Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted



First Advisor

Francis Paul Prueba


Few individuals have had as much an influence on early American Indian policy as Lewis Cass. Throughout his long tenure as governor of Michigan Territory, and as ex officio superintendent of Indian affairs, there was one constant in his policy: the distribution of presents should be the basis of any government intercourse with the Indians. Cass was one of the few to theorize about the importance of giving presents to the Indians, and his position as governor of a frontier territory allowed the opportunity to put theory into practice. When he was appointed governor in 1813, the War of 1812 was still raging. The British exploited the great influence they had on the Indians of Michigan Territory and used them as guerrilla fighters. British influence on the Indians did not end with the war, a fact that was a constant source of irritation throughout Cass's administration. To offset the influence of the British and to secure an isolated region for the United states, Cass implemented the practice of giving presents to the Indians. Though his position on some facets of American Indian policy shifted, Cass never wavered in his belief that issuing presents was the best way to achieve the aims of the United states, and he consistently urged Congress to integrate the practice into its overall policy more effectively.