Mr Woods Speech.
The House being in Committee of the Whole on the bill making appropriations for the Indian Department; in which bill Mr. McDUFFIE had on the previous day, moved the following amendment:
' For enabling the President of the United States to extinguish the title of the Cherokee Indians to any lands in the State of Georgia, when it can be done upon 'peaceable and reasonable terms,' and for aiding the said Cherokees, and such other Indians as may be so disposed to emigrate to places West of the Mississippi $50,000'
And the question immediately before the Committee being on a motion of Mr. Woods, of Ohio, to amend Mr. McDuffie's amendment, by striking out from it these words: 'And for aiding the said Cherokees, and such other Indians as may be so disposed, to emigrate to places West of the Mississippi.'-
Mr. WOODS, of Ohio, rose and said, that, having submitted the motion now before the Committee, he deemed it proper to present, for their consideration, the reasons which had induced him to offer the amendment. I did not bring this question before the Committee, [said Mr. W.] It was brought forward by the honorable chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, sanctioned by the recommendation of the Committee on Indian Affairs. I did expect some notice, before this subject would have been taken up; and that, on the bill reported by the Committee on Indian Affairs, and now among the orders of the day, this question, in all its relations, would have been fully considered. Such is not, however, the course adopted by that Committee.
I have always thought, the ordinary appropriation bills should not be embarrassed by any new measures.- They should be confined to objects of appropriation required by existing laws. This bill, without the amendment proposed by the gentleman from South Carolina [Mr. McDUFFIE] is similar to the one making appropriations for the Indian Department, which has, for several years, been regularly passed. I may ask, Sir, why we should, in this case depart from the usual mode of proceeding, and now bring forward this proposition, disconnected from the most important parts of the original measure? I do not complain or find fault with gentlemen for the course they have taken. I am ready to meet the question, by my vote, as promptly, now, as at any other time. Indeed I am glad, Mr. Chairman, that this measure is thus brought forward; and that it stand before us in its proper form and nakedness, stripped of the pretence of disinterested humanity, which has been thrown around it. It is now presented in its true character, as a measure not for the benefit of the Indians- not for their civilization and preservation- but for our interest, and only our interest. This appropriation is asked, as the means to effect measures for the removal of the Indians out of the limits of our States and Territories, that they may, by our aid, trail their bodies into the wilderness, and die where our delicacy and our senses may not be offended by their unburied carcasses.
What was the proposition recommended by our late Executive Magistrate? It was for the establishment of a Territorial Government over the Indians, for their preservation and civilization- for their benefit, and not for ours. The bill reported at the first session of the last Congress, which I now have in my hand, provided for the location of the Indian tribes somewhere West of the Mississippi river [sic], and North or West of the State of Missouri..It proposed to create all the paraphernalia of a Government, not of the Indians themselves, in which their laws and manners were to prevail, but in which our laws were to be administered by our officers and enforced by our soldiers. Is the measure now submitted to us by the amendment of the gentleman from South Carolina [Mr. M'DUFFIE] the same which was thus recommended by the Executive, and sanctioned by the Committee on Indian Affairs, by whom it was brought before Congress, in the bill reported by them to this House? No, sir. That bill, which I supposed would be brought forward; and acted on, is now abandoned by its friends. The measure is stripped of its prominent features. The gentlemen who recommended it as a scheme for the benefit of the Indians, no longer place it on that ground. The amendment now offered by the gentleman from South Carolina goes farther than the bill and report from the Committee on Indian Affairs now among the orders of the day. That bill contains in its provisions, nothing which bears even a resemblance to the grand scheme formerly presented to us.- It has dwindled down almost to nothing. It asks less than the sum required for the expenses of holding an ordinary Indian treaty. It only proposes to appropriate $15,000 to defray the expenses of making an examination of the country west of the Mississippi by the Indians. But as this proposition now offered is to supersede that bill, and places the question upon broader grounds, involving the whole merits of the proposed measure, we may as well now discuss the question upon its general principles, which go to the foundation of all our Indian relations. So far as the State of Georgia is concerned, we have done forever with the difficulties between that State and the Creeks. It is now a matter of no more interest to Georgia than Ohio, whether the Indians shall be removed West of the Mississippi or driven into the Gulf of Mexico. The Creeks have ceded to us the last acre of their land in Georgia, and the provision of the treaty, by which the United States were bound to aid them in removing West of the Mississippi, has already expired. I shall therefore consider this question on its broad and general principles.
We are told, Sir, that this is a measure necessary for the happiness and preservation of the Indians- that we must adopt it, or they will perish, and become extinct as a People. I do not believe this is the only way in which we can save the Indians, or promote their happiness. In my opinion, this measure would effect more rapidly their extinction. Instead of being entitled 'An act for the preservation and civilization of the Indian tribes within the United States.' it should be call a scheme for their speedy extermination. If the Indians cannot live on the rich and fertile lands which they now own, they can live no where. When gentlemen call upon us to sanction this as a measure of humanity, it may be proper to consider whether the sums necessary to carry into effect this plan, could not be more beneficially expended, by the adoption of a policy which would elevate and improve the Indians character, and secure their happiness, without removing them from their present possessions and homes.
Let us, Sir, for a moment, inquire where the Indians are to be removed. We are informed it is intended to plant them West of the Mississippi. This is a pretty extensive region, and we might as well at once send them West of the Rocky Mountains, to people the new territory proposed to be established, by an honorable gentleman from Virginia, [Mr. FLOYD] They would there have one advantage, which gentlemen deem of great importance, they would not soon be intruded upon by our citizens, and settlements.- I am aware that I may be told that I know nothing about the Indians, or the system to be established for their government, or of the country to which they are to be sent. This may be true. I do not pretend to any great knowledge on the subject, but am willing to learn from others, and to obtain information from those who have brought this measure before us for our sanction. Let me ask these gentlemen if they have examined this country?- Do you know whether it is suitable to the circumstances and necessities, of the Indians? Their answer is, no; we know nothing about these matters but first adopt the scheme,-provide that the Indians must remove West ;of the Mississippi- let us decide that we will drive them from their lands which we want to occupy; and then, Sir, we will send our agents and commissioners with the Indians, to examine this country. Our agents can be instructed to pursue such measures as will obtain the consent of their Chiefs and head men of the tribes, who can be drilled into acquiescence with our plans. There will be no danger of the failure of the measures provided our commissioners have in their pockets a 'large amount of means, as an auxiliary aid.'
Such, sir, is substantially the language of this measure. Gentlemen who have talked so loudly of the expenditure of the 'contingencies,' and of the corrupting influence of the money and patronage of the Government should reflect on this subject. Here they may find a pertinent occasion for their scrutiny. We know that the lands now owned by the Indians are fertile and valuable. It is this which gives activity to our sympathies. But we know nothing of the Country to which we propose to remove them.- The Secretary of War was called on by a resolution of this House to give us the specific information possessed by the Department on the subject, and to state 'whether the Indians are acquainted with the nature and situation of the country to which they are to be removed; and to what particular district of Country West of the Mississippi they ought to be removed?' (See Journal of 1827-7, page 66.)- To these inquiries we received an answer, informing us that 'the Indians are not acquainted with the nature and situation of the country to which we propose to remove them;' and, 'that, as no examination had been made with a view to its occupancy by the tribes now in the States East of the Mississippi, it cannot be known what particular district of country West of the Mississippi they ought to occupy.'- (See Ex. doc. 28, of 1826-7.) Such, sir, is our ignorance upon this subject; such is the profound ignorance of those who have pressed this measure upon us. Yet we are zealously called upon by gentlemen to give it the sanction of our approbation.
[TO BE CONTINUED]