Mercantilism, North America, Pontiac’s Rebellion, American Revolution, Northwest Territory, George Rogers Clark, Louisiana Territory

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 31st, 2012

Politics 101

The French claimed great Territories in the New World but they did not Settle them nor could they Defend Them

In the Age of Discovery the Old World discovered the New World.  The Portuguese bumped into Brazil while sailing around Africa.  And they stayed awhile.  Which explains how the language from tiny Portugal is one of the top ten spoken languages in the world today.  Because of Brazil.  Population 205,716,890 in 2012.  The Spanish pretty much discovered and settled the rest of South and Central America.  Working their way up the Pacific coast of North America.  And into Mexico, Texas and Florida.  Because of this Spanish is now the 4th most spoken language in the world.  The British discovered and settled North America east of the Appalachians between Maine and Georgia.  They also settled parts of Canada south of the Hudson Bay.  And some of the Maritime Provinces.  Today English is the 2nd most spoken language in the world.  The French also came to the New World.  But they weren’t as successful.  Today French is only the 10th most spoken language in the world.

The Age of Discovery was also the age of mercantilism.  Which is why the Old World was racing to settle the New World.  So they could establish colonies.  And ship back raw materials to the mother country.  And in Spain’s case, all the gold and silver they could find.  Which they found a lot of.  Mercantilism is a zero-sum game.  To maximize the export of manufactured goods.  And to maximize the import of raw materials and bullion.  To always maintain a positive balance of trade.  And whoever had the most overseas colonies sending raw material back to the mother country won.  And as they expanded throughout the New World they eventually began to bump into each other.  As well as the Native Americans.  Who weren’t mercantilists.  But hunters and gatherers.  Like all Europeans were some 5,000 years or so earlier.  Before they became farmers.  Moved into cities.  Where they took control of their environment.  And became more efficient.  Growing ever larger populations on smaller tracts of land.  Which proved to be a great threat to the Indians.  For when these Europeans took their land they also increased their numbers.  Greatly.  And this fast growing population had the latest in war-fighting technology.

Soon they were stepping on each others’ toes in the New World.  The British and the Spanish north of Florida.  The British and the French between the Mississippi River and the Appalachians.  In New Brunswick.  And large parts of Ontario and Quebec.  A lot more territory was in dispute between the British and the French.  And that’s because the French claimed so much territory in North America.  Their claims included the lands around the St. Lawrence Seaway.  All the land around the Great Lakes.  And pretty much the total watershed into the Mississippi River.  The French had profitable business in the fur trade.  They used the rivers in North America for that trade.  With a few forts scattered along the way.  Where they traded with the Indians.  But the big difference between the French and everyone else is that the French claimed the land.  But they didn’t settle it.  Which made the Native Americans tolerate them more than the other Europeans in the New World.  But in the days of the mercantilist empires that was a problem.  Because everyone wanted everyone else’s land.  And if it wasn’t settled with large and growing populations, someone else was just going to take it.

The Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774 tried to make Peace with the Indians but Inflamed the Americans

And that’s what happened in the French and Indian War (1754–1763).  The European powers came into conflict with each other over their North American territories.  The British came out the big winners.  And the French were the big losers.  Losing pretty much everything east of the Mississippi to the British.  And everything west of the Mississippi to Spain.  The various Indian tribes fought alongside the various European powers.  But it is the fighting on the side of the French that we know them for in this war.  Where their fighting against the British Americans was some of the cruelest fighting in the war.  For the Indians liked the non-settling ways of the French.  While they didn’t care for the settling ways of the American colonists at all.  Who kept encroaching on their hunting grounds.  So at the conclusion of the French and Indian War the Native Americans were restless.  Something the British were keenly aware of.  And after the long and expensive war they just fought they didn’t want a return to hostilities.  So King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763.  Setting the border between the British American colonists and the Indian lands along the watershed of Appalachia.  Lands where the rivers flowed to the Atlantic Ocean were the American colonists’ lands.  Lands where the rivers flowed into the Mississippi River and its tributaries (east of the Mississippi) were Indian lands. 

This did not go very well with the American colonists.  For they planned to expand west until they could expand west no further.  At the shore of the Pacific Ocean.  Especially Virginia.  Who wanted to expand into Kentucky.  And into the Ohio Country (across the Ohio River from Kentucky).  Before the Proclamation of 1763 could even go into affect the Indians rose up in the Great Lakes region, the Illinois Country and Ohio Country.  Where the British displaced the French.  Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763–66).  A rather nasty and brutal war where the Indians killed women and children as well as prisoners.  And the British used biological warfare against the Indians.  Giving the Indians smallpox-infested blankets.  In 1774 Parliament passed the Quebec Act.  Which did a lot to further annoy the American colonists.  Especially that part about extending the province of Quebec (the former French territory from Labrador all the way to the Great Lakes region) south into the Ohio and Illinois country.  Many lumped the Quebec act in with the Intolerable Acts of 1774 which were to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party.  All these acts of Parliament and proclamations of the Crown failed in one of their main objects.  Maintaining the peace on the frontier.  One year later there was another shooting war in North America.  And this one did not end well for the British.

The American Revolutionary War evolved into a World War.  Once the Americans defeated a British army at Saratoga the French joined the American cause and declared war on Great Britain.  Eager to get back their North American territories.  The Spanish would join the French in alliance and declared war on Great Britain.  Primarily to settle some old scores in the Old World as opposed to helping the American cause.  They had the lands west of the Mississippi and control of that same river.  They had no desire to see the Americans advance any further west.  In fact, they wanted to expand their territory at the expense of both the Americans and the British.  The Indians, meanwhile, saw the Americans as the greatest threat and allied with their two-time past enemy.  The British.

The Indians were Little More than Bystanders while the Europeans Traded their Land with each Other

The war in the frontier lands of the West was as nasty and brutal as ever.  The British coordinated their war effort against the Americans from their frontier outposts.  Where they traded with their Indian allies.  Some even paying the Indians for each scalp they brought back from their raids.  And so the Indians crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky.  Throughout the war.  And attacked these frontier settlements.  While the Americans fought a defensive war.  Until one man arose.  Who believed the strongest defense was a strong offense.  And he took the war to the Indians and the British in the West.  Saving Kentucky.  And conquered the Northwest Territory. 

George Rogers Clark’s plan for conquering the Northwest was bold.  First take Vincennes (in southern Indiana near the Illinois border).  Travel up the Wabash River.  Down the Maumee River.  And then on to Detroit.  After taking Detroit head north to Michilimackinac (on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula).  The Virginian authorities liked the plan.  And commissioned him colonel in the Virginian forces.  And authorized him to conquer the Northwest.  For Virginia.  So Clark led his men down the Ohio River.  And traveled all the way to Kaskaskia near the Mississippi River in southern Illinois.  Not far from St. Louis.  Took it.  And marched to Vincennes.  And took Fort Sackville at Vincennes.  Shortly thereafter Henry Hamilton (who had a reputation for buying scalps from the Indians), governor of Detroit, Left Detroit and headed to Vincennes.  Gathering Indians along the way.  Recaptured Vincennes.  Then Clark returned and in one of the most fabled actions of the entire Revolutionary War took back Vincennes.  Despite the British and Indians greatly outnumbering Clark’s force.  Detroit lay open.  But Clark did not have the men or provisions for that conquest.

Meanwhile the Spanish were looking to cash in on their alliance with France.  And moved against British outposts from New Orleans.  Taking Baton Rouge.  Natchez.  Mobile.  And Pensacola.  To turn back the Spanish Governor Sinclair of Michilimackinac gathered a force and headed to the Spanish outpost St. Louis.  With the ultimate goal of taking New Orleans.  It did not go well.  The following year the Spanish launched an offensive of their own to take Detroit.  They got as far as St. Joseph on the other side of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  Around the bottom of Lake Michigan from Chicago.  A lot of land changed hands in the Northwest.  But thanks to Clark much of it remained in American hands at the end of the war.  Who came out the big winners in this war.  The British ceded all their claims east of the Mississippi to the Americans.  Including all of the Illinois and Ohio country.  Including Michigan and the lands surrounding the Great Lakes south of Canada.  The French did not drive the peace as they had hoped.  And recovered none of their North American territories.  The Spanish emerged with pretty much what they had when they entered.  Only with the Americans across the Mississippi instead of the British.  Who were much more interested in westward expansion than the British.  But they didn’t have to worry about the Americans crossing the Mississippi.  For Napoleon strong-armed the Louisiana Territory from the French in exchange for some land in Tuscany.  Who would later sell it to the Americans.  While being rather vague on the exact boundaries.  Which the Spanish would have to worry about in the years to come as the Americans headed west.  Towards Spanish country on the west coast.

Of course the Indians were the greatest losers.  For they were little more than bystanders while the Europeans traded their land with each other.  Making the Native Americans ever more restless.  And unwilling to give up their hunting and gathering ways.  Which sealed their faith.  For while they retreated west the American population exploded.  Due to their efficient use of the land.  It was the New World against the Very Old World.  Modern farming civilizations displaced the hunters and gatherers everywhere in the world.  A trend that started some 5,000 years earlier.  And the history of North America would be no different.  The Indian ways since then have been fast disappearing.  The Indian languages were so rarely spoken in the 20th century that the code based on it was the one code the Japanese couldn’t crack during World War II.

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