Appalachian Mountains, Great Lakes, Northwest Territory, Louisiana Territory and the Erie Canal

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 29th, 2014

History 101

(Originally published July 30th, 2013)

Everything grown on the West Side of the Appalachian Mountains eventually ended up on the Mississippi River

At the time of the Founding the American population was clustered around the East Coast.  And on major rivers that flowed into the Atlantic Ocean.  On land east of the Appalachian Mountains.  Not by choice.  But because of geography.  The Founding Fathers knew what great land lay west.  But getting there was another story.

The Great Lakes are huge.  The largest group of freshwater lakes in the world.  If you walked all the coastlines you’d walk so long and so far that you could have walked halfway around the world.  Getting on the lakes opened up the Northwest Territory.  Western New York.  Western Pennsylvania.  Ohio.  Michigan.  Indiana.  Illinois.  Wisconsin.  Minnesota.  And with some portaging, the great interior rivers.  Including the Mississippi River.  Opening up the Great Plains to the West.  And the rich fertile farmland of the interior.  But there was one great obstacle between all of this and the east coast.  Niagara Falls.  Which portaging around was a bitch.

The United States would become an agricultural superpower.  But until they had a way to transport food grown on the land west of the Appalachians that land was not as valuable as it could be.  There were some land routes.  George Washington crossed many times into the Ohio Country from Virginia.  And Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and Tennessee.  Opening the Northwest Territory to settlement.  All the way up to the Mississippi River.  And its tributaries.  Including the Ohio River.  But none of these water routes offered a way back east.  Which is why everything grown on the west side of the Appalachian Mountains eventually ended up on the Mississippi River.  And traveled south.  To the Port of New Orleans.  But there was one major problem with that.  The Port of New Orleans belonged to the Spanish.

Thomas Jefferson fought Tirelessly against the Constitution to Restrict the Powers of the Executive Branch

At the time of the Founding there were four European nations jockeying for a piece of the New World.  Who all wanted to keep the Americans east of the Appalachians.  The French had lost New France to the British.  Which they hoped to get back.  And the farther the Americans moved west the harder that would be.  The British were in Canada.  With outposts still in the Northwest Territory.  Despite ceding that land to the Americans.  While the British were pressing in from the north the Spanish were pressing in from the south and the west.  Coming up from Mexico they were in New Orleans.  Texas.  The trans-Mississippi region (the land west of the Mississippi River.  And California and the West Coast.  Making navigation rights on the Mississippi River and the Port of New Orleans a hotly contested issue.

Time would solve that problem in America’s favor.  Napoleon would get the Louisiana Territory for France from the Spanish.  And was intent on rebuilding New France in the New World.  But with the slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue—present day Haiti—Napoleon’s plans changed.  Instead of building New France he was focusing on saving Old France.  As the world war he launched wasn’t going all that well.  So he sold the Louisiana Territory to Thomas Jefferson, then president of the United States.  Making the navigation rights of the Mississippi River a moot point.  For it now belonged to the United States.  Which was great for Thomas Jefferson.  For, he, too, looked west.  And believed the young nation’s future was on the west side of the Appalachian Mountains.  Where yeoman farmers would work their land.  Forming the backbone of the new republic.  Honest men doing honest labor.  Not merchants, bankers and stockjobbers that were trying to destroy the new nation in the east.  The detestable moneyed men that Jefferson hated so.  No.  The winds of the Revolutionary spirit blew west.

This is why Jefferson jumped on the Louisiana Purchase.  In direct violation of the Constitution.  A document he hated because it gave way too much power to the president.  Making the president little different from a king.  Which was the whole point of the American Revolution.  To do away with king-like power.  Throughout his active political life he fought tirelessly against the Constitution.  Fighting to restrict the powers of the executive branch wherever he could.  But the Louisiana Territory?  President Jefferson suddenly had an epiphany.  It was good to be king.

The Erie Canal connected the Eastern Seaboard with the Great Lakes without any Portages

Jefferson would resort to his anti-government positions following the Louisiana Purchase.  He may have violated everything he stood for but even the most stalwart limited government proponent no doubt approves of Jefferson’s actions.  Jefferson was happy.  As was everyone west of the Appalachians.  But it didn’t solve one problem.  The Great Lakes region upstream of Niagara Falls was still cutoff from the East Coast.  And the Port of New Orleans.  There were some routes to these destinations.  But they included some portaging between navigable waterways.  Which made it difficult to transport bulk goods into the region.  And out of the region.

As Jefferson’s vision of limited government faded government grew.  As did government spending.  Especially on internal improvements.  For they had great political dividends.  They created a lot of jobs.  And brought a lot of federal money to communities with those internal improvements.  Which helped politicians win elections.  And back around the 1800s the big internal improvements were canals.  Such as the Erie Canal.  Connecting the Eastern Seaboard with the Great Lakes.  Providing a waterway without any portages from the Hudson River that flows into the Atlantic Ocean at New York City.  All the way to the Great Lakes.  Near Buffalo.  Just above Niagara Falls.  Opening the Great Lakes regions to settlement.  And the Northwest Territory.  (Something George Washington wanted to do.  Who wanted to extend a canal into the West from the Potomac River.)  Creating a trade super highway between the Great Lakes region and the East Coast.  Through the Port of New York.  And on to the rest of the world.

The U.S. population moved west.  But still clung to rivers and coastlines.  Until another internal improvement came along.  The railroad.  Which did for the country’s interior what the Erie Canal did for the Great Lakes region.  With cities growing up along these rail lines.  Away from rivers and coastlines.  Then came the interstate highway system.  Which allowed cities to grow away from the rail lines.  There is now a road, rail or waterway that will take you pretty much anywhere in the United States.  And now we have the airplane.  Which can fly over the Appalachians.  Or the Niagara escarpment.  Allowing us today to move anyone or anything anywhere today.  Something George Washington and Thomas Jefferson desperately wanted.  But could only dream of.

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Appalachian Mountains, Great Lakes, Northwest Territory, Louisiana Territory and the Erie Canal

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 30th, 2013

History 101

Everything grown on the West Side of the Appalachian Mountains eventually ended up on the Mississippi River

At the time of the Founding the American population was clustered around the East Coast.  And on major rivers that flowed into the Atlantic Ocean.  On land east of the Appalachian Mountains.  Not by choice.  But because of geography.  The Founding Fathers knew what great land lay west.  But getting there was another story.

The Great Lakes are huge.  The largest group of freshwater lakes in the world.  If you walked all the coastlines you’d walk so long and so far that you could have walked halfway around the world.  Getting on the lakes opened up the Northwest Territory.  Western New York.  Western Pennsylvania.  Ohio.  Michigan.  Indiana.  Illinois.  Wisconsin.  Minnesota.  And with some portaging, the great interior rivers.  Including the Mississippi River.  Opening up the Great Plains to the West.  And the rich fertile farmland of the interior.  But there was one great obstacle between all of this and the east coast.  Niagara Falls.  Which portaging around was a bitch.

The United States would become an agricultural superpower.  But until they had a way to transport food grown on the land west of the Appalachians that land was not as valuable as it could be.  There were some land routes.  George Washington crossed many times into the Ohio Country from Virginia.  And Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and Tennessee.  Opening the Northwest Territory to settlement.  All the way up to the Mississippi River.  And its tributaries.  Including the Ohio River.  But none of these water routes offered a way back east.  Which is why everything grown on the west side of the Appalachian Mountains eventually ended up on the Mississippi River.  And traveled south.  To the Port of New Orleans.  But there was one major problem with that.  The Port of New Orleans belonged to the Spanish.

Thomas Jefferson fought Tirelessly against the Constitution to Restrict the Powers of the Executive Branch

At the time of the Founding there were four European nations jockeying for a piece of the New World.  Who all wanted to keep the Americans east of the Appalachians.  The French had lost New France to the British.  Which they hoped to get back.  And the farther the Americans moved west the harder that would be.  The British were in Canada.  With outposts still in the Northwest Territory.  Despite ceding that land to the Americans.  While the British were pressing in from the north the Spanish were pressing in from the south and the west.  Coming up from Mexico they were in New Orleans.  Texas.  The trans-Mississippi region (the land west of the Mississippi River.  And California and the West Coast.  Making navigation rights on the Mississippi River and the Port of New Orleans a hotly contested issue.

Time would solve that problem in America’s favor.  Napoleon would get the Louisiana Territory for France from the Spanish.  And was intent on rebuilding New France in the New World.  But with the slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue—present day Haiti—Napoleon’s plans changed.  Instead of building New France he was focusing on saving Old France.  As the world war he launched wasn’t going all that well.  So he sold the Louisiana Territory to Thomas Jefferson, then president of the United States.  Making the navigation rights of the Mississippi River a moot point.  For it now belonged to the United States.  Which was great for Thomas Jefferson.  For, he, too, looked west.  And believed the young nation’s future was on the west side of the Appalachian Mountains.  Where yeoman farmers would work their land.  Forming the backbone of the new republic.  Honest men doing honest labor.  Not merchants, bankers and stockjobbers that were trying to destroy the new nation in the east.  The detestable moneyed men that Jefferson hated so.  No.  The winds of the Revolutionary spirit blew west.

This is why Jefferson jumped on the Louisiana Purchase.  In direct violation of the Constitution.  A document he hated because it gave way too much power to the president.  Making the president little different from a king.  Which was the whole point of the American Revolution.  To do away with king-like power.  Throughout his active political life he fought tirelessly against the Constitution.  Fighting to restrict the powers of the executive branch wherever he could.  But the Louisiana Territory?  President Jefferson suddenly had an epiphany.  It was good to be king.

The Erie Canal connected the Eastern Seaboard with the Great Lakes without any Portages

Jefferson would resort to his anti-government positions following the Louisiana Purchase.  He may have violated everything he stood for but even the most stalwart limited government proponent no doubt approves of Jefferson’s actions.  Jefferson was happy.  As was everyone west of the Appalachians.  But it didn’t solve one problem.  The Great Lakes region upstream of Niagara Falls was still cutoff from the East Coast.  And the Port of New Orleans.  There were some routes to these destinations.  But they included some portaging between navigable waterways.  Which made it difficult to transport bulk goods into the region.  And out of the region.

As Jefferson’s vision of limited government faded government grew.  As did government spending.  Especially on internal improvements.  For they had great political dividends.  They created a lot of jobs.  And brought a lot of federal money to communities with those internal improvements.  Which helped politicians win elections.  And back around the 1800s the big internal improvements were canals.  Such as the Erie Canal.  Connecting the Eastern Seaboard with the Great Lakes.  Providing a waterway without any portages from the Hudson River that flows into the Atlantic Ocean at New York City.  All the way to the Great Lakes.  Near Buffalo.  Just above Niagara Falls.  Opening the Great Lakes regions to settlement.  And the Northwest Territory.  (Something George Washington wanted to do.  Who wanted to extend a canal into the West from the Potomac River.)  Creating a trade super highway between the Great Lakes region and the East Coast.  Through the Port of New York.  And on to the rest of the world.

The U.S. population moved west.  But still clung to rivers and coastlines.  Until another internal improvement came along.  The railroad.  Which did for the country’s interior what the Erie Canal did for the Great Lakes region.  With cities growing up along these rail lines.  Away from rivers and coastlines.  Then came the interstate highway system.  Which allowed cities to grow away from the rail lines.  There is now a road, rail or waterway that will take you pretty much anywhere in the United States.  And now we have the airplane.  Which can fly over the Appalachians.  Or the Niagara escarpment.  Allowing us today to move anyone or anything anywhere today.  Something George Washington and Thomas Jefferson desperately wanted.  But could only dream of.

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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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