What is considered the Western US, the Midwestern US, and the Eastern US has changed in definition through history. These loose definitions came and went as did the naming of US Territories. As portions of larger territories applied for and attained statehood, the former territories were usually broken up and redefined.
Today I’m thinking about a portion of the former Northwest Territory. The redefinition of the Northwest Territory started in 1800 with the transitional process of Ohio achieving statehood. On May 7, 1800, legislation preparing Ohio’s statehood was passed to dissolve Northwest Territory and to form Indiana Territory. This new territory included the area that was to become Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
During this same time span, some of the new Indiana Territory was part of an ongoing dispute with Britain over ownership of the region and was one of the reasons for the War of 1812. With the Treaty of Ghent, two years later, Britain relinquished her claim to this region.
Concurrently, future President William Henry Harrison, was appointed as Northwest Territory’s representative to Congress. He advocated settlement of the area by enabling lower land prices and that settlers could purchase land on credit. The government drew up treaties with the native Americans that promised compensation for the loss of their lands. The promised money was seldom paid.
When the Northwest Territory was split into the short-lived Ohio Territory and Indiana Territory, President John Adams appointed Harrison as the first governor of Indiana Territory. The Capital was established at the old French city, Vincennes, until 1813.
The large Indiana Territory was first partitioned when its share of the lower Michigan Peninsula went to the new Michigan Territory in 1805. The remaining Indiana Territory was then broken up in 1809, as land to the west of the present day western Indiana state border was established as Illinois Territory.
While all of this was going on, the native Americans were becoming increasingly upset that their land had been taken under false promises. The Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, a former member of the previous Miami confederation, decided to unite the tribes, once again. Specifically, in the Treaty of Fort Wayne, a group of tribes had agreed to sell 3,000,000 acres of land in Indiana Territory. Meantime, Tecumseh met with Governor Harrison to inform him that not all the Indians had agreed to the sale, because the land in question did not belong exclusively to the tribes who sold it.
Harrison soon ordered an attack on Prophetstown. While the troops were encamped on the outskirts of the town, Tecumseh’s brother, Prophet, led his warriors to raid the army camp on November 11, 1811. Harrison’s army retaliated and forced the Indians to retreat. Neither side won an actual victory. This incident became known as the Battle of Tippecanoe.
Prevailing American public opinion stated that the people believed Britain was encouraging and arming the Indian tribes. Settlers in Ohio and Indiana wanted to attack Canada and drive out the British. At the citizens of the territory’s request, the US declared war on Great Britain, later known as the War of 1812. The war was difficult. The Americans had to defend themselves against the English and Tecumseh’s forces who had
allied with the English.
Tecumseh’s forces continued to raid the settlers and the Army but his warrior force eventually dwindled to the point that he had to move north for British support. Despite the Indian pullbacks, continued incidents plagued the territory with many white deaths. The tide turned to the American’s favor at the Siege of Fort Harrison. The violence ended with the signing of the peace with England in 1814.
While the war was being fought, Jonathan Jennings defeated Governor Harrison’s chosen candidate for Territorial Representative to Congress in 1812. Against the strong wishes
of incoming acting governor Thomas Posey, Jennings introduced legislation to grant Indiana statehood status. Action on the law was postponed, due to the war.
Territorial governor Posey was a thorn in the side of Congressman Jennings as well as the territorial legislature, as he assumed office in early 1813. He complicated political
relations by not living in the recently relocated capital at Corydon. More controversially, governor Posey was an outspoken supporter of slavery. The majority of the territorial
legislature wished to use the issue of statehood to completely end the possibility of slavery in any future state of Indiana. Indiana’s pioneers wanted no part of slavery, they also opposed the settlement of free black people. Legal barriers were enacted to block blacks from immigrating there.
In May of 1886, the US Congress passed the Enabling Act to grant Indiana Territory the right to form a government on approval of Congress. The Act required a constitutional convention to meet in Corydon the next month. The convention passed the first constitution on June tenth. An August election was scheduled to fill the proposed state government offices.
In November, the US Congress approved the new Constitution and passed legislation to dissolve Indiana Territory and allow the admission of the new State. On December 11, 1816, President James Madison signed the legislation to admit Indiana as the
Indiana’s state capital was moved from Corydon to Indianapolis in 1825. In 1851, the second state constitution was adopted. That document’s 13th Article prohibited the settlement of African-Americans within Indiana. Article 13 was declared null and void in 1866 by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Some of today’s material is from A Century of Indiana by Edward E. Moore.