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Illinois in the 18th and 19th century


Slavery in Illinois
Slavery in Illinois

During the Revolution, George Rogers Clark of Virginia planned to establish several Illinois settlements to take control of the Old Northwest (the area north of the Ohio River now called the Midwest) from the British. Clark and a small band of men took the British military post at Kaskaskia by surprise on July 4, 1778, and then went on to capture Cahokia and other British garrisons. On the basis of Clark’s daring exploits, Virginia claimed jurisdiction over the lands north of the Ohio River and organized the area as the county of Illinois.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended the revolution, Great Britain surrendered the Old Northwest to the United States. In the years following the treaty, Virginia and other states ceded their claims to the Old Northwest to the federal government. In 1787 the Old Northwest, including Illinois, was organized as the Northwest Territory. In 1800 Illinois was included in the Indiana Territory, and in 1809 it was organized as a separate territory.

The Illinois Territory included present-day Illinois, most of Wisconsin, and large parts of Michigan and Minnesota. Ninian Edwards of Kentucky was appointed territorial governor, and Kaskaskia became the territorial capital.

White settlement proceeded slowly in Illinois during the early 19th century and was concentrated in the southern regions of the territory. The first settlement in northern Illinois developed around Fort Dearborn, which the United States built in 1803 on the site of present-day Chicago. Earlier the territorial governments had begun obtaining the land of native inhabitants in a series of treaties. The treaties exchanged land for yearly grants of money and presents. The native peoples in the Illinois Territory, including the Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and the Sac and Fox, quickly became dissatisfied with their land agreements, and took advantage of the War of 1812 (1812-1815) to side with the British.

The war


The war had begun largely as a result of violations of U.S. maritime rights in fighting between France and Great Britain from 1793 to 1812. To preserve Britain’s naval strength, Royal Navy officers often forcibly removed, or impressed, thousands of sailors from U.S. vessels, including U.S. citizens. Although the United States tried various diplomatic solutions to avoid war, the provocations continued until the United States declared war on June 18, 1812.

In the early part of the war, the United States evacuated the 67-person garrison at Fort Dearborn as the British and their Native American allies tried to gain control of the surrounding area. Accompanied by resident settlers, the garrison started for Detroit with a body of supposedly friendly Potawatomi. On the way, the escort party joined with another large force and attacked the group. Two-thirds of the Americans were killed and the rest were captured; the fort was destroyed on the following day by the Native Americans who later freed several captives after ransoms had been paid at Detroit. Fighting between several native peoples and the United States continued until the end of the war.

The war ended in 1815, and the following year Fort Dearborn was rebuilt on a larger scale and was strongly garrisoned. After the war, the number of white settlers increased. Flatboats and barges carried thousands of emigrants from Virginia, Kentucky, and other Southern states down the Ohio River to Illinois. Other pioneers traveled by wagon across the Allegheny Mountains. Most of the newcomers settled in the wooded areas of southern Illinois, which were similar to the Eastern and Southern states from which they had emigrated. The vast, sparsely wooded prairies of central and northern Illinois remained largely uninhabited by whites. "Illinois" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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