The United States, Great Britain, and British North America from the Revolution to the Establishment of Peace after the War of 1812

By A. L. Burt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF PEACE: BORDER FRICTION AND DISARMAMENT ON THE LAKES

THOUGH the War of 1812 was like a thunderstorm that clears the air, it would be a mistake to imagine that the spirit of hostility suddenly vanished from all along the northern border of the United States. But it was not long before the strong will to peace that prevailed in Washington and London made itself felt. Underlings might bicker but they could not involve their principals in a quarrel. This is the dominant feature of the relations between British North America and the United States in the postwar years.

The old problem of British relations with Indians living within the borders of the United States raised its head for the last time at the close of the war, and soon disappeared forever. For a brief moment in 1815, Michilimackinac threatened to become what the western posts had been a generation before. When the nature of the treaty was disclosed in Canada, the chief director of the North West Company, William McGillivray, approached Sir George Prevost to persuade him that Michilimackinac should not be given up. He advanced the well-worn argument that the security of Upper Canada depended on the friendship of the western tribes, which in turn depended on their trade with Montreal. But he had gloomy forebodings that it would be impossible to retain this door to the American West, and therefore he urged that at least the United States should not be allowed to close it. He contended that the British government still had the power to insist on the continuance of the trade to the Mississippi through the straits guarded by this post. It would be necessary, he said, to force a reduction of the American customs duties on trading goods, and to base the traffic on a new fort built in some strong position near by. The new substitute for Michilimackinac, which would then "dwindle away," should not be on the site of the old substitute, destroyed during the war, for St. Joseph's Island was "very unfit for a military station."

The governor inclined an ear to the fur baron and asked him to commit his ideas to paper.1 McGillivray submitted the desired memorandum2 on March 28, and on that very day an order went forth to Lieutenant Colonel McDouall, the commander at Michilimackinac. Though he was immediately to withdraw the contingent he had posted

____________________
1
Q, CXXXII, 35.
2
Ibid., p. 20.

-373-

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