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tv   1765 Frontier Rebellion Against the British  CSPAN  January 27, 2019 4:55pm-6:01pm EST

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were about against the british army and attempted to sabotage their efforts to make peace with native americans. they played a crucial role in it knighting the american revolution. the american revolution institute of the society of the cincinnati posted this event. it is a little over an hour. evening. i am a pennsylvania member of the society of the cincinnati. i am honored to welcome you here to our headquarters, where we have the american revolution institute. the organization that is sponsoring this presentation. promotes knowledge and appreciation of the achievement of american independence by supporting advanced study, exhibitions, and public programs such as tonight. historic preservation and providing resources to classrooms.
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1938, the society has done its work from this house. which is a national historic landmark finished in 1905. talk is on a book, frontier rebels. when the british officials launched a risky diplomatic expedition into the american interior to open trade with the indian chief pontiac, the black to stop it. distrustful of native neighbors aims, they led an uprising that threatens the future of britain's empire, which in turn would become an organized movement to resist the yearsand its ideas for before the declaration of
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independence let me tell you a bit about the author of this book and our speaker tonight. he received his phd from the university of pennsylvania and currently serves at -- as a librarian at the american philosophical society in philadelphia, the oldest learned society in the united states. previously he taught at williams college where he served on the faculty of the history and leadership department and received recognition for his technology of new and the cost her. he specializes in the era of the american revolution and has held long time fellowships from the theety of cincinnati, library of the american revolution, and the american philosophical society. the is his third book on
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era of the american revolution. join me in welcoming him. [applause] dr. spero: thank you all for coming, and i want to thank the society for bringing me here. cliff for probably my phd,, before i had thanks to the generation -- generosity of the society, they gave me a fellowship which became my dissertation and my first book. that was important support that i received at a very important moment in my graduate group. -- career. would start by talking a little bit about where i work. americanbrarian of the
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philosophical society. many people ask me what that is. how many people have heard of it? all right, well. usually the further i travel from philadelphia, the lower the hands go. what does the american philosophical society do? that is a little bit harder. i want to briefly talk about what we do. we promote useful knowledge. we were founded by benjamin franklin in 1743 to do that. that -- 275 years ago, this is our 275th anniversary. it's called philosophy because it meant at the time inquiry, what we might think of science today.
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it still guides the mission of the society today so we have a number of different programs. the first is something called membership. the idea is after an extensive career, you may be elected to be a member of the american philosophical society. across all disciplines, we have laureates,bel pulitzer prize winners, musicians, directors. it recognizes those who made particular contributions to american society. the second thing we do are hold annual meetings of members, in which cutting edge research across all disciplines is showcased. you may see in the morning a talk on immuno-therapy followed by something on the american civil war, ending with a concert or something like that. the third thing we have is something called publications. we claim to be the longest continuously operating scholarly printing organization in america.
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we still produce new scholarship through our program. we also give out over a million dollars of research grants every year to young scholars who conduct research in all fields. it can be medicine, history, anthropology, and it primarily goes to young scholars who need that type of support to advance in their very early stages. finally, we have what i oversee, which is the library, which has over 13 million pages of manuscripts. we have collections of seven nobel laureates. 2.5collections take up over miles of shelf space. recently, we have opened a museum to showcase these treasures. that gets over 20,000 visitors a year. i encourage you, if you are envisaged a -- if you are in philadelphia, to visit the american philosophical society. we would be happy to host a tour, a curated tour of the museum. i thought i would briefly give
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you a tour of our vault. it's not as exciting as seeing it in person but it will give you a sense of our holdings. here are some of the treasures from the aps. the first, some of you, any attorneys in town? this is -- there are certainly a lot of attorneys in town. [laughter] this is the first printing of the united states constitution, and it's not just any first printing. as you can see in the right hand, this is benjamin franklin's copy of the constitution. and we are the repository of franklin's papers. franklin'sr 70% of correspondence in our vault. i always like to show this because this is what you might call an original interpretation of the constitution. the next item here, it was founded in 1743 but it was another founder of the united states who also helped to create the american philosophical society in the early republic, and that was thomas jefferson. jefferson served as president of the society for about 17 years. he was president of the aps while also vice president and
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president of the united states of america. what you are looking at here is a that's in jefferson's hand -- is a document that's in jefferson's hand from 1793 while he was in philadelphia. what it is, is a proposal of a frenchman who had come to north america to explore the flora and fauna that inhabited the eastern seaboard. by 1793, he had done all the research he thought he could do and now he wanted to explore the interior of north america. he was in philadelphia. he approached jefferson with this idea. he said, i want to travel all the way to the pacific ocean to be the first person to cross the continent and to observe all of that things that we don't know about in the interior of north america. jefferson said, this is a great idea and i know just how to raise funds. let me go to the american philosophical society and get the members to donate money. this is in jefferson's hand, and he went to all the members of the aps, this is when the capital was in philadelphia, everybody who was anybody was in
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philadelphia. you can see who some of the donors for this expedition were. on the top left, george washington giving a hundred dollars. john adams gave $20. you have thomas jefferson in the middle. jefferson is sandwiched by henry knox, a member, and alexander hamilton, another member, and james madison. this is also believed to be the only document that holds the first four presidents' signatures on it, and what's even more interesting about the story of this document is it was rediscovered, i guess you can say, in the 1960s, by an intern who is going through an old vault during renovations and found a scroll rolled up with a red ribbon on it and opened it up and realized he had a national treasure on his hands. i would also like to point out this was a bipartisan effort. the desire to explore, to
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support science, was a bipartisan effort bringing together both the jeffersonians and the federalists at this moment. here's another one of our treasures, another jeffersonian document just like we have the constitution and franklin's copy. we also have thomas jefferson's final draft of the declaration of independence. he sent one copy to congress and then he sent a few others to some of his friends. this was sent to richard henry lee, a virginian. he had proposed the vote for independence and then had to return to virginia, and jefferson sent this to his friend to say, this is the result of what your proposal -- what your proposal led to. i always like to talk about the changes that happened from jefferson's original draft and then the one after congress got their hands on it. jefferson always thought that congress ruined and adulterated the meaning of his document, something we all may sympathize with. the original phrase, words, surrounding this very famous phrase, "they are endowed by their creator with inherent and
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inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." it was changed. they struck "inherent" and changed it to "certain inalienable rights." if you think about that change, "inherent rights" could be interpreted to apply to everybody including the enslaved . that was obviously a charged word in that period so instead of having this universal more natural rights concept, congress limited these rights and described it as certain, only as certain inalienable rights. i always like to bring it out to students how word matter and how different history may have been if these words were enshrined in the final draft that congress approved. so jefferson eventually does realize that proposal that was brought to him after the louisiana purchase. jefferson outfits meriwether lewis and william clark, they successfully accomplish the -- successfully crossed the continent and returned with
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journals. jefferson gets his hands on these journals and says there is only one place for their safekeeping and that's the american philosophical society because, at that time, we were the only manuscript library in north america. so we've been the stewards of these national treasures since that period. the final thing, an unusual part of our collection that also dates to thomas jefferson. it's not really known about jefferson that his largest scholarly project was collecting and documenting native american languages. he spent 40 years of his life collecting american native languages. he used his offices as secretary of state, as governor, as vice president, as president, to send out word lists to diplomats, military officials, and to agents, asking them to collect native american languages and then his goal was to compile them to print them for posterity. he realized some communities
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were losing their languages and he was able to preserve them this way. and he also subscribed to the idea if he analyzed all of these languages together, he could unearth elements of human history before contact. if he studied the evolution of languages, he could get a sense of the history that occurred before europeans arrived in north america. his final piece was lewis and clark. after they returned, he said, i have the perfect retirement gig. i'm going to return to monticello, correlate all of this material, publish it for posterity, and i'm also going to analyze it. so he put it in a large trunk and he sent it up the james river. the barge was traveling, overnighted in richmond, virginia, and a group of thieves heard that the barge was down by the river. they went down, they picked up the heaviest trunk they could find, assuming it had the most valuable material it in. they carted it up the river, on -- the river, opened it up, and what did they find? paper, which to the thieves had no value, but to history, you cannot put a price on what they
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destroyed. they dumped all the paper into the river, 40 years of jefferson 's life washed down the river. there were only a few pages that remained. he sent them to the american philosophical society. you can see here the damage that was done, but you can also see that jefferson realized how valuable any shard may be for history and he sent every scrap he could to us. the society has taken it upon itself to try and take on jefferson's mission. we now have collections of over 650 different native american communities and one of the largest collections of endangered languages anywhere in the world and one of the recent initiatives has been to digitize the collections including audio, video, and photographs, and digitally work with native american communities to return them to their communities so they can use them however they would like. many of them are using them in
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language curriculum. it's very interesting to see how this very old collection is having new life today because of technology. that's the aps in our collection in a nutshell but i think most of you are here to hear me talk about frontier rebels, which is my book. i'm excited to be here to talk about this book, and, i guess i figure i would start with another quiz. last one of the night, i promise. but at a place like the society of cincinnati, i assume many people here are very familiar with the history of the revolution so here's the question. 1765, and the coming of the american revolution, what event do you think of? stamp act. great. very good response. i think at least half of you knew that. the other half probably knew it and just didn't say it but that's right. so the stamp act. the stamp act looms large in the history of the american revolution, and there is a
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famous historian, an incredible historian, morgan, he recently passed away, and he has this line in one of his books where he says the patriots stood bluff in 1776 on the line they had drawn in 1765. so essentially he's saying that 1765 is the origins of the american revolution, and everything from there led to independence. and i think this is a well-known story, certainly the story that i knew growing up and it goes something like this. in 1754, the seven years war, which is actually nine years in north america, began, and it began because the french and the british were competing over control of the west. and a young virginian, george washington, headed out to the ohio river and confronted the french, and a series of clashes occurred and this brawl in the back woods of north america soon mushroomed into a world war. really what may be the first world war.
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what was at stake here was the balance of power in europe and a question of who was going to be the dominant global super power. for nine years they fought the seven years war and in february, 1763, that war drew to a close and it was clear that great britain was victorious. they were now the sole global superpower. they extended and strengthened their hold in india, they extended their control over areas of africa, and in north america, the french renounced all the claims east of the mississippi river so there was this incredible amount of euphoria overtaking great britain and the colonies. the famous phrase, the sun never sets on the british empire. it was this time they started talking in those terms so the future seems wide open for many. but soon after the war comes to a close, those trying to manage the empire, those in parliament and administrators, start to have a little bit of a reality
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check. first-off, they now have a large empire, which is exactly what they wanted but they also started to think, now we have to make this empire, since we have no other threats, work for efficiently. we need to make sure it's integrated and interconnected. we need to pass laws and regulations to make sure that all parts of the empire are working towards a single goal, which is the grandeur and prosperity of the empire so they start passing a series of legislation. the second thing that happens is they realize that to win this war, they have taken on an enormous amount of debt. something like 130 million pounds helped the british win the war. this accounts for about 40% of their total budget in 1763-1764, goes to financing the debt. the budget of the british empire
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is about 11 million pounds at this period and about four million is going to finance the debt. so those in parliament are weighed down by this debt as well. so they then begin to take a number of steps that are meant to address the debt and also meant to create a more integrated empire. the stamp act is a key piece of this. the stamp act was passed in 1765. the idea was to make the colonists pay their fair share. the british empire said we just fought this war to get the french out of north america so you didn't have to worry about the french on your frontiers, your borders, and now it's time for you to help us pay down some of this debt. they also said, you know what? and this is rarely noted about the stamp act, all the revenue raised by the stamp act was going to pay for the military on the frontiers of north america. it was not going to go back to parliament into the british covers. it was meant to underwrite the defense of the colonies, so for those in parliament, this act was not controversial.
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in fact, one of the things that they said, look, those in great britain have been paying a stamp tax since the reign of william and mary. having the act, you'll be treated more like a member of great britain, like equals. as all of you know, the colonists didn't see it this way. they had a very different opinion. i hate to see the stamp act being diminished to just being about taxation. it was about more than that. it was about british liberty. it was about what the british constitution afforded subjects of the crown and ultimately is about representation and taxation. the colonists were saying, we're willing to pay taxes but we need representation, and if you are not going to give us
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representation in parliament, then ask our local legislators to tax us and we'll do so and that's the way you protect british liberty. parliament is not supreme. it cannot pass direct taxes on us without representation. and so the story goes from there. the stamp act is rescinded in 1766. parliament passes a declaratory act, which basically says we're resending this act but we're not recognizing your argument. we still have the right to tax you. then they passed the townsend duties. these duties are taxes on trade goods that are being imported into the colonies. they say these are not direct taxes. these are more like tariffs and you shouldn't have issues with tariffs. the colonists say, no, it's a tax and you still haven't respond to our complaint. in the late 1760s, the british army is removed from many of the frontier posts and placed in urban seaports, especially in boston and so this seems to be another betrayal of british liberty, to have a standing army in boston and not on the frontiers. this is an invasion of their liberty and rights, and it leads to a clash between these groups
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known as the boston massacre, and then there is the boston tea party which, again, is a anyway -- is a famous clash in which the people in boston dressed as native americans, boarded ships , dumped tea into the boston harbor. afterwards, parliament passed the coercive act which turned the massachusetts civil government into a military government, appointing thomas gage as governor. that leads the colonists to take more formal action and they form the first continental congress, second continental congress, and finally independence. this is the well-known story of the american revolution. it's an inspirational story of liberty, of freedom. it's the story of people overthrowing a monarchy and placing the power in their hands. it's about democracy. it's also, i think, an eastern story, one based in the seaports. so what i want to do tonight is ask you to forget about
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everything that i just said. instead, i want us to shift our gaze west to the frontier of the british empire, to understand the coming of the american revolution there, in what i call in my book the frontier revolution. i want to propose to you tonight that 1765 is just as important for the origins of the american revolution and independence there as it is in the east. though for very different reasons that i'll talk about. and my book, "frontier rebels," tells this story through three inerwoven lives who collided 1765. the first is pontiac, an ottawa warrior and military chief who fought in the seven years' war alongside the french and then became a political leader after that war. the second is somebody named george croghan, a pennsylvania trader, who became a colonel during this seven years' war and
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then became afterwards a diplomat. and then finally, there is james smith and the black boys. a group of frontier colonists who are opposed to him and his -- two croghan in his mission, and pontiac and his vision for the west. what i want to argue is that in 1765, the event i'm going to talk about was really a contest over whose vision other west and the future of north america would reign supreme. this story begins at the close of the seven years' war. just as those in great britain were trying to make sense of trade, of taxation, so too, were they trying to make sense of this enlarged empire so they start passing a number of policies that are aimed at the west. aimed at better organizing the west and aimed at better facilitating the paydown of their debt. and so, the first and most notable act they took was something called the proclamation of 1763. what the proclamation of 1763 did, the first thing it said was
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that we want native americans to be treated as trading partners. they should receive the rights of british subjects, so the murder of a native american should be treated the same as a british subject. they should receive the protections of the empire. the idea was they wanted to maintain stable relations because they couldn't fight anymore wars, having taken on this debt. the second thing was the proclamation lines along the appalachian mountains. they said the colonial settlements could not move past this line. and you can even see on this map, you can come up afterwards, that middle area, this is a british map from 1768, it says lands reserved for the indians, and so they were trying to create something the british officials increasingly called indian country. and their idea was that they wanted to maintain stable relations with indian groups living in the ohio country, they wanted to open up trade with
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native americans, so that they could acquire the raw materials and export them back to great britain where they could be refined and reexported back to the colonies and europe. and so this was their vision of the west. now, there is a second piece to their policy and that had to do with the debt. up until the seven years' war, indian diplomacy had depended on treaty-making, and the fundamental -- one of the fundamental elements of treaty-making was gift-giving. and the idea behind the ceremonial displays of gifts was that these gifts represented the relationship between the two parties. and the idea was that if great britain provided guns and ammunition to native american groups, it showed that they trusted them as friends, and in exchange for that, native american communities would provide furs and other goods
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that the british wanted, and this symbolized the open road of trade and alliance. now, after the french-canadian war the british empire, especially amherst said, we have to cut our expenses so we're going to reduce the amount of gift-giving that we give, and the reason is, we don't have to worry about the french anymore, so since we don't have to worry about the french, we can ignore diplomacy with native americans . this really created a problem because native americans saw alliances as reciprocal and ongoing. so you couldn't hold a treaty one year and just wait five years. you were supposed to renew these alliances regularly, annually, or every two years. and so, what would happen is they decided to stop holding these treaties and these gift-givings, and so the response to these policies in the west were just like those in the east. there was opposition among colonists who said, how could you restrain us? we have just fought this war. we were on the front lines of this war and now you're trying to restrain us to the seaboard?
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we thought this was going to be our land. and native americans saw the diplomatic cutbacks as the realization of what the french had warned them. they said the british are aiming to subjugate you and to steal your land, and by cutting back their diplomatic gift-giving, it confirmed those worst fears about the british. and so both colonists and native americans were opposed to many of the policies of the british empire. at the same time, those in the seaports were organizing their opposition efforts. now, in 1763, pontiac leads a pan-indian uprising, and this begins in detroit. -- in fort detroit. he lay siege to detroit and soon there are other indian allies all working in concert with pontiac, launching raids throughout the frontiers, into pennsylvania, and having incredible success. they are able to seize almost every british fort, and their goal openly is to negotiate with
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the british empire, just like the goal of the sons of liberty were to create protests in order to negotiate with those in london. pontiac was using war as a means to bring the british to the negotiating table. and so finally, in the winter of 1764, after a successful british offensive into the ohio country, both sides seem to be ready to negotiate a peace. great britain really does not want to be fighting this war. they can't afford it. and so they are willing to realize many of the claims of the native americans. the native americans want their sovereignty respected. they want more trade, and they want more frequent diplomacy and gift-giving. both sides ultimately wanted the same thing. they wanted stability and they wanted an open road between indian country and the british colonies. and so, to enact this peace
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treaty, sir william johnson, the head of indian diplomacy in north america, approaches one of -- appoints george croghan, one of his deputies, on one of the most audacious missions ever taken. croghan was asked to travel from philadelphia and then to fort pitt down the ohio river into what was enemy territory, because peace had not yet been affected, in search of pontiac. he was to find pontiac and reassure pontiac that the british truly wanted peace. now, croghan -- how many of you have heard of george croghan before? that's one of the most fascinating parts of the story. in 1765, if you were anybody, you would know the name george croghan. croghan arrived in pennsylvania in 1741 from ireland. he had no formal education, but he quickly set out on the frontier and became probably the most prosperous indian trader in pennsylvania.
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most maps of colonial pennsylvania note croghan's home in it. it was one of the central places anybody traveling west would visit. and then he became a colonel during the french and indian war because the british realized that he would be very effective in trying to maintain alliances with native americans. and then afterwards, he's appointed a diplomat. but the thing about croghan, he never lost his instincts as a trader, so part of this mission had a little bit of self-interest in it as well, and that's where croghan got himself into a little trouble. what the british did is they gave croghan 2,000 pounds worth of goods. they said, we recognize we need to display our sincerity to native americans through gift-giving. here's 2,000 pounds. go buy some goods. what croghan realized is that
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2,000 pounds was a paltry sum. he went out and essentially formed a shell company, partnered with one of the leading trading firms in philadelphia, and he, on his own accord, spent 20,000 pounds acquiring goods, so 10 times what he had been allotted. he acquired over 44 tons of trade goods. he acquired over 5,700 white linen shirts. to give you a sense of the scale, one historian has estimated that that would have been sufficient to clothe half the male indian population in the ohio country. he ordered so many white shirts that they ran out of white linen shirts in philadelphia. they had to hire a group of women to custom-sew shirts for this trading mission. this is one of the most massive trading missions i think ever undertaken in colonial america. and, of course, croghan said, i need to do this because if we can't show the sincerity that
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native americans expect, they are going to think they are going to be duped, that we're trying to dupe them into an alliance when we're still trying to subjugate them. he also had a plan that, he said, look, trade is currently suspended because of the war and if i'm able to affect peace, trade will open and i'll be able to flood the market and reap an enormous profit. this is one of those instances where self-interests and good intentions intermingled on the frontiers. the problem with croghan's plan became apparent as soon as that huge pack train started to head west. the pack train leaders began confronting colonial resistance as soon as they crossed the susquehanna river. this resistance really reflects what i think is the third perspective on the future of the british empire in the west. what they were encountering were a people who had experienced over a decade of war and had come to form a far different
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vision not only of the west but also of how politics should function in the empire. so first-off, they believed deeply that the british empire should be an expanding empire, not a restrained empire like those in great britain had envisioned. they also had fought over a decade of war and had come to what i call in the book a racialized view of native americans. they had come to suspect every native american as being an inherent enemy who could not be trusted, and so the idea of an open road in trade was an anathema to them. and finally, there had developed through this war a fear of the east and the elite, especially traders. they said that traders serve their own interests. they did not care about the pron -- about the frontier people who faced warfare. they blamed the assembly for not representing them. in fact, the colonial legislature had 36 representatives in it, 26 of
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whom came from philadelphia and the two outlying counties around philadelphia, bucks and chester. the remaining 10 came from the frontier. and so historical demographers have gone back and tried to figure out what the population was really like and it turns out the population was probably equal between frontier counties and those in the east. one of their complaints and the one underlying everything is that we're not represented in the assembly. because of that, you were not willing to provide us with the defense and the military support that we expected during the seven years' war. adding to all this fear was the route that the traders decided to take. now, the route that would have made logical sense was along something called forbes road. forbes road had been cut during the seven years' war. it was an official kings road. it was lined with forts, and anybody traveling west would want to go on that for protection. you can see that road, it would
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have been the most direct and easiest route they could have taken. for some reason, that we will get to come that they decided to avoid forbes road and take a more southerly route on these old back roads. and so this raised suspicion in the colonists' minds, that there must be something they are carrying they don't want anybody to know about. the key issue became whether or not they were carrying arms or ammunition. this, i think, gets at the incompatibility of the vision between those in parliament, who wanted an open road with indians and those in the frontier. the british saw arms and ammunition as legitimate trade items because they wanted to be allies with native americans and they were willing to show them that through the ceremonial exchange of goods. those on the frontier said this is only the means of our future
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destruction and war. and so, the arms and ammunition became a key friction point as that pack train headed west. things finally came to a head at the great cove also known as the -- the pack train settled at a place called cunningham's tavern. they stopped for a moment and a group of frontiersmen who had spent the vast majority of the day at the tavern doing what do you at a tavern, and also, talking about this pack train, came out and they confronted the traders, and they pulled their guns on them and they said, if you go any further we're going to "blow your brains out." so the pack train says, what can we do to move on? they say, we want you to go to
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fort loudoun, the local fort, and we want the commandant to say you have official passes. we think what you're doing is illegal. so the group travels to fort loudoun. the commandant looks at the passes and says, yes, they are on an official diplomatic mission and they can move on. of course, the commandant doesn't realize that croghan had exceeded his orders. everything looked okay. they continued over and into an area and they stopped there that night. the next morning, they wake up and travel pass mcconnell's tavern and soon after passing, a group of frontiersmen dressed as indians destroyed the pack train of goods. this is a massive destruction of property here. to give you a sense on scale, the boston tea party destroyed about 9,000 british pounds worth of goods. we don't know how much was
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destroyed but this is within that range. after the destruction of goods, the traders head back to fort loudoun and they tell the commandant what's happened and he says, this is an act of rebellion. he tells a regiment of red coats to head out into the communities and start searching to find who was responsible for this. and this is a major, major change in the role of the army in these communities. for those living on the frontier, they assume the british army is there to protect them. that's the idea behind why armies have to be around communities. but now they are taking on policing functions. they are searching homes, and this, they see as an invasion of their civil rights. the military does not have the right to search civilian homes. that rests with the civil authorities. and so this makes the frontier at the traders but
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also at the army. so they lay siege to fort loudon for two days, so these are a group of colonists who are now trying to attack a british fort. eventually, commandant of the fort raises a flag of truce and allows the black boys to come into the fort and negotiate what you might call a peace settlement. now, the black boys return to their homes. in the days and weeks to follow. the colonial governor says this is an act that's beyond any legal justification. we need to go out there and we need to use the civil authority to arrest people and try them and convict them for this destruction of goods. so they hold an inquest and a number of people who are suspected of being black boys or involved in it are essentially acquitted. the grand jury cannot indict them. they return a verdict of ignoramus. they return a not guilty verdict and this only emboldens the black boys more. now it seems like they have legal cover to continue their
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actions. so, for the ensuing months, there is a passport regime. hundreds of men line forbes road and inspect traders heading west. what i want to say, this is a massive organization. if you think about the sons of liberty that operated in urban seaports, you now have on the frontier, in a rural population in which people are spread far out, lining the road, working in concert to suspect traders handing out official passports. this is a major, major political movement that is happening. now the black boys eventually end in november 1765, when they lay siege to a british fort a second time. they lay siege to fort loudoun a second time in order to acquire the guns that the british army had seized from some of the frontiersmen. and they believe they are held illegally. after the second siege, james grant returns the guns and then himself evacuates back to fort pitt, so the black boys appear
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to be successful, to reign supreme. so, the black boys rebellion happening at the same time as the stamp act. 1765. an event we haven't often heard about. i believe it's at least, if not more audacious than anything that happened in the seaports. it showed a level of sophistication that certainly surpassed what the sons of liberty were then doing at that time or at least comparable to that. and i think it is important for the understanding of the coming of the american revolution, because just like the sons of liberty and others in the seaports, who had to marshal legal arguments to justify their actions, so, too, did the black boys. the black boys began to marshal an argument for why they were acting this way. what their legal justifications were, and in that, something revolutionary begins to bubble up. so what do they say? well, first-off, they said that local control is the most important. that only those in these
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communities are the best to regulate themselves. they know what should be happening, not those distant in philadelphia or even further in london. william smith, a justice of the peace in the area, argues with james grant, and i talk about this in my book, in which he offers a fairly sophisticated legal argument on why he has the right to inspect anybody traveling on the road, and he even says, you know, forbes road, it's not really the kings road, it's our road. it is not the king's. as justice of the peace, i get to oversee it. so they are taking power away from the east and placing it in their hand. they are really re-imagining authority in the british empire . and there is this remarkable quote that really captures what's happening on the frontier , and this comes from the american philosophical society. it's a letter that john ross, who is in philadelphia, wrote to his friend benjamin franklin, who is then in london. and this is how he describes the
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black boys rebellion. "we seem at present to have two kinds of governments, one on the east side and one on the west side of the province. that to the west is absolutely a republic. the settlement on the frontiers are all governors and claim a superintendency over the whole. he realizes in the frontier they are a republic. that's exactly what the revolutionaries wanted to year. -- wanted to create after 1776. they are claiming to be the governors of this territory, not british officials, not those appointed by parliament, and they claim a superintendency. i would argue that this is very much a part of the revolutionary movement. i think the key piece to make
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sense of this all, is representation, because underlying it all is lack of representation, that they are aiming, in this case, at their assembly. whom so what happens to all of these people? what happens to pontiac, to croghan, and the black boys? pontiac himself begins to face a contest over control in native america, in what's called indian country, and it's a contest between what we might think of the as the accommodationist wing which pontiac represents and a wing that wants to maintain hostile relations. they say the british can never be trusted, led by somebody named charlotte caskey. my book studies this contest country.dian george croghan does eventually
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leave for the pitt and he travels down the ohio river and he gets caught up in this contest over control and he's eventually ambushed by a group of native americans. some of his traveling with him are killed. he himself is not. he's tomahawked in the head. he survives and he writes a letter to his boss and he says, this is the first time my thick skull has ever been of service to the empire. [laughter] if you want to know what happens to pontiac and croghan, i don't have time. you'll have to read the book. i talk about it in there. but the black boys, do i want to -- i do want to talk about. and this is james smith. i want to talk about smith and the frontier revolution. james smith was the leader of the black boys rebellion and his life dovetails croghan. just as croghan arrived in pennsylvania in 1741, smith was born in 1741, in chester county , but as land was getting tight in pennsylvania, he moves to what was then the frontier, right where the black boys rebellion happened. he's captured during the seven years' war. he's helping to cut forbes road. he's a teenager and he's
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captured during a native american attack and adopted into a native american community. and he spends the seven years' war as a member of a mohawk family traveling throughout the ohio country. and in 1760, he's returned in exchange, and returns to his home in pennsylvania, where he finds his fiancee, she assumed he had died and married somebody else. and he himself comes back changed, and the way that he's changed, he says that he's now learned indian culture, and he wants to take what he's learned to assist colonial society, and in particular, he argues that the british style of warfare is ineffective for the frontiers, and, instead, colonists and the british army themselves need to learn native american tactics and adopt them themselves. so, during pontiac's war, he organizes his own militia that
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adopt native american tactics of warfare. they dress as native americans, and, in fact, there is an account in which there are the 42nd regiment highlanders are marching out into the ohio country, british troops are marching out into ohio country and they note there is an indian regiment fighting alongside them as well. meaning smith's group. after pontiac's war, he leads the black boys rebellion. the black boys continue to persist. in 1768, he reforms his group and lays siege to another fort. fort bedford. again, attacks the fort and is able to capture a few men who are held prisoner. smith himself, these actions, don't harm him in his community. in fact, they embolden him and he serves in a number of different political positions culminating in the revolutionary government of pennsylvania in 1776. smith is integral in writing the constitution of pennsylvania. it's considered one of the most radical constitutions written in
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that period. and one of the things that it does is it gives the frontier counties equal representation for the first time, and so what this means is that the frontier now outnumbers eastern representatives 2-1. and because of that, the frontier people for the first time feel represented and are able to enact a policy that they had long advocated. smith continues during the revolution. his group of black boys join the continental army. they come through philadelphia and he says, if my boys are fighting, i have to join them, too. so he joins, and he approaches george washington, and he approaches washington and he said, george, you got it all wrong. your tactics are too much conforming to the traditional styles of warfare. you need to adopt my indian style of warfare. washington dismisses him completely, and smith is then kind of frustrated and returns
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to pittsburgh where he leads military offenses out in pittsburgh. so he continues to fight. and he continues, after the revolution, he moves to kentucky where he serves in the first legislature of kentucky. and what i want to point out, this is what i argue is the realization of the frontier revolution. if the british empire was trying to restrain settlement, kentucky is the realization of what the frontier people had been advocating. this is turning indian land into american land, and smith is, of course, part of that. so i want to end now with three final thoughts on the frontier revolution. the first is something that i get asked a lot when i give this talk, which is, why don't we know about the black boys? and i think there are a number of different reasons for that. the first reason has to do with the sources.
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the sources for the black boys reside almost entirely in archives and are in manuscript format. the pamphlets and the incredible amount of documentation that emerge from the eastern seaports where there are printing presses did not exist on the frontier so most of the accounts of the black boys are in letters that people are writing back and forth describing what is happening on the frontier in depositions. so for people who are writing the first history of the revolution, for those writing in boston or philadelphia or new york, they are relying on the sources that they have closest at hand, so these frontier stories don't get integrated into the first histories of the american revolution and i think that pattern has somewhat continued, although it's certainly been changing in the last several decades. the second story, i think, has to do with the issues that it raised. this is not that hopeful story of liberation that we know so well. it's instead a story that's
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driven by fear and hatred and even disunion among colonists. those in the west really fear and dislike the elite in the east. it's also a hard story to tell. it was hard for me to write about. i didn't intend to write the book that i did. i just let the sources guide me, but that's what the sources ultimately revealed. that it's not a story around which you can build really a founding myth, or founding story itself. the second thing i get asked often is, how does this frontier revolution relate to the eastern revolution that we know so well? and here, i think, it's important to notice the differences between the east and the west. those in the east focused on issues of taxation and representation in parliament. and they also advocated for a free trade. they opposed the tariffs and the tea tax. but most of their animus was aimed at the empire.
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those on the frontiers feared native americans and they wanted -- they focused much of their arguments on the need for more defense and support, and they also wanted a more regulated trade, not a freer trade, and their animus wasn't aimed at parliament. i see them very rarely talking about parliament. it is aimed at the east, at traders, and at their open local legislature. however, they do share one common thing, and that is a desire for local control and greater representation. both the east and west ultimately are advocating for democracy and representation, and so what i document in my book is they merge for a moment in 1776. how they merge is something i talk more about in the book. the final thing i want to mention is the legacy of the black boys rebellion. the first is, i think it captures how complete the
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american revolution was. historians asked, was it really that radical? george washington and john adams, the elite, were still in control afterwards. this doesn't seem very radical or revolutionary. i think if you look west, the frontier revolution, it shows how complete this revolution is. if you think about that policy i was talking about before the revolution, in which the british empire was trying to restrain settlement, to open up trade with native americans, to maintain peace and stability in the frontier, and then look at u.s. history afterwards, even just briefly after the revolution, you can see just how complete this revolution was in the west. the second legacy, i think, is the persistence of this culture that the black boys embodied. there is this great quote, and i have it in the book, by a ridge, -- by a frontier lawyer named bracki
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nridge, in which he says, the north and south are surely going to divide so he anticipates, he's writing in the 1790s so he anticipates the civil war but he also says east and west are surely divided as well so he realizes there is a division in america between the east and the west. now, there is no civil war, but i think those tensions that breckenridge was feeling in the 1790s continued to persist and i think andrew jackson in some ways is an embodiment of this culture and the way it continued into the early national period. jackson, of course is the first frontier president and what are the two things he does as president? the two chief things he does? first, he destroys the bank of the united states. he says these eastern elites are not paying attention to the frontier. they don't understand us. they are serving their own needs just like the black boys said of the merchants then heading west. and the second thing he advocates is native american removal, and in one of his speeches to congress, he said there is the inevitability of war with the indians and therefore the only real policy is to remove them from the polity. this is, of course, also what
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the black boys, many of them, envisioned. these patterns, i think, are still present. they have been present as part of the united states and to understand their origins, we need to go back to the country's founding and the revolution to understand these patterns first. thank you. [applause] >> are there any questions? >> so you have the picture of andrew jackson there. could you talk a little bit about how he connects to this with the rebellion, black boys and all of that stuff that was going on 80 years before andrew jackson? and i have a follow-up question. dr. spero: sure.
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what jackson represents, if you think about the movement of people after the revolution as, i think it's documented in this image in the left, that really, the movement of people from western pennsylvania, from western virginia, along the appalachian, into kentucky and tennessee, these are the areas in which the black boys, the groups, were affiliated with them, were moving. these were, james smith is moving into kentucky. so in many ways, this pattern is -- jackson is the embodiment now of this pattern on the national stage. >> so in a way jackson was connecting with what the black boys had done 50 years before? is that your point? dr. spero: yes. yes. >> are there any other questions? >> you mentioned that frenchman
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early on that jefferson was trying to raise funds for. what happened to him? did he go out into the interior? dr. spero: yeah, great question. andre -- what happened to him. the society ends up raising 1800 dollars to support the expedition. to put it into perspective, i think lewis and clark received $2,500 from congress, so this is a significant amount of money that the aps has raised. he gets caught up in the early party system. he's suspected of being a french agent, who may be trying to undermine american interests in the west. and so he gets, i think he gets as far as kentucky where he's forced to return back east so it's a failed expedition. it does get underway, but it doesn't move any further than that. >> are there any further questions? i don't want to cut it off but are there any other questions? >> how much of the rivalry that
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occurred was ethnic? there a lot of scots irish on the frontier, not german, not english. dr. spero: so pennsylvania is a very ethnically diverse colony and out in that very area, there are a lot of germans and there are also a lot of scots irish and also english as well. and one of the things that becomes clear during the black boys rebellion is that ethnic divisions really don't exist. it appears that there are germans who are part of various parts of the black boys rebellion. this rebellion lasts several months. there are all of these different groups, many claiming to be black boys and some of whom speak with a german accent. what's interesting is james smith himself, just to give you a sense on how pl -- how polyglot the frontiers were, he spoke english but he also spoke german some and he also had acquired native american linguistic ability. so that's the way the frontier has a number of different groups living, cohabiting with each
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other and the black boys rebellion was more of a united ethnic divisions. >> are there any other questions? >> how did they come to be called the black boys? dr. spero: how did they come to be called the black boys? yeah, this is actually, this was something of an issue writing the book. my editor and i had discussions, because some may think it's about something else. something to do with african-american history. they were called black boys because they disguised themselves with charcoal in the initial raid. i believe they probably did that as just a part of who they were, continuing to blacken their faces to strike fear in others. the other thing, we suspect, is that this image of james smith, you see the red scarf there, it's believed that the black boys had red bandannas so this
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image of smith, which is done much later in life, is really interesting to think about, because here's smith trying to reflect back on his life and so he's wearing, you know, a leather jacket as a frontiersmen. he's wearing a scarf from the black boys. he's also wearing a black suit that you might expect a george washington or john adams to wear so there is a lot of different imagery that smith has built into the portrait. they blacken their faces to disguise themselves. they also wore red bandannas. >> when you use the mic, get it close to your mouth. it's not very sensitive. >> this will be our last question. >> how does the collection of franklin papers compare to yale's? dr. spero: we have 70% of his correspondence. we are the repository of record
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for the vast majority of franklin's papers. there is not another institution that has as much of his correspondence as us. yale has an incredible collection and, in fact, the american philosophical society and yale have been partnering on the franklin papers for almost 50, maybe more than 50 years now so the franklin papers are a partnership between aps and yale because we both have these incredible collections of franklin materials. >> i would like to thank you again for coming out this evening. we have books available for sale on the back table and dr. spero will be signing copies as well. thank you again. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> every weekend, american
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history tv brings you 48 hours of unique programming exploring foundation's past. a schedule and archive, visit >> the legend that he was this bad kid running amok on the waterfront of baltimore. he never lived on the waterfront of baltimore. so i think he internalized -- we don't want to do too much psycho-babble, but he must have internalized the idea that he must be bad. >> tonight on q and a, author and journalist jane levy with on thek, the big fella, life of babe ruth. >> the world series, babe ruth gets into this back-and-forth with the picture for the cubs.
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that he isa legend standing at home plate and the cubs are yelling at him, the yankees are yelling back at the cubs. he raises one finger for one strike, two strikes. then he allegedly points out to the bleachers in the grandstand and says, this is where i'm this week on the communicators, consumer technology association gary shapiro on issues associated with the features technology in the u.s.. >> we know robotics will be here. artificial intelligence, drones, self driving cars, individual oriented medical treatments, biotech, in a way we have never experienced before, all of these
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are coming. so how do you succeed as someone who is flexible knowing that part of the future is not clear? how do you benefit from that whether you are a government, business or individual? >> join us on monday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span two. >> each week, american artifacts six urine to archives, museums and historic sites around the country. artifactssit the dust to museums, archives and historic sites around the country. we learn about the birth of baseball traditions, the impact of immigrants, and the increasing important of statistics. welcome to the library of congress. i am susan reyburn, curator of the exhibition "baseball americana."


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