Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were all established and grew up to statehood relatively quickly, thanks in large part to strong influxes of Yankee migrants. In this episode, Brian & Lyman discuss Michigan’s much slower maturation. Tune in for tales of French Detroit, swamping, and the land surveys that launched thousands of militiamen!
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B: You’re listening to Episode 16 of Migration Nation with Lyman Stone and Brian Hudson, a Podcast about the history of migration in America.
L: I’m an economist and Brian’s a librarian. For this and just one more episode, we will be covering the Yankee Diaspora. Then, it’s on to some discussion of Native American migrations.
B: And we expect getting to the next episode will take, I dunno.
L: A year?
B: Maybe two? But seriously… we’re sorry this has taken so long. We have no good excuse. You can consider this a “Christmas episode” if you like.
L: Fitting since we’re discussing basically the North Pole; that is, Michigan. Anyways, our workflow is determined by what else is going on in life for us both, and life has been busy, but also by what stories we find. So if we find really unique stories to tell, the episode comes together quickly. And for Michigan’s early years, we just didn’t find that special something of a story. But mostly, we just had other stuff going on and were really bad about keeping up with this.
B: But nonetheless, we’ve found what you might call a story about what happens to places that don’t have a story.
B: When we’ve been telling people we’re working on a Michigan episode, they all say the same thing. They talk about Detroit, and the Great Migration of black southerners, and cars, and Henry Ford; it’s this industrial, all-American picture. Everybody thinks Michigan migration must write itself. This is pretty annoying, actually, because we’ve had a hard time with this episode.
L: The problem is simple. Michigan’s industrial-era history has over-written the migration record of earlier periods. While there is data to talk about, and some stories to tell, the over-arching state-level narrative of Michigan’s migration is really about Detroit and cars, and we’re nearly 100 years before that. Nobody thinks of Detroit as being a French city nowadays; that whole cultural-genetic stock simply got over-written.
B: Rural Michigan has preserved a little bit more of its migration mythology for our period… but even there, the vacation towns of northern Michigan are a comparatively new thing, and much of the rural population is even spillovers from Michigan’s auto-boom.
L: The basic problem here can be illustrated in the population data. In 1850, Illinois had almost 8% of its 1970 population, while Indiana and Ohio had about 19% of their 1850 population. Michigan had just 4%. By 1870, Illinois and Ohio had about 23 to 25% of their 1970 population, Indiana had about 32%, and Michigan still just had 13%. The gap would not fully close until about 1950. That is, Michigan’s growth started later than the other states, and proceeded more slowly until the auto-boom.
B: Now, we could just jump way ahead to keep on our geographic story, but we really want to be telling a story about people, not just places. So we’ll be talking about Michigan’s early migration history… which won’t tell you as much about Michigan today as the same period of migration into Ohio or Illinois did.
L: Right, I mean, today, talking about Michigan without a major discussion of Detroit is really hard. As of the 1790s, that was also true: Detroit made up a huge share of the European-origin population in Michigan. But Detroit proper’s share fell continuously until the mid-1840s, and the Detroit metro area saw a falling share of the population from the 1810s until the 1880s.
B: So the period we’re talking about today was dominated by growth outside of Detroit.
B: Well, shoot. Okay. So Detroit is one where there actually is some neat information.
L: We still have to set the stage for it, so we can still tell people about early Detroit, even if it’s going to shrink in relevance during the episode.
B: Well good, because I found some stories!
L: Fair enough. Maybe I’ll do the usual demographic rundown, and you can interject when we get to the stories?
B: Will do.
L: Well, so Detroit is really old, it turns out. The French established a trading post in 1701 there because it was a good place to cross over from what is now Canada into Michigan. And of course, they were mostly trading furs. By 1778, Detroit had over 2,100 residents making it almost certainly the largest settlement west of the Appalachians and north of New Orleans. In an earlier episode we suggested that Kaskaskia was bigger: it turns out at various times, either could be true. Population in these towns could be very volatile based on which colonial power was in control, the progress of wars, the season, and how you count native Americans living nearby.
B: How big was New Orleans in the 1770s?
L: Well in 1805 it was between 8500 and 10,000; then it got 9,000 Haitian emigres in 1809, essentially doubling it. By 1810, the city had over 17,000 residents, while Detroit had about 1,600. Back in the 1780s and early 1790s, a series of city censuses counted about 5,000 residents, making New Orleans comfortably bigger than Detroit. The other big French cities were Montreal and Quebec, at probably 7,000 residents or so each.
B: So then Detroit was a pretty significant piece of Francophone North America’s urban world?
L: Oh yeah, absolutely. And that Francophone status lasts a long time, too. In the territorial Census of 1827, the return for Detroit is packed full of French names which, here, let me butcher a few: Dequendre, Cedien, Peltier, Charboneau, Campeau, Dumois, Labadie, Beaugrand, and plenty more. That’s just in the first few lines of returns.
B: Those sound fairly French to me.
L: Right, so with these French names, the question I find myself puzzling over is… why is Detroit not a New Orleans of the north?
B: Actually… I think I have the answer for that.
B: Yeah. And I have to say it’s kind of exciting, because it’s rare that you get clear-cut historical answers, but in comparing New Orleans and Detroit, I think we can say pretty conclusively why New Orleans developed its culture as distinctly Francophone, while Detroit didn’t. One big reason is what you’ve already mentioned: New Orleans got several rounds of Francophone immigration. There was initial settlement of course, and it grew bigger than Detroit, but then there was also the wave of dislocated Acadians from British Canada in the 1750s.
L: Oh right, so that’s a whole second wave of migration, and presumably those folks would tend to want to protect their culture, having been booted out once before.
B: Yeah, that seems likely. But then we get another wave of Francophone migration in 1809, when Haitian emigres flood in after being expelled from Cuba. The city population doubles in a single year, dominated by these Francophone settlers.
L: Oooo right, so that makes sense, we’ve got a “renewal” of the Francophone population by immigration at multiple points in the early history. And after 1809, New Orleans is one of the biggest cities in the US, so its culture tended to stick around with growth.
B: Yeah. Meanwhile, Detroit… struggled. It had to be incorporated and re-incorporated several times between 1780 and 1825. The old French city burnt down in 1805 and was rebuilt, designed off of Washington, DC. The region also saw several wars with Native Americans, and then the British reconquered it in the War of 1812. Meanwhile, Andrew Jackson famously prevented New Orleans from being captured in that war. With so much instability in Detroit, and access to good lands elsewhere, the population stagnated or fell.
L: Okay, that totally makes sense; I was wondering why population estimates drop from over 2000 during the Revolutionary War to just a few hundred in the 1790s, and then show such sluggish growth after that. But this explains it.
B: Right. And so finally, in 1827, that Census document you mentioned earlier, Detroit has just over 2,000 people again, and the enduring Francophone population is still a major component of that group, but repeated wars and aggressive Americanization efforts made it harder for them to pass on their cultural identity, and they’re surrounded by non-Francophone Americans.
L: What do you mean by aggressive Americanization efforts?
B: I ran across a really interesting paper by Jeffrey Pollock of the University of Toledo called “Bumpkins and Bostonnais” talking about how French Detroiters responded to the efforts of the territorial government from 1805 to 1812 to, well, govern. He argues, persuasively I think, that French Detroiters tried quite hard to preserve many pieces of their culture and way of life, but were simply met by a Territorial Government uninterested in their concerns.
L: What specifically were they trying to preserve?
B: Well, they were particularly upset after the 1805 fire that the redesigned city had no commons, like the old French city had. He also explains other disagreements over land use rules, and some important legal norms, but the basic issue is this: Michigan didn’t become a state until 1837, and was largely ruled by Federally-appointed officials at least through 1812.
L: Oh this is really interesting then. Louisiana gets statehood in 1812, when it had about 80 to 90,000 people. A large share of these were Francophone, either from the pre-Louisiana-Purchase settlers, or the 10,000 or so Haitian emigres in 1809. There’s no way you could get to statehood without Francophone people being on board.
B: Not the situation faced by French Detroiters.
L: Uh, yeah, no, not at all. Michigan had under 5,000 residents total in 1810, far below the usual 60,000-person threshold for statehood. Given those numbers, the Francophone population in Michigan was never going to be big enough to have a controlling share of the statehood-threshold population, so I can see why their concerns went unheard, and why the government proved unwilling to support efforts to preserve and transmit their culture.
B: Yeah. And by the time Michigan gets statehood in 1837, it’s got a totally new, dyed-in-the-wool, True 100% American population.
B: So through Michigan’s turbulent early years, the state’s population remained small, with a disproportionately French population, despite that group not having the political clout to make their voice heard.
L: But then came the Yankees!
B: Right. The War of 1812 helped crush the last Indian resistance in the northwest, and opened new lands for settlement. Plus, the naval buildup on Lake Erie helped galvanize American shipping in the region, just as population growth in Ohio was really heating up.
L: So we’ve got substantially improved transportation networks connecting to Michigan, and a growing nearby population interested in moving there.
L: No surprise then that population rose quickly! From about 4,700 people in 1810, population rose to just 7,400 in 1820: sluggish growth considering neighboring Ohio added 350,000 people, Indiana added 195,000, and even recently-settled Illinois added 102,000.
B: And that’s probably because of war and instability.
L: Yeah. But here’s the thing: wars on the frontier often help boost settlement, as the soldiers find the new lands good for settling.
B: Didn’t we talk about that happening with the Whiskey Rebellion?
L: We did indeed! And it happened with the armies of 1812 too; and it helped that the government paid soldiers a land bounty for their service. But here’s the catch: when Federal surveyors arrived in Michigan to apportion bounties, they reported back that the land was all sandy and swampy and would make a poor bounty for soldiers, so fully three quarters of the troops stationed in Michigan were allocated land in Illinois.
B: Oooohhh and that would explain the sluggish growth to 1820, because the big potential migrant population was redirected to Illinois.
L: Right. And rumors also spread of major disease problems in Michigan: the swamps and bogs made malaria a very real threat, despite how far north the state is located.
B: Seriously? That seems crazy to me.
L: Yeah, me too, but in the 1820s Fort Saginaw was temporarily abandoned due to an outbreak of malaria and other diseases. In wasn’t until well into the 1820s that better government surveys began to be popularly known and Michigan’s public image started to improve. But, here, I should note that contemporary accounts overstate Michigan’s population, because Michigan at the time claimed a strip of what is today northern Ohio, including Toledo.
B: Uh, heck yes it did. And it fought the most entertaining war in American history over the issue.
L: Wait what?
B: Yeah. But that’s in 1835, later than your current story.
L: I don’t care. You just told me that Ohio and Michigan fought a war. I can’t go on with the population data without getting that story.
B: Now, Lyman, you know that I'm not what one might call a "sportsman." The most competitive I ever got about a ball sport was back in high school when some of us in my church's youth group pushed two ping-pong tables together, ran two nets to segment the megatable into four quadrants, and started essentially playing four-square with ping-pong equipment. We called it "four-pong" and it morphed into its own monster with very specific rules, guidelines, and even a specialized table. It was a lot of fun, allowed for lots of people to participate, and became quite competitive. People went at it hard. There were (minor) injuries.
L: Not sure how this relates to what I’m going to insist on calling the Great Arctic War.
B: Hah! No, it’s called the Toledo war but… anyways, though I don't know much about sports, I do know a few things: 1) The University of Kentucky is the greatest college sports program in the history of athletics; 2) Baseball isn't nearly as boring as it's made out to be; and 3) sports rivalries, though often dumb in origin and in practice, can be sort of fun if you let yourself get caught up in one. Though, again, the greatest sports rivalry is between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, I do know the University of Michigan to have a pretty fierce and longstanding football rivalry with Ohio State University.
L: Oh, we are going to get emails for that bit, Brian. And I believe it is THE Ohio State University.
B: Ugh. And do you really think our listenership is composed of such fierce sports fans and/or baseball-haters?
L: I dunno man. People on the internet are weird.
B: Anyway. I think we've now talked almost enough sports for...our lifetimes. My point is this: of dumb sports rivalries, the one whose dumb origin myth I most appreciate is between the University of Michigan and THE Ohio State University. When the two schools' football teams first met in 1897, some residents of their respective states could faintly remember a time in the distant past when militias of Ohioans and Michiganders were poised for actual combat, OFF the gridiron.
B: This story, like so many in this run of Yankee Diaspora episodes, involves the minutiae of the Northwest Ordinance. In case you've forgotten what that was, and I don't blame you in the slightest if you have, it was essentially the early United States' policies and procedures for governing and dividing the territory north and west of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River
L: That’s Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and around a third of Minnesota, for the geographically challenged.
B: Right. And perhaps most significantly, it also established the process by which those territories might be admitted to the Union.
L: Yeah; as we talked about for Michigan and Louisiana earlier, once a territory's population surpassed 60,000, it could earn statehood, and all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities appertaining thereto.
B: Did you just say “appertaining thereto” out loud?
L: So what if I did? Huh?
B: I’m just.. Well… well if you didn’t already know these episodes are scripted, now you know. But anyways, the actual language of the Ordinance says that these new states would be admitted "on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever." And whereas Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois all earned statehood within the fifteen year period of 1803 to 1818, it would be another nineteen years before Michigan was admitted. Due to, as we said, ongoing efforts to remove Native populations, less northward migration from southerners, the Erie Canal suddenly making boat travel there cheap and easy after 1825, and Michigan's comparatively inhospitable climate probably played some role.
L: Hold on. You think the Michigan cold stopped the sleigh-riding Yankees!? They came from places like New Hampshire and Maine! THAT'S cold!
B: What is this Maine you speak of? Do you mean Upper Massachusetts?
L: Oh, zing. Solid rejoinder my man.
B: Just sayin’; Maine’s not a state ‘til Henry Clay made it one.
L: Fair enough.
B: Anyways, the point is, Michigan migration was naturally going to move a little more slowly than the Ohio River-bordering states. However, Michigan's slog towards statehood was ready to end when they met the mandated requirements 1835. They even approved adopted a state constitution in May of that year. Yet its approval and admission into the Union was delayed until January of 1837. That final delay was the result of one of my favorite things in early American history: petty border disputes and surveying squabbles!
L: Oh yeah! Never forget the brave men who perished in the Pennamite-Yankee Wars!
B: Those three heroes deserve a great memorial in Washington every bit as much as the War of 1812 vets do. Funnily enough, this border "war" was somehow less deadly than the Pennamite-Yankee Wars.
L: How much less deadly?
L: So...you mean there were zero deaths?
B: Allow me to dispense with the foreshadowing, and just get to the root of the issue. Article 5 of the Northwest Ordinance, in addition to the 60k population threshold and the "equal footing" language described earlier, detailed how the borders of the future states were to be drawn. However, they do this not by providing a surveyed map, but rather by simply describing a series of lines in relation to geographical features and territorial boundaries. Even then, the descriptions of the initial borders of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois (the "eastern State," "middle State," and "western State," respectively) were fairly straightforward: various rivers and a few straight lines drawn due north from specific points along those rivers.
The confusion arose with the concept of northern borders. Since the Ordinance initially called for the formation of "not less than three nor more than five States" from the Northwest Territory, the initial border descriptions operated from an assumption of three states, bound within those rivers and north/south lines I just described. If we had stopped with those three states, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois would extend north from the Ohio River all the way to the territorial boundary with Canada. Once it was decided, fairly early along, that a fourth and fifth state would indeed be formed from the Territory, northern borders would have to be established for those first three states.
L: Okay, but it shouldn’t be that hard to draw a border along a line of latitude.
B: You’d think so! And don't get me wrong: the authors of the Ordinance did very explicitly consider this. The very same article reads, "Provided, however, and it is further understood and declared, that the boundaries of these three States shall be subject so far to be altered, that, if Congress shall hereafter find it expedient, they shall have authority to form one or two States in that part of the said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan." That last bit, an east/west line drawn through the southern extreme of Lake Michigan, seems like a pretty simple solution. However, given that the language opens the door for the boundaries to be "altered" as Congress finds "expedient," it inevitably caused problems once real state boundaries were established starting with Ohio's admission to the Union. Congress approves the admission of states to the Union, and the concerns of states almost always take precedence over the concerns of mere territories.
L: Ah, okay. I’m starting to see how this is going to shape up now. I bet the earlier-joining states manage to snag extra land don’t they?
B: Something like that, yeah. When Indiana joined the Union in 1816, in order to give the new state more usable access to Lake Michigan, Congress shifted its northern border line 10 miles north.
L: But by definition that puts the border above the southern tip of Lake Michigan!
B: Exactly! And to be honest, I think this adjustment might have been the original sin in this fight. By setting Indiana's northern border in a position that doesn't match up to any language in the Northwest Ordinance, besides Congress's reserved right to alter borders as they saw fit, Congress effectively threw all future border deliberations in the Territory into dispute. Only two years later, in 1818, as we mentioned last episode, Nathaniel Pope successfully argued for a much more drastic border alteration: Illinois's northern border would be bumped up about 61 miles in order to pick up Chicagoland, much to the detriment of future Wisconsin.
L: Of course, a more southerly border for Michigan would have given them… uhh… Gary. Not sure they’re mourning that change.
B: Maybe not that specific one, but on the Ohio side of the line, they had a big problem. See, when Congress passed the Enabling Act of 1802 so that Ohioans could join the Union, the language describing the state's northern border was actually pretty darn close to that of the Ordinance itself 25 years earlier. The Act simply added a rule for the eastern terminus of the northern border: it was to be formed by a line drawn east from the southernmost point of Lake Michigan (as established in the Ordinance), until that line intersected either Lake Erie or Canada. At the time, that was all well and good with the Buckeye State.
L: Okay, problem solved. Unless the lakes move, the border is set.
B: Well… the lakes moved.
L: That’s impossible.
B: Actually, young Skywalker, it’s very possible. It turns out that the map used when making these very early considerations was really, really bad.
L: How bad?
B: Well, for starters, it makes Michigan looks less like a mitten and more like...a shark, maybe?
L: Its jaws wide to consume Canada, tearing apart our royalist foes to the north?
B: Uhhh… sure. This map, known as the “Mitchell Map,” was apparently the best they had to work with at the time. It informed a lot of policy that involved the geography of the new nation, and the Northwest Ordinance was one such policy. Unfortunately for Ohioans, the particular distortions of the Mitchell Map didn’t end up working in their favor. According to the Mitchell Map, the southern tip of Lake Michigan is somewhere north of Detroit, meaning a huge chunk of southern Michigan would be in Ohio.
L: Ah. Okay. This is shaping up to be good.
B: You see where this is headed? As you can tell from looking at any modern map, as it turns out Lake Michigan extends further south than the Mitchell Map had claimed. This news apparently reached Ohio DURING their 1802 constitutional convention. This was a little distressing to them because it meant that they were CERTAINLY getting less lake access than previously anticipated. Without further details, it was conceivable that the map was so distorted that the ordained east-west line would pass entirely south of Lake Erie, letting southeast Michigan wrap around the lake all the way to Pennsylvania and leaving Ohio with NO lake access.
L: Well, since Cleveland is not as bad as Detroit, Michigan might have been happy with that gain.
B: Oh come on; any state would be happy to pick up another major metro area. But, of course, we know from correct maps that that worst-case scenario didn’t play out. But Lake Michigan’s southern tip was far enough south, that Michigan would not only have about 40-50 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, but would also possess the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie, a site foreseen by its heretofore Ohioan occupiers as a key site for Great Lakes commerce.
For you northern Ohioans out there, or anybody looking at Google Maps, that means that your state’s northern border should be, on average, about level with I-90 between Toledo and the Indiana border.
L: Meaning that the city of Toledo would be in Michigan.
B: Correct! But Ohio really wanted the Maumee bay in their new state, and they weren’t going to let something as silly and subjective as “geography” and “the law” tell them that they couldn’t have it. Considering the news of the Mitchell Map’s distortion reached Ohio while they were in the process of drafting their constitution for statehood, they decided to rather explicitly prepare for the possibility that the line of latitude from Lake Michigan fell beneath the Maumee Bay. They established in their constitution that Ohio’s northern border would simply be slanted northeast at whatever angle was necessary for the bay to fall just within the state of Ohio.
L: Wait what? That’s fantastic! “Our border will be, uh, whatever it needs to be to get us this nice harbor we’ve picked out.” That’s so egregious.
B: Yeah, it is. But Congress accepted Ohio’s constitution in 1803, and, when considering the language calling for a hypothetical border-angling, kicked the can down the road by essentially saying that it was purely hypothetical at the time because nobody had yet actually done the work to properly map and survey the Northwest Territory. Thus, the Maumee Bay was effectively in Ohio.
L: But that arrangement couldn’t last, I mean, they have to decide which land will be governed by the state vs. the territorial government, right?
B: Right. The arrangement only lasts for about 2 years, when, in 1805, Congress created the Michigan Territory with a southern border drawn according to…
L: Oh no.
B: Oh yes! The old, non-adjusted Northwest Ordinance line. That placed the Maumee Bay in southeast Michigan Territory.
B: Yeah no kidding, kind of a massive whoops. After repeatedly asking Congress to reconcile the mess they’d made, Ohio had an official survey in 1816. There was just one problem with the ordered survey: the U.S. Surveyor General was a man by the name of Edward Tiffin, and Edward Tiffin had previously been the first governor of Ohio.
L: I see no problem there.
B: Hah! Yeah. Also, incidentally, do we still have a Surveyor General? And why do we keep coming across these weird “generals?”
L: I mean we still have an Attorney General and a Surgeon General… probably it isn’t a military rank like Clothier-General was for Wilkinson.
B: I knew you’d get my reference, and I raised the question exclusively to ensure that we have a Wilkinson reference somewhere in the episode.
L: You should be ashamed of yourself.
B: Well. I’m not. Anyways, Tiffin hired a man named William Harris to perform the survey, and instructed Harris to survey Ohio’s northern boundary by the special slanted, Maumee Bay-securing guidelines in Ohio’s constitution. This, understandably, upset Michigan Territory officials, who fussed until the Treasury Secretary had a guy named John A. Fulton perform a second survey in 1818 according to the instructions in the Northwest Ordinance, and, surprise!, it gave the Maumee Bay to Michigan. The contested 468 square miles between these two survey lines became known as the “Toledo Strip,” and was the object of this least-deadly of wars.
L: I am just dying of anticipation to know how one fights a war with no casualties, and I’ll admit I’m worried it ends in a four-way ping-pong match and you were doing some grade-A foreshadowing earlier.
B: Hah! No. But, do you remember the kerfuffle in Westmoreland, back in our bourbon episodes, between Pennsylvania and Virginia?
L: Yeah. They both tried to administer the area and each even arrested the other’s officials.
B: Yeah, we sort of have that situation happening again here. Both Ohio and Michigan steadfastly believed themselves to be the right and proper stewards of the Toledo Strip and so went about their government business in the disputed territory, but I guess assumed that Congress would eventually do as requested and put an end to the question.
L: Poor choice.
B: Yeah, they didn’t lift a finger. They mostly just let the issue simmer FOR LIKE 19 MORE YEARS. I mean, they very occasionally at least tried to appear as if they were trying to handle things fairly. They asked for specific latitudes of the survey lines in 1828, then ordered for the Fulton line to be resurveyed due to a lack of specific latitudinal data in 1832, a whole 4 years later. (Incidentally, a young Army engineer by the name of Robert E. Lee assisted in this project.)
L: Classic Congress, “Well, we’re not sure what to do… let’s Commission some reports.”
B: Pretty much! And in the meantime, this whole ordeal just became a big mess for a whole lot of other folks. Toledo was officially founded in 1833, and both Ohio and Michigan had big plans for their economic development should they be the ones to hold the city when the dust fell. This was especially true for Ohio, where there were plans for an ambitious canal project that largely hinged on possessing the entirety of the Maumee River. Furthermore, Michigan’s position in this dispute opened unwelcome questions about the legitimacy of the northern borders of Indiana and Illinois, as both had, as I mentioned earlier, laid their northern borders above the Ordinance Line. Even messier still, the President, Andrew Jackson, began to get involved, supporting Ohio’s claim for partisan political purposes.
L: Frickin’ Jackson!
B: Said every Whig everywhere.
B: But, really, as you might have heard somewhere before, Ohio was, groan a swing state in presidential elections and actually had representatives in Congress. Ohio, and it’s allies, Indiana and Illinois, were important to the political future of Jackson’s Democrats. Michigan, a mere territory, had neither electoral votes nor congressional representation.
L: When are you going to get to the exciting part?
B: I told you at the top, basically no one actually fought. It’s not an exciting war. But you asked.
L: I’ve made a horrible mistake.. But now I feel like we have to see this thing through.
B: Yes, you do. Michigan may not have been a state yet, but they were ready to change that. They were prepared to call a state constitutional convention in 1833, but Congress (which, keep in mind, contained an actively antagonistic delegation from Ohio) didn’t allow it, citing Michigan’s insistence on fighting with Ohio over the Toledo Strip.
L: Okay, get us to some kind of action.
B: We’re there! Things broke open in early 1835. In January, Michigan’s governor, Stevens T. Mason, called a constitutional convention against Congress’s orders. In February, Ohio’s governor, Robert Lucas, announced a refusal to even talk with a delegation from Michigan. Ohio then began setting up governments in the Toledo Strip, even naming the county in which Toledo sits after Governor Lucas.
L: Oooh. That’s kind of provocative.
B: A bit. Michigan then authorized its law enforcement officials to arrest any Ohioans trying to run a government in the Toledo Strip. Ohio responded by setting up new towns, appointing sheriffs and judges, and establishing prison sentences for any Michigander who arrested an Ohioan.
L: Finally! Some action!
B: It gets better! This ratcheting-up had only one place left to go. Michigan, and then also Ohio, appointed state militias to occupy the Toledo Strip and defend against the interlopers. In late March/early April of 1835, General Bell of the Ohio militia led 600 men to Perrysburg, OH, and General Brown of Michigan occupied the city of Toledo itself with a militia of around 1000 men. This state of affairs lasted about a year and a half.
L: Wait WHAT?
L: They have a standoff for a year and a half!?
B: Uhhh… well, yeah. It’s the midwest: nothing happens very quickly.
L: This is insane.
B: The locals probably agreed! I mean, I can’t find the original primary sources on this, but I’ve read that Governor Lucas of Ohio, in addition to the 600 men mustered at Perrysburg, believed he had 10,000 more troops on reserve, and apparently issued a war proclamation around this time claiming that Ohio would keep the Toledo Strip even if he had to “wade knee deep in blood.” General Brown of Michigan said that Lucas would have to “march over the dead bodies” of the Wolverine militia.
President Jackson, slow on the uptake, finally realized what a mess this whole Toledo business was.
L: Did the “knee-deep blood and dead bodies” thing tip him off, or was it the actual hundreds of men prepared to fight over this dumb little port?
B: That stuff certainly didn’t help matters, but the cynic in me goes back to what I was saying about Jackson wanting Ohio’s votes. His own Attorney General told him that, unless Congress fixes the problem that they caused with their lazy and inconsistent legislation concerning this border, the Toledo Strip rightfully belonged to Michigan. That not being the answer Jackson wanted, he sent a small commission in hopes that that would tone things down and help reconcile matters in Ohio’s favor. At the commission’s recommendation, residents of the Strip held elections under Ohio’s laws. This, as could be expected, led to Michigan attempting to disrupt the election officials, arresting folks for participating in those elections.
L: This is such a farce.
B: At last, on April 26, 1835, there was an incident known as The Battle of Phillips Corners.
L: Finally! A battle!
B: Don’t get too excited. In addition to recommending the aforementioned elections, Jackson’s commissioners also recommended that the Ohio-preferred Harris line be surveyed AGAIN. Ohio essentially put together a posse to protect a commission of surveyors who would head north and re-mark the Harris line. This all went according to plan for a time, until they ran into a portion of Michigan’s militia. The party was chased by about 60 Michigan militiamen, and a few managed to escape, nine of the Ohio men were arrested. The Ohioans claimed that they were shot at, and though that story wasn’t agreed upon by both sides, it still served to further heighten tensions.
L: Brian. How do you have a battle with no injuries?
B: I didn’t come up with the name, Lyman. Nonetheless, true battle or not, the “incident” at Phillips Corners led to another round of escalating reprisals. Ohio officially named Toledo the county seat of Lucas County, ordered that a court be established there, and enacted some sort of legislation aimed at what they saw as essentially kidnapping of Ohio citizens by Michigan law enforcement out of their jurisdiction. Michigan responded by dumping a ton of money into funding its militia and drafting a state constitution, against the wishes of Congress and the President. Both sides were ordering arrests of the other’s officials and were organizing spy rings to track their activities.
L: I’m just trying to imagine something like this today.
B: Can you imagine Kentucky’s governor, I dunno, sending out a call to arms to annex Evansville or something?
L: Well if he did, I for one would do my patriotic duty and respond to the call of my country.
B: (awkward pause)... Uhuh. Okay then. Let’s get back to the story; we finally get some blood!
L: Oh yay!
B: So since both Ohio and Michigan were passing laws enabling their sheriffs to arrest opposing officials, spies, commissioners, etc. within the Toledo Strip, this obviously led to several scuffles. The most serious of these took place on July 15, 1835. Deputy Sheriff Joseph Wood, of Monroe County, Michigan, was dispatched to arrest Ohio's Major Benjamin Stickney out of Toledo. This was complicated by the presence of Stickney's sons, whose names you'll never guess.
L: Umm...can I have a hint?
B: Think Dr. Seuss.
L: ...One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish?
B: Very close. Major Stickney's sons were named "One," "Two," and, in one account, “Three,” (though I have reason to doubt Three’s existence).
L: Seriously? I mean, I'm all for weird old-timey child-naming conventions, but that seems...
B: A bit on the nose? And believe it or not, Two was the eldest.
L: What!? Really?
B: No, idiot. Anyway, Stickney’s family wasn't keen on him being arrested, and so resisted Deputy Sheriff Wood. In the ensuing struggle, Two grabbed a pen knife and stabbed Wood, thereafter fleeing to Ohio.
L: Finally! Violence in this air-quote "war"!
B: Huzzah! Joseph Wood's blood is the only known to be spilled as a part of this entire fracas. And even then, he recovered from his wounds and, I presume, went on deputy sheriff-ing. Two Stickney, to the best of my knowledge, went unpunished for the stabbing, as Ohio refused to extradite him because, in a move that should shock no one at this point in the narrative, Governor Lucas claimed that the crime occurred in Ohio, not Michigan. Furthermore, President Jackson apparently squashed Governor Mason's attempt to get the Supreme Court to bring Two to justice.
Worth noting, just for my own amusement, is that the Monroe County, Michigan Sheriff's name was Lyman Hurd.
L: Hey! Another Lyman! Also, sidenote, no surprise to find a Lyman there because the biggest source of American Lymans was via the Lymans of Hartford, Connecticut: Yankees! I’m descended from those Lymans, as are most Lymans in America today. Not a big shock to find a Lyman in Yankee-land Michigan.
B: Huh. Well, in one version of this story I read, Sheriff Lyman Hurd accompanied Deputy Sheriff Wood to a tavern to execute an arrest warrant for Two Stickney. They found Stickney in the company of another man, George McKay, that Sheriff Lyman had an arrest warrant for. Sheriff Lyman informed McKay that he had a warrant for his arrest, and attempted to take him into custody. McKay sprung to his feet, drew a dagger, and threatened to "split him down" if he tried to continue the arrest.
B: Sheriff Lyman, the coward, was dissuaded by the threat and didn't arrest McKay. Meanwhile, right next to him, his buddy, brave Deputy Sheriff Wood, wasn’t about to let a knife stop him from fulfilling his duty and arresting Two Stickney! Well, not until he was stabbed with that knife, anyway.
L: I apologize on behalf of all Lyman-kind for the sheriff’s cowardice. Did they ever get Two’s dad?
B: Yeah, and there’s an amusing story about the struggle to transport him to the Monroe County jail. I just like the way Friend Palmer relayed the event in his book, Early Days in Detroit: “[Major Stickney] was requested to mount a horse, but flatly refused. He was put on by force, but would not sit there. Finally two men were detailed to walk beside him and hold his legs, while a third led the horse. After making half the distance in this way, they tied his legs under the horse, and thus got him to jail in Monroe.”
L: There’s a Cohen Brothers movie plot in their somewhere.
B: I mean they do bleak midwestern humor well, so it’s fitting. Anyways, as all of this mess was going on, I've read a few accounts of local Ohioan officials sneaking into the Toledo strip to hold clandestine meetings. Nothing nefarious, just some simple meeting that could yield official minutes that could serve as documentation that, in fact, OHIOANS had been governing and ought to continue governing in this disputed territory. I suppose the Ohioan gambit was basically to be able to produce receipts in whatever forced arbitration process with which this imbroglio would inevitably end.
The most amusing of these incidents occurred September 7, 1835, and involves some brave Ohioans sneaking into Toledo proper. See, in late August, President Jackson, in another move to appease Ohio, removed Stevens T. Mason as Michigan’s governor, and replaced him with a guy named John S. Horner, nicknamed “Little Jack”.
L: As in, “Little Jack Horner”?
B: I could find no documentary evidence of him eating any plum pies in any corners, but I suppose it can’t be ruled out.
B: I know. On his way out the door, one of Governor Mason's last orders before Little Jack arrived to replace him was to charge over 1,000 of Michigan's militia with preventing some sneaky Ohioan judges from slipping into Toledo and holding a court session. Remember that in Ohio's post-Phillips Corners legislation, it had been enacted that a court was to be established in Toledo, and Ohio was now trying to act on that law. I guess their claim to the territory would be even stronger if they could prove that they had held official meetings in the port itself, rather than simply the small rural settlements sprinkled across the rest of the Strip.
L: Sure; actual possession can often matter in court cases.
B: Right. So in darkness on the edge of town, these men managed to briefly occupy a schoolhouse and hold the first meeting of "the Court of Common Pleas, in and for the county of Lucas, and the State of Ohio." Scrawling the minutes on some loose leaf paper, worried about being discovered by the sizable contingent of soldiers specifically tasked with preventing or disrupting this very court from convening, the judges basically just appointed some county commissioners and then quickly adjourned.
From here, I want to read straight from History of Monroe County, Michigan by Talcott Enoch Wing, where the author summarizes one Ohioan's account of events: "That upon adjournment of the court, the officers and escort went to the tavern then kept by Munson H. Daniels, not far from the court house; that while there enjoying a season of conviviality natural on the accomplishment of important and critical public service, a wag came hurriedly into the tavern and reported a strong "Wolverine" force approaching and close by; that the party at once left the house, sprang to their horses, leaving their bills unpaid; that they took the trail for Maumee, following near the river; that upon reaching the hill across Swan Creek and near where the Oliver House now stands, seeing no pursuit, they came to a halt; that it then became known that the clerk had lost his hat, and with it his minutes of the court; that under direction of Colonel Vanfleet, careful search was made for the papers on the line of their hasty travel; and that after diligent efforts, the hat and contents were found."
B: Anyways, this is dragging on WAY longer than expected,
L: Sort of like the war itself I guess.
B: Yeah, pretty much, so I'll wrap it up. Michigan's government website explicitly says "When President Andrew Jackson stepped in, the war ended." I'm not sure that's a fair representation of how the Toledo War came to a close. Seems like Jackson stepping in and sending his commissioners back in April of 1835 actually CAUSED quite a bit more grief than it relieved. The michigan.gov piece claims that the war ended when Jackson removed Governor Mason from office. But considering Michigan didn't cede the Toledo Strip for another 16 months or so after that, again, I say that claiming that Little Jack Horner's appointment ended the war might be a stretch. That's because, within a couple of months of Horner's appointment, the people of Michigan adopted the state constitution that had been drafted earlier in the year and elected the ousted Mason as the governor, all without the approval of Congress.
L: Wait, so Michigan had an ANTIGOVERNOR!?
B: Yep, seated in Avignon. Michigan was sorta the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of states/territories. Both the Jackson-appointed Horner and the popularly-elected Mason acted as the governor of the Michigan Territory and the State of Michigan, respectively.
L: Topical. Let's hope we actually get this episode released while that's still a relevant reference.
B: Fingers crossed. Seriously, though, although from the national government's perspective Horner was the rightful governor, Mason was clearly the people's man. Mason and his cadre of newly-elected state officials were actually making decisions while Horner was being burned in effigy. With Mason so quickly back in the saddle, it's no surprise that Michigan remained as adamant in its claim to the Strip as ever.
Trying hasten a resolution, in June of 1836 Congress passed an act that would allow Michigan to join the union, give it jurisdiction over the entire Upper Peninsula, and confirm the government it elected back in October. The catch, of course, was that the Harris line would be adopted as its southern boundary. This may not sound like a terrible deal: getting statehood, recognition for your (from a point of view) illegally elected government, an end to a "war," and thousands of square miles of resource-rich land and water. All for trading away the 468-square-mile Toledo Strip. Mason and the Michiganders---
L: Band name!
B: I was thinking that just as the words were leaving my mouth. Mason and the Michiganders weren't exactly honored by the offer of the Upper Peninsula, though, since it was seen at the time as sort of useless, especially compared to the port of Toledo. They didn't have any idea just how rich in copper deposits that land turned out to be. So Michigan immediately rejected the offer.
L: AAaaaagh! How does this END!?
B: Well, it ends somewhat predictably. Upkeep of militia was costing Michigan a fortune, and the benefits of recognized statehood continued to grow. That cost-benefit assessment finally tipped in mid-late 1836. Mason, resolute as he had been throughout this whole ordeal, saw that continuing to pursue this conflict really was harming Michigan’s financial and political position, and at last relented to Congress’s terms.
That said, a first convention of Michiganders ignored Mason’s perspective and rejected the deal in September of 1836. Surmounting Michigan’s stubbornness ultimately took an unofficial convention of Michiganders, meet in Ann Arbor that December. They resolved that they accepted the terms of the enabling act Jackson signed back in June. This meeting wasn't convened by any sort of official process, and was definitely not representative of the people of Michigan as a whole. It was sort of an ad hoc assemblage of citizens acting as though they had the force of law behind them.
L: Not unlike the Founding Fathers, I suppose.
B: Fair enough. Anyway, most Michiganders just wrote off this resolution as somewhat of a joke. Maybe like we laugh at Texas secessionists today.
L: I’m glad that, even after being gone for several months, we have not abandoned our mission to offend residents of every state in the union.
B: Except Kentucky. We’re flawless. Well, although Michigan’s government did not sanction the convention in Ann Arbor, Congress, eager as you are to put an end to this ridiculous saga, took what it could get, and accepted the resolution of the, as it is known, “Frostbitten Convention”. Michigan officially became the 26th state on January 26, 1837. Unfortunately for them, it was just a couple of months too late for them to have electoral votes that could be vindictively thrown to William Henry Harrison, just to spite Jackson. The first governor of the new state was, once again, Mason.
L: And he lived happily ever after?
B: Well he governed until a financial panic ruined his career. But before then, in 1837, he committed an unforgivable crime… or rather something I know you will see as unforgivable.
L: What he became a Canadian citizen or something?
B: Worse! A group of Canadian expats and American extremists numbering several hundred in all mustered in Michigan to invade Canada in what was called the Patriots’ War. There had been some rebellions in Canada demanding more responsive government, and many Americans were sympathetic. So, since Michigan had just shelled out heaps of cash on fielding its own army, there were a lot of guys jonesing for a fight with no Ohioans to kidnap… so why not support the pro-republican Canadian rebellions?
L: Why not indeed? Seems fair to me!
B: Well… Governor Mason disagreed. And after the “Patriots” stole a bunch of guns from his armory, he called out his loyal militia, rounded up the leaders, and prevented them from supporting the Canadian rebels in the Battle of Windsor.
B: I knew that was how you’d feel.
L: He had a chance to invade Canada and he didn’t take it? I’ll admit, I was on Michigan’s side this whole time. That’s over now. Michigan should have just been denied statehood and ceded to Pennsylvania or something. Not invading Canada! Who does that?
L: That story confirmed most of my stereotypes about Michigan.
B: Yeah, I kind of expected it would, especially the “Frostbitten Congress.”
L: I mean that seems like a good label to apply to anywhere Michigan politicians gather.
B: That’s cold man.
L: (awkward pause) Welllll aaaanyways. Before we got on that incredibly long tangent about the Toledo non-war, I was talking about Michigan’s population growth. Growth was slow up until 1820. But by 1830, the territory had 28,000 people, a much more respectable amount of growth.
B: And in between there, they finally got permission to have an elected territorial assembly!
L: Really? So they finally let the Frenchies vote?
B: Well, no. I mean, yes, they let them vote, but Michigan’s French people were solidly outnumbered by then. I found a quote in Yankees in Michigan, by Brian C. Wilson that seems relevant:
"When Congress finally granted representative government to Michigan in 1823, the governor, the territorial secretary, the congressional delegate, the four judges of the Supreme Court, and most of the Territorial Council were New Englanders. From then until well after the Civil War, Yankees continued to play prominent roles in state politics. Between 1805 and 1870, twelve out of fifteen governors were Yankees, and at the local level during the same period, nearly 77 percent of all officeholders in the south central portion of the state were of New England descent."
L: Oh. So they denied Michigan local governance… until good God-fearing Protestant Yankees could show up and run things the way God and Ben Franklin intended.
B: Pretty much. Kind of, but not exactly. It turns out that the French settlers were mostly opposed to representative government, while the Yankees favored it. Basically, both sides knew that representative government would, thanks to the difference in population growth, mean permanent French irrelevance. So as bad as the autocratic territorial government was, the French were even more concerned about democracy-driven Americanization.
L: Interesting! And very Yankee: high fertility enabling them to have blissful confidence in their ultimate democratic superiority, making them support a healthy mix of bureaucratic efficiency, high-minded sentiment, and virulent nativism.
B: Again, yeah, not terribly far off. Though I think maybe you’ve got a chip on your shoulder.
L: That’s likely. Anyways, from 1830 to 1840, population increased enormously, to 212,000 residents. Those are the big boom years. A state Census in 1834 showed over 84,000 residents, sufficient to request statehood, and then another Census in 1837, the same year statehood was granted, showed 175,000 residents. These were years of explosive growth.
B: No kidding! They added almost 100,000 people in 3 years between 1834 and 1837! How many sleighs did those Yankees ride???
L: (laughing) Oh my goodness. I haven’t thought about the sleigh-riding migrants in so long.
B: Why would you ever forget them!? They’re the best migrants in American history!
L: Oh gosh. Well. I guess I don’t know for sure that Michigan’s settlers didn’t use sleighs to settle the area. Though given their typical arrival by boat, it doesn’t seem extremely likely?
B: I choose to believe they arrived on a sleigh, clutching a flag in one hand and a Bible in the other, with a bald eagle perched on their head.
L: Fair enough. Anyways, yeah, these were huge migrant flows. Tellingly, the Erie Canal had opened in 1825, and it was substantially enlarged in 1834…
B: Right before the biggest migration surge to Michigan.
L: Yeah. Exactly. The result is that Michigan’s domestic net migration of native-born Americans spiked sharply in the late 1820s, and again after 1834. My estimate of domestic net migration leaps from about 100 people per year before 1820 to between 1000 and 2000 per year during the 1830s, to a peak of about 24,000 net domestic migrants in 1836. By the 1840s, domestic migration dropped somewhat, as migrants began to head further west to newly-settled Iowa.
B: That’s a pretty steep increase in migration.
L: Yeah. And there should be no doubt that it was overwhelmingly Yankees. Census data we’ve discussed before show that about 40% of Michigan’s total population in 1850 was Yankee-born, the highest such share observed for any state.
B: So, actually I did find a story about a town called Vermontville that might relate here.
L: I feel like I can guess where its settlers came from.
B: Yeah. Not terribly creative. Basically, in 1836, a whole community of Vermonters banded together and sent out scouts to find good land in Michigan. They found a spot near a canal that was being planned, and all bought land parcels near that canal. Then they moved together and, voila, Vermontville was born, and with it, of course, a Congregational church and a Yankee-style school.
L: So these were organized, group-level colony actions of people intending to maintain their home-region culture?
B: Oh absolutely, for sure. They didn’t intend to become “Michiganders” in a cultural sense, whatever that means. They intended to make Michigan Yankee. And they, and thousands of others with them, succeeded. Michigan become a hotbed for Yankee-aligned political movements like abolitionism.
SHORT MUSICAL GAP
L: So this is really a case where immigrants politically swamped natives.
L: Yeah, so, there’s a big debate in the politics of immigration about “swamping,” meaning a massive population change that causes the pre-existing population’s preferences to be nullified by new population preferences. The fear of swamping motivates increasingly insular politics: opposition to change, franchise expansion, immigration, etc.
B: This is a present-day political problem?
L: Well, people concerned about immigration think it is. But it’s rare to find live-fire examples of swamping; usually population shocks are fairly marginal. But this is a case where one westernized population, the French, was swamped by another, Yankees, and as a result they rejected democratization to try and stave off political change. It’s sort of a unique case!
B: You’re gonna tweet about this aren’t you.
L: I am. But now, speaking of Yankees and politics, this is a chance to whip out our election maps again!
B: You always love the maps.
L: Michigan, of course, swung for Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and, tellingly, gave the Southern pro-slavery candidate the lowest share of any state in the union. And in 1852, Michigan gave the Free Soil candidate 9% of the statewide vote: the 3rd highest share in the nation; in 1848, Michigan had given 16% of its vote to Free Soilers, the 5th highest rate in the nation. And in 1844, the state gave 7% of its vote to the Liberty candidate, the 4th highest rate in the nation.
B: In other words… you could count on Michigan having more support for abolitionism than almost anywhere else in the nation.
B: Okay, so what does this tell us about today?
L: Well… nothing. Michigan got huge waves of immigration, like the Dutch in western Michigan, or the Germans everywhere else, that created non-Yankee cultural distinctives. And then industrialization led to another huge wave of southern and Appalachian migrants, white and black, who further transformed the state. While Yankee cultural distinctives persist, the reality is that the pre-20th-century genetic stock for Michigan is probably less important as a component of population than it is for Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois. Much of the migrant record of early Michigan is simply over-written.
B: Which… brings us to the end of a meandering episode.
L: I guess so.
B: That’s a wrap on the incredibly long-delayed 16th episode of Migration Nation! Thanks for listening in, and we hope you’ll join us again next time, whenever that may be, as we turn west to the frozen lakes of Wisconsin! If you’d like more information about what we’re doing here, or would like to offer us your support, join us on the web at migrationpodcast.com, where you can find transcripts of our episodes and bonus nerdy materials from Lyman.
L: For this week’s episode, we cited several sources already, but just a reminder that we have links and more notes on the website. So you can check out there for more information, particularly about French Michiganders.
B: As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions or critiques! We love to hear from you! You can reach us on Twitter at @migrationcast or @lymanstoneky or @bphudson, as well as on Facebook at facebook.com/migrationpodcast. You can also email us at email@example.com. And if you like what you hear on Migration Nation and want us to do more of it, then the best thing you can do is to leave us a review on iTunes and share the show with your friends.
L: Our next episode will be about Wisconsin’s Yankee migrants, and then we’ll do an unscripted wrap-up discussion. We hope for these episodes to be released much more promptly. Then from there we are going to try our best to produce a few episodes about native American migrations, and then from there, we’ll do antebellum immigration! And at current pace… that may well take us through most of 2018. Sorry we’re not faster! If you want us to be faster, donate large amounts of money on the website.
B: Let’s make America Migrate Again!
RUTH’S SUMMARY JINGLE
Lyman's blog post for this episode can be found here.
Barber, Edward W. The Vermontville colony, its genesis and history, with personal sketches of the colonists. Lansing, MI: Robert Smith Printing Co, 1897. https://www.loc.gov/item/20007056/
Mitchell, Gordon. "History Corner: Ohio-Michigan Boundary War, Part 1." Professional Surveyor, June 2004. https://web.archive.org/web/20061120234552/http://www.profsurv.com/archive.php?issue=89&article=1253.
Mitchell, Gordon. "History Corner: Ohio-Michigan Boundary War, Part 2." Professional Surveyor, July 2004. https://web.archive.org/web/20070714080354/http://www.profsurv.com/archive.php?issue=90&article=1265
Palmer, Friend. Early Days in Detroit. Detroit, MI: Hunt & June, 1906.
Pollock, Jeffrey Robert, "Bumpkins and Bostonnais : Detroit, 1805-1812" (2013). Theses and Dissertations. 173. http://utdr.utoledo.edu/theses-dissertations/173
Temple, Robert D. Edge Effects: The Border-Name Places. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2008.
Way, W. V. The Facts and Historical Events of the Toledo War of 1835. Toledo, OH: Daily Commercial Steam Book and Job Printing House, 1869.
Whitney, W. A. and R. I. Bonner. History and Biographical Record of Lenawee County, Michigan, vol. 1. Adrian: W. Stearns & Co., 1879.
Wilson, Brian C. Yankees in Michigan. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2008.