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Political history — Sovereignty of France, Spain, France and the United
States Missouri debate - Indian legislation - Platte purchase — Organization of the territories - Nebraska debate.
Up to the summer of 1854, Kanzas and Nebraska have had no civilized residents, except the soldiers sent to keep the Indian tribes in order, the missionaries sent to convert them, the traders who bought furs of them, and those of the natives who
be considered to have attained some measure of civilization from their connection with the whites.
For a region that has had so little practical connection with the political arrangements of civilized states, this immense territory has had a political history singularly varied.
It has been successively under the dominion of France, of Spain, of France again, and of the United States. A part of Kanzas was under the dominion of Mexico. The government of the United States now resigns its sovereignty to the men who shall settle in it, under the modern phrase of allowing “squatter sovereignty” to the first comers.
Discovered by Dutisne, so far as appears, in 1719, the valleys of the Kanzas and Nebraska were then claimed as a
part of the empire of Louis XIV. A very short time after, a Spanish force, from New Mexico, ravaged an Indian village, and was cut to pieces by the savages. It is probable that the Spanish government of that province always made some claims to the neighboring regions east of the mountains. By the treaty of November, 1762, France ceded to Spain all her possessions west of the Mississippi, and these territories, which she had never in any form settled, and scarcely begun to explore, passed under the dominion of the Spanish crown with the rest.
Spanish garrisons were then placed in the forts on the Mississippi, and that at St. Louis was thus occupied with the rest. But Spain took no notice of such distant regions as Kanzas and Nebraska, which have not yet been cursed by any discoveries of gold or silver.
In 1795 the free navigation of the Mississippi was secured to the United States, by treaty. But, in 1798, the Spanish posts north of the parallel of 31° were evacuated, and when, in 1801, some representations were made by the United States government for redress for violations of the treaty, the Spanish government replied that it had ceded the whole territory to France again. The French force destined for the occupation of the country was, however, blockaded in the Dutch ports by the English, and Mr. Jefferson seized the occasion for that celebrated negotiation, by which, for fifteen million dollars, he purchased the whole territory of Louisiana.
The whole region having thus passed peacefully into the hands of the United States, was divided, in 1804, into two parts, the territorial government of Orleans, and the district of Louisiana. A territorial government was afterwards established in this district.“ Orleans," in 1812, was admitted as a state into the Union, under the name of Louisiana. The Louisiana territory was then known under the general name of the Missouri territory, of which the only parts settled. by whites were some plantations in Arkansas and the eastern parts of Missouri.
The government still exercised no further sovereignty over the parts of this territory which are the especial subjects of the present volume, except to send out exploring expeditions, and to pass laws regulating trade with the Indians. The great expedition of Lewis and Clarke passed up the Missouri in 1804. They wintered at Fort Mandan, went up the river to its sources, and across to the Pacific the next year, and returned in 1806. In this year Lieut. Pike was sent to survey the country east of the Rocky Mountains, in the valleys of the Nebraska, Kanzas and Arkansas. He performed his task with bravery and assiduity, but, having trespassed on Spanish territory, under the mistaken impression that he was on the sources of the Arkansas, was taken prisoner with his men and carried to Santa Fé. They were afterwards set at liberty and sent to Nachitoches. In 1819 and 1820, an expedition, under Maj. Long, examined the
valley of the Nebraska, crossed to the Arkansas, and descended the valley of that stream.
In 1818 the population of the settled parts of the territory of Missouri had become so considerable that the inhabitants were desirous of admission into the Union. A bill for that purpose was introduced into Congress, in the session of 1818 and 1819. It did not attract very general attention out of Congress at that time. The proceedings of Congress were not so immediately known or so thoroughly canvassed through the country then as now. The bill was lost at that session, because the House of Representatives insisted on what was then called “the Restriction,” introduced by Mr. Taylor, of New York, providing that in the new state involuntary servitude should not exist. The Senate refused to concur with the House in the "Restriction," and the bill was lost.
Rufus King, of New York, had distinguished himself in the Senate by urging "the Restriction.” As the next session of Congress approached, the necessity of fixing it upon the bill attracted universal attention at the North. Mr. King was greatly interested in calling to it the general interest of the public. The substance of his speeches of the last session, as prepared by himself for the press, was printed and circulated widely. Before the session of Congress a public meeting was held in New York, to insist on the adoption of the “Restriction” in the Missouri bill. It was addressed by Mr. King, and was the first of a series of similar meetings held at the principal towns in the Northern States.
On the discussion thus begun, the future institutions of the territory, still unsettled, in a measure depended. And the great question was battled, not as if it concerned Missouri only, but as one in which all the future of the West was concerned.
It has been often said, during the past year, that the excitement on the similar question regarding Nebraska and Kanzas is unparalleled. This is said only by those who have not examined the history of the “Missouri debate.” Incidents occurred every day which showed the deep-seated excitement and irritation of the public mind at the North and at the South.
Such, for instance, was the display of wounded pride at Savannah. A disastrous fire had ravaged that city. Its government had implored relief from abroad in the most earnest tones. Public meetings and contributions at the North answered this call. Among other cities, New York acted, and remitted near eleven thousand dollars for the relief of the sufferers. It happened that, just before, New York had sent similar relief to the town of Schenectady, ravaged in the same way. The worthy citizens of Schenectady regarded this as a gift to all who had lost, partaking of the nature of insurance, and divided it pro rata among the sufferers, giving most, of course, to those richest inhabitants who had most to lose. Fearful of such a disposition of