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EVENTS IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF KENTUCKY.
Organization of Counties-Foreign Intrigues-Attempts to form a State Government-Differences of Opinion in reference to that Measure.
Previous to the year 1793, the whole of our western frontier was continually harassed by the inroads of the Indians. Kentucky, then recently erected into a state, was a wide battle field, in which our gallant countrymen maintained themselves by a series of hardy exploits and patient sufferings. Gradually, however, the savages had been driven back or exterminated, until the river Ohio formed the grand line between them and the whites, and municipal regulations began to be introduced and enforced. Still there were large tracts of wilderness, lying between the settled districts, and within our acknowledged boundaries, where the marauding parties of the enemy lurked, and from which they emerged to attack the unwary traveller, or to assail the inhabitants who ventured to push their improvements into the forest, at a distance from the protection of the organized settlements. VOL. II-2
A series of brilliant successes, obtained by the Kentuckians, led by Boone, Scott, Shelby, Hardin, Clark, and other veterans, had rendered the question of sovereignty no longer doubtful, and the white man was become undisputed lord of the soil. But the Indian, if he could not fight for victory, could still strike for revenge. He could no longer track the deer or the buffalo, in the rich pastures of Kentucky, or pitch his tent on the spot consecrated as the resting place of his fathers, and rendered memorable by the legends of his tribe. A race more numerous than his own, his equal in courage and sagacity, his superior in stature and military skill, now occupied the forests from which he had been driven, and were prepared to defend their newly acquired territory. The new inhabitants had long been trained in the school of war. They were hunters and warriors, of high courage and tried skill. Reared in habits of fearless enterprise, inured from childhood to exposure and hardship, and trained to all the devices of sylvan life, and the stratagems of border warfare, they could overmatch the savage in his native fastnesses, and foil him in his own peculiar modes of attack and defence. The savage, therefore, mournfully extinguished his fires, and abandoned the hunting grounds of his people. But he retreated like the foiled tiger, scowling at the victor, and watching his opportunity to renew the contest. He went muttering curses against the white man; and long after his power was broken, and his tribe dismembered, he continued to return at intervals, to strike a stealthy but sanguinary blow at his triumphant enemy.
The first settlements were not only exposed to the as
saults of a savage foe, but they were separated from the mother states, by a wide chain of almost impassable mountains, and wholly cut off from the restraints and the protection of government. Instead of calling upon Virginia, or upon the general government, to protect them from their enemies, the pioneers defended themselves, and became early accustomed to rely upon their own courage and resources. Every man looked to his personal safety, and stood prepared to sustain his neighbour, and to guard his own fire-side. As the settlements extended, self-defence grew into patriotism; men united for mutual protection, and by standing side by side in battle, and rendering to each other assistance in sickness, in famine, and in all the varieties of fortune to which the inhabitants of the frontiers are exposed, became joined together by the closest ties. Thus they became kind and hospitable; and to the early impress given by these circumstances, more than to any other cause, may be attributed the generosity, frankness, and manly bearing, which still distinguish the Kentucky character.
In 1780, three counties were organized in the district of Kentucky, by the legislature of Virginia; civil and military officers were appointed; and those acts which had hitherto been voluntarily performed by private indi viduals, began to emanate from the body politic. It was not until the year 1794, when the Indians were signally defeated by General Wayne, on the western side of the Ohio, that peace was established on this frontier. But even then the country was far from being tranquil. A people accustomed to think and act for themselves, could feel little sense of dependence upon the parent state; their
loyalty was voluntary, and resulted solely from sound principle and natural affection. A warlike population thus independent, owing few obligations to the sovereign power, and surrounded by none of the restraints and few of the advantages of the national government, would naturally think freely, and speak with boldness, of the tie which bound them to the great republican family. They would easily be led to exercise their undoubted privilege, of weighing the advantages of the connexion which bound them to their government, and a slight grievance might give to their thoughts and language the tone of bold defiance.
One of the earliest causes of complaint, to which the people of Kentucky were exposed, arose from their geographical position. The United States, newly organized, loosely connected, weak in resources, and burthened with debt, had sufficient employment in preserving the existence of the new confederacy. No settled policy had as yet been adopted, in reference to an extension of the territorial limits of the republic. The great mass of the American people knew nothing of the fertile regions of the west, and some of our statesmen announced authoritatively, that the Alleghany mountains formed the natural boundary of the United States.
While this delightful region was thus undervalued and neglected by our own politicians, foreign nations had early adopted in relation to it, certain views which were remarkably adapted to coincide with the policy of our government, in retarding its improvement. France alone had formed a reasonable estimate of its importance. The French commanders and missionaries had traced
the long rivers of the west, and wandered with delight over its boundless prairies; and while they carefully concealed their discoveries from the rest of Europe, the French government made extensive arrangements for securing this country to themselves. Having possession of Canada and Louisiana, they early formed the plan of seizing the intermediate territory, and of confining the English to the shores of the Atlantic.
The British government, on the other hand, was not only ignorant of the great resources of the interior of our continent, but was averse, from policy, to any great extension of her colonies in that direction. Mistress of the ocean, she could easily, by means of her great navy, and commercial marine, maintain her influence and enforce her sway over a people scattered along the sea-coast, and the navigable rivers of the Atlantic; while an agricultural population, growing up in the interior, would be less apt to value her friendship, or fear her power. At a later period, when the colonies had thrown off the yoke, the British cabinet, still hoping that our weakness or our dissentions would afford to that government an opportunity to renew its usurpation, and rivet more closely than ever the chains of dependence, watched the early growth of our institutions with a vigilant eye, and endeavoured to weaken our strength, by turning loose the savages upon our western frontiers. Determined to check the expansion of our territory in this direction, her agents traversed the whole region of the northern lakes, furnishing the tribes with arms, bribing them to hostility, and artfully inflaming their passions against the American people.