Page images
PDF
EPUB

mass.

more than take the rude timbers of the forest, and prepare them for the building. Here their labours end. Unless we add other operations for the purposes of collecting together, and of uniting the materials, we shall have the mortification of seeing the objects on which we have bestowed much labour, successively perishing amidst the more neglected

We have actually arrived at the place where we are constrained to feel the want of immediate relief, such alone as the colonization system provides for. I have not only witnessed the dilemma of those who are engaged in the work of Indian reform, but also, with my own ears, again and again, heard reflecting pupils of the schools, whose good understanding led them to foresee the darkness which intercepted their march, inquire of their benefactors, “ Whither shall we go, what shall we do when we leave you?" I wish that one half only, of the anxiety and evil which attend this stage of our work of Indian reform, could be distinctly understood by those who possess power to help. The single instance of one whom I beheld weeping alone, and who, on my inquiry, declared the cause of his grief to be the anxiety to which I have referred above, would furnish argument in favour of colonizing these people, worth volumes of speculations.

How exceedingly discouraging must be the work of civilizing Indians, to those engaged in it, under existing circumstances. They form missionary establishments in the wilderness under great disadvantages and privations, and all under the sickening reflection, that these stations must soon be abandoned for others, to be made in other forests, further back, to which the people for whom they toil will soon be driven. With a long trial of their patience, they at length prevail on some of their rude neighbours to erect houses, and enclose fields. They have the satisfaction to see them beginning to raise domestic animals, and to hush the cryings of their half-starved children by something like a regular supply of wholesome food. They would congratulate themselves on the prospect of receiving an ample reward for their labours; but the thought perpetually haunts them—These people must soon quit their fields and houses, and go back into the wilderness again, or what is worse, be circumscribed to a small spot, surrounded by white population-in which case their destiny ceases to be doubtful; or they must be made to feel the effects of State laws, to their ruin.

But with all the regret which benevolent associations feel on these accounts, even when their labours are aided by the patronage of Government, they have not the power of improving the matter. They may form new establishments, and strengthen old ones. But they have not the power of procuring a single spot upon the face of the whole earth, on which they may locate the people of their charge, and say, Here you may “ sit under your own vine and fig-tree, and none shall make you afraid." This power is vested alone in Government-to our Government we appeal-we do it in behalf of a people who, with one or two exceptions, cannot plead their own cause, some of whom at this moment sit by my side. Oh that God, who made the world to be inhabited by man, would grant a little space for the occupancy of these people ! Would grant them some room in the sympathies of our Government !

A BRIEF RECAPITULATION shall close our remarks.

We have endeavoured to show that the Aborigines of our country are not noxious vermin of which we ought to rid the world, but men, entitled to the rights of men. The justice of their claims to the soil they inhabit, is not inferior to the most righteous and undisputed title, that any people, in any part of the earth, ever preferred to a portion of it. These people, whatever may have become of a portion of their property, or wherever may be the residue of it at present, have left a wretched remnant, lingering on our borders, immersed in misery, rapidly sinking into extinction, and without power to save themselves. Unless our Government pluck the half-consumed brands from the fire, they will soon disappear. We have the means of doing it—of doing it without loss to ourselves, and in all probability, with positive convenience and profit. We have the best place which our portion of the continent ever afforded for such a purpose, yet unoccupied by us, to give them for their perpetual home, and we can conveniently and speedily remove them to it. In their case there is no alternative; without colonizing them, they will inevitably perish, as past experience testifies; with it they will be saved, as evidence no less indubitable has incontestably proved. Shall we save them or not? Heaven AND HUMANITY DIRECT THE ANSWER!

No. I.

Reasons for Writing, fc.

The following numbers are not written from a fondness for writing, nor from a supposition that I shall be able to tell what no one else knows; but because I feel confident that the state of the case requires something to be written at this time; because I know of no one else who will write upon this subject; and because I am, in providence, so situated, that it would be particularly criminal in me to omit doing any thing within my power, for the melioration of the condition of the Indians.

The foregoing pages were designed, on their first publication, as an appeal to our government in behalf of the Indians. We all well understand in whom authority is vested, and who sit at the helm of our public affairs. Of those persons, we have respectfully solicited and have obtained a hearing. The reflection is pleasant, that our prayer is only a response to the correct thoughts and generous feelings of the rulers and lawgivers of our nation. More than ordinary interest has recently been manifested on this subject, and matters obviously appear to be approximating a crisis; and, we trust, a favourable one. As might be expected, we find the wise and the good differing in the choice of measures for the accomplishment of an end alike desirable to all. Therefore, every grain which can be cast into the scale of information, is at this time particularly called for, and every correct thought disclosed may contribute somewhat to a favourable influence on the beam. Even erroneous sentiments on this subject had better become public, than be allowed a secret influence upon our conduct. Let the error be known, and it may be corrected,

The last two administrations have commended the measures which alone, we are constrained to believe, are calculated to rescue the Indians from extinction. After such respectable commendations of the subject to the consideration of Congress, it may to some appear presuming for us to add our entreaties and remarks; but I am confident that the matter is not thus viewed by the parties just alluded to, who have had the subject under consideration. The measures have been commended, and, through the proper officers of the department, facts and arguments have been stated. This was designed to elicit inquiry, information, and action.

Members of Congress are the representatives of the people, whom it is their happiness to serve, and especially those of their own particular districts, when it can be done in accordance with the interests of the whole.

Wrongs of our government in relation to the Indians, have been espressed in terms proper enough for those who employed them, but

which, from their plainness would be rather indecorous in me. * Now, let it be known to us all that these errors of our government, of which, our public men speak without reserve, are not crimes particularly of our representatives, nor of any class of public officers. Ours is a government of the people, and an error of the government is one in which the people are implicated. What our government authorities have done, has been done in accordance with the general impulse of the community. Our public officers serve us, and have done it with fidelity unexampled in the history of the world. They are themselves an integrant part of the people; they carry with them to their seats of authority and deliberation, the feelings and views of the people, and in them is formed the focus of our desires. If, therefore, as is universally believed, the policy of government in relation to the Indians, has heretofore been wrong, a proper method of correcting the wrong would be to attempt a reformation in the community in general. We, therefore, earnestly entreat all into whose hands our remarks may fall, not to consider the subject as belonging exclusively to the consideration of Congress, and heads of departments, but one which presents itself to the serious investigation of every benevolent person in the United States.

In illustration of my views, allow me attention to one case only, in which our public functionaries have repeatedly told us errors have occurred, fraught with destruction to the Indians, to wit: the quick succession with which treaties have been held with them for the extinguishment of their title to land. It is no more likely that these treaties originated with officers of government than with others. I have reason to believe that Commissioners have sometimes entered upon these duties with a degree of reluctance, and in compliance with the general wish, rather than with their own personal inclinations. An insatiable thirst for wealth and for territory pervades the community. Some enterprising, not to say ambitious citizens, form schemes, the accomplishment of which requires the extinguishment of Indian title to a certain tract of country. The desires of those persons are easily diffused among others, and readily find their way to our public authorities, accompanied by importunities. When, therefore, we again hear of lands being purchased of the Indians, let us not say they, but we have done it. It is time that all who feel interested in the welfare of the Indians should, by open and candid investigation, elicit the most eligible plans for their improvement, and while every one feels ready to yield, if necessary, some points of minor consequence, let us endeavour to unite upon vital principles, and make a simultaneous and unceasing effort.

No. II.

Character of Indian Missions. Whoever dispassionately views the subject of colonizing the Indians, will perceive that it is a work of time, not to be effected in a few years. It so happens that self-interest is, in general, the predominant principle

See Reports to Congress of Secretaries Calhoun and Barbour, in 1824 and 1826, and speeches in Congress of Messrs. M'Lean, Lumpkin, Smith, and others, in 1828.

in government; consequently, those tribes which are least in our way, we shall feel least desirous to remove. Hence we hear much said respecting the removal of the southern Indians, and less respecting that of others. We may, therefore, expect the necessity for missions to continue undiminished for many years to come. It is possible that in the Indian territory, missionary operations may assume slight shades of difference from those among the several tribes in their original places. This difference will occur merely in accommodation to the circumstances in which each will be placed. It will be proper to prosecute missionary operations in each tribe to the greatest extent practicable, because by so doing they may the more readily be induced to remove to the territory. Every missionary would be influenced by the directions of the society he served, by the instructions of government, and, most of all, by his own solicitude for the welfare of his people, to persuade them to remove. All civilizing agents would be desirous to exchange their temporary residences among

the several tribes for such as would be permanent; and no pains would be spared by them to accomplish it. All the circumstances of the case would facilitate the views of government.

Further, those efforts should be prosecuted with energy, because by them emigrants to the territory would be prepared, in a greater or less degree, for citizenship. This would tend greatly to obviate difficulties which some persons have anticipated, from a supposed heterogeneous assemblage of savages. Those establishments are at present too few; their increase is desirable in proportion to the interest we feel in the improvement of the Indians.

At present those institutions are supported chiefly by the munificence of benevolent associations and individuals, and in part by appropriations of Congress for that special purpose, and by treaty stipulations. Arguments are numerous and strong in favour of the whole expense being met by government, without applying a charity of any one in the

But should the benevolent perceive that the improvement of the natives would be rendered precarious by withholding their bounty, they would deem it not only a duty but a privilege to give. I fully believe this would be the case for the following reasons.

Government allowances have generally been applied in conjunction with funds of benevolent societies. (See “ Remarks,” page 24.) By this means the application of the same has been strictly and successfully guarded against abuse. This fact is the highest commendation which this plan could receive as proper for time to come.

When the improvement of the Indians becomes a business entirely of the government, it will be impossible to defend it from abuse. No matter how wise and well-disposed may be men in authority, the nature of the case is such as past experience, in relation to our intercourse with the Indians, has unquestionably proven, that it is impossible for Government to oversee the subject so as to render its good management certain. There is sometbing of principle, something of the tenderness, patience, and endurance of benevolence and religion required in the matter of Indian improvenient. The people whom we propose to relieve are feeble and dependent; authority and strength may be requisite in providing the home, and even the cradle of the infant, but it is the gentle hand, guided by the tenderest feelings of the human heart, that sooths its sor

case.

TOS.

« PreviousContinue »