Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

portation and support, until they could provide for themselves. In the year 1824, President Boyer sent Mr. Grenville to New York with these propositions, offering to make provision for the immediate transportation of six thousand. The members and friends of the colonization society, in New York and in the northern states, favored the object, viewing it as auxiliary to the main design of furnishing a proper retreat for the colored population of the United States. The plan met with the united opposition of the south. The existence of a nation of free negroes in their vicinity, was viewed with jealousy, and distrust. A considerable number accepted the propositions of Mr. Grenville, and embarked for Hayti, but not to the extent of the provision. The emigrants, finding that subsistence there was not to be obtained without laborious exertion, became discontented; many of them returned to the United States, and the project failed. To a proposition for the formation of a distinct colony of emigrants in his dominions, to be governed by their own laws, and connected with him only by alliance, the president gave a decided negative, stating that every resident on the island must be subject to the general laws of the country.

CHAPTER XVIII.

Indians-Their numbers-Land titles-General character-Customs-Religious notions-Efforts to civilize them-Their disposition towards the whites-Principles adopted by the general government towards themDisposition to obtain their lands-Process of extinguishing Indian titles-Georgia and the Creeks-Compact of 1802-Measures taken to fulfil itTreaty of the Indian Springs-Execution of M'Intosh and his followersProceedings of Georgia in relation to the survey and disposition of the lands -Correspondence between Governor Troup and the president-Treaty of 1826-Cherokees-Their progress in civilization-Form a constitutionGeorgia and Alabama extend their jurisdiction over them-Their remonstrance-Views and reasoning of the executive on the subject of Indian rights.

Indians. Their number. The number of Indians eastward of the Mississippi, and within the original limits of the United States, is estimated at one hundred and twelve thousand, and those westward, within the Louisiana claim, at two hundred and eighty-eight thousand, making an aggregate of four hundred thousand. There has never been any actual enumeration, and any estimate of their numbers is in a great degree conjectural. At the period of the first settlement of the country by the Europeans, the Indians were much more numerous, and their claim extended over the whole territory.

Title to property. Their title to so much of the soil as is within their occupation, is unquestionable, being derived from the best of sources, the gift of our common Creator, and a possession beyond the records of history; of this they cannot be rightfully divested, but by their consent, given voluntarily, understandingly, and without imposition. Whether all or what portion of territory they can rightfully hold by this title, are questions of difficult solution. Of the land unoccupied by the whites in 1790, there was about one Indian to six square miles of territory, millions of acres of which had never been traversed or seen by any one. Their claim to the whole is obviously not well founded: a large portion is justly considered as vacant property, open to the first occupant. Equally obvious is it, that the places where

the Indians have built their huts, planted their corn, caught their fish, killed their game, and buried their dead, are theirs by an indisputable title. The extent and limits of this right are fair subjects of negotiation between the white and red claimants; but in these negotiations, strength, skill, and power are all on one side, and combined against weakness, ignorance, and folly.

Character. The general features in the character of the Indian population are the same, with many shades of difference which their intercourse with the whites and other circumstances have produced, from the mere savage, clad in skins, and subsisting only on fish and game, to the Indian who cultivates his land, keeps his stock of domestic animals, and vies with his white neighbor in the enjoyments and arts of civilization. The description following refers to the Indian character, when not essentially altered by connection with civilized man. Their habitations, denominated wigwams, generally constructed of mud, clay, poles, and bushes, without floors, chimneys, or separate apartments, were the residence of the family or cluster of families by whom they were built, and considered their property only so long as they chose to occupy them. Land and its productions were common to the tribe. The principle of separate property, by which each should be permitted to enjoy the fruits of his own industry, was not recognized among them. Before their intercourse with Europeans had furnished them with implements of iron, their means of cultivating land and taking game afforded them a very precarious subsistence. The men, when not engaged in war or the chase, led lives of perfect indolence and inactivity, compelling their females to till their land, bear their burdens, dress their game, and perform their most laborious and menial services. The manner of treating females has ever been considered as one of the surest indicia of the state of society. Among savages, they are viewed as little better than their slaves, subject to the abusive and tyrannical sway of their lords; while in refined society they are considered as its brightest ornaments, and the arbitresses of its fashions and manners. The state of society among the North American Indians, measured by this standard, must be fixed at the lowest grade. Their vacant and unmeaning countenances denote the want of object for mental exertion, while their tall, regular, and well-proportioned limbs, taking their natural shape without constraint, condemn the bandages,

straight lacings, and ligaments, with which their more civilized neighbors deform the human body.

Usages. Without a written language, their code of municipal law was exceedingly simple, consisting of a few customs retained in the memory of their chiefs. Without separate property, they needed no laws securing its possession, or regulating its transfer. In relation to personal injuries, each one was the judge and avenger of his own wrongs, subject however to an imperfect control, by the head men of the tribe. Where life had been taken, that of the aggressor was forfeited to the relations of the deceased, and the offense never forgiven, except in the rare case where the aggrieved consented to receive the offender as a substitute for the slain. Their form of government, so far as they might be considered as having any, was of the democratic cast. Peace and war, and the few general concerns of the tribe, were regulated at public meetings of their head men and warriors, denominated councils.

Mode of warfare. The connection between different tribes, was of a slender and temporary nature, liable to interruption from slight causes. Hence wars were frequent, and not being regulated by any of the principles which govern civilized nations, were of a barbarous and exterminating character. Prisoners were made only to afford the victors the savage delight of putting them to death by the most cruel tortures, and sometimes of feasting on their remains. Sudden onsets, ambuscade, and surprise, were the characteristics of their mode of warfare. An Indian seldom meets a foe in fair combat in the open field; if he fails to take his enemy unawares, he retires, and waits a more favorable opportunity. War is the delight of the savage. It rouses him from that state of listless inactivity to which he is condemned in time of peace, and calls into operation all the energies of his nature. He endures cold, hunger, and fatigue, with a patience unknown to civilized man, and when vanquished, submits to the severest tortures without a sigh.

Religion. The religious notions of the Indians are as simple and crude as the other features of their character. They believe the world to have been created some long time since by the Great Spirit, and placed on the back of a huge animal. Unable to comprehend how the good and evil which they see in the world, should proceed from the same source, they believe in the existence of two invisible beings, a good and an evil spirit, from one of which proceed

all their enjoyments, and from the other all their sufferings. They pay homage, in various forms, to each of these, as they want the protection of the one, or dread the power of the other. They consider these beings as independent of each other, but the good Spirit as being rather the predominant power. At death, those who have vanquished their enemies, and all who have been so fortunate as to obtain the favor of the good Spirit, go to a pleasant land abounding with fish and game, and free from the intrusion of the whites, where they have plenty of women to serve them, and every enjoyment which an Indian imagination can picture. But all are not admitted to this paradise. Cowards, and those who have fallen under the displeasure of the evil spirit, go to a country, desert and barren of Indian pleasures. With their chiefs and warriors, they bury their arms and utensils, that they may have the use of them in the other world.

This people have given many specimens of native sagacity and talent, which, by the help of an education, would doubtless have raised the possessors to distinguished emiBold, laconic, and pertinent speeches have been heard at their council fires, which would have done honor to the orators of any nation; but these cases are too rare, to afford a national characteristic.

nence.

Dread of the white people. The Indians have ever viewed the approach of the whites with dismay. The sound of the cultivator's ax fills them with horror. They hear in its strokes the irresistible command, Indian, depart. For a great portion of the time since the first planting of the English colonies, an Indian border warfare has existed, exhibiting, in every stage, revolting scenes of indiscriminate massacre. In the war of 1756, in that of the revolution, and of 1812, the inhuman policy was adopted, of employing the savages, and necessity often obliged the commanding generals to indulge them in that massacre, and plunder to which they had been accustomed.

Attempts to civilize and Christianize them. The moral condition of this people has for a considerable time excited the attention of the benevolent institutions of the country. For the last half century, a laudable desire to ameliorate the condition of that portion of the human family, who appear to be in an ignorant and degraded state, has been conspicuous, and in its operation has produced a great number of associations, having for their object the extensive spread of the blessings of civilization and Christianity. America has not been behind her sister nations in Europe in the pursuit

« ZurückWeiter »