Winfield Scott (1786 - 1866?) was the first Governor-General of the Confederation of North America. He was the first governor-general to run for and win re-election, and was also the first to resign from office.
Michigan City War and the Burgoyne Conference
Scott was born in Virginia on 13 June 1786 to a planter family near Petersburg. By 1839, he had become a resident of Michigan City, and was serving as a general in the Indiana Army. When Michigan City was captured by an Indian army led by Chief John Miller on 21 July 1839, Viceroy Sir Alexander Haven called an emergency meeting of the Grand Council in Burgoyne to deal with the crisis.
Scott was placed in command of a united North American army, which he led across Indiana in the fall. Scott succeeded in recapturing Michigan City on 19 October, then proceeded to execute every member of Miller's army. At the official inquiry held after the battle, Scott stated that he had attempted to restrain his men, but was unsuccessful. Scott's subordinates claimed that he had given an order that no prisoners be taken. The court acquitted Scott, though it was popularly believed that he had been responsible for the deaths of Miller's men, and Scott became a national hero for avenging the deaths of 5,000 Michigan City inhabitants who had been killed by the Indians.
Scott was a delegate to the Concordia Convention of July 1841, along with Governor Henry Gilpin of the Northern Confederation and Governor John Calhoun of the Southern Confederation. The delegates agreed that Indiana's experience with the Indians might be repeated elsewhere in the C.N.A., and that a strong army would be needed in the future. The delegates also agreed to the need for a common currency and banking system. In August, the delegates issued a call for the Britannic Design to be amended to produce a more centralized C.N.A.
Following a similar meeting by leaders of the Conservative Party in Brant, Indiana in September, Viceroy Haven agreed to submit the proposals to the Crown. As a result, Parliament agreed in January 1842 to a special meeting of the Grand Council in Burgoyne in June 1842. Scott was a member of the Burgoyne Conference, and became the leader of the Liberal members of the Grand Council, while Willie Lloyd led the Conservatives. Although Scott and Lloyd differed on ideology, they were able to work well together to formulate amendments to the Design, which were accepted by large majorities of the delegates.
After the adoption of the Second Britannic Design in 1842, Scott was nominated by the Unified Liberal Party as their choice for Governor-General, while Lloyd was nominated by the National Conservatives. Scott stressed the opportunities of the frontier and opposed what he called "Conservative paternalism." The Unified Liberals won 91 seats in the 1843 Grand Council elections, ensuring Scott's selection.
In his inaugural address, Governor-General Scott urged goodwill and predicted a glowing future for the C.N.A. Although he warned of the danger presented by the United States of Mexico, he assured his listeners that "We are strong enough to defeat any enemy." He concluded by saying, "Now we are one. Our nation has survived a period of trial, and is stronger than ever before. There is no distinction between Indianan and Northern Confederationist, no disharmony of interests between Quebec and the Southern Confederation. These four states will help develop Manitoba, already a rapidly growing part of the Confederation. And all will defend Vandalia against those who would threaten her integrity. Now we are one."
Despite the warning in his inaugural speech, Scott sought peaceful relations with the U.S.M., a policy he shared with President Miguel Huddleston, although neither man discussed it publicly. Huddleston had sent his Secretary of State, Isaac Shelby, to Burgoyne to represent the U.S.M. at Scott's investiture. Scott had little taste for war, which he called "the worst form of human activity." However, his peaceful intentions were not shared by Gilpin, who had become Minister of War in Scott's Cabinet, and who was more influential among the Unified Liberal caucus in the Grand Council. Gilpin called for a contest with the "anarchists and half-breeds" of the U.S.M., and after Pedro Hermión's Scorpions in a Bottle speech in May, be began to pressure Scott to consider a surprise attack against Tampico and Jefferson City.
During his first year in office, Scott introduced a series of homesteading laws, and actively encouraged European settlement of Indiana and Vandalia. He assisted in the founding of the New York, Michigan City, and Pitt Railroad, which was designed to connect all major cities across the C.N.A. through a system of feeders, and was financed by Northern Confederation and British funds. He also urged the construction of another railroad linking Quebec with Georgia, but this did not take place. New banking regulations were passed to ensure the stability of the financial system in each confederation, and a national bank was planned along the lines of the Bank of England.
The Road to War
Despite the efforts of Scott and Huddleston, relations between the C.N.A. and U.S.M. continued to worsen, due to the discovery of copper in Mexico del Norte in 1843, and silver early in 1844 in the disputed border area between Mexico del Norte and Vandalia. Thousands of Mexican miners arrived from California and Jefferson, and 20,000 North Americans left the eastern Confederations and Indiana for the western border of Vandalia. Attempts to reach a settlement of the border failed, since both countries were able to produce evidence supportiing their claims, and each rejected the other's maps. The disputed Broken Arrow region was more than five million acres, or nearly 8,000 square miles, in extent, and contained some of the wealthiest silver deposits in America.
By 1845 open war had erupted in the Broken Arrow region between Mexican and North American miners, and armed bands from both sides destroyed the settlements of Kinsey and Morelos. Between February and June, 197 North Americans and 156 Mexicans had been killed, and Gilpin increased the pressure for war. In April, Scott and Huddleston agreed to arbitration of the disputed border by a three-nation panel consisting of representatives from the Germanic Confederation, Spain, and the Netherlands. The arbitration panel failed when King Miguel of Spain learned that his representative on the panel would be expected to state specifically where the border between Spain and the C.N.A. had been drawn in the 1799 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. King Miguel feared that doing so would risk bad relations with either the U.S.M. or the C.N.A., or even with both, so he withdrew Spain from the panel. Scott and Huddleston could not agree on a replacement for Spain, and the arbitration plan fell through, as did alternate plans, including a division of the disputed territory.
Scott sought support for his peace program from the National Conservative caucus in the Grand Council, but Lloyd refused to cooperate. "If Scott cannot control his own party, he should resign and allow Gilpin to take command. Better still, let him call a new election, so that the people may judge his party on the record." Scott chose to do neither.
In the 1845 Mexican elections held on 13 August, the Continentalist Party won fourteen seats in the Mexican Senate, ensuring that Hermión would take office as President of Mexico on 6 September. Scott called a secret meeting of his Cabinet on 28 August for further negotiations, but Gilpin was able to persuade a majority of the Cabinet ministers to support a declaration of war. Faced with a choice of resigning or accepting the Cabinet's recommendation, Scott chose to remain in office. On the following day, Gilpin sent word to his field commanders to make final preparations for a Mexican attack, and to put the army on a war footing.
In his inaugural address on 6 September, President Hermión said, "We do not want war with any nation, but we do not shrink from action when it is necessary. We know what is ours, and we mean to keep it." Privately, Hermión sent a message to Scott indicating that he would continue the search for peace "in the spirit of my predecessor." Scott called a special Cabinet meeting on 11 September to consider Hermión's message, and to ask for a reconsideration of the declaration of war. Before he could ask for a vote, the meeting was interrupted by Gilpin's aide, Captain Nathan Rusher, who reported that Mexican and North American troops had clashed on 4 September. Scott adjourned the Cabinet meeting without taking any action, and negotiations continued between the two governments, even as military activity in the Broken Arrow region grew in intensity and regularity. By the end of 1845, the two countries were fully engaged, though Sobel never says whether either side issued a formal declaration of war. Minister of State Bruce Harrison, who opposed the war, resigned from Scott's Cabinet.
War and Resignation
During the first two years of the Rocky Mountain War, the North American Navy was able to blockade the U.S.M. with ease, and destroyed the small Mexican Navy. However, the North American Army suffered a series of military defeats in Mexico del Norte, Jefferson, and Durango. The North Americans lost some 80,000 troops to exposure and starvation in Mexico del Norte, and another 10,000 to disease in Durango. Sobel states that in contrast to President Hermión, Scott continually second-guessed his military commanders, "usually to their misfortune and detriment."
In spite of these losses, Scott was renominated by the Unified Liberals in 1848, and was selected for a second term after the 1848 Grand Council elections. Peace negotiations between the two countries continued, and several months after the election C.N.A. negotiator James Buchanan suggested an armistice based on the status quo ante bellem, with an election to be held in the disputed zone to determine which nation would control it. Mexican envoy Carlos Franklin agreed, and by November peace seemed to be at hand. However, Buchanan and Franklin could not agree on the details of the election or the status of the disputed area beforehand, and negotations broke down in January 1849.
Gilpin was unhappy with Scott's prosecution of the war, and after the Buchanan-Franklin talks broke down, he resigned from the Cabinet and called for a vote of no confidence, claiming that Scott was incompetent and lacked dedication to the fighting men. Between them, Gilpin and Lloyd were able to gain a majority of votes against Scott. However, instead of calling an election, Scott spent three weeks trying to form a coalition government with the National Conservatives, but was unsuccessful. When Gilpin's supporters in the National Liberal caucus voted to expel Scott from the party, he resigned.
Sobel makes no further mention of Scott after his resignation.
Sobel's sources for the life of Winfield Scott are Buchanan's The Paris Mission and Other Episodes (New York, 1868); Lord Henry Hawkes' Logistics and Tactics in the Border War (London, 1888); Colonel Harry Warner's The Michigan City Inquiry: Scott and the Nation (New York, 1906); Dickinson Letts' Origins of the Two Party System (New York, 1923); Martin York's Huddleston, Scott, and the Rapprochement of 1844 (Mexico City, 1929); Frank McKinley's Winfield Scott and the Sin of Pride (Mexico City, 1957); John Pritchard's The First Shot: Origins of the Rocky Mountain War (Mexico City, 1958) and He Was First! The Governorship General of Winfield Scott (New York, 1960); Alex Prentiss' A More Perfect Union: The Concordia Accords (New York, 1967); Frank Cockrill's What Happened at Michigan City? (London, 1968); and Adlai Groggins' "New Revelations from the Scott Papers" Burgoyne Herald and Times, January 14-18, 1971.
This was the Featured Article for the week of 6 October 2013.
|Governors-General of the C.N.A.|
|Winfield Scott • Henry Gilpin • William Johnson • Whitney Hawkins • Kenneth Parkes • Herbert Clemens • John McDowell • Ezra Gallivan • Clifton Burgen • Christopher Hemingway • Albert Merriman • Calvin Wagner • Henderson Dewey • Douglas Watson • Bruce Hogg • James Billington • Richard Mason • Perry Jay • Carter Monaghan|