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The preliminary articles of peace between the United States and Great Britain, which had been signed on the 30th of November, 1782, were *not known in Kentucky until the spring of 1783; a singular illustration of the imperfect intercourse between the western section and the other parts of the country. While this history is writing, the ordinary rate of the mail from Louisville to Washington City, and Philadelphia, is only about a week or eight days to either place-showing the great disparity of time between the transportation of the mail now, and at the period to which we have already referred.
This is not the place to expatiate upon the honorable termination, to the labors and sacrifices of the patriots and sages of the Revolution; but the incidental operation which peace produced on our domestic hostilities, most strictly appertains to the affairs of Kentucky. The Indians alarmed at the approaching loss of their powerful allies, who had fed, and clothed, and armed them against their most hateful enemies, suspended their incursions into Kentucky.
It must be interesting as connected with the negotiation of peace, to observe the attempts which were so artfully urged, to sever Kentucky from the rest of the confederacy; and to notice how ably they were repelled. The first step in this insidious intrigue was taken by Count Lucerne, at Philadelphia, in conformity with instructions from Count de Vergennes, the French minister of State. On the arrival of the former gentleman, he lost no time in pressing ton Congress certain instructions for their ministers at Paris, pursuant to the following ideas: 1. "That the United States extend to the westward no farther than settlements were permitted by the British proclamation of 1763;" 2. "That the United States do not consider themselves as having any right to navigate the Mississippi, no territory belonging to them being situated thereon;" 3. "That the settlements east of the Mississippi” (embracing Kentucky with her southern neighbors) "which were prohibited as above, are possessions of the crown of Great Britain, and proper objects against which the arms of Spain may be employed for
* Marshall 1, 155.
† Pitkin 2, 92.
the purpose of making a permanent conquest for the Spanish crown," In consequence of adverse events happening to the American arms, Congress, on the motion of the delegates from Virginia, authorized by a resolution of the legislature in 1781, and assented to by all the southern States, with the exception of North Carolina, *instructed Mr. Jay, their minister at Madrid, "no longer to insist on the free navigation of the Mississippi below the southern boundary of the United States." Still these concessions were fruitless, and Spain would neither acknowledge American Independence, nor form any treaty; though she would have granted any money required by the exigencies of America; provided Mr. Jay would have entered into her favorite scheme, of excluding all foreigners from entering the Gulf of Mexico by the rivers of the north. This independent firmness of John Jay, under the pressure of bills drawn upon him by Congress for half a million of dollars in expectation of Spanish assistance, must immortalize him among American patriots.
But notwithstanding the failure of this favorite Spanish scheme at Madrid, it was pressed again at Paris by the Spanish minister, Count Aranda, supported by Count de Vergennes, and his secretary, M. Rayneval, with the same happy result upon the same minister. This second failure, when supported with the whole influence of the French cabinet, is the more astonishing and honorable to the character of Mr. Jay; since the French minister at Philadelphia had the adroitness to persuade Congress in a moment of either despondency or of credulous confidence, to instruct its ministers at Paris "to undertake nothing in the negotiations for peace or truce, without their knowledge and concurrence," meaning the concurrence of the King of France, "and ultimately to govern yourselves by their advice and opinion." A step of degrading compliance, which, whenever this country may be again disposed to take, it had better surrender in form, an independence which she would no longer retain in reality. Yet armed with the perverted authority of their own government, the American plenipotentiaries extricated themselves from the toils pre
* Jay's Life 1, 120.
† Pitkin 2, 97. Idem 99.
+ Idem 109.
pared for them by a foreign court; and by firm and sagacious concert; brought their country out of war, into peace and independence, with exalted honor.
Let us now attend to some of the proposals which would have implicated the future condition of Kentucky.* The Secretary of the French minister of State, after a long argument to show that the rights of the United States were derived through Great Britain, and that she had acknowledged the Indians as an independent power belonging to neither party, proposed to run the boundary on the west to Fort Thoulouse, (the head of the Tombeckbee) and then by various points, which the author has been unable to identify in our more recent topography, to intersect the "Cumberland river; whose course is to be followed until it falls into the Ohio. The savages to the west of the line described, should be free, and under the protection of Spain," "the lands situated to the northward of the Ohio," must be regulated by the court of London." Fortunately these joint intrigues of France and Spain were most adroitly counteracted by John Jay on his own individual resposibility; against the opinion of Dr. Franklin, and against his own instructions, though ultimately and cordially supported by both Franklin and the elder Adams, who joined the commission some time afterwards.
In March, 1783, an improvement of the judiciary in this distant section of the State, was directed by the legislature of Virginia, uniting the three counties into a district, to be called the District of Kentucky, with a court of common law and chancery jurisdiction co-extensive with its limits, and possessed of criminal jurisdiction. The District court was opened at Harrodsburg on the 3d of the month, by John Floyd, and Samuel McDowell as judges; George Muter did not attend until 1785, the two former appointed John May their clerk. Walker Daniel was likewise appointed by the Governor of Virginia, Attorney General for the District of Kentucky. This constitutes the third legislative alteration of Kentucky; 1. the county of Kentucky; 2. the three counties sinking the name of Kentucky; and now, 3. the District, reviving the name of Kentucky to
* Pitkins, 2, 139-140.
† State papers, vol. 2, 169.
go out, we trust, no more forever. This commenced the higher judicial organization; *at this time, no house at Harrodsburg could conveniently accommodate the court; and it adjourned to a meeting-house near the Dutch station, six miles from its place of meeting. The Attorney General and clerk were directed to fix on some safe place, near Crow's station, close to the present town of Danville, for holding the court; they were authorized to procure a log house to be built, large enough to accommodate the court in one end, and two juries in the other; they were likewise authorized to contract for building a jail of hewed or sawed logs, at least nine inches thick. This arrangement for buildings, so suitable to the poverty of the mechanic arts at this time, gave rise to the town of Danville; which continued the seat of the District court, and was the place of meeting for all the early public assemblies of Kentucky, Yet this ancient town, if any thing artificial in Kentucky is entitled to the name, has by some strange juggle of political intrigue, ceased to be the seat even of a county: may its college and its benevolent asylum for the deaf and dumb, compensate the inhabitants of this delicious section of Kentucky, for the wayward tricks, of which they have been made the victims.
Society now rapidly assumed the character of older and riper communities. A fertile soil, liberty and peace, soon spread their benign effects over the land. In consequence, the fields smiled with the heavy crops; cattle and hogs throve in the rich range of the woods to an astonishing degree. Emigrants diffused considerable money, and labor was well rewarded. Mechanics, divines, and schoolmasters, fast followed to fill up the picture. Several crops of wheat were raised on the south side of the Kentucky river; some distilleries were erected for the distillation of spirits from Indian corn.
This year was likewise distinguished by the opening of western trade with the fair and opulent city of Philadelphia, by Daniel Broadhead, who brought merchandise from that place in wagons to Pittsburg, and thence in boats to Louisville; where it was offered for sale, and thus established, it is believed, the first
* Marshall, 1, 157.
store in the State for the sale of foreign merchandise. In Philadelphia were formed several companies of land speculators, who converted their hordes of paper money into Virginia land warrants; and added a new impulse to a tide already at the flood. A commercial association had likewise been formed at the above place; the active partner of which, was James Wilkinson, afterwards so prominent in western affairs; who in February, 1784, arrived in Lexington. So impressive and influential were the movements of this gentleman, though only in private life, that they constitute quite an era in the history of Kentucky.
The conclusion of the definite treaty of peace which had been signed at Paris, in September, 1783, (but the ratification of the parties not exchanged until May, 1784,) it was fondly hoped would have immediately led to the surrender of the British posts on the lakes, and in consequence, to a control over the conduct of the Indians; this, whether, they had been in French, British, or American hands, has always followed that event. Mutual complaints of infractions of the treaty, and unfortunately as well grounded against Virginia, for suspending the collection of British debts in her courts; as against Great Britain, for retaining forts within the acknowledged limits of the United States; protracted the execution of the treaty. In the mean time the Indians perceiving the frontier fortifications, (which must strike them as the most palpable marks of power,) still in the hands of their old friends; necessarily relied upon the continuance of their protection against the Americans. This was too readily afforded by the agents and subjects of the British government; particularly those who were interested in retaining a monopoly of the fur trade. Truth likewise compels the acknowledgment, that many individuals in Kentucky displayed a revengeful hostility to the Indians, not at all short of their own ferocity to the whites. In one instance a friendly Indian is said to have been seduced into the woods by a white man and secretly murdered; yet the punishment of the law could not be inflicted upon the offender, owing to the popular resentment against the old enemies of the whites, and their unjustifiable sympathy with a shedder of innocent human blood. The effect of this winking of the laws of