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July 4, 1776 through October 1, 1800

July 4, 1776. British colonies in North America declare independence.

September 3, 1783. Peace treaty with Britain, signed in Paris, recognizes U.S. independence.

1783 Map of United States surrounded by foreign territory

September 3, 1783. After the American Revolution, the United States was surrounded by foreign territory, Spanish to the west and British to the north. Thomas Jefferson had continuing concerns about the security of the U.S. from foreign aggression, which helped to guide his vision and his actions before and during his presidency.

December 4, 1783. (Annapolis, Md.). Thomas Jefferson writes to George Rogers Clark asking if he is interested in leading an expedition to explore the West (Jackson, 2: 654-55).

February 8, 1784. (Richmond, Va.). George Rogers Clark declines to lead western exploration but offers some advice (Jackson, 2: 655-56).

George Rogers Clark, as a young man, painted by Rosemary Brown Beck based on descriptions in primary sources.
From the collection of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

February 8, 1784. George Rogers Clark to Thomas Jefferson

"Your proposition respecting a tour to the west and North west of the Continent would be Extreamly agreable to me could I afford it . . . . It is what I think we ought to do. . . . Large parties [however] will . . . . allarm the Indian Nations they pass through. Three or four young Men well qualified for the Task might perhaps compleat your wishes at a very Trifling Expence" (Jackson, 2: 655-56).

In 1779, Clark led the successful campaign against the British at Fort Sackville (Vincennes). He helped settle the site of Louisville (1778) and established Clarksville (1784) at the Falls of the Ohio.

Summer 1786. Jefferson encourages John Ledyard's plan to travel across Russia to Siberia, cross the Bering Strait to North America, and return to Washington. Ledyard does not succeed (Ambrose, 69).

July 13, 1787. Northwest Ordinance establishes and provides system of government for North-west Territory.

July 13, 1787 Northwest Territory established

July 12, 1787 Northwest Territory Map

1793. Jefferson and the American Philosophical Society sponsor French botanist, André Michaux, to find a convenient route to the Pacific Ocean. Michaux is found to be a spy and is called back to France (Ambrose, 70-71).

May 7, 1800. Congress splits Northwest Territory into two territories: Indiana Territory and Northwest Territory.

May 7, 1800 Indiana Territory separated from Northwest Territory

May 7, 1800 Indiana Territory Map

May 13, 1800. William Henry Harrison is appointed governor of Indiana Territory.

October 1, 1800. Napoleon's secret treaty with Spain returns the territory of Louisiana to France.