Publick Occurrences 2.0

September 19, 2009

The Balance of Power in North America, 1794

Filed under: American Indians,Early Republic,Military — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 7:22 pm

Not around here much lately, I know. The beginning of the school year, a lingering summer project, and really depressing public occurrences have all played their roles. Today, however, let me share something I found in an old newspaper — I look at those sometimes — that fits into a theme I have worked into Common-Place before:  the central and often-overlooked place of Indian affairs in the politics and policy of the Founding era.

The item comes from the New Year’s Day, 1794, issue of Greenleaf’s New York Journal, that city’s most important Democratic-Republican paper. It gives an account of the fighting strength of all the Native American peoples that the U.S. government knew anything about at the time. The tribal names do not quite match up with the ones in use today, and it would difficult to assess the accuracy of the numbers, but the proportions are fairly eye-popping. The unnamed officials thought they were facing more than 58,000 Indian warriors at a time when (according to a message from War Secretary Henry Knox), there were less than 4,000 troops in the whole U.S. army!  I guess it is no wonder a frontier military build-up (and Indian war) was the biggest project of Washington’s administration, besides the public finance system that paid for it.

Now playing: The Whigs – Give ‘Em All A Big Fat Lip


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