« PreviousContinue »
swer? Is the general government to interpose the arm of power between the state of Georgia or Alabama, and the assertion of rights essential to their attributes of sovereignty?' A President of the United States would assume a fearful responsibility, who should thus employ the force of the Union. It would be presumptuous to say, that such a case can never ocBut we may safely predict, that when it does come, it will shake the confederacy to its centre, and that a foreign war would be light in the balance, compared with such a fearful calamity. And who does not see, that in this contest for sovereignty, the uncivilized tribes must yield? Do not truth and humanity equally require the declaration of this fact? There is no mercy in suffering these Indians to believe, that their pretensions can be established and their independent government supported. In the actual state of the world, none but an enthusiast can expect or hope for the success of such a scheme. We have long passed the period of abstract rights. Political questions are complicated in their relations, involving considerations of expediency and authority, as well as of natural justice. If the laws of the various states, founded essentially upon the English common law, modified by our peculiar circumstances, and administered in a spirit of fidelity and impartiality, which even in this land of violent political feuds, has left the judiciary without suspicion, excite the apprehensions of the Indians, and if they are anxious to escape from their operation and establish governments for themselves, ample provision has been made for their gratification. A region is open to them, where they and their descendants can be secured in the enjoyment of every privilege which they may be capable of estimating and enjoying. If they choose to remain where they now are, they will be protected in the possession of their land and other property, and be subject, as our citizens are, to the operation of just and wholesome laws.
We cannot enter into a full examination of the effect of planting colonies of Indians in the Western regions. From the retrospective view furnished by their history, it is evidently the only means in our power or in theirs, which offers any probability of preserving them from utter extinction. As a dernier resort therefore, apart from the intrinsic merits of the scheme itself, it has every claim to a fair experiment. But when viewed in connexion with the peculiar notions and mode of life of the Indians, the prospect it offers is consolatory to every
reflecting person. Upon this subject we shall adduce the opinion of an able and dispassionate laborer in the great field of aboriginal improvement. The reverend Mr McCoy has for many years devoted himself with an industry, equalled only by his zeal and disinterestedness, to the life and labor of a missionary. Ten years since, he commenced a school for the instruction of youth, at Fort Wayne in Indiana, but the progress of the settlements soon compelled him to retire, and he removed his establishment to the St Joseph of Lake Michigan. He here founded an institution for the benefit of the Indians, and adopted a course of procedure well calculated to be permanently beneficial to them. The youths were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and also agriculture, the mechanic arts, and domestic duties. Their mental discipline, moral advancement, and progress in the business and occupations of life, went on together. The principal and his coadjutors were indefatigable in their application, and sanguine in their expectations, and for a time everything promised success. And we ourselves, from a personal examination of the establishment, augured favorably of its permanence and usefulness. We have never seen a similar institution managed with more purity or judgment. But the novelty soon wore off, the Indians became dissatisfied, the institution has declined, and Mr McCoy is convinced, that nothing but removal, and speedy and entire removal, can save from utter ruin those who have been taught, or those who are untaught. During the year 1828, he repaired to the country west of the Mississippi, to examine its adaptation to the purposes of the Indians, and has returned, satisfied with the prospect it offers. He is now directing his efforts to procure their emigration. Such a man has a right to speak upon this subject, and we shall quote some passages from an interesting pamphlet he has published.
'You have your missionaries at Gayhead, Stockbridge, Brothertown, Oneida, among the Tuscaroras, Tonnewantas, Senecas, Wyandots, Ottawas, Potawatamies, Miamies, &c.; but the most they can do in the present posture of affairs, is to soften, as it were, the pillow of the dying. They have been instrumental in benefiting a few; nevertheless, in a national point of view, all these tribes, as well as others near at hand, west of Lake Michigan and west of the Mississippi river, continue to dwindle,they are positively perishing, and perishing rapidly.
'Through the instrumentality of your missionaries, some of VOL. XXX.-No. 66.
the natives, no doubt, have become pious, and have gone, or will go, to a better country in the heavens, where their condition will be ordered by principles, very different from those which have governed the conduct of men towards them while upon earth. A few have acquired some knowledge of letters and of labor; so far, this is well. But let none imagine, that these tribes and many others are, as tribes, improving their condition generally. I say it without fear of contradiction, that their condition is becoming more and more miserable every year. I repeat it,—they are positively perishing.'
It is a lamentable truth, that the evil [the use of ardent spirits] increases annually, and occasions a fearful waste of human life. As a specimen, take the following. In the fall and winter of 1825-6, in the neighborhood of the Carey Missionary Station, near Lake Michigan, twenty-five Indians were either directly murdered by the hands of their own people, or otherwise lost their lives by drunkenness.'
'I took the liberty, not long since, of suggesting, that the condition of these small bands, who are on little reservations in New England, New York, and Ohio, surrounded by white population, is worse than that of those who have more latitude on our frontier. It is probable they may be more plentifully supplied with food and raiment, but I have no hesitation in repeating, that their numbers decrease faster than those of the other tribes; and that they are more debased in principle, and positively more worthless, than those with whom I am comparing them. This sentiment is the result of my own personal observation, as well as of the concurrent testimony of the most authentic information.'
But we say, that their depravity and sufferings have been increased by our proximity to them, and their hopes cut off by our policy. They are too deeply sunk in the mire, to be able to extricate themselves. It therefore rests with us to say, whether they shall be left to perish, or whether they can be or shall be "taken out of the horrible pit and miry clay, and set upon a rock, and their goings established,"-or rather, they established in a home which they can call their own.'
But let the policy of our government, in relation to them, continue as it has been and as it now is, and with the exception of the Cherokees* and their immediate neighbors, I know of no tribe, nor part of a tribe, no, not one, within, or near to all the frontiers of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, or
*Mr McCoy is ignorant of the actual state of things among the Cherokees, and of the utter poverty and misery, and we may add, oppression, of the great body of these people,
Ohio, not one of those bands on small reservations in New York or New England, of whom we can indulge any better hope than that of their total extermination. Even over those, whom we have excepted above, a gloomy cloud is gathering, of which we shall speak hereafter.
'I fear the public are not fully aware of this fact, especially the Christian public, who would more especially shudder at the thought, and who have been hoping for better things. I fear too, that missionaries are sometimes afraid to tell the worst part of the story, lest the benevolent societies and individuals, who patronize the missions, should become discouraged, and decline the undertaking. I know that there cannot exist with them any sinister motive to such a forbearance, because their labors, the labors of their whole lives, are gratuitously devoted to this enterprise. But they have been eye-witnesses of Indian wickedness and sufferings. They have heard fathers begging them to have mercy on them and their offspring, and entreating them not to forsake them; they have seen the mother digging roots for her children, and have beheld the emaciated frames of those who, in winter, had lived weeks upon acorns only, or who, in summer, had fed for days upon boiled weeds alone. They have heard the cries of children suffering with hunger, and seen the frozen limb of the half naked sufferer.'
Although we do not coincide with Mr McCoy in all the opinions advanced by him, particularly in his views of some of the more prominent obstacles which have impeded, or rather prevented, the progress of the Indians in civilization and improvement, yet in his general statement of their condition, and the utter failure of our hopes and efforts, we unite our testimony with his; as we do also, when he urges the necessity of removal, of speedy and entire removal, if a remnant of this race is to be saved. Mr McCoy, from personal observation, describes the country west of Missouri and Arkansas, as suitable for the colonization and permanent residence of the Indians. This country,' he says, 'is generally high, healthy, rich, its extent adequate to the purposes under consideration, and the climate desirable.' He approves the general plan originally submitted by Mr Monroe and Mr Calhoun, and recommended anew by the present Executive and the Secretary of War, of removing, with their own consent, the various tribes to that region, and establishing over them such a government as will protect, and restrain, and improve them. The details of such a plan he considers at length, obviating the objections which may be urged against it, and stating and explaining the
considerations immediately or remotely favorable to its adoption. The length of our article already warns us, that we have neither time nor space to devote to this branch of the subject. And it is the less necessary, because the first object is to satisfy the country, the government, and the Indians, that this great measure of removal is the only remedy for the evils which we have depicted. And if the conviction of its importance should lead to its adoption, and to the voluntary acquiescence of the Indians, it would be easy to regulate hereafter the practical details of the subject, and to accommodate them to the progress and prospects of the migrating colonists and of the permanent settlements formed by them.
We have been led, in the preceding discussion, to a general consideration of the complicated relations, subsisting between the United States in their federative and their individual characters, and the various Indian tribes which yet survive to demand their care and protection. We trust that our sentiments upon one branch of this subject will not be misunderstood. In asserting the ultimate title of the general or state governments to the land lying within their respective jurisdictions and occupied by the Indians, we interpose no claim to the possession, without their free consent. And for all useful purposes, this is the only interest they can enjoy; particularly as their right of disposal is restricted to a sale to the proper government, or to those to whom the right of purchase has been assigned. We have presented our views and illustrations of this subject, not because the Indians can be practically affected by it, but because it involves interesting considerations, both historical and juridical, and meets the objections of speculative writers who maintain the absolute title of the Indians, and seem disposed to carry this claim to its legitimate consequences; to the right of conveyance, whensoever and howsoever they may feel disposed to exercise it.
Since our first intercourse with the aborigines, they have generally been ready to cede this possessory interest, as fast as it was required by our advancing settlements. Had it been otherwise, and had they been determined to retain extensive regions, out of all proportion to their numbers and wants, our ancestors would have been driven to a practical recognition of the doctrine asserted by the elementary writers, and taken such districts as were necessary for the relief of a superabundant population. It is not now probable, that this question can