The Spanish Connection
ON THE SOUTHERN FRONTIER, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT FACED ANother interfering neighbor. While the Spanish colonies to the south and west of the new republic were not as powerful as those of Britain, the presence of an imperial power on the border nevertheless added to the chaos that reigned in the south in the early postwar years. By the time Congress attempted to implement a central Indian policy in the south, Spain, North Carolina, Georgia, and private speculators had all already taken the initiative in either treating with or passing legislation that affected the Indians on their border. Indeed, the Indians themselves had initiated new trading alliances with their new neighbors in the south. As Congress struggled to take control of Indian and land policy in the south, settlers, speculators, and military officers alike all showed scant regard for U.S. authority and, underlining the distant relationship between southerners and the northeastern government, many even contemplated forming new national allegiances. The region west of the Appalachian Mountains and south of the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico was claimed by both the United States and Spain and accommodated remote settlements of American frontiersmen, small Spanish communities and garrisoned forts, and the towns and hunting grounds of four Indian nations. Consequently, this southwest frontier region was the scene of intense competition for land, diplomatic wrangling, political intrigue, and much bloodshed.
The Revolution had given fresh impetus to western expansion as British imperial control was swept away. New settlements such as those on the Cumberland and Kentucky Rivers were extended, and speculative land companies embarked on colonization projects in the west. Successful western expansion required lands occupied by the Indians and transportation links with ports and markets. Consequently, these ambitious frontiersmen demanded the removal of Indians from the rich lands they coveted and free navigation of the Mississippi River as the only practical trade route for their produce.