A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part VII, Chapter 66." by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-)
From: This country of ours; the story of the United States by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-) New York, George H. Doran company, 1917.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


CHAPTER 66
JEFFERSON–HOW THE TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES WAS DOUBLED

ADAMS was an honest and patriotic man, but he never won the love of the people as Washington had done. And when in 1801 his term of office came to an end he went back to his country home. There he spent the rest of his life as a simple citizen.

 

Thomas Jefferson was the next President–the first to be inaugurated in the new capital. He had been Vice-President with Adams, and was already well known in politics. It was he who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and he was in every way one of the greatest statesmen of his time. He was a lanky, sweet-tempered, sandy coloured man. He wore badly fitting clothes, and hated ceremony of all kinds. He was quite determined not to have any fuss over his inauguration, so dressed as plainly as possible, he rode to the Capitol by himself, tied his horse to the palings and walked into the Senate Chamber alone, just like any ordinary man.

Jefferson first President inaugurated in Washington

This lack of ceremony he kept up throughout all the time he was President. Indeed he sometimes overdid it and offended people. Once the British Minister was to be presented to him and went dressed in his grandest uniform. But to his disgust he found Jefferson in the very shabbiest of clothes, and slippers down at the heel. So the good gentleman went away feeling that the President of the United States had meant to insult not merely himself but the King he represented.

 

It was while Jefferson was President that Ohio joined the Union as the seventeenth state. For a long time there had been a few squatters on the land. But it was only after the Revolution that it really began to be inhabited by white men.

Ohio joins the Union, 1803

In 1788 about fifty men led by Rufus Putnam, "the Father of Ohio," settled there. They founded a town and called it Marietta in honour of Maria Antoinette, the French Queen. Others followed, and soon villages were sprinkled all along the north bank of the Ohio River.

 

Then some years later Moses Cleaveland founded the town of Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie. But all along the banks of the Ohio Indians lived. And they would not let the white men settle on their land without protest. So the new settlers were constantly harassed and in danger of their lives, and many murders were committed.

 

At length it was decided that this must cease. And as the Indians would listen to no argument General St. Clair with an army of eighteen hundred men marched against them. He did not know the country, and he had no guide. Late one evening in November he encamped in the woods. At dawn the next day he was awakened by the blood-curdling cry of the Indians. The men sprang to arms, but in the night the Indians had completely surrounded them, and the fight was hopeless. For four hours the slaughter lasted; then the white men fled, leaving half their number dead upon the field.

General St. Clair's defeat, 1791

It was one of the worst defeats white men ever suffered at the hands of the Indians. The whole countryside was filled with horror and the Redmen exulted in their victory. The President tried to reason with them, but they would not listen. The only thing that would satisfy them was that the white men should withdraw beyond the Ohio.

 

This the white men refused to do, and they sent another large force against the Indians. This time the force was under the command of General Wayne. In a great battle he utterly defeated the Indians. Afterwards he held a grand council with them. And they, knowing themselves defeated, swore peace forevermore with the white men, and acknowledged their right to the land beyond the Ohio.

General Anthony Wayne's victory, 1794

This was the first great council that the Indians had ever held with the "thirteen fires" of the United States. They kept their treaty faithfully, and not one of the chiefs who swore peace to General Wayne ever again lifted the war hatchet against the Pale-faces.

 

And now that peace with the Indians was secure, many settlers flocked into the country, and in 1803 Ohio was received into the Union as the seventeenth state.

 

But the most interesting and important thing which happened during Jefferson's time of office was the Louisiana Purchase. By this a vast territory was added to the United States.

The Louisiana Purchase, 1803

You remember that at the Peace of Paris after the British had conquered Canada, the French gave up to Spain all their claims to the great tract of land beyond the Mississippi called Louisiana. When France gave up that vast territory to Spain she was weak. But now again she was strong–far stronger than Spain–for the great soldier Napoleon Bonaparte had risen to power. He now looked with longing eyes on the lost province of Louisiana, and by a secret treaty he forced the King of Spain to give back Louisiana to France.

 

As soon as this treaty was made known there was great excitement in the United States. For if France planted colonies all along the Mississippi the Americans would be shut out from the West, they might even be shut off from the Mississippi, and unable to use it for trade. And to the states bordering upon it this would have been a great misfortune. For in days when there were few roads, and no railways, the Mississippi was the only trade route for the Western States.

The Mississippi a great trade route

Having weighed these matters seriously Jefferson determined if possible to buy New Orleans from the French, and thus make sure of a passage up and down the great river. And he sent James Monroe to Paris to arrange this.

James Monroe sent to Paris

A few months earlier nothing would have induced Napoleon to sell any part of Louisiana, for he dreamed of again founding a New France across the Atlantic. But now war threatened with Britain. He did not love the United States, but he hated Britain. He would rather, he thought, crush Britain than found a New France. To crush Britain, however, he must have money, and the great idea came to him that he could make money out of Louisiana by selling it to the Americans. So he offered it to them for twenty million dollars.

 

The Americans, however, would not pay so much, and at length after some bargaining the price of fifteen million dollars was agreed upon, and the whole of Louisiana passed to the American Government, and the territory of the United States was made larger by more than a million square miles.

 

"We may live long," said Livingston, who with Monroe had carried the business through, "we may live long, but this is the noblest work of our lives. It will change vast solitudes into smiling country."

 

And indeed, after the Revolution, and the great Civil War which was to come later, the Louisiana Purchase is the greatest event in American History.

Three greatest events in the History of the United States

As to Napoleon, he was well pleased with his bargain. For besides getting money to help him in his wars he believed that he had made the United States powerful enough to fight and conquer Britain. And as he hated Britain the idea pleased him. "This increase of territory," he said, "assures the power of the United States for all time. And I have given England a rival which sooner or later will abase her pride."

 

As a matter of fact, however, Napoleon had really no right to sell Louisiana. For in his treaty with Spain he had promised not to yield it to any foreign government. And when the Spaniards knew what he had done they were very angry. But Napoleon did not care; he did as he liked.

 

The flag of Spain had been hauled down, and the flag of France run up with great ceremony. But not for long did the French flag float over New Orleans. In less than three weeks it was hauled down and with firing of cannon and ringing of bells the Stars and Stripes was hoisted.

 

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom