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CXXXVII. THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIANS.
Extract from the Speech of Mr. Sprague, of Maine, delivered in the
Senate of the United States, April 16, 1830.
Mr. President,—THE question now proposed, by this amendment, is, shall that protection be withdrawn, and the Indians be compelled to leave their country, under the penalty of certain destruction, if they remain ? ·
The interrogatory has been often repeated, why should not Georgia extend her laws over the natives, as well as other States?
Again, sir, I reply-our treaties-our treaties. The Indians object, and the United States have solemnly promised to interpose at their request. In no other instances have they opposed State legislation, and demanded our interposition. This is a sufficient answer.
Without the adoption of this amendment, the Cherokees have no choice, but between the miseries of emigration, and destruction where they are. It is contended that it is for their best interest to remove. Leave that, sir, to their own de. cision. Our judgment may be too much guided by our own convenience. But whither are the Cherokees to go? What are the benefits of the change? What system has been ma. tured for their security ? What laws for their government ? These questions are answered only by gilded promises in general terms; they are to become enlightened and civilized husbandmen.
They now live by the cultivation of the soil, and the me. chanic arts. It is proposed to send them from their cotton fields, their farms, and their gardens; to a distant and an un. subdued wilderness—to make them tillers of the earth !-to" remove them from their looms, their work-shops, their print. ing press, their schools, and churches, near the white settle. ments, to frowning forests, surrounded with naked savagesthat they may become enlightened and civilized! We have pledged to them our protection-and, instead of shielding them where they now are, within our reach, under our own arm, we send these natives of a southern clime, to northern re. gions, amongst fierce and warlike barbarians. And what
security do we propose to them ?-a new guaranty!! Who can look an Indian in the face, and say to him, we and our fathers, for more than forty years, have made to you the most solemn promises ; we now violate and trample upon them all; but offer you in their stead-another guaranty !!
Will they be in no danger of attack, from the primitive inhabitants of the regions to which they emigrate? How can it be otherwise ? The official documents show us the fact, that some of the few who have already gone, were involved in conflicts with the native tribes, and compelled to a second removal.
How are they to subsist? Has not that country now, as great an Indian population, as it can sustain? What has be. come of the original occupants ? The most powerful tribes, west of the Mississippi, are, every year, so distressed by famine, that many die for want of food. The scenes of their suffering are hardly exceeded by the sieges of Jerusalem, and Samaria. There might be seen the miserable mother, in all the tortures which hunger can inflict, giving her last morsel for the sustenance of her child ; and then fainting, sinking, and actually dying of starvation! And the orphan !-no one can spare it food-it is put alive into the grave of the parent, which thus closes over the quick and the dead! And this not in a solitary instance only, but repeatedly and fre. quently. “The living child is often buried with the dead mother."*
Mr. President: I am aware that their white neighbors desire the absence of the Indians; and if they can find safety and subsistence beyond the Mississippi, I should rejoice ex. ceedingly at their removal, because it would relieve the States
* Extract from an official report of Governor Clark, Superintendent of
Indian Affairs, dated March 1, 1826. “ The condition of many tribes west of the Mississippi is the most pitiable that can be imagined. During several seasons, in every year, they are distressed by famine, in which many die for want of food, and, during which, the living child is often buried with the dead mother, because no one can spare it as much food as would sustain it through its helpless infancy. This description applies to Sioux, Osages, and many others, but I mention those because they are powerful tribes, and live near our borders, and my official station enables me to know the exact truth.' It is in vain to talk to people in this condition about learn. , ing and religion.”
of their presence. I would do much to effect a cousummation so devoutedly to be wished. But let it be by their own free choice, unawed by fear, unseduced by bribes. Let us not compel them, by withdrawing the protection which we have pledged. Theirs must be the pain of departure, and the hazard of the change. They are men, and have the feelings and attachments of men ; and if all the ties which bind them to their country and their homes are to be rent asunder, let it be by their own free hand. If they are to leave for ever the streams at which they have drunk, and the trees under which they have reclined ; if the fires are never more to be lighted up in the council house of their Chiefs, and must be quenched for ever upon the domestic hearth by the tears of the inmates, who have there joined the nuptial feast, and the funeral wailif they are to look for the last time upon the land of their birth-which drank up the blood of their fathers, shed in its defence--and is mingled with the sacred dust of children and friends—to turn their aching vision to distant regions envelo. ped in darkness and surrounded by dangers—let it be by their own free choice, not by the coercion of a withdrawal of the protection of our plighted faith. They can best appreciate the dangers and difficulties which beset their path. It is their fate which is impending ; and it is their right to judge, while we have no warrant to falsify our promise.
It is said that their existence cannot be preserved ; that it is the doom of Providence, that they must perish. So, in. deed, must we all; but let it be in the course of nature, not by the hand of violence. If, in truth, they are now in the decrepitude of age, let us permit them to live out all their days, and die in peace; not bring down their gray hairs in blood, to a foreign grave.
Sir, we cannot wholly silence the monitor within. It may not be heard amidst the clashings of the arena, in the tempest and convulsions of political contentions, but its “ still small voice” will speak to us—when we meditate alone at even. tide,--in the silent watches of the night, when we lie down and we rise up from a solitary pillow,--and, in that dread hour, when--"not what we have done for ourselves, but what we have done for others,” will be our joy and our strength ; when to have secured, even to the poor and despised Indian, a spot of earth upon which to rest his aching head-to have
given him but a cup of cold water, in charity, will be a greater treasure than to have been the conquerors of kingdoms, and lived in luxury upon their spoils.
CXXXVIII.--THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIANS.
Extract from the Speech of Mr. Storrs, of New York, delivered in the
House of Representatives, May 15, 1830,
Mr. Chairman,- I Am admonished by the duty which I owe to the House for their indulgence, to occupy your time but a little longer. But I ask gentlemen to review the his. tory of this Government faithfully, and say if, on looking to the afflicting condition of these people, (the Indians,) and the certain consequences which are to follow, they can lay their hands upon their hearts, as honorable men, and say that they feel clear in conscience in going any further with this measure. We are not dealing for ourselves in this matter. Our own reputation is not alone concerned. The character of the country is deeply involved in it. We shall not be able at last to disguise our co-operation in removing these nations from their country. We may now flatter and deceive ourselves as we may, but the time will come when our responsi. bility can neither be evaded nor denied. It must be met, and it is better for us to consider now what we must meet. Our relations with the Indian nations are of our own seeking. We assumed our guardianship over them voluntarily, and we justified it, too, in the name of religion and humanity. We claimed it to be due from us as a civilized, enlightened, and Christian people, to them—to our own character and the opinion of the world. They never asked it of us. We stretched out our arm towards them, and they took our hand in the confidence that we should act up to our professions. It was we who solicited their friendship, and not they ours. It was done for our convenience, too, and not theirs. We offered them our faith, and they trusted to us. To attest our sincerity and win their confidence, we invoked the sanctions of our holy religion. They have confided in us like children, and we have solemnly pledged our faith before God and all mankind, to fulfil our promises to them righteously. We came here and sat ourselves down in their country, and not they in ours. They were then strong, and we were weak and helpless. They could have crushed us in the hollow of their hand. But we had fled from oppression and persecu. tion in our own native land, and they received us here in theirs as friends and brothers. We have perpetuated their hospitality to our fathers on the gorgeous pannels which surround us. If we cherish in our hearts the slightest senti. ment of honor-or the least spark of gratitude yet lingers there—we shall not be able to lift up our eyes and look around us when we enter these halls, without feeling the smart of that rebuke which we deserve and must suffer for our perfidy. These memorials of their hospitality cannot be effaced until we shall have dilapidated these walls, or another enemy shall kindly inflict upon us a lesser disgrace.
We came to these people with peace offerings, and they gave us lands. As we increased in numbers, we increased our demands, and began to press upon them. They saw us hemming them in on every side, and furrowing down the graves of their fathers. As their subsistence was wasting away, they remonstrated against us. We were deaf to their reproaches. They implored us to remember their kindness to us, but we turned away from them. They resisted at last, and flew to their arms. Fierce and bloody wars followed. We felt their power, and if they had been united, or had foreseen what we are now doing, we should not now be in these seats. We met again in friendship, and established our treaties with them. We pledged our faith, and gave them our solemn guaranties, that we would come no further. I hope that we shall feel it our duty to observe them like honest men.
But we are asked : Will you leave things in their present condition ? Will you refuse to treat with them? No. But if I am asked when we shall treat, I am ready to answer: Never, sir, never, till they are at perfect liberty, and free from all re. straint. I should not consider a treaty made with them in their present wretched and forsaken condition, as morally binding on them. I will not consent to take advantage of men in their situation. I am sick-heart sick of seeing them at our door as I enter this hall, where they have been