Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State

By Bruce A. Rubenstein; Lawrence E. Ziewacz | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Under the Union Jack

AFTER WINNING CONTROL OF NORTH America from the French and adding all Canada and the territory east of the Mississippi River, except Spanish Florida, to its empire, the British government had to face the responsibility of governing and protecting the region, as well as dealing with its Indian inhabitants. While the former would be costly in terms of men and money, the Crown had every reason to believe that the latter would be accomplished with relative simplicity. Most Indians appeared willing to abandon old ties with the French and become allied with their former British enemies. This apparent fickleness was actually a reflection of the Indian view of survival in a world increasingly filled with white interlopers—always try to be allied with the group that was the most powerful and delivered the most trade goods. In this instance, however, the transfer of loyalty seemed more sincere because during the French and Indian War British agents had promised both to expand trade with the tribes and to continue the established French policy of distributing food, guns, ammunition, and liquor. Indeed, Indians had good cause to expect that they would prosper from an alliance with the victorious British.

Indian expectations were dashed when the Crown appointed Lord Jeffrey Amherst governor general of British North America. The new governor was unimaginative, fussy, ill-tempered, and totally lacking in respect for both Indians and American colonists, whom he considered crude, uncivilized, and savage. Since the British, at the time of assuming control of North America, had no official Indian policy, the task of creating one fell to Amherst. To assist him, the governor summoned Sir William Johnson, head of the Northern Indian Superintendency since 1756. Johnson, who had a deserved reputation of being a respected, trusted friend of Indians, proposed that the government abide by all promises made during the war and that licensed traders be allowed to visit Indian encampments and sell merchandise at a maximum profit of 67 percent.

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