GLEN COVE, NY — The people of New England failed
to understand the danger to their fellow countrymen that Indians armed
by the British posed. This failure led New Englanders to oppose the
War of 1812 — and to be disgraced in the eyes of the country by 1815.
Their disgrace increased the resentment of Virginia and sowed the seeds
of New England’s hatred of the
When the United States gained its independence, Massachusetts and
Virginia were the two largest and most powerful states. Thanks in large
part to John Adams, these two states cooperated for the good of the
New England, which is geographically isolated from the rest of the
United States except northern New York, had no access to the westward
expansion that occurred between 1787 and 1815. New England was isolated
by history as well as geography, especially by the history of its relations
with Indians. In the 1670s, an Indian chief known as King Philip united
most of the tribes of New England in a last great war against the white
man. King Philip lost his war in 1676 and was executed. His body was
cut into four pieces and his head displayed on a pike. Although some
New Englanders continued to believe that Indian attacks were a divine
punishment, major attacks were a distant memory in the region by the
time of Independence.
For the rest of the United States, Indians were a daily concern.
In 1774, the British had tried to turn the area later called the Northwest
Territories into a huge Indian nation. This area extended from the
Great Lakes to the Ohio River and from the Appalachian Mountains to
the Mississippi River. In 1787, the Continental Congress passed the
Northwest Ordinance, which indicated that the lands of the Northwest
would eventually become new states of the Union. The British and their
two Canadian colonies opposed this, maintaining illegal forts in the
Northwest, arming Indian allies, and encouraging them to make war on
Americans. Indians were notorious for killing women and children and
for mutilating the dead.
During George Washington’s administration, Kentucky and Tennessee
were admitted to the Union, making western expansion a reality.
Two years after Jefferson became President, Ohio, formerly part of
the Northwest Territories, was admitted as a state. The purchase of
the Louisiana Territory was completed in 1803. This acquisition not
only doubled the size of the United States; it gave the nation access
to the Gulf of Mexico and control of both banks of the Mississippi.
It also fostered good will between the United States and France.
After American Independence, the British divided Quebec into Upper
Canada and Lower Canada. There was one Canadian governor with vice
governors in the two colonies, but each colony had its own elected
legislature. The Indians, the Upper Canadians, and the British officials
in Upper Canada did not accept the results of the War of Independence;
from 1785 to 1810, the coordinated wars by British-supported tribes
persisted. The Indian Chief Tecumseh created a grand alliance of his
own tribe, the Shawnee, with the Creek and many smaller tribes in 1811.
The British and Canadians encouraged Tecumseh to wage wars to try to
keep Americans out of the western three-quarters of the Northwest Territories.
In the South, a major slave revolt on the German Coast in Louisiana
occurred in 1811. All Louisiana cooperated to put down the revolt,
uniting French-, English-, and Spanish-speaking Louisianians as one
people. Louisiana was admitted to the Union the following year, confirming
America’s westward expansion. Although there was no opposition
to Louisiana statehood on the basis of its slavery, one Boston newspaper
opposed it because the Louisiana slaves had killed white people. Many
Americans associated slave revolts with Indian attacks, because both
involved the killing of women and children and other uncivilized practices.
Indeed, Indian attacks and slave revolts are cited together as one
grievance in the Declaration of Independence.
Britain’s decision to support Tecumseh’s deadly attacks
on innocent Americans and its policy of stopping American ships at
sea and enslaving American seamen laid the grounds for war with its
former colony. The second part of this series will discuss that war.
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2011
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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