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THE FIRST REPUBLIC
144. Peace Negotiations. The attempt to conclude a peace after the War for Independence demonstrated how little help an alliance really was in carrying on a revolution. The United States and France had agreed not to conclude a separate peace with Great Britain, and subsequently France and Spain had made an agreement not to conclude peace till Gibraltar was recaptured from England. This left a situation in which the United States was apparently left to prolong the war indefinitely and risk further of its newly-won independence merely in order that Spain might recover Gibraltar, Spain not being a direct ally of the United States.
The French diplomats tried to use this impasse to force a treaty of peace which would give Spain the entire shore of the Mississippi, and extending eastward about halfway to the Appalachian Mountain range, the rest of the region west of the mountains to be set aside as Indian Territory, to be half under United States protection and half under British protection. This might have made a satisfactory settlement as far as concerned the original minute-men movement of New England, which was not concerned about territorial expansion and conquest; no actual American settlements had been made west of the area outlined in this proposition as to be under United States protection; it would have settled at one stroke the major portion of the Northwest territorial dispute between the States; and it would have provided for some sort of international guarantee for the rights of the red tribes who lived or had been forced west of the mountains. The British occupation of Detroit and the lower Michigan peninsula would have still been recognized by the proposed general peace. It would, in fact, have been a most satisfactory settlement as far as concerned the original purposes of the American Revolution; but it was hardly to be expected that the "land-grabbing" aristocrats of Virginia, after already capturing a few forts near the Mississippi, would consent to surrender them to either England, or Spain, or that they would agree to any terms giving the red men any rights on the land that the "land-grabbers" wanted to seize, or that their subjects wanted to settle on. The South, and especially Virginia, was insistent on controlling and owning all territory up to the Mississippi River.
Accordingly, since settlement of peace seemed impossible by the regular diplomatic channels, the United States, in spite of its treaty with France against a separate peace, proceeded to negotiate directly with England, on the theory that they had not revolted against British control only to be dictated to by France. The French diplomats complained strongly at the violation of the treaty of alliance, but England was much more willing to come to terms with the United States than were France and Spain, who were looking merely after territorial gains for themselves wherever possible, and since France, in its weakened condition after its defeat in the Great Ohio War, was in no position to turn against United States, nothing could very well be done to prevent negotiations for separate peace.
A separate peace between United States and England was thus agreed on early in 1783. This treaty, instead of recognizing the United States as an independent nation, followed the true federal form, and started out by stating that Great Britain recognized the thirteen states (naming each state individually) as free and independent states, under the joint name of the United States of America. In this way the treaty could not be interpreted as taking away from any of the States the full and complete sovereignty they claimed under the federated form of the First Republic. Of course, by this treaty, the United States acquired international recognition, having previously been recognized by only France, Spain, and Holland, its allies in the war; but, now that Great Britain recognized the independence of what was formerly its dependency, the United States now took its place as a recognized nation, enabling diplomatic relations to be opened with all European nations except Russia, which withheld recognition of the United States till 1805.
The treaty delimited the area to be recognized as independent under the United States, the western boundary being the Mississippi River, as Virginia had demanded. The Great Lakes served as the northern boundary in the west, the center of the lake channel being followed down the St. Lawrence River as far as its intersection with the 45th parallel. The northern boundary east of the St. Lawrence was recited in terms similar to those used in the royal proclamation of 1763 in defining the boundaries of the Province of Quebec, giving as the boundary of the United States the St. Croix River, a line north from its source, then the height of land separating rivers falling into the St. Lawrence from those falling directly into the Atlantic; then the 45th parallel to the St. Lawrence River. The "height of land" referred to was then understood to be the southern watershed of the Areostook River valley, where a provincial boundary between Massachusetts and Quebec had been surveyed and marked after the Great Ohio War; and along this "height of land," which in reality differed slightly from the extremely literal treaty interpretation, the boundary between Canada and the United States was actually laid out. In the south the line of demarcation was the pre-war boundary between the provinces of Georgia and East Florida, the boundary between West Florida and the United States being fixed at the 31st parallel, making West Florida a mere narrow strip of coast. Since no peace was yet made with Spain, and it was still uncertain as to whether the Floridas would finally be English or Spanish territory, there was some question as to the validity of England’s recognition of the Florida boundary, inasmuch as Spain claimed West Florida to extend much farther north, to the mouth of the Yazoo River. A secret clause in the treaty agreed to the more extended limits of West Florida if that province was to be retained by England. At the time this treaty went into effect, England had already agreed to cede the Floridas to Spain, but the peace treaty with Spain had not yet been signed, so that Spain considered the treaty with United States as a sort of fraud, and claimed a strip of territory north of the 31st parallel as part of West Florida; but here the United States had the advantage of a prior treaty, as well as of actual possession.
It was also provided by the treaty that British loyalists in America should be given the opportunity to emigrate to British territory. Most of these were already concentrated in New York and Charleston, and, on the evacuation of Charleston in 1782, those irreconcilable loyalists there who would not accept South Carolina’s amnesty offer went either to New York or to Nova Scotia. And, in the semi-armistice conditions that prevailed on most fronts during 1782, numerous American loyalists contrived to get to Canada and New Brunswick, though in the latter locality they were regarded as Americans, and therefore enemies, and suffered more persecution than they would have it they had stayed at home, many of them finding their way back to the United States, cured of their loyalty to the British Empire. Under the peace treaty, King George fixed four points on the Canadian border as concentration points for American loyalists desiring to find a home under the British flag, and most of them were conducted into the region north of the Great Lakes, where considerable land was given them (as usual, being taken away from the red tribes that already lived there). This emigration later became Upper Canada, and is now the Province of Ontario. A large proportion of Canada’s population being sprung from these American monarchists (termed there United Empire loyalists, and given the title U.E.L., after their names), it has resulted in Canada’s remaining loyal to the British Empire, but nevertheless deriving many of its institutions from United States directly rather than from England.
The peace treaty was signed early in 1783, and was proclaimed by the Congress of the United States, as well as by the various state legislatures, on Saturday, April 19, 1783, the eighth anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord which started the war.
War still continued with the Iroquois Federation, and with the Shawnee-Lenape alliance in the Great Lakes country; but, in 1784, peace treaties were made with these tribal groups. The Shawnees and Lenapes were pushed twenty miles back from the Ohio River by the peace, and the Iroquois granted permission to New York State to settle their territory. The Iroquois general Thayendanagea, known in English as Brandt, led an emigration of a large part of his people into Canada, where the Iroquois Federation, still claiming its independence as a nation, now holds its councils, and where the first joint loyalist and Iroquois settlement was named Brantford, after this general. Many of the Iroquois have also remained in the United States, but also claiming the original national independence of the Iroquois Federation.
145. Evacuation of New York. On Tuesday, November 25, 1783, the British Army sailed from New York for Nova Scotia, taking with them about 12,000 American monarchists who were now concentrated in New York. This concentration of loyalists in the single city during the period of the war had made New York the most populous city in North America during the war, but only until the evacuation, after which it became again the small town it had been before the war. The following day, the Continental Army entered the city from the north, and was received and welcomed by a citizens’ committee appointed by the British army to preserve order in the city during the one-day interregnum. Although most of the people of the city, even those left there after the sudden emigration, were also loyalists and regarded the rebels as invaders in their town, they nevertheless gave a great welcome to the incoming Continental Army, in the same way as the city had welcomed each successive change of sovereignty in the seventeenth century. They were always ready to cheer for the winners.
The "Skinner" and "Cowboy" gangs that had been marauding through Westchester County during the entire war, while they were between the opposing lines, were now unable to operate in the country districts, and moved into New York City with the army, forming small "shanty" settlements on the outskirts of the city, chiefly on the east shore of Collect Pond, along the road known as the Bowery, from where they were enabled to continue their predatory activities on the people of the city.
At Frances’ Tavern, in New York City, George Washington assembled the Society of the Cincinnati, presumably to say good-bye to his officers, but actually to arrange for keeping the organization together and functioning while its members were scattered over the states, so that they would be able to work under cover in the various states to overthrow the First Republic to make way for some form of Cincinnati control. Then Washington sent in his resignation as commander of the army, and prepared to return to his Virginia estate, presumably retiring from public life, but really active in the Cincinnati conspiracy, since he remained president of this society. The day after the triumphal entry into the conquered city of New York, the Continental Army crossed the Hudson River to the town of Paulus Hook in New Jersey, where they were dismissed by Washington as he left for Virginia. The farewell took place at the main cross-roads in Paulus Hook, the crossing that is now known as Grand and Washington Streets in Jersey City.
Thus the United States acquired a city full of loyalists, at much unnecessary trouble and risk. This city had never been part of the United States during any of the period that the Confederation was in process of construction, and the acquisition of New York City was in reality more in the nature of annexation of new territory by treaty than an actual recovery of lost territory. The value of such an acquisition to a country trying to build up and maintain a new experiment in government could not but be doubtful.
As is common with some people who suddenly find themselves in enemy territory, the people of New York City immediately hastened to prove to the conquering State authorities that they had individually been on the rebel side all the time. Various acts of individuals in helping the revolutionary army get away from New York in 1776-7 were generally adduced in evidence. And, though in other states the ex-monarchists who were willing to swear allegiance to the state had already been granted amnesty, even before cessation of hostilities, a certain amount of persecution of monarchists (really by other monarchists anxious to prove their conversion to the new flag) went on for a while in the parts of the States of New York and New Jersey near New York City.
By now, the only place within the treaty limits of the United States still remaining under British occupation was the region of the three upper Great Lakes, two peninsulas largely commanded by the British garrisons which still stayed on at Detroit and Michillimackinac. England retained this region throughout the entire period of the First Republic, alleging as an excuse the failure of the States to pay indemnity for fugitive slaves captured during the war and not returned.
146. Post-Revolution Migrations. With the coming of peace, new shifts in the population took place. We have seen that the peace treaty provided for the emigration of American monarchists to British territory, and this emigration meant the loss of over half the population of New York City, which gained a partial compensation in population in the shape of immigration of the Westchester bandit gangs into the city. Also, some of the rebel sympathizers that had left that city at the beginning of the war now returned to reclaim their houses and other property which had been confiscated by the British army. Confiscation of Tory Property was undertaken on a large scale in the city of New York. It was even attempted to pass a law in the state legislature of New York making it possible to convict of "Misprision of treason" almost anyone who had lived within the British occupation area during the war; but it was practically impossible to condemn a city wholesale in this manner immediately after acquiring it. One of Washington's army aides from that city, a member of the Cincinnati by the name of Alexander Hamilton, earned considerable support in New York and its vicinity by successfully representing the Tories' claims to New York City properties as against the pre-war "rebel" occupants.
It is estimated that about 100,000 emigrated after the peace treaty from United States to British possessions, some to the Bahamas, but most of them to Canada. While it is true that in almost all parts of America the press and the churches attempted to stir up mob spirit against the Tories as individuals, it was only in New York State that any official measures were attempted against those who showed willingness to swear allegiance to their state, or that any signs of mob action appeared. During the rest of the First Republic period, many of the Tories, finding this to be the case, filtered back into the United States and became citizens of their respective states. As the States, one after another, at the insistence of Congress on observation of the treaty of 1783, repealed their laws regarding confiscation of Tory property, the return of former American loyalists was facilitated, and they were allowed to become citizens of the United States, which most of them did. It is possible, however, that the return of the monarchists to citizenship was premature, as, had their full citizenship been delayed until after the First Republic had a better chance to organize more firmly, the overthrow of the First Republic and the establishment of the Second Republic might have been made more difficult. One remarkable result, however, of this rapid assimilation of the monarchists, was that then United States is practically the only republic in the world without an organized monarchist movement.
While the Tories, particularly the Tory city of New York, presented a problem for the new republic to deal with, there were other movements of population. Although there had been some revolt against British rule in Canada and Bermuda during the American Revolution, these revolts had not been successful, and they remained British territory. It has even been sometimes claimed by Bermudians that their islands were deliberately forgotten in the peace treaty, either because of their distance from the American mainland, or because they were not represented in the Continental Congress, which certainly showed little disposition to cooperate with any administrations that were not in the federation. After the war was over, it was only natural that many of the Bermuda rebels, and many French Canadians who had either participated in the rebellion of 1775 or had been sympathetic with the rebels, came across the border into New England, particularly into Vermont, whose border was only seventy miles from Montreal, and whose government, being still independent of the United States and at war with New York and New Hampshire, was much more ready to admit Canadian immigration.
The First Republic had very little immigration, however, from across the Atlantic, though many soldiers who had come to America during the war, both as allies and as enemies of American independence, stayed on to become citizens of the newly-created republic. On the Continent of Europe, too little was yet heard of events in such a distant corner of the globe, and few people would go such a long distance, in any event, merely to try cut a new form of organization which they did not understand. But Ireland, where a certain amount of resentment had long been smoldering against British rule, presented a different situation, since there had been some tendency there to watch the situation in America before starting an open uprising. But, with America successful in breaking away from England, the effect on the Irish was not so much rebellion as emigration, and many Irishmen came over to America to get the benefit of the insurrection that had already taken place.
Another unusual situation was that of the French troops who had been in American to help the revolution. They had originally come over merely because paid to do so by an adventure-seeking aristocrat, but they returned to France wondering at the strangeness of all they had seen. Even their leader, Lafayette, commented with astonishment on the fact that there was nothing in America to correspond to the peasant class of all European countries; and the "liberty" and "equality" that these soldiers had been hearing about all through the war in America could not help making some impression on them, though they could not understand anything so contrary to all they had ever heard of. So they all returned to France with hazy ideas on liberty and equality, after they had seen for themselves that something or other which was different from what they had been used to, could somehow be made to work. In view of this observation it is hardly surprising that, after the return of the French army from America to France in 1784, some confused discussion of "liberté" and "egalité" was beginning to circulate in France.
147. The Green Mountain War. Vermont, which had become independent long before the rest of America, and which had never been recognized by the Continental Congress, due to its being considered part of the state of New York, was within the treaty limits of the United States, but had a government of its own which was de facto independent of the United States. It was actually an independent republic, and had been so in point of fact since 1758, but Great Britain had definitely ceded its Vermont claims to the United States by the peace treaty of 1783, so that the First Republic, and particularly the State of New York, was faced with the same problem of subduing Vermont that Great Britain had. During the entire period of the existence of the First Republic of the United States, this was never accomplished, and Vermont remained an independent republic till 1790.
In 1777, Vermont had unsuccessfully applied to the Continental Congress for admission to the federation, and had adopted a constitution similar to those adopted by the other states. In the case of the other states, the adoption of a constitution defining and limiting the powers of government might be interpreted as either defining the State’s place in the federation or as replacing the charter which represented England’s control before the revolution. But Vermont represented the first instance in which an entirely independent and centralized republic adopted a constitution limiting the rights and powers of the government, without having previously any charter of outside control. The constitutional limitations on the powers of the government in Vermont represented entirely this limitation deemed necessary to insure control of the government by the people and to protect the rights of the individual.
During the war, Vermont had co-operated with the Continental Army, though its own army, the so-called Green Mountain Boys, was not under Washington’s command, and it was probably for that reason that it functioned more efficiently than the Continental Army. Such important rebel conquests as the capture of Ticonderoga at the beginning of the revolution, the Battle of Bennington which checked the British invasion of the Lake Champlain district, and the final surrender of Burgoyne’s army which cleared the North of British troops, were victories of Vermont’s army rather than of the army of the United States. It is safe to say that without the aid of Vermont there might have been no United States, though the rebellion would very likely have been successful in many parts of New England, particularly in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
It will be remembered that, after the Great Ohio War, Vermont was assigned by Great Britain to the Province of New York, to which the Vermonters would not submit, since it would involve extinction of those town meetings which the New Englander considered so essential to liberty. Since the Continental Congress was not originally a revolutionary body, and recognized only those legislatures which had some claim to British recognition before the war, it followed that the First Republic of the United States would treat Vermont as part of New York State, in accordance with the British division of the territory. After all the aid Vermont had given the United States towards independence from England, the United States was trying to conquer Vermont because Vermont had no British charter!
It may be said, however, that this effort was not so much that of the federation as of New York State. We have seen that the Albany courts, before the revolution had started, declared the Vermonters’ occupation of their land to be illegal, because their grants had come from New Hampshire, whose claims to the land New York did not recognize. Now, after the war was over, the independent state of New York tried to enforce this judgment made by a British court in Albany. However, invasion of the mountain district inhabited by the Vermonters proved practically impossible, and New York had to content itself with constantly raiding and harassing Vermont’s western frontier.
New York’s claims extended east of the Connecticut River, but Vermont had as yet no definite borders in any direction except the Canadian frontier on the north, where, besides the treaty boundary, the existence of the loyalist town of St. Armand blocked any attempt to spread north of the 45th parallel of latitude. An investigation of New Hampshire’s ancient British charter disclosed that its limits were placed sixty miles back from the ocean, and consequently Vermont claimed boundaries extending to within sixty miles of the Atlantic. A number of towns on the east shore of the Connecticut River, such as Hanover, which till then had been considered as indisputably in New Hampshire, being exempt from New York’s territorial claims, now welcomed Vermont’s attempts to annex them, partly because taxes were lower in Vermont than in New Hampshire, and partly because dissatisfaction at Cincinnati infiltration into the government of the United States made those towns welcome a chance to leave the Union. The towns in the valley of the Connecticut River, on both sides of the river, considering their interests to be somewhat different from those of the Green Mountain region proper, soon set up an independent government of their own, which they called the State of New Connecticut. This was the region which had been the last stronghold of the Penacook Federation during the Great Ohio War, and on the head-waters of the Quinnitucket, the Penacook peoples’ old river of liberty, and it almost seemed as though the Quinnitucket was still fighting for someone’s liberty, though it was not quite clear whose.
In the middle of this situation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which considered itself to be a restoration of the old Puritan regime and consequently inherited all its territorial claims, reasoned that as, during the Cromwell period, they had made claims as far north as Lake Winnipesaukee, which they had later, under royal restoration, been forced to cede to New Hampshire, it followed that Massachusetts claims west of New Hampshire were not thereby extinguished, thus entitling Massachusetts to about half of Vermont. The result was a remarkable conflict of claims in Vermont, with an actual war going on between Vermont and New York. The formation of the new republic of New Connecticut, taking away about one third of the territory that New Hampshire considered free from outside claims, resulted in New Hampshire’s re-asserting its former claim over the whole of Vermont―claims which the Vermonters would have been more willing to recognize than those of New York, since they would not thereby have been ousted from the land. Consequently they were ready to deal with New Hampshire for peace, so that Vermont relinquished its claims east of the Connecticut River in exchange for New Hampshire’s relinquishing its claims west of the river. The revival of those Massachusetts claims which had once temporarily wiped New Hampshire off the map altogether, induced New Hampshire to make a settlement, but the interpretation of the terms was never agreed upon completely, since Vermont claimed that it had merely given up beyond the farther shore of the river, while New Hampshire claimed the middle of the river as a boundary. This boundary dispute, involving as it did only water, was allowed to go on for a long time, and was not settled till 1932, when a federal decision was given in favor of New Hampshire.
The incipient state of New Connecticut was thus partitioned between Vermont and New Hampshire, and the agreement proved easy enough to enforce, since the initiative for forming the new state was mostly on the New Hampshire side of the river, and, lacking Vermont’s support on that side of the river, the whole plan fell through. In the same way as Massachusetts’ threatened intervention forced New Hampshire to terms with Vermont, so the assertion of New Hampshire’s claims conversely made it necessary for Massachusetts to give up its claims to southern Vermont, and by 1785 the only boundary Vermont still had undefined was the western boundary, that between Vermont and New York, where the state authorities of New York were still trying to evict the Vermonters on the judgment obtained before the revolution, in 1774, and where, as a result, a state of war still prevailed.
The independence of Vermont was proving a good example to the two southern transmontane regions which had been formerly the unrecognized colonies of Transylvania and Watauga, and which, after the Declaration of Independence, were invaded and conquered by Virginia and North Carolina, respectively. The former Watauga colony was the first to rebel, in 1784, when, following the offers of the various states regarding the land north of the Ohio, North Carolina, apparently tired of defending the Wataugan settlers in the various skirmishes the Wataugans insisted on constantly getting into with the red tribes, offered Congress a two-year option on the territory. The Wataugans had no notion of submitting to rule of a strange body in which they had no representation, and representatives from various settlements in the territory involved in the proposed cession got together at Jonesboro and resolved, in true Declaration-of-Independence style, that they were a free and independent state, and these representatives constituted themselves the legislature of the independent State of Franklin. After this, there were two parties in this district, one of which elected representatives to the legislature of the State of Franklin, while the other faction elected representatives to the North Caroline legislature, and, when it came to enforcement of conflicting state laws, the condition was practically of civil war. Finally, in 1786, when North Carolina withdrew its offer to cede the territory to Federal control, the North Carolina party gradually gained support, and the independent Franklin party became weaker, until North Carolina was enabled again to take possession of the region by force, and John Savier, the governor of Franklin, who had previously been governor of Watauga, had to escape for a time, though he later returned.
A similar revolt took place at about the same time in the former Transylvania colony, the legislature formed there giving their new independent state the title of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This nomenclature did not gain as much support in its region as did the "State of Franklin" to the south of them, but it contrived to hold on longer, and all Virginia’s military efforts at suppressing the rebellion in what Virginia called "Kentucky County" were unsuccessful, and Kentucky, like Vermont, remained a de facto independent republic, though the precedent of Vermont indicated that the federal government of the First Republic could give Kentucky no recognition whatever.
148. The Northwest Territory. We have seen that the dispute over the land between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, the same territory over which the Great Ohio War had been fought, and for possession of which Virginia entered the fight against England, almost blocked the permanent organization of the federation called the United States of America. Virginia claimed the entire territory west of the Mississippi and north to the Great Lakes, a claim which would have given Virginia one third of all the land within the treaty boundaries of the United States; and Virginia further had possession of several forts and outposts in what that Commonwealth was pleased to style "Illinois County." New York claimed all the territory which the Iroquois Federation had ever claimed as part of its empire, extending south to the Ohio River, and west to the Cuyahoga, as by the truce of 1779, and later by the peace treaty of 1784, the Iroquois had surrendered territorial title to the State of New York, not to any other state or to the United States. Massachusetts and Connecticut each claimed that they owned a continuous strip of land whose westward extent was only bounded by the treaty limits of the United States, namely, at the Mississippi River; and, as the Hudson Valley, which was the State of New York, cut directly across these strips, Great Britain had had to intervene before the revolution to give to New York a strip between the Delaware River and a fixed boundary east of the Hudson; but neither Massachusetts nor Connecticut considered that that extinguished their territorial claims west of the Delaware River. This situation resulted in four states holding conflicting claims to a territory which had once before this started a world-wide war.
Little Maryland, which had no claims to any of this territory under its British charter, but which controlled Virginia’s access through the mountains to the "Illinois" region, as Virginia called it, forced a showdown by holding up the Articles of Confederation until the various states claiming territory in the Northwest should cede their claims to Congress. At first Virginia stormed over this action, and threatened to have Maryland divided between Virginia and Pennsylvania; then came the British invasion of Virginia, and Virginia, whose own army was busy asserting that state’s northwestern claims, called on the whole confederation for aid―and then Maryland was in the position to threaten Virginia, which now needed Maryland’s help badly. So Virginia promised "to be good," and give "Illinois County" to the United States in Congress assembled; and the other three states involved gave similar promises, so that Maryland ratified the Articles of Confederation, and the First Republic was able to organize on a permanent basis. At this time the Congress, though it had as yet received no actual land–only promises–passed a resolution (in 1780) that all land which Congress should receive would be used for public purposes, and was to be erected into states on the same basis as the original thirteen states.
However, not all the dispute was over Virginia’s claim. Massachusetts and Connecticut claimed strips of territory extending from the Delaware River west to the Mississippi River; and there was about three hundred miles between the Delaware and Pennsylvania’s western boundary, with which Virginia had nothing to do. Connecticut’s claim conflicted with Pennsylvania; while the Massachusetts claim passed through territory which the Iroquois Federation in 1784 surrendered to New York. Immediately after the campaign against the Iroquois in 1779, Connecticut sent settlers to the Wyoming Valley, which was in the disputed territory, and Pennsylvania called for federal arbitration of the dispute. This arbitration was really a test of the First Republic’s ability to hold the allegiance of the states; and it passed the test wonderfully. The federal arbitrators decided in favor of Pennsylvania in 1782, and, though under the First Republic the federal authority had no power to force obedience from the states, Connecticut submitted, and relinquished its claims within Pennsylvania’s boundaries. The Connecticut settlers, however, stayed on, willing enough to be citizens of Pennsylvania. In the winter of 1784, however, after a disastrous flood of the Susquehanna River which destroyed many of the settlers’ homes and farms in the Wyoming Valley, the appeals for flood relief that naturally followed seemed somehow to arouse the wartime antagonism between the two states over that territory, and the Pennsylvanians began to remind themselves that the Wyoming Valley settlers were invaders; so that, instead of granting relief for the flood victims, the governor sent troops of militia to evict the Yankees from the valley. This was done with much unnecessary violence, resulting in self-defense on the part of the settlers, to which the militia retaliated by wholesale massacres, those who were not deliberately killed being driven out into the woods and told to find their way back to Connecticut. However, since part of Pennsylvania’s constitution under the First Republic called for the assembling of a board of censors every seven years to determine if the constitution had been violated, and to take remedial measures, the meeting of this board in the spring of 1785 immediately picked on the Wyoming Valley military evictions and massacres as a flagrant violation, and brought about the punishment of some of the militia officers responsible for the outrages, and the survivors of the evicted settlers were indemnified by being given additional land in the Wyoming Valley. From this source grew many of the settlements that are now so thick in the Wyoming Valley, including such towns as Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
Massachusetts' western claims of territory were purely theoretical during the war, since the claims east of Lake Ontario were held by the Iroquois, and those from the Detroit River to the Mississippi River were in British possession, and remained so in spite of the peace treaty during the entire period of the First Republic. But, after peace was made with the Iroquois in 1784, New York State suddenly came into possession of the eastern portion of the very strip Massachusetts was claiming. Again the First Republic proved its ability to settle the dispute; and it was apparently done with the same aversion to the creation of non-contiguous territory that had characterized the settlement between Pennsylvania and Connecticut. In this instance, there was no such clear case for New York as Pennsylvania had had in the other case, because the territory was not within New York's original limits, and the contest of land title was between title obtained from the red nations, which New York showed, and title obtained from a British charter, as represented by Massachusetts. The settlement finally proposed by federal arbitration in 1785 contained a curious recognition of the claims of both states. The Iroquois Federation having been the actual possessor of the land, and New York being their appointed successor, New York’s claim to the land was to be recognized; but, since land titles before the revolution came from the king, and Massachusetts had some claim to be his successor there, it was to be stipulated that distribution and sale of public lands was to remain under Massachusetts control. Then Pennsylvania interposed the objection that the proposed boundaries of New York would interpose a narrow strip of land between Pennsylvania and lake Erie, thus cutting Pennsylvania off from access to the lakes. The result was that Massachusetts accepted the arbitration award on condition that both Massachusetts and New York would sell to Pennsylvania a triangle of land which would give Pennsylvania a lake port; on that basis, New York also accepted the decision of the arbitrators, and New York took possession of the Iroquois country, with Massachusetts in charge of land titles, and land for a port on Lake Erie was annexed to Pennsylvania, which later started on that ground a port which was appropriately named Erie. It was also specified in the arbitration award that Massachusetts should only be allowed to dispose of land to settlers that had been acquired for the purpose from the Iroquois Federation, a condition which was lived up to under the First Republic, but which was constantly evaded under the Second Republic. As a result of this arbitration awarded by the First Republic, the region in question, though an integral part of the State of New York, has been largely settled by New Englanders who, under the guidance of those of the Iroquois who did not go to Canada after the war, developed the modified form of the New England and Iroquois traditions of freedom which built that "upstate" which has long been the pet aversion of dictatorial New York City.
As for the region west of the Appalachian Mountain range, it presented a difficulty--its natural means of communication with the outside world did not lie through the Atlantic coast of the United States, but down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico; and, in that direction, West Florida and the New Orleans region constituted a barrier. The trade of this western region was mainly through New Orleans, which was then a Spanish port; and when, in 1785, as a result of the dispute over the West Florida boundary, Spain closed the lower Mississippi to American vessels, the rebelling states of Franklin and Kentucky threatened to send down their armies to take New Orleans and West Florida. The movement of the western region, particularly the southwest, toward New Orleans as their natural outlet, was an important one; and, in the attempt to develop the Northwest Territory, it was considered necessary to supply some corresponding outlet in the north―towards the Atlantic―since only that could keep the west tied to the federation.
The Northwest Territory itself was in reality the result of the United States’ being unable to keep the westward-moving settlers from constantly encroaching on tribal lands. The war for independence had resolved itself west of the mountains into a war between these settlers and the various western tribes, and it was much easier for the government to conclude peace treaties than to enforce them, so that a state of war was practically a fixed condition west of the Appalachian range. Kentucky and Franklin were examples of regions which largely revolted against the parent states because the latter would not support all this warfare. Many freebooters inhabited the Northwest Territory who contributed to this state of affairs by making raids on white settlements disguised as red men, and throwing on the tribes the blame for the commission of atrocities such as the tribes themselves would not have been likely to commit.
In 1784 Virginia finally lived up to its promise to cede "Illinois County" to the United States. This was a vast area comprising the entire region from the western boundary of Pennsylvania to the Mississippi River, and from the great Lakes to the Ohio River―about six hundred miles from east to west, and from two to five hundred miles from north to south. While Virginia gave the region the name of Illinois, the Kentucky settlers generally knew it as the "Indian Shore," a name which was already becoming sometimes abbreviated to Indiana; while Congress named it the Territory Northwest of the Ohio River, a long title usually abbreviated to Northwest Territory, and sometimes also called Ohio Territory, so that the region was now variously entitled Northwest Territory, Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois, all of which names at that time meant the same vast stretch of land.
As the problem arose of how Congress was to govern this vast domain―for the Articles of Confederation, the constitution of the First Republic, had no provision whereby Congress could govern any territory except through the medium of state governments―the temporary solution was to establish a military government, and General St. Clair was despatched to Marietta, on the Ohio River, as governor. In the meantime, Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia liberal who had been largely instrumental in inducing Virginia to give up its claims to the region, presented to Congress a plan of government for the Northwest Territory, which consisted of dividing it into ten states to be called Sylvania, Michigania, Chersonesus, Assenispia, Mertopotamia, Illinois, Saratoga, Washington, Polypotamia, and Pelispia. These states were to be self-governing, like the original states of the federation, but under a certain amount of supervision from Congress, and were later to be admitted to the federation on the same basis as the original states. A plan for the general emancipation of slaves, to be completed by 1800, was also inserted. The plan was opposed by the Cincinnati, since George Washington still claimed that land as his personal estate, and would hear of nothing resembling democracy out there. Washington finally managed, through the Cincinnati followers in Congress, to have Jefferson appointed as ambassador to France, and, with him out of the way, the plan for a democratic form of organization in the Northwest Territory was dropped.
Although Virginia and New York gave up their claims early, Connecticut and Massachusetts waited. In 1783, after the proclamation of peace, Connecticut issued another proclamation stating that the area between the 41st and 42nd parallels of latitude, from the western boundary of Pennsylvania to the Mississippi River, was a part of Connecticut, and was not to be settled by anyone without special license from the State of Connecticut; and, for the purpose of issuing such settlers’ licenses, and for dealing with the red tribes in the region thus claimed, the State of Connecticut despatched to the mouth of the Cuyahoga River a special agent by the name of Moses Cleaveland, who had been an officer in the Continental Army. The trading post thus established by the Connecticut River, under the Second Republic, became a city named Cleaveland after its founder, though the spelling has been simplified to Cleveland. In 1786, Connecticut, though it kept its promise to cede its claims to Congress, did a bit of Yankee bargaining in doing so, inasmuch as it held back 120 miles of the strip in question, comprising a piece of lake shore from the Pennsylvania line to beyond the old French settlement of Sandusky (originally Sandouske), which was to be finally ceded under special conditions, namely, that the sale of public land go into a school fund for the Northwest Territory, that no slavery be allowed there, and that a university be built and maintained in that region. This reserved area, thought finally transferred into United States possession in 1800 (still as "Connecticut’s Western Reserve") and later incorporated into the State of Ohio, is still considered by Connecticut as Connecticut territory merely occupied by Ohio under conditions, and such cities as Cleveland, Akron, Lorain, Youngstown, and Sandusky, are considered by Connecticut as its own cities. The region still claimed by Connecticut is known to its inhabitants as the Connecticut Reserve or the Western Reserve, and the condition as to a university is observed by the maintenance of a "Western reserve University" at Cleveland.
At about the same time, Massachusetts, though its claims were still clouded by British occupation continuing throughout the period of the First Republic, ceded its claims to Congress under similar conditions to those of Connecticut, reserving a small area around the city of Detroit (at that time actually occupied by a British garrison) for purposes similar to those specified for the "Connecticut Reserve;" the university condition in this case was later satisfied by the establishment by State of Michigan (after it was formed out of part of the Massachusetts claim) of a state educational institution called the "Epistemiad," and now known as the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, about thirty eight miles west of Detroit.
Thus, by 1786, Congress had clear title to the entire Northwest Territory, except for the two "reserves" established by the New England states which had been claimants, and except for the occupation of the northwestern portion of the territory by British troops; Virginia also set aside a "reserve" to be given to veterans of the Continental Army desiring to settle there. The problem of organizing some form of civil government for the territory by Congress became more urgent than ever. In May, 1787, this difficulty was finally provided for by a Congressional resolution called "Ordinance of the Territory Northwest of the Ohio River." This resolution, in view of the conditions in the Connecticut and Massachusetts Reserves, definitely abolished slavery in the territory; it also guaranteed freedom of religious belief throughout the territory, in substantially the same form as had been done a century and a half before in Rhode Island. It was to be governed, not democratically in several states, as Jefferson had planned, but as a unit under a governor to be appointed by Congress, with an elected legislature in an advisory capacity, Congress itself being the supreme authority. The territory was to be divided later into not less than three nor more than five states, not while under federal control, but as soon as they were ready to be admitted into the union on the same basis as the other states, which the ordinance defined as being when each territorial division should attain a population of 70,000. Division lines were laid out between the future states in the Ordinance, first on the basis of three states in north and south strips, the first division line running directly north from the north bend of the Ohio River, and the next division line the Wabash River and a line directly north from a specified point on that river. It was also provided that an additional boundary could be created at an east-west line through the south bend (southernmost point) of Lake Michigan, the three states specified to be south of that line, and lake Michigan the boundary between the states to be formed north of that line. This division comes very close to the state lines that have since been established in the former Northwest Territory, though there has been a slight shift in some of the boundaries.
The problem of placing the Northwest Territory in contact with the states, become more acute since Spain had closed the mouth of the Mississippi to American trade, resulted in two rival canal plans. Virginia desired what was called the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, connecting the Ohio River with the Potomac River a few miles below the Great Falls; for this it was necessary to cross Maryland territory, and it was Maryland that had supplied the snag that had forced the territory into federal control. It was doubtful if Maryland could be induced to surrender a site for a terminal canal port on the Potomac River. This was George Washington’s favorite plan, for in that way his own home on the Virginia side of the Potomac would get direct connection with the Ohio lands he had been trying to seize for many years, and the prospect of a new port city to be built on the Potomac so close to his home would make an excellent headquarters for either Washington personally, or the Cincinnati Society to assume control of the United States. On the other hand, the state of New York was trying to create an outlet across the territory just acquired from the Iroquois, and connecting lake Erie with the Mohawk River. This "Erie Canal" would mean a boom for the land which Massachusetts was trying to sell in the formerly disputed Iroquois territory, so that the plan had considerable support in Massachusetts. It obtained backing from Connecticut, because it meant settlement of the Northwest through the Great Lakes instead of the Ohio River, and thus would build up the Western Reserve. Above all, the plan was approved in the Hudson Valley, because it meant that the Northwest’s navigation would reach the ocean through the Hudson, and make New York the nation’s chief port instead of the small town it had become since the Tory evacuation. But the secret order of the Cincinnati, plotting for a dictatorship of the United States under George Washington, worked for the Chesapeake canal plan, seeing in it a possible entering wedge for an overthrow of the First Republic.