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Indian barrier state

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Title: Indian barrier state  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Midwestern United States, British North America, History of the Midwestern United States, Canada–United States relations, History of United States expansionism
Collection: Aboriginal Title in the United States, British North America, Canada–united States Relations, Colonial United States (British), History of the Midwestern United States, History of United States Expansionism, Midwestern United States, Native American History, Northwest Territory, Pre-Statehood History of Illinois, Pre-Statehood History of Indiana, Pre-Statehood History of Michigan, Pre-Statehood History of Minnesota, Pre-Statehood History of Ohio, Pre-Statehood History of Wisconsin
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Indian barrier state

Old Northwest; the 1792 version included a strip along New York's northern border

The Indian barrier state or buffer state was a British proposal to establish an independent Indian state in the Old Northwest largely in the Indian Reserve (1763). It was under consideration the 1750s until it was abandoned in 1814. It would separate British colonial holdings in whatis now Canada from the much larger American population. It was a project designed by British officials; Indians played no role in designing it. One of the most active proponents was John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791 to 1796.[1] The new state would be independent of the United States and under the tutelage of the British, who would use it to block American expansion and to build up their control of the fur trade headquartered in Montreal.[2]


  • History 1
    • Proclamation of 1763 1.1
    • American Revolution 1.2
    • 1790s 1.3
    • War of 1812 1.4
  • See also 2
  • Notes 3
  • Further reading 4


Map (in gray) of the proposed Indian barrier state.

Proclamation of 1763

The British first proposed a barrier state in discussions with France in 1755. However, in 1763 Britain took control of all of the land east of the Mississippi in 1763, so negotiations with France became irrelevant. Instead, the British imposed the

  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. Jay's Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy (Macmillan, 1923) ch 5 online
  • Farrand, Max. "The Indian Boundary Line," American Historical Review (1905) 10#4 pp. 782-791 free in JSTOR
  • Hatheway, G. G. “The Neutral Indian Barrier State: A Project in British North American Policy, 1715-1815” (PhD dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1957)
  • Ibbotson, Joseph D. "Samuel Kirkland, the Treaty of 1792, and the Indian Barrier State." New York History 19#.4 (1938): 374-391. in JSTOR
  • Leavitt, Orpha E. "British Policy on the Canadian Frontier, 1782-92: Mediation and an Indian Barrier State" Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (1916) Volume 63 pp 151-85 online
  • Smith, Dwight L. "A North American Neutral Indian Zone: Persistence of a British Idea." Northwest Ohio Quarterly 61#2-4 (1989): 46-63. traces idea from 1750s to 1814

Further reading

  1. ^ G. G. Hatheway, “The Neutral Indian Barrier State: A Project in British North American Policy, 1715-1815” (PhD dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1957) p 10
  2. ^ Dwight L. Smith, "A North American Neutral Indian Zone: Persistence of a British Idea." Northwest Ohio Quarterly 61#2-4 (1989): 46-63.
  3. ^ W. W. Abbot, "George Washington, the West, and the Union." Indiana Magazine of History (1988) 84#1, online.
  4. ^ Jack M. Sosin, Whitehall and the Wilderness: The Middle West in British Colonial Policy, 1760-1775 (1961).
  5. ^ Frederick Merk, History of the westward movement (1978) pp 67-73, 87-97.
  6. ^ Richard B. Morris, The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence (1965).
  7. ^ William Deverell, ed. (2008). A Companion to the American West. p. 17. 
  8. ^ G.G. Hatheway, “The Neutral Indian Barrier State: A Project in British North American Policy, 1715-1815” (PhD dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1957) p. 189
  9. ^ Robert F. Berkhofer, "Barrier to Settlement: British Indian Policy in the Old Northwest, 1783-1794." in David Ellis, ed. The Frontier in American Development: Essays in Honor of Paul Wallace Gates (1969) pp: 249-276.
  10. ^ Leroy V. Eid, "American Indian Military Leadership: St. Clair’s 1791 Defeat." Journal of Military History 57#1 (1993): 71-88.
  11. ^ Philip C. Bellfy (2011). Three Fires Unity: The Anishnaabeg of the Lake Huron Borderlands. U of Nebraska Press. p. 54. 
  12. ^ Dwight L. Smith, "A North American Neutral Indian Zone: Persistence of a British Idea." Northwest Ohio Quarterly 61#2-4 (1989): 46-63
  13. ^ Alec R. Gilpin, The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest (1958)
  14. ^ Spencer Tucker; et al. (2012). The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. p. 365. 
  15. ^ Newton Bateman et a. (1907). Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois. p. 257. 
  16. ^ See Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State. Wiley. 2014. pp. 61–62. .
  17. ^ see Tucker (2012). The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History. p. 587. 
  18. ^ Francis M. Carroll (2001). A Good and Wise Measure: The Search for the Canadian-American Boundary, 1783-1842. University of Toronto Press. pp. 23–26. 
  19. ^ Mark Wyman, The Wisconsin Frontier (2011) pp 215-27


See also

In 1814, the British leadership in London realized that peaceful trade with the United States, as desired by British merchants, far outweighed in value of the fur trade that was the economic basis of the barrier state. They therefore drop their demands for a barrier state, and for military control over the Great Lakes. The Treaty of Ghent provided for a restoration of prewar boundaries, which have lasted to this day. The treaty also guaranteed rights to the Indians living in the United States. After the war, the United States negotiated a series of treaties with the Indians in which their land claims were purchased, and the Indians were either assigned to reservations near their original homes, or moved to reservations further west. [19]

By 1814, the Americans controlled all of Ohio,[13] all of Indiana,[14] Illinois south of Peoria,[15] and the Detroit region of Michigan.[16] The British and their Indian allies controlled the rest of Michigan and all of Wisconsin.[17] With the Americans in control of Lake Erie and Southwestern Ontario, the British were largely cut off from their units in Michigan and Wisconsin. Reinforcing them, and even bringing in supplies of guns and gunpowder was quite difficult. At all times be American negotiators at Ghent in 1814 refused to negotiate any buffer state whatsoever. They insisted on abiding by the terms of the peace treaty of 1783 and the Jay Treaty of 1794 which assigned the United States full control over Michigan, Wisconsin, and points south.[18]

The War of 1812 in the west was fought for control of the would-be barrier state. The British made major gains in 1812, as the American army surrendered At Detroit, and the Indian allies took control of parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as all of Michigan and Wisconsin and points west. In 1813, however, The Americans pushed back and the Indian forces left The southern districts in order to support Tecumseh and the British. But the Americans won the control of Lake Erie, Defeated the British at the Battle of the Thames, and killed Tecumseh. Most of his alliance broke up.

War of 1812

The British plans were developed in Canada, but in 1794 the government in London reversed course and decided it was necessary to gain American favor, since a major war had broken out with France. London put the barrier state idea on hold, and opened friendly negotiations with the Americans that led to the Jay Treaty of 1794. One provision was that British acceded to American demands to remove their forts from American territory in Michigan and Wisconsin. The British, however, maintained their forts in Ontario, from which they supplied munitions to the Indians living in the United States.[12]

In the early 1790s, British officials in Canada made an aggressive effort to organize the various tribes into a sort of Confederation that would form the basis of an Indian state.[9] An important impetus was the success of the Indians in destroying practically the entire United States Army at St. Clair's Defeat also known as the Battle of the Wabash, in November 1791.[10] The British were surprised and delighted at the success of the Indians whom they had been supporting and arming for years. By 1794 using their base at Detroit (theoretically in American territory), they distributed supplies and munitions to numerous Indian tribes including the Cayugas, Cherokees, Chillicothes, Connoys, Delawares, Duquanias, Kickapoos, Mahicans, Maquitches, Miamis, Mingos, Mohawks, Munseys, Nanticokes, Odawas, Oneidas, Shawnees, Pickaways, Tuscaroras, and Waliatamakis.[11]


The long-term British goals were to maintain friendly relations with the Indians, support the valuable fur trade based in Montreal, and prevent low-grade warfare between the Indian tribes and the American settlers.[8]

In 1774, as a preliminary to the American Revolution, the British made the Western lands part of Quebec. That is, they were to be under the control of the British governors based in Québec. In practice, however, the Western lands were heatedly disputed during the Revolution with first the Patriots gaining control, and the British making a recovery in 1780-82.[5] At the peace treaty negotiations of 1782, the French floated a proposal that would give the British control north of the Ohio River, with the lands south of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River divided into two Indian states. The state to the southeast would be under American supervision; the state to the southwest would be under Spanish supervision. The Americans rejected the plan. The final Treaty of Paris gave the western lands to the United States, with British Canada to the north, Spanish Florida to the south, and Spanish Louisiana to the west.[6] The British largely abandoned the Indian allies living in the new nation. They were not a party to this treaty and did not recognize it until they were defeated militarily by the United States. However, the British did promise to support the Indians, selling them guns and supplies and (until 1796) maintaining forts in American territory.[7]

American Revolution

[4] There was great legal confusion for the next decade.[3]

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