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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. — Government and Law Essential to Indian Civilization.

DIVINE prescience having determined, through the instrumentality of Moses, to elevate the Hebrews from their depressed and servile state, and to liberate them from the bondage under which they had so long groaned, the prophet had no sooner guided them to a locality suitable for the experiment, than he taught them the principles of law and government. Private rights and duties were accurately prescribed, and these were again distinguished from political and religious obligations. Among a people so long estranged from the true objects of society, and who had lived in a country where they were surrounded by the symbols, as well as examples, of idolatry and heathenism in many of their most repulsive forms, it was essential to prescribe laws for the protection of personal property; for compensation and compromise in cases of depredations of cattle, or accidental murders; to guard the rights of servants; and to establish other political and social rules. The public tithes, or governmental taxes, and the scale of valuation for animals used in sacrifice, were fixed. Nothing of practical importance was left to the operations of chance. It was not deemed sufficient to teach them general moral maxims and principles, or to merely place before them the decalogue. It was followed out by the application of its precepts in society; and its observance was

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enjoined by a tender of the highest rewards, on the one hand, and a denunciation of the most severe punishments on the other. To the supremacy of the law and the government the very highest testimony was borne. The Jew could not be exalted in the scale of society by a miracle. For a period of forty years were they isolated from the rest of mankind, and subjected to these severe teachings, before they were permitted to enter the promised land, the soil of which was to be tilled by their husbandmen, and the cities occupied by their people. During all this time, the law was unflinchingly and rigidly supported and enforced. Death was inflicted for gathering sticks on the Sabbath, and assuming the duties of the priesthood. The power of government was never, for an instant, wielded by any other than God, who had, from the first revelation to Moses, placed himself at the head of it. It was strictly a theocracy; but, from an early period, it embraced a representative system for the choice of tribal rulers. The temple service and the Sanhedrim were united in this system, but never conflicted. The policy of the state and that of the church were distinct and clearly defined, concurring only in the great purpose of a government, designed to exalt the nation in its industrial and economical wealth, as well as in the scale of high morality.

Can we expect the Indian tribes to be reclaimed without similar means are employed? Or are they expected to spring perfect, as it were, from the brain of Jupiter, without any established governments, courts, schools, churches, and without, at least, forty years' tuition, in their wilderness of barbarism? Is this the true signification of the promises? or is it not a contradiction of them? Can the Indian be elevated in the social scale while he remains a hunter? or can civilization be put on, like a garment, while the tribes are in a nomadic state? Is the waste of large annuities on a nation of idlers, a means of advancing them? and are idleness and intemperance conjoined calculated to improve a people? Do the nations of Europe expect such a miracle from America? Is it not, on the contrary, through their persevering industry, in husbandry, arts, mechanics, letters, and science, that Europe has risen? It is by means of their enterprise and virtue, and by a system of approved political economy, that the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic races in this Union have advanced and diffused themselves over the country.

Mr. Jefferson, on being called to occupy the Presidential chair, in 1801, felt the importance of the claim which the existing state of Indian society had upon his attention; all his letters and communications, private as well as public, demonstrate this. Even in alluding to their history and origin, his views were of the most comprehensive character. 470 To him we owe the passage of the fundamental act to preserve peace on the frontiers, and regulate intercourse with the Indian tribes. By this act, the boundaries of the Indian country, and the operations of the laws in it, are clearly defined.

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Regulations are established for the government of the Indian trade. The territory of the tribes is protected from depredations by the whites, who are permitted to visit it for no other purpose than trade, or mere transit through it. The jurisdiction of courts is established, and the methods of proceeding particularly pointed out. In fine, a system of policy is laid down, calculated to advance the prosperity of the Indians, and at the same time secure a just public economy.

The act establishing the North-west Territory, was the first step towards the induction of this practical mode of teaching among the Indians — teaching by example. However slight the effect its lessons may have been on the remote tribes and bands, yet they were not wholly inoperative, even there; while at points within the civil jurisdiction, they carried with them a monition which caused them to be obeyed.

The commonwealth of Ohio was the first organization of public territory in the West, and the extension of State sovereignty over the once sanguinary boundary, west of the Ohio river, ensured to that area an expansion which has no parallel in history. Whether the Indians of the West will become participants in the benefits of civilization, is a proposition depending solely on themselves, their strength of purpose and energy of character; for its price, alike to red or white men, is knowledge, industry, temperance, and virtue.

While Ohio heralded to the western tribes the rule of government and law, Louisiana, by a wise forecast of executive policy, came in, at this critical time, to confirm and greatly extend the system. In fifty years the limits of the Union had reached the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Neither men nor States practice what is not conceived to be best suited to promote their prosperity. By offering to the Indians the protection of the laws, and the benefits of intercourse with civilized society, the highest assurances were given that we were sincere, and sought only to advance them in the scale of knowledge and happiness. But, as the Indian is an extraordinarily suspicious being, the good faith of this offer has ever been doubted by him, and some sinister purpose has been supposed to be concealed. He has affirmed that the so-much prized civilization of the white man contains elements which are not suited to his nature; but what these elements are, neither philosophy nor revelation has informed us. Persian education consisted in learning to ride a horse, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth. If the former comprised a military education, the latter did a moral one.

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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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