HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The House took up the resolution offered yesterday by Mr. Woods.
Resolved, That the Secretary of War be requested to inform this House, what were the reasons assigned for breaking an individual and depriving him of his authority among the Creek Indians, as stated in the letter of Thomas L. McKenney, of the 29th November, 1827, to the Secretary of War, and who said individual was, wish his residence; and in what capacity he was acting for said Indians; and to communicate to this House, a detailed statement of the expenses of the several missions to the Indian Tribes, sent under the authority of the War Department, for the years 1826 and 1827, specifying the objects of the expenditure, and the persons employed; and, also, copies of any evidence or complaints which are in the Department, concerning any alleged improper conduct of any agent or superintendent, in regard to the granting or withholding of passports through the Indian Country.
The question being on the following amendment offered by Mr. McLane:
And, also, the expenses and payments to commissioners and other agents for negotiating treaties with the Indian tribes since 1813, relating the objects in which the several sums were expended.
Mr. McLane withdrew that amendment, and proposed to amend the resolution by striking out the words 'for the years 1826 and 1827,' and to insert 'from 1812 to 1827, inclusive.'
Mr. Woods suggested to the mover a modification to the amendment, which was agreed to by the mover.
The amendment, as modified, was then agreed to.
Mr. Ingham moved to amend the resolution, by adding the following words:
'And also, to inform this House whether the persons employed to hold treaties with Indian tribes in the Territory of Michigan during the year 1827 have undertaken to constitute and appoint an Indian Chief, and if so whether any chief thus constituted and appointed has signed any treaty with the United States.
Mr. Woods accepted the amendment as a modification.
Mr. Mitchell, of Tennessee, said, he was convinced that the House must, by this time, be satisfied that no good whatever could result from this enquiry. He did not know to what particular object it was to be considered a directing index. He considered it as only tending to produce abroad impressions which could not be realized, and to bring our legislation into disgust. He saw nothing in it but that which would excite angry passions, and induce false impressions. As for himself, and the gentlemen who acted with him from the South, they were satisfied that everything was right. Gentlemen who were not satisfied should enquire at the department, where they would receive frank answers to all their interrogatories. He would undertake to say here, in his place, all was right. He would have hated the man who would have acted in this case. It would have been puerile to have done otherwise. If Jack Ridge was among these Indians, and had an opportunity to ingratiate himself with them, he did it to influence their passions, and not to direct them to a judicious decision. When he spoke to this individual he wished it to be understood that he knew the man. He disclaimed any desire to draw a dark picture of a savage.
As to the expenditures, everything relating to them ma be obtained at no great distance from the Speaker's chair; and to make an application to the Department for that information, is but an advertisement of our own ignorance. He had no desire to put is sign manual to such an advertisement. We are in the habit of making too many useless inquiries.
He spoke of the Indians from his personal knowledge; for they were unfortunately his neighbors, and he was acquainted with them. The chiefs are nabobs, and the inferior Indians are in a much worse situations than the most abject of slaves, than even the boors of Russia, and those of the wildest and most inhospitable regions of that empire.
These nabobs rule over the tribes; and we, by our speeches, filed with a false humanity, aid them to rivet the chains by which they hold their inferiors more firmly. Whenever it may be proper for us to legislate at all on this subject, he wished that we should take that proper course which would effectually relieve the Indians by putting down this system of despotism. Now, from feelings which he respected as much as any man could, for want of sufficient information on the subject, we are doing worse than nothing. He trusted that gentlemen would pardon his opposition to the resolution. He believed that it originated in a good source; but he could not sit quietly and see a proposition adopted, which is calculated to do much mischief. He repeated that the information could be all obtained without going far in quest of it; and said: that as he could see no legislation which was likely to grow out of the resolution, he would move to lay it on the table.
The question to lay the resolution the table, was then put and negatived. Ayes 60, Noes 76.
Mr. Mallary stated that he was quite a stranger to the transaction to which this resolution referred. If it was intended to show that an agent of the government had exercised the authority which was stated in the resolution, it was palpable violation of his duty. He considered the enquiry as emanating from a quarter which was entitled to respect. If the act had been committed which was imputed by the resolution, the nation ought to be informed of it. The gentleman from Tennessee seemed to think that the resolution could be of no use, and that it would excite unpleasant feelings. What is it to us, if unpleasant feelings are excited? Because such feelings may be excited, we are not to be deterred from instituting an enquiry which may lead to beneficial results, and to the correction of abuses, if they are found to exist. The gentleman from Tennessee had assured the House that nothing was wrong; and doubtless, according to the view which he took of the subject, nothing was wrong. But it was somewhat out of the ordinary course for gentlemen to rise in the House, and expect to put a stop to an enquiry, by the personal assurance that nothing was wrong. If this practice had prevailed, what would have become of all the resolutions of enquiry which had been submitted to the House? Because gentlemen thus rise, and give assurance to the House, the process of enquiry is not to be stayed. Although the gentleman from Tennessee considered that all was fair, and that nothing of an injurious character had taken place, he (Mr. M.) might be of a different opinion. He could only form that opinion from the testimony which might be placed before him.- At present he could only say, that, if it was true that the agent of the government had gone into the Indian country and had deposed a chief, in order to obtain a treaty on more advantageous terms, it was an act of tyranny which could not be justified. This miserable portion of the Indians was not too well protected; and he hoped that when any attempt was made to abridge the poor remnant of rights which was left to them, the government would extend its arm in their defence.
Mr. Lumpkin said that if gentlemen had taken the trouble to examine the testimony which is before the House, it would have saved all this inquiry. How did the House become acquainted with so much of this affair as was already known? On the return of the agent from his mission to the Indians, he had communicated the facts to the Secretary of War, and from the Secretary they had been transmitted to the House. The agent says that after summoning the council, he introduced his business, and found the interference of this man was such, that the people to whom he was delegated, would not listen to his propositions, while he was present. He then deposed him. It was nothing more than if an individual from the gallery were to come into the House, and, in a tone of authority, assume the right to direct our proceedings. It is true there is some difference as regards the Indians, as we profess to negotiate with them on the footing of independent nations. But in point of fact the analogy is pretty complete. He admired the sympathy which gentlemen always exhibited for the poor Indians. But if any persons had ever reason to say, 'save me from my friends,' these Indians had. What had gone from this House had injured the Indians much more than all the acts of the Government, or of those who are considered the enemies of the Indians. Long since these Indians would have been quietly settled in a good land, but for the misguided zeal of gentleman in this House. It could be shown to any gentleman who would take the trouble to call at the War Department that our Indian Affairs had been lately conducted at a much less expense than at any former period. He concluded by renewing the motion to lay the resolution the table.
The motion was again negatived.
Mr. Marvin said, it if was true, that by the assistance of the Gentleman from Georgia, or any other person we could, by being conducted to the Department, find the important information, required by this resolution, he thought it a sufficient reason for the adoption of the resolution, in order that the information might be put in the possession of the House without going there. The gentleman from Ohio asks for information as to some communication between an agent of the Government and certain Indian tribe. Another gentleman from Ohio, and not usually acting with his colleague on questions relating to Indian affairs, had moved an amendment, which had been adopted. A gentleman from Pennsylvania moves another amendment, the purpose of which is to enlarge the inquiry, and this the mover of the resolution adopts as a modification of his resolution If any other gentleman wished to enlarge the sphere of inquiry, he was willing that is should be adopted. But when three gentlemen thus united for the purpose of making an inquiry, he was for the adoption of it. He was not particular as to the character of the inquiry. It was enough to know that it had relation to the Indian tribes. He viewed all measures of this character as growing out of the state of the nation, in consequence of the pre-existing contract with Georgia; although the just policy of the country in regard to these Indians is yet unsettled. The bill relative to the final disposal of the Indians has not yet been acted on.- Whatever had reference to past transactions with the Indians, he was glad to see inquired into, and he hoped the present resolution would be adopted.
Mr. Weems said that the object was purely to get information. He wished to obtain that information.- He desired to know if there had been negotiated a second McIntosh treaty; and also if any agent of the Government had taken on himself to put down an adviser of any of the tribes. He thought it incumbent upon us to treat with the Indians fairly. We had paid dearly for the McIntosh treaty, and he wished to avoid another treaty of that kind. If this resolution was merely one of enquiry, and as he wished for light in order to act understandingly, he hoped the resolution would pass.
Mr. Bates of Missouri said he had not often troubled the House, 'he hoped he should now be indulged while he made a very few remarks. He thought the question one of much greater importance that it seemed to be at the first glance. Had it been a mere money matter, a question of dollars and cents, he might have been content to let it pass by, without observations on his part. It was said the person who was broken by the agent of the Government was a foreign interloper, a mere wen on the Indian body, a noxious excrescence; that he was an individual personally known to one gentleman, and was, not to be treated with. The agent had himself conveyed the knowledge which the House possessed on the subject in a very emphatic manner. three times he met the tribe, but he could not effect anything, until he had deposed this man.- He does not name the individual, but says that he was an unauthorized agent, having authority among the tribe. He says, 'assuming the responsibility, I broke him on the spot.' Broke him-from what? Some office, he presumed-some political situation.- The smile of the gentleman from Ga. was not borne out by fact. He says, if a person comes from the gallery into the House to interfere with our proceedings cannot we break him. If an envoy from a foreign court comes here, his place is on the floor, and not in the gallery, and he did not see exactly on what ground the gentleman from Georgia could justify the taking of that privilege from him. Here was an envoy; we treat with these Indians, and the treaty becomes the supreme law of the land. He was himself one who was always ready to enter his protest against these Indian treaties, which he believed to be a complete mockery. But as it was the practice the Government, we are bound to carry it on according to the provisions of the Constitution; and while we treat, we must give to them all the advantages which belong to nations whose right to negotiate we recognize. If we find a foreigner in office among the Indians, he knew not what right we had to take exception. We have ourselves had distinguished foreigners in our employ. No matter who the individual may be; whether Vann or Ridge, he could not tell that this made any difference. If any person had a right to break this man, it must be the Creeks themselves. Had the President himself been there, and exercised the right of breaking this individual, it would have been an act of usurpation.
He knew how much it was the fashion to cry down these Indian treaties as mere matters of bargain. But no treaty was ever considered valid until it had received all the customary sanctions of law. And are we called on to give our sanction to a proceeding which violates all the rights of the people with whom we negotiate?- He was himself acquainted with the circumstances under which these treaties were usually made. He had been present at some of them, he had heard much more respecting them, until he had convinced himself that the moral evidence which he had obtained, was equal to any judicial testimony.- He was convinced that nine out of ten of these treaties are not made in that free and open spirit in which the ought to be negotiated, but are dictated by us either with arms in our hands, or by another course equal destructive of independence. We see in our statute books some items which no man can understand. We see sums put down for services performed by individuals, none of whom are known except by the agent who employed them.
Mr. Moore, of Alabama, here spoke to order, on the ground, that the discussion was taking too wide a range.
The Speaker decided that the gentleman from Missouri was giving too much latitude to his remarks.
Mr. Bates expressed his regret that he should have departed from the strict limits of debate. He repeated that the letter of Mr. McKenney, a clerk in the Department states that he assumed the authority, ' broke this individual. It was important, while we keep up this system of treaty making, that we also keep up those forms of courtesy which are preserved between independent nations. If we are to use this strain power against the Creeks, what is to prevent us from doing the same towards other nations? The time may come, when some one of the nations of Europe may fall into this poor and feeble condition, in which we may think proper to exercise again this domineering disposition, when some envoy from this country may choose to turn out their Secretary of State, or discharge their Senate, in order to remove individuals who may stand in the way of his views. And though the power has been now exercised by so humble an individual, it may hereafter be usurped by someone more conspicuous, availing himself o this mischievous precedent.
Mr. Wickliffe said, that as an amendment had been adopted his morning, extending the inquiry into the expenditures for Indian treaties so far back as 1812, he wished to offer another amendment. he stated that the practice which originally prevailed in the negotiation of these treaties had been departed from. He was opposed to permitting the Head of a Department to send A. B. or C to spend a comfortable summer, in order to hold treaties with Indians. He did not wish any treaty to be made without an appropriation being first obtained from the Representatives of the people. To see how far we had proceeded, he moved to amend the resolution by adding the following words.
'In cases where specific appropriation has not been previously made by Congress to defray the expenses of such mission for the purpose of holding treaties.'
This amendment was agreed to.
Mr. Thompson, of Georgia, moved to amend the resolution by inserting, after the words 'among the Indians,' the following words;
'And if the person so dismissed was a Cherokee, whether he had not been previously to that time, ordered from the Creek nation by the authority of his own tribe.'
This amendment was agreed to.
Mr. Wilde said, so far as this resolution seeks an enquiry into a particular transaction, he was authorized to believe that all the information on that subject was easy of access by ordinary diligence. If that was the case, he was opposed to making any further addition, for this purpose, to the masses of printed documents with which the tables of members are overloaded. Mr. W. made some other observations, which owing to an interruption, we did not distinctly hear. He afterwards went on to ask, if these Indiana tribes are independent nations, why are they not represented by ministers near the United States? He adverted to a proposition made by the Cherokees to settle the dispute with Georgia, by making a cession of Florida to them. According to Mr. McKenney's letter this man who was deposed had only exercised an influence over the Indians. Are we to enquire what influence envoys have exercised in destroying any of the cabinets of Europe? He desired to know what facts could be disclosed as to this man, who was now elevated to the dignity of being made a subject of grave discussion in this House. What legislation could grow out of this enquiry? Was it intended to legislate the chief into office again Now that he has been unmade, do we propose to remake him? or to cast any censure on the President for the act of the agent?
Here the Speaker announced that the hour appropriated to resolutions had expired, and suspended the discussion. The bill was afterwards taken up and adopted.