Abstract

This article offers an early instance of American businessmen attempting to enlist federal aid to further their commercial interests. It draws on British and American sources to examine the circumstances surrounding several Indian attacks on St. Louis-based fur traders on the upper Missouri River in the 1820s. The evidence shows that American traders' failure to establish peaceful relations with the Blackfeet, beginning soon after the United States acquired the territory from France, stemmed more from the Americans' own errors than from any action of the Blackfeet or the British. Moreover, although the Americans understood the Blackfeet poorly, they had enough information to know that conflict with the Blackfeet grew largely from their own provocative behavior, not from British incitement or Blackfeet deceit. Still, St. Louis fur traders and their elected representatives distorted circumstances on the Upper Missouri in order to stir up anti-British sentiment and induce military intervention to make the region safe for American fur trappers and traders. Only when it became obvious that this strategy would fail did American traders adopt a more conciliatory approach—one that quickly resulted in profitable trade between the American Fur Company and the Blackfeet.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0620
Print ISSN
0275-1275
Pages
pp. 411-440
Launched on MUSE
2009-08-27
Open Access
No
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