An address by the Rev. CALVIN COLTON before the Lyceum, Amherst, Mass. -- delivered Jan 5, 1830
From all the state papers and public documents on Indian affairs, the following things are evident.
1. The proper national character of the Indians has been from the beginning, and uniformly recognized, in all our public negotiations with them.
2. Their original right in the soil claimed, and tenanted, by them, has also been uniformly recognized, by the same authorities.
3. These negotiations between our Government and the Indians appear to have been, and no doubt were, sincere, in all good faith; and that too according to the common understanding of international correspondence.
4. Inasmuch as reports had been circulated to the disquietude of the Indians -- that the United States, in these negotiations, were only acting the part of a mother quieting and lulling her child with false premises -- renewed negotiations have been entered into expressly to allay these anxieties, and to give the most solemn assurances of the good faith of the nation.
5. All our public parliamentary and judicial constructions of these negotiations, accord only with the supposition of their solemn and binding character.
6. These negotiations, by any fair construction, secure to the Indians all that they ask; although justice, and a generosity in us towards them equal to that which they have shown to us would allow them greatly -- vastly in excess of these stipulations.
So much for the fair and honorable course pursued by our Government and this nation, in relation to the Indians. The moment they were thrown into a condition of dependence, so as to be seen and felt, not only by themselves, but by us a sense of justice thrilled through the common pulsations of the nation; they were taken under protection; their native and proper rights, as a distinct people, as the primeval tenants and original proprietors of the soil they occupied, were recognized, by the most formal and solemn instruments of international negotiations. All the points at which their rights were exposed to invasion, on account of their peculiar condition and relation of dependence, were anticipated and guarded in the most solemn manner. Our own Government, as a part in these negotiations, foreseeing that power would be on our side, and that occasions of injustice and oppression might naturally arise -- seem to have been unwilling to trust themselves, or their successors, or the nation -- without setting up the most effectual barriers at all points for the future protection and defense of Indian rights. So far, therefore, as the earliest, a continued and almost uninterrupted negotiations by formal and solemn international treaties may go-the rights of the aborigines of this country, in and over the territories defined to them, and in all respects have been fully acknowledged and well defended.
But, as was anticipated-or at least apprehended--the unexampled prosperity of this nation, the rapid increase of population spreading out their tents over the unoccupied territories--the growing and almost overwhelming spirit of enterprise, which allows itself to be impeded by no physical barrier--the all-absorbing cupidity of lands and of wealth, the collision of individual and sectional interests--and other causes akin to these, and acting in conjunction with them--have been gradually and indirectly, though not less certainly, operating in their great public relations and influences, to swallow up and overwhelm the territories and rights of the Indians. Not only have individual persons, and associations, and corporations, practiced on the simplicity and ignorance of the natives, over-reaching them, and bargaining from them by the most unfair means and for most unworthy considerations, piece by piece, their little remaining territories;--but, I am mortified. I grieve to say, that, in some instances, our state and national authorities have sacrificed their dignity to avarice, their honor to cupidity, by conniving at and creating facilities for these very operations; and themselves have become parties in bargains which contemplate the ultimate displacement and entire removal of the Indians from all their territories on this side of the Mississippi. And the infatuation of lust--lust of wealth and power, I mean--lust of territory, such as in sacred history coveted Naboth's vineyard-this species of infatuation has so strangely ' to such an extent possessed the minds of interested persons and interested authorities--that it has been gravely and solemnly declared, in parliamentary assembly, that the force, which shall expel the Indians from their present possessions, if necessary to be employed, becomes right. Force gives right!-and in such an application! Who had been willing to live, and be obliged to hear with patience such a declaration--that force gives right, a declaration coming out from a legislative hall, and reporting itself through the galleries made by these heavens!--these heavens, which once looked down upon a mighty, bloody, and long protracted conflict, scattering its desolations over these sacred plains, that it might redeem them forever from the pollutions and blighting curse of such a sentiment in power. Force gives right!--I am not bound to give the argument, or to state the pretended qualifying circumstances in view of which this declaration was made, so long as it was made for such a purpose. No circumstances can qualify it. And yet the argument was no more and no less than this:--That the discovery of this new world, and its particular parts, by Europeans, gave to them the right of possession! And that Europeans have ever recognized this right! Monstrous!--Insulting!-- 'Tell it not in Gath.'-- Publish, it not to the world--that such an argument was gravely made out and solemnly reported by a committee, to a legislative assembly of this confederate Republic, and by that assembly approved and adopted, for the implied--nay--for the express purpose of an apology for expelling the Indians by force from their rightful territories.
The time has come, the crisis has arrived when the fate of the Indians within the boundaries of the United States is to be decided. The public opinion and voice of the nation must unavoidably approach this question and set it forever at rest, in a vary short period:--Whether the faith of this nation, once--so long time--and in so many solemn forms--pledged to the Indians shall be maintained inviolate--or whether they shall be abandoned to the mercy of those, who have already sold their rights for money and decreed them outlaws?--Yes--outlaws--unless they set their mouths forever to the story of their wrongs, and fly away to unknown and unexplored regions. A public legislative enactment of one of the States of this Union, has already passed sentence on one of the most respectable of the Indian nations--decreeing--that 'all laws, usages, and customs made, established and in force by the said Indians--that is, within the geographical limits of that State, shall be null and void on and after the first June 1830;- and that 'no Indian, or descendant of Indian--shall be a competent witness, or a party to any suit, in any court created by the constitution or laws of the state.' Not only stripped of their laws, but thrown out from the protection of all law!--may not be a party to a suit in any court--not even a witness!--except in such cases as the Court in their graciousness will allow.
Well may the world inquire the occasion of this outrage. And what is the answer?- Why this is it:---The General Government for a consideration already realized, have covenanted with this state government, that they will buy out the Indians within their bounds, as soon as they can, and convey their lands to the state. But the Indians; the third party, refusing to sell, as they have the undoubted right,-are now, to be forced by such means. And the present posture of our national authorities, in relation to this affair too plainly indicated a disposition to allow, and the state concerned are manifestly ready to execute this forcible ejectment. In other words--the faith of the nation is to be broken, and the Indians are to be sacrificed. And on this single altar; simultaneously will bleed and burn the hopes of every Indians(sic) within the boundaries of the United States--all his hopes, which make life dear and precious--unless a public sentiment can be roused and organized throughout the nation, that shall roll back this tide of ruin, which at this moment threatens to sweep from the land the habitation and the name of Indians.
Let not our judgment, or the Indian's heart, be insulted by the plea that the course dictated by this policy will be better for the Indian. This argument the Indian will consider at his own leisure. He has already considered it, and come to his conclusion. And it is remarkable, that those only, who covet his land are united in this advice. But justice goes before counsel. And shall advice
come trampling over her, and effect to whisper words of consolation in her ears, or strive to atone her sleeping vengeance, by telling her that her fall is best for those in whose defence she stood?
Admit that it would be best for all the Indians to go beyond the last cabin of the white man, if themselves are willing. And even that is a question not easily settled-and which has never been decided in the affirmative, except by those who, coveting their lands, have resolved they shall go. But so long as they are unwilling; it can never be best, either for them or for us. The moment you interfere with the natural rights of man, and with his acknowledged civil rights, ' tell him by force; You shall do this, or you shan't do that--you lay a constraint upon his nature, which he will not endure, and for exemption from which, rivers of blood have been shed. It is with us; a famed, a venerable, and sacred declaration--and on account of the circumstances under which it was first and solemnly made and published to the world, it is a far-famed declaration--'That all men are created equal:-that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights-among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' O that the principles-the holy and sacred principles, involved in this declaration, might touch and thrill every pulsation of the children of those who made it, when they come to decide on the destiny of the Indians, as soon as they must. Is it a mere mockery, or not, that this declaration is publicly renewed and adopted as a solemn covenant once a year by this nation throughout all their tribes--on the 4th of July?
No, you cannot force the Indian to quit the inheritance of his fathers, and make him happy. You cannot do it, and not be guilty of a violation of right, which would be the political damnation of any people. The thing proposed, if executed by force, is the utmost!--the very last prerogative of oppression: to expatriate a man--to banish, to drive him forever from his home, and that too without even a pretext of offence. That power which takes life so far as the present state is concerned, brings the injury of its hand to a consummation--finishes them. But eject a man forever from his home--undomesticate, unmake him--you doom him to a sense of injury, which he can never forget--which Heaven will remember to requite.
*The plan actually proposed for the removal, location, and subsequent treatment of the Indians, so far as it had been disclosed by its authors, can be accounted for only by the desperate necessity of devising and specifying something to meet the exigency. The present condition and relations of the Indians are sufficiently embarrassing and anomalous--without precedent or law-except the law of treaty, which on all lands is allowed to be supreme. But remove them, under the proposed project, and there is nothing Utopian vision, but would be sobriety in comparison. It would be a furious launching forth into the ocean of experiment, of uncertainty, utterly beyond sight and remembrance of law and precedent-and enterprise, fronted with the darkest and most ominous presages so far as the well-being, and even the existence of the Indians is concerned.
[TO BE CONTINUED]