The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin
by Frederick Jackson Turner
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History is past Politics and Politics present History.—Freeman


The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin

A Study of the Trading Post as an Institution


Professor of History, University of Wisconsin








The trading post is an old and influential institution. Established in the midst of an undeveloped society by a more advanced people, it is a center not only of new economic influences, but also of all the transforming forces that accompany the intercourse of a higher with a lower civilization. The Phoenicians developed the institution into a great historic agency. Closely associated with piracy at first, their commerce gradually freed itself from this and spread throughout the Mediterranean lands. A passage in the Odyssey (Book XV.) enables us to trace the genesis of the Phoenician trading post:

"Thither came the Phoenicians, mariners renowned, greedy merchant-men with countless trinkets in a black ship.... They abode among us a whole year, and got together much wealth in their hollow ship. And when their hollow ship was now laden to depart, they sent a messenger.... There came a man versed in craft to my father's house with a golden chain strung here and there with amber beads. Now, the maidens in the hall and my lady mother were handling the chain and gazing on it and offering him their price."

It would appear that the traders at first sailed from port to port, bartering as they went. After a time they stayed at certain profitable places a twelvemonth, still trading from their ships. Then came the fixed factory, and about it grew the trading colony.[2] The Phoenician trading post wove together the fabric of oriental civilization, brought arts and the alphabet to Greece, brought the elements of civilization to northern Africa, and disseminated eastern culture through the Mediterranean system of lands. It blended races and customs, developed commercial confidence, fostered the custom of depending on outside nations for certain supplies, and afforded a means of peaceful intercourse between societies naturally hostile.

Carthaginian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman trading posts continued the process. By traffic in amber, tin, furs, etc., with the tribes of the north of Europe, a continental commerce was developed. The routes of this trade have been ascertained.[3] For over a thousand years before the migration of the peoples Mediterranean commerce had flowed along the interlacing river valleys of Europe, and trading posts had been established. Museums show how important an effect was produced upon the economic life of northern Europe by this intercourse. It is a significant fact that the routes of the migration of the peoples were to a considerable extent the routes of Roman trade, and it is well worth inquiry whether this commerce did not leave more traces upon Teutonic society than we have heretofore considered, and whether one cause of the migrations of the peoples has not been neglected.[4]

That stage in the development of society when a primitive people comes into contact with a more advanced people deserves more study than has been given to it. As a factor in breaking the "cake of custom" the meeting of two such societies is of great importance; and if, with Starcke,[5] we trace the origin of the family to economic considerations, and, with Schrader,[6] the institution of guest friendship to the same source, we may certainly expect to find important influences upon primitive society arising from commerce with a higher people. The extent to which such commerce has affected all peoples is remarkable. One may study the process from the days of Phoenicia to the days of England in Africa,[7] but nowhere is the material more abundant than in the history of the relations of the Europeans and the American Indians. The Phoenician factory, it is true, fostered the development of the Mediterranean civilization, while in America the trading post exploited the natives. The explanation of this difference is to be sought partly in race differences, partly in the greater gulf that separated the civilization of the European from the civilization of the American Indian as compared with that which parted the early Greeks and the Phoenicians. But the study of the destructive effect of the trading post is valuable as well as the study of its elevating influences; in both cases the effects are important and worth investigation and comparison.


[Footnote 1: In this paper I have rewritten and enlarged an address before the State Historical Society of Wisconsin on the Character and Influence of the Fur Trade in Wisconsin, published in the Proceedings of the Thirty-sixth Annual Meeting, 1889. I am under obligations to Mr. Reuben G. Thwaites, Secretary of this society, for his generous assistance in procuring material for my work, and to Professor Charles H. Haskins, my colleague, who kindly read both manuscript and proof and made helpful suggestions. The reader will notice that throughout the paper I have used the word Northwest in a limited sense as referring to the region included between the Great Lakes and the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.]

[Footnote 2: On the trading colony, see Roscher und Jannasch, Colonien, p. 12.]

[Footnote 3: Consult: Muellenhoff, Altertumskunde I., 212; Schrader, Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples, New York, 1890, pp. 348 ff.; Pliny, Naturalis Historia, xxvii., 11; Montelius, Civilization of Sweden in Heathen Times, 98-99; Du Chaillu, Viking Age; and the citations in Dawkins, Early Man in Britain, 466-7; Keary, Vikings in Western Christendom, 23.]

[Footnote 4: In illustration it may be noted that the early Scandinavian power in Russia seized upon the trade route by the Dnieper and the Duna. Keary, Vikings, 173. See also post, pp. 36, 38.]

[Footnote 5: Starcke, Primitive Family.]

[Footnote 6: Schrader, l.c.; see also Ihring, in Deutsche Rundschau, III., 357, 420; Kulischer, Der Handel auf primitiven Kulturstufen, in Zeitschrift fuer Voelkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft, X., 378. Vide post, p. 10.]

[Footnote 7: W. Bosworth Smith, in a suggestive article in the Nineteenth Century, December, 1887, shows the influence of the Mohammedan trade in Africa.]


Long before the advent of the white trader, inter-tribal commercial intercourse existed. Mr. Charles Rau[8] and Sir Daniel Wilson[9] have shown that inter-tribal trade and division of labor were common among the mound-builders and in the stone age generally. In historic times there is ample evidence of inter-tribal trade. Were positive evidence lacking, Indian institutions would disclose the fact. Differences in language were obviated by the sign language,[10] a fixed system of communication, intelligible to all the western tribes at least. The peace pipe,[11] or calumet, was used for settling disputes, strengthening alliances, and speaking to strangers—a sanctity attached to it. Wampum belts served in New England and the middle region as money and as symbols in the ratification of treaties.[12] The Chippeways had an institution called by a term signifying "to enter one another's lodges,"[13] whereby a truce was made between them and the Sioux at the winter hunting season. During these seasons of peace it was not uncommon for a member of one tribe to adopt a member of another as his brother, a tie which was respected even after the expiration of the truce. The analogy of this custom to the classical "guest-friendship" needs no comment; and the economic cause of the institution is worth remark, as one of the means by which the rigor of primitive inter-tribal hostility was mitigated.

But it is not necessary to depend upon indirect evidence. The earliest travellers testify to the existence of a wide inter-tribal commerce. The historians of De Soto's expedition mention Indian merchants who sold salt to the inland tribes. "In 1565 and for some years previous bison skins were brought by the Indians down the Potomac, and thence carried along-shore in canoes to the French about the Gulf of St. Lawrence. During two years six thousand skins were thus obtained."[14] An Algonquin brought to Champlain at Quebec a piece of copper a foot long, which he said came from a tributary of the Great Lakes.[15] Champlain also reports that among the Canadian Indians village councils were held to determine what number of men might go to trade with other tribes in the summer.[16] Morton in 1632 describes similar inter-tribal trade in New England, and adds that certain utensils are "but in certain parts of the country made, where the severall trades are appropriated to the inhabitants of those parts onely."[17] Marquette relates that the Illinois bought firearms of the Indians who traded directly with the French, and that they went to the south and west to carry off slaves, which they sold at a high price to other nations.[18] It was on the foundation, therefore, of an extensive inter-tribal trade that the white man built up the forest commerce.[19]


[Footnote 8: Smithsonian Report, 1872.]

[Footnote 9: Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 1889, VII., 59. See also Thruston, Antiquities of Tennessee, 79 ff.]

[Footnote 10: Mallery, in Bureau of Ethnology, I., 324; Clark, Indian Sign Language.]

[Footnote 11: Shea, Discovery of the Mississippi, 34. Catilinite pipes were widely used, even along the Atlantic slope, Thruston, 80-81.]

[Footnote 12: Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England, I., ch. ii.]

[Footnote 13: Minnesota Historical Collections, V., 267.]

[Footnote 14: Parkman, Pioneers of France in the New World, 230, citing Menendez.]

[Footnote 15: Neill, in Narrative and Critical History of America, IV., 164.]

[Footnote 16: Champlain's Voyages (Prince Society), III., 183.]

[Footnote 17: Morton, New English Canaan (Prince Society), 159.]

[Footnote 18: Shea, Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley, 32.]

[Footnote 19: For additional evidence see Radisson, Voyages (Prince Society), 91, 173; Massachusetts Historical Collections, I., 151; Smithsonian Contributions, XVI., 30; Jesuit Relations, 1671, 41; Thruston, Antiquities, etc., 79-82; Carr, Mounds of the Mississippi Valley, 25, 27; and post pp. 26-7, 36.]


The chroniclers of the earliest voyages to the Atlantic coast abound in references to this traffic. First of Europeans to purchase native furs in America appear to have been the Norsemen who settled Vinland. In the saga of Eric the Red[20] we find this interesting account: "Thereupon Karlsefni and his people displayed their shields, and when they came together they began to barter with each other. Especially did the strangers wish to buy red cloth, for which they offered in exchange peltries and quite grey skins. They also desired to buy swords and spears, but Karlsefni and Snorri forbade this. In exchange for perfect unsullied skins the Skrellings would take red stuff a span in length, which they would bind around their heads. So their trade went on for a time, until Karlsefni and his people began to grow short of cloth, when they divided it into such narrow pieces that it was not more than a finger's breadth wide, but the Skrellings still continued to give just as much for this as before, or more."[21]

The account of Verrazano's voyage mentions his Indian trade. Captain John Smith, exploring New England in 1614, brought back a cargo of fish and 11,000 beaver skins.[22] These examples could be multiplied; in short, a way was prepared for colonization by the creation of a demand for European goods, and thus the opportunity for a lodgement was afforded.


[Footnote 20: Reeves, Finding of Wineland the Good, 47.]

[Footnote 21: N.Y. Hist. Colls., I., 54-55, 59.]

[Footnote 22: Smith, Generall Historie (Richmond, 1819), I., 87-8, 182, 199; Strachey's Travaile into Virginia, 157 (Hakluyt Soc. VI.); Parkman, Pioneers, 230.]


The Indian trade has a place in the early history of the New England colonies. The Plymouth settlers "found divers corn fields and little running brooks, a place ... fit for situation,"[23] and settled down cuckoo-like in Indian clearings. Mr. Weeden has shown that the Indian trade furnished a currency (wampum) to New England, and that it afforded the beginnings of her commerce. In September of their first year the Plymouth men sent out a shallop to trade with the Indians, and when a ship arrived from England in 1621 they speedily loaded her with a return cargo of beaver and lumber.[24] By frequent legislation the colonies regulated and fostered the trade.[25] Bradford reports that in a single year twenty hhd. of furs were shipped from Plymouth, and that between 1631 and 1636 their shipments amounted to 12,150 li. beaver and 1156 li. otter.[26] Morton in his 'New English Canaan' alleges that a servant of his was "thought to have a thousand pounds in ready gold gotten by the beaver when he died."[27] In the pursuit of this trade men passed continually farther into the wilderness, and their trading posts "generally became the pioneers of new settlements."[28] For example, the posts of Oldham, a Puritan trader, led the way for the settlements on the Connecticut river,[29] and in their early days these towns were partly sustained by the Indian trade.[30]

Not only did the New England traders expel the Dutch from this valley; they contended with them on the Hudson.[31]


[Footnote 23: Bradford, Plymouth Plantation.]

[Footnote 24: Bradford, 104.]

[Footnote 25: E.g., Plymouth Records, I., 50, 54, 62, 119; II., 10; Massachusetts Colonial Records, I., 55, 81, 96, 100, 322; II., 86, 138; III., 424; V., 180; Hazard, Historical Collections, II., 19 (the Commissioners of the United Colonies propose giving the monopoly of the fur trade to a corporation). On public truck-houses, vide post, p. 58.]

[Footnote 26: Bradford, 108, gives the proceeds of the sale of these furs.]

[Footnote 27: Force, Collections, Vol. I., No. 5, p. 53.]

[Footnote 28: Weeden, I., 132, 160-1.]

[Footnote 29: Winthrop, History of New England, I., 111, 131.]

[Footnote 30: Connecticut Colonial Records, 1637, pp. 11, 18.]

[Footnote 31: Weeden, I., 126.]


Morton, in the work already referred to, protested against allowing "the Great Lake of the Erocoise" (Champlain) to the Dutch, saying that it is excellent for the fur trade, and that the Dutch have gained by beaver 20,000 pounds a year. Exaggerated though the statement is, it is true that the energies of the Dutch were devoted to this trade, rather than to agricultural settlement. As in the case of New France the settlers dispersed themselves in the Indian trade; so general did this become that laws had to be passed to compel the raising of crops.[32] New York City (New Amsterdam) was founded and for a time sustained by the fur trade. In their search for peltries the Dutch were drawn up the Hudson, up the Connecticut, and down the Delaware, where they had Swedes for their rivals. By way of the Hudson the Dutch traders had access to Lake Champlain, and to the Mohawk, the headwaters of which connected through the lakes of western New York with Lake Ontario. This region, which was supplied by the trading post of Orange (Albany), was the seat of the Iroquois confederacy. The results of the trade upon Indian society became apparent in a short time in the most decisive way. Furnished with arms by the Dutch, the Iroquois turned upon the neighboring Indians, whom the French had at first refrained from supplying with guns.[33] In 1649 they completely ruined the Hurons,[34] a part of whom fled to the woods of northern Wisconsin. In the years immediately following, the Neutral Nation and the Eries fell under their power; they overawed the New England Indians and the Southern tribes, and their hunting and war parties visited Illinois and drove Indians of those plains into Wisconsin. Thus by priority in securing firearms, as well as by their remarkable civil organization,[35] the Iroquois secured possession of the St. Lawrence and Lakes Ontario and Erie. The French had accepted the alliance of the Algonquins and the Hurons, as the Dutch, and afterward the English, had that of the Iroquois; so these victories of the Iroquois cut the French off from the entrance to the Great Lakes by way of the upper St. Lawrence. As early as 1629 the Dutch trade was estimated at 50,000 guilders per annum, and the Delaware trade alone produced 10,000 skins yearly in 1663.[36] The English succeeded to this trade, and under Governor Dongan they made particular efforts to extend their operations to the Northwest, using the Iroquois as middlemen. Although the French were in possession of the trade with the Algonquins of the Northwest, the English had an economic advantage in competing for this trade in the fact that Albany traders, whose situation enabled them to import their goods more easily than Montreal traders could, and who were burdened with fewer governmental restrictions, were able to pay fifty per cent more for beaver and give better goods. French traders frequently received their supplies from Albany, a practice against which the English authorities legislated in 1720; and the coureurs de bois smuggled their furs to the same place.[37] As early as 1666 Talon proposed that the king of France should purchase New York, "whereby he would have two entrances to Canada and by which he would give to the French all the peltries of the north, of which the English share the profit by the communication which they have with the Iroquois by Manhattan and Orange."[38] It is a characteristic of the fur trade that it continually recedes from the original center, and so it happened that the English traders before long attempted to work their way into the Illinois country.[39] The wars between the French and English and Iroquois must be read in the light of this fact. At the outbreak of the last French and Indian war, however, it was rather Pennsylvania and Virginia traders who visited the Ohio Valley. It is said that some three hundred of them came over the mountains yearly, following the Susquehanna and the Juniata and the headwaters of the Potomac to the tributaries of the Ohio, and visiting with their pack-horses the Indian villages along the valley. The center of the English trade was Pickawillani on the Great Miami. In 1749 Celoron de Bienville, who had been sent out to vindicate French authority in the valley, reported that each village along the Ohio and its branches "has one or more English traders, and each of these has hired men to carry his furs."[40]


[Footnote 32: New York Colonial Documents, I., 181, 389, Sec.7.]

[Footnote 33: Ibid. 182; Collection de manuscrits relatifs a la Nouvelle-France, I., 254; Radisson, 93.]

[Footnote 34: Parkman, Jesuits in North America; Radisson; Margry, Decouvertes et Etablissemens, etc., IV., 586-598; Tailhan, Nicholas Perrot.]

[Footnote 35: Morgan, League of the Iroquois.]

[Footnote 36: N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 408-9; V., 687, 726; Histoire et Commerce des Colonies Angloises, 154.]

[Footnote 37: N.Y. Col. Docs., III., 471, 474; IX., 298, 319.]

[Footnote 38: Ibid. IX., 57. The same proposal was made in 1681 by Du Chesneau, ibid. IX., 165.]

[Footnote 39: Parkman's works; N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 165; Shea's Charlevoix, IV., 16: "The English, indeed, as already remarked, from that time shared with the French in the fur trade; and this was the chief motive of their fomenting war between us and the Iroquois, inasmuch as they could get no good furs, which come from the northern districts, except by means of these Indians, who could scarcely effect a reconciliation with us without precluding them from this precious mine."]

[Footnote 40: Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, I., 50.]


The Indian trade of the Virginians was not limited to the Ohio country. As in the case of Massachusetts Bay, the trade had been provided for before the colony left England,[41] and in times of need it had preserved the infant settlement. Bacon's rebellion was in part due to the opposition to the governor's trading relations with the savages. After a time the nearer Indians were exploited, and as early as the close of the seventeenth century Virginia traders sought the Indians west of the Alleghanies.[42] The Cherokees lived among the mountains, "where the present states of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas join one another."[43] To the west, on the Mississippi, were the Chickasaws, south of whom lived the Choctaws, while to the south of the Cherokees were the Creeks. The Catawbas had their villages on the border of North and South Carolina, about the headwaters of the Santee river. Shawnese Indians had formerly lived on the Cumberland river, and French traders had been among them, as well as along the Mississippi;[44] but by the time of the English traders, Tennessee and Kentucky were for the most part uninhabited. The Virginia traders reached the Catawbas, and for a time the Cherokees, by a trading route through the southwest of the colony to the Santee. By 1712 this trade was a well-established one,[45] and caravans of one hundred pack-horses passed along the trail.[46]

The Carolinas had early been interested in the fur trade. In 1663 the Lords Proprietors proposed to pay the governor's salary from the proceeds of the traffic. Charleston traders were the rivals of the Virginians in the southwest. They passed even to the Choctaws and Chickasaws, crossing the rivers by portable boats of skin, and sometimes taking up a permanent abode among the Indians. Virginia and Carolina traders were not on good terms with each other, and Governor Spottswood frequently made complaints of the actions of the Carolinians. His expedition across the mountains in 1716, if his statement is to be trusted, opened a new way to the transmontane Indians, and soon afterwards a trading company was formed under his patronage to avail themselves of this new route.[47] It passed across the Blue Ridge into the Shenandoah valley, and down the old Indian trail to the Cherokees, who lived along the upper Tennessee. Below the bend at the Muscle Shoals the Virginians met the competition of the French traders from New Orleans and Mobile.[48]

The settlement of Augusta, Georgia, was another important trading post. Here in 1740 was an English garrison of fifteen or twenty soldiers, and a little band of traders, who annually took about five hundred pack-horses into the Indian country. In the spring the furs were floated down the river in large boats.[49] The Spaniards and the French also visited the Indians, and the rivalry over this trade was an important factor in causing diplomatic embroilment.[50]

The occupation of the back-lands of the South affords a prototype of the process by which the plains of the far West were settled, and also furnishes an exemplification of all the stages of economic development existing contemporaneously. After a time the traders were accompanied to the Indian grounds by hunters, and sometimes the two callings were combined.[51] When Boone entered Kentucky he went with an Indian trader whose posts were on the Red river in Kentucky.[52] After the game decreased the hunter's clearing was occupied by the cattle-raiser, and his home, as settlement grew, became the property of the cultivator of the soil;[53] the manufacturing era belongs to our own time.

In the South, the Middle Colonies and New England the trade opened the water-courses, the trading post grew into the palisaded town, and rival nations sought to possess the trade for themselves. Throughout the colonial frontier the effects, as well as the methods, of Indian traffic were strikingly alike. The trader was the pathfinder for civilization. Nor was the process limited to the east of the Mississippi. The expeditions of Verenderye led to the discovery of the Rocky Mountains.[54] French traders passed up the Missouri; and when the Lewis and Clarke expedition ascended that river and crossed the continent, it went with traders and voyageurs as guides and interpreters. Indeed, Jefferson first conceived the idea of such an expedition[55] from contact with Ledyard, who was organizing a fur trading company in France, and it was proposed to Congress as a means of fostering our western Indian trade.[56] The first immigrant train to California was incited by the representations of an Indian trader who had visited the region, and it was guided by trappers.[57]

St. Louis was the center of the fur trade of the far West, and Senator Benton was intimate with leading traders like Chouteau.[58] He urged the occupation of the Oregon country, where in 1810 an establishment had for a time been made by the celebrated John Jacob Astor; and he fostered legislation opening the road to the southwestern Mexican settlements long in use by the traders. The expedition of his son-in-law Fremont was made with French voyageurs, and guided to the passes by traders who had used them before.[59] Benton was also one of the stoutest of the early advocates of a Pacific railway.

But the Northwest[60] was particularly the home of the fur trade, and having seen that this traffic was not an isolated or unimportant matter, we may now proceed to study it in detail with Wisconsin as the field of investigation.


[Footnote 41: Charter of 1606.]

[Footnote 42: Ramsay, Tennessee, 63.]

[Footnote 43: On the Southwestern Indians see Adair, American Indians.]

[Footnote 44: Ramsay, 75.]

[Footnote 45: Spottswood's Letters, Virginia Hist. Colls., N.S., I., 67.]

[Footnote 46: Byrd Manuscripts, I., 180. The reader will find a convenient map for the southern region in Roosevelt, Winning of the West, I.]

[Footnote 47: Spottswood's Letters, I., 40; II., 149, 150.]

[Footnote 48: Ramsay, 64. Note the bearing of this route on the Holston settlement.]

[Footnote 49: Georgia Historical Collections, I., 180; II., 123-7.]

[Footnote 50: Spottswood. II., 331, for example.]

[Footnote 51: Ramsay, 65.]

[Footnote 52: Boone, Life and Adventures.]

[Footnote 53: Observations on the North American Land Co., pp. xv., 144, London, 1796.]

[Footnote 54: Margry, VI.]

[Footnote 55: Allen, Lewis and Clarke Expedition, I., ix.; vide post, pp. 70-71.]

[Footnote 56: Vide post, p. 71.]

[Footnote 57: Century Magazine, XLI., 759.]

[Footnote 58: Jessie Benton Fremont in Century Magazine, XLI., 766-7.]

[Footnote 59: Century Magazine, XLI., p. 759; vide post, p. 74.]

[Footnote 60: Parkman's works, particularly Old Regime, make any discussion of the importance of the fur trade to Canada proper unnecessary. La Hontan says: "For you must know that Canada subsists only upon the trade of skins or furs, three-fourths of which come from the people that live around the Great Lakes." La Hontan, I., 53, London, 1703.]


The importance of physical conditions is nowhere more manifest than in the exploration of the Northwest, and we cannot properly appreciate Wisconsin's relation to the history of the time without first considering her situation as regards the lake and river systems of North America.

When the Breton sailors, steering their fishing smacks almost in the wake of Cabot, began to fish in the St. Lawrence gulf, and to traffic with the natives of the mainland for peltries, the problem of how the interior of North America was to be explored was solved. The water-system composed of the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes is the key to the continent. The early explorations in a wilderness must be by water-courses—they are nature's highways. The St. Lawrence leads to the Great Lakes; the headwaters of the tributaries of these lakes lie so near the headwaters of the rivers that join the Mississippi that canoes can be portaged from the one to the other. The Mississippi affords passage to the Gulf of Mexico; or by the Missouri to the passes of the Rocky Mountains, where rise the headwaters of the Columbia, which brings the voyageur to the Pacific. But if the explorer follows Lake Superior to the present boundary line between Minnesota and Canada, and takes the chain of lakes and rivers extending from Pigeon river to Rainy lake and Lake of the Woods, he will be led to the Winnipeg river and to the lake of the same name. From this, by streams and portages, he may reach Hudson bay; or he may go by way of Elk river and Lake Athabasca to Slave river and Slave lake, which will take him to Mackenzie river and to the Arctic sea. But Lake Winnipeg also receives the waters of the Saskatchewan river, from which one may pass to the highlands near the Pacific where rise the northern branches of the Columbia. And from the lakes of Canada there are still other routes to the Oregon country.[61] At a later day these two routes to the Columbia became an important factor in bringing British and Americans into conflict over that territory.

In these water-systems Wisconsin was the link that joined the Great Lakes and the Mississippi; and along her northern shore the first explorers passed to the Pigeon river, or, as it was called later, the Grand Portage route, along the boundary line between Minnesota and Canada into the heart of Canada.

It was possible to reach the Mississippi from the Great Lakes by the following principal routes:[62]

1. By the Miami (Maumee) river from the west end of Lake Erie to the Wabash, thence to the Ohio and the Mississippi.

2. By the St. Joseph's river to the Wabash, thence to the Ohio.

3. By the St. Joseph's river to the Kankakee, and thence to the Illinois and the Mississippi.

4. By the Chicago river to the Illinois.

5. By Green bay, Fox river, and the Wisconsin river.

6. By the Bois Brule river to the St. Croix river.

Of these routes, the first two were not at first available, owing to the hostility of the Iroquois.

Of all the colonies that fell to the English, as we have seen, New York alone had a water-system that favored communication with the interior, tapping the St. Lawrence and opening a way to Lake Ontario. Prevented by the Iroquois friends of the Dutch and English from reaching the Northwest by way of the lower lakes, the French ascended the Ottawa, reached Lake Nipissing, and passed by way of Georgian Bay to the islands of Lake Huron. As late as the nineteenth century this was the common route of the fur trade, for it was more certain for the birch canoes than the tempestuous route of the lakes. At the Huron islands two ways opened before their canoes. The straits of Michillimackinac[63] permitted them to enter Lake Michigan, and from this led the two routes to the Mississippi: one by way of Green bay and the Fox and Wisconsin, and the other by way of the lake to the Chicago river. But if the trader chose to go from the Huron islands through Sault Ste. Marie into Lake Superior, the necessities of his frail craft required him to hug the shore, and the rumors of copper mines induced the first traders to take the south shore, and here the lakes of northern Wisconsin and Minnesota afford connecting links between the streams that seek Lake Superior and those that seek the Mississippi,[64] a fact which made northern Wisconsin more important in this epoch than the southern portion of the state.

We are now able to see how the river-courses of the Northwest permitted a complete exploration of the country, and that in these courses Wisconsin held a commanding situation,[65] But these rivers not only permitted exploration; they also furnished a motive to exploration by the fact that their valleys teemed with fur-bearing animals. This is the main fact in connection with Northwestern exploration. The hope of a route to China was always influential, as was also the search for mines, but the practical inducements were the profitable trade with the Indians for beaver and buffaloes and the wild life that accompanied it. So powerful was the combined influence of these far-stretching rivers, and the "hardy, adventurous, lawless, fascinating fur trade," that the scanty population of Canada was irresistibly drawn from agricultural settlements into the interminable recesses of the continent; and herein is a leading explanation of the lack of permanent French influence in America.


[Footnote 61: Narr. and Crit. Hist. Amer., VIII., 10-11.]

[Footnote 62: Narr. and Crit. Hist. Amer., IV., 224, n. 1; Margry, V. See also Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, I., map and pp. 38-9, 128.]

[Footnote 63: Mackinaw.]

[Footnote 64: See Doty's enumeration, Wis. Hist. Colls., VII., 202.]

[Footnote 65: Jes. Rels., 1672, p. 37; La Hontan, I., 105 (1703).]


"All that relates to the Indian tribes of Wisconsin," says Dr. Shea, "their antiquities, their ethnology, their history, is deeply interesting from the fact that it is the area of the first meeting of the Algic and Dakota tribes. Here clans of both these wide-spread families met and mingled at a very early period; here they first met in battle and mutually checked each other's advance." The Winnebagoes attracted the attention of the French even before they were visited. They were located about Green bay. Their later location at the entrance of Lake Winnebago was unoccupied, at least in the time of Allouez, because of the hostility of the Sioux. Early authorities represented them as numbering about one hundred warriors.[67] The Pottawattomies we find in 1641 at Sault Ste. Marie,[68] whither they had just fled from their enemies. Their proper home was probably about the southeastern shore and islands of Green bay, where as early as 1670 they were again located. Of their numbers in Wisconsin at this time we can say but little. Allouez, at Chequamegon bay, was visited by 300 of their warriors, and he mentions some of their Green bay villages, one of which had 300 souls.[69] The Menomonees were found chiefly on the river that bears their name, and the western tributaries of Green bay seem to have been their territory. On the estimates of early authorities we may say that they had about 100 warriors.[70] The Sauks and Foxes were closely allied tribes. The Sauks were found by Allouez[71] four leagues[72] up the Fox from its mouth, and the Foxes at a place reached by a four days' ascent of the Wolf river from its mouth. Later we find them at the confluence of the Wolf and the Fox. According to their early visitors these two tribes must have had something over 1000 warriors.[73] The Miamis and Mascoutins were located about a league from the Fox river, probably within the limits of what is now Green Lake county,[74] and four leagues away were their friends the Kickapoos. In 1670 the Miamis and Mascoutins were estimated at 800 warriors, and this may have included the Kickapoos. The Sioux held possession of the Upper Mississippi, and in Wisconsin hunted on its northeastern tributaries. Their villages were in later times all on the west of the Mississippi, and of their early numbers no estimate can be given. The Chippeways were along the southern shore of Lake Superior. Their numbers also are in doubt, but were very considerable.[75] In northwestern Wisconsin, with Chequamegon bay as their rendezvous, were the Ottawas and Hurons,[76] who had fled here to escape the Iroquois. In 1670 they were back again to their homes at Mackinaw and the Huron islands. But in 1666, as Allouez tells us, they were situated at the bottom of this beautiful bay, planting their Indian corn and leading a stationary life. "They are there," he says, "to the number of eight hundred men bearing arms, but collected from seven different nations who dwell in peace with each other thus mingled together."[77] And the Jesuit Relations of 1670 add that the Illinois "come here from time to time in great numbers as merchants to procure hatchets, cooking utensils, guns, and other things of which they stand in need." Here, too, came Pottawattomies, as we have seen, and Sauks.

At the mouth of Fox river[78] we find another mixed village of Pottawattomies, Sauks, Foxes, and Winnebagoes, and at a later period Milwaukee was the site of a similar heterogeneous community. Leaving out the Hurons, the tribes of Wisconsin were, with two exceptions, of the Algic stock. The exceptions are the Winnebagoes and the Sioux, who belong to the Dakota family. Of these Wisconsin tribes it is probable that the Sauks and Foxes, the Pottawattomies, the Hurons and Ottawas and the Mascoutins, and Miamis and Kickapoos, were driven into Wisconsin by the attacks of eastern enemies. The Iroquois even made incursions as far as the home of the Mascoutins on Fox river. On the other side of the state were the Sioux, "the Iroquois of the West," as the missionaries call them, who had once claimed all the region, and whose invasions, Allouez says, rendered Lake Winnebago uninhabited. There was therefore a pressure on both sides of Wisconsin which tended to mass together the divergent tribes. And the Green bay and Fox and Wisconsin route was the line of least resistance, as well as a region abounding in wild rice, fish and game, for these early fugitives. In this movement we have two facts that are not devoid of significance in institutional history: first, the welding together of separate tribes, as the Sauks and Foxes, and the Miamis, Mascoutins and Kickapoos; and second, a commingling of detached families from various tribes at peculiarly favorable localities.


[Footnote 66: On these early locations, consult the authorities cited by Shea in Wis. Hist. Colls., III., 125 et seq., and by Branson in his criticism on Shea, ibid. IV., 223. See also Butterfield's Discovery of the Northwest in 1634, and Mag. West. Hist., V., 468, 630; and Minn. Hist. Colls., V.]

[Footnote 67: Some early estimates were as follows: 1640, "Great numbers" (Margry, I., 48); 1718, 80 to 100 warriors (N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 889); 1728, 60 or 80 warriors (Margry, VI., 553); 1736, 90 warriors (Chaurignerie, cited in Schoolcraft's Indian Tribes, III., 282); 1761, 150 warriors (Gorrell, Wis. Hist. Colls., I., 32).]

[Footnote 68: Margry, I., 46.]

[Footnote 69: Jes. Rels., 1667, 1670.]

[Footnote 70: 1718, estimated at 80 to 100 warriors (N.Y. Col. Docs., IX.,889); 1762, estimated at 150 warriors (Gorrell, Wis. Hist. Colls., I., 32).]

[Footnote 71: Jes. Rels., 1670.]

[Footnote 72: French leagues.]

[Footnote 73: 1670, Foxes estimated at 400 warriors (Jes. Rels., 1670); 1667, Foxes, 1000 warriors (Jes. Rels., 1667); 1695, Foxes and Mascoutins, 1200 warriors (N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 633); 1718, Sauks 100 or 120, Foxes 500 warriors (2 Penn. Archives, VI., 54); 1728, Foxes, 200 warriors (Margry, V.); 1762, Sauks and Foxes, 700 warriors (Gorrell, Wis. Hist. Colls., I., 32). This, it must be observed, was after the Fox wars.]

[Footnote 74: Jes. Rels., 1670; Butterfield's Discovery of the Northwest.]

[Footnote 75: In 1820 those in Wisconsin numbered about 600 hunters.]

[Footnote 76: On these Indians consult, besides authorities already cited, Shea's Discovery, etc. lx.; Jes. Rels.; Narr. and Crit. Hist. of Amer., IV., 168-170, 175; Radisson's Voyages; Margry, IV., 586-598.]

[Footnote 77: Jes. Rels., 1666-7.]

[Footnote 78: Jes. Rels., 1670.]


The Indian trade was almost the sole interest in Wisconsin during the two centuries that elapsed from the visit of Nicolet in 1634 to about 1834, when lead-mining had superseded it in the southwest and land offices were opened at Green Bay and Mineral Point; when the port of Milwaukee received an influx of settlers to the lands made known by the so-called Black Hawk war; and when Astor retired from the American Fur Company. These two centuries may be divided into three periods of the trade: 1. French, from 1634 to 1763; 2. English, from 1763 to 1816; 3. American, from 1816 to 1834.


Sagard,[79] whose work was published in 1636, tells us that the Hurons, who traded with the French, visited the Winnebagoes and the Fire Nation (Mascoutins),[80] bartering goods for peltries. Champlain, the famous fur-trader, who represented the Company of the Hundred Associates,[81] formed by Richelieu to monopolize the fur trade of New France and govern the country, sent an agent named Jean Nicolet, in 1634,[82] to Green bay and Fox river to make a peace between the Hurons and the Winnebagoes in the interests of inter-tribal commerce. The importance of this phase of the trade as late as 1681 may be inferred from these words of Du Chesneau, speaking of the Ottawas, and including under the term the Petun Hurons and the Chippeways also: "Through them we obtain beaver, and although they, for the most part, do not hunt, and have but a small portion of peltry in their country, they go in search of it to the most distant places, and exchange for it our merchandise which they procure at Montreal." Among the tribes enumerated as dealing with the Ottawas are the Sioux, Satiks, Pottawattomies, Winnebagoes, Menomonees and Mascoutins—all Wisconsin Indians at this time. He adds: "Some of these tribes occasionally come down to Montreal, but usually they do not do so in very great numbers because they are too far distant, are not expert at managing canoes, and because the other Indians intimidate them, in order to be the carriers of their merchandise and to profit thereby."[83]

It was the aim of the authorities to attract the Indians to Montreal, or to develop the inter-tribal communication, and thus to centralize the trade and prevent the dissipation of the energies of the colony; but the temptations of the free forest traffic were too strong. In a memoir of 1697, Aubert de la Chesnaye says:

"At first, the French went only among the Hurons, and since then to Missilimakinak, where they sold their goods to the savages of the places, who in turn went to exchange them with other savages in the depths of the woods, lands and rivers. But at present the French, having licenses, in order to secure greater profit surreptitiously, pass all the 'Ottawas and savages of Missilimakinak in order to go themselves to seek the most distant tribes, which is very displeasing to the former. It is they, also, who have made excellent discoveries; and four or five hundred young men, the best men of Canada, are engaged in this business.... They have given us knowledge of many names of savages that we did not know; and four or five hundred leagues more remote are others who are unknown to us."[84]

Two of the most noteworthy of these coureurs de bois, or wood-rangers, were Radisson and Groseilliers.[85] In 1660 they returned to Montreal with 300 Algonquins and sixty canoes laden with furs, after a voyage in which they visited, among other tribes, the Pottawattomies, Mascoutins, Sioux, and Hurons, in Wisconsin. From the Hurons they learned of the Mississippi, and probably visited the river. They soon returned from Montreal to the northern Wisconsin region. In the course of their wanderings they had a post at Chequamegon bay, and they ascended the Pigeon river, thus opening the Grand Portage route to the heart of Canada. Among their exploits they induced England to enter the Hudson Bay trade, and gave the impetus that led to the organization of the Hudson Bay Company. The reports which these traders brought back had a most important effect in fostering exploration in the Northwest, and led to the visit of Menard, who was succeeded by Allouez, the pioneers of the Jesuits in Wisconsin.[86] Radisson gives us a good account of the early Wisconsin trade. Of his visit to the Ottawas he says:

"We weare wellcomed & made of saying that we weare the Gods and devils of the earth; that we should fournish them, & that they would bring us to their enemy to destroy them. We tould them [we] were very well content. We persuaded them first to come peaceably, not to distroy them presently, and if they would not condescend then would wee throw away the hatchett and make use of our thunders. We sent ambassadors to them wth guifts. That nation called Pontonatemick[87] without more adoe comes and meets us with the rest, and peace was concluded." "The savages," he writes, "love knives better than we serve God, which should make us blush for shame." In another place, "We went away free from any burden whilst those poore miserable thought themselves happy to carry our Equipage for the hope that they had that we should give them a brasse ring, or an awle, or an needle."[88] We find them using this influence in various places to make peace between hostile tribes, whom they threatened with punishment. This early commerce was carried on under the fiction of an exchange of presents. For example, Radisson says: "We gave them severall gifts and received many. They bestowed upon us above 300 robs of castors out of wch we brought not five to the ffrench being far in the country."[89] Among the articles used by Radisson in this trade were kettles, hatchets, knives, graters, awls, needles, tin looking-glasses, little bells, ivory combs, vermilion, sword blades, necklaces and bracelets. The sale of guns and blankets was at this time exceptional, nor does it appear that Radisson carried brandy in this voyage.[90]

More and more the young men of Canada continued to visit the savages at their villages. By 1660 the coureurs de bois formed a distinct class,[91] who, despite the laws against it, pushed from Michillimackinac into the wilderness. Wisconsin was a favorite resort of these adventurers. By the time of the arrival of the Jesuits they had made themselves entirely at home upon our lakes. They had preceded Allouez at Chequamegon bay, and when he established his mission at Green bay he came at the invitation of the Pottawattomies, who wished him to "mollify some young Frenchmen who were among them for the purpose of trading and who threatened and ill-treated them."[92] He found fur traders before him on the Fox and the Wolf. Bancroft's assertion[93] that "religious enthusiasm took possession of the wilderness on the upper lakes and explored the Mississippi," is misleading. It is not true that "not a cape was turned, nor a mission founded, nor a river entered, nor a settlement begun, but a Jesuit led the way." In fact the Jesuits followed the traders;[94] their missions were on the sites of trading posts, and they themselves often traded.[95]

When St. Lusson, with the coureur de bois, Nicholas Perrot, took official possession of the Northwest for France at the Sault Ste. Marie in 1671, the cost of the expedition was defrayed by trade in beaver.[96] Joliet, who, accompanied by Marquette, descended the Mississippi by the Fox and Wisconsin route in 1673, was an experienced fur trader. While Du Lhut, chief of the coureurs de bois, was trading on Lake Superior, La Salle,[97] the greatest of these merchants, was preparing his far-reaching scheme for colonizing the Indians in the Illinois region under the direction of the French, so that they might act as a check on the inroads of the Iroquois, and aid in his plan of securing an exit for the furs of the Northwest, particularly buffalo hides, by way of the Mississippi and the Gulf. La Salle's "Griffen," the earliest ship to sail the Great Lakes, was built for this trade, and received her only cargo at Green Bay. Accault, one of La Salle's traders, with Hennepin, met Du Lhut on the upper Mississippi, which he had reached by way of the Bois Brule and St. Croix, in 1680. Du Lhut's trade awakened the jealousy of La Salle, who writes in 1682: "If they go by way of the Ouisconsing, where for the present the chase of the buffalo is carried on and where I have commenced an establishment, they will ruin the trade on which alone I rely, on account of the great number of buffalo which are taken there every year, almost beyond belief."[98] Speaking of the Jesuits at Green Bay, he declares that they "have in truth the key to the beaver country, where a brother blacksmith that they have and two companions convert more iron into beaver than the fathers convert savages into Christians."[99] Perrot says that the beaver north of the mouth of the Wisconsin were better than those of the Illinois country, and the chase was carried on in this region for a longer period;[100] and we know from Dablon that the Wisconsin savages were not compelled to separate by families during the hunting season, as was common among other tribes, because the game here was so abundant.[101] Aside from its importance as a key to the Northwestern trade, Wisconsin seems to have been a rich field of traffic itself.

With such extensive operations as the foregoing in the region reached by Wisconsin rivers, it is obvious that the government could not keep the coureurs de bois from the woods. Even governors like Frontenac connived at the traffic and shared its profits. In 1681 the government decided to issue annual licenses,[102] and messengers were dispatched to announce amnesty to the coureurs de bois about Green Bay and the south shore of Lake Superior.[103]

We may now offer some conclusions upon the connection of the fur trade with French explorations:

1. The explorations were generally induced and almost always rendered profitable by the fur trade. In addition to what has been presented on this point, note the following:

In 1669, Patoulet writes to Colbert concerning La Salle's voyage to explore a passage to Japan: "The enterprise is difficult and dangerous, but the good thing about it is that the King will be at no expense for this pretended discovery."[104]

The king's instructions to Governor De la Barre in 1682 say that, "Several inhabitants of Canada, excited by the hope of the profit to be realized from the trade with the Indians for furs, have undertaken at various periods discoveries in the countries of the Nadoussioux, the river Mississipy, and other parts of America."[105]

2. The early traders were regarded as quasi-supernatural beings by the Indians.[106] They alone could supply the coveted iron implements, the trinkets that tickled the savage's fancy, the "fire-water," and the guns that gave such increased power over game and the enemy. In the course of a few years the Wisconsin savages passed from the use of the implements of the stone age to the use of such an important product of the iron age as firearms. They passed also from the economic stage in which their hunting was for food and clothing simply, to that stage in which their hunting was made systematic and stimulated by the European demand for furs. The trade tended to perpetuate the hunter stage by making it profitable, and it tended to reduce the Indian to economic dependence[107] upon the Europeans, for while he learned to use the white man's gun he did not learn to make it or even to mend it. In this transition stage from their primitive condition the influence of the trader over the Indians was all-powerful. The pre-eminence of the individual Indian who owned a gun made all the warriors of the tribe eager to possess like power. The tribe thus armed placed their enemies at such a disadvantage that they too must have like weapons or lose their homes.[108] No wonder that La Salle was able to say: "The savages take better care of us French than of their own children. From us only can they get guns and goods."[109] This was the power that France used to support her in the struggle with England for the Northwest.

3. The trader used his influence to promote peace between the Northwestern Indians.[110]


[Footnote 79: Histoire du Canada, 193-4 (edition of 1866).]

[Footnote 80: Dablon, Jesuit Relations, 1671.]

[Footnote 81: See Parkman, Pioneers, 429 ff. (1890).]

[Footnote 82: Margry, I., 50. The date rests on inference; see Bibliography of Nicolet in Wis. Hist. Colls., XI., and cf. Hebberd, Wisconsin under French Dominion, 14.]

[Footnote 83: N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 160.]

[Footnote 84: Margry, VI., 3; Coll. de Mamiscrits, I., 255, where the date is wrongly given as 1676. The italics are ours.]

[Footnote 85: Radisson, Voyages (Prince Soc. Pubs.); Margry, I., 53-55, 83; Jes. Rels., 1660; Wis. Hist. Colls., X., XI; Narrative and Critical Hist. Amer., IV., 168-173.]

[Footnote 86: Cf. Radisson, 173-5, and Jes. Rels., 1660, pp. 12, 30; 1663, pp. 17 ff.]

[Footnote 87: Pottawattomies in the region of Green Bay.]

[Footnote 88: Wis. Hist. Colls., XI., 67-8.]

[Footnote 89: Ibid. XI., 90.]

[Footnote 90: Radisson, 200, 217, 219.]

[Footnote 91: Suite, in Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, V., 141; N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 153, 140,152; Margry, VI., 3; Parkman, Old Regime, 310-315.]

[Footnote 92: Cf. Jes. Rels., 1670, p. 92.]

[Footnote 93: History of United States, II., 138 (1884).]

[Footnote 94: Harrisse, Notes sur la Nouvelle France, 174-181.]

[Footnote 95: Parkman, Old Regime, 328 ff., and La Salle, 98; Margry, II., 251; Radisson, 173.]

[Footnote 96: See Talon's report quoted in Narr. and Crit. Hist. Amer., IV., 175.]

[Footnote 97: Margry abounds in evidences of La Salle's commercial activity, as does Parkman's La Salle. See also Dunn, Indiana, 20-1.]

[Footnote 98: Margry, II., 254.]

[Footnote 99: Margry, II., 251.]

[Footnote 100: Tailhan's Perrot, 57.]

[Footnote 101: Jes. Rels., 1670.]

[Footnote 102: La Hontan, I., 53; N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 159; Parkman, Old Regime, 305.]

[Footnote 103: Margry, VI., 45.]

[Footnote 104: Margry, I., 81.]

[Footnote 105: N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 187. On the cost of such expeditions, see documents in Margry, I., 293-296; VI., 503-507. On the profits of the trade, see La Salle in 2 Penna. Archives, VI., 18-19.]

[Footnote 106: See Radisson, ante, p. 28.]

[Footnote 107: Vide post, p. 62.]

[Footnote 108: Vide ante, p. 14; Radisson, 154; Minn. Hist. Colls., V., 427. Compare the effects of the introduction of bronze weapons into Europe.]

[Footnote 109: Margry, II., 234. On the power possessed by the French through this trade consult also D'Iberville's plan for locating Wisconsin Indians on the Illinois by changing their trading posts; see Margry, IV., 586-598.]

[Footnote 110: Wis. Hist. Colls., XI., 67-8, 90; Narr. and Crit. Hist. Amer., IV., 182; Perrot, 327; Margry, VI., 507-509, 653-4.]


In the governorship of Dongan of New York, as has been noted, the English were endeavoring to secure the trade of the Northwest. As early as 1685, English traders had reached Michillimackinac, the depot of supplies for the coureur de bois, where they were cordially received by the Indians, owing to their cheaper goods[111]. At the same time the English on Hudson Bay were drawing trade to their posts in that region. The French were thoroughly alarmed. They saw the necessity of holding the Indians by trading posts in their midst, lest they should go to the English, for as Begon declared, the savages "always take the part of those with whom they trade."[112] It is at this time that the French occupation of the Northwest begins to assume a new phase. Stockaded trading posts were established at such key-points as a strait, a portage, a river-mouth, or an important lake, where also were Indian villages. In 1685 the celebrated Nicholas Perrot was given command of Green Bay and its dependencies[113]. He had trading posts near Trempealeau and at Fort St. Antoine on the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin where he traded with the Sioux, and for a time he had a post and worked the lead-mines above the Des Moines river. Both these and Fort St. Nicholas at the mouth of the Wisconsin[114] were dependencies of Green Bay. Du Lhut probably established Fort St. Croix at the portage between the Bois Brule river and the St. Croix.[115] In 1695 Le Sueur built a fort on the largest island above Lake Pepin, and he also asked the command of the post of Chequamegon.[116]

These official posts were supported by the profits of Indian commerce,[117] and were designed to keep the northwestern tribes at peace, and to prevent the English and Iroquois influence from getting the fur trade.


[Footnote 111: N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 296, 308; IV., 735.]

[Footnote 112: Quoted in Sheldon, Early History of Michigan, 310.]

[Footnote 113: Tailhan's Perrot, 156.]

[Footnote 114: Wis. Hist. Colls., X., 54, 300-302, 307, 321.]

[Footnote 115: Narr. and Crit. Hist. Amer., IV., 186.]

[Footnote 116: Margry, VI., 60. Near Ashland, Wis.]

[Footnote 117: Consult French MSS., 3d series, VI., Parl. Library, Ottawa, cited in Minn. Hist. Colls., V., 422; Id., V., 425. In 1731 M. La Ronde, having constructed at his own expense a bark of forty tons on Lake Superior, received the post of La Pointe de Chagouamigon as a gratuity to defray his expenses. See also the story of Verenderye's posts, in Parkman's article in Atlantic Monthly, June, 1887, and Margry, VI. See also 2 Penna. Archives, VI., 18; La Hontan, I., 53; N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 159; Tailhan, Perrot, 302.]


In 1683 Perrot had collected Wisconsin Indians for an attack on the Iroquois, and again in 1686 he led them against the same enemy. But the efforts of the Iroquois and the English to enter the region with their cheaper and better goods, and the natural tendency of savages to plunder when assured of supplies from other sources, now overcame the control which the French had exercised. The Sauks and Foxes, the Mascoutins, Kickapoos and Miamis, as has been described, held the Fox and Wisconsin route to the West, the natural and easy highway to the Mississippi, as La Hontan calls it.[118] Green Bay commanded this route, as La Pointe de Chagouamigon[119] commanded the Lake Superior route to the Bois Brule and the St. Croix. One of Perrot's main objects was to supply the Sioux on the other side of the Mississippi, and these were the routes to them. To the Illinois region, also, the Fox route was the natural one. The Indians of this waterway therefore held the key to the French position, and might attempt to prevent the passage of French goods and support English influence and trade, or they might try to monopolize the intermediate trade themselves, or they might try to combine both policies.

As early as 1687 the Foxes, Mascoutins and Kickapoos, animated apparently by hostility to the trade carried on by Perrot with the Sioux, their enemy at that time, threatened to pillage the post at Green Bay.[120] The closing of the Ottawa to the northern fur trade by the Iroquois for three years, a blow which nearly ruined Canada in the days of Frontenac, as Parkman has described,[121] not only kept vast stores of furs from coming down from Michillimackinac; it must, also, have kept goods from reaching the northwestern Indians. In 1692 the Mascoutins, who attributed the death of some of their men to Perrot, plundered his goods, and the Foxes soon entered into negotiation with the Iroquois.[122] Frontenac expressed great apprehension lest with their allies on the Fox and Wisconsin route they should remove eastward and come into connection with the Iroquois and the English, a grave danger to New France.[123] Nor was this apprehension without reason.[124] Even such docile allies as the Ottawas and Pottawattomies threatened to leave the French if goods were not sent to them wherewith to oppose their enemies. "They have powder and iron," complained an Ottawa deputy; "how can we sustain ourselves? Have compassion, then, on us, and consider that it is no easy matter to kill men with clubs."[125] By the end of the seventeenth century the disaffected Indians closed the Fox and Wisconsin route against French trade.[126] In 1699 an order was issued recalling the French from the Northwest, it being the design to concentrate French power at the nearer posts.[127] Detroit was founded in 1701 as a place to which to attract the northwestern trade and intercept the English. In 1702 the priest at St. Joseph reported that the English were sending presents to the Miamis about that post and desiring to form an establishment in their country.[128] At the same date we find D'Iberville, of Louisiana, proposing a scheme for drawing the Miamis, Mascoutins and Kickapoos from the Wisconsin streams to the Illinois, by changing their trading posts from Green Bay to the latter region, and drawing the Illinois by trading posts to the lower Ohio.[129] It was shortly after this that the Miamis and Kickapoos passed south under either the French or English influence,[130] and the hostility of the Foxes became more pronounced. A part of the scheme of La Motte Cadillac at Detroit was to colonize Indians about that post,[131] and in 1712 Foxes, Sauks, Mascoutins, Kickapoos, Pottawattomies, Hurons, Ottawas, Illinois, Menomonees and others were gathered there under the influence of trade. But soon, whether by design of the French and their allies or otherwise, hostilities broke out against the Foxes and their allies. The animus of the combat appears in the cries of the Foxes as they raised red blankets for flags and shouted "We have no father but the English!" while the allies of the French replied, "The English are cowards; they destroy the Indians with brandy and are enemies of the true God!" The Foxes were defeated with great slaughter and driven back to Wisconsin.[132] From this time until 1734 the French waged war against the Foxes with but short intermissions. The Foxes allied themselves with the Iroquois and the Sioux, and acted as middlemen between the latter and the traders, refusing passage to goods on the ground that it would damage their own trade to allow this.[133] They fostered hostilities between their old foes the Chippeways and their new allies the Sioux, and thus they cut off English intercourse with the latter by way of the north. This trade between the Chippeways and the Sioux was important to the French, and commandants were repeatedly sent to La Pointe de Chagouamigon and the upper Mississippi to make peace between the two tribes.[134] While the wars were in progress the English took pains to enforce their laws against furnishing Indian goods to French traders. The English had for a time permitted this, and their own Indian trade had suffered because the French were able to make use of the cheap English goods. By their change in policy the English now brought home to the savages the fact that French goods were dearer.[135] Moreover, English traders were sent to Niagara to deal directly with "the far Indians," and the Foxes visited the English and Iroquois, and secured a promise that they might take up their abode with the latter and form an additional member of the confederacy in case of need.[136] As a counter policy the French attempted to exterminate the Foxes, and detached the Sioux from their alliance with the Foxes by establishing Fort Beauharnois, a trading post on the Minnesota side of Lake Pepin.[137]

The results of these wars were as follows:

1. They spread the feeling of defection among the Northwestern Indians, who could no longer be restrained, as at first, by the threat of cutting off their trade, there being now rivals in the shape of the English, and the French traders from Louisiana.[138]

2. They caused a readjustment of the Indian map of Wisconsin. The Mascoutins and the Pottawattomies had already moved southward to the Illinois country. Now the Foxes, driven from their river, passed first to Prairie du Chien and then down the Mississippi. The Sauks went at first to the Wisconsin, near Sauk Prairie, and then joined the Foxes. The Winnebagoes gradually extended themselves along the Fox and Wisconsin. The Chippeways,[139] freed from their fear of the Foxes, to whom the Wolf and the Wisconsin had given access to the northern portion of the state, now passed south to Lac du Flambeau,[140] to the headwaters of the Wisconsin, and to Lac Court Oreilles.[141]

3. The closing of the Fox and Wisconsin route fostered that movement of trade and exploration which at this time began to turn to the far Northwest along the Pigeon river route into central British America, in search of the Sea of the West,[142] whereby the Rocky Mountains were discovered; and it may have aided in turning settlement into the Illinois country.

4. These wars were a part of a connected series, including the Iroquois wars, the Fox wars, the attack of the Wisconsin trader, Charles de Langlade, upon the center of English trade at Pickawillany,[143] Ohio, and the French and Indian war that followed. All were successive stages of the struggle against English trade in the French possessions.


[Footnote 118: La Hontan, I., 105.]

[Footnote 119: Near Ashland, Wis.]

[Footnote 120: Tailhan, Perrot, 139, 302.]

[Footnote 121: Frontenac, 315-316. Cf. Perrot, 302.]

[Footnote 122: Perrot, 331; N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 633.]

[Footnote 123: Ibid.]

[Footnote 124: N.Y. Col. Docs., IV., 732-7.]

[Footnote 125: N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 673.]

[Footnote 126: Shea, Early Voyages, 49.]

[Footnote 127: Kingsford, Canada, II., 394; N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 635.]

[Footnote 128: Margry, V.,219.]

[Footnote 129: Ibid. IV., 597.]

[Footnote 130: Wis. Hist. Colls., III., 149; Smith, Wisconsin, II., 315.]

[Footnote 131: Coll. de Manus., III., 622.]

[Footnote 132: See Hebberd's account, Wisconsin under French Dominion; Coll. de Manus., I., 623; Smith, Wisconsin, II., 315.]

[Footnote 133: Margry, VI., 543.]

[Footnote 134: Tailhan, Perrot, passim; N.Y. Col. Docs., IX., 570, 619, 621; Margry, VI., 507-509, 553, 653-4; Minn. Hist. Colls., V., 422, 425; Wis. Hist. Colls., III., 154.]

[Footnote 135: N.Y. Col. Docs., V., 726 ff.]

[Footnote 136: Ibid. IV., 732, 735, 796-7; V., 687, 911.]

[Footnote 137: Margry, VI., 553, 563, 575-580; Neill in Mag. Western History, November, 1887.]

[Footnote 138: Perrot, 148; Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, I., 42; Hebberd, Wisconsin under French Dominion, chapters on the Fox wars.]

[Footnote 139: Minn. Hist. Colls., V., 190-1.]

[Footnote 140: Oneida county.]

[Footnote 141: Sawyer county.]

[Footnote 142: Margry, VI.]

[Footnote 143: Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, I., 84, and citations; vide post, p. 41.]


Settlement was not the object of the French in the Northwest. The authorities saw as clearly as do we that the field was too vast for the resources of the colony, and they desired to hold the region as a source of peltries, and contract their settlements. The only towns worthy of the name in the Northwest were Detroit and the settlements in Indiana and Illinois, all of which depended largely on the fur trade.[144] But in spite of the government the traffic also produced the beginnings of settlement in Wisconsin. About the middle of the century, Augustin de Langlade had made Green Bay his trading post. After Pontiac's war,[145] Charles de Langlade[146] made the place his permanent residence, and a little settlement grew up. At Prairie du Chien French traders annually met the Indians, and at this time there may have been a stockaded trading post there, but it was not a permanent settlement until the close of the Revolutionary war. Chequamegon bay was deserted[147] at the outbreak of the French war. There may have been a regular trading post at Milwaukee in this period, but the first trader recorded is not until 1762.[148] Doubtless wintering posts existed at other points in Wisconsin.

The characteristic feature of French occupancy of the Northwest was the trading post, and in illustration of it, and of the centralized administration of the French, the following account of De Repentigny's fort at Sault Ste. Marie (Michigan) is given in the words of Governor La Jonquiere to the minister for the colonies in 1751:[149]

"He arrived too late last year at the Sault Ste. Marie to fortify himself well; however, he secured himself in a sort of fort large enough to receive the traders of Missilimakinac.... He employed his hired men during the whole winter in cutting 1100 pickets of fifteen feet for his fort, with the doublings, and the timber necessary for the construction of three houses, one of them thirty feet long by twenty wide, and two others twenty-five feet long and the same width as the first. His fort is entirely furnished with the exception of a redoubt of oak, which he is to have made twelve feet square, and which shall reach the same distance above the gate of the fort. His fort is 110 feet square.

"As for the cultivation of the lands, the Sieur de Repentigny has a bull, two bullocks, three cows, two heifers, one horse and a mare from Missilimakinac.... He has engaged a Frenchman who married at Sault Ste. Marie an Indian woman to take a farm; they have cleared it and sowed it, and without a frost they will gather 30 to 35 sacks of corn. The said Sieur de Repentigny so much feels it his duty to devote himself to the cultivation of these lands that he has already entered into a bargain for two slaves[150] whom he will employ to take care of the corn[151] that he will gather upon these lands."


[Footnote 144: Fergus, Historical Series, No. 12; Breese, Early History of Illinois; Dunn, Indiana; Hubbard, Memorials of a Half Century; Monette, History of the Valley of the Mississippi, I., ch. iv.]

[Footnote 145: Henry, Travels, ch. x.]

[Footnote 146: See Memoir in Wis. Hist. Colls., VII.; III., 224; VII., 127, 152, 166.]

[Footnote 147: Henry, Travels.]

[Footnote 148: Wis. Hist. Colls., I., 35.]

[Footnote 149: Minn. Hist. Colls., V., 435-6.]

[Footnote 150: Indians. Compare Wis. Hist. Colls., III., 256; VII., 158, 117, 179.]

[Footnote 151: The French minister for the colonies expressing approval of this post writes in 1752: "As it can hardly be expected that any other grain than corn will grow there, it is necessary at least for a while to stick to it, and not to persevere stubbornly in trying to raise wheat." On this Dr. E.D. Neill comments: "Millions of bushels of wheat from the region west and north of Lake Superior pass every year ... through the ship canal at Sault Ste. Marie." The corn was for supplying the voyageurs.]


While they had been securing the trade of the far Northwest and the Illinois country, the French had allowed the English to gain the trade of the upper Ohio,[152] and were now brought face to face with the danger of losing the entire Northwest, and thus the connection of Canada and Louisiana. The commandants of the western posts were financially as well as patriotically interested. In 1754, Green Bay, then garrisoned by an officer, a sergeant and four soldiers, required for the Indian trade of its department thirteen canoes of goods annually, costing about 7000 livres each, making a total of nearly $18,000.[153] Bougainville asserts that Marin, the commandant of the department of the Bay, was associated in trade with the governor and intendant, and that his part netted him annually 15,000 francs.

When it became necessary for the French to open hostilities with the English traders in the Ohio country, it was the Wisconsin trader, Charles de Langlade, with his Chippeway Indians, who in 1752 fell upon the English trading post at Pickawillany and destroyed the center of English trade in the Ohio region.[154] The leaders in the opening of the war that ensued were Northwestern traders. St. Pierre, who commanded at Fort Le Boeuf when Washington appeared with his demands from the Governor of Virginia that the French should evacuate the Ohio country, had formerly been the trader in command at Lake Pepin on the upper Mississippi.[155] Coulon de Villiers, who captured Washington at Fort Necessity, was the son of the former commandant at Green Bay.[156] Beaujeau, who led the French troops to the defeat of Braddock, had been an officer in the Fox wars.[157] It was Charles de Langlade who commanded the Indians and was chiefly responsible for the success of the ambuscade.[158] Wisconsin Indians, representing almost all the tribes, took part with the French in the war.[159] Traders passed to and from their business to the battlefields of the East. For example, De Repentigny, whose post at Sault Ste. Marie has been described, was at Michillimackinac in January, 1755, took part in the battle of Lake George in the fall of that year, formed a partnership to continue the trade with a trader of Michillimackinac in 1756, was at that place in 1758, and in 1759 fought with Montcalm on the heights of Abraham.[160] It was not without a struggle that the traders yielded their beaver country.


[Footnote 152: Margry, VI., 758.]

[Footnote 153: Canadian Archives, 1886, clxxii.]

[Footnote 154: Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, I., 84.]

[Footnote 155: Minn. Hist. Colls., V., 433. Washington was guided to the fort along an old trading route by traders; the trail was improved by the Ohio Company, and was used by Braddock in his march (Sparks, Washington's Works, II., 302).]

[Footnote 156: Wis. Hist. Colls., V., 117.]

[Footnote 157: Ibid., 115.]

[Footnote 158: Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, II., 425-6. He was prominently engaged in other battles; see Wis. Hist. Colls., VII., 123-187.]

[Footnote 159: Wis. Hist. Colls., V., 117.]

[Footnote 160: Neill, in Mag. West. Hist., VII., 17, and Minn. Hist. Colls., V., 434-436. For other examples see Wis. Hist. Colls., V., 113-118; Minn. Hist. Colls., V., 430-1.]


In the meantime what was the attitude of the English toward the Northwest? In 1720 Governor Spotswood of Virginia wrote:[161] "The danger which threatens these, his Maj'ty's Plantations, from this new Settlement is also very considerable, for by the communication which the French may maintain between Canada and Mississippi by the conveniency of the Lakes, they do in a manner surround all the British Plantations. They have it in their power by these Lakes and the many Rivers running into them and into the Mississippi to engross all the Trade of the Indian Nations w'ch are now supplied from hence."

Cadwallader Colden, Surveyor-General of New York, says in 1724: "New France (as the French now claim) extends from the mouth of the Mississippi to the mouth of the River St. Lawrence, by which the French plainly shew their intention of enclosing the British Settlements and cutting us off from all Commerce with the numerous Nations of Indians that are everywhere settled over the vast continent of North America."[162] As time passed, as population increased, and as the reports of the traders extolled the fertility of the country, both the English and the French, but particularly the Americans, began to consider it from the standpoint of colonization as well as from that of the fur trade.[163] The Ohio Company had both settlement and the fur trade in mind,[164] and the French Governor, Galissoniere, at the same period urged that France ought to plant a colony in the Ohio region.[165] After the conquest of New France by England there was still the question whether she should keep Canada and the Northwest.[166] Franklin, urging her to do so, offered as one argument the value of the fur trade, intrinsically and as a means of holding the Indians in check. Discussing the question whether the interior regions of America would ever be accessible to English settlement and so to English manufactures, he pointed out the vastness of our river and lake system, and the fact that Indian trade already permeated the interior. In interesting comparison he called their attention to the fact that English commerce reached along river systems into the remote parts of Europe, and that in ancient times the Levant had carried on a trade with the distant interior.[167]

That the value of the fur trade was an important element in inducing the English to retain Canada is shown by the fact that Great Britain no sooner came into the possession of the country than she availed herself of the fields for which she had so long intrigued. Among the western posts she occupied Green Bay, and with the garrison came traders;[168] but the fort was abandoned on the outbreak of Pontiac's war.[169] This war was due to the revolt of the Indians of the Northwest against the transfer of authority, and was fostered by the French traders.[170] It concerned Wisconsin but slightly, and at its close we find Green Bay a little trading community along the Fox, where a few families lived comfortably[171] under the quasi-patriarchal rule of Langlade.[172] In 1765 trade was re-established at Chequamegon Bay by an English trader named Henry, and here he found the Chippeways dressed in deerskins, the wars having deprived them of a trader.[173]

As early as 1766 some Scotch merchants more extensively reopened the fur trade, using Michillimackinac as the basis of their operations and employing French voyageurs.[174] By the proclamation of the King in 1763 the Northwest was left without political organization, it being reserved as crown lands and exempt from purchase or settlement, the design being to give up to the Indian trade all the lands "westward of the sources of the rivers which fall into the sea from the West and Northwest as aforesaid." In a report of the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations in 1772 we find the attitude of the English government clearly set forth in these words:[175]

"The great object of colonization upon the continent of North America has been to improve and extend the commerce and manufactures of this kingdom.... It does appear to us that the extension of the fur trade depends entirely upon the Indians being undisturbed in the possession of their hunting grounds, and that all colonization does in its nature and must in its consequence operate to the prejudice of that branch of commerce.... Let the savages enjoy their deserts in quiet. Were they driven from their forests the peltry trade would decrease."

In a word, the English government attempted to adopt the western policy of the French. From one point of view it was a successful policy. The French traders took service under the English, and in the Revolutionary war Charles de Langlade led the Wisconsin Indians to the aid of Hamilton against George Rogers Clark,[176] as he had before against the British, and in the War of 1812 the British trader Robert Dickson repeated this movement.[177] As in the days of Begon, "the savages took the part of those with whom they traded." The secret proposition of Vergennes, in the negotiations preceding the treaty of 1783, to limit the United States by the Alleghanies and to give the Northwest to England, while reserving the rest of the region between the mountains and the Mississippi as Indian territory under Spanish protection,[178] would have given the fur trade to these nations.[179] In the extensive discussions over the diplomacy whereby the Northwest was included within the limits of the United States, it has been asserted that we won our case by the chartered claims of the colonies and by George Rogers Clark's conquest of the Illinois country. It appears, however, that in fact Franklin, who had been a prominent member and champion of the Ohio Company, and who knew the West from personal acquaintance, had persuaded Shelburne to cede it to us as a part of a liberal peace that should effect a reconciliation between the two countries. Shelburne himself looked upon the region from the point of view of the fur trade simply, and was more willing to make this concession than he was some others. In the discussion over the treaty in Parliament in 1783, the Northwestern boundary was treated almost solely from the point of view of the fur trade and of the desertion of the Indians. The question was one of profit and loss in this traffic. One member attacked Shelburne on the ground that, "not thinking the naked independence a sufficient proof of his liberality to the United States, he had clothed it with the warm covering of our fur trade." Shelburne defended his cession "on the fair rule of the value of the district ceded,"[180] and comparing exports and imports and the cost of administration, he concluded that the fur trade of the Northwest was not of sufficient value to warrant continuing the war. The most valuable trade, he argued, was north of the line, and the treaty merely applied sound economic principles and gave America "a share in the trade." The retention of her Northwestern posts by Great Britain at the close of the war, in contravention of the treaty, has an obvious relation to the fur trade. In his negotiations with Hammond, the British ambassador in 1791, Secretary of State Jefferson said: "By these proceedings we have been intercepted entirely from the commerce of furs with the Indian nations to the northward—a commerce which had ever been of great importance to the United States, not only for its intrinsic value, but as it was the means of cherishing peace with these Indians, and of superseding the necessity of that expensive warfare which we have been obliged to carry on with them during the time that these posts have been in other hands."[181]

In discussing the evacuation of the posts in 1794 Jay was met by a demand that complete freedom of the Northwestern Indian trade should be granted to British subjects. It was furthermore proposed by Lord Grenville[182] that, "Whereas it is now understood that the river Mississippi would at no point thereof be intersected by such westward line as is described in the said treaty [1783]; and whereas it was stipulated in the said treaty that the navigation of the Mississippi should be free to both parties"—one of two new propositions should be accepted regarding the northwestern boundary. The maps in American State Papers, Foreign Relations, I., 492, show that both these proposals extended Great Britain's territory so as to embrace the Grand Portage and the lake region of northern Minnesota, one of the best of the Northwest Company's fur-trading regions south of the line, and in connection by the Red river with the Canadian river systems.[183] They were rejected by Jay. Secretary Randolph urged him to hasten the removal of the British, stating that the delay asked for, to allow the traders to collect their Indian debts, etc., would have a bad effect upon the Indians, and protesting that free communication for the British would strike deep into our Indian trade.[184] The definitive treaty included the following provisions:[185] The posts were to be evacuated before June 1, 1796. "All settlers and traders, within the precincts or jurisdiction of the said posts, shall continue to enjoy, unmolested, all their property of every kind, and shall be protected therein. They shall be at full liberty to remain there, or to remove with all or any part of their effects; and it shall also be free to them to sell their lands, houses, or effects, or to retain the property thereof, at their discretion; such of them as shall continue to reside within the said boundary lines shall not be compelled to become citizens of the United States, or to take any oath of allegiance to the government thereof; but they shall be at full liberty to do so if they think proper, and they shall make and declare their election within one year after the evacuation aforesaid. And all persons who shall continue there after the expiration of the said year without having declared their intention of remaining subjects of his British Majesty shall be considered as having elected to become citizens of the United States." "It is agreed that it shall at all times be free to His Majesty's subjects, and to the Indians dwelling on either side of the said boundary line, freely to pass and repass by land or inland navigation into the respective territories and countries of the two parties on the continent of America (the country within the limits of the Hudson's Bay Company only excepted), and to navigate all the lakes, rivers and waters thereof, and freely to carry on trade and commerce with each other."

In his elaborate defence of Jay's treaty, Alexander Hamilton paid much attention to the question of the fur trade. Defending Jay for permitting so long a delay in evacuation and for granting right of entry into our fields, he minimized the value of the trade. So far from being worth $800,000 annually, he asserted the trade within our limits would not be worth $100,000, seven-eighths of the traffic being north of the line. This estimate of the value of the northwestern trade was too low. In the course of his paper he made this observation:[186]

"In proportion as the article is viewed on an enlarged plan and permanent scale, its importance to us magnifies. Who can say how far British colonization may spread southward and down the west side of the Mississippi, northward and westward into the vast interior regions towards the Pacific ocean?... In this large view of the subject, the fur trade, which has made a very prominent figure in the discussion, becomes a point scarcely visible. Objects of great variety and magnitude start up in perspective, eclipsing the little atoms of the day, and promising to grow and mature with time."

Such was not the attitude of Great Britain. To her the Northwest was desirable on account of its Indian commerce. By a statement of the Province of Upper Canada, sent with the approbation of Lieutenant-General Hunter to the Duke of Kent, Commander-in-Chief of British North America, in the year 1800, we are enabled to see the situation through Canadian eyes:[187]

"The Indians, who had loudly and Justly complained of a treaty [1783] in which they were sacrificed by a cession of their country contrary to repeated promises, were with difficulty appeased, however finding the Posts retained and some Assurances given they ceased to murmur and resolved to defend their country extending from the Ohio Northward to the Great Lakes and westward to the Mississippi, an immense tract, in which they found the deer, the bear, the wild wolf, game of all sorts in profusion. They employed the Tomahawk and Scalping Knife against such deluded settlers who on the faith of the treaty to which they did not consent, ventured to cross the Ohio, secretly encouraged by the Agents of Government, supplied with Arms, Ammunition, and provisions they maintained an obstinate & destructive war against the States, cut off two Corps sent against them.... The American Government, discouraged by these disasters were desirous of peace on any terms, their deputies were sent to Detroit, they offered to confine their Pretensions within certain limits far South of the Lakes. if this offer had been accepted the Indian Country would have been for ages an impassible Barrier between us. twas unfortunately perhaps wantonly rejected, and the war continued."

Acting under the privileges accorded to them by Jay's treaty, the British traders were in almost as complete possession of Wisconsin until after the war of 1812 as if Great Britain still owned it. When the war broke out the keys of the region, Detroit and Michillimackinac, fell into the British hands. Green Bay and Prairie du Chien were settlements of French-British traders and voyageurs. Their leader was Robert Dickson, who had traded at the latter settlement. Writing in 1814 from his camp at Winnebago Lake, he says: "I think that Bony [Bonaparte] must be knocked up as all Europe are now in Arms. The crisis is not far off when I trust in God that the Tyrant will be humbled, & the Scoundrel American Democrats be obliged to go down on their knees to Britain."[188] Under him most of the Wisconsin traders of importance received British commissions. In the spring of 1814 the Americans took Prairie du Chien, at the mouth of the Wisconsin river, whereupon Col. M'Douall, the British commandant at Michillimackinac, wrote to General Drummond:[189] ... "I saw at once the imperious necessity which existed of endeavoring by every means to dislodge the American Genl from his new conquest, and make him relinquish the immense tract of country he had seized upon in consequence & which brought him into the very heart of that occupied by our friendly Indians, There was no alternative it must either be done or there was an end to our connection with the Indians for if allowed to settle themselves by dint of threats bribes & sowing divisions among them, tribe after tribe would be gained over or subdued, & thus would be destroyed the only barrier which protects the great trading establishments of the North West and the Hudson's Bay Companys. Nothing could then prevent the enemy from gaining the source of the Mississippi, gradually extending themselves by the Red river to Lake Winnipic, from whense the descent of Nelsons river to York Fort would in time be easy."

The British traders, voyageurs and Indians[190] dislodged the Americans, and at the close of the war England was practically in possession of the Indian country of the Northwest.

In the negotiations at Ghent the British commissioners asserted the sovereignty of the Indians over their lands, and their independence in relation to the United States, and demanded that a barrier of Indian territory should be established between the two countries, free to the traffic of both nations but not open to purchase by either.[191] The line of the Grenville treaty was suggested as a basis for determining this Indian region. The proposition would have removed from the sovereignty of the United States the territory of the Northwest with the exception of about two-thirds of Ohio,[192] and given it over to the British fur traders. The Americans declined to grant the terms, and the United States was finally left in possession of the Northwest.


[Footnote 161: Va. Hist. Colls., N.S., II, 329.]

[Footnote 162: N.Y. Col. Docs., V., 726.]

[Footnote 163: Indian relations had a noteworthy influence upon colonial union; see Lucas, Appendiculae Historicae, 161, and Frothingham, Rise of the Republic, ch. iv.]

[Footnote 164: Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, I., 59; Sparks, Washington's Works, II., 302.]

[Footnote 165: Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, I., 21.]

[Footnote 166: Ibid. II., 403.]

[Footnote 167: Bigelow, Franklin's Works, III., 43, 83, 98-100.]

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