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"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Monday, November 16, 2015

Who Was Alexander McGillivray?


by Denise Weimer

Looking for fodder for your next novel? I may have found it. And I’m a little busy right now producing my upcoming trilogy, so the subject is up for grabs. If you are one of those bold writers who will rise to this challenge and make a historical figure one of your MAIN characters, I want to read your book.
Alexander McGillivray. Why would he make an interesting main character in your novel?


Exhibit A, Colonial
1.      Internal conflict of identity. Born in 1750 Alabama to Scottish trader Lachlan McGillivray and Creek Indian mother of the Wind Clan named Sehoy Marchand (ooh, a little feisty French blood from her father, too), the matrilineal Creek Nation where he's brought up is plenty happy to claim him.

2.      The plot element of man vs. new and challenging situation. As a teenager, Alexander is dispatched to Charleston, South Carolina, for tutoring and apprenticeship in a Savannah, Georgia, counting house. There he learns to write, dress and present himself with fine European manners, becoming fluent in Latin, Greek, Spanish, English and several Indian dialects.

3.      By the time the Revolution interrupts Alexander’s immersion into Anglo culture, he’s six feet tall and fairly handsome in a rascally sort of way. See Exhibit A. And B. I have to say I prefer the Regency hair look for him, but that may be the result of one too many Austen movies.

Exhibit B, Creek
4.      The revenge card. Ah, the anger when loyalist Lachlan’s plantation is confiscated. Lachlan returns to Scotland and Alexander to his mother’s people. This act becomes a driving force in Alexander’s mistrust of national and state governments. He subsequently becomes a colonel in the British Army and orchestrates alliances between England and the Creek Nation.

5.      Intrigue. After the Revolutionary War, McGillivray persuades Spain to make the Creek Nation a protectorate. Rising to Supreme Chief and at one time said to command up to 10,000 warriors, he rejects a number of treaties signing away Indian lands as bogus, by 1786 preparing his people for war.

6.      The Big Party. Admit it, we all like the fancy ball and dinner scenes in our novels. In 1790, with the potential of lessening Spanish support, McGillivray and lesser chiefs travel to New York in dress regalia, where they are entertained with parties before conceding to part with lands east of Georgia’s Oconee River. But he does wrangle yearly reparations into the deal. And he walks out a brigadier general with a salary of $100 a month. However, this treaty as well is broken, and Alexander again pays court to Spain.


The deal breakers: as was common in Indian society, McGillivray had at least two wives, the first the daughter of a Dutch trader/interpreter and a Chickasaw-French métis, and the second the daughter of a métis woman and a white trader/interpreter. Wisely, he maintained widely separate households for them … but that might make your challenge a bit too steep in the romance department. Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Alexander nevertheless.




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