A Loose and Disorderly People:
British Views of the French Canadians of
the Upper Great Lakes, 1760-1774



Kerry A. Trask

Reprinted with permission from Voyageur Magazine, The Historical Review of Brown County and Northeast Wisconsin, Vol. 5, Number 2, Winter, 1988/89.


Throughout the early eighteenth century the French, pushing westward in bark boats, expanded into the upper Great Lakes region and there, where the great waters narrow at Detroit, Michilimackinac, and Sault Ste. Marie, or at La Baye, which controlled access to rivers running into the very heart of the continent, they established their settlements. It was the fur trade that encouraged that exodus of young men from the farms and villages of the St. Lawrence valley into the northwest wilderness and by mid-century there were several thousands of them who, along with their Indian wives and Metis children, had become the vital connecting links in the complex commercial system which developed between the woodland tribes and the entrepreneurs of Montreal. Most never returned east to the old ways again and in time a new culture began to take shape in their trading towns along the Lakes and their inland river settlements such as Vincennes and Fort Chartes. It was a blend of both French and Indian elements and was a way of life almost ideally adapted to the demands of the fur trade and the Great Lakes environment. It was protected and nurtured by the wilderness and distance but then, suddenly, in the early autumn of 1760, its very existence was endangered by the British conquest of New France and as a result of that dramatic turn of events the people of Green Bay, Michilimackinac, and the other Lake towns, along with those of Quebec itself, became subjects of the greatly enlarged British Empire. 1

The British response to the conquest was one of unrestrained celebration, but their feelings about their newly acquired French subjects were decidedly split. In the St. Lawrence valley, for example, the army and officers of occupation soon forgot the war and quickly developed strong positive attitudes about the Canadians. By contrast, British officials responsible for the management of the northwest interior almost immediately came to despise and distrust the still numerous French Canadians living there. In fact, British fear and loathing of those people became so intense that they eventually came to demand their forcible removal from the entire interior of the continent.

Those strongly felt contradictory opinions about the two "branches" of the French Canadian people cannot be adequately accounted for by Protestant bigotry, British ethnocentric arrogance, or even the economic ambitions of the conquerors to finally overtake French domination of the inland fur trade. The fact that they were Catholic and French seemed to have little influence upon the new governors of Quebec who were unusually tolerant in matters of religion and extremely magnanimous in their treatment of old enemies who had long sought their injury and destruction. Nor did questions of faith and "race" have a bearing on British attitudes about the inland Canadians. Nevertheless, those Canadians were in competition with British traders, and in a very broad sense, economic concerns did influence British opinions of theme. 2 But even among officials most eager to personally profit from opportunities awaiting in the west--men like William Johnson, George Croghan, and Robert Rogers--economic self-interest was tempered, directed, and rationalized by an ideological world-view widely accepted by the men who managed the British Empire in America during the mid-eighteenth century. It was that ideological consensus, more than any other influence, that kindled within them a paternal affection for the people of Quebec and a raging contempt for the Canadians of the northwest interior.

There can no longer be any doubt about the profound impact of ideology on the Western world during the eighteenth century, especially upon its Anglo-American portion in the age of George III. During those turbulent years, British politics clearly consisted of much more than the self-serving factionalism so intently focused upon by Sir Lewis Namier and his students. Ideology was a very significant element in the British political environment and was a great deal more than "mere rhetorical decoration" used by conniving political hacks to disguise and deodorize their sordid motives and designs. Ideas were power, and ideological visions inspired the men and women of the age to take up arms, lay down lives, and topple empires in their attempts to transform those visions into radically new social and political institutions. It was a time in which people murdered for metaphors and died for myths. Because of that, it is difficult to accept Jack Sosin's characterization of the Englishmen who managed the King's mid-18th century American empire as being a group of highly pragmatic "administrators who arrived at particular solutions for specific problems as they arose" without "any doctrinaire frame of reference." 3

Quite the contrary appears to have been true, for among them existed a high degree of ideological consensus and commitment which probably arose primarily from their common class origins. They looked at the world from a similar perspective and acted in it and upon it from the basic assumptions of what H.T. Dickenson called eighteenth century England's "ideology of order." This "ideology of order," he explains, was an upper class emotional-intellectual response to the bewildering and rapidly changing conditions of life at that timed It was an unsystematic collection of related myths and prejudices which also had major influence on North American developments simply because almost all British officials who served there between 1760 and 1774 were military officers from families of the land-owning elite. They were gentlemen of the aristocracy, sons of squires raised up with similar notions about history and human nature, prepared from birth to perform the duties that accompanied rank, and cohesively bound together by ties of kinship and marriage. All of that reinforced shared values and ideas. That ideological consensus did not stop abruptly at the frontiers of aristocracy, however. It spilled over, influencing individuals who aspired to aristocratic status and a gentleman's style of life, men like William Johnson and George Croghan.

Reconstructed priest's house, blacksmith's shop, and church at Fort Michilimackinac, taken from Lyle M. Stone, Fort Michilimackinac, 1715-1781.

The primary ingredients of this "ideology of order," or "country ideology" as it is also called, were a sentimental idealization of the medieval manorial estate and a phobia of social change. According to J.G.A. Pocock, the people who subscribed to that world-view believed that almost "any change was likely to threaten corruption" in the body politic, and they were caught up in a brooding mood of "pessimism concerning the direction and reversibility of the social and historical change" affecting their own society. They longed to flee from the growing confusion that arose all about them, and they tried to escape through ideological fantasy into an imagined "agrarian world of Country nostalgia . . . which rested upon feudal ties of dependence between man and man." For them feudalism became the social model to be emulated, the manorial estate, the lost Eden of pastoral order and virtue which they longed to regain, and through that backward looking vision the eighteenth century British elite and their admirers articulated a deep desire for social stability. They also used it to justify both their commitment to the rigidly hierarchical class structure they believed necessary for maintaining proper relations among inferior and superior members of society and their assertion that "the natural rulers of society were the men of landed estates."5

A society of orderly agrarian arrangements presided over by unbroken generations of gentlemen was what they wanted. It had once existed, they believed, and would have gone on existing had it not been assaulted and polluted by merchants and the greedy appetites they excited. Merchants were the arch-villains of their ideological melodrama. In their minds, merchants, traders, peddlers and hawkers, all members of the same despicable tribe, had crept into their imagined pastoral utopia and sowed seeds of "vanity, luxury, and irreligion." As a consequence, the vulgar sort, whose proper calling was laboring upon the land and who lacked the capacity for either self-discipline or sound judgement, had been enticed from their duties by the sinful glitter of the market place. The true believers worried that this "degeneration was likely to prove uncheckable." With sentiments and images similar to anti-Semitism they accused the men engaged in trade of being the new barbarians who, lacking social roots and higher loyalties, pushed civilization ever deeper into a ruinous reign of self-indulgence.6

The hostilities generated by this world-view were further exacerbated by the influence of the "paranoid style," which Gordon Wood identified as a "mode of expression common to the age." Everywhere within eighteenth century Western society, where social conditions fell short of ideological expectations and life became difficult and disappointing, people "became ready as never before . . . to see deceit and deception at work," to perceive the conspiracies of "dissembling men behind patterns of events," and to become haunted by "fears of dark malevolent plots and plotters," Wood points out. Amidst the growing confusion and complexity of the age "conspiratorial interpretations --attributing events to the concerted designs of willful individuals--became the major means by which educated men . . . ordered and gave meaning to their political world," and, continued Wood, "at the very moment when the world was outrunning man's capacity to explain it in personal terms, in terms of the passions and schemes of individuals, the most enlightened of the age were priding themselves on their ability to do just that."7

All those aspects of British culture were carried into Canada at the time of the conquest, and there the "ideology of order," made even more militant by the "paranoid style," drove the conquerors to paradoxical conclusions concerning the characteristics of the newly subjugated Canadians. There they had a peculiarly powerful effect. In Canada, perhaps more than in any other part of the Empire, the British came face to face with what must have seemed to them to be both the light and dark sides of their own ideological vision.

In Quebec, somewhat to their surprise, they discovered a society and way of life that resembled their highly idealized image of the manorial past. Canada was then a land of whitewashed cottages clustered around high-spired churches in quaint rural villages with their long, thin, cultivated strips of land reaching back from the river banks toward the forest. It had been there that the French kings had attempted to replicate the feudal order of the old world in the form of the seigneurial system. Although that attempted transplant had not been a complete success, since, according to Richard Colebrook Harris, the abundance of land and shortage of labor significantly diminished the distinctions of power and privilege that were to have separated the seigneurs and habitants, nevertheless it had created a social ambience which fostered attitudes and relationships of paternalism and deference. Furthermore, after the middle of the eighteenth century, as population increased in the areas of Montreal and Quebec, there were signs that the system was tightening up and taking on more of the characteristics it was originally intended to have. Therefore, when the British arrived they found a much more orderly, rural, class-bound society than was the case in their own colonies to the south and, according to Harris, "Canada bore little resemblance to the unruly American settlements in the Appalachian valleys in the middle of the eighteenth century." In fact, asserts Donald C. Creighton, "of all the American colonies, it was the most un-American" and, as a result, the British conquerors were immediately impressed with that charmingly "static little society" which contained the well-preserved "remnants of the feudalistic hierarchy" they so much admired. They were also delighted with its "simple, docile, politically unambitious" peasant-like people who apparently accepted the importance of "order, obedience, and subordination." As a consequence, the new Anglo-Saxon overlords soon committed themselves to the preservation of that "paternalistic, military, and semi-feudal colony of the St. Lawrence" valley in which many of "the old certainties and the old simplicities" of manorialism appeared to survive.8

It was that near romantic infatuation with the reflection of their own ideological values in the tranquil surface of Canadian society which accounts for a good deal of the praise the British poured out upon the inhabitants of that colony. General James Murray called them "perhaps the best and bravest race upon the Globe," and indicated that they could become, with proper treatment," the most useful and most faithful set of Men in this American Empire." Murray, as Governor in Chief of Canada, was personally acquainted with that province's people, and his admiration and affection for them was sincere. Furthermore, his views were shared by most of his colleagues. His successor, Guy Carlton, for example, although somewhat more restrained in his praise, indicated that he had "not discover'd in them either actions or Sentiments, which does not belong to Good Subjects"; and, before that, General Thomas Gage expressed a deep satisfaction that his soldiers displayed a "brotherly Love and Affection to the Canadians" and that the British and French had "reciprocally acquire(d) an affection for each other."9

But, while admiring that society and its people, the British worried about their corruption and eventual destruction by the evil influences of "insurgent commercial capitalism." While men like Murray praised the Canadians, he simultaneously denounced the British merchants who swarmed into Quebec after the war as a pack of "ignorant, licentious, factious men." British officials in Canada remained true to their own ideological prejudices and vented what W.S. Wallace called the "contempt entertained by the English gentlemen of the eighteenth century for all who engaged in trade." However, in doing so they did not reserve their scorn for just the so-called "four-hundred and fifty contemptible sutlers and traders" who comprised the English-speaking mercantile community of Quebec. They extended it to the Canadians living in the northwest interior among whom they believed they saw the very worst, most disgusting, effects of commercial capitalism. In fact, in the lives of those people, they perceived what they most feared all good men might become unless the chaotic and corrupting influences of the market system and the American wilderness were not brought under the control of proper gentlemen like themselves. 10

The way of life that developed among the Canadians of the northwest interior was, indeed, quite different from that which had taken root in the valley of the St. Lawrence River. In settlements like La Baye there were few of the civilized refinements that existed back east. There was not even a church and life was lived rather close to nature. Also, as a result of the mingling and mixing of peoples and cultures, the French throughout the interior underwent a considerable degree of "Indianization." As a consequence, according to Jacqueline Peterson, the inlanders "increasingly diverged in their appearance, behavior, and beliefs from their rural Canadian kinsmen."11

Most of their communities were of modest size and of the simplest sort. Alexander Henry, the first of the Anglo-American traders to arrive at Michilimackinac after the conquest, described the main part of that settlement as consisting of about thirty houses, enclosed within a stockade, which he said were "neat in their appearance and tolerably commodious." A few weeks later, in September of 1761, Lieutenant James Gorrell landed at La Baye with his small force of seventeen soldiers to establish British authority in the region. He distrusted the Canadians but had very little to say about them or the appearance of their community. Jonathan Carver, who passed through in 1766, indicated that there was not much there worth remarking about and described La Baye as being "only a small village" where the "French settlers who cultivate the land . . . appear to live very comfortably." Seven years later a few more details were provided by Peter Pond who spent a few days there before pushing up the Fox River. He called it "a Small french Village" where the inhabitants made their livelihoods primarily by growing corn and trading with the Indians. But he also mentioned: The french at ye Villeg where we Incamt Rase fine Black Cattel & horses with Sum Swine."12

The other small settlements of the upper Lakes, like those at Sault Ste. Marie and the mouth of the St. Joseph River, were very similar and they, along with the larger ones at Detroit and Mackinaw, all waxed and waned in size with the cycle of the seasons and the rhythms of the trade. In the summer they were crowded, busy, and cluttered. Men were home from the forests. Voyageurs came from the east in great birchbark flotillas bearing trade goods and supplies. Women cultivated gardens. Traders and clerks did business with the Indians who came and went during the warm months. Then, with the approach of autumn as the geese flapped southward, the trading towns shrank as men once again departed to again live and work among the Indians on the winter hunting grounds.


Map by Captain Jonathan Carver from his book, Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768


The qualities that characterized their way of life and distinguished it from that of their more easternly countrymen were magnified and distorted for the British because they looked at them from the perspective of the "ideology of order." It was that which accounts for the many negative opinions they held about the inland French, as well as for their sharply contrasting views of the two branches of Canadian people. Rather than being characterized as useful, faithful, and brave, the backcountry Canadians were called "a most Vile Set" of "Licentious Ruffians" for whom there is "nothing so scandalous as they would not do for (even a) temporary advantage." Virtually all British officials in post-conquest America felt the same. According to them the Canadians of the northwest interior shared almost nothing in common with their cultural cousins back east, certainly none of their virtues, and as a consequence they became the objects of bitter British scorn. They were despised and dismissed as restless wanderers of the wild country wherein they made their dishonest livings as petty traders. Gage described them as "a People . . . as wild as the Country they go in, or the (Indian) People they deal with, and are far more vicious and wicked." His subordinates concurred and Indian Superintendent, Sir William Johnson, for example, predicted that the British would never become masters of their own inland empire until "the french Inhabitants and the Jesuits are removed." 13

Since the inland Canadians did not live in settled agrarian communities or work at the honorable calling of husbandry, they were found guilty of, among other things, not properly using the fertile land of the interior. While passing through Detroit in 1766, Jonathan Carver observed: "The land is very good, producing all the necessaries of life in abundance, but by reason of inactivity and idleness of the French inhabitants . . . they themselves (are) living little better than the Indians." George Croghan too, who characterized the inland French as being a "parcel of renegades from Canada," also called them "a lazy, idle people, depending chiefly upon the savages for their subsistence . . . and scarcely raise as much as will supply their wants."14


"Canoe Brigade Braving the Fog," painted by Frances Ann Hopkins, in Public Archives of Canada.


The British saw such idleness and the semi-nomadic life style as symptoms of defective character. They routinely referred to the inland Canadians as "loose and disorderly people." General Gage, who called them "vagabonds" and the "strolling French," also denounced them as "a terrible Set of people who stick at nothing true or false" and who spent their miserable lives "roving in the Desarts and seating themselves among the Indians," living with "different Tribes, moving from one to another as fancy leads them." William Johnson, as well, called them a "Troblesome Set . . . of Lawless Disaffected People," and Major Robert Rogers condemned them as "an Indolent Slothful Set of Vagabonds," who, he said, were "lurking and walking up and down" the backcountry "having great influence on the Savages . . . (and) exciting their Jealousys and Stirring up their hatred." They and other British officials considered them to be no better than the rogues and tramps who wandered the backroads and byways of old England or the much despised Jews and Gypsies accused of searching unrelentingly for economic victims to prey upon. Finally, Guy Carlton concluded that they were corrupt, immoral reprobates who had "expatriated themselves, to give a loose to their Vicious Inclinations "15

Thus, the inland French were looked upon by their new overlords as being the scum and refuse of humanity who had fled the pastoral orderliness of Quebec to become the debased human by-products of the backwoods trade. But even more, they were believed to be the monstrous realization of another of the deep nagging ideological fears to which eighteenth century English gentlemen were subject -- the fear that even highly civilized Christians would become depraved savages under the prolonged influence of wilderness conditions. Amidst the dense primeval forests of America, they assumed, the moral restraints of the settled life soon fell away, releasing the dark and sinful desires and drives of men so that in time even good men were transformed into wild and violent beasts. The British were convinced that this had happened to the inland French and that in their particular case, the moral deformities caused by trade were compounded by the uncivilizing influences of the wild country in which they lived. 16

Deep in the dark heart of the American continent they had become like wild men, the British asserted. According to Carver, for example, they "withdrew into Indian Country where they intermarried with the natives and underwent voluntary banishment." There, in the wilderness, wrote Gage, "they lived a lazy kind of Indian life" and became


From within their own ideological paradigm, British officials in America looked out upon the Canadians of the northwest interior and saw a morally degenerate people lurking in the darkness of the wild country beyond the bounds of civilized order. They imagined them as fiends and devils who haunted the inland empire threatening it with fire, fury, and mass murder. The good servants of the King, therefore, resolved to take firm measures to thwart the hellish designs of those vicious and wicked people.22

Initially a plan was devised by William Johnson which aimed at isolating the Canadians from the Indians by confining them to the areas in and around the garrisoned forts of the interior. The fur trade, which the Canadians depended upon for their livelihoods, would be restricted to Niagara, Detroit, Fort Pitt, Michilimackinac, and Fort Chartes. As a consequence, the inland French could be constantly watched and their relations with the Indians kept under the perpetual "inspection of proper Officers" of the British army. Those Canadians would be forced to live settled lives, work the land, and submit to the superior authority of "gentlemen of understanding and character," like their brethren in Quebec. Also, the unfortunate Indians would finally be delivered "from their Dependence upon the Friendship for the French Inhabitants of that Country," and their "new Fathers," the British, would "see Justice done between the Indians and the Traders ''23

That policy of concentrating the inland Canadians in heavily guarded camps failed and was abandoned in 1768. Meanwhile, British aversion for them intensified, and high officials began advocating a policy of hunting them down and casting them out of the northwest interior. At bayonet point, like the Acadians before them who, too, had been seen as threats to the orderly designs of the English, they would be driven from their homeland to make the world safer for British gentlemen.


"Metis Family Gathered Inside a Teepee," painted by Peter Rendishbacher, in West Point Museum Collection


Soon after going west to La Baye, Edmond Moran came to the conclusion that the English trade could not prosper there while the French remained in the backcountry. "I am sure that it will never be worth any English Trader's while to follow this Trade unless the French are prohibited to come here," he wrote from Green Bay to a colleague. Also, as early as the Indian uprising of 1763, Johnson argued that sooner or later the Canadians would have to be removed from the interior. In a letter to Amherst he asserted that the British would never realize the promises of the west and the Indians would never cease terrorizing the frontiers as long as the French were allowed to remain in the inland regions. His opinion on that was greatly reinforced a few months later when Colonel William Eyre, chief military engineer of the British Army in America, wrote to him upon returning from an inspection tour of the western forts. Eyre stated bluntly: "I would remove every Canadian from all our Posts to the inhabited Parts of Canada, as also the Priests, to prevent their doing Mischief." Johnson was pleased with that recommendation and responded to the colonel immediately: "The Persons and Properties of (the English) Traders would not be safe . . . whilst there are any French" in the west, and predicted, "We shall be liable to many Broils, till the French Inhabitants, and the Jesuits, are removed." A year later he discussed that idea even further with General Gage and Colonel Henry Boquet. Again, he felt, he would have to "insist on the banishing of all the French" from the interior if that region was to ever become pacified.24


Johnson did not stand alone in that position. General Murray, in sharp contrast to his paternalistically protective attitudes about the people of Quebec, strongly recommended to Lord Halifax that all the inland Canadians be removed from the interior and resettled in communities along the St. Lawrence valley where they would learn the habits of civilization under the surveillance of the British army of occupation. Robert Rogers, while commandant of Michilimackinac, advocated the same solution. He complained that the backcountry French were "an Indolent Slothful Set of vagabonds, ill disposed to the English, having great influence over the Savages," and rhetorically asked: "Ought they not therefore, as speedily as possible, be removed out of this Country for the better Security of British Subjects and British Trade?" Croghan and Gage echoed those opinions. Writing from the west, Croghan declared the Canadians "should by no means be suffered to remain here," and Gage reported to Lord Hillsborough: "The Vagabond Canadian Settlers in the Indian villages do a great deal of hurt, and should, if possible, be removed."25


The idea fell upon fertile ground when it reached the attention of Colonial Secretary Hillsborough, whose character, as Benjamin Franklin once described, consisted primarily of "conceit, wrong-headedness, obstinancy, and passion." In 1768 the Earl wrote Gage expressing his eagerness to avoid the "Necessity of carrying on a War in Indian Country, at an enormous and ruinous Expense," and indicated that the removal of the French was the best means of reducing that possibility.26

"French families of the worst sort live . . . at all the places where they formerly had posts, or trading houses," Johnson complained to the Lords of Trade. But by 1769, he and Gage were most concerned about those living at Vincennes. Croghan had discovered eighty or ninety French Families settled there in 1765. Four years later, according to Gage, the number of "vagabond French there was increasing," and he confessed to Johnson that he was deeply disturbed by their "machinations." He proposed to Hillsborough that troops be sent from Detroit to clean out that nest of thieves and conspirators, and the Secretary sympathized with the suggestion. In fact, he responded to Gage stating: "It is evident that that Settlement forming at the Post of St. Vincent is in every respect of the most dangerous Tendency and must have the effect to keep us entangled in perpetual Dispute and Quarrel with the Indians." Therefore, he concluded, "it is his Majesty's Pleasure that you give Notice to the Inhabitants of that Place forthwith to retire from it." Again, somewhat later, he reiterated that judgment by telling Gage: "A Removal of the vagabond Settlers from the Post at St. Vincent will certainly have good effect (and) I shall be very glad to hear that those measures have been carried into Execution." On learning of Hillsborough's wishes Johnson joyfully proclaimed: "I am very glad to hear that his

Majesty has ordered that the French at Post Vincent be removed."27



"French Canadian with Snowshoes," from Bacqueville de la Potherie, Histoire de L'Amerique Septentrionale, (1753).


However, while their removal was being planned, a war-threatening dispute flared up between Britain and Spain over the Falkland Islands. If war came, British officials feared, the French living in Spanish territory west of the Mississippi River would be tempted to take advantage of the situation to invade the Illinois region of the British interior. Those officials assumed the invaders from the west would join with Canadians still living around Fort Chartes to massacre the British soldiers and traders. Gage believed such suspicions to be wellfounded. He did not trust the Illinois French and warned London that "in case of a Rupture with the French, they could not be relied on to remain neutral," and concluded that the only safe and sane policy "in respect to the Illinois District would be the Removal of the Inhabitants to a situation within the Limits of Quebec or some other established Colony."28

Before such measures could be undertaken, the crisis passed. Gage remained tenacious on the issue of

French removal, however, indicating that he "wished there were no (French) Settlements whatsoever in the Indian Country," and telling Hillsborough in 1772 that "removing the (French) People into the inhabited Colonies" as still the "best step that could be taken." "I think those people would be better placed any where but where they are," declared Gage who was steadfastly supported by Sir William Johnson, who also believed the good of the Empire required that those people be "ordered to come within the English Pale."29

That may well have been the fate to befall the inland Canadians had Hillsborough's political fortunes risen rather than declined. He resigned in 1772 and was replaced, as Colonial Secretary, by the pious and pacific Lord Dartmouth. A devoted follower of the Methodist persuasion, Dartmouth had a decidedly different approach to the management of the American hinterland and its French Canadian inhabitants. Rather than regarding them as a "lawless vagabond Banditti" to be driven out at gun point, he commanded Gage to treat them with Christian kindness and to provide them with "protection in their Civil Rights" as British subjects. As a result the inland Canadians survived. Unlike the Acadians before them and the Cherokee and others who followed, they narrowly escaped becoming sacrifices offered up to the angry gods of the "ideology of order." At La Baye and their other Lake hamlets they lived on and for a few more decades their culture and commerce flourished on a modest scale. They were still there, in fact, when Henry Rowe Schoolcraft ascended the Fox River in the summer of 1020. He then called their community a settlement of "ancient standing." It consisted, he wrote, of "sixty dwelling houses and five hundred inhabitants . . . (who are) with few exceptions, French, who have intermarried with Indian women, and are said generally, to be indolent, gay, intemperate, and illiterate." But they were a people only temporarily spared and only because the British and their Anglo-American offspring had become such captives of the "paranoid style" that they had come to fear one another even more than those loose and disorderly people of the upper Great Lakes. 30




Kerry Trask is an associate professor of history with the University of Wisconsin Centers. He earned a Ph.D. in history at the University of Minnesota where he specialized in the history of Colonial America. Since 1972 Trask has taught at the UW Center in Manitowoc, and from 1984-1988 was chairman of the history program for all the Centers. Dr. Trask is the author of a number of scholarly publications, including studies of the Great Lakes fur trade, the early history of Manitowoc, the Metis (French -Indian) community at Green Bay, as well as a book dealing with Massachusetts during the Seven Years War to be published by Garland Publishing Inc. of New York in the spring of 1989. He wishes to recognize and thank Ellen Nibblelink for her fine work on the photographs that are part of this article.[Return to start of article]

1. See Jacqueline Louise Peterson, "The People In Between: Indian White Marriage and the Genesis of a Metis Society and Culture in the Great Lakes Region, 1680-1830," unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, 1981; Jacqueline Peterson, "The Founders of Green Bay: A Marriage of Indian and White," Voyageur, Vol. 1, (Spring 1984), 19-26; Kerry A. Trask, "Settlement in a Half-Savage Land: Life and Loss in the Metis Community of La Baye," The Michigan Historical Review (forthcoming, 1989).


2. Walter Scott Dunn Jr., "Western Commerce, 1760- 1774, " unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1971; Douglas Dunham, "The French Element in the American Fur Trade,1760- 1816" unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1950; Marjorie G. Geld, "The Quebec Fur Traders and Western Policy, 1763-1774," The Canadian Historical Review, Vol. VI (1925), pp. 15-32; Marjorie Gordon Jackson, "The Beginning of the British Trade at Michilimackinac," Minnesota History, Vol. XI (1930), pp. 231 -270.


3. Lewis B. Namier, The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George 111(2 Vols. London, 1929); M.M. Goldsmith, "The Principles of True Liberty: Political ideology in Eighteenth Century Britain," Political Studies, Vol. XXVII (March, 1979), p. 146; also see J. Brewer, Party Ideology and Popular Politics at the Accession of George 111 (Cambridge, 1976); Jack M. Sosin, Whitehall and the Wilderness: The Middle West in British Colonial Policy, 1760-1775 (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1961), p. 52.


4. H.T. Dickenson, Liberty and Property: Political Ideology in Eighteenth Century Britain (New York, 1977), p. 42; also see Paul Conner, "Patriarchy: Old World and New," American Quarterly, Vol. XVII (Spring, 1965), pp. 48-62.


5. J.G.A. Pocock, "Virtue and Commerce in the Eighteenth Century," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. In (Summer 1972), p. 121.


6. Joyce Appleby, "The Social Origins of American Revolutionary Ideology," Journal of American History, Vol. LXIV (March, 1978), p. 953; and Pocock, "Virtue and Commerce," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, p. 121.


7. Gordon S. Wood, "Conspiracy and the Paranoid Style: Causality and Deceit in the Eighteenth Century," William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. XXXIX (July, 1982), pp. 408, 410, 407; for "paranoid style" also see Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787(Chapel Hill, 1969); Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, Mass., 1967); Lance Banning, "Republican Ideology and the Triumph of the Constitution, 1789 to 1793," William and Mary Quarterly XXXI (April, 1974); David Brion Davis, The Slave Power Conspiracy and the Paranoid HIP (Baton Rouge, LA., 1969)


8. Richard Colebrook Harris, The Seigneurial System in Early Canada, A Geographical Study (Kingston and Montreal, 1984), p. 196; Donald C. Creighton, The Empire of the St. Lawrence (Boston, 1958), pp. 39, 40.


9. "Governor James Murray to the Lords of Trade," Quebec, October 29, 1764, in Adam Short and Arthur G. Doughty (eds.), Canadian Archives Documents Relating to the Constitutional History of Canada (Ottawa, 1918), Vol. 1, p. 231; "Governor Guy Carlton to Sir William Johnson," Quebec, March 27, 1767 in Alexander C. Flick (ed.) The Papers of Sir William Johnson (Albany, 1927), Vol. V, p.521 (henceforth referred to as Johnson Papers); "Thomas Gage Esq. to Sir Jeffrey Amherst, Containing a Report of the State of Montreal," Montreal, March 20, 1762, The Historical Collections made by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society (Lansing, Michigan, 1891), Vol. XIX, p. 15; also see positive British attitudes about French Canadians in J. M. Bumsted, " 'Carried to Canada' Perceptions of the French in British Colonial Captivity Narratives, 1690- 1760, " The American Review of Canadian Studies, Vol. X111 (Spring 1983) pp. 79-96.


10. Creighton, Empire of the St. Lawrence, p. 39; William S. Wallace, "The Beginning of British Rule in Canada," Canadian Historical Review, Vol. VI (1925), p. 217 and 215.



11. Jacqueline Louise Peterson, "The People in Between: Indian-White Marriage And The Genesis of a Metis Society and Culture in the Great Lakes Region, 1680-1830", p. 50.


12. Alexander Henry, Travels and Adventures in Canada and Indian Territory Between the Years 1760 and 1776 in Two Parts (New York: I. Riley, 1809) p. 40; "Lieutenant James Gorrell's Journal," State Historical Society of Wisconsin Collections, Vol. 1; Jonathan Carver, Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and /768 (London, 1781; reprinted Minneapolis: Ross and Haines, 1956), pp. 26-27; "The Narrative of Peter Pond," Charles M. Gates (ed.), Five Fur Traders of the Northwest (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1965), pp.33-34.


13. "General Thomas Gage to Colonel John Bradstreet," New York, October 15, 1764, Clarence Walworth Alvord and Clarence Edwin Carter (eds.), The Critical Period: Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield, 1915) Vol. X, p. 345; "General Thomas Gage to the Earl of Shelburne," New York, June 13, 1767, Clarence Edwin Carter (ed.), The Correspondence of General Thomas Gage with the Secretaries of State, 1763-1775 (New Haven, Conn., 1931), Vol. 1, p. 143 (henceforth referred to as Gage Correspondence); "General Thomas Gage to Sir William Johnson," New York, August 18, 1765, in Clarence Walworth Alvord and Clarence Edwin Carter (eds.), The New Regime: Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield, 1916), Vol. XI, p. 77; "General Thomas Gage to the Earl of Shelburne," New York February 22,1767, Newton D. Mereness (ed.), Travels in the American Colonies (New York, 1916) p. 462; "Sir William Johnson to Colonel William Eyre," Johnson Hall, January 19, 1764, in Stanley M. Pargellis (ed.), Military Affairs in North America, 1748-1765. Selected Documents from the Cumberland Papers in the Windsor Castle (New York, 1936), p. 460.


14. John Parker (ed.), The Journals of Jonathan Carver and Related Documents, 17661770 (St. Paul, Minn., 1976), p. 66; Reuben Gold Thwaites (ed.), "A Selection of Letters and Journals Relating to Tours into the Western Country by George Croghan," in Early Western Travels, 1748-1849, A Series of Annotated Reprints of Some of the Best and Rarest Contemporary Volumes of Travel, Descriptive of the Aborigines, Social and Economic Conditions in the Middle and Far West During the Period of Early American Settlement (Cleveland, Ohio, 1904-1907), Vol. 1, p. 141 and 152 (henceforth referred to as "Croghans Letters and Journals" in Western Travels).


15. "Guy Carlton to Sir William Johnson," Quebec, March 16, 1768, Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. VI, p. 157; "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, March 15, 1768, Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. 1, p. 173; "Thomas Gage to Secretary of War Barrington," New York, March 4, 1769, Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. II, p. 502; "Thomas Gage to William Johnson," New York, November 24, 1765, Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. IV, p. 878; "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, September 2, 1772, Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. l, p. 333. "William Johnson to Thomas Gage," Johnson Hall, March 20, 1772, in Milton W. Hamilton (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. XII, p. 92; "Robert Rogers Michillimackinac Journal," in William L. Clements (ed.), American Antiquarian Society Proceedings, Vol. 28 (October, 1918), p. 270; "Guy Carlton to William Johnson," Quebec, March 16, 1768, in Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. VI, p. 157.


16. See Edward Dudley and Maximillian E. Novak (ed.), The Wild Man Within: An Image in Western Thought from the Renaissance to Romanticism (Pittsburgh, 1972); Roy Harvey Pearch, The Savages of America: A Study of the Indian and the Idea of Civilization (Baltimore, 1953); Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (New Haven and London, 1967); Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Idea in America (New York, 1964); Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present (New York, 1978).


17. Jonathan Carver, Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 (London, 1781), p. 349; "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, January 6, 1769, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. 1, p. 212; "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, August 17, 1768, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. l, p.183 "Thomas Gage to Jeffery Amherst," Montreal, March 26, 1762, Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, Vol. XIX, p. 17; "Croghan Letters and Journals," Western Travels, Vol. l, p.170171. "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, September 2,1772, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. l, p.333; Parker (ed.), Journals of Jonathan Carver, p. 81.


18. "Sir William Johnson to Sir Jeffrey Amherst," Johnson Hall, July 8, 1763, in E.B. O'Callaghan (ed.), Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany, 1856) Vol. VII, p. 531 (henceforth referred to as New York Colonial Documents); "William Johnson to Thomas Gage," Johnson Hall, June 2 1764, in Hamilton (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. Xl, p. 217; "Thomas Gage to William Johnson," New York, January 12, 1764, in Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. IV, p. 291; "Major Henry Giadwin to General Jeffery Amherst," Detroit, November 1, 1763, in Charles Moore (ed.), The Gladwin Manuscripts in The Historical Collections Made by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society (Lansing, Mich., 1897), Vol. XVII, p. 676; "Thomas Gage to William Johnson," New York, January 12, 1764, in Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. IV, p. 291.


19. "Gorrell Journal," Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. 1, p.77; "Edmund Moran to Joseph Spear," Fort Edward Augustus, May 16,1763, in Charles Moore (ed.), The Glad win Manuscripts, in The Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society Collections (Lansing: Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, 1897), Vol. XVII, p. 635; "The Deposition of Garret Roseboom, Tanish Fischer, Cummin Shield, and William Bruce, Merchants from La Baye, as taken upon Oath before a court of Enquiry at Detroit on the 4th day of July, 1764," Gladwin Manuscripts, p. 668.


20. "Thomas Gage to Secretary of War Barrington," New York, March 4, 1769, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. II, p. 502; "Sir William Johnson to the Lords of Trade," Johnson Hall, May 11, 1764, in O'Callaghan (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, p. 626; "Sir William Johnson to Secretary of State Henry Conway," Johnson Hall, June 28,1766, in O'Callaghan (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, p. 835; "William Johnson to Thomas Gage," Johnson Hall, January 7, 1766, in Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. V, p. 3, "George Croghan to William Johnson," Philadelphia, September 25, 1767, in Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. V, p. 701; "Thomas Gage to Secretary of War Barrington," New York, March 4,1769, in Carter (ed.) Gage Correspondence, Vol. II, p. 502; "William Johnson to Thomas Gage," Johnson Hall, February 17, 1769, in Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol Vl, p. 631, "William Johnson to Thomas Gage," Johnson Hall August 6, 1772, in Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. V111, p. 562.


21. "William Johnson to the Lords of Trade," Johnson Hall, December 26, 1764, in O'Callaghan (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, p. 689; "William Johnson to the Lords of Trade," Johnson Hall, May 24,1765, in O'Callaghan (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, p. 716; "Croghan's Letters and Journals," Western Travels, Vol. l, p. 144; "Guy Carlton to the Earl of Shelburne," Quebec, March 2, 1768, in Reuben Gold Thwaites (ed.), Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (Madison, 1908), Vol. XV111, p. 289; "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, February 4, 1769, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. 1, p. 217.


22. For a general discussion of British policy in the west see: Jack Sosin, Whitehall and the Wilderness, Louise Kellogg, The British Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest (Madison, 1935) and Wayne E. Stevens, "The Organization of the British Fur Trade," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 3 (1916), pp. 172-202.


23. See Sosin, Whitehall and the Wilderness on Johnson's plan to confine the French and the fur trade to the garrisoned inland forts of the interior. This policy of confinement was similar to that used by the English government in the early seventeenth century in its dealings with the Scots and Irish. This is discussed by William Christie MacLeod, "Celt and Indian: Britain's Old World Frontier in Relation to the New," in Paul Bohannan and Fred Plog (eds.), Beyond the Frontier: Social Process and Cultural Change (Garden City and New York 1967), pp. 25-42; "William Johnson to the Lords of Trade," Johnson Hall, October 8, 1764, in O'Callaghan (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, p. 665; "William Johnson to the Earl of Shelburne," Johnson Hall, January 1767, in O'Callaghan (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, p. 893; "William Johnson to the Lords of Trade," Johnson Hall, November 16, 1765, in O'Callaghan (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, p. 776; "Colonel William Eyre to Sir William Johnson," New York, January 7, 1764, in Pergellis (ed.), Military Affairs in North America, p. 456.


24. "Edmund Moran to Joseph Spear," Fort Edward Augustus, May 16, 1763, Gladwin Manuscripts, p. 635; "William Johnson to Jeffery Amherst," Johnson Hall, September 17, 1763, in O'Callaghan (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, p. 551; "Colonel William Eyre to Sir William Johnson," New York, January 7, 1764, in Pergellis (ed.), Military Affairs in North America, p. 457; "Sir William Johnson to Colonel William Eyre," Johnson Hall, January 19, 1764, in Pergellis (ed.), Military Affairs in North America, pp. 459 and 460; "William Johnson to Thomas Gage," Johnson Hall, June 2, 1764, in Hamilton (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. XI, p. 217; "William Johnson to Colonel Henry Boquet," Johnson Hall, December 17, 1764, in Flick (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. IV, p. 620.




25. Sosin, Whitehall and the Wilderness on Murray's proposal, p. 75; "Rogers' Michillimackinac Journal," in Clements (ed.), American Antiquarian Society, p. 271; "Croghan's Letters and Journals," Western Travels, Vol. 1, p.150; "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, May 15, 1768, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. 1, p. 174.


26. "Earl of Hillsborough to Thomas Gage," Whitehall, April 15, 1768, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. II, p. 62.


27. "William Johnson to the Lords of Trade, " Johnson Hall, May 24, 1765, in O'Callaghan (ed.), New York Colonial Documents, p. 716. "Croghan's Letters and Journals," Western Travels, p. 141; "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, March 5, 1769, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. 1, p. 221; "Earl of Hillsborough to Thomas Gage," Whitehall, December 4, 1771, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. II, p. l 38, "Earl of Hillsborough to William Gage," Whitehall July I, 1772, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. II, p. 145; "William Johnson to Thomas Gage," Johnson Hall, March 20 1772, in Hamilton (ed.), Johnson Papers, Vol. XII. D. 942


28. "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, January 6, 1769, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. 1, p. 211 "Earl of Hillsborough to Thomas Gage," Whitehall, December 4, 1771, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. II, p. 138.


29. "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough," New York, March 5, 1769, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. 1, p. 220; "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough,' New York, March 4, 1772, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. 1, p. 318; "Thomas Gage to the Earl of Hillsborough, New York, May 6, 1772, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. l, p.323. "William Johnson to Thomas Gage," Johnson Hall, March 20, 1772, in Hamilton (ed.), Johnson Papers, XII, p. 942.


30. "The Earl of Dartmouth to General Thomas Gage," Whitehall, March 3, 1773, in Carter (ed.), Gage Correspondence, Vol. II pp. l 56 and 157; Henry R. Schoolcraft, Narrative Journal of Travels Through the Northwestern Region of the United States . . . in the Year 1820 (Albany: Printed by E. & E. Hosford, 1821). p. 369.



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