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.
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.
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."
Three greatest events in the History of the United States
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.
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.
Chapter 67 - Jefferson - How the Door Into the Far West was Opened
Very little was known of this vast territory which was thus added to the United States. For the most part it was pathless wilderness where no white man had ever set foot. Long before the Louisiana Purchase Jefferson had wanted to send out an exploring party into this unknown west. Now he was more anxious for it than ever. And at length he succeeded in getting an expedition sent out.
The leaders of this expedition were two young officers, Captain Merriwether Lewis and William Clark. From their names the expedition is usually known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
They made very careful preparations and in 1804 they set out with about twenty-seven men to explore the river Missouri.
Some years before this a United States Captain, Robert Grey, had discovered a great river in the west coast of America and called it the Columbia, after the name of his ship. And now what Lewis and Clark had set out to do was to reach that river from the east.
It is impossible to tell here of all their thrilling adventures, for they would fill a whole book. I can only give you the merest outline. But some day you will no doubt read the whole story as Lewis and Clark tell it themselves.
The expedition started from the mouth of the Missouri, and at first the explorers passed by the scattered farms and little villages where white men lived. But these were the farthest outposts of civilisation; soon they were left behind, and the little band of white men were in a land inhabited only by Redskins. The current was so swift and the wind so often in the wrong direction that sails were almost useless, and the boats were rowed, punted and towed upstream with a great deal of hard labour. Some of the travelers went in the boats, others rode or walked along the bank. These last did the hunting and kept the expedition supplied with meat.
One of the leaders always went with those on shore. For it was often difficult for the two parties to keep together. Sometimes the river wound about, and those on land could take a short cut, while at other times those on land had to make a wide circuit to avoid marshes or steep precipices. The river was full of fish, and the land swarmed with game. Antelopes, deer, black bear, turkeys, geese, ducks, in fact all sorts of birds and beasts were abundant. There were also great quantities of delicious wild grapes as well as plums, currants and other fruits; so the travelers had no lack of food.
They met many tribes of Indians and they nearly all seemed friendly, for both Lewis and Clark knew well how to treat Indians. When they came into their land they called the chiefs together to a council, and made them a speech telling them that the land was no longer Spanish but American. The Indians would pretend to be pleased at the change, but really they understood nothing about it. But they liked the medals and other trinkets which the white men gave them. And most of them were very anxious to have some of the "Great Father's Milk" by which they meant whiskey. But one tribe refused it.
"We marvel," they said, "that our brothers should give us drink which will make us fools. No man can be our friend who would lead us into such folly."
Until the end of October the expedition kept on, always following the course of the Missouri, north-west. But the weather now became very cold; ice began to form on the river, and the explorers determined to camp for the winter. Not far from what is now the town of Bismarck, North Dakota, they built themselves a little village of log huts and called it Fort Mandan, for the country belonged to the Mandan Indians.
Here they met both French and British fur traders, who in spite of the bitter weather came from Assiniboia, about a hundred and fifty miles north, to trade for furs with the Indians.
The weather was bitterly cold, but the men were fairly comfortable in their log huts, and they had plenty to do. They went upon hunting expeditions to get food, they built boats, and they set up a forge. This last greatly interested the Indians who brought their axes and kettles to be mended, and in return gave the white men grain. Soon the smith was the busiest man in the whole company, the bellows particularly interesting the Redmen.
Indeed everything about the white strangers was so interesting to the Indians that they were nearly always in their huts. On Christmas Day the travelers only got rid of their inquisitive visitors by telling them that it was a great medicine day with the white people, when no strangers were allowed near them, and they must keep away.
The travelers stayed at Fort Mandan till the beginning of April; then the ice being melted on the river they set out again.
Game now became more than ever plentiful, and they had several encounters with huge grizzly bears. The Indians had told the explorers terrible stories about these bears. They themselves had such great respect for them that they never went out to hunt them without putting on their war paint, and making as great preparations as if they were going to fight some enemy tribe.
The white men too soon came to have a great respect for them. "I find," wrote Lewis, in his journal, "that the curiosity of our party is pretty well satisfied with respect to this animal. He has staggered the resolution of several of them."
Later on he added, "I must confess that I do not like the gentlemen, and had rather fight two Indians than one bear."
One day Lewis was on shore, and seeing a herd of buffalo shot one for supper. After it fell he stood looking at it, and forgot to load his rifle again. While standing thus he suddenly saw a large bear creeping towards him. Instantly he lifted his rifle, but remembered in a flash that it was not loaded. He had no time to load, so he thought the best thing he could do was to walk away as fast as he could.
It was in an open plain with not a bush or tree near; and as Lewis retreated the bear ran open-mouthed at full speed after him. Lewis took to his heels and fled. But the bear ran so fast that Lewis soon saw that it would be impossible to escape, for the bear was gaining fast upon him. Then suddenly it flashed across his mind that if he jumped into the river he might escape. So turning short he leaped into the water. Then facing about he pointed his halberd at the bear. Seeing this the bear suddenly stopped on the bank not twenty feet away. Then as if he were frightened he turned tail and ran away as fast as he had come.
Lewis was glad enough to escape so easily, and he made up his mind that never again would he allow his rifle to be unloaded even for a moment.
Other dangers, too, beset the travelers. One day Lewis and his companions were following the boats along the bluffs which rose high above the water's edge. The ground was so slippery that they could only with difficulty keep their feet. Once Lewis slipped and only saved himself by means of the pike which he carried from being hurled into the river a hundred feet below. He had just reached a spot where he could stand fairly safely when he heard a voice behind him cry out: "Good God! Captain, what shall I do?"
He turned instantly and saw that one of his men who had lost his foothold had slipped down to the very edge of the precipice and was now hanging half over it. One leg and arm were over, and with the other he clung frantically to the edge of the cliff.
Lewis saw at once that the man was in great danger of falling and being dashed to pieces below. But he hid his fear.
"You are in no danger," he said in a calm voice. Then he told the man to take his knife out of his belt and dig a hole in the side of the cliff for his right foot. The man, steadied by his leader's calm voice, did as he was told and in a few minutes was able to drag himself up to the top of the cliff. Then on his hands and knees he crawled along till he was again in safety.
After two months the travelers reached the great falls of the Missouri River. Here they had to leave the water, and carry their boats overland until they arrived above the rapids. It was no easy matter and they were all by this time worn and weary. So they camped for a few days, and made a rough sort of cart on which to carry the boats. For they were too worn out to carry them on their shoulders. But the way was so rough that long before the end of the journey the cart broke down.
Then began a most painful march. The country was covered with prickly pear, and the thorns of it pierced the men's moccasins and wounded their feet. The sun was so hot that they had to rest every few minutes, and they were so tired that they fell asleep at every stopping place. Yet there were no grumblers, and in spite of the many hardships they went on cheerfully, and after ten days' hard work they were above the rapids.
They were now right among the Rocky Mountains. These they crossed, and after many more adventures, dangers and hardships at last - on the 8th of November - they arrived within sight of the Pacific.
"Great joy in the camp," wrote Lewis. "We are in view of the ocean, this great Pacific Ocean, which we have been so long anxious to see."
Having at length reached the Columbia River the travelers sailed down it to its mouth, and so reached the shores of the Pacific and the end of their journey.
They spent the winter on the Pacific coast and towards the end of March set out again on their homeward way. The return journey was almost as full of hardships and dangers as the outward one had been. But all were safely overcome and on the 20th of September the explorers arrived once more at St. Louis whence they had set out more than two years before.
Every one was delighted to see them back. They were also surprised, for the whole expedition had long ago been given up as lost. But far from being lost every man of them returned except one who had died not long after they had left St. Louis.
Since they set out, these bold adventurers had marched nine thousand miles over barren deserts, across snow-topped mountains, through wildernesses yet untrodden by the foot of any white man. They had passed among savage and unknown tribes, and kept peace with them. They had braved a thousand dangers, and had returned triumphant over them all. The great journey from sea to sea had been accomplished, and the door into the Far West opened.
Other travelers and explorers trod fast upon the heels of Lewis and Clark. Hunters, and fur-traders, and settlers followed them, and bit by bit the West became known and peopled. But in the story of that growth the names of Merriwether Lewis and William Clark will always be first, for it was they who threw open the door into the Far West.
Chapter 68 - Jefferson - About An American Who Wanted to be a King
When Jefferson had been chosen President, another man named Aron Burr had run him very close. And, when the final choice fell on Jefferson, Aron Burr became Vice-President. He was much disappointed at not becoming President, and a few years later he tried to be elected Governor of New York. But again, someone else was chosen, and Burr was again very much disappointed, and he began to blame Alexander Hamilton, who for many years had been his constant rival, for all his failure. So he challenged Hamilton to fight a duel.
In those days, duels were still common, for people had not come to see that they were both wicked and foolish. Hamilton did not want to fight, but he knew people would call him coward if he did not. He was not brave enough to stand that. So he fought.
Early one July morning in 1804, the two men met. Burr took steady aim and fired, Hamilton, firing wildly into the air, fell forward dying.
Hamilton had been selfish and autocratic, and many people disliked him. Now when they heard of his death, they forgot that. They only remembered how much the nation owed to the man who had put their money matters right. The whole country rose in anger against Burr, and called him a murderer.
Seeing the outcry against him becoming so great, Burr fled to Philadelphia. But even there, people looked at him askance, so he decided to go for a tour in the West.
His travels took him to Marietta, Ohio, the little town which had been founded by Rufus Putnam; then to Cincinnati and Louisville, and so southward till he reached New Orleans.
There he began to have secret meetings with all the chief men, for Burr was now full of a great idea.
He had failed to get into power in the United States, and his failure had made him bitter. He had killed the man who he thought was his greatest enemy. And that, instead of helping him, had caused the people to cast him out altogether. Now he determined to own an empire for himself, and have nothing more to do with the United States. He had in fact made up his mind to divide the West from the East, and make himself Emperor of the West under the title of Aron I. The Empire was to be kept in the family, and his beautiful daughter Theodosia was to be Queen after him; but it was gravely debated whether her husband could take the title of King or not.
The mad scheme grew daily. Burr's plan was suddenly to seize both President and Vice-President. Then having the heads of government in his power he would next lay hands on the public money and the navy. He would take what ships he wanted, burn the rest, and, sailing to New Orleans, he would proclaim his empire. But Burr dare not let every one know his real intentions, and so he gave out that he meant to lead an expedition against Mexico.
As time went on hundreds of people knew of his conspiracy. It was talked of everywhere. But Jefferson paid no heed. He did not believe that Burr meant any treason against the Union. So the conspirators went on building boats, and arming men, undisturbed.
But things did not go so smoothly as Burr had hoped. He had expected to get help from Britain, and he got none. He had expected help from Spain, and he got none. Still he went on with his scheming. He had even written out his Declaration of Independence it was said, when suddenly the end came. One of Burr's friends betrayed him and at length President Jefferson woke up to what was going on.
At once he issued a proclamation declaring that a conspiracy against Spain was being carried on, and commanding all officers of the United States to seize the persons engaged in the plot. No name was mentioned in the proclamation, but Burr knew his plot was discovered. Once more he had failed; and he fled. He changed clothes with a boatman on the Mississippi, and vanished into the forest.
For a month no one knew where he was, for beneath the battered white felt and homespun clothes of a river boatman no one recognised the dapper politician.
Meanwhile Burr was slowly making his way east hoping to reach the coast, and get away in some ship. He had still many friends, and one night he stopped at a cottage to ask his way to the house of one of these friends. In the cottage were two young men. One of them, named Perkins, looked keenly at the stranger. It seemed to him that his face and clothes were not in keeping, and his boots looked to smart for the rest of his get up.
After the stranger had gone he still thought about it. Then suddenly he said, "That was Aron Burr. Let us go after him and arrest him."
The other man, however, laughed at him, and refused to stir. So Perkins went off alone to find the sheriff, and soon the two were riding posthaste after the stranger.
When they reached the house to which Burr had asked the way, Perkins stayed outside with the horses, and the sheriff went into the house. He was going to arrest a bold bad man, and it would be a great feather in his cap. So in he marched feeling very firm and grand, expecting to find a terrible ruffian of a fellow. But instead of a terrible ruffian the sheriff found a pleasant, delightful gentleman, and a brilliant talker. So the poor sheriff's heart failed him. He really could not arrest this charming gentleman, and instead he stayed to hear him talk.
Meanwhile out in the cold Perkins waited with the horses, and as the hours went past and the sheriff did not return he guessed what had happened. But he was not going to be done out of his capture. So he went off to the captain of the fort, and told him of his discovery. The captain was not so easily charmed as the sheriff, and before the next evening Burr found himself a prisoner in the fort.
There he remained for about three weeks; then he was sent to Richmond, Virginia, to be tried.
It was a journey of about a thousand miles, and in those days there were of course no railways and even few roads. A great part of the way led through pathless forest and wilderness, and the whole journey had to be done on horseback. But Perkins undertook to see the thing through, and with a guard of nine men they set off.
It was a toilsome march. They had to carry food with them, and as often as not had to sleep in the open air. They swam their horses over rivers, and picked their way through swamps, while hostile Indians hung about their track. Every day was the same, but still day after day they pushed on.
Once Burr tried to escape. They were riding through a small town in South Carolina where he knew that he had many friends. So suddenly he leapt from his horse crying out, "I am Aron Burr, a prisoner. I claim your protection."
But as quick as lightning Perkins was off his horse too, and with a pistol in either hand he stood before Burr.
"Mount," he said; "get up."
The two men glared at each other.
"I will not," replied Burr defiantly, heedless of the pistols.
Perkins had no wish to shed blood. Burr was not a very big man. For an instant Perkins measured him with his eye. Then throwing his pistols down, without a word he seized his prisoner, and lifted him into his saddle, as if he had been a child. And almost before the townspeople had realised what had happened the company was well on its way again.
The trial was long and exciting. Most people believed Burr guilty of treason, but it was difficult to prove. So in the end he was set free.
The American people, however, would have nothing more to do with him. The law might say he was innocent, but nevertheless they felt he was a traitor. So he was hunted and hounded from place to place, and at length changing his name he slipped on board a ship and sailed for Europe.
But even there he found no peace. He was turned out of England, and looked upon with suspicion in France. He was often penniless and in want, and after four years of unhappy wandering he returned home.
He found that he and his misdeeds were well nigh forgotten. No one took any notice of him. So taking no more part in public life he quietly settled down in New York.
Under all the blows of fortune Burr never bowed his head. For although every one else might think him a traitor his beautiful daughter Theodosia believed in him and loved him. He as passionately loved her, and in all his wanderings he carried her portrait with him.
But now the worst misfortunes of his life overtook him. For a few weeks after he landed in America, Theodosia wrote to tell him that her little boy had died. This was a great grief to Burr, for he loved his grandson only a little less than his daughter.
The worst was still to come, however. Theodosia set out from Carolina to visit her father. But the ship in which she sailed never came to port. It was never heard of again, and all on board were lost.
Now at length Burr's head was bowed. Life held nothing more for him, and he cared no longer to live. But death passed him by. So for more than twenty years he lived, a lonely forsaken old man. He was eighty years old when he died.
Chapter 69 - Madison - The Shooting Star and the Prophet
Jefferson was twice chosen President. He might, had he wished, have been elected a third time. But like Washington he refused he refused to stand. And as those two great presidents refused to be elected a third time it has become a kind of unwritten law in the United States that no man shall be president longer than eight years.
The next president to be elected was James Madison, who had been Jefferson's secretary and friend. He was a little man always carefully and elegantly dressed. He was kindly natured and learned, and, like Jefferson, he loved peace. He soon, however, found himself and his country at war.
Ever since the Indians had been defeated by General Wayne they had been at peace. But now they again became restless. It was for the old cause. They saw the white people spreading more and more over their land, they saw themselves being driven further and further from their hunting grounds, and their sleeping hatred of the Pale-faces awoke again.
And now a great chief rose to power among the Indians. He was called Tecumseh or Shooting Star. He was tall, straight and handsome, a great warrior and splendid speaker.
Tecumseh's desire was to unite all the Indians into one great nation, and drive the Pale-faces out of the land. In this he was joined by his brother Tenskwatawa or the Open Door. He took this name because, he said, he was the Open Door through which all might learn of the Great Spirit. He soon came to be looked upon as a very great Medicine Man and prophet, and is generally called the Prophet.
Much that the Prophet taught to the people was good. He told them that they ought to give up fighting each other, and join together into one nation, that they ought to till the ground and sow corn; and above all that they should have nothing to do with "fire water." "It is not made for you," he said, "but for the white people who alone know how to use it. It is the cause of all the mischief which the Indians suffer."
The Prophet also told the Indians that they had no right to sell their land, for the Great Spirit had given it to them. And so great was the Prophet's influence that he was able to build a town where the Indians lived peacefully tilling the ground, and where no "fire water' was drunk.
Now about this time General Harrison, the Governor of the Territory of Indiana, wanted more land. So in 1809 he made a treaty with some of the Indians and persuaded them to sign away their lands to him. When Tecumseh heard of it he was very angry. He declared that the treaty was no treaty, and that no land could be given to the white people unless all the tribes agreed to it.
The Governor tried to reason with Tecumseh, but it was of no avail. And as time went on it was more and more plain that the Indians were preparing for war.
Tecumseh traveled about rousing tribe after tribe. "Let the white race perish," he cried. "They seize our land, they trample on our dead. Back! whence they came upon a trail of blood they must be driven! Back! back into the great water whose accursed waves brought them to our shores! Burn their dwellings! Destroy their stock! Slay their wives and children! To the Redman belongs the country and the Pale-face must never enjoy it. War now! War for ever! War upon the living. War upon the dead. Dig their very corpses from their graves. Our country must give no rest to a white man's bones. All the tribes of the North are dancing in the war dance."
After speeches like these there could be little doubt left that Tecumseh meant to begin a great war as soon as he was ready. And as time went on the settlers began to be more and more anxious, for murders became frequent, horses and cattle were stolen, and there seemed no safety anywhere.
The Governor sent messages to the various tribes saying that these murders and thefts must cease, and telling them that if they raised the tomahawk against their white fathers they need expect no mercy.
The Prophet sent back a message of peace. But the outrages still went on, and through friendly Indians the Governor learned that the Prophet was constantly urging the Indians to war.
So the Governor determined to give him war, and with nearly a thousand men he marched to Tippecanoe, the Prophet's village. Tecumseh was not there at the time, but as the Governor drew near the Prophet sent him a message saying that they meant nothing but peace, and asking for a council next day.
To this General Harrison agreed. But well knowing the treachery of the Indians he would not allow his men to disarm, and they slept that night fully dressed, and with their arms beside them ready for an attack.
The Governor's fears were well founded. For the day had not yet dawned when suddenly a shot was heard, and a frightful Indian yell broke the stillness.
In a minute every man was on his feet, and none too soon, for the Indians were upon them. There was a desperate fight in the grey light of dawn. The Indians fought more fiercely than ever before, and while the battle raged the Prophet stood on a hill near, chanting a war song, and urging his men on.
Every now and again messengers came to him with news of the battle. And when he was told that his braves were falling fast before the guns of the white men he bade them still fight on.
"The Great Spirit will give us victory," he said; "the Pale-faces will flee."
But the Pale-faces did not flee. And when daylight came they charged the Indians, and scattered them in flight. They fled to the forest, leaving the town deserted. So the Americans burned it, and marched away.
When Tecumseh heard of this battle he was so angry that he seized his brother by the hair of his head and shook him till his teeth rattled. For the Prophet had begun to fight before his plans were complete, and instead of being victorious had been defeated. And Tecumseh felt that now he would never be able to unite all the tribes into one great nation as he had dreamed of doing. The braves too were angry with the Prophet because he had not led them to victory as he had sworn to do. They ceased to believe in him, and after the battle of Tippecanoe the Prophet lost his power over the Indians.
Chapter 70 - Madison - War with Great Britain
The Berlin Decree, 1806, and the Orders in Council,1807
Meanwhile in Europe a terrible war between France and Britain was raging. And the effects of this war were being felt in America. For in order to crush Britain Napoleon declared that the British Isles were in a state of blockade, and forbade any country to trade with Great Britain. In reply the British declared France to be in a state of blockade, and forbade any country to trade with France.
These decrees and others of the same sort hit American trade very hard, and under them the American people began to be restive. Then, added to this, the British still claimed the right to search American vessels for deserters from the British navy. And very often American citizens were carried off and made to serve in the British navy. This right of search perhaps annoyed the Americans even more than the Berlin Decree or the Orders in Council, as the French and British decrees were called, and at length many of them became eager for war.
Napoleon was doing even worse things than the British. But in spite of a good deal of friction France was still looked upon as a friend, while the bitterness against Britain had not yet been forgotten. Then too it was easier to fight Britain than France. For to fight France it would have been necessary to send an army across the sea, while to fight Britain it was only necessary to march into Canada. A good many of the Americans were rather pleased with that idea, hoping that they might conquer Canada and add it to the States.
But Madison hated war and loved peace almost as much as Jefferson who had said "our passion is for peace." But many of the older men who had helped to found the Republic and laboured to keep it at peace had now gone. In their place there had risen some eager young men who earned for themselves the name of War Democrats. They overpersuaded Madison, and on June 18th, 1812, war with Great Britain was declared.
As soon as war was declared Tecumseh, with all the braves he could command, immediately went over to the British side. The British at this time had a very clever General named Brock, and for some time things went ill for the Americans on land.
But on the sea they had much better success. The first great fight was between the American ship Constitution and the British ship Guerriere. The Guerriere was a good deal smaller than the Constitution, but the British captain was so certain that any British ship, no matter how small, could beat any American one, no matter how large, that he cared nothing for that.
It was afternoon when the two ships came in sight of each other, and immediately prepared for a fight. Nearer and nearer they came to each other, but not until they were scarce fifty yards apart did the Constitution open fire. Then it was deadly. The mizzen mast of the Guerriere was shot away; very soon the main mast followed, and in less than half an hour the Guerriere was a hopeless wreck. Then the British captain struck his flag and surrendered.
The Constitution was scarcely hurt, and after this she got the name of Old Ironsides. She sailed the seas for many a long day, and is now kept as a national memorial in the navy yard at Portsmouth, Mass.
The loss of one ship was as nothing to the great sea power of Britain. But it cheered the Americans greatly, and it was the beginning of many like successes. So this way and that, both on land and sea, fortune swayed, now one side winning, now the other.
At the battle of Queenstown, a city in Canada, on the Niagara River, the British won the victory, but lost their great leader Brock, so that victory was too dearly bought.
Yet still the British continued to win, and after one battle the Indians began to torture and slay the American prisoners. The British general did not know how to curb the fiery Redmen, and he let the horrid massacre go on. But when Tecumseh heard of it he was filled with wrath and grief.
With a wild shout of anger he dashed in among the Indians. Two Indians who were about to kill an American he seized by the throat and threw to the ground. Then, brandishing his tomahawk furiously, he swore to brain any Indian who dared to touch another prisoner. And such was the power that this chief had over his savage followers that they obeyed him at once.
Then Tecumseh turned to the British leader. "Why did you permit it?" he asked.
"Sir," replied General Proctor, "your Indians cannot be commanded."
Tecumseh looked at him in utter scorn. "Begone," he said; "you are not fit to command. Go and put on petticoats."
Things went so badly for the Americans that instead of conquering Canada it seemed almost as if they were in danger of losing some of their own territory. For the British had over-run the great peninsula of Michigan and had command of Lake Erie. The Americans, however, determined to get control of Lake Erie. They had no ships there. But that did not daunt them in the least. There was plenty of timber growing in the forest and out of timber ships could be made. So they felled trees, they brought sails and cordage from New York and Philadelphia in wagons and sledges, and worked so fast and well that very soon ten splendid vessels were ready.
Meanwhile the British commander watched the work and determined to pounce upon the ships as they were being launched. But just for one day he forgot to be watchful. The Americans seized the opportunity, and the ships sailed out on to the lake in safety. The squadron was under the command of a clever young officer named Oliver Hazard Perry. He was only twenty-eight, and although he had served in the navy for fourteen years he had never taken part in a battle. His men were for the most part landsmen, unused alike to war and ships. But while the ships were building Perry drilled his men untiringly. So when the fleet was launched they were both good marksmen and seamen.
It was a bright September day when the great battle took place between the British and American fleets. Much of the British fire was directed at the American flag-ship named the Lawrence, and soon nearly all her men were killed, and the ship seemed about to sink.
But Perry was not beaten. Wrapping his flag about his arm, with his few remaining men he jumped into the boats, and rowed to another ship called the Niagara.
Soon after this, two of the British ships got entangled with each other. The Americans at once took advantage of the confusion and swept the British ships from end to end with a terrible fire.
For half an hour longer the fight went on. Then the British Commander struck his flag. For the first time in history Great Britain surrendered a whole squadron, and that to a young man of twenty-eight with little experience of warfare.
Perry at once sent a message to headquarters to tell of his victory. It was short and to the point. "We have met the enemy, and they are ours," was all he said.
This great victory gave the Americans control of the Lakes and made many of the British victories on land useless. Perry's fleet was now used to land soldiers in Canada and General Proctor began to retreat.
At this Tecumseh was disgusted. "You always told us," he said to the British leader, "that you would never draw your foot off British ground. But now, father, we see that you are drawing back. And we are sorry to see our father doing so without seeing the enemy. We must compare our father's conduct to a fat dog that carries its tail erect till it is frightened, and then drops it between its legs and runs away."
But General Proctor would not listen. He continued to run away. At length, however, the Americans overtook him, he had to fight.
In Battle of the Thames, Oct. 5, 1813, the British were defeated and brave Tecumseh was killed. It is not quite known when or by whom he was killed. But when the Indians saw their leader was no longer among them they had no more heart to fight. "Tecumseh fell and we all ran," said one of his braves afterwards. Thus the power of these Indians was broken for ever.
The war still went on, and it was fought not only in the North but all along the coasts and in the South. The Americans marched into Toronto, the capital of Upper Canada, and burned the Parliament House. The British marched into Washington, and burned the Capitol and the President's House, deeds which no one could approve even in the heat of war.
The proper name for the President's house is the Executive Mansion, but it is known, not only in America, but all the world over as the White House. According to one tradition it was only after being burnt by the British that it received this name. For when it was repaired the walls were painted white to cover the marks of fire. According to another tradition the people called it the White House from the beginning in honour of the first President's "consort" Martha Washington whose early home on the Pamunkey River in Virginia was called the White House.
At sea American privateers did great damage to British shipping, and so daring were they that even the Irish Sea and the English Channel were not safe for British traders.
For two and a half years the war lasted. Then at length peace was made by the Treaty of Ghent. It was signed on Christmas Eve, 1814, and for more than a hundred years there has been peace between Great Britain and the United States of America. Let us hope it will never be broken.
Nothing was altered by this war. No territory changed hands, and as for the things about which the war began, they were not mentioned in the treaty of peace. For the war with France was over, so of course the blockades which had hit American trade so hard were no more in force. On both sides peace was hailed with delight. In America bonfires were lit, bells were rung, and men who were the greatest enemies in politics forgot their quarrels, fell into each other's arms and cried like women. Everywhere too "The Star Spangled Banner" was sung.
It was during this war that this famous song was written. The British were about to attack Baltimore when Francis Scott Key, hearing that one of his friends had been taken prisoner, rowed out to the British fleet under a flag of truce to beg his release. The British Admiral consented to his release. He said, however, that both Key and his friend must wait until the attack was over.
So, from the British fleet, Key watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry which guarded the town. All through the night the guns roared and flashed, and in the lurid light Key could see the flag on Fort McHenry fluttering proudly. But before dawn the firing ceased.
"What had happened," he asked himself, "was the fort taken?"
Eagerly he waited for the dawn. And when at last the sun rose he saw with joy that the Stars and Stripes still floated over the fort. There and then on the back of an old letter he wrote "The Star Spangled Banner." People hailed it with delight, soon it was sung throughout the length and breadth of the States, and at length became the National Anthem.
During Madison's presidency two states were added to the Union. In 1812 Louisiana was added as the eighteenth state.
The State of Louisiana was only a very small part of the Louisiana Purchase, and when it was first proposed that it should join the Union some people objected. Louisiana should be kept as a territory, they said, and they declared that Congress had no power to admit new states except those which were formed out of land belonging to the original thirteen states.
"It was not for these men that our fathers fought," cried a Congressman. "You have no authority to throw the rights, and liberties, and property, of this people into hotch-potch with the wild men on the Missouri, or with the mixed, though more respectable, race of Anglo-Hispano-Gallo-Americans who bask on the sands in the mouth of the Mississippi."
He declared further that if this sort of thing went on it would break up the Union. But in spite of him and others who thought like him Louisiana became a state in 1812.
In 1816, just about two years after the end of the war with Britain, Indiana was admitted into the Union as the nineteenth state. You know that besides the Constitution of the United States each state has also its own constitution. Thus when a territory wanted to become a state it had to frame a constitution which had to be approved by Congress.
In June, 1816, a convention to frame a constitution was called at Corydon, which was then the capital of Indiana. The weather was warm, and instead of holding their meetings in the State House the members used to meet under a great elm which stood near. Under the cool shadow of its branches the laws for the state were framed, and from that the elm was called the Constitution Elm. It still stands as it stood a hundred years ago, and the people of Corydon do everything they can to protect it, and make it live as long as possible.
Chapter 71 - Monroe-The First Whispers of a Storm-Monroe's Famous Doctrine
Madison was twice elected President. He was chosen for the second time during the war with Britain. In 1817 his second term came to an end and James Monroe took his place.
Monroe was not so clever as the presidents who had gone before him. But he was a kindly, generous man. Every one liked him, and the time during which he was President was called the "era of good feeling."
And indeed men were so glad of this time of peace which had come after such long years of war that they forgot old quarrels and became friends again.
Unfortunately the peace was broken by a war with the Seminole Indians in Florida. Florida still belonged to Spain, and it became a haunt for all sorts of adventurers. These adventurers robbed, and murdered, and created terrible disturbances among the Indians, until along the frontier between Georgia and Florida there was neither safety nor peace for any white man.
So the President at length sent General Jackson, who had won great fame in the War of 1812, to bring the Indians to order. Jackson marched into Florida, and in three months' time had subdued the Indians, brought order out of wild disorder, and in fact conquered Florida.
But this was far more than Monroe had meant Jackson to do. And it seemed as if General Jackson was like to be in trouble with the Government, and the Government in trouble with Spain. However things were smoothed over, and the matter with Spain was put right by the United States buying Florida in 1819. And of this new territory Jackson was made Governor.
Meanwhile more states were being added to the Union.
After the War was over, hundreds of families had found a new home, and a new life, in the unknown wilderness of the West. Indeed, so many people moved westward that the people in the East began to grow anxious. For it seemed to them that soon the eastern states would be left desolate, and they asked their State Governments to stop the people going west. "Old America seems to be breaking up and moving westward," said one man.
All sorts of stories of the hardships and dangers of the West were spread abroad. But in spite of all that was said the stream still poured westward. The people went in great covered wagons drawn by teams of horses, carrying with them all their household goods, or they rode on horseback taking nothing with them but a few clothes tied up in a handkerchief, while some even trudged the long hundreds of miles on foot.
The rivers, too, were crowded with boats of all sorts, many people going part of the way by river, and the rest on foot. In the East fields were left desolate, houses and churches fell to ruins, while in the West towns and villages sprang up as if by magic, and the untrodden wilderness was turned to fertile fields.
So, as the great prairies of the West became settled, the settlers became eager to join the Union. Thus new states were formed. Mississippi became a state in 1817, the first year of Monroe's presidency. Illinois followed in 1818, Alabama in 1819, and Missouri in 1821. Mississippi, Illinois and Alabama were framed out of original territory but Missouri was framed out of the Louisiana Purchase. All four names are Indian. Mississippi and Missouri are named after the rivers which flow through them, Mississippi meaning Father of Waters and Missouri Great Muddy. For the Missouri is full of yellow mud. Illinois is named after the tribe of Indians who lived there. Their name was really Iliniwok meaning "Men" but white people pronounced it badly and it became changed to Illinois. Alabama means "here we rest."
In 1820 Maine also was admitted as a state. Maine, however, was not newly settled country. Since colonial days it had been a part of Massachusetts. But having become dissatisfied, it separated from Massachusetts, and asked to be admitted to the Union as a separate state.
It was just about the same time that Missouri was also asking to be admitted as a state. And strangely enough the admission of these two states became connected with each other. We must look back a little to see how.
You remember that two hundred years before this, slaves were first brought to Virginia. In those days no one thought that slavery was wrong. So as colony was added to colony they also became slave owners. But gradually many people began to think that slavery was a great evil, and every now and again one colony or another would try to put it down. But these attempts always ended in failure.
In the northern states, however, there were few slaves. For in these northern states there was not much that slaves could do which could not be done just as well by white men. So it did not pay to keep slaves, and gradually slavery was done away with.
But in the South it was different. There it was so hot that white men could not do the work in the rice and cotton fields. And the planters believed that without Negro slave labour it would be impossible to make their plantations pay.
Then, when the power of steam was discovered and many new cotton spinning machines were invented, the demand for cotton became greater and greater; the Southern planters became more sure than ever that slavery was needful. They also became afraid that the people in the North would want to do away with it, and if the number of the states in which slavery was not allowed increased it would be easy for them to do this. So the Southerners determined that if non-slavery states were admitted to the Union slavery states must be admitted also to keep the balance even.
Now when Maine and Missouri both asked to be admitted as states the Southerners refused to admit Maine as a free state unless Missouri was made a slave state to balance it.
There was tremendous excitement and talk over the matter. Meetings were held in all the large towns. In the North the speakers called slavery the greatest evil in the United States, and a disgrace to the American people.
In the South the speakers declared that Congress had no right to dictate to a state as to whether it should have slavery or not. But even in the South few really stood up for slavery. Almost every one acknowledged that it was an evil. But it was a necessary evil, they said.
In the House and the Senate there were great debates also. But at length an arrangement was come to. Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state, but in the rest of the Louisiana Territory north of the degree of latitude 36 degrees slavery was forbidden for all time. This was called the Missouri Compromise; compromise meaning, as you know, that each side gave up something. And in this way a quarrel between the North and South was avoided for the time being.
But it was only for the time being, and wise men watched events with heavy hearts. Among these was the old President Jefferson. "The question sleeps for the present," he said, "but is not dead." He felt sure that it would awake again and shatter the Union, and he thanked God that being an old man he might not live to see it.
In 1821 Monroe was chosen President for a second time and it was during this second term that he became famous throughout all the world. He became so through what is known as the Monroe Doctrine.
During the wars with Napoleon the King of Spain had been so crushed that he was no longer strong enough to govern his colonies. So one after another the Spanish colonies in America had declared themselves free and had set up as independent republics. But Spain of course was anxious to have her colonies back again, and it seemed very likely that the King would ask some of the other great powers in Europe to help him to reconquer them. Monroe however determined to put a stop to wars of conquest between the old world and the new.
So he announced that the Continents of America were no longer to be looked upon as open to colonisation by any European power. And that if any European power attempted to interfere with any American government they would have the United States to reckon with. Those colonies which still belonged to European powers would be left alone, but any attempt to reconquer colonies which had declared themselves to be free would be looked upon as an act unfriendly to the United States.
Such was the famous Monroe Doctrine, and because of it the name of Monroe is better known all over the world than any other United States President except Washington.
The British were quite pleased with Monroe's new doctrine. The other great powers of Europe were not. But they yielded to it and dropped their plans for conquering any part of America. And ever since the doctrine was announced the Continents of America have been left to manage their own affairs.
Chapter 72 - Adams - The Tariff of Abominations
In 1825 Monroe's term of office came to an end and John Quincy Adams became President. He was the son of John Adams who had been second President, and he had been Secretary of State to Monroe. It was said, indeed, that it was really he who originated the famous Doctrine which came to be called by Monroe's name.
He was an honest man and a statesman. He refused to give offices to his friends just because they were his friends, and he refused to turn men out of office simply because they did not agree with him in politics. He wanted to do what was right and just. But he did it from a cold sense of duty. So no one liked him very much. Both House and Senate were against him, and he was not able to do all he would have done for his country.
Adams wanted to do a great deal towards improving the country. He wanted canals to be cut. And as the steam engine had just been discovered, he was eager to have railroads and bridges. But Congress would not help him.
Still, much was done in this direction. Several canals were cut; railroads began to be built, and the rivers were covered with steamboats.
Manufacturers also began to flourish. For during the 1812 war it had been very difficult to get manufactured goods from foreign countries. So Americans had begun to make these things for themselves.
And after the war was over, they went on manufacturing them. At length people began to be proud of using only American made things. And when Adams was inaugurated everything he wore had been manufactured in the States.
The factories were for the most part in the North, and soon the Northerners began to clamour for duties on imported goods. They wanted to keep out foreign goods, or at least make them so dear that it would pay people to buy American made goods.
But the people in the South who did not manufacture things themselves wanted the duties to be kept low. However the manufacturers won the day, and twice during Adams' presidency bills were passed, by which the tariff was made higher. The second bill made the duties so high that many people were very angry and called it the "tariff of abominations." In the South, indeed many people were so angry that they swore never to buy anything from the North until the tariff was made lower. Thus once again North and South were pulling different ways.
Adams would willingly have been President for a second term. But in spite of his honesty and his upright dealings no one liked him. So he was not re-elected.
When he ceased to be President, however, he did not cease to take an interest in politics, and for many years after he was a member of Congress, where he did good service to his country.
Chapter 73 - Jackson - "Liberty and Union, Now and Forever" - Van Buren - Hard Times
In 1829 Andrew Jackson, the great soldier, became President. All the presidents up till now had been well born men, aristocrats, in fact. But Jackson was a man of the people. He had been born in a log cabin on the borders of North and South Carolina. He had very little schooling, and all his life he was never able to write correct English.
When his friends first asked him to stand for President, he laughed. "Do you suppose," he said, "that I am such a fool as to think myself fit for President of the United States? No, sir, I know what I am fit for. I can command a body of men in a rough way, but I am not fit to be President."
However, he did consent to stand. The first time he was unsuccessful, and Adams was chosen instead, the second time he was brilliantly successful.
Jackson's inauguration was a triumph. Hundreds and thousands of the common people came to see the "people's man" become President. Every road leading to the Capitol was so thronged that the procession could hardly make a way through the crowd, and when the President appeared the cheers were deafening.
After the inauguration was over there was a great reception at the White House. The crush was tremendous. People elbowed each other and almost fought for a sight of the new President. They stood on the satin covered chairs in their muddy boots to get a glimpse of him over the heads of others. Glasses were broken, and wine was spilled on the fine carpets. In fact, it was a noisy jollification and many people were shocked. "The reign of King Mob seemed triumphant," said an old gentleman; "I was glad to escape from the scene as soon as possible."
But Jackson did not mind; he liked to see people enjoy themselves. "Let the boys have a good time once in four years," he said.
Jackson was a man of the people, but he was an autocrat too, and he had a will so unbending that even in his soldiering days he had been called Old Hickory. So now, Old Hickory had a Cabinet but he did not consult them. He simply told them what he meant to do. His real Cabinet were a few friends who had nothing at all to do with the government. They used to see him in private, and go in and out by a back door. So they got the name of the Kitchen Cabinet. And this Kitchen Cabinet had much more to do with Jackson's administration than the real Cabinet.
As President, Jackson did many good things. But he did one bad thing. He began what is known as the "spoils system."
Before, when a new President was elected, the Cabinet, secretaries and such people were of course changed also. But Jackson was not content with that. He thought that it was only right that his friends who had helped him to become President should be rewarded. So he turned out all sorts of civil servants, such as post masters, customs officers, and clerks of all sorts. This he did, not because they were dishonest, or useless, or unfit for their positions, but simply because they did not think as he did in politics. And in their places he put his own friends who did think as he did.
In the first year of his "reign" he thus removed two thousand people, it is said. The whole of Washington too, was filled with unrest and suspicion, no man knowing when it would be his turn to go. Many of the government clerks were now old men who had been in the service almost since the government was established. When they were turned out, there was nothing for them to do, nothing but beggary for them to look forward to. In consequence there was a great deal of misery and poverty. But the removals went on.
In time this became known as the "spoils system," because in a speech a senator talking of this matter said, "to the victor belongs the spoils of the enemy."
But something much more serious soon began to call for attention. You remember that the Tariff Bill of 1828 had been called the Tariff of Abominations, and that the people in the South objected to it very much. A feeling had begun to grow up that the interests of the North and the South were different, and that the North had too much power, and the South too little. So some Southern men began to declare that if any state decided that a law made by Congress was not lawful according to Constitution they might set that law at nought in their own state and utterly disregard it.
This was called nullification because it made a law null and void. Wise men saw at once that if this was allowed it would simply break up the Union and every state would soon do just as it liked.
So when a Southern statesman announced this theory of delusion and folly 'Liberty first and Union afterwards,' Daniel Webster answered him.
Webster was a splendid looking man with a great mane of black hair and flashing black eyes. He was, too, a magnificent speaker and a true patriot.
As he spoke men listened in breathless silence, spellbound, by the low clear voice. In burning words Webster called to their love of country. He touched their hearts, he awoke their pride, he appealed to their plain common sense.
"Let us not see upon our flag," he said, "those words of delusion and folly 'Liberty first and Union afterwards'; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart, 'Liberty and Union,' now and for ever, one and inseparable."
Thus Webster ended his great speech, and with a long sigh his hearers awoke from the spell he had laid upon them, awoke to the fact that one of the world's greatest orators stood among them.
"That crushes nullification," said James Madison.
But the South was neither convinced nor crushed.
The President was a Southern man, it was known that he disliked high tariffs, so the Southerners hoped that he would help them. But stern Old Hickory would lend no hand to break up the Union.
On Jefferson's birthday some of the people who believed in nullification gave a dinner to which Jackson was invited and asked to propose a toast. He accepted the invitation, but soon discovered that the dinner was not meant so much to honour the memory of Jefferson as to advocate nullification and all the toasts hinted at it. Presently Jackson was called upon for his toast, and as he rose deep silence fell upon the company. Then in a clear and steady voice the President gave his toast: "Our Federal Union; it must and shall be preserved."
It was a great disappointment to the Nullifiers and after that all hope of help from the President was lost.
However, the people of South Carolina were still determined, and in 1832 they declared that the tariff law of that year was null and void, and no law; and that if the Government tried to force them to regard it they would set up a government of their own.
The whole state was in wild excitement. People talked openly of separating from the Union, a President was chosen and medals were struck bearing the inscription, "First President of the Southern Confederacy."
"If this thing goes on," said Jackson, "our country will be like a bag of meal with both ends open. Pick it up in the middle endwise and it will run out. I must tie the bag and save the country."
So Jackson sent a proclamation to the people of South Carolina begging them to think before they dragged their state into war. For war they should have, he told them plainly, if they persisted in their ways.
But South Carolina replied defiantly talking of tyranny and oppression, and declaring again their right to withdraw from the Union if they wished.
Both sides were so defiant that it seemed as if there might indeed be war. But there was none.
South Carolina found that the other Southern states would not join her as she had expected. So when the Government yielded so far as to reduce the tariff to some extent South Carolina grew quiet again and the danger passed.
Jackson was twice elected President. And at the end of his second term two states were added to the Union. In June, 1836, Arkansas, part of the Louisiana Purchase, became a state. It was still rather a wild place where men wore long two-edged knives called after a wild rascal, Captain James Bowie, and they were so apt to use them on the slightest occasions that the state was nicknamed the Toothpick State.
Arkansas came in as a slave state, and early the following year Michigan came in as a free state. Michigan had belonged at one time to New France, but after the War of Independence Britain gave it up to the United States when it became part of the North West Territory.
During the 1812 war Michigan was again taken by the British. But they only kept it for a short time, for soon after Captain Perry's great victory it was won back again by the Americans.
Up to that time there were few settlements in the territory. But gradually more people came to settle, and at length in 1834 there were quite enough people to entitle it to be admitted as a state. And after some squabbling with Ohio over the question of boundaries it was admitted to the Union early in 1837. The state takes its name from the great lake Michigan, being an Indian word meaning "Great Sea."
Michigan was the thirteenth new state to be admitted. Thus since the Revolution the number of states had been exactly doubled.
In 1837 Martin Van Buren became President. He had been Secretary of State and then Vice-President, and had been a great favourite with Jackson who was very anxious that he should become President after him.
Van Buren made very few changes in the cabinet, and his Presidency was very like a continuation of Jackson's "reign."
Yet no two men could be more different from each other than Jackson and Van Buren. Jackson was rugged, quick tempered and iron willed, marching straight to his end, hacking his way through all manner of difficulties. Van Buren was a smooth tongued, sleek little man who, said his enemies, never gave any one a straight answer, and who wrapped up his ideas and opinions in so many words that nobody could be sure what he really thought about any subject.
All the presidents before Van Buren had been of British descent, and they had all been born when the States were still British colonies. Van Buren was Dutch, and he had been born after the Revolution was complete.
This was not a happy time for America, for the whole country began to suffer from money troubles. One reason for this was that people had been trying to get rich too fast. They had been spending more than they had in order to make still more. Great factories were begun and never finished, railroads and canals were built which did not pay. Business after business failed, bank after bank shut its doors, and then to add to the troubles there was a bad harvest. Flour became ruinously dear, and the poor could not get enough to eat.
The people blamed the Government for these bad times. Deputation after deputation went to the President asking him to do something, railing at him as the cause of all their troubles.
But amid all the clamour Van Buren stood calm. "This was not a matter," he said, "in which the Government ought to interfere. It was a matter for the people themselves," and he bade them to be more careful and industrious and things would soon come right.
But the Government too had suffered, for government money had been deposited in some of the banks which had failed. And in order to prevent that in the future Van Buren now proposed a plan for keeping State money out of the banks, so that the State should not be hurt by any bank failing.
This came to be called the Subtreasury System. There was a good deal of opposition to it at first but in 1840 it became law. It is the chief thing to remember about Van Buren's administration. It is also one of those things which become more interesting as we grow older.
Chapter 74 - Harrison - The Hero of Tippecanoe
People had grown to dislike Van Buren so much that he had no chance of being elected a second time, and the next President was General Harrison. Never before or since perhaps has there been so much excitement over the election of a President. For Van Buren's friends tried very hard to have him re-elected, and Harrison's friends worked just as hard on his behalf.
Harrison was the general who had led his men to victory at Tippecanoe, and he immediately became first favourite with the people. He was an old man now of nearly seventy, and since he had left the army had been living quietly on his farm in the country.
So one of Van Buren's friends said scornfully that Harrison was much more fit to live in a log cabin and drink hard cider than live in the White House and be President.
It was meant as a sneer, but Harrison's good friends took it up. Log Cabin and Hard Cider became their war-cry, and the election was known as the Log Cabin and Hard Cider campaign. And soon many simple country people came to believe that Harrison really lived in a log cabin, and that he was poor, and had to work for his living even as an old man.
All sorts of songs were made and sung about this gallant old farmer.
"Oh, know ye the farmer of Tippecanoe? The gallant old farmer of Tippecanoe? With an arm that is strong and a heart that is true, The man of the people is Tippecanoe."
That is the beginning of one song and there were dozens more like it.
And while the old farmer of Tippecanoe was said to be everything that was good and honest and lovable, Van Buren on the other hand was represented as being a bloated aristocrat, who sat in chairs that cost six hundred dollars, ate off silver plates with golden forks and spoons, and drove about in an English coach with a haughty smile on his face.
It was a time of terrible excitement, and each side gave the other many hard knocks. But in the end Harrison was elected by two hundred and thirty-four electoral votes to Van Buren's sixty. As Vice-President John Tyler was chosen. "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" had been one of the election cries.
Inauguration day was bleak and cold, rain threatened and a chill wind blew. But in spite of unkind weather Harrison's friends arranged a grand parade. And mounted on a white horse the new President rode for two hours through the streets. Then for another hour he stood in the chill wind reading his address to the people.
All the time he wore no overcoat. Because, it is said, rumours were spread abroad that he was not strong, and he wanted to show that he was. When the long ceremony was at length over he was thoroughly chilled, but no serious illness followed.
It was soon seen, however, that he could not bear the strain of his great office. He had never been strong. Of late years he had been used to a quiet country life, seeing few people and taking things easily.
Now from morning till night he lived in a whirl. He was besieged with people who wanted posts. For the spoils system being once begun, every President was almost forced to continue it. And never before had any President been beset by such a buzzing crowd.
Harrison was a kindly old man, and he would gladly have given offices to all who asked. It grieved him that he could not. But he was honest, too, and he tried to be just in making these new appointments. So his days were full of worry and anxious thought. Soon under the heavy burden he fell ill. And just a month after his inauguration he died.
Never before had a President died in office, and it was a shock to the whole people. Every one grieved, for even those who had been his political enemies and worked hard to prevent his election loved the good old man. Death stilled every whisper of anger against him, and, united in sorrow, the whole nation mourned his loss and followed him reverently to the grave.
Chapter 75 - Tyler - Florida Becomes a State
John Tyler now became President. At first there was some doubt as to what he should be called. Adams, the ex-President, said he should be called "Vice-President acting as President." But that was much too long. Someone else suggested "Regent," but that smacked too much of royalty. But the people did not worry about it; they just called him President, and so the matter settled itself.
One important matter during Tyler's presidency was the settling of the boundary between British America and Maine. The uncertainty of where the border between the two countries really was had caused a good deal of friction, the British accusing the Americans and the Americans accusing the British of encroaching on their territory. Many attempts had been made to settle it, but hey had all failed. And both sides had become so angry over it that it was very nearly a question of war.
But now at last the question was thrashed out between Daniel Webster, the great orator acting for the United States, and Lord Ashburton acting for Britain. Lord Ashburton came out to Washington. The business was carried through in a friendly fashion and settled satisfactorily.
The twenty-seventh state was admitted to the Union during Tyler's time of office. This was Florida. Since Spain had given up Florida to the United States there had been a good deal of unrest among the Indians. And at last the settlers decided that it would be better to send them out of the country altogether.
So the settlers made a treaty with the Indians by which the Indians agreed to accept lands in the West instead of their Florida lands. But when the time came for them to go they refused to move, and a war which lasted seven years was begun.
It was a terrible war and thousands of lives were lost on either side, for the Indians were led by a brave and wily chief named Osceola. But at length they were defeated. They were then removed to western lands as had been agreed; only about three hundred were allowed to remain, and these were obliged to keep to the extreme south of the province.
The war ended soon after Tyler became President. Then land was offered free to settlers who would promise to remain at least five years. Many were glad to get land on such easy terms, and soon the country which had been a refuge for escaped slaves and a haunt for desperadoes became the home of orderly people.
In a very short time these new settlers wished to join the Union, but at first they could not agree as to whether Florida should be made into one or two states. Finally, however, it was decided that it should be one, and in March, 1845, it was admitted to the Union as a slave state.
Chapter 76 - Polk - How Much Land Was Added to the United States
In 1845 Tyler's term expired and James Knox Polk became President. He had been a long time in Congress, and had been Speaker of the House for four years. Yet nobody had heard very much about him, and nearly everyone was surprised when his party succeeded in electing him.
During Polk's term of office three states were admitted to the Union. The first of these was the great State of Texas. After the Louisiana Purchase the United States had claimed Texas as part of Louisiana. But the Spaniards to whom all Mexico belonged disputed their claim, and declared that Texas belonged to them. The dispute went on until the United States bought Florida from Spain. Then in part payment for Florida the Americans gave up all claim to Texas.
But really this agreement could matter little to Spain, for the Mexicans were already in revolt, and in 1821 declared themselves independent.
Meanwhile many Americans began to settle in Texas. The United States Government began to feel sorry that they had given it up, and they tried to buy it from the Mexicans. The Mexicans, however, refused to sell it. But many men in the southern states became more and more anxious to get Texas. Because they saw that if they did not get some more territory free states would soon outnumber slave states. For all the land south of the Missouri Compromise line had been used up, the only part left being set aside as Indian Territory. In the north on the other hand there was still land enough out of which to carve four or five states.
All the Americans who had settled in Texas were slave holders. And when Mexico abolished slavery Texas refused to do so. This refusal of course brought trouble, and at length the Texans, declaring that the government of Mexico was tyrannical, rose in rebellion against Mexico, and declared themselves a republic.
But the Mexicans would not allow this great territory to revolt without an effort to keep it. So they sent an army to fight the Texans. The leader of the Mexican army was Santa Anna, the Mexican President. The leader of the Texans was General Sam Houston.
Sam Houston was an adventurous American who a year or two before had settled in Texas. He had had a varied life. He had been a soldier, a lawyer, a Congressman, and finally Governor of a state. Then he had suddenly thrown everything up, had gone to live among the Indians, and was adopted into an Indian tribe.
While he was living with the Indians wild stories of his doings were spread about. One story was that he meant to conquer Texas, and make himself Emperor of that country. But Houston had really no intention of founding a nation.
In the war with Texas the Mexicans were at first successful, and the terrified people fled before them. But at the battle of San Jacinto the Texans utterly defeated the Mexicans. The rout was complete and the Mexicans fled in every direction, among them their leader, Santa Anna.
Mounted on a splendid black horse he fled toward a bridge crossing a river which flowed near. But when he reached the bridge he found that the Texans had destroyed it. He was being hotly pursued by the enemy. So without pausing a moment he spurred his horse into the river, swam across, and to the surprise of his pursuers climbed the steep cliff of the opposite side, and disappeared.
Darkness now fell and the Texans gave up the pursuit. But next morning they set out again to scour the country in search of fugitives. Meanwhile Santa Anna, having abandoned his horse and changed his clothes in a forsaken cottage, was trying to make his way to the Mexican border. Presently, however, one of the search parties came upon a little man dressed in blue cotton coat and trousers, a leather cap and red woolen slippers. He was a miserable looking object, and when he saw the Texans approach, he tried to hide himself in the grass. He was soon found, however, and when the Texans asked him who he was he said he was a private soldier.
The Texans then told him to follow them to the camp. And when he said he could not walk he mounted on one of their horses, and, riding behind a Texan, he was led into camp.
The Texans had no idea who they had captured until they reached their camp. Then when the Mexican prisoners saw the queer little figure they exclaimed, "The President! the President!" Only then did the Texans discover what a great man they had captured.
Houston had been wounded in the battle, and was lying on a mattress under the tree when Santa Anna was led before him.
"I am General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna," said the prisoner, "and a prisoner of war at your disposal."
Houston looked at him in silence, and then signed him to sit down on a box which stood near. And there under the spreading branches of the tree a truce was arranged, and Santa Anna wrote letters to his generals telling them to cease fighting.
The Texans wanted to hang Santa Anna for his cruelties during the war, but Houston saved him from their wrath, and after he had signed a treaty acknowledging the independence of Texas he was set free.
Texas now declared itself a republic, and of this new State General Sam Houston - "Old Sam Jacinto," as he was affectionately nicknamed - was chosen President. The flag chosen for the Republic was blue with a single yellow star in the middle, and from this flag Texas came to be called the Lone Star State.
The Texans had declared themselves a free and independent nation. But as a republic Texas was very small, and the Texans had no intention of remaining a lonely insignificant republic. What they desired was to join the United States. And very soon they asked to be admitted to the Union.
But Texas lay south of the Missouri Compromise line, and although small for an independent republic it was huge for a state, and might be cut up into three or four. Therefore the people in the North were very much against Texas being admitted to the Union as it would increase the strength of the slave states enormously. But the Southerners were determined to have Texas, and at last in 1845 it was admitted as a slave state. The two last states which had been added to the Union, that it, Florida and Texas, were both slave states. But they were soon balanced by two free states, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Iowa is an Indian name meaning "Sleepy Ones." The state was called after a tribe of Indians of that name who were there when the Frenchmen first explored the country. It was the first free state to be carved out of the Louisiana Purchase.
Wisconsin was part of the Northwest Territory and was the last part of it to be organised as a state. Like many other states Wisconsin takes its name from its chief river, which means "Gathering Waters." There are many lead mines in Wisconsin and these had been worked in a poor sort of way by the Indians, and when white people began to work them there was trouble between them and the Redmen.
At different times Red Bird and Black Hawk rose against the whites, but both were defeated. At length the disputes were settled by treaties with the Indians and the land began to be peopled by whites.
Wisconsin is often called the Badger State. It got this name not because badgers are to be found there, but because the lead miners, instead of building houses, used to dig out caves in the hillsides and live in them summer and winter. From this they were nicknamed Badgers, and the state became known as the Badger State.
Besides Texas, another great territory was added to the States at this time, and another boundary dispute between British America and the United States was settled.
For many years both Britain and the United States had claimed the Oregon Territory. The Americans claimed it by right of Captain Gray's discovery of the Columbia River, and also by right of the exploration of Lewis and Clark. The British claimed it by right of the discoveries of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and also on the ground that it had been occupied by Hudson's Bay Company.
Three times attempts had been made to settle the boundary, but each time the attempts had failed. At length the two countries agreed to occupy it jointly. This arrangement was to come to an end by either country giving a year's notice.
President Polk's appetite for land was huge. He wanted the whole of Oregon for the United States. So in 1846 the joint agreement came to an end, and new efforts for final settlement began.
Many others were as eager as the President to have the whole of Oregon, and "Fifty-four Forty or Fight" became a battle-cry. Fifty-four Forty was the imaginary line or parallel of latitude on the north of the disputed territory. So that the cry "Fifty-four Forty or Fight" meant that these hotspurs demanded the whole of Oregon or war with Great Britain.
On the other hand some people thought a ridiculous fuss was being made over an utterly useless piece of land.
"What do we want with it?" they said. "What are we to do with it? How could a bit of land five thousand miles away ever become part of the United States? It is absurd!"
Steam, said someone, would make it possible. Railways would bring Oregon near to the seat of government.
"Steam!" cried the objectors. "Railways across the Rocky Mountains! Rubbish!"
The British on their side did not want the whole of Oregon, but they wanted the land as far south as the Columbia River.
However in the end both sides gave way a little. It was agreed to halve the country, and the parallel 49 was taken as the boundary. Thus another large territory was added to the States and the northern frontiers peacefully settled from east to west.
But Polk's land hunger was not yet satisfied. He had half of Oregon, he had the whole of Texas, but he wanted more. He waned California, but California belonged to Mexico. He tried to buy it from Mexico, but Mexico would not sell it. Polk, however, was determined to have it. So determined was he that he made up his mind to fight for it, if there was no other way of getting it.
It was easy to find an excuse for war. The boundaries of Texas were very uncertain, and a tract of land lying east of the Rio Grande River was claimed by both Texas and by Mexico. IN 1846 Polk sent an army to take possession of this land.
General Zachary Taylor was in command of this expedition. And when he arrived near the mouth of the Rio Grande and began to build a fort the Mexicans were very angry. They sent him a message ordering him to be gone in twenty-four hours.
Of course Taylor refused to go, and he began to blockade the river, so as to stop trade with Mexico.
The Mexicans then made ready to fight, and next morning they attacked and captured a scouting party of Americans.
When the news reached Washington there was great excitement. "Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States," declared the President, "has invaded our territory, and shed American blood on American soil."