THIS BOOK BEGAN AS AN EXAMINATION OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF Native Americans on the political development of the United States in the 1820s. As my research progressed, however, it became evident that Native Americans had played an important role in the nation's development since its foundation. Their presence, their relationship with each other and their neighbors, and their resistance to the white advance not only had implications for the nation's westward expansion but exposed weaknesses in the Union and influenced issues ranging from domestic political cohesion to international relations. The diverse and ubiquitous nature of Native American power, expressed in ways often incomprehensible to white contemporaries, had far-reaching consequences for the difficult early years of the United States.
The study begins in 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris between the United States and Great Britain and ends in 1795 with the conclusion of the Treaty of Lorenzo between the United States and Spain. The twelve-year period between these two diplomatic events forms a distinct period of Indian resistance, underlining the link between Indian affairs and U.S. foreign relations.
Studies of white—Native American relations in the 1780s and 1790s have largely been explored from a single-issue perspective, focusing, for instance, on early attempts at formulating a national Indian policy, the birth of the U.S. army, or the difficulties posed by tribal alliances with Britain and Spain. These works have been an invaluable aid in my research, as sources herein will reveal. This book differs from these works, however, in that it offers an overall integrated account of the significance of Indian affairs. The link between the Native American issue and the fragility of the Union gives a broad perspective on the problems experienced by the young nation and shows that Native Americans were active participants in the early development of the United States. The Native American issue had such serious implications for the domestic turbulence and international tensions that characterized this period of U.S. history that it merits the focus given it here.