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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 II. — Policy of the Removal of the Tribes to the West.

IN his message to Congress, sent to that body on the 4th of December, 1830, President Jackson again presented this topic to their notice, and, with an appreciative sense of its importance, solicited for it their mature consideration.

"It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements, is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress; and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes, also, to seek the same obvious advantages.

"The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves. The pecuniary advantages which it promises to the Government are the least of its recommendations. It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General and State Governments, on account of the Indians. It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters. By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north, and Louisiana on the south, to the settlement of the whites, it will incalculably strengthen the south-western frontier, and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future invasion without remote aid. It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi, and the western part of Alabama, of Indian occupancy, and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way, and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government, and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits, and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community. These consequences, some of them so certain, and the rest so probable, make the complete execution of the plan sanctioned by Congress at their last session an object of much solicitude.

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"Toward the aborigines of the country, no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering habits, and to make them a happy and prosperous people. I have endeavored to impress upon them my own solemn convictions of the duties and powers of the General Government in relation to the State authorities. For the justice of the laws passed by the States within the scope of their reserved powers, they are not responsible to this Government. As individuals, we may entertain and express our opinions of their acts; but as a Government, we have as little right to control them as we have to prescribe laws to foreign nations.

"With a full understanding of the subject, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes have, with great unanimity, determined to avail themselves of the liberal offers presented by the act of Congress, and have agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi river. Treaties have been made with them, which, in due season, will be submitted for consideration. In negotiating these treaties, they were made to understand their true condition; and they have preferred maintaining their independence in the western forests to submitting to the laws of the States in which they now reside. These treaties, being probably the last which will ever be made with them, are characterized by great liberality on the part of the Government. They give the Indians a liberal sum in consideration of their removal, and comfortable subsistence on their arrival at their new homes. If it be their real interest to maintain a separate existence, they will there be at liberty to do so without the inconveniences and vexations to which they would unavoidably have been subject in Alabama and Mississippi.

"Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising means to avert it. But its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and, one by one, have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth. To follow to the tomb the last of his race, and to tread on the graves of extinct nations, excites melancholy reflections. But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes, as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another. In the monuments and fortresses of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated, or has disappeared, to make room for the existing savage tribes. 585 Nor is there anything in this which, upon a comprehensive view of the general interests of the human race, is to be regretted. Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers. What good man would prefer a country covered with forests, and ranged by a few thousand savages, to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms; embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute; occupied by more than twelve millions of happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?

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"The present policy of the Government is but a continuation of the same progressive change, by a milder process. The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated, or have melted away, to make room for the whites. The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward; and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to a land where their existence may be prolonged, and perhaps made perpetual. Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did, or than our children are now doing? To better their condition in an unknown land, our forefathers left all that was dear in earthly objects. Our children, by thousands, yearly leave the land of their birth to seek new homes in distant regions. Does humanity weep at these painful separations from everything, animate and inanimate, with which the young heart has become entwined? Far from it. It is rather a source of joy, that our country affords scope, where our young population may range unconstrained in body or in mind, developing the power and faculties of man in their highest perfection. These remove hundreds, and almost thousands of miles, at their own expense, purchase the lands they occupy, and support themselves at their new home from the moment of their arrival. Can it be cruel in this Government, when, by events which it cannot control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home, to purchase his lands, to give him a new and extensive territory, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode? How many thousands of our own people would gladly embrace the opportunity of removing to the West on such conditions! If the offers made to the Indians were extended to them, they would be hailed with gratitude and joy.

"And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his home than the settled, civilized Christian? Is it more afflicting to him to leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children? Rightly considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man is not only liberal, but generous. He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the States, and mingle with their population. To save him from this alternative, or perhaps utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home, and proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.

"In the consummation of a policy originating at an early period, and steadily pursued by every administration within the present century, so just to the States, and so generous to the Indians, the Executive feels it has a right to expect the co-operation of Congress, and of all good and disinterested men. The States, moreover, have a right to demand it. It was, substantially, a part of the compact which made them members of our confederacy. With Georgia there is an express contract; with the new States an implied one, of equal obligation. Why, in authorizing Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama to form constitutions, and become separate States, did Congress include within their limits extensive tracts of Indian lands, and,

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in some instances, powerful Indian tribes? Was it not understood, by both parties, that the power of the States was to be co-extensive with their limits, and that, with all convenient despatch, the General Government should extinguish the Indian title, and remove every obstruction to the complete jurisdiction of the State governments over the soil? Probably not one of those States would have accepted a separate existence, certainly it would never have been granted by Congress, had it been understood that they were to be confined forever to those small portions of their nominal territory, the Indian title to which had, at the time, been extinguished.

"It is, therefore, a duty which this government owes to the new States, to extinguish, as soon as possible, the Indian title to all lands which Congress themselves have included within their limits. When this is done, the duties of the General Government, in relation to the States and Indians within their limits, are at an end. The Indians may leave the State or not, as they choose. The purchase of their lands does not alter, in the least, their personal relations to the State Government. No act of the General Government has ever been deemed necessary to give the States jurisdiction over the persons of the Indians. That they possess, by virtue of their sovereign power within their own limits, in as full a manner before as after the purchase of the Indian lands; nor can this Government add to or diminish it.

"May we not hope, therefore, that all good citizens, and none more zealously than those who think the Indians oppressed by subjection to the laws of the States, will unite in attempting to open the eyes of those children of the forest to their true condition; and, by a speedy removal, to relieve them from the evils, real or imaginary, present or prospective, with which they may be supposed to be threatened." 586

Obvious as these views were, to men familiar with history, and the civil polity of nations, the Indians were slow to comprehend, and loth to admit them. Meantime, Georgia and Alabama sedulously pressed the subject on the notice of the Government, which, at length made provision for the settlement of the question, as a necessary measure for preserving the quiet, and promoting the prosperity of the States. Time was, however, required to adjust the controversy; the discussions, meantime, being continued with vigor. One year later, 587 the Executive again presented the subject to Congress, and acquainted them of the progress of the experiment, at the same time expressing his decided conviction, that colonization was the only feasible method of relieving both the States and the Indian tribes from their constantly accumulating embarrassments.

"Time and experience have proved that the abode of the native Indian within their limits is dangerous to their peace, and injurious to himself. In accordance with my recommendation at a former session of Congress, an appropriation of $500,000 was made, to aid the voluntary removal of the various tribes beyond the limits of the States. At the last session, I had the happiness to announce that the Chickasaws and

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Choctaws had accepted the generous offer of the Government, and agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi river, by which the whole of the State of Mississippi, and the western part of Alabama, will be freed from Indian occupancy, and opened to a civilized population. The treaties with these tribes are in a course of execution, and their removal, it is hoped, will be completed in the course of 1832.

"At the request of the authorities of Georgia, the registration of Cherokee Indians for emigration has been resumed, and it is confidently expected that one half, if not two-thirds, of that tribe, will follow the wise example of their more westerly brethren. Those who prefer remaining at their present homes, will hereafter be governed by the laws of Georgia, as all her citizens are, and cease to be the objects of peculiar care on the part of the General Government.

"During the present year, the attention of the Government has been particularly directed to those tribes in the powerful and growing State of Ohio, where considerable tracts of the finest lands were still occupied by the aboriginal proprietors. Treaties, either absolute or conditional, have been made, extinguishing the whole Indian title to the reservations in that State; and the time is not distant, it is hoped, when Ohio will be no longer embarrassed with the Indian population. The same measure will be extended to Indiana, as soon as there is reason to anticipate success.

"It is confidently believed that perseverance for a few years in the present policy of the Government will extinguish the Indian title to all lands lying within the States comprising our Federal Union, and remove beyond their limits every Indian who is not willing to submit to their laws. Thus will all conflicting claims to jurisdiction between the States and the Indian tribes be put to rest. It is pleasing to reflect that results so beneficial, not only to the States immediately concerned, but to the harmony of the Union, will have been accomplished by measures equally advantageous to the Indians. What the native savages become when surrounded by a dense population, and by mixing with the whites, may be seen in the miserable remnants of a few eastern tribes, deprived of political and civil rights, forbidden to make contracts, and subjected to guardians, dragging out a wretched existence, without excitement, without hope, and almost without thought.

"But the removal of the Indians beyond the limits and jurisdiction of the States, does not place them beyond the reach of philanthropic aid and Christian instruction. On the contrary, those whom philanthropy or religion may induce to live among them in their new abode, will be more free in the exercise of their benevolent functions, than if they had remained within the limits of the States, embarrassed by their internal regulations. Now, subject to no control but the superintending agency of the General Government, exercised with the sole view of preserving peace, they may proceed unmolested in the interesting experiment of gradually advancing a community of American Indians from barbarism to the habits and enjoyments of civilized life." 588

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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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