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The principles on which Europeans first met the Aborigines of America followed by ruinous consequences.
The Indian title to the soil legal. Its legality may be acknowledged without detriment to the United States.
The design of the following pages is to exhibit the obligation which the people of the United States are under, to meliorate and substantially improve the condition of the Aborigines of our country, together with the means for attaining this most desirable object.
From among the many things which might be said on this subject, I shall endeavour to select a few, which I deem worthy of special notice.
I suppose that the increasing wretchedness of the Indian tribes with whom the Europeans have come in contact ever since their settlement in this country, may be traced to the degradation in which they found them. They were, at that time, sunk to the level of nature, and had ceased to feel the influence of a spirit of improving enterprise. Though in possession of physical means for the elevation of their character, yet they were destitute of mental cultivation.
This fact produced the same effect upon all who discovered, and settled different portions of the country, whether Spaniards, English or French. If some were cruel, and others humane, the difference originated in the feeling each brought with them from their mother country, and not in different views of the national rights of the natives. Neither the one, nor the other, met the Indians as on an equality with themselves. It requires no argument to prove that all agreed in supposing the Indians possessed no legal title to the soil on which they were found, and that they were too destitute of national character to be met on an equality in negociations. That they had claims on our sympathies, has never been denied by any good man—that they had a legal right, as a nation, to any portion of the territory, has never been admitted by any government which has come in contact with them.
Thus low were the Indians sunk, either in fact, or in the estimation of Europeans, on their discovery of America. They did not possess moral ability to elevate themselves, nor have they since been put in possession of that ability by their more fortunate neighbours. Our views, and our prejudices in relation to them, continue; their degradation, and their wretchedness remain; the latter increasing in proportion to the natural comforts of which the savage state is necessarily deprived by its
peor to that of the evilized, when the loss of the former is not Cosats a zasemmibe conforts of the latter.
Tbe consacce ci lake niseres, is no more a matter of surprise, Saz Starce of G: ped.ces in relation to them. The causes DOC bez rezore, sporezeat in their condition ought not to be anticipated
La epidecce of the aestapoon that the legality of Indian title, to termicet, Las sever beea cred by any European government which Los cised persons in Sorh Amenca, nor by the United States, is szexs for our sent purpose, to refer
Ist. To aa con espressed in a plea before the Supreme Court of the Cura des trose of our first statesmen, who says, “What is te le atte! Ris pere occupancy for the purpose of hunting. It ; So: se cer tesurs; ter hare no idea of a title to the soil itself. It is oreman by bea, ra:ber than inhabited. It is not a true and legal possessies. Tardi, b. 1. & 21. p. 37, and $ 209, b. 2. p. 96. Montes
, blse. 1.2 Site's lealth of Nations, b. 5. c. 1. It is a right pot to be transtored, but extinguished. It is a right regulated by treaDes, 24 de deces of constrauer. It depends upon the law of nations, DOC por cazcipal right. Fletcher rs. Peck, Cranch. Vol. 6. p. 121."*
To ide opin:oas on this subject expressed by the Commissioners at the treaty or Gtent, “ The recognition of a boundary gives up to tre estea ia whose behalf it was made, all the Indian tribes and countries whia that boundary.".
3i. To the perfect accordance with the abore opinions of all public acts of every nation concerned in the question.
Wisin the jurisdiction of the United States, it is not adınitted that ose tribe has a right to convey its nominal claim to another tribe, without the permission of the Goverument of the L'nited States. Treaties held with the Irdian tribes for the extinguishment of their title, are viewed by us in the light of praise worthy "moderation” on the part of our Government, resulting from a desire “ of giving ample satisfaction to every pretenee of prior right."
Believing that the doerine which influenced Europeans on their discovery of Azerica, and which has been entailed on us, is unsound, and bas ever been a fruitful source of calamities to the natives, and the unpecessary occasion of much perplexity to the United States, I solicit the reader's attentiou to a brief consideration of the subject.
What dan to the soil, could the people of the United States, or any other people, prefer to an impartial tribunal, which the natives could not plead with equal, or additional propriety? Speak we of the right of discovery? The Indians are the Aborigines of the country. We basave not discovered an uninhabited region, but a peopled country. Let as suppose the Chinese at this day to be ignorant of the country of the
l'uited States; a company of ships arrive at Jamestown, and set up a elain to the whole of the United States' territories. Would we readily Bulimit that the law of nations made it theirs by the right of discovery?
They take possession; but when retiring before a people of an en
priptey because these opinions have, through the medium of that Report, re
quote from Vorse's ladian Report, Appen. p. 283–4. This I consider apnity been called up to the view of the public.
tirely separate interest from ours, and of superior strength, could we suppose, that on the great day of retribution, they would be free from all accusations of injustice towards us, and that they would " then appear in the whiteness of innocence ?” Prefer your plea, and the Indian adopts it against us with peculiar propriety.
But they are savages. The names we have given to the Indians are merely arbitrary, and are made to signify nothing more, than that their manners and customs differ from ours; and, in our estimation, are less desirable. Let us suppose invaders of our rights, urging the same plea, and our question is answered. We found the natives living in those modes of life which they, as a free people, chose for themselves; and we should be found by our invaders in the exercise of the same liberty. Surely the round of nature cannot furnish an argument to justify the taking away of a people's country, merely because the inhabitants have their peculiar modes of living; when too, these modes of life, which differ from those of other nations, are theresult of their own free choice, and have never disturbed the peace of others.
But they are merely hunters, " and what is the right of a huntsman to the forest of a thousand iniles, over which he has accidentally ranged in quest of prey ?”
This is not quite the fact. The Indians are huntsmen; and so have always been, to a certain extent, a large portion of our population on the frontiers of our setilements. The Indiaus never lived wholly by hunting; and a portion of subsistence of white settlers, has almost invariably been taken by the chase. But nobody ever thought that this circumstance affected the legality of their titles to land.
It is not true that the Indians were merely huntsmen, accidentally passing over forests of a thousand miles.” They were people at home, and furnishing imperishable monuments of the antiquity of their residence. Here they had lived longer than the existence of the oaks in whose shades they reclined—from time immemorial.
Their country was divided among the several tribes; and if the bounds of each was not fixed with an exactitude equal to that which marks the boundaries of our several States and Territories; yet, it was with a precision which they deemed sufficient, and which we admit, met the exigencies of their situation, equally as well as our lines meet the circumstances of ours. War among themselves, whether on account of disputed territory, or of some other thing, was nothing new in the history of nations. It becomes us to feel for their misfortunes; but not on account thereof, to frame a pretext for possessing ourselves of their country. What law of nations has prescribed the amount of land a people must cultivate in proportion to each individual; the portion of food they must take from the waters, or the woods; and the distances they may, and may not travel in pursuit of their occupations, in order to render them eligible to the possession of territory, and to national character?
We have been told, that " the pilgrims of Plymouth obtained their right of possession to the territory on which they settled, by titles as fair and unquestionable as any human property can be held. They received their charter from their British Sovereign. The spot on which they fixed had belonged to an Indian tribe, totally extirpated by that devouring pestilence which had swept the country before their arrival.
proximity to that of the civilized, when the loss of the former is not supplied by a transfer from the comforts of the latter.
The continuance of Indian miseries, is no more a matter of surprise, than the continuance of our prejudices in relation to them. The causes not being removed, improvement in their condition ought not to be anticipated.
In evidence of the assumption that the legality of Indian title, to territory, has never been admitted by any European government which has claimed possessions in North America, nor by the United States, it is sufficient for our present purpose, to refer
1st. To an opinion expressed in a plea before the Supreme Court of the United States, by one of our first statesmen, who says, “ What is the Indian title? It is mere occupancy for the purpose of hunting. It is not like our tenures; they have no idea of a title to the soil itself. It is overrun by them, rather than inhabited. It is not a true and legal possession. Vattel, b. 1. $ 81. p. 37, and $ 209, b. 2. p. 96. Montes . quieu, b. 18. c. 12. Smith's Wealth of Nations, b. 5. c. 1. It is a right not to be transferred, but extinguished. It is a right regulated by treaties, not by deeds of conveyance. It depends upon the law of nations, not upon municipal right. Fletcher vs. Peck, Cranch. Vol. 6. p. 121."*
2d. To the opinions on this subject expressed by the Commissioners at the treaty of Ghent, " The recognition of a boundary gives up to the nation in whose behalf it was made, all the Indian tribes and countries within that boundary.”
3d. To the perfect accordance with the above opinions of all public acts of every nation concerned in the question.
Within the jurisdiction of the United States, it is not admitted that one tribe has a right to convey its nominal claim to another tribe, without the permission of the Government of the United States. Treaties held with the Indian tribes for the extinguishment of their title, are viewed by us in the light of praiseworthy "moderation" on the part of our Government, resulting from a desire “ of giving ample satisfaction to every pretence of prior right.”
Believing that the doctrine which influenced Europeans on their discovery of America, and which has been entailed on us, is unsound, and has ever been a fruitful source of calamities to the natives, and the unnecessary occasion of much perplexity to the United States, I solicit the reader's attention to a brief consideration of the subject.
What claim to the soil, could the people of the United States, or any other people, prefer to an impartial tribunal, which the natives could not plead with equal, or additional propriety? Speak we of the right of discovery? The Indians are the Aborigines of the country. We have not discovered an uninhabited region, but a peopled country. Let us suppose the Chinese at this day to be ignorant of the country of the United States; a company of ships arrive at Jamestown, and set up a claim to the whole of the United States' territories. Would we readily admit that the law of nations made it theirs by the right of discovery? -They take possession; but when retiring before a people of an en
* I quote from Morse's Indian Report, Appen. p. 283~4. This I consider appropriate, because these opinions have, through the medium of that Report, recently been called up to the view of the public.