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Settlement and Statehood

After peace came, pioneers moved into Michigan. The policy of pushing Native Americans westward and opening the lands for settlement was largely due to the efforts of Gen. Lewis Cass, who was governor of Michigan Territory (1813–31) and later a U.S. Senator. Steamboat navigation on the Great Lakes and sale of public lands in Detroit both began in 1818, and the Erie Canal was opened in 1825. Farmers came to the Michigan fields, and the first sawmills were built along the rivers.

The move toward statehood was slowed by the desire of Ohio and Indiana to absorb parts of present S Michigan, and by the opposition of southern states to the admission of another free state. The Michigan electorate organized a government without U.S. sanction and in 1836 operated as a state, although outside the Union. To resolve the boundary dispute Congress proposed that the Toledo strip be ceded to Ohio and Indiana with compensation to Michigan of land in the Upper Peninsula. Though the Michigan electorate rejected the offer, a group of Democratic leaders accepted it, and by their acceptance Michigan became a state in 1837. (The admission of Arkansas as a slaveholding state offset that of Michigan as a free state.) Detroit served as the capital until 1847, when it was replaced by Lansing.

After statehood, Michigan promptly adopted a program of internal improvement through the building of railroads, roads, and canals, including the Soo Locks Ship Canal at Sault Ste. Marie. At the same time lumbering was expanding, and the population grew as German, Irish, and Dutch immigrants arrived. In 1854 the Republican party was organized at Jackson, Mich. During the Civil War, Michigan fought on the side of the Union, contributing 90,000 troops to the cause.

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