Nathaniel T. Strong.

Appeal to the Christian community: on the condition and prospects of the New ... online

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" means to contribute to their own comfort and settlement in
" the slightest degree, the duty would become in that case, the
" more imperative upon the government to provide for them.

" The government has assumed the parental, guardian care
" of the aboriginal race, and its duty and honour require that
" it should at all times stand ready and prepared to render a
" satisfactory account of its stewardship, to a civilized and
" Christian world. The wise and enlightened policy of col-
" lecting, removing and settling these remnant tribes in per-
" manent homes in the West, and thereby relieve the states
" altogether of this perplexing encumbrance, and at the same
" time make a last and honest eflfort to save from extinction a



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" remnant of the native race, has always had my warmest sup-
" port and approbation. — The plan was first brought to my
** special notice by observing its recommendation by Mr. Jef-
" ferson, and it has since been recommended and sustained,
** njore or less, by all his successors. Mr. Monroe most ear-
** nestiy recommended to congress efficient action to carry out
'' this plan of emigrating the Indians from the states, and set-
" tling them permanently in the West. The then secretary
" of war, Mr. Calhoun, sustained the views of the president
" in a very able report on the subject.

— " The history of its progress and success is known to the
" senate and the country. And sir, I consider it now, as I have
" done from the beginning, one of the most important measures
" connected with the history and character of our beloved
" country.

— " Shortly after the close of the revolutionary war the Six
" Nations of Indians of New-York became convinced that the
" increase of the white settlements around them would make
" it necessary for them to seek a new home in the West ; and
*^ in a council held by these people, as early as 1810, they
" resolved and did send a memorial to a president of the
"United Stages inquiring whether the government would
" consent to their leaving their habitations, and their removing
" into the neighbourhood of their western brethren ; "and if
" they could procure a home there by gift or purchase, whether
** the government would acknowledge their title to the lands
" so obtained, in the same manner it had acknowledged it in
" those from whom they might receive it ; and further whether
" the existing treaties would in such a case, remain in full
** force and their annuities be paid as heretofore. The pre-
" sident answered by saying their request shovld be granted;
" and under this approbation the treaty of 1821 between the
" New-York and Menominee Indians to which I have before
" adverted, was made and concluded.

— *' It has clearly and obviously become our duty to act in
" this matter. Does not the interest of New- York require that
** we should act in this matter ? The answer is found in the



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" following language from the president of the United States
" in his message on this subject.

" * The removal of the New- York Indians is not only import
" tant to the tribes themselves, but to an interesting portion of
" Western New-York, and especially to the growing city
*' of Buffalo which is surrounded by lands occupied by the
** Senecas ; and to this portion of the country, the extraordi-
" nary spectacle is presented of densely populated and highly
" improved settlements inhabited by industrious, moral and
" respectable citizens, divided by a wilderness, on one side of
" which is a city of more than 20,000 souls, whose advan-
** tageous position in every other respect and great com-
" mercial prospects, would insure its rapid increase in popu-
" lation and wealth, if not retarded by the circumstance of a
" naturally fertile district remaining a barren waste in its im-
" mediate vicinity.'

" And sir, what does the president say in regard to those
" persons who are entitled to the reversionary rights of these
" lands. His language is

" * Neither does it appear just to those who are entitled to
" the fee simple of the land and who have paid part of the
" purchase money, that they should suffer from the waste
" which is constantly committed upon their reversionary
" rights, and the great deterioration of the land consequent
*• upon such depredatiooB, without any corresponding advan-
"tage to the Indian occupants.'

" In and out of the senate, sir, I have found persons strongly
" opposed to this treaty because they seem to think it confers
" special favours on the individuals known as the pre-emp*
" tioners. These individuals seem to be viewed in the light
" of speculators who are endeavouring to defraud the Indians
" out of their lands. Now sir, nothing, so far as I can disco^
*' ver, can be more unjust towards those injured individuals.
" The quotation which I have given from the president's mes-
'*^ sage, as well as the reports of General Dearborn and Mr.
" Gillett the United States commissioner, together with all the
** mass of documentary evidence which we have printed on



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** this subject ; yes sir, all go to establish th% merit, good cha-
" racter, liberal conduct and fair dealing of these pre-emp-
** tioners.

— **^ That the pre-emptive owners of these lands should
*' be desirous to hasten the time of going into possession of
♦* their just rights, is altogether natural, right and proper. They
" neither claim or desire any advantage which has not been
" fairly derived from the State of Massachusetts.

— " Why should I then dwell longer on this branch of the
" siibject. For sir, it is obvious to every one, that if the execu-
** tion of thia^ treaty be beneficial to all the parties concerned,
" its rejection will consequently be prejudicial to all. Let me
" then turn to another consideration connected with this treaty,
" by asking the question— do these Indians wish to be remo-
" ved ? This question is answered in the most satisfactory
"manner, by an attentive examination and consideration of
** the actings and doing of these Indians for the last thirty
" years. Their vajious efforts, with but little aid and encou-
" ragement frorii any governmental influence, either state or
"federal, sustain the belief that they are unhappy — very
" dissatisfied with their present abode, and are truly anxious
" to emigrate to the west. .

" Mr. Gillett and General Dearborn both dedare.themselves
" to be perfectly satisfied, that were it not for the unremitted
" and disingenuous exertions of a Certain number of white
" men, who are actuated by their private interests, to induce
" the chiefs not to assent to the treaty, it would immediately
"have been approved by dm immense majority — an opinion,
$* which we find repeatedly reiterated by these gentlemen. —
" The president of the United States expresses the opinion,
" that the same influence which was exerted in opposition to
" the treaty, if exerted with equal zeal on the other side, would
" shew a large majority of these Indians in favour of emigra-
tion. And from the first commencement of the negotiation,
" we discover the interference of white men assuming the
"character of friends to the Indians, strenuously opposing
"this negotiation and greatly retarding its conclusion. —



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" Indeed it app»rs that every art was employed to defeat
" the objects of the government in effecting a treaty. ■ The
" country beyond the Mississippi was declared to be unpro-
" ductive and the climate unhealthy. The prospect held out
" by the government to the Indians was declared to be delu-
" sive and deceptive ; and in case of removal, they were told
" they might look forward to weirs, privations and sufferings."

— " That an actual majority have assented to the amended
" treaty, seems no longer to admit of a doubt. The oflScial
** and personal standing of Mr. Gillett and General Deaxborn
" who have certified the fact, settles this question; I consider
"this question as heretofore settled by the action of the sen-
" ate.

" In respect to the mode of assent, I consider it altogether
" immaterial. The fact of assent I consider a matter of evi-
*^dence, and in the present case £hat evidence is to my mind
" entirely satisfactory. That the chiefs who have subscribed
" this treaty, did so voluntarily and understandingly, is at-
" tested by General Dearborn and Mr. Gillett, whose testi-
" mony is iinimpeached.andl believe unimpeachable."

— " I doubt sir, whether the whole history of our country
" affords a solitary ini^tance of an Indian treaty which will
" bear the test of comparison with this much abused treaty,
<' for fairness, liberality, honest* execution, and requirements
" approaching to similar transactions when conducted between
" equal and civilized nations. But sir, I would emphatically
" ask, what is the history of Indian treaties from the first dis-
" covery of this continent up to the present day ? When and
"where have we required that more than a majority of Indian
" chiefs should sign a treaty in open council, to give it validity ?
" When have we required higher evidence than that of Gen-
" eral Dearborn and Mr. Gillett, in respect to the number,
** character and authority of Indian chiefship to a treaty ?

" The history and origin of Indian treaty-making in this
" continent down to the present time, I consider one of the
" unpleasant if not painful recollections, to the high-minded
" American citizen. In the early settlement of the country,

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" our ancestors efiected by artifice, in the form of Indian trea-
" ties, what they were unable to effect by force. This treaty-
*• making system, originating in physical weakness, pretended
"and appeared to do nothing in acquiring the Indian lands,
** except by obtaining the voluntary assent of the Indians. —
** Yes sir, even under the government of that good man William
** Penn, we find the same statute which made it a crime for emy cilir
** zen to furnish the Indian vnth intoxicating drink of any kind^
'* nevertheless ailotoed the commissioners of the government to admin-
" ister a prudent portion of intoxicating drink to Indians vnth whom
* * they wished to form a treaty. But sir, I forbear to enter further
" upon the history of Indian treaties. This much I will say :
" if any gentleman will take the time and labour which I have
"done to investigate this subject, he will rise from the task
"fully satisfied that the treaty under consideration, is one
" among the most fair and honourable transactions of the kind
" which is to be found on our recorded history as a people.

" I will now ask, Mr. President, how can any senator ex-
" pect to put the negotiations of an Indian treaty upon the
•' principles and footing of similar tre^nsactions with civilized
** enlightened foreign nations ? Are not these Indians in a
** state of dependence and pupilage ? Ar^ not we in the place
" of parents and guardians to them i Shall we then overlook
" all the facts connected with the subject under consideration ?
" Shall we imagine a state of things which we know has no
" existence ? Has not all the difficulty in regard to this treaty
"been produced by interested white men? Is not every
" charge of fraud urged against this treaty, refuted by the fact
" of the liberal and beneficent terms of this instrument r A
" charge of fraud cannot be well sustained against a transac-
" tion which confers great benefits and no injury whatever.

" Allow me sir once more in conclusion of my remarks, to
" advert to the bearing of the question now pending before
" the senate on the destiny and lasting interest of this remnant
" of the aboriginal race. To me sir, these people are a pecu-
" liar and interesting portion of the human family. I consider
" them human beings. I wish to treat them as such. I can*



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" not in my conscience assign them a place halfway between
" man and beg.st. I wish to save them frgm destruction.
** Hence I urge their speedy removal from the degraded and
" demoralizing situation in which we now find them. Their
" unrestrained intercourse with the licentious portion of the
** populous cities and villages by which they are surrounded,
" is prejudicial alike to the Indian and white population.
" Deprived as these people are, of the right to acquire and hold
" property in severalty, they are destitute of those incentives
*' to industry and frugality which animate and reward every
** white man in our happy country. Being debarred all poli-
" tical rights, they naturally consider themselves a proscribed
" and debased race ; and the individual exceptions of worth
" and intelligence among them, whilst it serves to evince their
" capability for improvement under more favourable circum-
" stances and to become a civilized people, will not however
" shield them from becoming a nation of vagabonds and pau-
" pers, in their present abodes. During forty years they have
" made no perceptible advance in the arts of civilized life, so
" that it is impossible longer to resist the conviction, that their
" preservation from increasing misery and \jltimate extinction,
" can only be found in their separation from the white popu-
" lation, and by conferring on them rights and privileges which,
" in all countries where they are enjoyed, have been gradu-
" ally found to lead to civilization and to prepare the way for
" the introduction of Christianity with all its happy influences.

Senator Wright after expressing his deep conviction of the
benefits, present and future, which would be conferred by the
treaty on the Indians, and that a just and rational sympathy
for this perishing remnant of a once mighty savage confede-
racy prevailed much more strongly in favour of the treaty than
any motives of individual or associated interest ; and after pre-
mising

— ** Thai he should enter upon the discussion with a full
" and perfect understanding, assented to upon all sides of the
•* senate, that the character and standing and credit of the



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** commissioner wfao negotiated the treaty on the part of the
" United States, remained unimpeached and unimpeachable,
*' and that his statements of facts were to be implicitly relied
** ©a in all matters touching the execution of the treaty by the
^* Indians." (To which position, as the reporter adds, the
chairman of the committee and all the dissenting members
ctssentedy) and after premising also " That the commissioner
" on the part of the State of Massachusetts, General H. A. S*
" Dearborn, was present at all the transactions the validity of
" which are now in dispute, and is a respectable, credible and
" disinterested witness to every fact to which he gives testi-
" mony," presents the following summary of the provisions of
the treaty :

" Article 1 cedes to the United States the lands of the New,
** York Indians, at Green Bay, not otherwise disposed of, com-
" puted at 436,000 acres.

" Article 2 secures to these Indians a country in the Indian
" territory west of the Mississippi, equal to 320 acres of land
** for each soul ; the whole computed at 1,824,000 acres.

" Article 15 stipulates to pay to the Indians from the trea-
" sury of the United States $400,000 — * to aid them in removing
" to their new homes, and support themselves the first year
" after their removal ;' to encourage and assist them in edu-
" cation and being taught to cultivate their lands ; in erecting
" mills and other necessary houses ; in purchasing domestic
" animals and farming utensils, and acquiring a knowledge of
" mechanic arts."

As connected with this branch of the subject he next adverts
to the two separate treaties ; one between the Seneca band
of Indians and the Pre-emptive Company ; the other between
the Tuscarora band and the same parties, the first conveying
to the company the ordinary Indian title of possession and
occupation in fdl the remaining lands of the Senecas within
the State of New-York, consisting of four reservations, con-
taining together 114,869 acres for the consideration of 202,000
dollars, and then proceeds as follows :

^^ The original treaty which forms the basis of this discus*
6

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" sion, was concluded between the New-York Indians and the
" United States on the 15th day of January 1 838. About the
" due execution of that treaty by the Indians, there has not
" been, and is not, any question. It was presented to all the
" bands convened in a common council and was assented to
" by all, to the satisfaction of the senate.

" That treaty thus made on the part of these bands, was sub-
" sequently and during the annual session of the senate of
" 1837-38, transmitted to this body for its ratification by the
" president of the United States, in the usual form of transact-
** ing such business. It was referred to the proper committee
"of the senate for examination and advisement. The com-
" mittee found many of its provisions objectionable to them
" from being too vague, and presenting too uncertain a respon-
" sibility on the part of this government. The removal of the
" Indians, their subsistence for one year — ^the erection of mills,
" school-houses, blacksmith shops, churches and many other
" expenditures were stipulated, without any amount stated as
*' the maximum of expenditure to which the treasury of the
" United States might be subjected. The committee as he
" understood at the time and now belieipes, referred these
" matters of ordinary expenditure to the head of the Indian
" bureau for an estimate of the amount of moneys required to
" meet them, and framed their 16th article of the amended
" treaty upon the estimate returned from that oflficer; thus
" giving for the objects enumerated in that article, the full
" amount of that estimate, but limiting the amount which could
" be called for to the $400,000 therein stipulated to be paid,
" that being the amount estimated.

" There were other articles in the original treaty stipula-
** ting for the payment of gratuities to individual Indians by
" name, providing funds for a university and the like, which
" the committee wholly rejected without propqsing any equi-
" valent.

" Thus an amended treaty was formed by the Committee
" on Indian Affairs of the senate and reported to this body
** for its acceptance, which met with its unanimous concur-

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" rence. It was ratified on the 11th June 1838, and returned
"to the Indians for their assent with a special resolution,
** which has laid the foundation for the present controversy.

" It is proper here to remark that the resolutions of the
** senate of tiie 11th June 1838, were a complete ratification
" of the amended treaty on its part — that the instrument in
" all its parts, was thus made perfect so far as the constitu-
" tional action of this body in the formation of a treaty was
" concerned, and that the only thing which remained to be
" done, was the giving the requisite assent by the several
" bands of Indians according to the resolutions for that pur-
" pose which the senate adopted. That resolution was made
" part of the proceedings of ratification on the part of the
" senate, was upon its face to be adopted by a vote of two
" thirds of the senators present, and was therefore, if met by
" the Indians with the assent required, the final close of our
" action on the subject of the treaty, in our executive charac-
" ten

The senator then proceeds to give a detailed history of ail
the subsequent proceedings, showing that the only question
then presented for the consideration of the senate was, whether
in point of fact, the Seneca band of Indians had given their
assent to the amended treaty in conformfty with the spirit and
intent of the resolution of ratification x)f the 11th June 1838 ;
and after discussing this question at great length and with
masterly ability, he concludes his speech with the following
condensed view of the whole subject :

" Hitherto he had argued the question of the execution of
" this treaty upon the admission that the assent of a majority
"of the Seneca chiefs of every grade,, was necessary to its
" validity. This was an admission which he did not make
" except for the sake of the argument, because it was a posi-
" tion in the soundness of which be did not believe. So far
" as his acquaintance extended, it was a new principle con-
" nected with the making of Indian treaties by this or the state
" governments ; and he believed also that it was new to the
" laws and customs of the Indians themselves.



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** He would call the attention of the senate to two short ex-
" tracts from the report of General Dearborn of the 2d Janu-
" ary 1839, which would enable him to express his opinion
" upon this point in an intelligible manner. The first extract
" is as follows :

" * There are eight clans or families in each of the tribes
" of the Six Nations, which are designated by the names of
" Beaver, Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Snipe, Deer Hawk, and White
" Crane or Heron. It is expressly prohibited by a law of the
" tribes for persons of the same clan to intermarry ; and it is
" considered as immoral and irreligious as would be an union
** within the forbidden limits of consanguinity among the Jews
** and christians ; and I have been assured that an instance of
" such matrimonial connexion would be considered by the
" humblest Indian a wicked and monstrous indecency, and has
" never been known.'

" The second is as follows :

" 'There are eight great sachems of the tribe in the Seneca
" Nation of Indians who are also chiefs. It is the highest title
" and rank, and the office is hereditary like that of the other
** chiefs. The present sachems are Little Johnson, Daniel
" Two Guns, Captain Pollard, James Stevenson, and George
" Linsley of the Buffalo Creek Band, Captain Strong and Blue
" Eyes of the Cattaraugus Reservation, and Jemmy John of
" Tonnawanda, six of whom have signed the treaty. Half of
** them are christians and the others pagans.'

" Now if the agent had been more particular he would
" undoubtedly have told us, that of these eight sachems or
** principal chiefs, one belonged to each of the eight families
"or clans of which he had before spoken, and the symbolical
" names of each of which he had given. He would have
*^ learned that they were the great fathers of the nation, the
" civil chiefs upon whom the transaction of the business of the
" nation is devolved ; and he, Mr. W., did not doubt that had
" this treaty been negotiated with the state of New-York, the
" signature of a majority of these sachems would have been
*^ held sufficient to have constituted it a valid treaty, and that



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*' any other signatures of chiefs of a lower grade, would have
" been considered a mere matter of personal gratification and
^* not of essential substance. He had therefore no doubt upon
*• his own mind that the concurrence of six of these sachems
" in this amended treaty, was of itself, a valid execution of it
" according to the laws and customs of the Seneca Nation.

" Still he had argued the question upon the other hypothesis,
'< because an examination of the papers had satisfied him that
" a majority of all the chiefs of all grades, had given an assent
** which the senate must consider satisfactory.

•* He would now consider as briefly as he might, the pecu-
" niary interests of the various parties to this treaty, and

" First. The interest of the state of Massachusetts.

"According to his understanding of the matter, that state
*' had now no pecuniary interest whatever in these questions.
" The charters granted by the crown of Great Britain to the
** colonies of Massachusetts and New-York conflicted as to
** boundaries, and both colonies claimed the territory 'v^est of
** a meridian line passing through or near the Seneca Lake,
** and within the present limits of the state of New-York. By
** an amicable adjustment between the two states in the year
** 1786, Massachusetts released to New York the sovereignty
** and governmental control over the territory, and New-York
" surrendered to Massachusetts the right of soil, subject to the
** Indian title, and the right to extinguish the Indian title in
** her own way. Not many years after this period Massa-
**chusetts sold to private individuals her pre-emption right to .
** the whole country, reserving that power of guardianship
*• over the Indians which the old states have ever exercised


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Online LibraryNathaniel T. StrongAppeal to the Christian community: on the condition and prospects of the New ... → online text (page 4 of 6)