Speech of Mr. Woods
I must claim the indulgence of gentlemen for a moment, while I refer to the documents now in my hand, for the purpose of holding up to their reprobation, and the reprobation, the practice of our government in its intercourse with the Indians. It is time, sir, to arrest this policy, if ever it is done. Procastination [sic] in our decision will put it out of our power to remedy the evil. Look, sir, through this diplomacy. Look at the practice which is here avowed, or but too slightly concealed, and ask yourself-ask American People-whether they will, for one moment longer, tolerate this vile treachery? We have arrived at a point from which we cannot go forward in this course, without the most glaring light to the nation, and to the world. Sir, need I turn to the irresistible evidence which these oppressed People have given of their unwillingness to leave the country in which they live-the homes of their ancestors; and the masterly arguments by which they have defended their rights, and covered our agents and commissioners with disgrace, by exposing our insincerity and injustice? Read, Sir, the Choctaws and Chickasaws to our Commissioners, in 1826, who had in their hands 'the large amount of means as an auxiliary aid,' and answer whether there is nothing in these negotiations deserving the reprobation of the American People. If one set of Commissioners have not money enough, they are followed by others with more. Agents are employed, and sent to prepare the minds of the Indians for the operations of the Commissioners. They are sent from house to house, to buy off the allegiance of these sons of the forest, who are induced, by your arts and money, to sell their countrymen and brethren.
Sir, we have been told by the gentleman at the head of the Indian bureau, who has lately visited several of the tribes, that he was 'aware of the settled dislike of the People to anything in the shape of a direct proposition for their country, and that recent negotiations, though conducted by three distinguished citizens chosen no less on account of intelligence, than for their admitted knowledge of the Indian character, had totally failed, and that the large amount of means placed at their disposal as an auxiliary aid, had been equally inoperative.' Yet, Sir, this gentleman is sent as a special agent to these very nations, to effect, in some way, the very same object which the Commissioners, with all their intelligence and great knowledge of the Indian character, and the auxiliary aid in their hands, had totally failed to accomplish. Sir, what does this mean? Is this the open frank, and manly policy of a great and magnanimous nation towards these weak, scattered, and dependent tribes? Oh no, sir; I repeat it, our policy towards the Indians has been marked by fraud, and insincerity, and treachery, and baseness.
The commissioners who were sent to treat with the Chickasaws and Choctaws, and proposed directly to purchase their country, and to give them, West of the Mississippi, acre for acre, were met by a prompt, decided and manly negative to all their propositions, not only from the Chiefs, but by the Indian People, to whom they appealed. But if, by the management of our Agents, the Chiefs and leading men can be prevailed on, by any means, to sell their Country and Nation, retaining to themselves; within the States, reservations, our object and wishes would be effected. Such a conditional agreement, it appears, has been made with one of the Nations. But with all the diplomatic skill and ingenuity of this gentleman, no way, not even a solitary avenue could be found, by which he could approach the Choctaws, with any proposition, for the sale of their country. Yet, from motives of pure and disinterested friendship, he proposed to enable six of their Chiefs to take a tour of pleasure, and at the expense of the United States, with a suite of our Agents at their heels to travel by the way of the Missouri, and the Northwestern Territory, to see their friends and brothers in the Arkansas, Territory! 'The Chiefs' and representatives of the Nation 'were bound to reject openly any proposition to sell their Country, or bring upon themselves the rebuke, if not the chastisement of the Nation.': Yet, sir, 'under cover of this pretext, ground is to be broken!!' We are by this appropriation unblushingly to sanction the secret agreement or understanding, by which the Chiefs, 'under cover of this pretext,' are to take measures for selling to us their country. Look,m sir, at the report of the Commissioners, sent during last year, to the Cherokees and Choctaws, one of whom was formerly a member of this House, and at the head of the Committee on Indian affairs, [Mr. Cocke.] The proposition was openly made these Nations to sell only a small part of their country, and every possible argument used to induce them to do so; but our Commissioners met a prompt and decided refusal from the Indians. These Nations are not 'governed by a few white men and half breeds,' of whose intelligence and influence we have heard a great complaint, by the friends of this project, but by the Indian People themselves, who exercise the elective franchise, and have turned out and disgraced the Chiefs whom we had corrupted by our Agents and base instruments.- Yes, sir, we have been told by the proper representatives of the Indian People, that they will not sell their country-their homes- the graves of their fathers. Yet, in spite of all this, gentlemen urge us to adopt this system, and appropriate one hundred thousand dollars (the sum asked by the amendment now offered by the gentleman from South Carolina) to purchase the country of these very Nations. To me the bold and daring course of violence, which openly avows its object, is preferable far preferable, to the false, deceitful, insidious policy, by which we degrade the Indians and disgrace ourselves. We have even heard loud complaints because one of these Nations has formed a Government ' written a Constitution for themselves upon free and liberal principles. This Constitution is itself a full triumphant refutation of the assertion that these Indians are in a wretched and degraded situation, and can be saved by removing them. It proves that, if we do justice, and cease to oppress them, they will be a free and happy People.
While the Indians in the most positive manner, refused to sell their country, and spurned all the kind, humane, and disinterested propositions which have been made to them, and have 'strange as it appeared' to our Commissioners, refused even to look at the proffered 'last home,' though we propose to pay them well for their trouble, there is one plan which they have not refused to sanction and adopt, and which experience has proved to be the only one which will save them from extinction. The Indians have not refused to permit you to establish schools in their country, to educate their children. They have not refused to permit you to send farmers and mechanics among them, to teach them husbandry and the mechanical arts. They have sanctioned and approved of the system commenced by the annual appropriation of $10,000 for these objects. This is, in my opinion the only correct system which we can pursue. The sums expended under the act of 1819, for the civilization of the Indians, have been productive of more beneficial effects that the whole sum of $250,000 paid to them in annuities. The expenditure of this small sum is more honorable to the nation than five times the amount paid for the support of your Military Academy, and many other objects of appropriations. Sir, by this expenditure more than one thousand two hundred Indian children are taught whatever is valuable, or necessary to be learned by the common classes in society. They are taught to read and write, to plow and reap, and all the branches of business necessary for the prosperity of a new country.- The females are taught all the domestic duties which belong to their station. The advantages derived from this small appropriation have been much enhanced by the 'auxiliary aid' of the Missionary Establishments existing in the Indian country. By a proper increase of this fund, and 'with proper and vigorous efforts, under the system of education which has been adopted, and which ought to be put into extensive and active operation, the Indians may receive an education equal to that of the laboring portion of our own community.' (Docs. of 1821-2, vol. 4. Doc. 59.)
This, Sir, is the sytem [sic] adopted, and put into active operation, (so far as the limited appropriation would admit,) by the gentleman then at the head of the War Department [Mr. Calhoun.] It is the system in which I most cordially concur. I am willing to appropriate whatever sum may be necessary to give complete success to the benevolent and liberal views and wishes of the American People , in behalf of the original lords of this Continent. Two or three years ago, the Committee on Indian Affairs were directed to inquire into the expediency of repealing the law making the annual appropriation to which I have alluded. And what, sir, was the report on the subject presented, I believe, by my friend and colleague [Mr. M'Lean] who is now at the head of that committee? In that report, we are told that 'it requires but little research to convince every candid mind, that the prospect of civilizing the Indians was never so promising as at this time; never were means for the accomplishment of this object so judiciously devised, and faithfully applied, as provided in the above act, and the aids which it has encouraged.' The committee are assured 'that the continuation of the appropriation, seconded by the liberal and increasing aids which are afforded by volutary [sic] contribution, will, gradually and most effectually, extend the benefit of the law to the remotest tribes who inhabit our extensive domain.' The progress of this work may be more rapid than any person can now venture to anticipate. No one will be bold enough to denounce him as a visionary enthusiast who, under such auspices, will look with great confidence to the entire accomplishment of the object.' This, Sir, is the deliberate opinion of the committee, expressed with great force and propriety, after a full examination of the subject. It is to me an irresistible argument against the scheme now proposed.
Mr. Chairman, I wish to turn the attention of the Committee to the expense which will attend this measure. If adopted, whether successful or not, the expense must be incurred. This experiment is to be made at the hazard of human life. The happiness, may, Sir, the existence of one hundred thousand People, depends upon the doubtful success of this untried project. But, if all the arguments and reasons opposed to the scheme and its practicability can be successfully answered, still it may be proper to examine the subject in relation to its demands upon the Treasury, and our disposition to meet these demands. I will present to the Committee the estimates which are made by the friends and advocates of this scheme, ' will then ask gentlemen whether they are prepared to go forward. I will not take into consideration the expenditure necessary to purchase the Indian title to the lands which they still held in Georgia. This matter has been pressed upon the Committee, but I will not stop to examine it. I am ready and willing to fulfil all our obligations to Georgia, so far as we can do in justice to others, and without the violation of other rights. If, sir, I agree with my neighbor to convey to him a clear title, in fee, for your farm, and you should obstinately refuse to sell your land to me, what am I do? Have I a right to turn you off your land, and out of your house, and to seize upon your property? No. Sir; I become responsible to my neighbor for the damage he may have sustained. I will forfeit the penalty of my obligation; but your title remains good.- I am ready to pay Georgia the penalty of our obligation, if we have violated it. But I will not do flagrant injustice to the Indians, even to gratify a sovereign State.
The estimate now presented to us of the expense of removing the Chickasaw Nation of 4000 persons, amounts to nearly half a million. This embraces the sum proposed to be paid for their houses, farms, shops, horses, and other articles of personal property; and if we calculate that the farms, houses, ' property, of other tribes is as valuable, in proportion to their numbers, as that of the Chickasaws, it will require more than six millions of dollars for this part of the expense. The estimate made for the subsistence of the emigrating Creeks, is twenty cents per day, or $73 per annum for each individual . The amount of this item of the expense would be about four millions of dollars. Thus we have the sum of more than ten millions of dollars as a commencement; without including 'contingencies;' and the whole expense of supporting the Government to be created in this new territory; and the army to be sustained for its defence; without adding the sum necessary for the establishment of schools and other means of education. This is not my calculation. It is furnished to us by the Indian Bureau; by the friends of this scheme-as the foundation or data upon which we are to make this appropriation. I refer gentlemen, who wish to examine this subject in detail, to the report of the Commissioners sent to treat with the Chickasaws and Choctaws in 1826, printed by the Senate, pages 13 and 14; and to the documents accompanying the President's message, page 177; also, to document 44, page 6. I ask in behalf of the Indians only for a pittance of these enormous sums, to be expended in establishing schools among the Indians, in teaching them the pursuits of agriculture and the mechanical arts, and in establishing proper regulation for their government, and for the distribution and security of their property. Sir, in the language of the late Secretary of War, let 'the system which has been adopted, be put into extensive and active operation,' and the result will be infinitely more honorable to us; the prosperity and happiness of the Indians will be more effectually promoted and secured, than by any new invention for their benefit.
Before we carry the eighty thousand Indians, now on this side of the Mississippi over that river, I conjure gentlemen to look at the situation of the two hundred thousand which are already there. I ask the friends of this measure to prove the correctness of their theory; by organizing these tribes under their new system of Government, by teaching them to respect your laws, and by learning them to pursue the occupations, and adopt the laws and habits of civilized man. Let gentlemen do this, and come with the evidence of their success, and I will then believe in their theory; I will then vote for this measure. But, Sir, while I know and have the evidence before me, to prove that the most powerful of the Indian nations, now West of the Mississippi, living upon the very territory to which these are to be removed, are still more miserable and destitute than the most degraded of those for whose benefit gentlemen are urging us to adopt this measure, I will not consent to drive the eighty thousand now among us, enjoying the comforts of their homes and native land, into the country, where they can meet nothing but death, either by the hand of their enemies or by the lingering sufferings of famine. Our utmost efforts could not preserve them in this wilderness; which is already filled with all the horrors of Indian wretchedness. The Indians already in that region are enjoying the fruits of our benevolence and humanity, by an accumulation of misery and suffering beyond a parallel. Sir, I draw no imaginary picture. I cannot portray, in language sufficiently strong, the wretchedness of these People, now West of the Mississippi, where we promise their brethren 'a last home,' where they may flourish in peace and happiness! I will read to the Committee an extract of a letter from Gov. Clark, superintendent of the Indians West of the Mississippi. He says, 'the situation of the Indians West of the Mississippi is the most pitiable that can be imagined. During several seasons in every year they are distressed by famine, of which many die for want of food, and during which the living child is often buried with the dead mother, because none can spare it as much food as would sustain it thro' its helpless infancy. This description applies to the Sioux, Osages, and many others; but I mention these, 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 situation about learning and religion. They want a regular supply; and, until this is obtained, the operations of the mind must take the instinct of mere animals, and be confined to warding off hunger and cold.'
I have now, Mr. Chairman, in a disconnected and imperfect manner, urged the reasons which induce me to oppose this measure. I have endeavored to prove that the evils to which the Indians are now exposed would be increased by their removal; and that we may, by justice on our part, and the establishment of a liberal policy towards them, secure their prosperity. I have not failed, Sir, to express, in decided terms, my opinion of the conduct which our Government and its agents has pursued towards these people. I have Shawn [sic], that the execution of this scheme, if at all practicable, would involve us in a most prodigal expenditure of millions of the public treasure; and I have proved the wretchedness and want of the Indians already inhabiting the country West of the Mississippi.- Firmly convinced of the correctness of the views and arguments which I have presented to the Committee, I cannot vote for this measure; I cannot agree to send the remnant of our Indians to share the fate of those beyond the Mississippi. Sir, let us rather do them justice; let us allow them a part, not of what we have already taken from them-no, Sir, but of the little they have yet left. Our interests, the appeals of the States, the 'settled policy,' of the Government, may be urged in favor of the measure here, but not at the bar of justice, or before the world. If we sanction this measure, the blood of these People, reduced by us to the condition of wretchedness and horror, in which 'the living child is buried with the dead mother,' will be upon our heads.