Page images
PDF
EPUB

A thousand sayings might be added corroborative of the preceding remarks, and in support of the conclusions which force themselves upon our judgment; but our object is doubtless attained. There is but one mode of reasoning in the case—that is, so long as Indians remain under the circumstances of the one, they must dwindle; when placed in circumstances similar to the other, they will thrive. For the latter and more favourable situation, the colonizing plan, and that alone, provides. The causes of the opposite processes are not obscure. The one is sunk into the depths of degradation, and has before it no prospects to cherish hope, and a spirit of improvement—while precisely the reverse is happily the case with the other.

The colonizing plan contemplates the elevation of the Indian character. The degradation stamped on them by our first acts towards them, is to be removed by the very first step to be taken in the measure. We denied the legality of their title to the soil. We are now to assign them a country, and to say to them in the language of truth, never to be revoked, this is yours-yours for ever. This will be beginning precisely where we ought to begin, at the very point where the evil began, and which has been the seat of disease ever since.

The colonizing plan proposes to place the Aborigines on the same footing as ourselves; to place before them the same opportunities of improvement that we enjoy, and the same inducements to improve those opportunities. The result, therefore, cannot be doubtful. The colony would commence and improve, much after the manner of all new settlements of whites, which have been begun and carried forward, under favourable circumstances. Improvements in houses, fields, &c. would at first be rude and ordinary, but every succeeding year would add to their value, and would increase the number of domestic animals, and the comforts of life in general. Schools would be established among them for the instruction of their youth, which, on account of the poverty of the parents, as well as their ignorance of the advantages of education, would, at the commencement, be charity schools. As the state of society would improve, the calls for charity would diminish, until children, when receiving an education, could be supported by their parents. As by the acquisition of property, the necessity for hunting would be superseded, and they rendered stationary within reach of the schools, the attendance of the youths would be additionally secured. While, at the same time, both old and young would be kept constantly within the sphere of instruction, in morality, literature, and labour. As circumstances might require, schools of a higher order would be established, and the number of natives qualified to fill every department in an improving community, in the house, the field, the shop, the school, the state, and the church, would annually increase.

Experience has taught us that a fruitful source of obstacles to Indian reform exists in the community of right in property, which prevails to too great an extent among the Indians. In cases in which the comfort of society requires the blending of property in common, we often find it divided, and vice versa. The husband and the wife, for instance, have their separate claims to their property; and the husband would almost as soon think of selling the horse of his neighbour, without leave, as that of his wife; while their lands, in which the individuality of right, except in the case last stated, ought to be identified, are held in common by all.

This community principle, intrudes itself into the domestic and daily comforts of society, to the serious disadvantage of the whole. An indolent, worthless fellow, who will not grow a hill of corn, will, day after day, spunge his more industrious countryman, as long as the latter has remaining any portion of the fruit of his industry. Thus it often happens that the most idle and improvident, ļive almost as plentifully as the more industrious, to the encouragement of the one in indolence, and to the discouragement of the other in industry.

In the colony, a section of land, of proper dimension, would be marked off to each individual, as his own, under certain regulations securing his right against the intrusions to which his imperfect judgment would expose him. This circumstance could not fail to teach him to identify property and individual claims, in all cases where the happiness of society requires it. A man could say, This land is my own, and would readily infer his supreme right to all its proceeds. The right of husband and wife being blended in their land, they would rationally be led to make a common interest in all property, as well as in labour, joy, and sorrow; while incentives to industry and economy would present themselves to them, and to their rising posterity, from a thousand sources.

Laws for the regulation of the community, would be provided by the United States' Government.* These at first would be few and plain, in proportion only to the wants of the case. In judicial, as well as all other transactions in the community, the natives themselves would be employed, so far as persons could be found possessing the requisite qualifications.

Being concentrated, instead of dispersed over thousands of miles, trade and intercourse with the whites, could be regulated and maintained upon just and equitable principles. Ardent spirits could be effectually barred out of their country. In a word, all those local evils which are at present frittering away to nothing these wretched people would be avoided, and the advantages which are raising the Cherokees to greatness, would be enjoyed. The logical conclusion, therefore is, the result would be favourable.

Here let us remark, that the Cherokees, to whose improvement we appeal with so much confidence and pleasure, are acquiring their character and comforts amidst a pressure of opposing obstacles. The evils resulting from Indian degradation in the estimation of the whites, from the denial of their legal claim to the soil, &c. reach them also in a lamentable degree. Yet like men who could not brook the miseries of a prison, they are, with Herculean courage, breaking their fetters asunder, and extricating themselves from a labyrinth of woes. The colonists under consideration would be placed in circumstances far more favourable to their improvement, than have been those of the Cherokees; consequently the improvement of the former would be proportionably more rapid than has been that of the latter. What then follows? These miserable Indians, gathered from their wretched abodes, in which they had been perishing, and placed in "a good land, a land acknowledged to be their own, removed from all the baleful causes of their former calamities, and possessed of all the means which have given character and consequence to their countrymen and kindred, the Cherokees, not the slightest probability forbids our confident

See this subject considered again in Chapter vi.

expectation that they will be lifted up from the dust, to the enjoyment of comforts similar to those possessed by ourselves, and that they will be prepared to call those blessed who wiped away their tears.

The plan of colonizing the Indians promises to relieve us from all the inconveniences arising from their hostilities; from unwholesome sentiments which foreigners have an opportunity of instilling into their minds; from their residence among us on small reservations, where they have become a nuisance to society ; and from the great embarrassment which we feel, when a few, better informed than their fellows, come out boldly, and plead their right to the soil, and appeal to the justice, humanity, and strength of the United States, for the defence of their claims. Had the colonizing plan been adopted fifty years ago, all the perplexing difficulties which have recently occurred with our southern Indians, on the subject of their claims, would have been prevented. It is to be hoped that our Government will foresee, in this proposed design, the remedy, and the only remedy, of evils which are otherwise likely to exist, and to multiply to the sad inconvenience of both the white and red people.

Some objections to the colonizing plan, can be more properly replied to, when we shall have completed our inquiries relative to the most eligible situation for the colony. I will also add, that the suitableness of a situation will increase the weight of every argument which we have advanced in favour of the design.

CHAPTER V.

The most eligible Situation for the Colony is west of the Territory of

Arkansaw and the State of Missouri, and south-west of Missouri river.

Our next inquiry should be, Where shall we find the most eligible situation for the colony? Notwithstanding the people of the United States have spread over such a vast extent of territory which was once solely the abode of Indians, yet we consider it fortunate for our subject, that we possess much evidence in favour of the opinion, that the most favourable position for colonizing the Indians, that our territories ever afforded, remains at this time unoccupied by us. Obviously no part of our sea-coast ever could have been, nor ever can be, spared for such a purpose. In point of commercial advantages the shores of our Lakes on the north, are second only to our sea-coasts on the east and south, and do, therefore, for the same reasons, forbid them a home on their borders. Place them any where in the interior of our couutry, where they will be surrounded by white population, and they will be still more in our way, than if placed on one of our borders just mentioned. Aside from vexation to us, their residence in the midst of white population would be the source of much evil to them.

The North Western Territory has been spoken of as a suitable place for the colonizing of the Indians. But the whole of that, with the ex

ception of the cold, wet regions, at the very sources of the Mississippi, must soon become a most valuable portion of the Union. It doubtless embraces a great deal of fertile soil, and all our maps tell us that the region is uncommonly well provided with water for navigable purposes. The tide of emigration of the people of the United States, is at this time pressing rapidly towards it; and I am confident that it cannot be stopped on this side of it. Place them on the extreme northern limits of the territory, and they would be immediately adjoining Canada. Bring them down to the southern part, and they would soon be surrounded by the whites; as much so as if they had been located in the state of Indiana. Carry them farther, and set them down between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and our objections still extend to them, though, we acknowledge, with less force as it respects the valuableness of country, and the speedy approach of white population.

Along the vast chain of the snow-topped Andes, or Rocky Mountains, nature has spread, on each side, a barren desert, of irreclaimable sterility. To what extent this sandy desert spreads to the west of those Mountains, and what exceptions to its barrenness may occur, we have not the means of knowing. Dr. James allows it an average width, on the east side of the mountains, of between 500 and 600 miles. We are pretty confident, however, that that part of it which will be found to be irreclaimable by industry, will be far less than the above estimate makes it. We shall be safe in supposing the uninhabitable desert to be at least between three and four hundred miles in width. Add to this the regions of the mountains, and the desert on the west, and we have an uninhabitable region of five or six hundred miles in width, certainly, (with the exception of a few inconsiderable valleys within the region of the mountain itself) and extending south and north into the Mexican, and British territories.

This vast region is not termed a desert, merely on account of the partial, or entire, absence of timber, but chiefly because the soil itself is of a quality that cannot be rendered productive by the industry of man. No portion of our territories furnish so few inducements to civilized man to seek in it a dwelling-place, as that under consideration.

This wide desert must for ever form an important border to our white settlements within the valley of the Mississippi; especially so, when we consider that the streams on each side lead from the mountains, and so far are calculated to direct commerce from this region, rather than to, or through it. Add to the foregoing considerations the impracticability of navigating most of the streams in the desert, as for instance the Platt, and the entire impossibility of canalling in that thirsty region, destitute of clay and stone, and we are assured that our conclusions are correct.

From observation, and information derived from others on which I can rely, I suppose that soil and timber will admit of settlement about 200 miles west of Arkansaw Territory, and the State of Missouri. We propose that above the western line of Missouri, the Missouri river shall be the boundary of the Indian territory on the north-east and north, as far as the mouth of Puncah river; thence up Puncah river as far as the country is habitable. By this we describe a country about 600 miles in length, between the latitudes of about 33° and 43°, and 200 miles in width. Farther west we may suppose the country to be uninhabitable. This country is generally high, healthy and rich, its extent adequate to the purposes under consideration, and the climate desirable. Thus si

tuated, with the desert in their rear, with no important navigable stream leading into their country, but precisely the reverse, with no inducements in the sterile plains behind them to tempt the enterprise of white men, the colony would be on an outside of us, and less in our way than could have been imagined, had not nature thus marked the bounderies for us.

I cannot conceive why we may not relinquish to them this country, and assure them that it shall be theirs for ever.

We admit that there is a scarcity of timber generally throughout the district we have described. It contains, however, abundance of coal, and experience in all prairie countries, in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, tells us, that where there is not a defect in the soil itself, the timber will improve both in quantity and in quality, with the settlement of the country; because the grazing of cattle, &c. opposes the annual fires which sweep over those grassy countries to the great destruction of the forests, and to the prevention of the growth of shrubs which take root in the prairies. By a judicious division of woodland and prairie, among the first inhabitants, there would be timber sufficient to meet the wants of many years; and it is presumeable that its improvement would be equal to the increasing demands of the colony.

A good grazing country must be, of all others, the best adapted to the condition of a people in their transition from the hunter to the civilized state. The comparative ease with which cattle were raised by our southern Indians, was no doubt a circumstance that greatly facilitated the improvement of their condition. In the case before us, we have not, after leaving the regions of Arkansas river, the dense and extensive cane-brakes which have afforded winter's food for thousands of cattle in the south. But that this is, nevertheless, an excellent grazing country, none will question; and this very fact, I trust, will contribute not a little to its commendation. The plains will afford abundance of pasturage for summer, and hay for winter.

Objections to the place we are considering, will be raised upon the supposition that the native inhabitants of that country may become hostile to the colonists.

After observing that the same objections will apply with almost equal weight, to perhaps any other territory that could be thought of for such a purpose, we may remark that no doubt can be entertained of our being able to conciliate the present inhabitants. A portion of the emoluments which they would realize from the negotiations by which their claims to the country would be extinguished, so far as the case should require, might be expended in the improvement of their own lands, the erection of buildings, the furnishing of them with domestic animals, implements of agriculture, &c. So that from the very beginning, and if need be, even previously to the settling of strangers in their country, they would perceive the advantages which would result to them from the measure. If we can purchase Indian lands and settle them with white men, why may we not do the same with equal safety when the settlers are Indians. The circumstance would not so readily be viewed as an intrusion, as if the settlers were not of their own countrymen, kindred, and colour. The effect in this respect, as in many others, would be very different from that sometimes produced by the removal westwardly, or northwardly, of these people in former cases; when they were left to make peace or war, as they chose, with their neighbours.

« PreviousContinue »