It is easy to ignore the cries of a Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak. Louisiana is as American as any other state and always will be. That in itself offers a good reason to not lay any credense in his story. Then there’s the consequence of defaming Thomas Jefferson, father of our independence, the danger of deconstructing the nobility of our quest for freedom, and the scary possibility that, morally, we committed a grave injustice to a race we now claim to be our own.
However, not hearing him is as un-American as anyone could get. Freedom of expression is what fundamentally sets this country apart from the rest even when many of the things that are said are hard to hear. That is why Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak’s claims deserve to be heard, regardless of the consequences.
For the Expansion and Protection of America
In 1801, Spain turned over Louisiana to France in a confidential agreement (Cummings 182). Jefferson knew that it was a critical development because it positioned France at the heart of America. It happened at a volatile era, when countries were expanding. France declaring war on America wasn’t a remote possibility. It was the biggest threat to Jefferson’s dream to expand a free America. It was a risk Jefferson didn’t want to take and he was hell bent on doing anything he could, constitutional or not, to stop Napoleon (Wayne 353).
Even when there was no money to do so, Jefferson made an offer to buy a portion of the territory from France through Robert Livingston. Livingston went to Napoleon Bonaparte with $2 million for a portion of Mississippi where a seaport may be built. Almost immediately, Jefferson asked James Monroe to go to Paris, France with $10 million in exchange of New Orleans and Florida. Jefferson didn’t know that while Monroe was en route to, the Toussaint L’Ouverture and yellow fever made Napoleon realize that Louisiana was more a burden than an asset. He would rather concentrate on conquering Europe rather than spread his army thin. Napoleon offered the whole of Louisiana for $15 million. Jefferson went to Great Britain to borrow money at 6 percent interest. The purchase would have allowed white Americans to settle anywhere in the West. It was the greatest war prevention act. It saved America from what could have been a catastrophic threat to its independence (Montgomery 281).
However, it was unconstitutional because no law indicated that America is allowed to buy lands from other countries. Jefferson later said that he stretched his powers as President so hard “till it cracked” just to buy Louisiana. It was later on determined to be the most important act of Jefferson’s presidency, an act that may only be matched by this authorship of the Declaration of Independence.
The Ousting of the Indians
Jefferson wouldn’t have been able to free America and expand its territory if it wasn’t for a clear and strong vision. He knew that buying a territory is not enough to secure America. It must be fully integrated in law, culture, and social practice, with America. He had to make sure that majority of Louisiana will be occupied by whites so he got the young governor of the Indiana Territory, William Henry Harrison, to his side by nominating Harrison as Indiana’s governor and Indian Commissioner Plenipotentiary for the United States north of the Ohio River.
Jefferson started by writing Harrison a confidential letter telling him that the long term plan is to get the Indians to give up their hunting land to American farmers by making sure American goods enter the Louisiana territory. Harrison is also to encourage Indians to go into debt with Americans by buying more goods they could ever hope to pay. It was scheming and, perhaps, selfish. It was essentially, if not deliberately, spiteful. Harrison went into a buying spree but he didn’t try to establish white Americans in every section of the state. It was too big for Harrison and he determined that the Indians made America volatile because the tribes are at war with each other with perpetual desire to destroy the other (Patterson, 1999).
Secretary of War Henry Dearborn instructed Harrison to prevent, at all cost, an ensuing war especially when American properties are already scattered in the region. There were prominent tribes, Kickapoos, Potawatomis, and the Osages that were always at war with each other. Harrison tried, in the past, to reach a treaty with them but he wasn’t successful until 1804. U.S. army stopped a party of Sauks and Foxes about to attack Osage Indians of Missouri. The Sauks and Foxes felt Americans were favoring the Osages so they retaliated by murdering four Americans on the Cuivre River. The village chiefs then went to condemn the murders. American officials saw this as an opportunity and asked for the murderers and also invited the counsel to meet with Harrison. A small group led by chief of the Sauk village, Quashquame, was allowed by the village to do whatever they can to avoid any further conflict with the Americans.
Harrison made the most controversial treaties in the history of Indian-American conflict. He promised Sauks and Foxes protection and $2, 234.50 plus regular support of $1,000 annually. The treaty also contained the boundary of what was going to be the American territory where Americans will be allowed to freely occupy. It also contained the phrase “The Sauks and Foxes do hereby cede and relinquish forever to the United States, all the lands included within the above-described boundary.” The treaty further stated that Indians are still allowed to live in the area but it couldn’t have been clearer that Sauks and Foxes ceded the land to the Americans (Wallace 19-20).
It was later on determined that the Sauk and Fox delegation did not fully comprehend what they were doing. Spain, France and Britain claimed the land but never did anything to physically conquer the land. They didn’t know that the proximity of the whites to Louisiana would make all the difference.
Sauk leader Black Hawk, a.k.a. Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, would later say, “I find that, by that treaty, all our country, east of the Mississippi, and south of the Jefferson, was ceded to the United States for one thousand dollars a year! I will leave it to the people of the United States to say, whether our nation was properly represented in this treaty? or whether we received a fair compensation” (Black & Kennedy 200). However, they recognized its validity and felt that resisting it would put them at war with the Americans.
Jefferson didn’t mask any joy because of the resulted from the treaty and told the Senate that it was the most tangible move into establishing America’s ownership of the land. He later on said he didn’t plan to rule by force and will continue to allow Indians to live in the area.
Several other developments followed that event that became the cause of the Indians’ complete exit from the area. Two hundred years later, they are now the minority. It is, in fact, difficult to imagine Indians being once the majority. It is even harder to imagine the whole of America without the West.
However, it is also hard not to acknowledge the pain that Indians went through. They were an independent race. Whether their customs agreed with the customs of white Americans then didn’t matter. They were sovereign people and for them to be tricked into giving up the land where they lived for hundreds if not thousands of years was like giving up their identity and to a certain extent that is what they were tricked to do.
On the other hand, it was Jefferson’s greatest triumph for the Americans and without his vision and determination, America wouldn’t be what it is now, powerful and free.