« ZurückWeiter »
of this object. The spirit of benevolence has increased with her growing means. The natives within their borders were among the most prominent objects of the charities of the people of the United States. Voluntary associations under the denomination of missionary societies, have been formed in various parts of the union, whose principal object has been to instruct the natives in the Christian religion. The early efforts of these societies, consisting only of sending travelling preachers among them, were injudiciously conducted. The untutored savage mind is incapable of comprehending the sublime doctrines of the Christian system, until it is in some measure expanded by the light of civilization and science. Slight temporary effects only were produced, which soon disappeared in the absence of the teachers from among the Indians when engaged in the chase. They were also not without suspicions that the ultimate object of the missionaries, was their lands. Experi. ence soon directed to a different course, making it manifest that Indians must be reclaimed from their roving, hunter state, and brought to some degree of civilization, before religious instruction can produce any permanently beneficial effect. This conviction led to a change of measures. Permanent stations have been established, to which missionary families, consisting of farmers, mechanics, schoolmasters, and religious instructors are assigned ; and where agriculture is introduced, the most useful implements of husbandry supplied, and their children instructed in the rudiments of learning. These establishments, located principally in the southwestern section of the United States, and supported by the charities of the American people, aided by an annual appropriation of ten thousand dollars from the government, have answered the most sanguine expectations. The Indians, who have enjoyed the benefit of them, have made great advances from the savage to the civilized state, have resorted to agriculture as their principal means of support, and some of them, to appearance, have become sober, indus. trious, and intelligent Christians. The experiments already made have established the point beyond a doubt, that an Indian nation is capable of being brought into a state of civilization, But these exertions to ameliorate the condition of the Indian state, it is to be lamented, is in direct opposition to another object which has long been sought and recently avowed, that of their total removal from the limits of the United States. In proportion as they become reclaimed from the hunter to the agricultural state, their attachment to the
soil which yields them a support increases. Having furnished themselves with decent dwellings, and the ineans of a comfortable living, they hear any proposition for a removal with the utmost reluctance. While the missionary, under the patronage of congress, is instructing them in the principles of Christianity and the arts of civilized life, they dread the approach of the United States agent, commissioned to get their lands under the form of purchase, and compel their removal. This dread increases in proportion to their advances in civilization. To a recent proposition for the relinquishment of the remnant of their lands in Georgia, the Creeks replied : “ We know the strong arm of our great father, the president; we will not contend against it; but we love the land which contains the bones of our fathers; we will lie down under our fences; we will die by the graves of our fathers, and manure the lands which you take from us with our ashes, but we will not remove."
Principles of the government relating to them. With a population of this character, possessing these claims, and entertaining such feelings, within its borders, the American government, at every period, has had much to do. At its commencement, certain fundamental principles in relation to them were recognized; to wit, that their title to the lands in their occupation was indefeasable ; that they were independent communities, not subject to taxation or municipal laws of the states, or of the United States ; that they were not to be molested in the free enjoyment of their own customs, manners, and laws; and that they were not to be enu. merated as part of the population of the country. While they were thus considered and treated for the most part as independent nations, the government assumed the power of laying on them certain restrictions, which were deemed necessary for their own well being, as well as the safety of American citizens.
1st. They were to hold no intercourse with any foreign power :
2d. They were not to dispose of their lands but by treaty, held under the authority of the United States :
3d. Commercial intercourse with them, was to be regulated by the American government:
4th. The privilege of establishing military posts and public roads in their territory was claimed, and sufficient lands required to be ceded for those purposes : And
5th. Where injuries were done by Indians, to the whites, the perpetrators were required to be given up to be pu
nished, according to American law. Where the injury proceeded from the whites, satisfaction was to be made to the Indians, and the offender punished by his government, according to the nature of the offense.
To provide for the common defense, was one of the leading motives for establishing the American constitution, and one of the first
ties which devolved upon the government under it. The dangers, then, most to be apprehended, arose from Indian hostilities. Hence, in the division of powers between the general and state governments, the regulation of Indian affairs devolved exclusively on the former; and the states were expressly prohibited from any hostile acts. They exchanged all authority or jurisdiction which they might be supposed to possess or claim over the persons or lands of the Indiang, within their chartered limits, for the protection afforded them by the general government. Hence proceeded the regulations which have been noticed ; and hence, also, in the general distribution of the executive department, Indian affairs were placed under the control of the secretary of war, who performs this duty by means of an officer, denominated the superintendent of Indian affairs.
No other feeling is entertained by Americans towards this unhappy race, when uninfluenced by interest, than that of compassion; and no other wish, than that they may be brought, as far as may be, within the pale of civilization, and be permitted to live unmolested, until time should extinguish their race, or amalgamate them with the whites. In those sections where Indian territory constitutes a con. siderable portion of the state, there are powerful reasons why their expulsion should be sought. Much of the land is of an excellent quality, and desirable as a matter of interest. While possessed by the Indians, it is comparatively in an uncultivated state; the increase of white population is impeded, and the state is prevented from assuming that rank and influence in the Union, to which its wealth and popula. tion would otherwise entitle it. Animosities and feuds constantly exist between the border whites and the neighboring Indians, which, though restrained by the arm of government, from breaking out into open violence, render their situation unpleasant, and often unsafe. The Indian territory affords a convenient asylum for runaway slaves, and fugitives from justice. These, and other considerations, have created a determination in the states whose boundaries inclose large portions of Indian territory, to extinguish the title as soon
as possible: a determination which seals the doom of this people, and which the government cannot long resist.
Regulation of Indian trade. The national policy towards the Indians, has hitherto been of a compound character, par. taking of the feelings of its different sections. Government has endeavored to regulate commercial intercourse with them, in such manner as should prevent imposition, and operate to their benefit. Peltries and furs are almost the only articles of Indian traffick. In an unprotected state, traders go among them with whiskey, and other useless articles, and obtain their valuable commodities at an enormous profit, for articles of little worth. The Indian, when the fumes of intoxication are evaporated, finding himself cheated, seeks an indiscriminate revenge. To protect the Indians from these evils, the government have, at different times, adopted two courses : one, to prohibit all intercourse with them, except by licensed traders, who should be regulated in their traffick in such manner as to prevent imposition ; the other, to establish government trading houses, at convenient places, where the Indians might be furnished with such articles, only, as were convenient and useful to them, in exchange for their peltries, and at such rates as would merely indemnify the expenses, and all private trade with them prohibited. Agents are appointed, to reside among the principal tribes, for the mutual protection of the Indians and whites.
Manner of obtaining their lands. But Indian territory is the great object, to the attainment of which all others must be subservient. Constant applications are made to government, to extinguish Indian titles, to which it has been obliged to yield. The process is sure of accomplishing its object, and is, in effect, compulsory on the poor Indian: While his title is acknowledged, and his consent in form required, he is under a moral necessity, at least, of complying. Commissioners are appointed, consisting of men who feel a deep interest in obtaining the land sought, and who are supposed to have the most influence with the tribe to be operated upon. They appoint time and place for holding a treaty, of which the Indians are notified. Provision is made by the government, for a liberal support of as many Indians as will attend. They usually come in great numbers; those who do assemble, be they few or many, are recognized as the chiefs and head men of the tribe whose territory is to be obtained, and as having the right to dispose of it. In proper time, the commissioners make known
the wants of their government ; arguments calculated to operate upon their hopes and fears, are addressed to the Indians, and in the end they are given to understand, that it must be as their great father, the president, wishes. Greater or less obstacles are met with at these negotiations, according to the sagacity, intelligence, and integrity of the Indians assembled. The land sought for is usually obtained, for something having the appearance of an equivalent, generally consisting of a sum paid in hand, and an annuity. The business is closed by the distribution of the expected presents, among the Indians who have been most instrumental in effecting the object. In this manner, with as much equity and justice as can be expected, where power and skill are all on one side, and naked right, supported only by weak. ness and ignorance, on the other, has the Indian title to most of the territory claimed by them, within the United States, in the course of forty years, been extinguished, and with it a great portion of the Indians themselves.
Creek Indians. The case of the Creek Indians in Georgia, though similar in some of its leading features to the usual process of obtaining Indian lands, has so many peculiar characteristics, that it deserves a detailed notice.
Soon after the close of the war of the revolution, congress urged on the states a cession of the vacant territory within their chartered limits, for the purpose of constituting a fund to discharge the debts of the war. They urged that this property, having been acquired by the joint exertions of all the members of the confederacy, and never having been appropriated by any individuals, was in truth the joint property of the union, and ought to be applied discharge the expenditures by which it was obtained. Most of the states possessing lands of this description, listened to the request, and made liberal cessions. The state of Georgia, then one of the smallest and weakest of the confederacy, dating her existence as a colony only about forty years before the war of the revolution, and containing only a few inhabitants on the sea-board, and on the borders of the Savannah river, according to her charter, extended from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, in length upwards of five hundred miles, and in breadth about three hundred, comprehending what now constitutes the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. She refused to make the required cession. This region, large enough for an empire, was more thickly settled with Indians than any part of the union. They were considerably more numerous than the