call out their men. The latter bluntly refused; they had no quarrel with the Indi- ans. Forbes insisted and the French threatened to cross the river. Forbes re- mained polite but firm, and the French militia was finally called out.13
On September 5 1768, Illinois received its most controversial commandant
Lieutenant-colonel Wilkins. With none of the tact that Forbes was able to dis-
play, Wilkins first decided to get to the core of the problem by installing a judi- cial court. Without any specific authority except the vague guidelines of his or- ders, on November 12 Wilkins officially announced to the population that he was going to establish a court to handle all civil matters. A commission of judi- cial powers was subsequently granted to four Englishmen and two Frenchmen:
to form a Civil Court of Judicatory with power expressed in the Commission to hear and try in a summary way all causes of debt and property that should be brought before them and to give their judgment thereon according to the laws of Eng- land to the best of their judgment and understanding. 14
To judge the disputes in Illinois according to English law was a gross violation of the treaty, but Wilkins was trying to be effective even if the legality was dubi- ous. However, selecting a majority of English judges was bound to create a good deal of friction. There is absolutely no mention of the court in the correspon- dance with General Gage, yet the court was in existence from December 1768 to June 1770, a good indication of the isolation of Illinois vis-a-vis the English set- tlements of the East. In another move not at all part of his charge, Wilkins granted lands to English merchants, in particular to the Baynton, Wharton and Morgan Company, as shown by the Record of Deeds for that period. Not surpris- ingly, when a conflict between the Missouri and Illinois Indians erupted, the French flatly refused to be called out for military service. Gage was informed, though not given the underlying reasons. "He [Wilkins] says in those disagreable circumstances, he summoned the militia, encouraged and threatened, but met with little better than absolute refusal." 15
Out of twenty-one cases which came before Wilkin's court from December 6 1768 to June 6 1770, eleven involved conflicting French and English interests, and of these eleven, nine were decided in favor of the English plaintiffs, and one was in favor of the son-in-law of a pro-English French settler. However, during February 1770, the lopsided number of English judges was changed as Wilkins had experienced a falling out with his friends the traders. All judges but one were now French. In March, Wilkins extended the power of the court to criminal matters as well. But then the judges sided against a British officer, Captain Philip Pittman, in the case of an unpaid debt, a decision taken against specific orders from Wilkins and the court's days were numbered. As a final blow, the court decided to meet alternately in Kaskaskia which would oblige Wilkins to also travel there, and the Colonel abolished his creation.