With the end of the War of 1812, the United States established itself as a dominant trading force on both sides of the Mississippi River. Peace treaties and trade alliances were rapidly signed with many nations. But with its growing political dominance, the US begain the process of "Indian removal" in the east,
years before the Indian Removal Act made ethnic cleansing a sweeping official policy.
As the Old Northwest
Territory was carved into new states (Indiana in 1816, Illinois in 1818), Indigenous nations were pressed to give up reservations and make vast new land cessions, in exchange for territory west of the Mississippi. In the Southeast, the US adopted a more aggressive policy in international affairs that included not only land cessions from Indigenous nations, but the invasion of Spanish Florida and military assaults on the Seminole.
West of the Mississippi, US diplomacy focused on establishing a new, post-war status quo in international trade. As the American Fur Company consolidated control of the fur trade east of the River, and the powerful Chouteau family expanded its reach in the west, fur traders assumed a dominant role in US treaty making. The profits of fur trading ascended to match land speculation as immediate motivations for US expansion, and the trust that traders had built in Indigenous nations became a key to US acquisition of territory.
In the 30 years before the War of 1812, the US signed 53 treaties with Indigenous nations. After the War, the US signed 47 treaties in four years.
Eastern Peace TreatiesAt the end of the War of 1812 the US pursued a conciliatory policy towards Indigenous nations in the north. In an 1814 treaty the US guaranteed Indigenous allies their pre-war territorial holdings. The US commissioners for the treaty were William Henry Harrison, who had left his position as governor of Indiana Territory for an appointment as army general; and Lewis Cass, a militia general who had recently become governor of Michigan Territory. Cass same guarantee was made in 1815 to nations that had been allied with Great Britain. In the Southeast, however, Andrew Jackson forced a punitive, 21-million-acre land cession from the Muscogee (the southern quarter of Georgia and about half of Alabama). This was the culmination of the "Red Stick" War, a Muscogee civil war in which one sideallied with the British.
Wyandot etc. 1814
Portage Des Sioux treaties, 1815Though many US citizens along the Mississippi favored retaliation against Indigenous nations after the War of 1812, federal policy was directed toward dominance in the fur trade and land acquisition in the west. Consequently, the government created a commission of fur-trade-friendly treaty negotiators from the St. Louis area: William Clark; Auguste Chouteau, founder of a fur trade empire; and Ninian Edwards, governor of Illinois Territory. At Portage des Sioux, about 30 miles north of St. Louis, the trio signed 12 treaties in two months (including 4 in one day). Most were simple, identical agreements that strengthened US hegemony along the Mississippi. Treaties with the Sauk and Fox, however, affirmed the stipulations of a spurious land cession from 1804.
St. Louis Machine, 1815-1818After the flurry of treaty making at Portage des Sioux, the center of negotiations moved downstream to St. Louis. Thirteen additional treaties where signed there, and two more across the river in Edwardsville, Illinois, between October of 1815 and September of 1818. Many of these treaties simply affirmed US political and economic dominance. Beginning in 1816, however, St. Louis-area treaties also were negotiated for land cessions, from a strip near Chicago to vast territorial transfers in present-day Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. In negotiating so many treaties, William Clark and Auguste Chouteau created a machine-like team of family members, business associates, Indian agents and interpreters. The 28 treaties signed in the St. Louis area after the War of 1812 (including at Portage des Sioux) bear 458 US signatures; 19 men account for half of them, and other Clark/Chouteau partners and relatives account for another 10%.
Sauk 1816Peoria etc. 1818
Ohio and Indiana, 1816-1818In 1816, just before Indiana became a state, territorial judge Benjamin Parke negotiated a treaty in which Wea and Kickapoo representatives agreed to recognized an old land cession made by other nations. In 1818, just before Illinois became a state, the last territorial governor, Thomas Posey, negotiated the cession of a small reservation from the Piankeshaw. Midway between these two relatively minor events, Lewis Cass embarked on his decades-long enterprise of land acquisition on behalf of the US. By 1817 he was settled in his position as governor of Michigan Territory and engineered a cession by seven nations of a large swath of land in northwest Ohio, stretching into Michigan and Indiana. The next year, Cass with Parke and the newly elected governor of Indiana State, Jonathan Jennings, negotiated six treaties in three weeks at the Falls of St. Mary's, in Ohio; representatives of five nations agreed to cede reservations throughout the old Northwest and millions of acres in central Indiana. Cass created his own treaty-making machine at St. Mary's, as Clark and Chouteau had done in Missouri: a closely knit cadre of relatives, cronies and fur traders. Of the 89 signatures on the St. Mary's treaties, three fourths were made by 14 men, including representatives of the most powerful private fur trading families in Indiana.
Wea and Kickapoo 1816
Wyandot 1818 1Wea 1818
Southeast Tribes, 1816-1819After the punitive 1814 treaty imposed on the Muscogee, Andrew Jackson continued his aggressive rise to dominance in US Indian policy. In 1816 Jackson initiated an extralegal invasion of Florida against the Seminole people; in the next two years he negotiated four treaties with the Chickasaw and Cherokee in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia. These treaties, and four others that were negotiated in the Southeast 1816-1818, illustrate the business, family, and political networks that shaped US Indian policy. Signers of the eight treaties included a sitting governor, Joseph McMinn of Tennessee; D. B. Mitchell, who had recently left the governorship of Georgia for the more lucrative position of Indian agent; and R. K. Call, an aide to Jackson who later would be appointed territorial governor of Florida by Jackson. George Graham, acting Secretary of War, signed two treaties while his brother Richard was signing seven treaties as part of William Clark's machine in St. Louis. Another treaty was negotiated by John Coffee, a business partner of Jackson (and the husband of Jackson's niece). One of the Jackson treaties resulted in the cession of western Tennessee by the Chickasaw; Jackson co-founded the city of Memphis there seven months later.