Restoring the Chain of Friendship: British Policy and the Indians of the Great Lakes, 1783-1815

Restoring the Chain of Friendship: British Policy and the Indians of the Great Lakes, 1783-1815

Restoring the Chain of Friendship: British Policy and the Indians of the Great Lakes, 1783-1815

Restoring the Chain of Friendship: British Policy and the Indians of the Great Lakes, 1783-1815

Synopsis

During the American Revolution the British enjoyed a unified alliance with their Native allies in the Great Lakes region of North America. By the War of 1812, however, that "chain of friendship" had devolved into smaller, more local alliances. To understand how and why this pivotal shift occurred, Restoring the Chain of Friendship examines British and Native relations in the Great Lakes region between the end of the American Revolution and the end of the War of 1812. Timothy D. Willig traces the developments in British-Native interaction and diplomacy in three regions: those served by the agencies of Fort St. Joseph, Fort Amherstburg, and Fort George. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Native peoples in each area developed unique relationships with the British. Relations in these regions were affected by such factors as the local success of the fur trade, Native relations with the United States, geography, the influence of British-Indian agents, intertribal relations, Native acculturation or cultural revitalization, and constitutional issues of Native sovereignty and legal statuses. Assessing the wide variety of factors that influenced relations in each of these areas, Willig determines that it was nearly impossible for Britain to establish a single Indian policy for its North American borderlands, and it was thus forced to adapt to conditions and circumstances particular to each region.

Excerpt

The latter years of the eighteenth century marked a period of change and uncertainty in both Europe and North America. Events previously thought impossible had occurred. In 1783 the British Empire was compelled to acknowledge the loss of the majority of its North American colonies, and within a decade the mainland of the European continent would undergo a series of revolutionary conflicts. In their struggle for independence, the American colonists and their allies, most notably Britain's imperial rival France, had dealt the British nation a very rare defeat in modern history. Indeed, when Lord Cornwallis surrendered his army at Yorktown to the allied French and American forces in October 1781, British fifers and drummers unwittingly foreshadowed the future by prophetically playing “The World Turned Upside Down.” Louis XVI's ancient regime in France had little time to enjoy this lone victory against Britain, since France's involvement in the American Revolution led directly to the demise of the old order in French government and society, brought Louis's execution in 1793, and sank his nation into more than two decades of warfare, finally ending in 1815. In this new age of revolution and rampant republicanism, the British government would take whatever measures necessary to preserve its age-old constitution and way of life, defined by the common law, habeas corpus, Protestantism, and the sanctity of private property. To ensure these ends, Crown and . . .

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