MS 331 - William Clark Collection
This collection consists of a legal transcript from a court case involving property loss in 1817 Territorial Missouri.
- Created: 1817-1817
- Other: Majority of material found in June - October 1817
- Other: Date acquired: 01/01/2008
- Clark, William (Person)
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Biographical or Historical Information
William Clark (August 1, 1770 – September 1, 1838) Born in Caroline County, Virginia, on August 1, 1770, the ninth of ten children of John and Ann Rogers Clark. The Clarks were common planters in Virginia, owners of modest estates and a few slaves and members of the Anglican Church.
Clark did not have any formal education; like many of his contemporaries, he was tutored at home. The spelling of American English was not standardized in Clark's youth, but his vocabulary suggests he was well read.
Clark's five older brothers fought in Virginia units during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), but William was too young. His second-oldest brother, George Rogers Clark, rose to the rank of general, spending most of the war in Kentucky fighting against British-allied American Indians. After the war, the two oldest Clark brothers made arrangements for their family to relocate to Kentucky.
William, his parents, his three sisters, and the Clark family's slaves arrived in Kentucky in March 1785. The Clark family settled at "Mulberry Hill", a plantation near Louisville. This was William Clark's primary home until 1803. In Kentucky, his older brother George Rogers Clark taught William wilderness survival skills.
In 1789, 19-year-old William Clark joined a volunteer militia force under Major John Hardin. Clark kept a detailed journal of the expedition, beginning a lifelong practice. In 1790, Clark was commissioned by General Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, as a captain in the Clarksville, Indiana militia. In 1791, Clark served as an ensign and acting lieutenant with expeditions under generals Charles Scott and James Wilkinson. He enlisted in the Legion of the United States and was commissioned as a lieutenant on March 6, 1792 under Anthony Wayne. On September 4, 1792 he was assigned to the 4th Sub-Legion. He was involved in several skirmishes with Indians during the continuing Northwest Indian War. At the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, Clark commanded a company of riflemen who drove back the enemy on the left flank, killing a number of Native Americans and Canadians. This decisive US victory brought the Northwest Indian War to an end. In 1795, Clark was dispatched on a mission to New Madrid, Missouri. William Clark resigned his commission on July 4, 1796 and retired due to poor health, although he was only 26 years old. He returned to Mulberry Hill, his family's plantation near Louisville.
In 1803, Meriwether Lewis recruited Clark, then age 33, to share command of the newly formed Corps of Discovery, whose mission was to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase, establish trade with Native Americans and the sovereignty of the US. Clark spent three years on the expedition to the Pacific Coast. He brought York, one of his slaves, with him. York did manual labor in extreme weather. The indigenous nations treated York with respect, and many of the Native Americans were interested in his appearance, which "played a key role in diplomatic relations". Clark concentrated chiefly on the drawing of maps, the management of the expedition's supplies, and leading hunting expeditions for game.
As a reward for their contributions during their expedition to the Pacific, Lewis and Clark were given government positions by President Jefferson. Jefferson appointed Meriwether Lewis territorial governor of upper Louisiana, commander-in-chief of the militia, and superintendent of Indian Affairs. In 1807, President Jefferson appointed Clark as the brigadier general of the militia in the Louisiana Territory, and the US agent for Indian affairs. Native American relations were handled in what became the War Department. Clark set up his headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. There he became a member of the Freemasons, a secret fraternal group.
Although Clark had primary duties in dealing with the Native Americans, "the territorial governor held the title of ex officio superintendent of Indian affairs. The experiences he obtained during his expedition gave him the tools he needed to be the ideal candidate for a diplomat to the Native Americans. That was Jefferson's motives behind giving Clark these duties, although it would not be until Madison's presidency that Clark's title became official.
President James Madison appointed him Missouri territorial governor and thus ex officio superintendent of Indian affairs, during the summers of 1808 and 1813; he performed the same duties that he would have if he actually held the title. During the years while Clark held position under Governor Lewis he was continuously involved in the decision making process done by Lewis. Clark was consulted on affairs on a regular basis. Clark served the United States government as the longest diplomat to the Native American people in history.
Indian diplomacy occupied much of Clark's time. An expansionist national agenda expected Indians to surrender their lands, abandon their traditional ways, and acquiesce to the dictates of the U.S. government. But the consequences of the very policies that Clark so vigorously championed frequently moved him to demonstrate genuine concern for the plight of destitute native people increasingly threatened with extinction. Clark’s expeditions and frontier settlement gave him a unique perspective towards Native Americans. He felt as though he held a firm hand when he had to, but at the same time he had passion towards them as people still deserving of rights. At times he was said to be too compassionate. Clark took his position as one of extreme importance to not only the government of the United States, but to the Native American people as well.
Clark recognized Indians' nationalism, their history, language, culture and territory and negotiated treaties between the various nations and his. He tried to protect Indians and preserve their culture by removing them from the evil influences of white society, providing life-saving inoculations, having their portraits painted, and assembling a museum of Indian artifact. At the same time, he removed Indians from the ancestral lands, encouraged federal "civilization" and "education" programs to change native lifestyles, religious beliefs, and cultural practices, and unusually promoted the interests of American citizens over Indian needs and desires.
During the War of 1812, he led several campaigns, among them in 1814, one along the Mississippi River, up to the Prairie du Chien-area. He established the short-lived Fort Shelby, the first post in what is now Wisconsin. Soon, the post was captured by the British. When the Missouri Territory was formed in 1813, Clark was appointed as the governor by President Madison. He was reappointed to the position by Madison in 1816, and in 1820 by President Monroe.
William Clark appeared before Supreme Court Judge John B.C. Lucas in St. Louis on July 6, 1813, to take the oath of office as governor of the Missouri Territory. Clark's road to a gubernatorial appointment was long and complex. Upon Lewis appointment by Jefferson, Clark backed him and at times filled the role a governor without actually holding official position due to Lewis' complication in life, whether it was debt, loneliness, or drinking. Upon the death of Lewis in 1809, Clark declined to take office for varying reasons. By the time he was appointed governor he appreciated his capabilities to hold office and embraced them rather than turning them away. At his arrival into office America was involved in the War of 1812 with the British. Clark feared the influence the British would have on the Native Americans. British tactics would include the use of Indians as allies in the fighting against the United States. In return for British victory, Indians would either be able to continue to occupy their current land or receive lands back that were taken from them previously by the United States Government. Clark would hold office for the next seven years until he was voted out of office in 1820. When Missouri became a state in 1820, Clark was defeated in the election for governor by Alexander McNair.
In 1822, Clark was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs by President Monroe, a new position created by Congress. Clark remained in that position until his death; his title changed with the creation of the Office of Indian Affairs in 1824 and finally the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1829, both within the War Department. From 1824 to 1825, he was additionally appointed surveyor general of Illinois, Missouri and the Territory of Arkansaw.
Being the Superintendent of Indian Affairs made Clark the most important man on Native American matters west of the Mississippi. As superintendent at St. Louis, Clark took on some additional duties: he issued licenses and granted passports to traders and travelers; provided payments for injuries and injustices to both whites and Indians; invoked military force to arrest lawbreakers; prevented or terminated hostilities between tribes; removed unauthorized persons from Indian country or confiscated their property; established, marked, and surveyed boundaries; distributed annuities and made sure that treaty provisions were delivered; and conducted treaty councils. Of the four superintendents of Indian affairs the others were the governors of Michigan, Florida and Arkansas territories, Clark had by far the largest superintendency.
Though Clark tried to maintain peaceful relations with indigenous nations and negotiated peace treaties, he was involved in President Andrew Jackson's Indian removal policy. This included "his duty to oversee removal". He managed retaliation against Black Hawk and those allied with him in the Black Hawk War, when hostilities arose between them and the Americans. Clark issued "an extermination order", which he gave to Lewis Cass, a man who played a central role in Jackson's removal policy.
Clark believed in the Jeffersonian ideology in which assimilation would be the best course of action for Native Americans. However, in the end, relocation of the Indians from their native lands became the government's primary goal. Clark's government position on Native American affairs kept him at the forefront of countless relocations. He expressed sympathy for those uprooted tribes and promoted their interests as he understood them, nevertheless, he agreed with and implemented the policy of Indian removal, negotiating 37, or one-tenth, of all ratified treaties between American Indians and the United States. Over the course of his career, millions of acres passed from Indian to U.S. ownership through Clark's hand.
After returning from his cross-country expedition, Clark married Julia Hancock on January 5, 1808, at Fincastle, Virginia. They had five children: Meriwether Lewis Clark, Sr. (1809–1881), named after his friend and expedition partner; William Preston Clark (1811–1840); Mary Margaret Clark (1814–1821); George Rogers Hancock Clark (1816–1858), named after Clark's older brother; and John Julius Clark (1818–1831), named after his oldest brother Jonathan and Clark's wife.
After Julia's death in 1820, William Clark married Julia's first cousin, Harriet Kennerly Radford. They had three children together: Jefferson Kearny Clark (1824–1900), named after the president; Edmund Clark (1826–1827), named after another of his older brothers; and Harriet Clark, named after her mother (dates unknown; died as child). His second wife Harriet died in 1831.
Clark died in St. Louis on September 1, 1838 at age 68. He was buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery, where a 35-foot (11 m) gray granite obelisk was erected to mark his grave.
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Note written by
Language of Materials
Source of Acquisition
Mary Clarke Hiestand
Method of Acquisition
- Archon Finding Aid Title
- Samantha L. Harper
- Description rules
- Other Unmapped
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note
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