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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter I. — The Indian Policy.

A DEFNITIVE treaty of peace was signed at Versailles, January 14th, 1783. As the Indians had fought for no national object, they received no consideration in this instrument. It contained no provision for their welfare, a fact of which they had been forewarned by the Americans; as it would have contravened the policy of Europe to have recognised the national character of a people, whom they had so long regarded as mere savages. The Americans, who succeeded to their guardianship, treated them as quasi nationalities, devoid of sovereignty, but having an absolute possessory right to the soil, and to its usufruct; power to cede this right, to make peace, and to regulate the boundaries to their lands, by which the aboriginal hunting-grounds were so defined, that they could readily be distinguished from the districts ceded. Thus was at once laid the foundation of that long list of Indian treaties, which form a perfect record of our Indian history, and accurately mark the progress of our settlements between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Under this policy commenced that system of annuities by which, as their exhausted hunting-grounds were ceded, they were supplied with the means of subsistence; and this system promoted their

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gradual advance in agriculture and arts, as well as their improvement in manners, morals, education, and civilization.

The proper management of Indian affairs had been an object of deep and constant concern to Congress, and, North and South, the duty was, for many years, entrusted to a board of commissioners, composed of men of the highest experience, judgment, and wisdom. Nor were the means of the provisional government lightly tasked for the accomplishment of this object. By reference to the records of the treasury department, during this time, we have ascertained that, between the period of the Declaration of Independence and the 4th of March, 1789, embracing the era of the Revolution, $580,103.41 were disbursed on account of the expenses of treaties with, and of presents to, the Indian tribes; 415 and this was done while, during part of the time, the army had neither shoes nor clothing. There was then no means of obtaining an accurate account of their numbers; but an estimate, prepared by Mr. Madison, rates their total force during the contest at 12,430 fighting men, 416 a very large part of whom were under British influence. This estimate may, as the author says, have been above the truth; but it was far more reliable than the exaggerated enumeration, published only ten or eleven years previous, by Colonel Bouquet, who reported the warriors at 56,500. 417

The policy to be pursued with tribes who contemned all the maxims and principles of civilized life, was a question presenting many difficulties. History had demonstrated the instability, cruelty, and treachery of their character. Ever subject to be influenced by those whose interest it was to mislead them; to mistake their rights and true position; and to be turned aside from the pursuit of noble and permanent objects, to those that, were temporary and illusive; civilization itself appeared to them as one of the most intolerable evils; and they were as much opposed to the labors of the plow and the loom, as they were to the science of letters and the doctrines of Christianity. The instructions of an Eliot, an Edwards, a Brainard, and a Kirkland, were distasteful to the Indian masses; nay, ten times more so than the most elaborate lessons in arts, commerce, and agriculture; and there existed not a tribe which, as such, through all the long period of our history, had sufficient moral firmness to exalt itself above the slavery of the intoxicating bowl.

Although the task was difficult, it was neither hopeless nor discouraging, and whether pleasant, or otherwise, it became one of the earliest subjects for the exercise of governmental powers. The true principles of the fundamental policy were at once adopted. To acknowledge their sovereignty in the vast territories over which they roamed, rather than occupied, would have been simply ridiculous; but the recognition of their inchoate right to the soil, replaced in their hands the means of advancing to prosperity and happiness, after the game, its only worth to them, had failed. As this would be a gradual process, supplying, from decade to decade, the loss suffered from the depreciation

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in value of their hunting-grounds, by the resources arising from their voluntary cession, the system was one suited to their wants, and to secure permanent peace on the frontiers. The principal, and, indeed, the only real difficulty encountered, was in the adjustment of its details; and this difficulty was complicated by the removals of the tribes; by infelicity of situation, owing to advancing settlements; and by the temptations to indulgence in idleness, dissipation, and savage manners and customs. Frequently the very accumulation of their annuities became the means of their depression, and of accumulated perplexities. Civilization has ever been regarded as an intrusive element by the Indians, and they have fled to the West to avoid its importunities. It is perceived, by scanning the statistics of the tribes in the West, that the members of many of those tribes which possess the largest funds in government securities, and particularly of those small tribes which receive, per capita, the largest annuities in coin, are the most idle, intemperate, and demoralized.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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