, after having attempted in vain every reasonable pacific measure, be obliged to have recourse to arms for the defence of its citizens, I am also of opinion that sound policy and good economy will point to a prompt and decisive effort,

rather than to defensive and lingering operations.” “Lingering ” had been the curse of our Indian policy, and it was this above all things that Washington was determined to be rid of. Whether peace or war, there was to be quick and decisive action. He therefore, in this spirit, at once sent southward another commissioner, Colonel Willett, who very shrewdly succeeded in getting McGillivray and his chiefs to agree to accompany him to New York. Thither they accordingly came in due time, the Scotch half-breed and twenty-eight of his chiefs. They were entertained and well treated at the seat of government, and there, with Knox acting for the United States, they made a treaty which involved concessions on both sides. The Creeks gave up all claims to lands north and east of the Oconee, and the United States, under a recent general act regulating trade and intercourse with the Indians, gave up all lands south and west of the same river, and agreed to make the tribes an annual present. Then Washington gave them wampum and tobacco, and shook hands with them, and the chiefs went home. There was grumbling on both sides, especially among the Georgians, but nevertheless the treaty held for a time at least, and 'here was peace. Washington's policy of justice had succeeded, and the Indians got an idea of the power and fair dealing of the new government, which was of real value. More valuable still was the lesson to the people of the United States, that this central gov.

ernment meant to deal justly with the Indians, and would try to prevent any single State from frustrating by bad faith the policy designed to benefit the whole country. Trouble soon began again in this direction, and in later days States inflated with state-right doctrines carried this resistance in Indian affairs to a much greater extent, and flouted the acts of the federal government. This, however, does not detract from the wisdom of the President, who inaugurated the policy of acting justly toward the Indians and of overruling the selfish injustice of the State immediately affected. If the policy of justice and firmness adopted by Washington had never been abandoned, it would have been better for the honor and the interest both of the nation and the separate States. The same pacific policy which had succeeded in the south was tried in the west, and failed. The English, with their usual thoughtfulness, incited the Indians to claim the Ohio as their boundary, which meant war and murderous assaults on all our people travelling on the river. Retaliation, of course, followed, and in April, 1790, Colonel Harmer with a body of Kentucky militia invaded the Indian country, burned a deserted village, and returned without having accomplished anything substantial. The desultory warfare of murder and pillage went on for a time, and then Washington felt that the moment had come for the other branch of his policy. At all events there should be no lingering, and there should be action. Peaceful measures having failed, there should be war and a settlement in some fashion. Accordingly, in the fall of 1790, soon after his successful Creek negotiation, he ordered out some three hundred regulars and eleven hundred militia from Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and sent them under Harmer into the Miami country. The expedition burned a village on the Scioto; and then Colonel Hardin, detached with some hundred and fifty men in pursuit of the Indians, was caught in an ambush and his regulars cut off, the militia running away apparently quite successfully. Thereupon Harmer retreated; but changing his mind in a day or two, advanced again, and again sent out Hardin with a larger force than before. Then the advance was again surprised, and the regulars nearly all killed, while the militia, who stood their ground better this time, lost about a hundred men. The end was the repulse of the whites after a pretty savage fight. Then Harmer withdrew altogether, declaring, with a strange absence of humor, if of no more important quality, that he had won a victory. After reaching home, this mismanaged expedition caused much crimination and heartburning, followed by courts-martial on Hardin and Harmer, who were both acquitted, and by the resignation of the latter. This defeat of course simply made worse the state of affairs in general, and the Six Nations, who had hitherto been quiet, became uneasy and were kept so by the ever kind incitement of the English. Various mediations with these powerful tribes failed; but Colonel Pickering, appointed a special commissioner, managed at last to appease their discontents. To the southward also the Cherokees began to move and threaten, but were pacified by the exertions of Governor Blount, of the Southwest Territory. Meantime an act had been passed to increase the army, and Arthur St. Clair was appointed major-general. Washington, who had been greatly disturbed by the failure of Harmer, was both angered and disheartened by the conduct of the States and of the frontier settlers. “Land-jobbing, the intermeddling of the States, and the disorderly conduct of the borderers, who were indifferent as to the killing of an Indian,” were in his opinion the great obstacles in the way of success. Yet these very men who shot Indians at sight and plundered them of their lands, as well as the States immediately concerned, were the first to cry out for aid from the general government when a war, brought about usually by their own violation of the treaties of the United States, was upon them. On the other hand, the Indians themselves were warlike and quarrelsome, and they were spurred on by England and Spain in a way difficult to understand at the present day. In all this perplexity, however, one thing was now clear to Washington. There could not longer be any doubt that the western troubles must be put down vigorously and by the armed hand. Even while he was negotiating in the north and south,

« ZurückWeiter »