IN his work, The Mississippi Valley in British Politics, Professor Clarence W. Alvord dealt with the problem of the American West during the colonial period, treating it from the point of view of the imperial administration. Various studies dealing with the American side of the question have been made, all of which deal with special areas or phases of the subject. The object of this volume is to bring together in a single narrative an account of the American West from the time when its exploitation was begun by English colonists to the end of the Confederation period. The term "West" as used herein includes the country lying between the Appalachian divide and the Mississippi River. The area situated north of the Ohio is not discussed beyond the time when it passed under the control of Congress in 1784. To trace the development of the legislation and the land companies which shaped its destinies would be to retell a story that has often been told, and one which should be carried beyond the limits of the Confederation period if its significance is to be made clear.
With the exception of Professor Alvord's treatment of the British phase of the subject, most of the writings on the West have dealt primarily with the problem of frontier development rather than with the political aspects of the matter. Since the main object of this study is to treat of the political problem no attempt has been made to deal with all phases of the question of Western lands, but only those which had some demonstrable political effect. To this end it has been necessary to pay some attention to the policy of the Continental Congress and to that of several of the colonies and States in dealing with the West. Since Virginia lay claim to so much of the country involved her activities are of paramount interest, and this side of the problem has, in the past, been peculiarly neglected. Historians have commonly manifested a leaning toward the side of her opponents, taking the attitude that because her claims were large, they were consequently unjust. In doing this, they have often neglected the legal phases of the question. The author hopes that he has succeeded in adhering strictly to the legal and political points involved, but the matter is so complicated and controversial that he cannot hope to have escaped all error.
Men generally appear at their worst when in pursuit of material gain.