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CHAP. warm friend of the United States, unused to the tricks of .
diplomacy, he really wished to act generously for the in1809. terests of both nations, and not selfishly for his own. He
knew that Britain would derive great advantage from the renewal of trade with the United States, and hoped that the latter might be induced to take sides in the present struggle against France.
In accordance with the spirit of certain instructions, Erskine thought himself authorized to offer “a suitable provision for the widows and orphans of those who were killed on board the Chesapeake,” and to announce the conditional repeal of the Orders in Council as far as they applied to the commerce of the United States. This re
peal was to take place on the tenth of the following June. 1810. The President, on this assurance, issued a proclamation,
giving permission for a renewal of commercial intercourse April. with Great Britain. The news was hailed with joy
throughout the land. In a few weeks more than a thousand ships, laden with American produce, were on their way to foreign markets. This gleam of sunshine was soon
obscured. Four months after the President issued another Aug. proclamation ; he now recalled the previous one, and again
established non-intercourse between the two countries.
The British ministry had disavowed the provisional arrangement made by Erskine, giving as one reason that he had gone beyond his instructions. In the communication accepting Erskine's offer to provide for the sufferers in the Chesapeake affair, the provision was spoken of as an "act of justice comporting with what was due from his Britannic majesty to his own honor.” This uncourteous remark gave offence, and furnished another pretext for breaking off the negotiation.
The failure of this arrangement, which had promised so much, greatly mortified the President and his cabinet, and as greatly wounded the self-respect of the nation. In consequence of this feeling, Jackson, the special envoy,
MERCHANTS ASK PERMISSION TO ARM THEIR SHIPS.
sent soon after by England, was not very graciously re- CHAP. ceived. Negotiations were, however, commenced with him, but after exchanging angry notes for some months, 1810. all diplomatic intercourse was suspended between the two countries.
American commerce had now less protection than ever. In the desperate conflict going on in Europe it was impossible to obtain redress from any of the belligerents. The ocean swarmed with French and English cruisers, while Danish privateers infested the northern seas. They all enjoyed a rich harvest in plundering American merchantmen, under the convenient pretence that they carried goods contraband of war. Great numbers of ships thus pillaged were burned at sea to destroy all traces of the robbery. Willing to trust to their own genius to escape capture, the American merchants asked permission to arm their ships in self-defence. Congress denied the request, on the ground that such a state of affairs would be war !
The people, however, thought there was litt' to choose between actual war and a system of active legal ized piracy. Even the planters and farmers, finding on their hands a vast amount of produce, for which a market was denied, were now inclined to strengthen the navy, that it might protect commerce, or if necessary make an irruption into Canada, and by that means compel Great Britain to repeal her odious decrees.
France in the mean time was committing greater outrages on American commerce than even England. Bonaparte issued a decree, the Rambouillet, by which any American vessel that entered a French port or a port of any country under French control, was declared liable to Mar confiscation. It shows the deliberate design of this piratical decree, that it was not promulgated till six weeks after its date. The first intimation American merchants received of its existence, was the seizure of one hundred and thirty-two of their ships, in French ports. These
CHAP. were soon after sold with their cargoes, and the money, XLII.
amounting to eight millions of dollars, placed in the 1810. French treasury. Expostulations against such high-handed
measures were treated with contempt and insult. The French minister of foreign affairs even charged the United States “with a want of honor, energy, and just political views,” in not defending themselves. Bonaparte's great object was to drive them into a war with England, and thus exclude from her American produce. With this intention he pretended he would revoke the Berlin and Milan decrees, on condition the United States would make their rights respected, or in other words, go to war with England. At this time the only port in Europe really open to American commerce was that of Archangel in Russia. There American ships, after running the gauntlet between French and Danish cruisers, landed their cargoes of merchandise, which were thence smuggled into France and Germany.
Ere long Bonaparte's want of money mastered his hatred of England, and he unblushingly became the violator of his own decrees, and sold to the Americans, at enormous prices, licenses which gave them permission to introduce their products into French ports.
None felt the national insult given in the Chesapeake affair so deeply as the naval officers. They were anxiously watching for an opportunity to retaliate.
The frigate President, Captain Rodgers, was cruising off the capes of Delaware, when a strange sloop-of-war gave chase, but when within a few miles, her signals not being answered, she stood to the southward. The President now in turn gave chase, and in the twilight of the evening came within hailing distance. Rodgers hailed, but was answered by the same question ; another hail was given with a similar result. The stranger fired a gun, which was replied to by one from the President. These were
TECUMSEH AND THE PROPHET.
succeeded by broadsides from both vessels. The action CHAP. lasted about twenty minutes, when the stranger was completely disabled. Rodgers hailed again, and now
was 1810. answered that the vessel was his Majesty's sloop-of-war
16. Little Belt. The disparity in the injury done to the respective vessels was quite remarkable. The Little Belt had more than thirty of her crew killed and wounded, while the President was scarcely injured, and had only one person slightly wounded. The affair created much excitement in both nations, and served to increase tha: alienation of feeling which had been so long in existence. The statements of the commanding officers differed very much as to the commencement of the encounter, but as each government accepted the testimony of its own officers, the matter was permitted to drop.
The census just taken, showed the following result:the ratio of representation was fixed at thirty-five thousand :
All others. Totals. Reps. 5,862,093. 1,191,364. 186,446. 7,239,903. 182.
Events of serious interest were occurring on the western frontier. Numbers of Indian tribes from time to time had ceded their lands and moved farther west. But the insatiable white man still pressed on ; his cultivated fields still encroached upon the Indian's hunting-grounds, and game was fast disappearing. When is this grasping at land to end ? asked the savages of each other. Two brothers, twins, of the Shawnee tribe, resolved to free their brethren from the aggressions of the settlers. Their plans were well laid, and showed an intimate knowledge of the secret of influence. The one, Tecumseh, was to play the warrior's part, the other Elskwatawa, more commonly known as the Prophet, appealed to their superstitions ; he professed to be a wonderful medicineman, and in communication with the Great Spirit.
Tecumseh travelled from tribe to tribe, all along the
CHAP frontiers, from north of the great lakes to the Gulf of XLII.
Mexico, and by his eloquence endeavored to unite them 1811. in a universal conspiracy against the common enemy.
He knew the attempt to expel the invaders would be vain, but he hoped his people would unite as one man, and refuse to sell them any more of their lands. To accomplish their purpose the Indians must be independent ; they must dispense with the few comforts they received from the white man, and they must spurn the religion which missionaries had been laboring to teach them. The Prophet fulfilled his part; he awed his simple auditors with imposing powwows; the Great Spirit had given him marvellous powers. He could at a word make pumpkins, as large as wigwams, spring out of the earth ; or ears of corn, each large enough to feed a dozen men; he appealed to their reverence for the customs of their ancestors, and sneered at their degradation in being the slave of the white man's whiskey, or fire-water, as he significantly called it. He must be obeyed—they must throw aside the blanket and dress in skins ; instead of the gun they must use the ancient bow and arrow ; and the iron tomahawk must give place to the stone hatchet of their fathers; but above all, they must discard the religion of the white man; it was the rejection of their ancient religion, which made the Great Spirit so angry.
Alarm spread along the frontier settlements. The Miamis had sold a portion of their lands on both sides of the Wabash. Tecumseh was absent at the time, but protested afterward, contending that as all the lands belonged equally to all the Indians, no tribe had a right to sell a portion of them without the consent of the others.
General William Henry Harrison, the Governor of the Territory of Indiana, held a conference with Tecumseh, who at the time professed to be friendly, but his conduct afterward excited suspicion. Lest the Indians should unexpectedly commence hostilities, Harrison marched to